TTM Success – Ryne Sandberg

01211203Good Sunday evening everyone!  I hope everyone had a great weekend.  The sun came out today which was a welcome sight as we’ve been in a relentless weather pattern here lately which has brought what seems like nothing but rain and clouds for the past few weeks.

Even a rainy day can be made better when a TTM return shows up.  Yesterday it was a great return from Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.

Mr. Sandberg added a nice bold signature on my 2011 Topps Tier One and I think it looks great.  I’ve always liked his signature despite the illegibility of it.    It’s always seemed like a “curvy” signature to me and seems to combine both his first and last name.  Doesn’t hurt that the card is just absolutely beautiful as well.  Topps really hit a home-run with the design on these Tier One cards.

Despite breaking into professional baseball as a 3rd baseman in the Phillies organization, Ryne is widely considered one of, if not THE greatest second-bagger in the history of the game.  During his 11 year career, Sandberg earned 9 Gold Gloves (’83-’91), 7 Silver Sluggers (1984, 1985, 1988–1992), NL MVP (1984), and was nominated to the All Star Team 10 times (’84-’93).  Sandberg was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005 with just over 76% of the votes.

Despite bleeding Met’s blue and gold, growing up as a baseball fan in the ’80’s I could not help BUT be a Sandberg fan.  It didn’t hurt that I hung with a best-bud who’s family was from Chicago.  Needless to say, there were lots of Chicago Cubs (and Bears) posters and cards in his room and even more debates on who was better, Backman or Sandberg.

I don’t think I ever really had much of an argument.  Backman may have a WS ring (’86) but he’s far from a Hall of Famer.

 

Lou & George

01221201I’m a Mets fan through and through but I’ll tell you what, there’s just something about the Yankees that I love.  I guess I have always appreciated the deep rooted history dating back to 1901 when they actually played as the Baltimore Orioles (not the same Baltimore Orioles as today), the simplicity of the classic pinstripe uniforms and the long list of baseball legends that has worn them.  The 27 world championships doesn’t hurt either!

If you haven’t read Damned Yankees by Bill Madden and Moss Klein, I highly recommend it.  A self-described no-holds-barred account of life with “Boss” Steinbrenner, the book tells what it’s like — for better or for worse, to be under the Yankees circus-tent working for “the Boss.”  Featuring a collection of Yankee tales spanning between 1973 – 1989, the book is absolutely hilarious and features the usual cast of Yankee characters from that time frame – Munson, Gossage, Jackson, Guidry, Berra, Mattingly, Nettles, and of course Billy Martin.

To tie into my 1978 Topps Lou Piniella TTM signature above, let’s talk about Sweet Lou. First off, I thought I had a signature on something featuring him in his Yankees pinstripes. It would seem that all I have is the Royals card.  Maybe I’ll write to him and inquire on getting some Yankees items signed.

Okay, so back to the book.  Stories about Lou Piniella are scattered throughout.   There was the time The Boss fined Lou for showing up to the ’82 spring training overweight; also known as the “Great Piniella Weight War.”  The grand total taken from Piniella’s wallet was $8,000.  $7,000 for being 7 pounds over the 200 and another $1,000 for tossing a baseball to some kids in the bleachers after a game.  What made this story so funny was the fact that Steinbrenner let Lou know about the fine through the media.  This obviously did not sit well with Lou who had more than a few choice words for the writers to quickly get into their stories.

Then there was the 1988 season which saw Lou as the general manager of the Yankees.  While on the phone with the general manager of the Houston Astros (discussing a possible Winfield trade),  Lou was interrupted by Steinbrenner who had just burst into his office.  Steinbrenner, completely ignoring the fact that Lou was on the phone (working), frantically gestured for Lou to hang up and to come with him.  Lou, thinking that Steinbrenner had news of a better trade offer, quickly got off the phone with the Astro’s general manager. “Come with me,” he ordered Piniella.  They left the office, hurried through the front gates and began walking around the outside of the stadium.  As the Yankees were gearing up to play an exhibition game against the Atlanta Braves, the ballpark was bustling with fans.

“Don’t let anyone recognize us,” Steinbrenner told Piniella as he shoved him behind a large bush.  How could people NOT recognize the general manager and the owner of the Yankees slinking around the ballpark with hundreds of baseball fans milling around the ballpark!

“Stay down! Don’t let anyone see you!” Steinbrenner loudly whispered.

“What the hell are we doing here George?” Piniella asked.

“I’m sick and tired of these free passes being given out!” Steinbrenner responded. “There are too many people getting free passes and I’m sick of it.  You’re going to put a stop to it right now.” he barked.

“I want you to hide here and count how many people come and get free passes and then find out who they are.” the Boss told him.

Piniella couldn’t believe it.  Here he was the general manager of the New York Yankees. A business executive who was supposed to be working out winning trades and at the very least watching his own team on the field.  Rather, instead the Boss wanted him to hide in some bushes like a child.

Needless to say, the complimentary pass-crisis took priority over the Winfield trade (that the Boss had been demanding for months by the way) and it’s no wonder that the Winfield trade never happened.

Not included in the book is a story about Piniella’s first introduction to Steinbrenner after he was brought over from the Kansas City Royals.  It’s worth reading and sportscaster Tim Lewis over at All Around Tim does a fine job sharing it. I’ll let you head over to his blog to enjoy it.

 

Terry Collins – New York Mets Manager

Let’s wrap up this Friday evening with another Mets post.

Cameron received a great return TTM this afternoon from current New York Mets manager Terry Collins.  The inscription reads – “To Cameron – A real fan – Terry Collins”

I’ve always liked Collins and his managerial style.  01181201
With his old-school attitude, he’s an every-man’s manager and isn’t afraid to stick his neck out for the team.  This is especially important for someone managing in a city where the media can be absolutely ruthless.  Collins has been described as a “working stiff just happy to be working.”  It doesn’t hurt that he’s actually pretty good at it too.  As a respected baseball “lifer” he knows that every decision he makes as the skipper of a big league club is expected to be made with the intent of only one outcome – winning.

Critics will always call into question his 2015 World Series Game 5 decision to leave Matt Harvey in to pitch the 9th.  Harvey went on to give up 2 runs and the Mets lost the game. The logical decision would have been to bring in the closer Familia to toss the 9th.  Would the ending have been any different?  Even with a Mets game 5 win, the series was headed back to Kansas City for a game 6 and 7 anyways.  What were the odds that the Royals would lose those two games at home?  Probably slim to none.  So with that being said, you learn from the past and you move on.  2016 is a new year.  Hopefully we will see the post-season again and the outcome will be different.

I recently read an article in which Collins stated that the game has changed so much over the years and it is now a “young man’s game”.  He was referring to the technology, charts, and advanced statistics  that have taken over the game.  “I’m not sure how much an old-school guy can add to the game today” he said.

Later in the interview, Mr. Collins remarked, “I’m not going to sit there today and look at all of these (expletive) numbers and try to predict this guy is going to be a great player. OPS this. OPS that. GPS. LCSs. DSDs. You know who has good numbers? Good (expletive) players.”

Well said Terry, well said.

 

Bob Friend – Practice Makes Perfect…

My son Cameron just turned 1 last week and what a crazy year it has been!  It’s been fun watching his personality start to develop as he grows into a little person.  I’ve always been a “planner” so I’ve certainly got my eyes on the future for him.  We’ve set up his savings
01081202account already, the college fund is up and running, and I’m debating on whether or not I should just go ahead and start now teaching him to hit from both sides of the plate.  Being a switch hitter may generate more baseball-scholarship dollars one day.  All jokes aside (not really) and without even knowing whether or not he will ever like baseball, I decided to start a little project for him.

I started writing baseball players letters back when I was 9 years old.  My first “success” was a postcard from Johnny Bench with his signature printed on it.  I still have it and even though it’s not a real signature, it’s still one of my favorite pieces.

After looking at a stack of 8×10 photos of baseball players, I decided to mail a few off to some retired players.  My note explained that I planned on giving the photo to my son one day.  I asked the player to personalize the photo and make a short inscription.  Mr Friend was happy to oblige and personalized this photo of him at Shea Stadium in 1966.  He wrote:  “To Cameron – Practice Makes Perfect – NLAS ’56, ’58, ’60 – Good Luck”.  The return is absolutely perfect and I can’t wait to give it to Cam one day.   Mr Friend is a great through-the-mail signer.  This request took 5 days to get back to me.

Bob Friend is nicknamed “The Warrior” as he averaged 39 starts per season between ’56 through ’60.  1955 was unique in that Friend posted a 14-9 record for the Pittsburg Pirates and led the National League in ERA with 2.83.  He was the first ever pitcher to do so for a dead-last team.

Being credited with wins in the ’55 and ’56 All Star Games, Friend shares the record for most All Star Games won.  His ’55 start saw him strike out Mantle, Berra, and Williams.

It was an unfortunate turn of events in the ’60 World Series where the Yankees got the best of him in both of his starts as well as a save opportunity.  Game 7 saw Friend being called in from the bullpen to preserve a 9-7 lead in the ninth.  Friend gave up singles to Bobby Richardson and Dale Long when manager Danny Murtaugh replaced him with Harvey Haddix.  Haddix then proceeded to give up a single to Mantle, scoring Richardson and advancing Long.  A grounder by Berra scored Long tying the game 9-9.

Of course, the ending of this game is well-known and regarded by some as “the greatest game ever played.”  It was Bill Mazeroski who faced Ralph Terry in the top of the 10th with the score tied.  It was a 1-2 fastball that Maz sent sailing over the wall in left, crowning the Pittsburgh Pirates the World Champions.  The Series of 1960 would go down as Mantle’s “biggest disappointment in his career.”

One of the most durable pitchers of his time, Friend averaged 232 innings pitched and 13 victories for 15 years.  Had those numbers not been for some of the worst teams in baseball, Friend would likely be in the Hall of Fame.

You’re never going to watch that…

01071201That’s what my wife said to me the “other day” as I opened up a package and pulled THIS beauty out of it.  She’s since said it about 100 more times.

Well, full disclaimer here – let’s use the term “other day” loosely.

Like, super-loosely.

Okay, so I’ve had this sweet VHS instructional video for almost 2 years now and no, I have not watched it.

But let’s be honest, it makes a great addition to my Gary Carter collection AND the fact that Seaver and Mantle are also featured in the video just sweetened the deal.

I remember my Granny renting this video from the local video shop and bringing it over to my house.  I was 1o and home sick from school.  She had come over to watch me while my parents were at work.  While I remember little of the actual video, I do remember watching it over and over (and over) for the 5 days that I had before the video needed to be returned to the video store.  01071202

This video was released in 1987.  Carter was already a big star with New York and just coming off of a World Series championship.  The year prior, Seaver had just finished up his Hall of Fame career with the Red Sox (the trade to the Red Sox would be great content for a future post) and Mantle of course, was a living legend.

My father in law has let me borrow his VHS player so that I can watch this tape.  It even has a built in DVD recorder so I can copy the tape over to a DVD and watch it all the time.

Who am I kidding. She’s right, I’ll probably never watch this thing.

 

 

Bobby Shantz – 1952 AL MVP

01071201I’ve always loved this cover of SPORT magazine.

Gracing this February 1953 issue is Bobby Shantz.  He very graciously signed the cover through the mail.  I asked him to personalize it to my son Cameron and he added the following inscription:

“To Cameron – Best Wishes – Keep your eyes on the ball” – Bobby Shantz, 1952 AL MVP”

I’ve had the issue forever and decided to package it up and mail it to Mr. Shantz.  The return took about 10 days and came out beautifully.

There aren’t very many of us who can say we beat out Yankee legends in MVP voting.  Okay, so probably NONE of us can say that.  Mr. Shantz can say it though.  The award was handily won by the pitcher in 1952 after posting a 24-7 win/loss record.  Also in the running were a few guys by the name of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Allie Reynolds.

Despite the Philadelphia A’s finishing in 5th place that year, Shantz led the American League in wins, winning percentage (.774), fewest walks per game (2.03), finished second with 27 complete games, third with a 2.48 ERA and 152 strikeouts, tied for third with five shutouts, fourth with 255 innings pitched and fifth in fewest hits per game (7.39).

Due to being born just a bit too early, 1952 would have likely won him the Cy Young Award had it existed at the time.  His odds of winning would have been even greater when you take into consideration the award is given out to the top pitcher in each league.  The 280 innings pitched came at the expense of the ’53 and ’54 season as he battled arm soreness

In addition to starring in 3 All-Star Games, Shantz retired with Eight Gold Gloves and had the award been around prior to 1957 he would likely have won more.  Only Greg Maddux, Jim Kaat, and Bob Gibson have won more than Shantz’ eight.

Shantz’ last season (1964) was split between St. Louis, Chicago, and Philadelphia.  He was actually part of one of the most infamous trades in major league baseball history that year as he was shipped off to the Cubs along with Ernie Broglio (and a few other players) in exchange for a young ballplayer named Lou Brock.  Shantz was at the end of the line with his career, Broglio was shipped off with a failing arm (that whether or not St. Louis knew about is still up for debate), and of course, it goes without saying that Brock went on to have a pretty decent career for St. Louis.

Top of the First…

Well…here I am.  After spending years poking around other people’s baseball blogs, I have finally decided to dive in and start my own.

I’ve attempted to get this first blog post up and running for 2 days now but have been plagued with a slight case of writer’s-block.  I’ve decided to approach this first post as a lead-off hitter would approach his at-bat.  I’ll step in, work the pitcher a little bit and just poke one through for a base hit.

I can tell you, the blog at this point has no real “theme”.  I assume it will unintentionally gravitate towards the following topics:  The New York Mets, collecting cards and autographs, and baseball history.

MAYSLet’s lead it off by wishing Mr. Willie Mays a very happy 85th birthday.

“They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays.” – Ted Williams

Mays was born in Westfield Alabama on May 6, 1931.  At age 16, Mays starred for the Birmingham Barons of the Negro League.  In 1950, the New York Giants placed Mays in their center field and the rest is history.

His rookie season, Mays hit 20 home runs and drove in 68 runs earning NL Rookie of the Year honors.  1952-1953 was spent serving our country with the US Army.  The 1954 season enjoyed watching Mays win the batting title with a .345 average, 41 home runs and 110 runs batted in.  That was also the year the Giants took the NL Pennant and Mays dazzled the world with “the catch.”

Mays finished up his career with a .302 batting average, 3,283 hits, 660 home runs, 24 All Star Game appearances, 2 NL MVP awards, and 12 Gold Gloves.

So there you have it.  The first post is complete.  I guess there was a good reason it took me two days to find the right thing to write about.

I can’t think of a better “lead-off” post than Willie Mays.