Sunday, August 30, 2020

Wooooo!

When I was a kid, I got a little caught up by the world of wrestling for a year or two. It was hard not to with the cast of characters back then. Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, Jimmy Superfly Snuka, Ricky The Dragon Steamboat, Hacksaw Jim Duggan. The list goes on and on.

But one guy I just didn't understand was Ric Flair. 

I guess for most humble, small-town kids he simply wasn't a wrestler you'd gravitate toward, what with his braggadocio and expensive clothing and elaborate robes and all.

But over the past year or so I've added the first two cards to my wrestling card collectionHulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savageand it's caused me to take a look back at 1980s and 1990s wrestling as a whole. Seeing the entire picture now, as an adult, makes me think that Ric Flair was absolutely hilarious. And brilliant. 

I mean, take a typical wrestler's persona and then multiply it to the nth power. What do you get? 


You get Ric Flair. 

1991 Impel WCW #45, Ric Flair
 
You get exactly Ric Flair.

From his trademark "Woooo!" to his wheelin' and dealin' to this pre-match discourse of supreme confidence: 





It's perfect. 

I know, I know. It's goofy. And ridiculous. But it's also perfect. So I had to add the Ric Flair card you see above to my wrestling collection.

Here's to the man. I hope all of you add a "Woooo!" to your comments.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Just How Popular was Stamp Collecting?

Popular enough for Topps and O-Pee-Chee to issue hockey-inspired versions during the 1969-70 season, that's how. 

Here are two examples:




But this set of stamps wasn't just a stand-alone set, like the baseball stamps they'd produced in the '60s. No, these stamps were directly connected to that year's hockey cards. 

How directly?

Well, here are two cards from the 1969-70 Topps hockey set that I recently picked up. They're the first two cards from the set in my collection.


1969-70 Topps #8 Jacques Lemaire and #10 Jean Beliveau

Classy cards featuring even classier players, eh?

Here are the card backs. Pay close attention to Beliveau's.



 
PLACE JEAN BELIVEAU STAMP HERE!

I had no idea Topps brought two collecting worlds together like this. 

You'll note, however, that Jacques Lemaire's card does not have a space for the stamp. That's because out of the 132 cards in the set, only 26 were given the treatment. Stars like Phil Esposito, Rod Gilbert, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Stan Mikita, and Bobby Orr received a corresponding stamp, as well as a few lesser-known players. But that's it. (This can help explain why a collector like me might not have been aware of such a thing.)

The stamps were issued in pairs, one pair in each pack of cards. 

Now, sticking stamps on the back of hockey cards isn't exactly the smartest thing to do, condition-wise. And even back then, before trading cards were assigned much monetary value, Topps must have thought better about repeating the design. 1969-70 appears to be the only season they did it. 

Regardless, think about kids back then who collected stamps and hockey cards. Imagine combining two of your hobbies like that. Must have been pretty cool.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

A Buffoon from Britain Playing Baseball

Time for another custom card.

First, here's the original:


1964 Topps Giant #9, Rocky Colavito


Rocky Colavito is certainly not the buffoon from Britain. But he is giant, because the card is a Topps Giant card.

As with many of the other custom cards I've done so far, the original version reminded me of a particular actor. It's something about that face and the slight squint. Is it making any connections for you?

Here are a few hints:

The actor is best known for a TV series in which his character's buffoonery around London is always on full display.

This character doesn't say much, and is often seen in a button-down, necktie, tweed blazer, and brown trousers.

In real life, the actor is quite the car enthusiast.

Guesses?

Here's the answer:




Mr. Bean!

He's looking more toward the camera than Colavito is, but if you scroll back and forth between the two cards a couple of times, I think you'll understand my line of thought.

The good follow-through that Bean is exhibiting here is not his own, of course. And the idea of Mr. Bean playing baseball in his own Mr. Bean way is pretty amusing, isn't it? That being the case, I've listed his position as "Buffoon." Also note that he plays for his hometown (albeit fictitious) team, the Highbury Athletics. I changed the letter on his baseball cap to match.

Now to the actor himself, Rowan Atkinson. Because he's such a car guy, I figured I'd create a few more customs featuring cars. The first three comprise a series of scenes from a particular episode of Mr. Bean

First, Bean has great difficulty finding a parking spot.




Then, Bean discovers a car of the same make, model, and color as his own parked in a spot marked "reserved". Astonished by the serendipity, he pulls his car off to the side, gets out, and:




He sneaks over to the twin car, opens the door, and begins pushing it out of the spot. After he enlists (i.e., tricks) two authority figures into helping him push the car farther and farther away from the reserved spot, Bean gets back into his own car, starts it up, shifts it into reverse, and backs it right into the same spot. And then:




As only Bean can, he exits the scene.

The card template is from the 1988 Maxx set. Horizontal cards in the original set didn't have captions along the bottom, and didn't proceed chronologically, but I think this adds a little humor (and British-ness) to the custom cards. And as you can imagine, it would be more fun to display them in a nine-pocket page this way.

Next is a vertical layout from the same 1988 Maxx set:


Yep, that's Rowan Atkinson himself, preparing for a road race. I think the red and blue in the border go rather well with the red lining in Mr. Atkinson's helmet.

Anyone out there a fan of Rowan Atkinson? Have a favorite episode of Mr. Bean?

Add a comment!


(Mr. Bean's car in that episode was a 1977 British Leyland Mini 1000 Mark IV.)

Sunday, August 9, 2020

From the Favorites Box: Samuel Morse, 1952 Topps Look 'N See #70

A series where I post some thoughts about favorite cards. Previous cards in the series are available here.


Here's a guy who is quite an important figure in world history. (But not for his beard, impressive as it may be.)

The letters and codes that appear to his left and right provide a clue.





I first learned of Morse Code as a young tot. Over the summers back then my mom, sister, and I would often go visit our grandparents in Queens, NY, and stay overnight. Grandpa in particular was a tinkerer. He had a workshop in the basement. He made art from pieces of wood. He played the violin and piano. In his younger days he served in the US Army as a mechanic and bugler. Seemed to know everything about everything, that guy.

One evening when things were winding down in the kitchen, Gramps brought out a small device made of plastic and metal, with a small battery attached by wires. He called it a telegraph. It probably looked something like this one:





He set it down on the kitchen table. Behind it he propped up a piece of cardboard that had a sheet of paper glued to the front. Printed on that paper was the alphabet, with a generous space between each letter. And next to each letter, various arrangements of dots and lines.

Well, Gramps proceeded to explain the telegraph to me, and how pressing down on that knob caused two pieces of metal underneath to touch and complete an electrical circuit, which allowed the telegraph to generate a distinct beeping sound. Once you let go of the knob, the lever would spring back up, the pieces of metal would separate, and the beep would stop. It was a combination of those beeps, sent by cables or radio wave, that allowed you to communicate over long distances. My primary-school brain soaked in everything as best it could. 

Essentially, there were only two beeps you needed to learn, a short one and a long one. He went over the first few letters of the alphabet with me, demonstrating the combinations of long and short beeps that made up each letter, and then showed me how to string the letters together with codes like "S.O.S." (dot-dot-dot / line, line, line / dot-dot-dot)

I gave it a try. Seeing my enthusiasm, Gramps left me to it and soon went up to bed, along with the rest of the family. But there I remained, sitting in the kitchen, beeping the alphabet away, a small lamp on the table the only light on in the house.

At some point, someone must have come back downstairs and told me "okay, that's enough for one night". But I don't exactly remember who it was, or how long they allowed me to keep clicking away on that lever. 

Here's more information on the telegraph and Morse Code from the back of the card.




Note the secret message you're asked to find at the bottom.

Last year I shared the first card I picked up from this 1952 Topps Look 'N See set, featuring one of my all-time favorite authors, Jules Verne. I tried placing a piece of red cellophane on top of that one to decode the message, but it just wasn't coming out clearly enough, possibly from a fading or aging of the blue-ish ink used for the secret image. (If you look closely at the card back above, you can see something of an image behind the text.)

Eventually I was able to decode it by scanning the card, opening it in Photoshop, and placing a red-colored transparent layer on top, so I wanted to try again here.

The question we have to answer this time: 

What was the first message sent by wireless?  

(Get ready before you scroll down, it's rather bright)


*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*



What hath God wrought?

On May 24, 1844, Samuel Morse, who was at the US Capitol, and Alfred Vail, his colleague at the other end of the line at a railroad station in Baltimore, wanted to share a message that would capture the awe and amazement of the onlookers that day, and after that, the world.

It's difficult to make out details of the telegraph itself in the image, but you can see an illustrated Morse tapping away at a device. Regardless, I know I would have enjoyed decoding this card if I'd been a kid in 1952.

And for the great memories of Grandpa, one of my best friends in the world, 1952 Topps Look 'N See #70 has a place in my box of favorite cards.


Bonus Feature: MORSE CODE CHALLENGE

Take a minute and translate the following.

-. .. -.-. . / -... . .- .-. -.. / ... .- -- ..- . .-.. -.-.--

Sunday, August 2, 2020

A One-Question Baseball Quiz

Here it is:

Does the following list contain (A) the names of real professional baseball players or (B) the names of fictional baseball players that appear in a vintage video game?

Kyle Hypes
Tommy Toms
Horace Speed 
Rocky Bridges
Johnnie LeMaster

(Scroll down for the answer)


         *

         *

         * 

         * 

         * 

         * 

         *

         * 

         * 

         *


Answer: A

That's right. These are all names of actual baseball players. I suspect that a bunch of you were familiar with at least one or two after seeing them somewhere in your baseball card collections. But if you're one of the readers who finds the answer a bit hard to believe, you'll find this next piece of information even more so.

In 1976 these players were all on the same minor league team: The Phoenix Giants. And there's a set of cards to prove it, released by a company called Cramer Sports Promotions. Here's the card for each player listed above, along with some career stats and information.



Kyle Hypes did not go on to pitch in the majors, but had good success through his minor-league career, making it as high as AAA. He finished with a career 66-59 record, 4.53 ERA, 31 complete games, and 626 strikeouts. In 1971 single-A ball, he put up pretty good batting numbers, too: 20 hits in 67 at-bats (.299 avg), 2 doubles, and 10 RBI. 



Tommy Toms did not have much of a big-league record, putting in a handful of middle relief work across three seasons (1975, '76, and '77). He had a winning record through his 6-year minor-league career (31-29, 3.08 ERA, 357 strikeouts).



Horace Speed played one season with the big-league Giants and two with the Cleveland Indians. Overall, he put up a .207 average with 28 hits, 6 RBI, and 4 stolen bases. Good minor-league totals across 11 years (958 hits, 165 2B, 55 3B, 127 HR, 568 RBI, 141 SB, .259 avg)



Rocky Bridges was a handy utility infielder in his playing days (11-year career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Reds, Senators, Tigers, Indians, Cardinals, and Angels). His career as a minor-league manager was twice as long. He coached for the minor-league affiliates of the Angels, Giants, Padres, and Pirates, and just about pulled off a .500 record (1300-1358).



Johnnie LeMaster had a serviceable and lengthy major-league career from 1975 through 1985, mostly with the Giants. His totals: 709 H, 109 2B, 19 3B, 22 HR, 229 RBI, 94 SB, .222 avg.


Although there are no MLB all-stars in that group, you do have some good-looking cardboard, don't you think? And the team did have some players who would make noise in the majors:



Jack Clark was an all-star and Silver Slugger on multiple occasions over his 18 seasons in the big leagues. He had a career year with the Cardinals in 1987, ripping 35 home runs and leading the National League in on-base percentage (.459) and slugging percentage (.597). He'd top that by leading all of Major League Baseball in OPS (1.055) and walks (136). And speaking of walks, he set a record that year by drawing a walk in 16 consecutive games.

Bob Knepper had a nifty 15-year career with the Giants and Astros (and perhaps a niftier Fu Manchu?). The two-time all-star finished with a record of 146-155, an ERA of 3.68, 78 complete games, 30 shutouts, and 1,473 strikeouts.

Larry Herndon played for the Giants and Tigers across his 14-year career. The 1984 World Series champ might have put up his best personal stats the year before, setting career highs in hits (182), doubles (28), and RBI (92), and finishing the season with a .302 batting average.


Back to the cards, though. I'd say the design is excellent for a minor league set. The photography is pretty cool, as well. I like those low-angle shots. They make some of the players look 8 feet tall. 

Now here's an example of a card back. 




"Hobby: Playing Pool"

That's fantastic. Other players listed hobbies such as music and cars, collecting coins, and playing bridge. It's just more evidence that this is a fun, well-executed little set of cards.

If you were on the 1976 Phoenix Giants team and were given a card in this set, what would you list as your hobby? (Aside from collecting cards, of course.)

List your answers in the comment section. And thanks for reading, as always.