Category: Classic Baseball Cards

Baseball Rights A Wrong: Tim Raines Enters Hall of Fame

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the side of righteousness trailing by a run, the Baseball Writers Association of America undid one of the biggest wrongs in the Hall of Fame by electing Tim Raines in his final year of eligibility.  Today  baseball celebrates the Rock as the  former Expos great becomes just the fourth  player to be elected in his final year of eligibility, joining Red Ruffing (1967), Joe Medwick (1968), Ralph Kiner (1975), and Jim Rice (2009).

Raines

Placed in a historical context, Raines’s resume is more than HOF worthy.  He was one of the game’s great lead off hitters, top base stealers, and — believe it or not — an extra-base-hitting-machine during his 23-year major league career.  Raines was often lost in the shadow cast by Rickey Henderson, arguably the greatest leadoff hitter ever. But digging deeper into the numbers, Raines was every bit the player as Henderson and even rivaled the great Ty Cobb, arguably the best hitter in baseball history.  

We all know Raines was one of the game’s great base stealers, but his consistency on the base paths was unparalleled.  He ranks fifth on the career stolen base list with 808 and is the career leader in stolen base percentage (84.7) among players with 400 attempts. Raines is the only player in baseball history to steal at least 70 bases in seven consecutive  seasons (1981-1986).  He stole 40 consecutive bases between July 1993 – August 1995, a major league record later broken by Ichiro Suzuki with 45 consecutive swipes.

Like Cobb, Raines will never be considered a home run hitter, but the former speedy outfielder combined extra base hits with stolen bases at an historic rate.  He was the only player in baseball history with at least 100, triples, 150 homers and 600 stolen bases.  Raines finished his career with 113 triples and 170 homers.  

Raines also tallied with 2,605 hits over his career — well below the imaginary 3,000-hit Hall of Fame threshold. But looking deeper, only nine of the 27 players with 3,000 hits can match Raines’s .385 career on-base percentage.  Raines reached base more times than three no-doubt HOFers with 3,000 hits: Tony Gwynn, Lou Brock and Roberto Clemente as well as the ageless and  still playing Ichiro Suzuki.

Need more convincing?  Raines was the only player ever with four seasons of 50-plus extra base hits and 70-plus stolen bases.  Henderson and Cobb combined for four such seasons; every other HOFer combined for an additional four.

Raines is seldom mentioned with the all-time greats such as Cobb, but he should be and the evidence is in the numbers:  He is the only player in MLB history with five consecutive seasons with at least 30 doubles and 70 stolen bases, which he did from 1982-1986.  Before 1982, the last player to record 30 doubles and 70 stolen bases in a season was Cobb in 1915.  

For more head-spinning stats, be sure to check out the Ace of MLB Stats Twitter account.  Its creator, Ryan Spaeder, seems to be on a personal crusade to get Raines into the Hall of Fame.  Raines did the work and Spaeder has aligned the numbers in convincing fashion.

Raines becomes the third player to go into the Hall of Fame as a Montreal Expo, joining Gary Carter and Andre Dawson.  Raines won two World Series rings (1996 and 1998) in New York as a role player with the Yankees.  It’s a great day when one of baseball’s great injustices is rectified.

The Raines Topps rookie card is one of the top rookies from the 1981 series.  Issued just before the mass-produced sets of the ‘80s, the Expos “Future Prospect” card also includes Roberto Ramos and, two “future stars” that never panned out.  Be careful if you’re buying:  The “Future Prospect” cards are notorious for having gum-stained backs.  

1981 Donruss: From Hall of Famer Tim Raines to “Dwayne Kuiper”

Don’t be confused by its drab, almost amateur appearance.  Simplicity, quirkiness, and historic value make 1981 Donruss Baseball one of the most significant and fascinating sports card sets ever produced.

 The 1981 Donruss Baseball Card set was the first complete set since the early 1950s not to bear the name Topps.  For the first time since 1955, more than one company was producing extensive sets representing major league players.  A legal decision in the fall of 1980 gave both Fleer and Donruss the legal right to produce cards. The verdict cleared the path for Upper Deck to enter the fray and revolutionize the hobby with its premiere baseball card set in 1989.

Raines81Donruss

Fleer and Donruss finalized their deals with the Major League Baseball Players Association in September 1980, leaving just five months to produce and deliver cards to stores by the last week of January 1981 to compete directly with Topps.  Gathering

photos, matching players with photos, writing informational blurbs, and proofreading statistics, proved to be a daunting task for companies producing baseball cards on a grand scale for the first time.

There were more than 30 error cards in the 1981 Donruss Set.  Houston Astros pitcher Vern Ruhle’s card actually pictures teammate Frank Lacorte.  Cleveland Indians infielder Duane Kuiper was listed as “Dwayne” Kuiper.  In a strange but true tale, Donruss listed Cardinals’ outfielder Bobby Bonds – father of current “Home Run King” Barry Bonds – with 986 homers, 231 more than Hank Aaron, the all-time home run leader at the time.  

There has been interest in both the error and corrected versions for nearly three decades because both versions are more limited than the other cards in the set.  The 1981 Donruss series has also kept the growing number of baseball historians and “oddball” card collectors entertained over the years.

Tim Raines’ induction into the Hall of Fame has given the 1981 Donruss Set a recent spark.  Although Donruss somehow skipped over National League Rookie of the Year Fernando Valenzuela that year, it was the only company to picture Raines by himself on a rookie baseball card. Topps featured Raines with two other rookies on a prospect subset card, while Fleer swung and missed altogether.  The series also includes rookie cards of Jeff Reardon, Mookie Wilson, and Toronto Blue Jays infielder Danny Ainge before he became a three-time championship winning guard and executive with the Boston Celtics.

 

Rushing into the production of the 605-card 1981 Donruss Set also caused collation and printing issues.  Factory sets were not produced.  Instead, hobby dealers had to buy wholesale from TCMA, Donruss’ exclusive hobby distributor.  Cards of each player were shipped to dealers in 100-card lots secured by rubber bands. The cards then needed to be hand collated. The collation of wax packs caused further problems for collectors.  Several of the same card were often found in a single wax pack, which was great news if the card featured Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski or Johnny Bench.  Not such good news if the Leo Sutherland card was the featured player.  

The cards bend easily and show tremendous wear over time due to flimsy paper stock.  The lackluster design consists of predominantly blurry portrait or posed photos against mostly empty stadium backdrops.  Time constraints prevented Donruss from airbrushing uniforms or caps. Players changing teams during the offseason appeared in their former uniforms with the name of their current team displayed across the bottom of the card.

Donruss also had considerable trouble securing player photographs. Ray Burris was traded by the Cubs to the Yankees who later sold him to the Mets during the 1979 season.  Although he hadn’t played for the Cubs in nearly two years, Burris sports a Cubs uniform on his 1981 Donruss card. Many of the pictures were taken in Wrigley Stadium or Comiskey Park by amateur photographers as Donruss scrambled to put together a set.  A handful of photos were taken by political and sports commentator Keith Olbermann, then a 21-year-old photographer with a passion for baseball.

Although limited in value, the 1981 Donruss Set has its own charm with an array of hard-to-believe mishaps and a unique history.

Andrew Benintendi Is A Hit

Drawing comparisons to Red Sox greats past and present, Andrew Benintendi enters the 2017 season as baseball’s top prospect and a hobby treasure.  The 22-year-old outfielder arrived in the majors just a year after being taken with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. He instantly impressed with spectacular all-around play and remarkable poise during the Red
Sox run to the AL East Division Title.

After dominating every level of the minor leagues and forcing his way onto the Red Sox everyday lineup, Benintendi became an instant hit with baseball card collectors.  His first big-time baseball card, the 2015 Bowman Chrome card issued just months after the draft, sells for $BenintendiBowChrAuto6.  Rare purple refractor versions, limited to a production run of 250, sell for $80 and are on the rise.

Benintendi’s timely hitting and outstanding defense quickly caught the attention of collectors throughout the country. Certified autographed versions of the Bowman Chrome purple refractor card gained momentum over the winter and are currently selling for $405.  Because the full-bled, high, gloss photos are susceptible to dings and damaged corners, PSA-10 versions (the highest possible grade) are extremely rare and have sold for $1,400. The paper, smudge-free, non-chrome versions — ideal for in-person autographs — are readily available for $3.

Benintendi looked like a major leaguer from day one, batting .295 with a .835 OPS in limited play cut short by a knee injury.  With his rookie status still intact after a 34-game introduction to the majors last season, Benintendi looks to become the first Red Sox Rookie of the Year since Dustin Pedroia in 2007.   Benintendi’s true rookie card is from 2017 Topps Series 1,which is selling for $3.  Because the 2015 Bowman Chrome card is part of a Prospects subset, it is not considered a rookie card.

Small in FredLynn75Toppsstature like Pedroia and Mookie Betts, Benintendi fits perfectly on the Red Sox undersized, overpowering lineup. The Red Sox are hopeful Benintendi takes a similar career path as Betts by adding strength and home runs to his repertoire in year two.  Collectors crave game-used memorabilia cards of baseball’s top sluggers. Playing in Boston heightens Benintendi’s popularity. His 2016 Elite Extra Gold Triple Jersey card is available for $15 for the time being.

Benintendi reminds veteran Red Sox fans of Fred Lynn circa 1975.  He has the same smooth, graceful lefthanded swing as Lynn, the first player to take AL Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season.  Like Lynn, Benintendi has the ability to wrap the ball around Pesky’s Pole and drive the ball off and over the leftfield wall.  The Red Sox would be thrilled if Benintendi approaches Lynn’s rookie season production when the 23-year-old centerfielder hit .331 with 21 homers, 105 RBI and slugged .566.  Lynn’s rookie card is a highlight of the 1975 Topps set.  The not-so-pleasant on the eyes orange and yellow framed card is a nice addition to a
ny Red Sox collection for under $10.

Benintendi put himself on the baseball map by hitting .564 with 12 homers and 57 RBI in his senior year at Madeira High School (Ohio).  After being named the ABCA/Rawlings National High School Player of the Year, Benintendi  was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 31st round of the 20BenintendiArkansas13 MLB Draft, but opted to refine his baseball skills at the University of Arkansas.  As sophomore with the Razorbacks, Benintendi led the Southeast Conference in batting (.380), home runs (19), and slugging (.715) en route to being named the Baseball America College Player of the Year and receivin
g the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s most valuable player.

Highlights from Benintendi’s college career are captured in the 2015 Panini Contenders set.  Action shots of Benintendi in his Razorbacks uniform are available for under $4 with game-used jersey cards selling for $15 and are on the  rise.  Certified autographed Panini Contenders cards of Benintendi in his college uniform is selling for $60, while limited versions serial numbered to 23 sell for $190 on eBay.

 

 

The Joy Of Collecting 1970s Hostess Baseball Cards

Drab, ordinary, jurassic are terms that come to mind when describing the Hostess Baseball Cards of the the mid-late ‘70s.  The sets were nothing more than marketing ploys to sell more Twinkies, HoHos, Suzy-Q’s and King Dons (Ding Dons if you lived on the West Coast) .  Big on errors and small on creativity, the Hostess  sets featured  the game’s biggest stars with simple head shots displayed against uninspired spring training backdrhank_aaron_hostessops and white borders.   

Yes, the Hostess sets were dull, almost cheerless, but just about every 40-something to 50-something
baseball fan/collector (like the guy I see in the mirror every morning) has fond memories of Hostess’s lame attempt at manufacturing baseball cards.  After all, this was the set that we assembled piece by piece while waiting for Mom to rummage through the produce isle at the local grocery store.  This is also the set that got us hooked on The Sporting News, which played a huge role in the development of our baseball fandom.

Back in the day,Topps dominated the baseball card hobby.  If the single Topps set — there were no premium, platinum or chrome releases — didn’t satisfy your collecting needs, the Hostess sets produced from 1975-1979 gave you another option.  Dealers and collectors couldn’t buy Hostess cards directly from the company, so they had to work and spend to complete these sets.

Beginning in 1975 Hostess cards were produced in three-card panels on  the back of each multi-pack Hostess box.  The best part of this new wave of collecting was seeing what you  were buying, which encouraged set building.  Hostess panels — complete with an offer for a free issue of The Sporting News — kept in tact are more valuable and coveted today that cards cut from the box.  Some cards were printed on not-so-tasty products and are more difficult to find today.  Cards printed on the back of the smaller HoHos multi-pack boxes are often creased at the corners from haozzi_smith_hostess-panelndling.

Proofreading, editing and reading the  daily box scores were not priorities for Hostess baseball card editors.  The initial set was loaded with mistakes.  Slugger Bill Madlock was listed as a pitcher, Rangers catcher Jim Sandberg was named Mike and outfielder George Hendrick became George Hendricks.  Robin Yount, a teenage phenom at the time, is one  of the more popular players in the set.  Unfortunately, Hostess did not include a rookie card of future Hall of Famer George Brett.

Despite the quality-control issues, the debut Hostess set remains popular today with over 3,000 listings, including a handful of graded panels, currently on eBay.  The 1975 panel set is worth  as much as $400 depending on the  condition.  The single-card set varies widely because of stain issues — creamy cake fillings sometimes seeped through the packages — and cards being miscut.

Celebratingyaz_hostess the  nation’s bicentennial, the Hostess 1976 set includes red, white and blue stripes surrounding the  player’s name, team and position.  Collectors familiar with the 1976 Topps set will recognize some of the same photos in the Hostess series.  The set is loaded with stars, including Brett, Nolan Ryan, Pete Rose, a Dennis Eckersley rookie and one of Hank Aaron’s final cards.

The 1977 Hostess set includes Hall-of-Famers-to-be Joe Morgan, Reggie Jackson, Carl Yastrzemski, Thurman Munson and Johnny Bench.  By this time, collectors learned to save the cards as complete panels.  The complete panel sets are valued as much as $300 with the single set selling for nearly three times as much due to scarcity.

Although Eddie Murray was considered just another player at the time, his rookie card in the 1978 Hostess sets remains highly coveted.  For the first time, a few action shots were used to liven up the product.  Unfortunately the cost of producing baseball cards out-weighed the marketing advantages.  As a result, the 1979 edition was the final Hostess set.  Hostess went out with a bang, featuring an Ozzie Smith rookie card on  the same panel as Nolan Ryan as well as Willie Montanez.

 

Tim Raines’s Last Chance For the Hall of Fame

There are two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the side of righteousness trailing by a run.  The Baseball Writers Association of America has one more chance to right one of the biggest wrongs in the Hall of Fame by electing Tim Raines.

Raines has steadily gained support, but is in his 10th and final year of eligibility. In his first five years on the ballot, the former Expos great, was nominated by 22-49% of the voters, with 75% needed for election.  Last year he jumped from 55% to 69.8%.  This year Raines is looking to become just the fourth  player to be elected in his final year of eligibility, joining Red Ruffing (1967), Joe Medwick (1968), Ralph Kiner (1975), and Jim Rice (2009).

Placed in a historical context, Raines’s resume is HOF worthy.  He was one of the game’s great leadoff hitters, top base stealers, and — believe it or not — an extra-base-hitting-machine during his 23-year major league career.  Raines wRainesas often lost in the shadow cast by Rickey Henderson, arguably the greatest leadoff hitter ever. But digging deeper into the numbers, Raines was every bit the player as Henderson and even rivaled the great Ty Cobb, arguably the best hitter in baseball history.

We all know Raines was one of the game’s great base stealers, but his consistency on the base paths was unparalleled.  He ranks fifth on the career stolen base list with 808 and is the career leader in stolen base percentage (84.7) among players with 400 attempts. Raines is the only player in baseball history to steal at least 70 bases in seven consecutive  seasons (1981-1986).  He stole 40 consecutive bases between July 1993 – August 1995, a major league record later broken by Ichiro Suzuki with 45 consecutive swipes.

Like Cobb, Raines will never be considered a home run hitter, but the former speedy outfielder combined extra base hits with stolen bases at an historic rate.  He was the only player in baseball
history with at least 100, triples, 150 homers and 600 stolen bases.  Raines finished his career with 113 triples and 170 homers.

Raines finished with 2,605 career hits — well below the imaginary 3,000-hit Hall of Fame threshold. But looking deeper, only nine of the 27 players with 3,000 hits can match Raines’s .385 career on-base percentage.  Raines reached base more times than three HOFers with 3,000 hits: Tony Gwynn, Lou Brock, and Roberto Clemente as well as the ageless and  still playing Ichiro.

Need more convincing?  Raines was the only player ever with four seasons of 50-plus extra base hits and 70-plus stolen bases.  Henderson and Cobb combined for four such seasons; every other HOFer combined for an additional four.

Raines is seldom mentioned with the all-time greats such as Cobb, but he should be and the evidence is in the numbers:  He is the only player in MLB history with five consecutive seasons with at least 30 doubles and 70 stolen bases, which he did from 1982-1986.  Before 1982, the last player to record 30 doubles
and 70 stolen bases in a season was Cobb in 1915.

For more head-spinning stats, be sure to check out the Ace of MLB Stats Twitter account.  Its creator, Ryan Spaeder, seems to be on a personal crusade to get Raines into the Hall of Fame.  Raines did the work and Spaeder has aligned the numbers in convincing fashion.

Just under 70 percent of the HOF electorate voted for Raines last January.  He’s on course to receive the 75 percent of the vote needed for enshrinement this year. Raines is looking to become the third player to go into the Hall of Fame as a Montreal Expo, joining Gary Carter and Andre Dawson.  Raines won two World Series rings (1996 and 1998) in New York as a role player with the Yankees.  Here’s hoping one of baseball’s great injustices is rectified.

The Raines Topps rookie card is one of the top rookies from the 1981 series.  Issued just before the mass-produced sets of the ‘80s, the Expos “Future Prospect” card also includes Roberto Ramos and Bobby Pate, two “future stars” that never panned out.  Be careful if you’re buying:  The “Future Prospect” cards are notorious for having gum-stained backs.  

Celebrating Nolan Ryan Trade To Angels; 1972 Topps Baseball

Forty-five years ago this month, one of the worst trades in baseball history was made, prompting one of the most hideous-looking baseball cards ever to be produced.  

On December 10, 1971, the New York Mets sent 24-year-old fireballer Nolan Ryan along with three prospects to the the California Angels for shortstop Jim Fregosi.  In hindsight, the deal was a disaster for the Mets, but the deal made sense for both clubs at the  time.  

The Angels obtained one of the liveliest — not to mention most erratic — young arms in baseball.  Ryan posted a 29-38 record with an impressive 493 strikeouts, but an alarming 344 walks over five seasons with the Mets.  

The Mets were adding an established big leaguer believed to be in the prime of his career.  Manager Gil Hodges immediately moved  Fregosi  to third base, where 45 players had come and gone in the nolanryan72toppsMets’ 10 years of existence.  The last of the original Angels of 1961, Fregosi battled numerous physical problems in his one season with the Angels, including a bad bout with the flu, a sore arm, a strained side muscle, and a tumor in his foot.  The six-time All-Star batted just .232 with five homers, and 32 RBI in 101 games for the Mets.

Ryan moved on to a Hall of Fame career that included a major league record seven no hitters, 61 shutouts (seventh all-time), 324 wins, and became all-time strikeout leader with 5,714.  This is just one of many trades of a big-armed, but erratic young pitcher dealt for a proven veteran.  Unfortunately for the Mets it will be remembered as one of the most lopsided deals in baseball history.

In the early ‘70s baseball card sets went to press in late-December or early-January to be ready for distribution by the start of the baseball season.  As a result, Ryan’s head shot for the 1972 Topps set was taken while he played for the New York Mets.  The wrong Angels logo (they went to a capital A in 1972) was poorly airbrushed over Ryan’s Mets cap.  For some unknown reason, the Topps production team failed to airbrush the pinstripes clearly visible from his Mets jersey.

To make matters worse, Ryan’s doctored image was printed inside the grotesque 1972 Topps tombstone design.  Keeping up with the times and looking to change the drab designs of 1970 (gray borders) and 1971 (black borders), the 1972 Topps design features a bright, almost psychedelic color scheme.   

One of the most controversial baseball card sets, the 1972 Topps series draws the ire of  long-time collectors for emphasizing the product and team rather than the player. The team name above the player image is energized with bright, bold lettering that creates a three-dimensional look.  The player name, however, is printed in a simple black font at the bottom of the card.  Going against tradition, there is no mention of the player’s position.

The 1972 Topps set is not without merit.  The series includes the rookie card of Hall of Fame Catcher Carlton Fisk, which he shares with Cecil Cooper (the featured player), and Mike Garman.  The series also features the last regular card issued during Roberto Clemente in addition to late cards of Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.  Other featured Hall of Famers include Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Joe Morgan, Frank Robinson, and Fergie Jenkins.

Happy Birthday Carl Yastrzemski

Happy birthday to Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski, who turns 77 today. A leader in virtually every major offensive category in Red Sox history, the man they call Yaz is still one of the franchise’s most popular players.

Revered for playing the lead role in the “1967 Impossible Dream” season, Yaz became baseball’s 14th Triple Crown winner, while leading the Red Sox to the American League Pennant. Powering the Red Sox from last place in 1966, Yaz hit .326 for his second batting title, tied Harmon Killebrew with 44 homers aYaz 1960 Toppsnd drove in 121 runs. Yaz capped the season off with 10 hits in 13 at bats.

Upper Deck commemorated the historic feat with the 2007 UD Premier Stitchings “Triple Crown Commemorative Patch”. The card back salutes Yastrzemski’s three AL batting titles, six gold gloves, 18 All-Star Games and his 1989 Hall of Fame enshrinement. Limited to a production run of 50, this popular Yaz item is a great buy for $20.

In one of the greatest seasons ever for a Red Sox player, Yaz led the team to the World Series and bolstered his Triple Crown numbers by pacing the AL in runs, hits and total bases. Over his 23-year-career, Yaz collected 3,419 his, 1,844 RBI, 452 homers — at a time when 400 homers was an accurate benchmark for a top slugger — and seven gold gloves. The 18-time All-Star was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 on the first ballot.

Yastrzemski’s 1960 Topps rookie card, part of the Sport Magazine “Rookie Star Subset”, sells in the $160- $180 range. Print marks on some copies — a problem throughout the 1960 Topps series — limits the number of truly mint Yaz rookies. The only other major rookie card of the set belongs to Willie McCovey. Finding a well-centered Yaz or McCovey rookie is a daunting task. The popular 1967 Yaz card is a great buy for $18 in excellent condition.

With each passing season the legend of Yastrzemski’s accomplishment grows. Only 15 players have had Triple Crown seasons — Miguel Cabrera joined the select group in 2012 — with Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams each achieving it twice. Former Red Sox Slugger Jimmie Foxx slugged for the Triple Crown in 1933 while playing for the Philadelphia Athletics.  Baseball immortals such as Hank Aaron and Willie Mays didn’t do it. Babe Ruth came close in 1924, leading the AL in batting and homes, but losing the RBI title to Goose Goslin.

Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds have led their respective leagues in all three categories, but never in the same season. In 2006 David Ortiz was first in the AL in homers and RBI, but hit just .287. With more and more batters specializing in either hitting for batting average or power, a Triple Crown winner in the near future is becoming less and less likely.