Monday, May 25, 2009

A Trip to Cincinnati

Cheryl and I drove to Cincinnati yesterday to spend the day with our son, Zack, his wife, Kait, and, of course, our grandson, Finn. While we were there, we just happened to drop in at the Great American Ballpark to see the Indians and Reds play. Cliff Lee started for the Tribe and had a no decision as the Indians lost 4 to 3 in 11 innings. But, we still had a great time. Finn, who is 10 months old, was very well behaved and seemed to enjoy his very first baseball game. I got to add another stadium to my list of places that I have seen a major league game. It now stands at eight: Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Progressive Field, Forbes Field, Fenway, the Astrodome, Wrigley, Riverfront, and Great American Ballpark. I have also been to Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium to see an Olympic game between Cuba and Australia.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My New Collecting Philosophy

I have recently commented upon having a new collecting philosophy and have been asked (by Dinged Corners) what prompted the change. In this blog I will try to answer that question. My baseball card collecting started in 1986 along with my son, Zack who was 10-years-old at the time. Actually, I had a small collection in 1963. Back then you could collect every card that was made for any year. It became obvious in 1986 that we could not collect every card that was being printed, so we decided to only collect one complete set (Topps) and then collect all of the cards of one team - the Cleveland Indians. Over the past two decades we have acquired several thousand Indians' cards. We have gone back to the early 1950's and collected a few Bowman and Topps. We have just about everything from 1957 to the present for major regular sets. We started collecting minor league sets for Tribe affiliates, and had 85 different sets going back to 1981. Essentially, everything that was Cleveland and reasonably affordable, we tried to obtain. Before the mid 1990's, Tribe cards were pretty inexpensive, since there were not many stars on the team. With cards stored in over thirty 3-ring binders, I started noticing that I enjoyed looking at some cards more than others and I began to think that collecting everything related to the Tribe wasn't really what I needed to be doing. So, once I started blogging and realized I could find trading partners for some of the cards I no longer wanted, I thought about new criteria for what I wanted to collect. Cost was one factor. Even though I could afford a lot more cards than I had, I have always been aware that baseball cards are just pieces of cardboard without much value except to those who collect them. The only people making money on cards are dealers and manufacturers. Charging inflated prices for rookie cards, star cards and short prints are just ways to increase profits for those in the business. So, I stay away from expensive cards. When I can get several common cards from a set for 25 cents each, I don't need the $1 or $2 star card. One or two parallel cards are enough, I don't need the whole parallel set.

The first Indians' game I attended was in 1959. I can still remember that game: Mudcat Grant beat the Senators 6-1. I remember most of the starting players from that year, but not many from before that. So, why collect cards from previous years, if I have never seen and don't know any of the players? There have been a lot of interesting players wearing a Cleveland uniform over the past 50 years! I have recently made a couple of trades of my early '50's cards and received many great recent cards in return.

The more I thought about which cards I liked and why I liked them, the more criteria I began to formulate. It was as if a card had to pass certain standards before I would accept it for my collection. I like cards that are the standard size 3 1/2" by 2 1/2". That applies to most cards anyway, but not all. I am not collecting any mini, jumbo, or other odd sized sets. This makes it easier to store in standard 9-pocket pages. And, since the Topps 1957 set started the standard size, and it is close to the year I first started following the team, 1959, I have chosen to only collect cards made since 1957.

Minor league sets used to cost about $5 for a set of about 30 cards and now are $8 to 10. If the set had a star like Thome or Ramirez the price may have jumped to $50 or more. So, if I didn't get the set when it first came out, it would be too expensive now if it contained a star. If it didn't have a star, the price would be the same or even lower. A lot of minor league cards are of players that never got anywhere near to making the big leagues. I thought a long time about trading my minor league sets. Some days I was ready and others I wasn't sure, but finally I made a large trade with "Baseball Dad" for over 400 recent cards and now I am certain: no more minor league cards for me! That means no minor league sets. But it also means no "rookie" cards of players who never played for Cleveland, either because they never made it to the majors or they were with some other team when they finally made it.

Since I follow the Indians, I want my cards to show the players in a Cleveland uniform. If he has been recently traded to the Tribe, but is still wearing his old team's uniform, I don't want the card. Or, if he is wearing a minor league uniform, he doesn't make the cut. But, if he has been traded by the Indians to another team and is in a Cleveland uniform and the card has the new team's logo, still no good.

Some players get traded to Cleveland in the fall after the season has ended and are gone by the start of the next season, thus never playing a game for the team. Sometimes cards come out with the player in an Indian's uniform. These are not for me. If a player hasn't played a single game for Cleveland, why would I want his card?

I have also started applying several other criteria that don't necessarily have rational arguments associated with them other than the aesthetic look of the cards. I dislike multi-player cards - one card, one player. I especially don't want team cards where "you can't tell the players without a microscope." I prefer the player on a card to be in uniform rather than in street clothes or the uniform of another sport. I know baseball is a game, but I don't want a card of a player with bubble gum on his head, wearing a rally cap, taking a photo or helping his young son swing a plastic fat bat.

I prefer cards that have a vertical orientation, but I have not been able to convince myself to get rid of all my horizontally oriented cards. Some sets are entirely horizontal and I can't bring myself to part with them.

Even eliminating all the cards that don't qualify for my new collecting standards, there are plenty of cards that I am looking for and there will always be plenty of new ones being produced by the manufacturers. My new philosophy is to look at each card more critically to see what makes it interesting to me and why it should be in my collection. Then, flipping through the pages of my collection will be even more enjoyable than ever.

I have a few more thoughts on my philosophy of collecting, but they will have to wait for another post.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A nice card exchange

A few weeks ago I completed an all-Indians card trade with Dan of "Saints of the Cheap Seats". He reviewed the cards I sent him in this blog. I sent 17 Bowman and Topps cards from the 1950's and he sent back 41 recent cards.

All of these cards were new to my collection and spanned the years 1995 to 2008. As you can see, the cards came from a variety of sets including Score, Upper Deck, Topps, Fleer, Leaf an Donruss. And they were packed with stars: Thome, Ramirez, Sizemore, Lofton, Hafner, Burks, Visquel, Lee, Martinez, Sabathia, Hershiser, Alomar and Nagy. I am very pleased with the results of our trade and look forward to more possible trades with Dan.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tribe 22 Yankees 4

A great game for a Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Mega Trade with Baseball Dad

I have just completed a trade with Baseball Dad where we each received over 430 Cleveland Indians cards, and each card was new to our respective collections! I'll let Baseball Dad tell you about the cards he received from me. I got a bonanza of Indians cards. The first picture shows all the cards.

Now remember, each of these cards is new to my collection. Baseball Dad did a great job of using my wantlist to insure that I needed each card. As an example of what was included, I added 53 Jim Thome cards to my collection.

There were 37 CC Sabathia cards and 26 Omar Visquel. All the cards were from the last 15 years. This whole trade was made possible by our blogging where we found our mutual interest in the Indians and baseball cards.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Indians Named Harold

I noticed Steve over at "Wait 'til Next Year" has presented his "All-Steve" team. I have decided to list all the Indians from the past 50 years who are named "Harold". There are not many:

Hal Naragon - Catcher. He hit .279 in 239 games
Hal Woodeshick - Pitcher. Was 6-6 in 14 games
Hal Jones - Outfield, First Base. Hit .216 in 17 games
Harold Baines - Designated Hitter. In 28 games he hit .271
Gomer Hodge - First, Second & Third Base. Hit .205 in 80 games.

I think Hal Jones was very lucky to get his own baseball card, the 17 games he played with the Tribe marked his entire career in the majors. On the other hand, poor Gomer played 80 games for Cleveland and as far as I know never got his own major league card. The two above were when he managed the Waterloo Indians and were printed by Larry Fritsch. I nearly forgot all about Gomer and the fact he was named "Harold." He will always be remembered for starting his major league career with four straight pinch hits. He then told reporters "Gollee, Fellas, I'm hittin' four thousand! Ain't that somethin'?" Unfortunately, his "4.000" batting average soon dropped to .205 and he was sent down, never to return. The Gomer quote was from "The Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition" by Russell Schneider.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fleer original and Tradition

In 1963, Fleer produced a set of Major League baseball cards, illustrated here by Tito Francona and Jerry Kindall. In 2003, Fleer used a very similar design for their Tradition set. The above comparison will let you decide what has changed in 40 years and which set you prefer. I see details in both sets that I like. There are changes in card design, quality of photography, legal matters, manufacturing, and the game of baseball, all evident in these few cards.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Indians Worst Trade - Don't Knock the Rock

Cleveland sports writer Russell Schneider in his book, The Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia 3rd Edition, lists what he considers the 15 Best Trades and the 15 Worst Trades ever made by Cleveland. I can still remember the trade that he calls the worst, and I fully agree that it was the worst. April 17, 1960, General Manager Frank Lane traded Rocky Colavito to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. The Rock had tied Harmon Killebrew in 1959 for the AL home run lead with 42 and Kuenn was the AL batting champ. As a nine-year-old whose favorite player had been traded, I was extremely upset and disliked GM Lane, as did most Indian fans. Because of his numerous trades, he had been called Trader Lane. This was now changed to Traitor Lane. Kuenn's batting average dropped from .353 to .308 and he was traded to the SF Giants after the season. Even though he played a full season with the Tribe, he never had a Topps card as an Indian, which is just as well since they would all have probably ended up as BB gun targets.

The Indians got pitcher Johnny Antonelli and outfielder Willie Kirkland from the Giants. Antonelli was 0-4 in eleven games, and Kirkland had three fairly mediocre years in Cleveland compared to what the Rock was doing in Detroit. Willie eventually played in Japan and married a Japanese woman.

Rocky was in Detroit four years, then a year at Kansas City, and then returned to Cleveland for three years. He led the AL in RBI in 1965, his first year back. The trade that got him back was a three-way deal with the White Sox and Athletics. Russell Schneider calls it the sixth worst trade in Tribe history, since we gave up Tommie Agee, Johnny Romano and a pitcher named Tommy John.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The ABC's of Baseball Hats

I think I found an error in Topps 1969 #571. They have the name as "Cap Peterson", but I think it really is "Cap-less Peterson". HaHa.

That little bit of humor leads me to the subject of this blog: From the late 1950's to the early 1970's Topps avoided showing the old team logo on the hat of any player who had been traded to a new team. I do not know if this was for legal reasons or just aesthetics. I have discovered three different methods that the company used to keep from showing the old team logo. The first I call the "Cap-less Peterson Method" in honor of the above card. Topps would simply take a picture of a player without a cap. Then if he was traded during the next year, they would have a picture to use that didn't show any cap logo. Almost always these were head shots since they were also trying to hide the old uniform. 1959 was the first year this method was applied to the Indians, with Billy Martin, Randy Jackson and Al Cicotte going bare-headed. In 1960 there were six players hat-less, and five in 1961. These were the final years of GM Frank "Trader" Lane, sometimes called "Traitor" Lane after giving Rocky Colavito to the Tigers. Rocky was traded for Harvey Kuenn, who only spent one year with the Tribe and never got a baseball card as an Indian. Harvey was traded to the SF Giants for Johnny Antonelli and Willie Kirkland, both of whom got the cap-less treatment in 1961. In fact, Willie was hat-less in his old Giants uniform in 1962, also, and became the first Indian to go without a hat two years in a row! (Lee Maye, Willie Smith and Ken Suarez would also go hat-less two years in a row.) Kirkland was joined by five other cap-less teammates in 1962, which was the year that saw the second Topps method for avoiding old logos appear in the Indians cards.

If Topps didn't have a hat-less photo of a traded player, they would simply air brush the hat to get rid of the logo. Harry Chiti was the first Tribesman to get this treatment in 1962. Almost always the hat would be entirely black. The only exception I am aware of is the 1969 Jose Cardenal card, where the old Angels hat still has a red bill, but no logo. The hat darkening treatment was given to many Indians: Rocky on his return to the Wigwam, Jim Landis, Stan Williams, Ken Suarez (after two years of being hat-less!) and Manager Al Dark. In fact, Al Dark was air brushed in both 1968 and '69 and is the only Indian to be so treated. I think it is only appropriate that this second method of logo hiding be called the "Al Dark-ening Method".

The third method that Topps employed for not showing old logos was first used in 1963, I think inadvertently. If a player glanced up in the air (as if he were looking at a bird, for instance) just as his picture was being taken, then the bill of his cap would hide the logo and very simply solve the problem. That is exactly what happened in 1963 to, of all people, the new Tribe manager, Birdie Tebbets! I have to call this the "Birdie-watching Tebbets Method". Bud Daley used it, possibly also inadvertently, in 1965. It was not used again until 1972, the Topps psychedelic year, when five players, including Gaylord Perry, showed their interest in ornithology. It is obvious that Topps was now intentionally using this method as all five players were new to Cleveland. They used it once in 1973 and twice in '75.

Now you know the ABC's of baseball hats according to Al, Birdie and Cap.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tribe Hurlers Who Won 20 Games

It is amazing that the Tribe has had back-to-back Cy Young Award winners in C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee. Of course CC is no longer an Indian and he wasn't a 20-game winner, so we won't talk about him. Cliff Lee broke a long spell of not having a 20-game winner in Cleveland - 34 years. In fact, since 1957 the Tribe has only had six, 20-game seasons by five players: Lee in 2008, Gaylord Perry in 1972 and '74, Sam McDowell in 1970, Luis Tiant in 1968 and Dick Donovan in 1962. Poor pitching was not always the case for Cleveland. From 1951 to 1956 they had twelve 20-game seasons by five pitchers. Bob Feller in 1951, Mike Garcia in 1951 and '52, Early Wynn in 1951, '52, '54 and '56, Bob Lemon in 1952, '53, '54 and '56 and Herb Score in 1956. From 1917 to 1921 three pitchers had a total of seven 20-game seasons: Jim Bagby in 1917 and '20, Stan Coveleski in 1918, '19, '20 and '21 and Ray Caldwell in 1920. In franchise history Cleveland has had a total of 56 20-game seasons by 25 different pitchers. Will Carl Pavano be the next one?