Sunday, March 28, 2021

Action Mookie

Does anyone burst out of the batter's box like Mookie Wilson? 
 
According to his baseball card history, the answer is no.

Here are nine (yes, nine) Mookie Wilson cards that'll provide all the evidence you need, while getting you excited for baseball season at the same time.
 

1982 Topps #143

Mookie's first stand-alone Topps card starts things off right. Looks like he's almost chasing the ball into center field.
 
 
 
1983 Topps #55
 
The following year Topps nailed it again, this time adding an inset photo of a smiling Mookie.
 


1984 NY Mets MVP Club #8

In 1984 the New York Mets MVP club stepped in with a good one.

 

1985 Donruss #482

 
Donruss joined the action in 1985 with this beauty.
 
 
 
1986 Topps Mets Leaders, #126

The next year, Topps said they were still aware of Action Mookie.
 


1988 Donruss Baseball's Best #208

Donruss just missed with their flagship Mookie in 1988, but gave it a try in their separate "Baseball's Best" set. It's not a full-length shot, but you still get a decent idea of what Action Mookie can do.
 


1988 Topps #255

That same year, Topps reminded the other card companies how to do it.
 


1988 Kahn's New York Mets #30

Then Kahn's hot dogs beat them all with this gem.

After Mookie was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in the summer of 1989, the card companies unfortunately seemed to deny us collectors the greatness of Action Mookie. However, almost a decade later, in 1998, Sports Illustrated (in conjunction with Fleer) released a card that captured perhaps the greatest example of Action Mookie in existence.


1998 Sports Illustrated World Series Fever #25

As you can see from the caption at the top of the card, Mookie is about to sprint down the first base line and watch his grounder squeak past Bill Buckner's mitt and into right field. This would give the Mets a victory in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, and provide them with another shot at the title two days later. They took it.

Strictly for the sake of hearing Vin Scully (and not to upset any Red Sox fans), here's the call.

 


Pretty dang good at-bat by Mookie there, considering everything that was at stake. Combine that with the magic of Mr. Scully and it's a scene that can bring a tear to the eye—bitter or sweet—every time.

Here's to Mookie. 

Now let's play some baseball.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Now on the Tee, from Springfield, USA . . .

This spring I look forward to getting back into a couple of sports: softball and golf. Last year's softball seasons around here were largely canceled due to COVID. As for golf, I just didn't devote much time to it, even without the restrictions that most other sports and activities suffered.

But it sure is great to get out there on the golf course and walk around in the fresh air for a few hours, especially if you're playing with friends or family. I'll have to make a better effort this season.

The game and I go back quite a while. In fact, my first real job that paid real money was golf related: In the summer between eighth and ninth grade, I caddied for snooty people at a ritzy country club. 

I only lasted one summer.

I know, I know. A little harsh of me. Not everyone who belongs to a country club is snooty. I carried bags for some very down-to-earth people that year.

But the experience makes me think of a guy with a ritzy name who likely does belong to a country club, and who is known to play a good game of golf. I decided to make a custom card for him.




Ah, good show there, Burnsie ol' chum, holding that follow-through and tracking the flight of your drive with steely conviction. 

The card design is from 1991 Pro Set. I used the Senior PGA Tour variation (dark blue color bar on the bottom, and the Senior PGA Tour logo). An absence of card borders and the use of a cartoon image instead of a photograph made this custom a little easier than most of the others I've done so far.

BONUS CARD:

Now that the upper-cruster has been covered, I thought I'd also make a card for one of the best "Everyman" characters ever created.






I mean, who hasn't assumed that very posture of frustration and strength while playing this great game of golf?

This card's design is also from 1991 Pro Set, but uses the PGA version (green color bar on the bottom, and the PGA logo).

Now quit cogitating, Steinmetz, and use an open-faced club. A sand wedge.

And thank you for reading.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

C-A-N-A-D-A

The year 1993 marks an interesting point in the trading card timeline. Special inserts in packs of cards and various "limited edition" sets were becoming the trendy thing, as were cards produced using new, fancy materials.

It was a pretty cool time to be a hockey fan, too. One year earlier, the Winter Olympics had given us a glimpse at the wave of Russian players who'd soon be leaving their country legally and freely for the NHL. Their gold medal-winning team featured super talents such as Alexei Kovalev, Sergei Zubov, Alexei Zhamnov, Darius Kasparaitis, Vladimir Malakhov, Nikolai Khabibulin, Andrei Kovalenko, and Alexei Zhitnik. (And that's just a partial list.)

Then, in the spring of 1993 the World Ice Hockey Championships were held, and they showcased even more international talent. 

A trading card company named Classic Games, Inc. saw that tournament as an opportunity to create an insert set to go along with their standard set of hockey cards. They selected a few stars from the Canadian team and froze them in new, cool-looking 2.5 x 3.5 acetate rectangles. (Limited edition of 25,000, whoa!)

Here's a look at each card in the set along with 1993 World Championship stats and some NHL history for each player. As you'll see, each card was assigned a letter that, when put together in order, spells out "Canada". 





Greg Johnson
1993 Tournament: 8 GP, 1 G, 2A, 3 PTS, 2 PIM
Johnson would begin his NHL journey later that year in Detroit. The dependable, defensive-minded center played 785 total games over a very respectable 12-season career that also included stops in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Nashville.



 

Paul Kariya
1993 Tournament: 8 GP, 2 G, 7 A, 9 PTS, 0 PIM
The 18-year-old Kariya was still a couple of seasons away from the NHL, but his performance in the World Championships helped to show everyone just how much of a star he'd become. He finished his NHL career as a point-per-game player, exactly (989 points in 989 games), and became a member of the Hall of Fame in 2017 alongside Finnish buddy and longtime teammate Teemu Selanne.






Brian Savage
1993 Tournament: 8 GP, 1 G,  0 A, 1 PTS, 2 PIM
Savage would get his first taste of NHL action later that year, playing three games with the Montreal Canadiens. In 1994 he would again put on the national jersey, helping Team Canada win a silver medal at the Winter Olympics. Across his NHL career he put up quite a few solid 20-goal seasons.


  
Bill Ranford
1993 Tournament: 6 GP, 5 W, 1 L, 1.86 GAA, 0.933 SV%
Ranford got the lion's share of goaltending work for a slumping Edmonton team that missed the playoffs during the 1992-93 NHL season, which in turn made him available for Team Canada that spring. He performed exceedingly well during the tournament, posting two shutouts and averaging less than two goals allowed per game.






Mark Recchi
1993 Tournament: 8 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 PTS, 2 PIM
Recchi was busy displaying his talents with the Flyers in 1992-93, putting up a whopping 53 goals and 70 assists for 123 points. The Flyers also missed the playoffs that spring, so the future Hall of Famer was quickly snatched up by Team Canada.

 
 
Geoff Sanderson
1993 Tournament: 8 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 6 PTS, 2 PIM
Sanderson had a monster 1992-93 NHL season, potting 46 goals and adding 43 assists for 89 points. I'm sure Team Canada was happy that his Hartford Whalers didn't make the playoffs that spring so they could add him to the roster as well.




Adam Graves
1993 Tournament: 8 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 6 PTS, 8 PIM
Graves had already won a Cup with Edmonton, and had started to exhibit his goal-scoring talents in 1992-93, putting up 36 goals for the Rangers. Good timing for Team Canada, as the following season Graves wouldn't have been available. He'd score 52 goals, helping to propel the Rangers into the playoffs and all the way to a Stanley Cup victory.





Here's an image of a card back. It features a simple stat line from the tournament, a player bio, some trademark info, and that's about it. The designers couldn't have done much more, because the translucent half of the card reveals the content from the front, in reverse. If you were to place content on that part of the card back, it would similarly show through on the front side, in reverse. And that wouldn't be good design.

Another thing you might have noticed is that the translucent areas on some cards have yellowed a bit more than others. Greg Johnson's card is looking clean as a whistle up there. It must have been stored in a more forgiving environment over the years.

 
Design aside, what's a little peculiar to me is that Classic only did this insert set for the Canadian team (which finished the tournament in fourth place, by the way). What about some of the other teams?

Well, the Czech team earned the bronze medal in the 1993 tournament, but they were a little bit light on players or prospects that anyone would have known, so I can understand leaving them out.

The talent on the silver medal-winning Swedish team would have looked spiffy on acetate, however. 

The letters S-W-E-D-E-N could have been Mikael Renberg, Michael Nylander, Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Ulf Dahlen, and Tommy Soderstrom. It would have been a "pre-NHL" card for Renberg, Nylander, Forsberg, and Naslund, all highly touted prospects at the time.
 
The gold medal-winning Russian team could have come out quite alright, too. 

R-U-S-S-I-A could have consisted of Alexei Yashin, Dmitri Yuskevich, Alexander Karpotsev, Vyacheslav Butsayev, German Titov, and Andrei Trefilov. Just as with the Swedish team, all these Russian players had either already started their NHL careers or were talented youngsters on their way to the big league.

Even the US team, which lost in the quarterfinals, had some players on their roster that card collectors would have undoubtedly clamored for. 

S-T-A-T-E-S could have been Mike Modano, Mike Richter, Derian Hatcher, Tony Amonte, Darren Turcotte, and Doug Weight.


But I suppose focusing on just one team from the tournament was probably better than doing an insert set for two or three of them while leaving the others out. And who knows? Maybe some NHL, NHLPA, or international licensing issues were involved. Classic made a lot of their bread and butter by releasing sets of cards that featured prospects and draft picks who hadn't yet reached the professional ranks of their particular sport, which meant the company could avoid using professional team names and logos.

Regardless, it was fun to acquire all seven of these cards so many years later. Back in 1993 I wasn't even aware that this Team Canada set existed, as I was in my early adolescence and I'd pretty much lost interest in collecting.

Anyone else have fun memories of the early "insert" days? Did you think cards made of acetate or metal or any other newfangled material were cool? Share in the comment section. And thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Defender of the Universe (Sticker Version)

Back when I was a kid in the '80s, space travel and keeping the universe safe from evil was a pretty big theme out there in the world of entertainment. One of the coolest animated shows to utilize that theme was Voltron: Defender of the Universe. It originally ran from 1984 to 1985.
 
To describe the show: 
 
Imagine five members of a special team, each piloting a fierce-looking robotic lion through outer space. And if that's not cool enough, when it was really time to fight the bad guys, the team would transform their lions, combining them into Voltron, the giant sword-swinging mechanical hero who would defend said universe.
 
Here's the opening to the show. It lays out the story quite nicely.
 
 


And man, if they ever wanted to add more members to the Voltron Force, all they'd have to do is play that theme song. Recruits would line up for miles. (Note: I'm pretty sure the narrator is the same guy who did the voice for Optimus Prime in the original Transformers cartoon.) 

But why all the nostalgia for Voltron? Well, recently I discovered that in 1984, Panini released a sticker set all about the show. There were 216 stickers in all, plus a 32-page album that had designated spots for each sticker.
 
I'm not about to set off on that collecting journey, but I did purchase three of the stickers, just for a dose of that nostalgia.



Here's the first one, showing the team of five (from left to right): Pidge, Hunk, Keith, Princess Allura, and Lance.
 
As for the fancy guy on the right, his name is Coran, and he's an advisor to the Voltron team. I don't have much recollection of him, but apparently he's integral enough to be featured on that sticker.

What I do remember is that my sister and I and three of our friends would sometimes get together and pretend that we were the team. My sister and the other girl in the group would trade off being the princess. As for me, the only one who wore eyeglasses, I almost always ended up taking one for the team and playing the nerdy little pipsqueak kid Pidge. (What the heck, man?)
 
But it was a small sacrifice. After all, I was a member of the force. And it was fun. Most of our play-acting involved sitting on our skateboards and riding down a hill (when it was clear of oncoming cars), imagining that our boards were the lions and that we were piloting them.

 
 
The next sticker features Voltron when he's assembled from the five lions. Majestic, yes? If I remember correctly, each lion had different abilities and strengths, and when they formed Voltron the pilots all worked together to defeat the bad guys. Good lesson for kids there, isn't it?
 


And here's the third sticker. Another shot of Voltron looking quite regal and legendary.

Next, a sticker back.
 
 
 
I like how the note appears in six different languages: English, German, French, Italian, Dutch, and Spanish. Here are the rough translations.
 
English: Collect these picture cards in the album available from your shop.
German: Ask your newsagents about the album for this series.
French: Ask of your retailer the album for the collection of these images.
Italian: Ask your dealer for the album to collect these stickers.
Dutch: Ask your seller for the album for your collection of these pictures.
Spanish: To collect these stickers, buy your album at any kiosk.

The Spanish one gets right to the point, doesn't it?

Now here's a look at the album (images courtesy of the internet).

First, the cover.
 
 



Next, a couple of interior pages.





You can see the layout is similar to Panini's baseball sticker albums of the era, even down to some of those combination stickers, where you need #118 and #119 to complete the image, for example. (This Voltron set also had a few special foil stickers, just like the baseball versions.)

The three stickers I purchased will provide a lot of fun memories, and for only a couple of bucks, including shipping. Glad I stumbled across them.
 
Have any of you recently discovered obscure sets like this one?
 
Did any of you choose characters from your favorite shows and play out action-packed scenarios when you were kids?

Share some experiences in the comment section, and thanks for reading, as always.