Sunday, August 29, 2021

From the Favorites Box: Robin Yount, 1978 Topps #173

A series where I post some thoughts about favorite cards. Previous cards in the series are available here.
Quick thought exercise:
You're on a baseball field, in uniform, when a photographer walks up to you and asks if they can take your photo for a baseball card.
What's the first pose you think about taking?
For quite a few of you, I'd bet it looks like Robin Yount here.
It’s just a timeless image. And lately I've been wondering why. 
I think some of it has to do with the anticipation and potential energy that's so prevalent in the game of baseball. Mr. Yount is in a good position there. His energy is stored up and ready to go. The pitcher is standing on the mound 60 feet away, and all he needs to do is throw that ball toward home plate. Everyone in the entire stadium is hanging on the moment. And so the picture you see above really is worth a thousand baseball words, isn't it?
Maybe another part of it has something to do with the warrior spirit—getting into that ready position to deal a solid blow to your enemy (in this case, a baseball that's been flung in your direction at a high speed.) 
There's also something to be said about portraiture. Consider other vintage sports cards. Football quarterbacks pose with football in hand, drawn back, with their other arm stretched forward to help show you their aim is true. Basketball players pose holding the ball in front of them, ready to pass it right out of the frame and into your room. Hockey players pose with two hands on the stick, blade solidly on the ice in front of them, ready for the face-off.

But I'm not sure any of those other sports poses have had quite the longevity of baseball poses like the one you see on the card above.

I think it's a real possibility that in the early 1960s, a young Robin Yount saw a baseball card depicting a professional ballplayer in that batting pose. Then Yount, in turn, took the same pose as a young professional on this 1978 card. And when a little kid pulled this Robin Yount card from a pack in 1978, he was inspired enough to take the very same pose when he became a young professional in the mid-1990s. And so on. And so on. All the way up to this day. I've even gotten in front of a mirror holding a bat to see how I'd fit into the continuity of it all. I'm sure some of you readers and baseball fans have done the same. There's something I like about that.
And for beautifully proving that some things in baseball never change (and never should), 1978 Topps #173 has a spot in my box of favorite cards.
PS: Stay tuned for some big news here next Sunday. Big, fun news.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game (Episode 19)

Welcome back to The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game, where we'll randomly select three eligible bachelors from the set and you, the reader, will choose which one wins that date with a special lady. How do we know they're bachelors? Why, it says so right on the back of their hockey cards, that's how!

Previous episodes are available here.

The big winner of episode 18 was the appropriately named Chris Valentine.

Now, let's start the 19th round and introduce the bachelors chosen by the randomizer! [APPLAUSE]
Bachelor number 1: Defenseman from the Buffalo Sabres, Mike Ramsey
Bachelor number 2: Right wing from the Edmonton Oilers, Jari Kurri
Bachelor number 3: Defenseman from the New York Rangers, Reijo Ruotsalainen

Two of these young gents have a battle history. 
Intrigued? Here's the information from the back of their cards.

That's right. Just a couple of years ago, Mike Ramsey and Team USA defeated Jari Kurri and Team Finland to take the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Finland finished just off the podium, in 4th place.

Will Kurri or the other Finn, Ruotsalainen, exact revenge by winning the date with our nice young lady this week? It's up to you!

Bachelor number 1: Minnesota man and Olympic gold medal winner, Mike Ramsey.

Bachelor number 2: Helsinki man and fishing enthusiast, Jari Kurri.

Bachelor number 3: Race-horse hobbyist and former Finnish National, Reijo Ruotsalainen.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Alou Brothers

How's this for a story?
Your name is Felipe and you're the oldest of three very talented baseball-playing brothers in the Dominican Republic. In 1955, just barely out of your teenage years, you play outfield for a national team that takes the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Mexico City. Your talent is recognized, and later that year you're signed by the San Francisco Giants.

A couple of year later, as you're preparing for the big show, the Giants notice your next-oldest brother Matty and sign him as an amateur free agent. Then, in 1958, just a few months after your big-league debut, the Giants notice your youngest brother Jesus, and sign him as an amateur free agent, too. What a time for the family!

A couple of years pass, and Matty joins the Giants in 1960. Then in 1963, when young brother Jesus becomes a late-season addition to the roster, all three are finally with the big club. And soon something remarkable happens.
On September 15th, you start the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the outfield. You reach base a couple of times and score two runs, and by the time the 7th inning rolls around, your team is ahead 8-3. Manager Alvin Dark decides to give your fellow outfielder Willie McCovey some rest, and swaps him out with your brother Jesus.
Then, in the bottom of the 8th inning, Dark decides to give your other fellow outfielder—a guy named Willie Mays—a little rest too, and swaps in your other brother, Matty.
As pitcher Billy O'Dell takes his warm-up tosses before the first batter of the inning steps up to the plate, you look to your left and to your right. It's an all-Alou outfield!
Never before had three brothers done this on a major league field. What a day.
Here are all three guys just a few years later.

1968 Topps #55 Felipe Alou, #270 Matty Alou, and #452 Jesus Alou
By this point, although having been split up, they'd all had quite a bit of success with their respective teams.
In 1966, for example, Matty led the league with a .342 batting average, while Felipe finished second at .327.
Both Felipe and Matty were all-stars on more than one occasion. Matty won the World Championship in 1972, and Jesus did the same in 1973 and 1974.
Here are some numbers for the Alous.





(17 seasons)

(15 seasons)


(15 seasons)



























































(Career highs in bold; asterisk = led major leagues)



(1966, ATL)

(1969, PITT)


(1965, SF)


























































Felipe also had a terrific managing career, most notably with the Expos throughout the 1990s. Keeping the family theme going, he managed his son Moises (quite a talented player himself) for quite a few of those years, and also took home the Manager of the Year award in 1994.
So here's to the Alou brothers. Three great careers, and some special memories in San Francisco. 

Thanks for reading, as always.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Go West, Custom Card

Today's custom card was inspired by a screen star of the Western era, and features a football star who played for some NFL teams with Western-type names.

First, here's the original card, featuring actor Forrest Tucker smiling on a sunny day at the ranch.

1953 Topps Who-Z-At Star #3, Forrest Tucker

Any ideas on who the look-alike football star is? Here are some hints:

He's somewhat recently retired.

In retirement, he's been known to appear in an occasional television commercial.

Those Western-named football teams? The Colts and the Broncos.

Enough hints? Okay, here's the custom card.

It's Peyton Manning! 
Looks like he's happy that Nationwide is on his side.
Design-wise, there's not much to this card. Simple beige border. Simple nameplate at the bottom right. All I really had to do with those features was change the name to Peyton Manning, and change the text underneath from IN "SAN ANTONE" to something else. I went with IN "BRONCO BOWL" for two reasons: first, because Manning won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos, and second, because a bucking bronco calls to mind all those Western films from the era.
And there's a close resemblance between Mr. Tucker and Mr. Manning, don't you think? Sometimes when I do these look-alike custom cards it takes me quite a while to find an image of the look-alike facing the same direction, or with a similar facial expression, for example. However, when I conducted an image search for Peyton Manning, a photo came up right on the first page where everything matched up almost perfectly to the Forrest Tucker image. 
However, I still had my work cut out for me. The cards in the 1953 Who-Z-At Star? set had the Kodak Flexichrome process applied to them. It's a complicated, multi-step process that uses dyes and paints to add color to an existing black and white photo. This meant I had to take Peyton's photograph and make it appear to have a similar painterly look. 

It was totally worth it. The original cards are beautiful, and the 80-card set features lots of remarkable actors, actresses, singers, and musicians from the era.  

Other big names include Slim Pickens, Lionel Barrymore, Gene Kelly, Ava Gardner, and Errol Flynn. Oh, and there's also a card of a young lady named Elizabeth Taylor. 

But let's get to the star on the original card, because he was impressive, too

Forrest Tucker had early acting success in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and then enlisted in the US Army during World War II. He resumed his acting career after the war. Notably, he played alongside top actors like Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Randolph Scott.

Here are just some of the famous films in which he appeared: The Yearling (1946), Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Pony Express (1953). Aside from the silver screen, Tucker also played the character of Sergeant Morgan O'Rourke in the TV show F Troop, and even appeared on a few episodes of Gunsmoke.

As for Peyton Manning, you might know a thing or two about him, even if you're not a football fan. Here's a brief indication of his success:

17 seasons played
14x Pro Bowl
7x All-Pro
5x MVP
2 Super Bowl victories (2006 Colts, 2015 Broncos)

In 266 games, he went 186-79, posting a 65.3 completion percentage, 71,940 passing yards, and 539 passing touchdowns. He finished his career with an average of 7.7 yards per pass attempt.

Further proof of his greatness? As of this writing, 71,940 passing yards puts him at #3 all time, behind only Drew Brees and Tom Brady. 539 passing touchdowns also puts him at #3 behind the same two guys. 

He's in the top 10 in career completion percentage (65.3) and the top 5 in passes completed (6,135).

And that's that. Another fun custom card in the books. How many of you guessed the look-alike this time around?

Thanks for reading, as always.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Completed Set: 1985 Topps Baseball

The two big collecting years of my baseball childhood were 1984 and 1987. Both years I collected Topps, and Topps alone. (Mainly because those were the packs my dad bought for my sister and I.) 
And although 1985 falls in between those two years, somehow I didn't collect many cards that year at all. 
And that's too bad, because the 1985 Topps baseball set, as I discovered while compiling all the cards recently, is a bit more unique than some of the other sets of the decade. 

Firstly, it's the design. As you look through the cards below I think you might agree that it's better than average. The cards are bright. Bold. Fun. And on top of all that, the colors are very well matched to each team's colors. That's a departure from the previous few years, when Topps chose colors that sometimes provided a nice complement to the team's colors, and other times did not. (For example, 1980 Topps Pirates cards received a purple and orange combo, while 1982 Topps Cardinals cards were hit with magenta and brown.)

Along with the design, another reason I like this set is that the images provide ample evidence that it was issued smack-dab in the middle of the 1980s.
There are the bespectacled players.

And the bearded players.
And more than enough mustachioed players.
Choking up on the bat was such a common thing in the 1980s that players even worked on it during batting practice, as Dan Gladden demonstrates quite nicely.
The uniforms are also a great indicator of the decade.
And if not the uniforms, consider the warmup jackets.
But that's not all the 1985 Topps set has to offer. Most surprising to me is that there are quite a few cards that portray fierce action.
There are pitchers who are straining to their limit.
And hitters who are absolutely swinging out of their shoes.
Through it all there are the steady infielders, ready for any smash that comes their way. 
Some of the stars have cool-looking cards.

Reggie: You're the man, Dickie! 
Dickie: No Reggie, YOU'RE the man!
And we can't forget the big rookie cards. (Honorable mention to Bret Saberhagen, Orel Hershiser, Dwight Gooden, and Eric Davis.)

Now let's go to the subsets, which are also fresh and different.
There are 10 record-breaker cards in this set, which is the most of any set of the decade.

There's a nice father-son subset.
And hey, Mark McGwire isn't the only Olympian featured in the set. There's an entire USA Olympic Team subset. (Nicely done in red, white, and blue colors.)
Here's a nifty #1 Draft Pick subset, featuring cards of some notable #1 picks from the previous 15 years or so.

And an example of a card back. Not the easiest color combination for readability, but I do like the trivia questions that appear on some of the cards like this one.

Finally, here are two versions of the "Winning Pitch" game card Topps issued that year (one per wax pack), plus an example of a checklist.

And there you have 1985 Topps baseball. It's a nice-looking set. Bright. Colorful. Bold lines. The cards look good in nine-pocket pages. It's also quite affordable—even more so if you've already got the "big three" rookie cards. I'm very happy to have completed this one. 

What are your thoughts on the set? Share in the comment section, and thanks for reading, as always.