Sunday, October 30, 2022

200th post

I've reached a nice milestone here at Nine Pockets:

200 blog posts!

Because I add content here once a week, every Sunday, 200 posts means I've been at this for almost four years now. I'm very happy that I've been able to come up with enough content to fill that many Sundays, and I hope you've enjoyed doing the reading as much as I've enjoyed doing the writing.
Because this is a trading card blog, let's tie in some cards. Here is a sports-related milestone involving the number 200, along with cardboard representation.
200 Points in an NHL Season
1. Wayne Gretzky   215   1985-86
2. Wayne Gretzky   212   1981-82
3. Wayne Gretzky   208   1984-85
4. Wayne Gretzky   205   1983-84
That's it.

Yet another indication of how Wayne Gretzky was simply on a different planet in the 1980s.
Now it's true that Mario Lemieux had 199 points for the 1988-89 season, which is as close as you can get without hitting the mark, so let's add the next few players on the list.
 5.  Mario Lemieux    199   1988-89
 6.  Wayne Gretzky   196   1982-83
 7.  Wayne Gretzky   183   1986-87
 8.  Mario Lemieux    168   1987-88
 8.  Wayne Gretzky   168   1988-89
10. Wayne Gretzky   164   1980-81

Again. Gretzky. Different planet. Lemieux was right up there as well, of course. In fact, let's keep going down the list.
11. Wayne Gretzky   163   1990-91
12. Mario Lemieux    161   1995-96
13. Mario Lemieux    160   1992-93
14. Steve Yzerman  155   1988-89
15. Phil Esposito      152   1970-71 
That's right. Steve Yzerman is the first person on the list not named Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux. At 14th place. That's just absurd.

Let's touch on baseball, too. I was thinking 200-hit seasons would be a good one; however, there are too many players and seasons to list. So instead I'll list the 10 players with the most 200-hit seasons in their careers.

Most 200-Hit Seasons, Career

Ichiro Suzuki (10)
Pete Rose (10)
Ty Cobb (9)
Derek Jeter (8)
Lou Gehrig (8)
Paul Warner (8)
Willie Keeler (8)
Wade Boggs (7)
Charlie Gehringer (7)
Rogers Hornsby (7)
I don't have trading cards of quite a few of those players, but here's Rose, Ichiro, and Jeter courtesy of the internet.
I'd probably take any one of those guys on my all-time starting nine. (Although maybe someone else at shortstop, like Honus Wagner or Ozzie Smith.)
Regardless, that's a lot of Hall of Fame talent. And you're all hall of fame readers and commenters, as far as I'm concerned.
Thank you all for spending some time here and commenting over these past four years. We've got quite a community, and I'm grateful to be a small part of it. Happy collecting ahead!

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Have You Tried Turning This Custom Card Off and On Again?

Today's custom card features some rookie stars from the IT department at Reynholm Industries.

The reference is probably more obscure than any other I've made in the history of custom cards on this blog, but the British sitcom in question, called The IT Crowd, has been a favorite of mine since I was introduced to it a few years ago.

The four characters on the card make up the IT department at a fictional mega-corporation named Reynholm Industries, and each episode of the show plays on the experiences many of us have had with the world of technology and tech support, regardless of which side of the help line we've been on.

The IT Crowd lasted only four seasons, but the episodes are hilarious, relatable, and very quotable. When the idea came to do a 4-player rookie card featuring the four main characters, I had to go with it. The 1974 baseball design worked very well, as it allowed plenty of space across the top for the corporation's name.

If you'd like a brief background of the characters, Roy and Moss are the tech-savvy members of the team—Roy being rather lazy and Moss being the introverted, awkward tech genius. Jen was hired as head of the IT department despite having zero experience. And Richmond is the most peculiar character, once a right-hand man to the big boss, but banished to the IT department server room after he began listening to goth music and making changes to his appearance.

Some funny scenes will help:

And here's one scene featuring Richmond:

I'm happy to have captured Roy, Moss, Jen, and Richmond on a custom card. If you enjoyed those clips, I hope you'll check out some full episodes.

Any fans of The IT Crowd out there? Favorite episode? Favorite personal tech support story?

Share in the comment section, and thanks for reading, as always!

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Alomar Brothers

Imagine this:

You're a youngster growing up in 1970s Puerto Rico with your older brother, Sandy. Your dad, Sandy Sr., plays professional baseball in the States, and you and big bro want to do that, too. Both of you show great baseball instincts, and over the summer, when school is out, you spend a lot of time in major league locker rooms with dad and all his teammates. You soak it all in. The skills, the way they all talk, the way they all work. And it only makes you better.

The new decade arrives, and dad has made the transition from player to coach, first working with the Puerto Rican national team and then with a minor-league affiliate of MLB's San Diego Padres. Scouts know all about you and your brother, and in 1983, Sandy Jr. is signed by that same Padres organization as an amateur free agent. Two years later they scoop you up, too.

Your first assignment is Class-A ball in Charleston of the South Atlantic League. The transition to pro ball is not easy, but dad is a coach for that same team. Mom also makes the trip to Charleston, and living with your parents helps you excel on the field.

A couple of years pass and things go well for everyone—so much so that by 1988 you, your older brother, and dad are all brought up to the big club. There's enough fanfare and history surrounding the occasion that Bowman makes a card just for the three of you.

1989 Bowman #258 Sandy Alomar (coach), ft. Roberto (left) and Sandy Jr. (right)

Your brother only gets into one game that year (Benito Santiago is the man behind the plate in San Diego at the time), but you put in a solid year, and finish 5th in NL Rookie of the Year voting behind some big names like Mark Grace and Ron Gant. The next year you step up your game even more, and you're well on your way to success.
Brother Sandy still doesn't get much game action that next year (7 games total), but he'll soon be off to Cleveland where he'll start to shine, winning the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1990 and adding a Gold Glove and an All-Star selection.
Soon you'll also be moving along, signing with the Toronto Blue Jays, and that's where you really take off. It's almost a constant stream of Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, and All-Star game selections. And best of all, you help the Blue Jays to two straight World Series championships. In the 1993 finals against Philadelphia you put up especially impressive numbers, going 12-for-25 with 5 runs scored, 6 RBI, and 4 stolen bases.
Those championships are things that dad and big bro never experienced, but it's surely a family celebration.

Here are some numbers for the Alomars, including dad: Pedro Martinez







(15 seasons)


(20 seasons)


(17 seasons)




























































BEST SEASON (career highs in bold, italic = led major leagues)




(1971, CAL)


(1997, CLE)


(1999, CLE)


























































Roberto is a Hall-of-Famer (2011), 10x Gold Glove winner, 4x Silver Slugger, 12x All Star, and 2x World Series champion. Those 10 Gold Gloves came over a span of 11 seasons. During his career he played for the Padres, Blue Jays, Orioles, Indians, Mets, White Sox, and Diamondbacks.
Sandy Jr. is a 6x All-Star, Rookie of the Year Award winner, and Gold Glove winner. Over his career he suited up for the Padres, Indians, White Sox, Rockies, Rangers, Dodgers, and Mets.
So here's to the Alomars. An exceptional baseball family, and a great reunion in those early San Diego days.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Two Pro Sports in One Day (Almost!)

It might be true that some teenagers across the country have played more than one high school sport on the same day. Maybe it's even happened at the college level to a rare degree. But a pro athlete? Playing two different major sports on the same day? Different story.
30 years ago today, however, it almost happened.
Here's the story:
As 1989 moved into 1990, Deion Sanders was a multi-sport sensation. He'd signed professional contracts with the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball and the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League, and because the schedules of the two sports only experienced a small overlap, he was able to play for both teams without too much calendar conflict—just a whole lot of extra travel and an admirable amount of physical and mental effort.

About a year later things got a bit easier on that front, however, as the Yankees released him and the Atlanta Braves took him on board. Now he'd be playing for two teams based in the same city.

Sanders, also known as "Prime Time" for his dynamic skills and electric personality, had already been cutting loose on the football field at this point in his young career, earning a Pro Bowl spot and second team All-Pro nomination in 1991. The next year, he started showing his baseball talent. In 97 games played with the Braves he batted .304 with 6 doubles, 14 triples (led major leagues), 8 home runs, and 26 stolen bases on just 35 attempts.

Then September rolled around. The NFL season was underway with Sanders playing for the Falcons on Sundays. MLB playoffs weren't far behind, and the Braves were looking like contenders who could benefit from Deion's skill set. Scheduling difficulties were bound to come up. And they did.

On Sunday October 11, 1992, the Atlanta Falcons, with a record of 2–3 to that point, were set to face the Miami Dolphins in Miami. The Atlanta Braves would also be playing on the 11th, in Pittsburgh, up 3 games to 1 in their NLCS battle against the Pirates. Fortunately, there was a window of opportunity.

The Falcons game was scheduled for 1:00pm in Miami, and the Braves game was slated for 8:44pm in Pittsburgh. Sanders was young, full of energy, and ready to play both games.

He suited up in Miami, played cornerback on defense, received one pass for 9 yards on offense, and also played special teams, returning two kicks for a total of 42 yards. The Dolphins would win the game by a score of 21–17, but Sanders made his contributions and the Falcons understood what an achievement Prime Time was set to fulfill. Now it was off to Pittsburgh.

Sanders arrived in time to suit up for the NLCS game, but was not part of the starting lineup. The higher-ups in the Braves organization weren't quite as understanding about the situation, and felt Sanders should have been devoted only to baseball and the playoffs on this day.

So the game progressed, and Sanders sat on the bench, cheering on his teammates. By the 3rd inning it was 5–0 Pittsburgh, and by the 7th it was 7–0. Surely manager Bobby Cox could have inserted Sanders into the game as a defensive replacement, at very least. But the 7th inning moved into the 8th. And then the 9th. The game ended. Final score, 7–1. Sanders remained on the bench the entire time.
It's really a shame, but Sanders had still accomplished something that no one else could claim: He suited up for two different professional sports on the same day.
As a trading card collector, I looked around to see if any card company from the era had commemorated the feat.

1992 Upper Deck card #SP3 comes close, with a cool shot of Sanders transitioning from football to baseball on the front and a nice write-up on the back. No mention of the feat, however.
1993 Fleer #263 shows an illustration of Sanders in half-football and half-baseball gear, well done too, but again does not mention the special feat. 

1993 Upper Deck Fun Pack #34 lives up to its name with a fun illustration on the front, and it does mention the feat on the back.
But I wanted to create a custom card to commemorate the occasion as well, using a familiar "highlight" template. Here's how it turned out:

And here's the back:

Regardless, it's a pretty cool accomplishment. And Sanders does have another interesting feather in his cap. He's the only pro athlete to have played in the Super Bowl and the World Series. He won Super Bowls with the 49ers in 1995 and Cowboys in 1996, but came up short on a World Series victory. If only the Braves had been able to defeat the Blue Jays in 1992. (It wasn't for lack of trying. The Braves played well in the series, and Sanders individually went 8-for-15 with 2 doubles, 4 runs scored, 1 RBI, and 5 stolen bases in 5 attempts.)

Any Neon Deion fans out there? Did you collect his cards? Watch him play? Share some memories in the comment section, and thanks for reading!

(For those interested in learning more about the historic day, ESPN did a 30 for 30 episode about it a few years ago.)

Sunday, October 2, 2022

From the Favorites Box: Jim Fregosi, 1971 Topps #360

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

If someone were to say, "Name a 1971 Topps baseball card", I'd guess that many collectors would reply with #5, Thurman Munson. It’s a clear winner for the best looking card of the set. And forget the 1970s, it’s probably one of the best looking baseball cards in history. Period. 

But there's other good-looking cardboard in the 1971 set. Just have a look at this one, for example.

It's framed beautifully, and the image captures shortstop Jim Fregosi milliseconds after he’s bludgeoned the ball for what looks like a screaming line-drive. His right knee is almost down on the ground. His follow-through is so vicious that if he were to let go of the bat, it would probably end up somewhere in left field. (Great extension, Jim!)
I also like how you see a player leaning onto the field from the Angels dugout, watching Fregosi intently. And there's a packed house in the background. They've all just heard the crack of the bat—a sound that never gets old. But only Fregosi knows just how solidly he's connected, and in another instant the momentum from that fierce swing will carry the bat around behind him, and he'll be sprinting off to first base knowing he's got a hit in his pocket.

Success. What a feeling. What a card.

As for Mr. Fregosi, he had quite a nice career—both as a player and a manager.

In his 18 years as a player (1961–1978), he compiled 1726 hits, 264 doubles, 78 triples, 151 home runs, and 706 RBI, and posted a slash line of .265/.338/.398

His best year could have been 1967, when he put up 176 hits (career high), a .290 average, made the all-star team, and won a Gold Glove. Over his playing career he suited up for the Angels, Mets, Rangers, and Pirates.
As a manager he posted a record of 1028–1094, just missing the .500 mark. His best season was 1993, when he skippered the Phillies to a record of 97–65, finishing 1st in the N.L. East. They'd go all the way to the World Series, but lose to the Blue Jays 4 games to 2. Over his career he also managed the Angels, White Sox, and Blue Jays.

But on this 1971 Topps cards he was miles away from managing. His only focus was uncoiling that pent-up energy and driving the baseball out there for a hit.
And for reminding us of how good it feels to do that, 1971 Topps #360 has a spot in my box of favorite cards.
NOTE: Next Sunday's post is going to appear on Tuesday the 11th instead, in order to commemorate the anniversary of a pretty cool event in sports history. Stay tuned!