Last Call for Trades! (for this week)

Planning for a post office run tomorrow, so giving everyone a last call on these trade lots I’m looking to get rid of. Still seeking Topps base lots, 2011-2015 PLUS I’m getting more up on my wantlists page. Let me know if you want any of these or several of these and I’ll get them out to you. All I ask is that you send me something, sometime before the earth crashes into the sun.

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2016 inserts and parallels.

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2017 Inserts.

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Basketball TTM auto lot

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70+ 2012/2013 Topps archives. There are some inserts included.

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1974 Topps Pro Draft football complete set. This is the 50 card set that came with a Parker Brothers “Pro Draft” board game. Picked this up at a Goodwill a few years back. I know there are variations on this… these cards list the 1972 stats on the back.

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Various Topps Minis.

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Junk football assortment. There is a near-complete 1990 series one set and a huge stack of 1990 SP inserts – the Santa card, that Andre Rison update card, the Joe Robbie card. I bought a box of this stuff once and got one of those SPs in every pack somehow. There are few older cards, 70s and 80s, as well.

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Pets Who Collect

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The sparse baseball card collection of Ruth and Idgie

My wife and I are proud parents to a pair of dumbo rats, Ruth and Idgie. Rats love to chew, so we keep them well-supplied with toys and toilet paper tubes and other things to occupy their time. A few months back, I had a baseball card (the Sean Rodriguez seen above) that I had been using as a bookmark. When I finished the book, I put the card inside the rats’ cage, just to see what would happen. Their usual pattern, when a new item is introduced into the cage, is to ignore it for a week or so, then partially destroy it. Once the item has been gnawed on, they finally embrace it as one of their possessions. Rats are builders and nesters by nature, and Ruth and Idgie love to move their things around the cage and arrange them in ways that make sense only to their tiny, little minds.

It took them a while to warm to the Rodriguez card, but you can see that they eventually made their mark on it. For a time, they had it flat up against the front of the cage, as though they were proud little Yinzers flying their colors. Last week, I gave them some vintage and handed over the Terry Harper. They took to this one much quicker and have been moving it around the cage pretty much every day. Yesterday, I managed to catch Ruth in the process of moving the card into their hanging bed, an honor rarely given to their other chewed-up sticks of wood, wine corks, and scraps of cloth. Given the girls are named after the principal characters in Fried Green Tomatoes (which takes place in Alabama), I guess it makes sense that they’d be Braves fans.

Any other non-human collectors out there?

 

The 20 Worst Brewers Cards Ever

A week or so back, I brought you my a piece on the 25 coolest Brewers card of all-time out of my sports-writing archive. Now, as promised, is the other end of that stick… the ugly end. I’ve widened my scope here from the original list, including off-brands and team-issued cards in the hunt, which so often produce the weird and ugly cards that make the hobby fun. And, to limit my own mental suffering, I’ve kept this list to 20 slots. On we go…

#20. 2004 Topps Brewers Team

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Hey, team cards are way cool, right? So what’s the problem here? Well, aside from the framing of the card leaving the players’ head roughly the size of Dippin’ Dots pellets (THE ICE CREAM OF THE FUTURE!), there is that odd Brewers-branded fence running in front of the team. What’s the deal here? Is the coaching staff all hangin’ brain? No, this was a lame device used by Topps to cover the faces of the batboys sitting in front of the first row, and thus preventing from owning them any possible royalties for using their likenesses. Fun!

#19. 1992 Leaf Studio Bill Wegman

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Leaf’s Studio series was actually a pretty cool idea: combine casual portrait shots of players in uniform with fun personal facts on the back! Wee! Being the early 1990s, however, we are left with an inordinate number of high school senior portrait-looking images like this one of Billy Wegman. According to the back, his favorite movie is Misery. It does not mention which one of his parents cuts his hair.

#18. 2010 Topps Corey Hart

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Nothing wrong with this card… except that the picture is crooked as hell. What gives? His pose even gives the impression he is about to run uphill. And the bat at the edge of the photo looks like its has fallen out of his hand. I mean, Corey Hart sometimes played the outfield like he was running uphill, but this is nuts.

#17 (tie). 2008 Topps Bill Hall, 2015 Topps Archives Khris Davis

Hey fans, meet Bill Hall and Khris Davis! Although, you might know them better as Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez.

#16. 1980 Topps Paul Mitchell

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Who didn’t spend hours as a kids drawing team logos in their school notebooks? Obviously, the boob who painted that deformed ball and glove logo on Mitchell’s big blue cap. The Brewers had acquired the pitcher half-way through the 1979 season and the folks at Topps didn’t have time to find a picture of his in a Brewers uni for the 1980 set, so this airbrushed logo is what collectors got. He fared better than Bob Fenwick, anyway.

#15. 2009 Brewers Police Todd Coffey

There are not many Brewers cards out there of Todd Coffey and, like all the Brewers police-issue cards, it has a special “quote” from the player on the back to kids. But how could they give Coffey a quote that LIED ABOUT THE ONE THING HE BEST KNOWN FOR? It’s like a Ryan Braun police card telling kids not to design their own line of t-shirts!

#14. 1987 Topps John Henry Johnson

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Trivia time: Which one of the Sweathogs does he most resemble? I’d give the answer, but I can’t figure it out myself.

#13. 1996 Bowman Josh Bishop

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Bowman was always a cool set to collect because they issues a zillion minor league guys with the regular Major Leaguers, meaning you got to collect the rookies of players several years before they made it big. It also meant you stuck with stacks of guys like Josh Bishop, middling prospects who never made it big and had their moments of cardboard glory while sporting bad facial hair and Butthead mouths.

#12. 1981 Topps Pete Vuckovich

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Teammate: Ugh. Who farted?!?
Vuckovich: You know who…

#11. 2007 Topps Ben Sheets

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Yikes. Sheets looks like a kid being forced to pose in prom tuxedo by his parents. I mean, they couldn’t have tried any harder to get a decent shot of Big Ben? If you put a newspaper in hand, this could be a kidnapping “proof of life” photo. The text on the back should just say, “Ben Sheets exists.”

#10. 1982 Topps Rollie Fingers “In Action”

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Topps used to issue these “In Action” cards back when most card photos were posed headshots, the idea being to give collectors a chance to see game photos of players. But this is action? He’s standing for crissakes! Unless you’ve been bedridden for five or more days, that is not action. Extra points, too, for Rollie’s rear end, which manages to be both flat and lumpy at one time.

#9. 1999 Skybox Thunder Marquis Grissom

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A kind of cult-favorite among collectors, this set features reverse text written in a very unfortunate quasi-hip-hop prose. Of Grissom, the card states, “Our boy Grissom be runnin’ so fast, y’all might just miss ‘em! Man, you got more jets than the Air Force!” This set proves that rapping should be left to the professionals and elderly white women.

#8. 1992 Fleer Mark Lee

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If this guy had a mustache, he’d be every one of my uncles in their prime. Anyone who tells you that baseball players aren’t athletes has probably seen this photo.

#7. 1996 Topps Finest David Hulse

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The words “Finest” and “David Hulse” just don’t quite fit together. Furthermore, the design of this “super-premium” card feels like something out of Tron. Hulse actually batted .286 the year before this card was issued. Not bad for someone with the build of Mr. Burns.

#6. 2009 Topps Jeff Suppan

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So, it’s like, a recreation of the final scene in A Clockwork Orange, only with Jeff Suppan and a gym mat instead of Malcolm McDowell and the naked woman? Which would make McDowell the gym mat and… Damn you, Topps.

#5. 1991 Leaf Studio Ron Robinson

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Whoa! Those are some serious bedroom eyes for a baseball card. Another entry in the Studio series, this one reveals another flaw in the whole concept – that it tried to make these guys look waaaay too sexy. On the back, it reveals that Robinson likes rock music, Married, With Children, and collecting baseball cards. They should have called this the OkCupid set. Our match percentage would have been pretty high.

#4. 1994 Fleer Matt Mieske

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1994 Fleer is sooooo grunge ‘90s, it ought to have a stat category in the back for number of nipples pierced. The set’s most X-Treme gimmick was put the player’s bio info on the FRONT! I bet Kennedy collected these. Anyway, this horrifying contept leaves us with cards like this… with Matt Mieske’s weight plastered across his ass.

#3. 1995 Pinnacle Antone Williamson

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No, that’s not a young Wes Helms, nor is it a Division 2-A college softball player, a Sears activewear model, or a pioneer of Dadbod. That’s Antone Williamson, drafted fourth overall by the Brewers in 1994 – over Nomar Garciaparra, Paul Konerko, and Jason Varitek. Williamson totaled 11 hits in 24 career games with the Brewers. In 2012, the spotting of a Williamson jersey at Miller Park was such a shock it inspired an entire blog post at fangraphs.com.

#2. 1971 Topps Dave Baldwin

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Alfalfa is grown up, very drunk, and about to make an incredibly sexually suggestive remark to a complete stranger.

#1. 1992 Bowman Chris George

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1992 Bowman is one of the all-time baseball card sets. The abundance of rookie and its low print run make it a classic, featuring debut cards of Manny Ramirez, Mariano Rivera, Mike Piazza, Trevor Hoffman, and Carlos Delgado. But being a pioneer in the “pre-rookie” card business, Bowman sometimes had to get “creative” with their picture, as many players featured had not yet appeared in major league games. Opting against minor league action photos, collectors got a plethora of weird photos staged in early 90’s semi-casual clothing with a vague baseball theme. So, this is how we get the rookie card of lefty Chris George, who pitched all of six major league innings, looking either like a candidate for Ozaukee County treasurer or an TV commercial actor about to tell you about how he cured his “low T.” So, if you ever imagined you lived in world without a baseball card featuring a player in wearing a denim shirt, wristwatch, and woven leather loafers, you need to find something else to believe in.

 

 

 

Let’s Trade Some More!

I’ve done some more closet-cleaning and want to add a few lots that are up for trades. In my previous post, I mentioned that I was interested in ANY Topps base cards from 2016 and 2017. I’ve decided to open that up to include Topps base (update, too) from 2011 to 2017. The rules remain the same, pick a lot and I’ll ship it out and then you send back whatever you think is appropriate. Comment or use the contact form to make your claim.

THE GOODS:

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2016 inserts and parallels. Everything you see here.

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1959 Topps All-Stars. Not in great shape, but some nice vintage cardboard. CLAIMED

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2017 Inserts. What I’ve pulled from the few packs I’ve opened so far. Not much, but I’ll throw in some other fun mystery stuff.

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2016 Xander Bogaerts SP photo variation. For all you hard-core completists out there.

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Basketball Hall of Fame/ Future Hall of Famer autograph lot. I got all three of these via TTM. Tiny Archibald, Dirk, and Shaq. I’m getting rid of these because I’m paring down my collection to baseball only. I also have a fair stack of NFL ttm autos, including some Hall of Famers… I’ll be offering that up for trade in some way soon, but let me know if you have any interest in a bulk deal, it’s maybe 50 or so cards.

Let’s Trade!

One of the reasons I got into card blogging was to get to know other collectors and to make some swaps. I haven’t really had specific collecting goals in mind these past several years, short of TTMs and Brewers, so I’ve built up a weird collection of stuff I’ve purchased randomly and don’t really want anymore. So, I’m clearing it out! All to make room for the Topps set-building I want to do. So here’s the plan – the below lots are up for trade. Make a claim in the comments and I’ll get in touch. What I am asking for in return is 2016 or 2017 Topps flagship baseball. Any series, any card, any number – so long as they are base and not duplicated. I’m looking for lots to whittle down into near-sets, and then to work from there. I’ll leave it to you as to exactly what and how much you want to send. The lots below are semi-mysterious… if you love what you get, make it rain. If you don’t love it so much, send me a dozen commons or worse.

UPDATE – I am now looking for Topps flagship base cards from 2011-2017.

THE GOODS:

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60+ 2012 Topps Heritage. This is probably most of a blaster that I bought at one time. It includes a few inserts and 3 SPs, Kotchman, Bay, and Cuddyer.  CLAIMED

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70+ 2012/2013 Topps archives. There are some inserts included.

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Weirdo Baseball lot. Reprints, unlicensed stuff, minor leaguers…. is it fun? Is it crap? Is it both?

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1974 Topps Pro Draft football complete set. This is the 50 card set that came with a Parker Brothers “Pro Draft” board game. Picked this up at a Goodwill a few years back. I know there are variations on this… these cards list the 1972 stats on the back.

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50+ 1974-75 Topps Basketball. I found these inside the Pro Draft board game as well. CLAIMED

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Little Topps cards. Some people dig the minis, I don’t. What you see is what you get.

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Various Topps parallels. Colorful! But I don’t need ’em. CLAIMED

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Big stack of Topps baseball inserts. Most are from 2010, some are 2011-present. CLAIMED

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Football cards, mostly 1990 Pro Set. It’s an odd assortment. There is a near-complete 1990 series one set and a huge stack of 1990 SP inserts – the Santa card, that Andre Rison update card, the Joe Robbie card. I bought a box of this stuff once and got one of those SPs in every pack somehow. There are few older cards, 70s and 80s, as well.

Summer of ’74 Project #4 – Larry Lintz

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1974 Topps #121, signed via TTM

Larry Lintz could fly. His speed was always his most prominent virtue as a ballplayer, from growing up in Oakland to his debut season in the Expos chain as a marginal prospect, it was his wheels that got him noticed. Before the 1972 season, his second as a pro, the Expos put him a week-long “thievery school” in spring training, an elite camp for the team’s fastest men. Lintz proved a most apt pupil and, with Quebec of the Eastern League, swiped a record-setting 96 bags in just 107 attempts in 1973.

A year later, Lintz debuted in Monteal. While he never really developed his bat, he was patient at the plate and proved himself as a versatile and steady middle infielder. By the time this card was in circulation in early 1974, it seems unlikely that many kids got too excited over the diminutive (5′ 9″) speedster’s cardboard debut. He was a marginal player on a .500 club. Nor did it seem Gene Maunch and his Expos knew quite what to do with Lintz. He didn’t see regular playing time until mid-May. He got sporadic starts at 2B and SS, filling in for the just-as-youthful Jim Cox and Tim Foli, and was Montreal’s most often-used pinch runner. By season’s end, Lintz had stolen 50 bases, the fifth most in NL, while only being caught seven times. His 88% success rate was the highest in the league.

Lintz was, by this point, an interesting statistical study. While he drew a decent number of walks, his batting average was low. Despite his great speed, he had a startlingly spare number of extra base hits. He was steady in the field, but not flashy – meaning he was probably underappreciated without the benefit of advanced stats. Take away the jets and Lintz was no one’s idea of anything but a bush-leaguer… but no one could stop thinking about that speed.

In that same summer of ’74, back in Lintz’s hometown, Charlie O. Finley was in the midst of one of his most talked-about experiments. Herb Washington, a world-class sprinter, appeared in 92 games for the A’s, despite having no background in baseball. He appeared exclusively as a pinch-runner, scoring 29 runs and swiping 29 bags. He was, however, caught stealing 16 times, essentially negating any value his speed provided. But that off-season, the Montreal brass began to think of Lintz as their very own Herb Washington – one that knew the game and knew the science of the stolen base. Despite the big ideas they got from the ’74 season, they never put the grand plan into use. Lintz’s 1975 with the Expos was nothing all that different from his ’74, and a mid-season trade to the Cardinals didn’t result in him being used in any revolutionary ways. But after the ’75 season, the A’s traded for Lintz and turned him into their Washington 2.0. In 1976, Lintz  batted just 4 times, but scored 21 runs and stole 31 bases – a stat line that undoubtedly had its roots in that weird summer of 1974. Lintz played another year with the A’s and appeared in three games as a pinch runner with Cleveland in 1978 before retiring. He finished with 128 career steals and a stolen base success rate of 77.11% – a higher career mark than Bert Campenaris, Jackie Robinson, or Lou Brock.

Ripping in the New Year – My first 2017 Topps Pack

I haven’t paid much mind to the newer Topps releases in some time. The last set I tried to build was in 2010 and, to be honest, I haven’t felt much draw to any set since. The past couple of years in particular, I didn’t care much at all for the look of the sets. I’m not wild about the 2017s, but given my vow to be more active in card blogging, etc, I just might give it a try. I live on the east side of Milwaukee and do not have a car, meaning the nearest card shop/Target/Wal Mart is a bus ride and more away, so picking up packs of the newest stuff is always a kind of luxury for me. Anyway, on a recent overnight trip, being the stupid idiot that I am, forgot all of my bathroom stuff, which necessitated a stop at a superstore, where I grabbed a jumbo pack of 2017 Topps – my first cardboard of the new year! Here’s what I found…

Mike Trout, #20

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Well there’s a pretty damned fortuitous way to kick-off a new card year. It’s a nice shot of Trout, too, in all his dopey-looking glory. Trout is, to my mind, the best ball player in probably a generation or more. But I also find myself kind of bored by him. He’s a Jersey kid, for chissakes. Can’t he grow his hair out or start mouthing off or get arrested or something? I’d give a toe for him to Trout to become the Kaepernick of MLB. Not even strictly for politics… just to stir the pot. And also, the Angels have been the LA Angels of Anaheim now for 12 damn years, when is Topps going to start acknowledging that?

Andrew Cashner, #186.

Michael Bourn, # 127

Hector Santiago, #336

Alex Bregman, #341

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I love the All Star Rookie Cup. The worst thing about the 2010 set – by a MILE – was that sickly new version of the cup. Anyway, Bregman was born in 1994 – After the best episodes of The Adventures of Pete and Pete had already aired. This makes me feel 1,000 years old.

Ardoys Vizcanio, #300

No picture here, because he’s a career 1.1 WAR reliever, but how in the HELL does this guy get a star number when Mike Trout gets #20? I’m almost certain Topps spends all their creative energies figuring out ways to disappoint people.

Kurt Suzuki, #27

Joe Musgrove, #219

Jackie Bradley Jr., #245

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At some point (I’m too lazy to fully investigate) Topps stopped placing a coma before the “Jr.” in names. You’ll note it on Ken Griffey, Jr. cards here and here. I prefer the comma for no other reason than I think it places the Jr. designation as more of sub-feature to the name, something that is by tradition dropped when the Sr. passes away. Anyway, this card gives a nice explanation for Bradley’s Jr., which is usually not recognized among ballplayers unless there was a Sr. who also played.

Joey Votto League Leader, #110

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It’s shit like this that keep from trying to put these sets together. I used to LOVE the league leader cards – they always had their own special design and featured a number of top players. As a Brewers team set collector, they were always a nice touch in the binder, a memorial of an exceptional season and a chance to chase cards beyond what the eBay team sets offered. But this crap! What is the point with this? There are THIRTY leader cards in series one this year. This eats up DOZENS of spots that could go to other players. And what did Votto leader the league in? Oh, yeah. Nothing. He was third in NL batting average. Terrific.

Jon Lester, (non) league leader, #163

Daniel Murphy, (non) league leader, #84

Albert Pujols, (non) league leader, #322

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Here’s the backside of a leaders card, if anyone cares. I would would also heartily support updating the leader categories as well. How about stolen bases or OPS+ or WAR? How about youngest and oldest players? That would be fun! Tallest? Fattest? Ugliest? I wholeheartedly support freak show leader cards.

Khris Davis (non) league leader, #291

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THIS is a great example of why the leader cards were so cool in the first place. There was always a weird outlier or two like Krush Davis that sneaked their way into a clutch of All Stars. But it only works if he has a little head shot among theirs. This is just another Khris Davis card. By the way, I totally miss Khris as a Brewer. He’s easily the most fun .240 hitter in baseball.

Corey Dickerson, #165

Jose Peraza, Throwback insert

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Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. And I’ll continue to sleep through the remainder of the inserts.

Wilson Ramos, Award Winner insert

Eric Hosmer, Then & Now insert

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More Zs. I do like the idea of a “then and now” as subset, like back in the ’80s. But this… I mean, who cares? Now if you have a then and now of Bartolo Colon, that might be worthwhile.

Kris Bryant, Award Winner insert

Brandon Moss, #89

Justin Smoak, #316

Nomar Mazara, #233

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All of the leaders, inserts, and horizontal cards came bundled together in the sequencing of this pack. Is that typical? Anyway, I haven’t said much about the design of these cards. I actually don’t hate it. It’s bold and bright. They did away with that weird comic-book filter on the photos they’ve used for the past few years and cut way down on the dead space around the photo. I like the back, too, in theory. The elimination of career stats is a travesty and the inclusion of social media tags is gimmicky at best, but they look pretty nice. I might consider trying to put this together.

Chris Hatcher, #325

Trevor Story, #42

Steve Pearce, #169

Jeremy Hellickson, #348

Miami Marlins, #217

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I don’t know what to make of these “TEAM CARDS” anymore. Although it’s a little insulting that they feel the need to tell you it’s a team card – like you wouldn’t otherwise know. Again, this idea could be really cool. With a unique design and some cool stats on the back… it could work. But this just feels so damn lazy: same design as the base and about 100 words on the back. Interestingly, this card does mention the death of Jose Fernandez. A memorial card for Jose would have been a nice touch for the 2017 set, and I suppose it could be yet to come in series 2.

Kyle Schwarber, #73

Adonis Garcia, ##129

Colin Rea, #114

Raisel Inlgasias, #185

Zach Duke, #307

Carson Fulmer, #33

Taijuan Walker, #259

Teoscar Hernandez, #67

Derek Norris, #92

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This is one of the nicest-looking cards in the pack. The colors work, it’s a cool post-action photo and features a great bit of intensity in Norris’s eyes. This one also got me thinking about baseballs. As in, the actual ball. On most cards, you don’t actually see a ball. And it’s pretty rare – on cards from the 90s and onward – that you see a ball that’s not in motion. Someone should study this.

The 25 Coolest Brewers Cards of All-Time

A while back, I counted down the 25 coolest Brewers cards of all-time for a local alt weekly publication here in hometown of Milwaukee. Since much of the card blogging community probably doesn’t have chance to grab the Shepherd Express, I thought I’d rerun the article here. For this, I stuck to the base sets of the big companies. I have a companion piece on the 20 WORST Brewers cards as well, which I’ll also post in due time.

25. 1981 Donruss Sixto Lezcano

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Sixtoooooooooo Lezcano was a major part of the team’s emergence in the late 1970s as a contender and put together one of the best offensive seasons in team history in 1979. This card actually came out after he had already been traded to St. Louis (the back actually mentions the trade), but is a solid and simple example of cardboard badassery. Sixto’s scruffy beard, boss hat, and fierce scowl work very nicely with old Comiskey Park in the background.

24. 1983 Donruss Gorman Thomas

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Speaking of fierce! If league home run leaders had official portraits commissioned like outgoing US Presidents, this would surely be the image of Stormin’ Gorman best suited to capture his legacy. Ornery, sweaty, and haggard, you can almost feel the breeze from the mighty hack Gorman is about to unleash. It almost doesn’t even matter if he makes contact or not.

23. 1997 Topps Jeff Cirillo

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The late 1990s are a kind of lost era for the Brewers. Third baseman Jeff Cirillo was one of the few bright spots of those years. This card neatly encapsulates his times, with Cirillo tear-assing around third in a hideous uniform (with a Milwaukee sesquicentennial patch!) in front of a wide patch of empty seats.

22. 2012 Topps Nyjer Morgan

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If this looks familiar, it’s because it is the exact same photo that appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated back in August 2011. Like the Cirillo card, this one perfectly captures the feel of a time in Brewers history – albeit a much more exciting one – when the Brewers were world-beaters, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder were MVP candidates, and T-Plush was our own resident shit-starter.

21. 1975 Topps George Scott

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The late George Scott was the Brewers’ first real superstar and one of the league’s top hitting and fielding first basemen. This card illustrates him in his prime, mutton-chopped and adorned in his shark-tooth necklace (he always claimed they were teeth he had knocked out of second basemen).

20. 1973 Topps Bill Parsons

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Good action shots are pretty rare on baseball cards from the 1970s. Here, we get to see young Parsons about to fire one home with second baseman Ron Theobald cheating in and a good crowd in the bleachers. The players at the rail of the outfield wall watching from the bullpen and the huge beer mug on the scoreboard complete the scene.

19. 1998 Upper Deck Doug Jones

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“I call this turf ‘n’ turf. It’s a 16 oz. T-bone and a 24 oz. Porterhouse. Also, whiskey and a cigar. I am going to consume all of this at the same time because I am a free American.”

18. 2009 Upper Deck CC Sabathia

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Although he won’t be remembered as a Brewer, CC Sabathia gave the greatest three months of a great career to Milwaukee. This card shows a pitch from the August 31, 2008 game in which he came oh-so-close to no-hitting the Pirates. It also commemorates the final year Upper Deck produced licensed baseball cards.

17. 1978 Topps Paul Molitor

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Now, this one might actually cost you a few bucks. As the rookie card of both the Hall of Famer Molitor and the should-be Hall of Famer Alan Trammell, this is one of the landmark cards of the 1970s. As I’ve blogged about before, Molitor was a very late addition to the Brewers 1978 plans and, had Robin Yount not been waffling on his future as a ballplayer, Topps might not have bothered to include Molitor’s ill-lit face on this rookie shortstops card.

16. 1979 Topps Paul Molitor

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Now THIS would be a beautiful rookie card. Substantially cheaper than his 1978 card, the ’79 shows the 21-year-old Molitor in the sunlight at County Stadium in a beaten-up batting helmet grinning the grin of a kid who had suddenly found himself as an every-day Big Leaguer. I haven’t mentioned card design yet on this list, but I really like the 1979 look. Simple and bright, this card borders on art.

15. 1982 Donruss Harvey Kuenn

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This is another that falls into the presidential portrait category. Huddled at the batting cage and with a plug of chaw in his cheek, the image just is Harvey Kuenn, the Milwaukee-bred former AL batting champion who (of course) led the Brewers to their only World Series. Kuenn is depicted here as the Brewers batting coach, but he would be promoted to manager just over a month into the season. It’s the only example of a Brewers coach ever being given his own card. Donruss issued a few coach cards in 1982, mostly of former star players, in addition to the more traditional managers cards.

14. 1971 Topps Mike Hegan

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1971 Topps might be the most beautiful trading card set every produced. The mod font and crisp black borders meet with some of the best photography of the decade. This is actually the first Brewers card set ever produced. Their shift to Milwaukee occurred so near to the opening of the 1970 season that Topps had already printed their cards as the Seattle Pilots. Anyway, a great shot here of one of the Brewers early stars at old Yankee Stadium.

13. 1976 Topps Kurt Bevacqua Bubble Gum Champ

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Kurt Bevacqua spent two undistinguished seasons with the Brewers, save for his triumph in 1975 Joe Garagiola/Bazooka Bubble Gum Blowing tournament. The final match with Johnny Oates of the Phillies (from which the photo was taken) was held before game 3 of the 1975 World Series and broadcast nationally on NBC. If you want to watch it and see grown men talking way too seriously about bubble gum, check out parts one and two on youtube.

12. 1993 Topps Pat Listach

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When I was a kid, that little golden All Star Rookie cup was of unimaginable importance. And not only was Listach an All Star Rookie, but he was the reigning Rookie of the Year when this card – with its awesome broken-bat photo – was issued. Of course, Listach didn’t meet expectations, but this card – part of a very nice looking set – captures a moment when the sky was his limit.

11. 2011 Topps Carlos Gomez

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Carlos Gomez is probably one of the most exciting Brewers players of all time and this card does a good job at framing the intensity he brought to Miller Park. It helps that the picture comes from a game against the Pirates who would, in time, come to love the sight of Gomez running full-speed so much that they could not stand to see him jog.

10. 1983 Fleer Gorman Thomas

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If his ’83 Donruss card was fierce, Gorman’s ’83 Fleer issue is downright horrifying. Deranged hobo? Confused biker? Thoughtful Mountain roadie? With all apologies to Rollie Fingers, this is a premier use of facial hair on a Brewers baseball card.

9. 2010 Topps Ryan Braun/ Prince Fielder Checklist

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Forget the stupid “Bernie’s Bash Brothers” tag in the corner, Brewer fans can easily recognize this scene as the aftermath of one of the most important Brewers home runs maybe ever. It’s an odd use of the photo, especially in 2010 and without mention of the context, but memorializes one of the greatest Brewers games I’ve ever watched.

8. 1986 Fleer Pete Vuckovich

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This is card is cool for everything that is so terribly wrong about it… the wildly dopey look on Vuke’s face, his Corky St. Claire haircut, the fact that his baby blue uniform melts into the background and borders. In spite of all that, Vuke looks like he’s ready to go fire a few fastballs. He was just four years removed from winning the AL Cy Young Award in this picture, but had managed only 25 starts in that time. He would throw only 32 more innings in 1986 before retiring.

7. 1994 Upper Deck Greg Vaughn

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Vaughn’s Valley was the section of bleachers at County Stadium where leftfielder Greg Vaughn deposited a lot of home runs in the early 1990s. Vaughn was not really a major star or nationally known when this card came out, so it was a nice bit of work by the Upper Deck people to pay tribute to a local hero. Huge plus for the inclusion of all those pasty-white ‘stallis bleacher folks, too.

6. 2013 Topps Nori Aoki

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I really can’t decide what is better here – the pure joy on Aoki’s face as he trots home or the welcoming arm of third base coach Eddie Sedar guiding him in. This was a big homer, too. It gave the Brewers an 8-7 lead over the Nationals in a wild 2012 game that featured five homers. The Nats ended up winning 11-10 in 11 innings. Plus Nori even took the time to scribble his name (I guess?) on my copy!

5. 1976 Topps Record Breaker Hank Aaron

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This is easily the best of the few cards that feature Hank Aaron as a Brewer. His 1975 card shows him in a badly airbrushed cap and his regular 1976 card makes him look about 500 years old. This would be his last card as an active player to show him in action, as he takes a hack in a very blue Brewers road uni with some very gold socks. It commemorates his breaking of Babe Ruth’s all-time RBI record, which is a surprisingly little-remembered event in baseball history.

4. 1993 Upper Deck Darryl Hamilton

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With an understated design and vibrant photography, 1993 Upper Deck is up there with ’71 Topps as one of the most beautiful card sets ever. The Brewers of the set are are highlighted by this fantastic issue of Darryl Hamilton. One of the fan favorites of the post-Yount/Molitor era, Hambone always seemed to look good on the field, with smooth defense and a sweet lefthanded swing. Sadly, Hamilton was killed by his girlfriend last year in a murder-suicide.

3. 2010 Topps Prince Fielder

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There seems to be a tiny sliver of the baseball fan populace who feels that, for some reason, baseball should be fun. And this widely-derided “bowling ball” walk-off homer celebration was fun. And this card commemorating it is a whole lotta fun! As it turns out, Prince was merely a pawn in all of this. Bill Hall and others devised the celebration, and  left it up to the next Brewer to hit a walk-off to act as the ball to his teammate’s pins. You also notice that Prince has his jersey untucked, a post-win practice started by centerfielder Mike Cameron as a tribute to his working-class father who untucked his shirt after a day’s work. The bowling ball stunt earned Fielder a ball in the ribs in a game against the Giants the following spring training, to which the nation’s grumpy old white men nodded in silent approval.

2. 1975 Topps Robin Yount

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This is the iconic Brewer card. Rockin’ Robin at just 18 years old, posing in his crisp Brewers whites in Spring Training… the curly blonde hair, the grin, the “Rob Yount” signature. There really isn’t all that much I can add to it. But at #2? What could possibly outrank the classic Robin freaking Yount rookie card??

1. 2012 Topps Nyjer Morgan NLDS Game 5

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In the end, I had to go with fun. And even though he wasn’t the best or most exciting or most valuable player on the 2011 division champions team, Nyjer Morgan was easily the most fun. For his annoyance of the Cardinals and their fans alone, T-Plush could have taken that title, but for that one incredible summer, everything he did was loud, fast, and entertaining. Here, we get to see him just after the franchise’s biggest hit since Cecil Cooper willed his line drive to get down against in the ’82 ALCS. It was a “Beast Mode” kinda summer, and this one defined it.

 

Summer of ’74 Project #3 – John Hiller

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1974 Topps #24, signed via TTM

I’ll admit, before I mailed this card out, I had no idea who John Hiller was. But one of the great joys of this blog is getting to know these players and their careers. And I’m quite glad I got to know John Hiller. A few facts: Hiller is a native Canadian; he threw 128 innings, in starts and relief, for the 1968 AL Champion Tigers; that same year, he was nicknamed “Ratso” after the Dustin Hoffman character in Midnight Cowboy because, at the time, he was walking with a limp; also that same year, he threw nine, four-hit, shutout innings at the Yankees after entering a game in the 8th inning (the game was eventually declared a tie after 19 innings); he missed the 1971 season after suffering THREE heart attacks in one day; in the seven years after returning from his heart attacks, he posted an ERA+ of 161 – which was significantly better than the seven year PEAK of SANDY F’ing KOUFAX; Hiller’s career ERA+ is 134 – 26th highest of all-time and better than Greg Maddux, Roy Halladay, Koufax, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, or Whitey Ford.

Hiller worked primarily as a reliever and spot starter. In 1973, as the fireman on an 85-win Tigers team, he set a major league record for saves in a season (38) and recorded what the Hardball Times ranked as the second-greatest relief pitcher season of all-time. That year, he finished fourth place in both the AL Cy Young and MVP voting. And it was on one of the Tigers’ trips to Milwaukee that season that his picture on this card was taken. That was teh same year the Tigers (more specifically Billy Martin) and the Brewers had a minor beef over a comment Martin had made while the Brewers were ahead of his Tigers in the standings. I wrote a short piece on that for my Brewers history blog, if anyone is interested.

The Summer of ’74 would not be as kind to the Tigers at ’73, and the club sputtered to a 72-80 mark, their worst finish since 1960. But Hiller remained sharp. Working exclusively out of the bullpen, he finished 52 of the 59 games he entered. Oddly enough, he actually registered more wins and losses than saves. He tallied a 17-14 mark (the most decisions ever for pitcher with zero starts) with only 13 saves – a testament more to the erratic play of this Tigers than his presence on the mound. Although he did not start, he was an highly-effective rubber arm in the ‘pen. He made nine appearances that season of more than three innings – including five games of five innings or more – each an act of blasphemy by today’s standards. He was also an all-star in ’74, but didn’t play in the game.

He remained one of the best bullpen arms in the AL for the next half-decade, but mostly on second-division Tiger clubs. He retired after the 1980 season as the Tigers all-time leaders in saves and the last of the ’68 World Series team still active.