Rotisserie Duck

My Pal Vinny PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 22 August 2014 00:00
As Joe Pesci might say, as a "Yute" growing up in a suburb of Boston, it was pre-determined that I would be a Red Sox fan. After all, my uncle had seats behind the home-team dugout at Fenway Park and, along with my dad, instilled in me the history of the team and the tradition of the franchise. Some of that tradition wasn't always positive, like waiting until 1959 to roster a player of color, but my roots will be forever tied to the Green Monster and that 100-year-old ballpark.

The Braves left Boston for Milwaukee after the 1952 season, which was just on the cusp of my baseball fandom. I have no recollection of National League baseball from that era but occasionally, when we drove past Warren Spahn's diner on Commonwealth Avenue, my dad would recite some limerick that included the words "Sain & Rain." By 1954, I had become a full-fledged baseball fan and started consuming all the information available in the print of newspapers, magazines and baseball cards. I also had the chance to see the likes of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Al Rosen, Minnie Minoso and others in person.  However, with no telecasts of regular season games available, the images of players like Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson and Ted Kluszewski were left to my imagination.

For all of us who occasionally dabble in the realm of sports journalism, we are always humbled to read the words of writers who achieve another level like Jim Murray or Joe Posnanski. In the recent 60th anniversary issue of Sports Illustrated, reading the eight-part essay by Steve Rushin on the evolution of sports over the last six decades was such an experience. His words reminded me of the impact that baseball can have on a young boy and how that interest can help define a life as it comes full circle. There are two seminal moments from 1954 that were of lasting significance to that young boy sitting in Fenway Park. The first was in August, when Sports Illustrated published its first issue with Eddie Mathews on the cover. The second happened toward the end of the year, when a company called Texas Instruments introduced a revolutionary product called the Regency TR-1. TR stood for transistor radio and it changed the sports world forever.

Sometime in the following year or two, my parents (who were of modest means) finally caved in to my constant whining and purchased one of these "new-fangled contraptions" and it immediately made me more knowledgeable and connected to baseball. Not only could I listen to Curt Gowdy do the play-by-play of Red Sox games (home and away), but this amazing little device actually functioned even better in the evening and picked up Dodger broadcasts from 200 miles away in Brooklyn. The beautiful voice on the other end of that pocket-sized radio belonged to Vincent Edward Scully and he taught me about the "Boys of Summer"...Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Don Newcombe and so many others. Not only that, but Red Sox and Dodger fans had something in common...we both hated the Yankees!

The mystique of those Brooklyn "Bums" ended when the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958, but in a weird bit of symmetry, the young boy from Boston followed them there in 1960. Ted Williams retired that same year and keeping up with the BoSox from 3,000 miles way wasn't an easy task for a teenager, but becoming a National League fan was easy because the voice of Vin Scully was back on my radio and could now tell me about Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Wally Moon and Frank Howard. When Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, I had just barely managed to pass the test for a driver's license, and going to games at that beautiful ballpark was a passion of mine for the next 40+ years. During that entire time, Vin Scully was always there guiding all of us through the nuances of the game and making us smarter just by sharing his knowledge.

As the years have passed, my understanding of what Scully brings to the airwaves has increased exponentially. Just the inflection in his voice can impact the fan's experience of the action on the field. If Vin says (in a soft-toned voice), "It's a bouncer to third, bobbled by Santo and the runner is safe at first", we know it is an error. If he uses a slightly louder tone and says, "Ripped to third, off the chest of Santo and the runner is safe at first", we know it is a hit. Dodger fans listening on the radio could be official scorers of a game without actually seeing it. In addition, he brings an educated viewpoint to broadcasts, including an occasional quote from Shakespeare. If you mentioned "The Bard" to most play-by-play announcers, they'd probably think the team signed Daniel to a minor league deal.

Best of all is that Vin manages to retain his objectivity, style and grace. Since the addition of satellite radio in my car about a decade ago, the pedestal he is on has become even higher as I've listened to the home-town broadcasts of other major league teams. Can you even imagine Vin Scully screaming that an umpire's call was "total BS"? Of course not, because he says things like...

> "Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day (pause). Aren't we all?"

> "Bob Gibson pitches as though he's double-parked."

> "In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened." (Gibson's HR)

> "How good was Stan Musial? He was good enough to take your breath away."

> "It's a mere moment in a man's life between the All-Star game and an old-timer's game."

> "It's easier to pick off a fast runner than to pick off a lazy runner."

> "Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamp post: for support, not illumination."

> "The roar of the crowd has always been the sweetest music. It's intoxicating."

> "The passing of Ted Williams so close to a national holiday seems part of a divine plan, so we can always remember him not only as a great player but also a great patriot."

> "There's 29,000 people in the ballpark, and a million butterflies."

> "Good is not good when better is expected."

> "All my career, all I have ever really done, all I have accomplished, is to talk about the accomplishments of others. We can't all be heroes. Somebody has to stand on the curb and applaud as the parade goes by."

> "Let's all take a deep breath as we go to the most dramatic ninth inning in the history of baseball. I'm going to sit back, light up and hope I don't chew the cigarette to pieces." (Larsen's perfect game)

> "Two and two to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here's the pitch: swung on and missed, a perfect game." (All you heard for the next 38 seconds was the crowd cheering)

In the movie "Field of Dreams", James Earl Jones' character says, "The one constant through all the years has been baseball." That is true for that young boy from New England, but two other wonderful additions to my constant have been Sports Illustrated Magazine and the voice of Vin Scully. The Dodgers recently announced that my pal Vinny will be back in 2015 for his 66th season behind the microphone. I renewed my SI subscription on the same day.

1980 Topps Baseball Cards - The Back Story PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 15 August 2014 00:00

In a recent visit, we talked about the business / hobby of buying baseball card collections and the phases involved in the process. Based on the numerous responses, many of the obscure player names from the 1961 Topps set resonated with a number of the Baby Boomers in the audience. E-mails and notes have talked about the vivid memories of Charlie Maxwell, Luis Arroyo, Moe Drabowsky, Steve Barber and Vic Wertz.

As the sorting process continues, today we'll move the calendar up almost a generation for those of you born in the 60's and 70's. The Topps Company issued its first full baseball card set in 1952 and had exclusive rights with MLB until 1981, when Donruss and Fleer entered the market. The final year of the Topps monopoly was 1980, so let's see what information can be gleaned from the backs of cards from that year and if some of the names sound familiar.

> #327 Ray Fosse, Brewers C - "Had RBI in 1970 All-Star Game." They neglected to mention his collision with Pete Rose in the same game.

> #698 Oscar Gamble, Yankees OF - "Walloped a 2-run Homer in 7th inning to help Rangers defeat Yankees on 6/17/79." Seems like an odd comment considering he was traded to New York later in '79. In any case, it's all about the hair.

> #237 Scott McGregor, Orioles P - "Was credited with Save without throwing a pitch vs. Boston, 9/5/78, picking runner off 1st base."

> #308 Mike Hargrove, Indians 1B - "Batted .323 at Texas in 1974 and was named AL's Rookie of the Year." He also had one of the great baseball nicknames based on how often he stepped out of the batter's box...The Human Rain Delay.

> #63 Bob Stanley, Red Sox P - "Hurled masterful 4-0. 10-inning Shutout vs. Royals, 6/11/79."

> #445 Mark Fidrych, Tigers P - "Named AL Rookie of the Year for 1976 season." He threw 250 innings in that rookie year and only 118 combined for the next three seasons.

> #558 Alfredo Griffin, Blue Jays SS - "Went 2-for-5 in Blue Jays' 5-4 triumph over Yankees, 6/19/79." Currently the first base coach for the Angels, his 15th season in that organization.

> #337 Carney Lansford, Angels 3B - "Finished 3rd in balloting for AL Rookie of the Year for 1978 season."

> #530 Jim Sundberg, Rangers C - "He has picked 28 runners off 1st base in his first 5 years with the club."

> #608 Alan Bannister, White Sox 3B - "Set NCAA records for Hits, RBI's and Total Bases during his career at Arizona State University."

> #275 Jerry Koosman, Twins P - "Has 4-0 post-season record." His baseball card claim to fame is that he was the other player on Nolan Ryan's 1968 rookie card. Did you even remember that he won 20 games for the Twins in 1979 after winning only 3 for the Mets in '78?"

> #461 Dwayne Murphy, A's OF - "Made major league debut for the A's against the Angels, 4/8/78." His collision with Mike Davis on a fly-ball in early 1987 opened up playing time for a back-up 1B named Mark McGwire.

> #389 Pete LaCock, Royals 1B-OF - "His first AL Homer won game vs. Orioles, 4-3, 6/5/77." His dad is Peter Marshall from Hollywood Squares fame.

> #652 Mario Mendoza, Mariners SS - "Went 2-for-4 with 2 Runs and 3 RBI's as Mariners shellacked Yankees, 16-1, 6/11/79." 1979 was also the birth of the "Mendoza Line", as he hit .198 in 373 AB's.

> #573 Kent Tekulve, Pirates P - "Pitched in 91 games to shatter Pirates club record in 1978." They neglected to mention that he broke the record again with 94 appearances in '79.

> #120 Greg Luzinski, Phillies OF - " His 3-run Homer put Phillies ahead to stay in division-clinching game vs. Pirates, 9/29/78."

> #395 Ellis Valentine, Expos OF - "Was awarded Gold Glove for fielding excellence during the 1978 season."

> #240 Dave Kingman, Cubs OF-1B - "Narrowly missed tying record with 28 Homers through June 30th, 1979." He finished the season with 48 round-trippers.

> #85 Ted Simmons, Cardinals C - "Was selected as catcher on NL All-Star Team, 1979."

> #25 Lee Mazzilli, Mets OF - "Became first player in All-Star Game history to Homer in 1st At-Bat when he belted pinch-Wallop in the 1979 Classic at Seattle."

> #359 Randy Moffitt, Giants P - "Had 0.64 ERA during May of 1978." He's the younger brother of Billie Jean King.

> #584 Kurt Bevacqua, Padres OF-3B - "Had minor league marks of .313 at Portland in 1972, .337 at Spokane in 1976 & .352 at Tucson in 1977." Once, after a beanball battle between the Padres and Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda said that Bevacqua couldn't hit water if he fell out of frickin' boat.

> #146 Bob Welch, Dodgers P - "Was credited with a Win and Save in first 4 days with L.A. in 1978." Passed away earlier this year at age 57. Dodgers fans will never forget his World Series confrontation with Reggie Jackson.

> #370 Cesar Cedeno, Astros 1B - "He ranks in the top 3 in every major offensive category in the history of the Houston franchise."

> #132 Biff Pocoroba, Braves C - "Uncanny in his ability to handle knuckleball, he calls as good a game as any catcher in the NL."

> #325 Dan Driessen, Reds 1B - "Produced 10 game-winning hits for the Reds during the 1978 season."

Hope the backs of all your baseball cards are free from gum stains and that some of these names brought back a memory.

Collecting Memories PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 08 August 2014 00:00
If you were born in the 40's or 50's and grew up as a baseball fan, collecting trading cards was a rite of passage. We chewed the bubble gum, read the backs of the cards, put them in our bicycle wheel spokes and sorted them by number or team. Those childhood memories are stuck in our brain and just like the characters around the campfire in "City Slickers", we know that Don Hoak was the third baseman of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960.

Every time I purchase a vintage (pre-1978) baseball card collection, all of those experiences come flooding back as the first chore is sorting through the cards. Recently, one such collection came my way and included partial Topps sets from 1961-1980. Even though it was a substantial investment, my approach to being an eBay dealer in these types of items is that it is more of a hobby than a business. As long as the cost isn't prohibitive and the long-term outcome is at least a break-even proposition, I'm just happy to have a new project. In addition, it always feels good to be the conduit between a seller who has lost interest in cards to a buyer who is adding to their personal collection.

Of course, it isn't quite as easy as buying a card for $5 and selling it for $7. When it comes to 40-50 year old pieces of cardboard, the key element of the value is condition. With most sales taking place on the Internet, buyers want to know exactly what they're buying and the only way to guarantee their satisfaction is to have cards graded by a third-party, independent company. The grading is done on a scale of 1-to-10 and the outcome can impact the value dramatically. For example, a 1961 Willie Mays All-Star card in "Excellent" (EX 5) condition books for $75, while the same card in "Near-Mint" (NM 7) condition is worth $150. And, honestly, most cards from private collections grade out much lower due to all the decades of wear and tear.

So, for dealers like me, the first priority is culling through thousands of cards to figure out which ones are worth grading (at a cost of $8-$10 per card) based on the player and the estimated condition. In this particular case, over 200 cards were sent to the grading company, which essentially doubled the overall cost of the original purchase. In about a month, we'll find out the results and then those cards will go up for sale on eBay under the ID of "rotisserieduck." The 61's sent in included the aforementioned Mays card along with Ron Santo, Eddie Mathews, Bob Gibson, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Roy Campanella, Willie McCovey and Ernie Banks.

Now that those cards are in process, phase two of the project is underway. This requires sorting the remaining cards in each set to see if any of the "semi-star" players might meet the criteria for grading or putting together groups of cards in decent raw condition to sell as lots. Some buyers, for example, might like to have a group of players from their favorite team. While most of you might not know the name Don Buddin, he was the Red Sox shortstop when I was growing up in New England and, yes, I played shortstop in Little League. Nostalgia is a powerful incentive when it comes to collectibles.

As this box of a few hundred 1961 Topps baseball cards sits on the table, it occurred to me that each of us has ties to obscure players. So, maybe a few names and pieces of information from the backs of baseball cards might stir a few memories for each of you.

> #6 Ed Roebuck, Dodgers P - "Ed was the Dodgers best relief pitcher last year." He was 8-3 with a 2.77 ERA in 58 games.

> #21 Zorro Versalles, Twins SS - "Zorro is like greased lighting when it comes to speeding around the basepaths."  His real name was Zoilo and that is what he was called in 1965 when he won the AL MVP Award. Maybe the success of the Zorro TV show in the late 50's helped create the nickname.

> #32 Ray Sadecki, Cardinals P - "Here's a youngster who made good in a hurry." He went 9-9 in 1960 as a member of the Redbirds rotation at age 19.

> #37 Charlie Maxwell, Tigers OF - "Charlie won't forget May 3, 1959 for the rest of his life. That's the day he smashed 4 consecutive home runs in a double-header."

> #60 Woodie Held, Indians SS - "Woodie appears to have found a permanent home with Cleveland. He was involved in several trades earlier in his career which prevented him from proving his true value."

> #125 Steve Barber, Orioles P - "Steve is a youngster who came out of Class D and with Manager Richard's magic was transformed into an ace left-hander." In 1960, he was 10-7 with a 3.21 ERA.

> #126 Dick Stuart, Pirates 1B - "Dick was an important factor in the Pittsburgh pennant victory. An accurate barometer of Dick's value can be seen in his RBI column." A few years later, Stuart had two outstanding seasons with the Red Sox but his lack of defensive skills and a 1964 hit movie got him the nickname "Dr. Strangeglove."

> #142 Luis Arroyo, Yankees P - "The little lefty was brought up to the Yankees during the middle of the 1960 season when their staff was desperately in need of help. Luis with his screwball became the most reliable reliever on the staff." He was 5-1 with a 2.85 ERA in 29 games.

> #154 Bobby Del Greco, Phillies OF - "Since Bobby broke into pro ball in 1950, he has played for 14 different clubs. His strong arm compares with the most accurate in the game."

> #204 Bob Skinner, Pirates OF - "Although Bob has hit for a higher average in the past, 1960 represents a new high for him in both RBI's & HR's." He hit .273 with 15 homers and 86 RBI.

> #225 Bill Rigney, Angels Manager - "Bill is making his first appearance in the American League this season. Previously, Bill was a player and manager only in the N.L." 1961 was the first season for the expansion Angels...Rigney was their manager until 1969.

> #244 Chico Cardenas, Reds SS - "One of the slickest fielding shortstops in either league is Chico. His dependability with the glove has earned him the name Mr. Automatic."

> #258 Jack Sanford, Giants P - "Jack has a jumping fastball which always puts him among the strikeout leaders. In fact, the blond right-hander led the N.L. in 1957."

> #322 Bill Kunkel, Athletics P - "The Athletics feel that they have a real crackerjack prospect in young Bill. Scouts report that he has a fine chance of joining the K.C. pitching rotation." He had three wins, four saves and a 5.18 ERA in '61.

> #340 Vic Wertz, Red Sox 1B - "The veteran 1B came to Boston before the 1959 season started, in a deal that sent Jim Piersall to Cleveland." In 1960, he had over 100 RBI for the fifth time in his career.

> #351 Jim King, Senators OF - "Jim is determined to win a permanent major league home for himself this season with the new Washington Senators. The OF spent the last 3 seasons with Toronto, hitting 48 HR's." Toronto was the Triple-A affiliate of the Indians and King ended up being a regular for the expansion Senators for six years.

> #364 Moe Drabowsky, Cubs P - "Moe doesn't like playing minor league ball. Cubs optioned the right-hander in July 1960, but hard-working Moe was back the next month."

On a future visit, we'll move the clock up for the younger fans and see what gems can be found on the backs of cards from 1980, the final year of the Topps monopoly of the baseball card market.

Learn To Be Offensive PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00
Part of the joy in being a true baseball fan is not just the viewing of the game, but the analysis of all the nuances of our national pastime. After all, isn't that what playing fantasy baseball is all about? Pitting your skills as a statistical theoretician against the other members of your league is where the fun really begins and, if you're fortunate enough to participate in "keeper" leagues, it's a 12-month a year exercise. In essence, it becomes an ongoing baseball debate on the value of players and is really just an extension of the discussions that take place in the stands of every baseball game played at every level.

Over the years, I've found myself with the minority view in a number of baseball debates. Two that quickly come to mind are Pete Rose and the Designated Hitter. I've always felt strongly that Rose doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame and while it is not a popular opinion, nothing has swayed me to change my mind. It isn't only that I consider gambling on baseball to be a worse offense than taking PED's, it is also his behavior that forced MLB to defend itself for over a decade while he lied about what he had done. Only when he was publishing a book to make money did he finally come clean and, to me, that's unforgivable. Whatever presence he's allowed at next year's All-Star Game in Cincinnati will certainly result in a hero's welcome from the fans, but no sympathy will be forthcoming from the Old Duck.

Baseball purists like to criticize the Designated Hitter and talk about the sanctity of the game and the beauty of National League baseball. To me, there is nothing more boring in the game than watching a pitcher try to hit. Of course, Cubs fans went crazy in a recent game when Travis Wood hit his third home run of the season, but all statistical measurements have exceptions to the rule. As for me, I'm old enough to have watched Sandy Koufax (.097 lifetime batting average) and Hank Aguirre (.085) try to hit and it wasn't entertaining. And, it's even worse in the modern game, because pitchers no longer hit at any level before they get to the NL. As for the managers losing the ability to use "strategy", spare me the sight of intentionally walking the eighth place hitter with two outs to pitch to David Buchanan or Mat Latos (who are both hitting .000 this season). In regard to tradition, Chuck Bednarik played both ways for the Philadelphia Eagles...but he retired in 1962!

The latest conversation of choice seems to be about the lack of offensive production across the major leagues. Through late July, the average runs per game stood at 4.12, the lowest figure since 1992. For those of you who still don't believe that steroids impacted the game dramatically, the only three seasons since World War II that had a number over 5 were 1996, 1999 and 2000. Numerous pundits and baseball historians are questioning whether baseball needs to make some adjustments to bring more offense back into the game, and they almost always use 1968 to make their argument. The R/G figure that season was 3.42, the lowest since the dead-ball era and it was clear that pitching was dominating the game. This was the year that Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA...and lost nine games! So, MLB decided to lower the mound and, along with watering down the talent pool through expansion, the results were positive with a R/G of 4.07 in 1969.

Now the question becomes, should something drastic be done again? My answer is an emphatic NO! What needs to be done is to increase the baseball IQ of current and future players through coaching and more realistic expectations. The unintended consequences of the steroid era includes players swinging for the fences instead of making contact. Despite the reduction in home runs, professional ballplayers haven't adjusted to the changes. The strikeout rate per game in 2014 is the highest in the history of the game at 7.72 and yet the home run rate of 0.88 per game is the lowest since 1992. It was one thing to accept a plethora of K's when the offset was 40 homers, but in today's environment, this type of approach just hurts the team. With one-third of the 2014 season still to be played, here's a list of hitters who have struck out at least 90 times and have less than 10 home runs.

B.J. Upton - 125 K, 7 HR

Tyler Flowers - 107 K, 6 HR

Chris Johnson - 102 K, 8 HR

Alex Avila - 98 K, 7 HR

Shin-Soo Choo, 98 K, 9 HR

Danny Espinosa - 98 K, 6 HR

Nick Swisher - 98 K, 8 HR

Jason Castro - 97 K, 8 HR

Junior Lake - 96 K, 9 HR

Starling Marte - 95 K, 5 HR

Matt Kemp - 94 K, 8 HR

Xander Bogaerts - 93 K, 7 HR

These aren't bums or Quad-A players just getting a cup of coffee in the big leagues due to another player's injury. These are, for the most part, everyday players who cost some significant dollars at your fantasy draft. For whatever reason, they're not able to show plate discipline and put the ball into play with two strikes. It isn't that the pitching is better, it's that the hitters are dumber. Gibson struck out 7.9 batters per nine innings in 1968. In 2014, that figure is eclipsed by Jose Quintana, Edwin Jackson, Drew Hutchinson, Wade Miley, Jesse Chavez, Jake Odorizzi and 26 others. Does anyone think these pitchers have better "swing and miss stuff" than Bob Gibson? "Chicks dig the long ball" doesn't work for single-digit HR hitters. If you aren't convinced of the stupidity, just look at your own fantasy squad. The service that provides our league's stats shows BB and K as part of each day's summary and on a recent day, my AL-only team had 40 at-bats with 0 (zero) BB and 12 K. That's a strikeout ratio of 30%! Naturally, you could say that I did a lousy job compiling a team, but check your own results before going down that road.

Now comes the latest salvo in the fight for offense. In a recent Sports Illustrated piece, Tom Verducci suggests that some people inside the game feel that the current move toward defensive shifts needs to be addressed. One major league hitting coach said, "The shifts, get rid of them. You need to come up with a definition of illegal defense." Verducci's gut reaction is that "it is time to at least think about it." With due respect to a great baseball writer, the Quacker would disagree, and here's why.

This is nothing new. There is reasonable evidence that shifts were being used in professional baseball before 1900 and the model for today's defensive alignments was put in place in 1946. Lou Boudreau, the player-manager of the Cleveland Indians, watched Ted Williams get eight RBI against the Tribe in the first game of a doubleheader and came up with a plan that impacted the Red Sox star for years to come. Knowing that Williams pulled the ball to the right 85% of the time, Boudreau shifted his defenders into a drastic alignment that blanketed the right side of the field. As the years went by, the ego of "Teddy Ballgame" wouldn't allow him to take advantage of the open areas of the field and his logic was that he was a natural pull hitter and he didn't want to interfere with his swing. It seems that if you're the greatest hitter of all-time, you might get a pass for being somewhat stubborn. Does that same excuse really work for Ryan Howard, Jay Bruce, Adam Dunn, Pedro Alvarez and others?

Egos and macho attitudes need to be set aside. In a recent game between the Rangers and Blue Jays, Colby Rasmus took advantage of the shift and bunted toward third base for a hit. Despite the fact that it was only a two-run game, Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis took exception and actually yelled at Rasmus after he reached first base. Let's get this straight, your team shifts the defense to decrease the hitter's chances and you get ticked off when he adjusts his strategy? What are these guys, 11 years old?

Isn't the goal for your team to win? The amazing inflexibility of millionaire ballplayers doesn't require a rule change, it requires adjustments. On a recent Yankee broadcast, one of the announcers mentioned that due to the shift, Brian McCann hadn't even managed one ground ball single to right field when the bases were empty...for the entire season! Is this what the Yankees expected for their 5-year, $85 million commitment?

That's my take. If you disagree, let's discuss the topic the next time we're at the ballpark.

Last Updated on Friday, 01 August 2014 01:08
1933 Goudey Baseball Cards PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 25 July 2014 00:00
For baseball card collectors of any age, the idea of no new cards being produced for 20 years in almost unfathomable. After all, Bowman started producing cards in 1948 while Topps entered the market in 1952 and is still the collectible of choice. Many others joined the fray in the 80's and 90's and it could be reasonably argued that too many cards were produced in that era. However, as we look back on the history of the hobby, it becomes clear that such a gap did exist in the early 20th century.

In the early 1900's, baseball cards were almost always produced as premium items that accompanied tobacco in one form or another. In fact, the famous Honus Wagner card from the T-206 set of 1910 holds its scarcity from Wagner's rumored dislike of tobacco and his threat of legal action that caused his card to have a limited run. The final full set of baseball cards during this time was the 176-card Cracker Jack set from 1915 and it was almost two decades before baseball card collecting made a colorful comeback.

In 1933, the Goudey Gum Company of Boston decided to produce a 240-card set that would include all the major stars of the period. They had beautiful colors and amazing artwork, including both portrait and action shots. And the good news for today's modern collector is that the cards from this set can still be found in the marketplace. Of course, the cost will vary greatly based on condition, but you can still add baseball's legendary names to your own collection.

To put the timing of the '33 Goudeys in perspective, the country was in the throes of a terrible economic depression, FDR had just been inaugurated, Hitler was the new Chancellor of Germany and prohibition was ending. Into this setting, Enos Gordon Goudey decided that pictures of ballplayers as premiums would help increase the sales of his gum products.

As we review the cards in this historic offering, the values will be based on a card in "Excellent" (EX 5) condition.

#19 Bill Dickey, Yankees Catcher ($375) - At age 26, he was already established as the All-Star backstop of the New Yorkers dynasty.

#20 Bill Terry, Giants 1B ($285) - Coming off one of his best seasons where he hit .350 with 28 homers and 117 RBI. In 1930, he had 254 hits and batted .401.

#29 Jimmie Foxx, Athletics 1B ($700) - "Double X" won his second consecutive MVP in '33 by hitting .356 with 48 homers and 163 RBI.

#49 Frank Frisch, Cardinals 2B ($285) - "The Fordham Flash" took over as player-manager in the second half of the season and led the Redbirds to the World Series championship in '34.

#53 Babe Ruth, Yankees OF ($6,250) - "The Sultan of Swat" had four cards in the set, which was the most of any player. Numbers 144, 149 and 181 have values ranging from $4,000 to $5,000.

#92 Lou Gehrig, Yankees 1B ($1,950) - "The Iron Horse" was in his prime and had two cards in the set...#160 is similarly valued.

#119 Rogers Hornsby, Cardinals 2B ($325) - The legendary "Rajah" was in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career at age 37 but still hit .326 as a part-time player.

#127 Mel Ott, Giants 1B ($375) - Came to the Majors in 1926 at age 17 and was coming off a '32 campaign where he led the NL with 38 home runs.

#158 Moe Berg, Senators Catcher (195) - One of the great "back-stories" in the history of the game, he hit only .185 as a back-up in '33, but the following year he was part of a barnstorming all-star team that traveled to Japan. During the visit, Berg (who may have been the most intellectual player of his time, having been educated at Princeton and Columbia) took photographs and home movies of the Tokyo landscape which were later used by General Doolittle's bombers in 1942. When his playing career ended in 1939, Moe drifted underground and became a spy for the OSS (predecessor of the CIA) in Europe during World War II. His exploits are captured in a 1994 biography titled "The Catcher Was A Spy."

#211 Hack Wilson, Dodgers OF ($450) - This diminutive (5' 6") slugger still holds the all-time record for RBI in a season with 191 for the Cubs in 1930.

#216 Vernon Gomez, Yankees Pitcher ($400) - "Lefty" won 87 games for the Bombers from 1931-1934.

#220 Lefty Grove, Athletics Pitcher ($575) - A 300-game winner in his 17-year career, he went 24-8 with 21 complete games in '33.

#222 Charley Gehringer, Tigers 2B ($450) - Right in the middle of his 19-year career with the Bengals at age 30, he had over 200 hits in seven different seasons including 1933.

#223 Dizzy Dean, Cardinals Pitcher ($775) - One of the most colorful characters of the game, he had a short but memorable career. In '33, he started 34 games and completed 26 of them. In addition, "Diz" also appeared 14 times in relief and had a 20-18 record while leading the NL in strikeouts.

#230 Carl Hubbell, Giants Pitcher ($475) - The master of the knuckleball, "King Carl" won the NL MVP with a record of 23-12 and a league-leading ERA of 1.66.

Other Hall of Fame members in the set include Pie Traynor, Ki-Ki Cuyler, Paul Waner, Al Simmons, Eddie Collins, Joe Cronin, Mickey Cochrane, Tris SpeakerLeo Durocher, Arky Vaughan and others. For boys of a certain generation, many of these names are familiar from the player discs of the All-Star Baseball board game.

Hope you enjoyed our nostalgic visit back to one of the great baseball sets in history.

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 July 2014 14:23
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