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The return of the Dime Brigade.

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Another order from the dime-a-card website showed up the other day, six months after I ordered it.

I believe the website to be a husband-and-wife spare-time operation, so I did not pepper them with constant inquiries or demand instant service — just an occasional discreet inquiry. And, in time, my box showed up.

I know, I know. You don’t care about the weird dregs I harvest from the dusty corners of somebody’s card-filled basement.

But since we’re together, we might as well stay. So let me make you some introductions …

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Andy Tracy was one of the better players the Lehigh Valley IronPigs fielded in their first few years, when they were chronically lousy. He was a big first baseman whose walkup music was “Frankenstein,” and from time to time he’d belt one into the beer garden beyond the right-field wall. This card dates to 2000, the year Tracy played 83 of his career 149 big-league games and hit 11 of his 13 career big-league homers.

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Jonathan Pettibone’s days as a major-league prospect, and as a Lehigh Valley IronPig, are, sadly, well behind him. Injuries derailed his career after parts of two major-league seasons (2013-14) in which he played 20 games.

He lives on in my kitchen, though, thanks to several pint glasses with his name and likeness that were handed out at an IronPigs home game almost a decade ago now. Those glasses — plus a similar set featuring fellow prospect Domonic Brown — were the best ballpark giveaway I’ve ever gotten; they’ve served my family well.

I’ve got some stout I’m trying to drink off. There’s a decent chance that after I run tomorrow night, I will fill a Jonathan Pettibone glass with the ruby-dark goodness and take my time enjoying it … rolling it around on my tongue while I contemplate the silhouetted outline of a promising young man, arm cocked, winding up for delivery.

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On July 3, 2009 — coming up on 13 years ago — I road-tripped to Batavia, New York, to see a Class A New York-Penn League game between the Batavia Muckdogs and the Jamestown Jammers.

I took a photo of the lineups that day, vowing to check years later to find out how many of the players made the majors. I regret to report that Jamestown’s left fielder, Sequoyah Stonecipher, never got past Class A ball.

Xavier Scruggs, a big-bopper first-baseman type with Batavia, did make it for 50 games spread over the 2014-2016 seasons with the Cardinals and Marlins. Scruggs’ name might not seem quite as memorable as Sequoyah Stonecipher’s, but it’s always stuck in my head — I might have overheard people talking about him as a prospect.

I took a flyer on searching the card website for his name; and wouldn’t you know it, there he was, on a card from 2015. Nice seeing you again, Xavier.

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And here’s a minor-league favorite from an earlier stage of my life. Bob Bonner played extensively with the 1980s Rochester Red Wings teams I remember from boyhood. For those not from Rochester, he is known for appearing alongside Cal Ripken Jr. on Cal’s highly coveted 1982 Topps rookie card, which, suffice it to say, goes for more than a dime a card. I once wrote a SABR Games story about the last game of Bonner’s career; after retiring he gave his life over to Jesus and became a missionary.

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A couple other names from Rochester minor-league days. Randy Cunneyworth’s 40-year career as a player, scout, and coach included parts of seven seasons with the Rochester Americans — five at the start, two at the end. He coached the Amerks, too, and is in the team’s Hall of Fame.

Torrie Robertson I remember as a visiting player with Hershey and Adirondack, though he apparently played a single game in Rochester in 1990. (His brother Geordie did seven seasons with the Amerks and was a teammate of Cunneyworth’s for a while. Geordie was probably the Robertson I was really looking for when I found this card.)

According to Wikipedia, Torrie Robertson is (and will now always remain) the Hartford Whalers’ all-time penalty leader with 1,368 minutes. The back of this card from 1990 puts it nicely: “Torrie isn’t one to fill the net with pucks … He’s never led the NHL in penalty minutes, but not for lack of trying.”

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Darren O’Day, apparently, used this card to pay tribute to the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” video by sporting the world’s most artificial-looking mustache. (A quick search of the Trading Card Database suggests, remarkably, that it must have been real, as at least one other card shows him sporting it. Nowadays he wears a full beard like everyone else.)

Hey, remember the time I wrote a post about various vivid pop culture memories I retain from the fall of 1982? Darren O’Day wasn’t even alive for most of them: He was born on October 22, 1982. We’ll say no more on the subject.

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No American sports league would ever dream of making a former player a commissioner. The commissioner represents the owners’ interests, and an ex-player might, you know, make a decision that favored the serfs in some way.

Meet Randy Ambrosie. After nine seasons as a guard in the Canadian Football League, he now serves as CFL commissioner. (Apparently he is not the first ex-player to lead the CFL.)

Not only is he a former player, but he also served as secretary of the players’ union! In American sports leagues, the owners would collude to plant a bomb in his trunk or a whore in his bed to keep him from rising to power. But in Canada they do things differently.

Alas, social media leads me to believe that the CFL is struggling, and faces multiple challenges that Ambrosie has thus far been unable to resolve. I root for him all the same.

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While we’re on the subject of rancid, self-serving management practices: This card (from 2014, if memory serves) mentions that Colin Kaepernick grew up studying Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham, and followed in Cunningham’s footsteps as the leader of a new generation of footloose quarterbacks who can hurt you with the run.

Remarkable, how such a promising young man from such a proud football tradition could go so long without a job offer. Hell of a thing, as the guy who plays Richard Nixon so uncannily on Twitter would put it.

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While Rochester was a hockey town at heart (and probably still is), my firsthand interest in hockey was most strongly kindled when I went off to Boston for college.

In the spring of my freshman year, the Sabres tabbed young Tom Draper as their starting goalie for a first-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins. (Their starter was hurt.) Draper played the entire series and did quite well, even posting a shutout, but the Sabres lost in the deciding Game 7.

I watched most if not all the games in the room of a good friend who had a TV, fascinated by the matchup of my native region and my future adopted home. Watching that series increased my knowledge and appreciation of hockey, and it continues to hold an outsized place in my imagination.

Draper played only 19 more NHL games after that series, none of them in the playoffs.

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Time to break away from the four major sports for a bit. Three of these cards were issued in Canada for the 1992 Winter Olympics (it says something that I no longer remember where that even took place … was that Albertville, maybe?). The fourth, of American freestyle skier Emily Cook, is considerably more recent.

Why’d I spring for these? I dunno. A dime isn’t that much, and the Winter Olympics are so much more interesting than the Summer Olympics, and I’ve never heard of any of these people. (A Google search suggests that none of them medaled, though a few of them went to more than one Games.)

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I’m really not that much of a fan of cards that show musicians. It feels wrong. But from time to time I go for them anyway, when the cheese factor or the weirdness factor outweighs the wrongness.

A trading card of Clarence “Frogman” Henry is just a wonderful idea on its face. Same with a card of Teddy Pendergrass. Cliff Williams, AC/DC’s longtime bassist, deserves a card in the same way that a guy who’s been a bullpen coach for 30 years deserves a card. And a card of Rick Wakeman with an outrageously bad mullet? What could be wrong with that?

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I wonder if the rappers pictured on the official Yo! MTV Raps card set (issued in 1991) made anything from it. I certainly hope so.

Stetsasonic I picked up mainly because I remembered the name from someplace; I couldn’t hum (or rap) any of the tunes.

Public Enemy, on the other hand, was a favorite of my older brother’s, and I still remember snatches of a number of their songs. They had an aura of legitimacy and authority that nobody else could quite touch, it seemed. They were smart, and they weren’t afraid of much, and they were done putting up with BS, and their songs slammed.

Anyhow, as any teenager with half a clue in 1991 could have told you: Chuck D and Flavor Flav were the rappers in Public Enemy, and Terminator X was the DJ. Or, in the timeless title of one of their songs: “Terminator X Speaks with his Hands.”

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Justin Bieber speaks with his hands.

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Back to sports. The XFL was an allegedly “extreme” pro football league, a joint venture between the World Wrestling Federation and NBC, that was supposed to mix the drama, color and backstory of pro wrestling with the straight on-the-field action of pro football. It crashed after a single season.

Thankfully, it left cardboard evidence like this card behind … so that Americans need never forget that behind the “extreme” label often lurks hot air and delusion.

“Touchdown Tommy” Maddox, at least, had enough talent to crawl out of the wreckage and play in the NFL; as per Wiki, he is one of four players who won championships in both the XFL and NFL.

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In 1990-91, former NHL player and future NHL coach Ted Nolan was employed in his first coaching position, coaching young players with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. I’ve left his card at large size so you can appreciate all that’s going on:

  • The two men to the right of the card look like one has just told the other a bitter truth — such as, perhaps, that their jointly owned trucking business is bankrupt. You decide which of them has just delivered the hard truth, and which of them is digesting it.
  • The kid at lower left in the baseball cap appears to have a long white tube raised to his lips; I would think he was shooting spitballs at the players, if he weren’t close enough to the bench for them to come pound the tar out of him.
  • The young woman at left with the bangs is, by 1990-1991 standards, not difficult to look at. (It is possible on further examination that the long white tube-thing is actually in her hands, and the kid in the baseball cap only appears to be holding it to his mouth. I guess I wasn’t really looking at her hands before. We’ll move on.)

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These are only some of the Montreal Expos I bought. While there are still Expos to buy, I will buy Expos.

I’m pretty sure the team card at center is a 2004, which would make it their last; they moved to Washington, D.C. the following season. Also, while I usually prefer real stadium backgrounds on my cards, there’s something understated about the all-gray Jose Vidro card that works really nicely, though it might or might not come through in this picture.

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The 1993 Leaf card set featured distinctive backs in which the players were overlaid on photos of their home teams’ cities. Most players got some sort of skyline, with Florida Marlin Walt Weiss shown here as a representative example. The back of California Angel John Orton’s card … well, I’ve not been to Orange County, but I’m not sure this does it justice.

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Henricus Nicolas van den Hurk collected eight major-league wins between 2007 and 2012, ranking him third all-time among pitchers born in the Netherlands. He is 11 wins behind Rynie Wolters, and 279 behind Bert Blyleven.

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I have a mini-shrine to Carl Yastrzemski in my basement, so I’d been wanting to pick up a card of his grandson, Mike, currently playing with San Francisco.

As I write this, Mike is second all-time among major-league Yastrzemskis in hits (3,109 behind Carl), homers (390 behind Carl) and games played (just 2,955 to go, lad!)

Mike does boast a few achievements of his own. In the bobtailed 2020 season, he led the National League in triples with four, a feat his distinguished grandpa never managed. And he is the first person to wear the name Yastrzemski on a major-league uniform, as the Red Sox never wore names on their backs, home or away, during Carl’s 23 seasons.

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Fun with coaches! From top to bottom: NFL, Major Indoor Soccer League, and NHL. Rick Dudley’s pseudo-Jeff Lynne look takes the honors here. Richard Williamson’s Buccaneers were dismal, to the point where the Pro Set logo does player No. 17 an honor by blocking his face and identity.

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Old ballplayers playing out the string with unfamiliar teams. Rick Cerone was an Expo?

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It was a big deal when I was in sixth grade for everyone to write a “country report.” You picked a country, ravaged the encylopedia and other sources for everything you could find out about it, and wrote what seemed in sixth grade like a long and comprehensive description. Nowadays, of course, you could do the whole thing — much more thoroughly — in an hour on the Internet; if this assignment still exists in my elementary school, it has presumably been adjusted to account for changing times.

Anyway, I picked Monaco for my country report; much of my color on the generally obscure little nation came from an article in National Geographic that predated my birth. I might have liked to have this card at the time, as it shows Elderson, a defender for AS Monaco Football Club.

(Of course I have no idea whether Elderson or AS Monaco actually exist. Wiki assures me they do. Good enough for my report.)

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Still awake out there?

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This card from 1992 assures us that “baseball players like to have fun at the ballpark,” with a photo of New York Mets David Cone, Jeff Innis, and John Franco imitating football players on special-team duty.

(David Cone was a five-time All-Star and a Cy Young Award winner who led the National League in strikeouts in 1991 and 1992. I imagine his manager just about soiled himself when he saw a picture of the superstar pitcher putting his arm and shoulder at risk in such a daft bit of pregame byplay.)

The wording on the back of the card – which is all caps, FWIW — concludes: ‘EVEN THOUGH WORK IS SERIOUS, THIS SHOWS YOU CAN HAVE FUN AT YOUR JOB.’

Oh, yeah, work. That’s coming up tomorrow, isn’t it?

I guess I’ll stop now.

7 responses »

  1. Extraordinarily entertaining. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Tom Nolan – laughed out loud at your breakdown of the background action.
    Dan Dreesen – I was pretty happy with myself being able to name him by his photo. Until I looked him up on b-r(dot)com, I didn’t realize how solid he was. I thought he was just familiar because I grew up in a Reds household.
    #17 buccaneer – having a Mike Wazowski moment. “Hi, Ma! I’m in a football card!”

    BTW, You’re by far my favorite sports writer because I identify with your approach: sports stuff remembered from childhood, sports stuff remembered during HS/college,
    out of the way sports stories… Nice job!

    Reply
    • thank you! Glad you enjoyed it.
      Yeah, Dan Driessen was a solid player (.357 in the ’76 World Series) who got stuck behind even better players in Cincinnati for a couple of years.

      Reply
  3. Brian Rostron

    I think I had some Yo! cards and had that Stetsasonic card. They called themselves a hip hop band because they had a drummer, I think. Yo! used to play “Talkin’ All that Jazz” a lot – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kdQ4soLcac, but I also liked their song “Africa,” which was full of facts about African geography.

    Reply
    • I hate to say it, but “Talkin’ All That Jazz” kinda makes me wish I were listening to Eric B and Rakim’s “Don’t Sweat the Technique” instead.

      Reply
      • Well, as the song says, “Tell the truth, James Brown was old
        ‘Til Eric and Rak came out with “I Got Soul”
        Rap brings back old R&B
        And if we would not, people could’ve forgot”

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