31 May 2011

topps serves up variations - a side by side comparison of the 2008 dodgers

after issuing the 2008 55-card 'premium' dodger team set, i was hoping for some variety with the 14-card blister team set.  hopes were dashed.  prepare to be underwhelmed with the 2008 side by side comparison. by now, you know the drill (here's the 2006 and 2007 comparisons) - the regular topps card is on the left, and the topps dodger blister team set card is on the right.

lad1 in 2008 was russell martin
and there is no other difference between the cards.

matt kemp is next
oooooooooooooooooh.  a cropping variation.  just like the 2007 topps-toppsdodgers luis gonzalez.  the blister pack card cuts kemp off at the knees.

andruw jones
if ever there was a card that needed not to be reproduced, this was it.  sadly, topps didn't change a thing on the front.  [edit] - topps did slightly adjust the cropping of jones' card.  couldn't they have done more?  use a better/real photo?

brad penny
no diff.

derek lowe
it's the same.

andre ethier
ahoy there.  we have an enlarged facsmilie autograph on the team set card.  not very exciting as variations go, however.

juan pierre
back to the same.  it was nice to see pnc park get some love in 2008. it's at the top of my ballparks to see list, but i can't seem to pull the trigger on a trip to pittsburgh.

jeff kent
no variation

james loney
i was hoping for something as lame as losing the rookie cup a la martin in 2007.  no dice.

chad billingsley
no variation

jason schmidt
after two years of variations, topps played it safe with schmidt in 2008

rafael furcal

jonathan broxton

finally, we get to lad14, joe torre
from grumpy gus to genial grandpa.  the photo topps used in the base set was better intended for the heritage release with the vero beach bleachers in the background.

2008 was a low point for topps and these sets, although when one considers the 55-card dodger premium set it's hard to be too disappointed.  we had one two cropping variations, one autograph size variation, and one photo variation.  2009 will be better.  stay tuned.

29 May 2011

one of these things is not like the others

one of these things just doesn't belong.  i recently received four autographed cards from ryan at the great orioles autograph project.  all four were guys i had hoped to have sign a 1978 topps card, but either hadn't been successful, hadn't yet tried, or knew they didn't sign cards through the mail.

first up is rick dempsey, 1983 world series mvp and guy who wound up as the dodgers' catcher when they won it all in 1988.
i have sent this card to dempsey twice without success.  that was after i had success with him the first time i tried as we will see later.

ray knight
before 1986, knight was known for two things - being married to golf pro nancy lopez and for being the guy the reds replaced pete rose with.  after 1986, he was known as 'here comes knight and the mets win it!'

ken singleton
i had not yet attempted a ttm with singleton, and ryan saved me the 88 cents.  of the four, this is the best in terms of signature, but i'm not complaining.

finally, there was this fred lynn card
lynn apparently does not sign cards through the mail (he might send back a signed index card, however), so i was pretty happy when ryan told me this was one of the four cards he was sending.  i was a closet fred lynn fan in 1978, and was excited when he came west to join the angels in 1981.

i mentioned up top that i had been successful with my very first rick dempsey ttm request.  that is true, although i didn't send his 1978 topps card with that request.  instead, i sent a 1990 topps
and a 1991 topps
with him in his dodger duds. 

but, back to the title of this post.  to finish the song, 'and now my song is done.'

upon closer inspection of the fred lynn card (i flipped the card over), i discovered that it wasn't 1978 topps at all.  it's a 1978 o-pee-chee interloper! oh my o-pee-chee!

thanks ryan!

28 May 2011

please sir, i want some more.

i guess that means i am comparing nate oliver ttm successes to gruel.  sweet, nourishing gruel!  after receiving this most non-dickensian 1965 topps card signed by oliver, i did go back for one more
and soon thereafter received my 1968 topps card signed as well.
oliver burst on the dodger scene in 1963 as their starting second baseman coming out of spring training, and he singled in each of his first two big league at bats.  by the time may rolled around, jim gilliam had pretty much reclaimed his spot at second, and by the end of july, oliver was back in spokane with the dodgers' aaa indians.  as such, oliver missed out on the dodgers postseason romp over the yankees. 

he was back for a career high 99 games in 1964, but then appeared in just 8 games in 1965, and none of them in the world series against the twins.  oliver finished the '65 season batting 1.000 - he was 1 for 1 with a sacrifice in two plate appearances.  in 1966, oliver was back in the big leagues for most of the season, but was left off of the dodgers' postseason roster once again.  after one more year in dodger blue in 1967, he was traded to the giants in the deal that brought tom haller to la. 

after the 1968 season , he was sent to the yankees, and they traded him during the '69 campaign  to the cubs (after just one at bat) for future cubs manager and defender of ron cey, lee elia.

thanks mr. oliver!

26 May 2011

the 1978 topps dodgers in 1972, veteran style

yesterday was the newbies, and today we'll begin the veteran lesson with dusty baker, but first a comment about high numbers.  of the 19 cards topps issued in 1972 that featured the members of the 1978 topps dodgers, 13 are numbered 530 and higher. five are in the 700 series.  that's just wrong, especially for a guy cherry picking singles almost 40 years later.  anyway, here's dusty baker - number 764 in the set.
baker was installed as the braves primary center fielder in 1972, and he responded with a breakout season. he placed 3rd in the national league in batting average at .321, and 8th in obp and slugging which combined for a sixth place finish in ops (.888). in 127 games, he hit 17 home runs (including the first of his career which came off of future teammate jerry reuss) and drove in 76 runs. he also had a 10th inning walk-off home run against the cardinals, and finished 22nd in the league mvp voting.

vic davalillo is card number 785!
played in 117 games for the defending world champion pirates in 1972, the most games he had appeared in since he was the indians' starting center fielder in 1968. he hit .318 on the year, but failed to qualify for the batting title (he would have been 4th, behind dusty baker) by about 100 plate appearances. he did have one pa in the nlcs against the reds, drawing an intentional walk as a pinch hitter in game 3. on the season, davalillo was 5 for 12 with 2 walks and a sacrifice fly as a pinch hitter.

mike garman is featured on a low numbered card (79), but...
for the second year in a row, and not the last as we will see next year, garman was featured on a multi-player rookie card. this time, he shares the space with a hall of famer and a likely 'hall of pretty good' player. as for garman, he was used out of the bullpen for the first time in 1972. called up in september, he appeared in 3 games. the first, he pitched 2 innings of relief in milwaukee allowing just one hit ( a home run to joe lahoud) which came after he struck out george scott for his lone k of the season. a couple of weeks later, garman again came in from the bullpen, this time pitching a scoreless and hitless fifth inning against the indians. his third and final appearance of the season was a start against the tigers in boston. garman got just one out while allowing 3 runs on 3 hits and a walk before he was pulled. he was saddled with the loss, his lone decision of the season, while his era jumped to 10.80.

steve garvey (#686)
garvey, who had played 81 games exclusively at 3rd base in 1971, appeared in 96 games in 1972, which included his first 3 at first base.  at the plate, garvey's ops jumped 62 points in 1972 to .734, essentially due to an increase in base hits (mostly singles). his fielding percentage took a nosedive, though - down to a whopping .902 as he led all national league third basemen in errors. thus, the impetus for the move to first.

jerry grote (#655)

grote appeared in just 64 games for the mets in 1972, sharing time behind the dish with duffy dyer. he missed large parts of june, august and september due to injury, and finally had surgery on his right elbow in september. he still managed to throw out 53% (20/38) of the runners who attempted to steal against him, though. grote wound up hitting .210 on the year with 3 home runs and 21 rbi.

tommy john (a pedestrian number 264)
john came over to the dodgers in the december 1971 trade that sent dick allen back to the white sox. as such, 2/5 of the 1978 topps dodger starting rotation was complete! he made 29 starts for the dodgers and posted a 11-5 record with a 2.89 era. he did not earn a decision in his final six starts. against future 1978 topps teammates, john held dusty baker to one hit in 6 at bats while jerry grote was 0 for 4 with a sac fly and an intentional walk. burt hooton was 0 for 1 against john, ed goodson was 2 for 6 (both singles), and ted martinez went 5 for 13 with a double and a triple against john (although he did strike out twice).

ted martinez (#544)
martinez played in 103 games for yogi berra (who replaced the late gil hodges as mets' manager in the spring of 1972), mostly at second and short, but he also appeared at third and all three outfield positions. he hit just .224, but set career highs in hits (74) and steals (7). he hit just one home run and drove in 19 in 1972.

rick monday (#730)
monday was acquired by the cubs in an offseason trade, straight up for lefty ken holtzman. both guys got a high numbered card showing them in their new unis. sort of. monday was installed as the cubs' everyday center fielder and hit .249 in 138 games. he had 11 home runs, including two in a game against don wilson and the astros in july. his biggest game of the year, however, came in may against the phillies. in that game, monday hit two home runs off of phillie starter bill champion and then hit another against reliever bucky brandon in his third at bat of the day. his next time up he popped out to third and then singled in the 9th. his last home run of the season came off of future hall of famer tom seaver, the first of 11 long balls monday would hit off of tom terrific.

manny mota (#596) 
mota played in 118 games for the dodgers in 1972, and was their primary left fielder. it turned out to be the last time in his career that he would play in over 100 games, and he made the most of it. manny hit .323 with 120 hits, 5 homers (including one off of future teammate jerry reuss and an inside the park job against bruce kison), and an obp of .375. he finished 23rd in the league mvp voting and was 4th in the league in outfield fielding percentage behind roberto clemente, rick monday and pete rose. of those three, only clemente won the gold glove (the other two went to cesar cedeno and dodger willie davis). as a pinch hitter, mota was 9 for 24 with 2 sacrifices and 2 walks.

bill russell (#736)
russell made the move to the infield in 1972, spending the vast majority of the season (121 out of 127 games) at shortstop, thus beginning what was essentially 11 years as the dodger shortstop. the stability with his position may have contributed to improvements at the plate (if you believe in those types of performance cliches) as he hit .272 with an ops of .692, both big improvements over his 1971 numbers. russell also hit the first walk-off home run of his career in 1972, a solo shot against the giants. on the defensive side, he did make more errors than any other national league shortstop, however, joining garvey in that regard.

reggie smith (#565/566 and 88)
reggie got the three card treatment from topps in 1972, thanks to an in action' card,
(the only one of the 1978 topps dodgers to be so honored - an occurrence that i am working to correct with some 'cards that should have been' so stay tuned), and due to his 3rd place finish in rbis for the american league in 1971.
that's a real nice card with the late harmon killebrew and frank robinson. on the field, smith moved to right field for the bosox in 1972, making way for tommy harper. he played in 131 games, but had a bit of a down year by his standards. he hit 21 home runs (with 2 in one game three times) and drove in 74, but his average dipped to .270. even so, he was named to the all-star team (he struck out as a pinch hitter) and finished 26th in the league mvp voting.

don sutton (#530)
sutton had his best year to date, finishing with a record of 19-9 and an era of 2.08. 1972 proved to be the first of 5 straight seasons in which sutton finished in the top 5 for the cy young award (he was 5th in '72). he also led the league with 9 shutouts, which included two 2-hitters and a 3-hitter. his best game may have been one in which he received no decision, as he allowed just 1 hit in 10 innings (a 7th inning single) of a 13 inning 1-0 loss to montreal. sutton was the dodgers' lone representative at the all-star game, and he pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just a single to reggie jackson while striking out two (bobby grich and mickey lolich).

sutton was fairly successful against his future teammates as well. against sutton in 1972, dusty baker was 1 for 5 with a strikeout, jerry grote and ted martinez were both 0 for 3 with a strikeout, and ed goodson was 2 for 8 with an rbi. vic davalillo had the most success against sutton with 5 hits in 1 at bats.

so, those were the 1978 topps dodgers, well, the veterans anyway, in 1972.

here's the tally so far:

17/27 players featured by topps in 1971

total appearances:

baker 2 (1971-1972)
cey 1 (1972)
davalillo 10 (1963-1972)
forster 1 (1972)
garman 2 (1971-1972)
garvey 2 (1971-1972)
grote 9 (1964-1972)
hooton 1 (1972)
hough 1 (1972)
john 9 (1964-1972)
lasorda 1 (1954)
martinez 2 (1971-1972)
monday 6 (1967-1972)
mota 10 (1963-1972)
oates 1 (1972)
russell 3 (1970-1972)
smith 6 (1967-1972)
sutton 7 (1966-1972)

teams represented so far:

15 (dodgers, indians, colt .45's, pirates, white sox, astros, mets, a's, red sox, angels, expos, cardinals, braves, cubs, orioles)

25 May 2011

the 1978 topps dodgers that debuted in 1972

there were a handful of 1978 topps dodgers who got their first taste of cardboard in 1972.  let's meet them.  since we're going in alphabetical order, first up is the penguin, ron cey.

here is cey's less heralded multi-player rookie card (we'll see the big cheese when i get to the 1973 installment) 
the penguin made his major league debut during the 1971 season, going 0 for 2 in 2 late season 9th inning pinch hitting appearances against the reds. he struck out both times, including his first big league at bat which came with the bases loaded against joe gibbon.  how cool would it have been if he had hit a grand slam in his first major league at bat?  very very cool.  (as an aside, i recall mickey hatcher having the same opportunity in his big league debut.  he didn't do it either - the stuntman walked).  cey wouldn't appear in the field until the 1972 season, when he would start 11 games at third base while batting .270 with an ops of .778.  he hit his first career home run in 1972, a two-run shot off of the padres' mike caldwell.

terry forster gets his own card in 1972,
the only one of the newcomers to warrant a solo spot in the topps set. forster had debuted in 1971 at the age of 19 against the minnesota twins. brought in to relieve bart johnson in the 6th inning with cesar tovar and rod carew on base, forster got tony oliva to pop out to third. in his second inning of work, forster allowed a single to harmon killebrew, but then struck out rich reese and got jim holt to ground into a double play. forster was pinch-hit for by luis alvarado (he of the awesome 1973 topps card) and his debut came to an end. in hindsight, forster probably should have been allowed to bat. alvarado made an out, and forster went on to go 2 for 5 in 1971 with a double at the plate (both of his hits in 1971 came courtesy of future teammate andy messersmith).

on the mound, he appeared in 45 games (3 starts) and had a 2-3 record with a save. in 1972, forster was used exclusively out of the white sox bullpen, and posted a 6-5 record with 29 saves and an era of 2.25. at the plate, he was 10 for 19 with 3 rbi and only 2 strikeouts. he faced future teammate reggie smith 4 times in 1972, walking him once and striking him out twice while holding him hitless.

burt hooton appeared with two other cubbies on his rookie card
like forster, hooton debuted in 1971, although burt was 21 when he first took the mound for the cubs. he was called up to make a start in june against the cardinals, and lasted just 3.1 innings while earning a no-decision in what turned out to be a cubs victory. hooton allowed 3 runs on 3 hits (including a joe torre home run) and 5 walks. he did strike out 2 batters, including the very first batter he ever faced in the big leagues - hall of famer lou brock. hooton was called up once again in september, and made 2 more starts. the first was a 3-hit complete game against the mets in which hooton struck out 15 batters. the only two runs he allowed were on a ken singleton home run.

the next start was also a complete game for hooton - a 2-hit shutout against the mets at wrigley. so, hopes were high for hooton going into the 1972 season. in his first full season, hooton hurled three more shutouts in 1972, winning 11 games and losing 14 despite a 2.80 era. his first start of the season came on april 16th against the phillies, and hooton spun a no-hitter (although he did allow 7 walks), in a 4-0 victory. against his future teammates, hooton had some success. dusty baker was 0 for 1, vic davalillo was just 2 for 13 with 4 strikeouts (and a home run), steve garvey was 3 for 9 (all singles), jerry grote was 0 for 6 iwth a strikeout and a sacrifice, tommy john was 0 for 1, ted martinez was 1 for 3 with a sacrifice, manny mota was 2 for 3, and (looking ahead to some newcomers in 1973) ed goodson was 0 for 1 and steve yeager was 1 for 1.

charlie hough was featured with two other dodgers,
both of whom were out of the dodger organization (and the majors) by the time 1977 (and the 1978 topps set) rolled around. in o'brien's case, he was out of both by the time this card was issued, although he pitched in the minors through 1974, including a brief stint in albuquerque that final year.  hough actually debuted in 1970, pitching in 8 games and earning 2 saves while posting a 5.29 era. he made his first appearance in a 11-4 dodger victory against the pirates, relieving pete mikkelsen with 2 outs in the 9th. he walked al oliver to load the bases, but then struck out willie stargell to end the game. not bad for a debut. in 1971, hough pitched in 4 games without a decision or a save and his era was 4.15. he improved on that in 1972, posting a 3.38 era although he pitched in just 2 games that season. in those two games, hough didn't face any of his future 1978 topps dodger teammates.

for the second time, a 1978 topps dodger makes his topps debut by sharing space with don baylor. in 1971 it was dusty baker, and this year, it's johnny oates' turn.
oates, like hough, debuted in 1970. unlike hough, he didn't play in the bigs again until 1972. oates' debut season consisted of 5 september games, 21 at bats, and 5 hits. he got a single his first time up in the majors (as a pinch hitter against the senators' dick bosman) and he also hit one of his two career triples. his last four games that year were all games he started behind the plate, and they all went into extra innings, with oates catching 11, 12, 13, and 11 innings respectively. the orioles went on to win the world series that year, but oates was left off of their postseason roster.

in 1972, he hit his other career triple, along with the first 4 home runs of his career. he played in 85 games, the most of any orioles' catcher, and posted a .261 average.

i'll update the tally in the veterans post, coming soon.

24 May 2011

how sweet it is, the fruits of victory! a tommy lasorda through the mail success!

five times i have tried through the mail for tom lasorda's autograph on a 1978 topps card, not including the attempt by proxy i made by sending some tommy cards to friend cory out west who 'graphs at spring training and at dodger games in san diego. he came close for me once, but close is the difference between rubbery pasta and al dente.

i had gone the ebay route for tommy's 1978 topps card as part of my modest 1978 topps dodger autograph project after the first two ttm attempts went unfulfilled. even so, i didn't stop trying for the real deal. every once in a while, a success would pop up for tommy at sports card forum, and my hopes would be buoyed. so, last saturday when i checked the mail, the los angeles postmark got me a bit excited. not because i expected it to be tommy, but because it was likely a dodger return.

it was tommy!
you may recall his victory cry from the 1988 season - 'how sweet it is - the fruits of victory!'.  never mind the singular/plural grammatical error - it feels good to see this card in my mailbox.

as a side note, i have also continued to try for terry forster, steve yeager, and even ted martinez, (and i would try for a ttm success with vic davalillo but i don't know that he's in this country), while hoping at some point ed goodson decides to sign some autographs. i have even gone back to the well with some other 1978 topps dodgers as evidenced by the second mike garman auto i have received through the mail
which came the same day as the tommy shown above.  this garman is for my loosely sought after 1978 topps autographed set. i'm not really trying to get the whole set autographed, but i am pretty close to having 200 or so cards signed. included in that number is a second 1978 topps tommy card that i bought on ebay fairly cheaply.  so, now i have three tommy autos.  i may smell a contest coming up...

i am especially happy about this return because i saw that tommy will be signing autographs at a frank & sons show in the near future. small flats are $99 (!) which i took as a sign that tommy would not be signing for free through the mail anymore, even as hit or miss as it has been in the past.
just for good measure, i'll update my modest 1978 topps dodgers autograph project - here's the tally:

team card (red adams) - through the mail success!
team card (mark cresse) - through the mail success!
team card (john hale) - through the mail success!
team card (peter o'malley) - through the mail success!
team card (boog powell) - through the mail success!
dusty baker - through the mail success!
glenn burke - ebay success!
ron cey - through the mail success!
vic davalillo - ebay success!
terry forster - ebay success!
mike garman - through the mail success!
steve garvey - through the mail success!
ed goodson
jerry grote - through the mail success!
burt hooton - through the mail success!
charlie hough - through the mail success!
tommy john - in person/through the mail success!
lee lacy - through the mail success!
tom lasorda - ebay success! and through the mail success!
dave lopes - through the mail success!
ted martinez - ebay success!
rick monday - in person/through the mail success!
manny mota - through the mail success!
johnny oates - ebay success!
doug rau - through the mail success!
lance rautzhan - through the mail success!
rick rhoden - through the mail success!
bill russell - through the mail success!
reggie smith - through the mail success!
elias sosa - through the mail success!
don sutton - through the mail success!
steve yeager - ebay success!
nlcs (davey lopes) - through the mail success!

28/29 = 97%

thanks tommy!  i'll stop sending you mail now.  unless you are tight with ed goodson.

23 May 2011

what is awesome, hilarious, and perhaps a wee bit out of order?

my 2011 topps heritage dodger team card, signed by none other than the commissioner of baseball, bud selig.
shortly after bud announced he was going to delve into the financial dealings of the dodgers, i sent this card off to mlb headquarters in new york.  knowing that bud is an excellent ttm signer, i assumed i would get back an 8x10 or perhaps an autographed business card, a la bob watson a couple of years ago.  or, perhaps i would get nothing except a note chastising me for asking him to sign such a thing.  no, mr. selig signed and returned my card in about 4 weeks' time. 

while the commish has not siezed the dodgers from mccourt, nor predetermined the outcome of his investigation, nor officially denied the tv deal mccourt supposedly has in place with fox (3 years before the current agreement ends), he has laid claim to this piece of cardboard.  for that, and for what i hope comes out of his investigation, i am thankful.

on top of the success i had with the dodgers' owner of my youth (more specifically, the team president of my youth who went on to be the owner after his father died in 1979) i am pretty happy about this.  for the record, i once sent a card to frank mccourt to sign, back in the days when i was blind with manny fever and a return to the nlcs. i'm still waiting. 

thanks bud!

22 May 2011

philadelphia phillie perphection on cardboard

a year before he would be shown on a topps card as a dodger, european import elmer valo was featured on this fantastically awesome 1957 card.
it's one of my favorites from that set.  if i were to collect a set from the 1950's, it would be 1957 hands down.  i have only recently, within the last few years, grown to appreciate the photography, colors, and simplicity of the set.

in valo's case, we get a sense of his size as he selects his weapon, along with what was likely a state of the art camera in the background and a lurking civilian.  the colors are great, making this card scream 1950's.  the only way it might have been better is if he was shown as a dodger.

here's to you, 1957 topps elmer valo!  i think you're perfect!

18 May 2011

2 of 4, out of 5

more math?  no, i'm just pointing out that i have been enhancing my 2004 upper deck legends timeless team collection lately.  i picked up this bill russell gold auto
numbered 2 out of 5
and this davey lopes gold auto
numbered 5 out of 5
recently.  ud biffed on the photo for lopes, though.  that's not a 1974 look for davey.  in other upper deck laziness observations, the dodger stadium scene on the card backs was recycled a couple of years ago in their piece of history release.  someday i'll prove it with a scan.

still looking for ron cey and steve garvey gold autos...