Friday, February 29, 2008

1988 Topps Big - Pete Incaviglia

Well, I made it back home safe. Today's card of the day is a 1988 Topps Big Pete Incaviglia. Topps put these cards out for a few years before finally realizing that the bigger size was resulting in most of them ending up dinged or bent because they are too long for regular card holders.

I do like the design of this card though. The close-up super-imposed over the action shot gives one the best of both worlds as far as pictures. Pete appears in the background shot to be preparing to launch a zinger against the Expos in Spring Training. In the days before Interleague play that would be the only time the two teams would see each other short of the post-season. Also, another nice feature of this card is the defensive stats. Don't see those too often on the back of cards.

Inky played five seasons for Texas after moving straight from college ball to the bigs. He tore up the league his rookie season in 1986 with the then impressive number of 30 home runs. I remember considering him to be a giant when I first started seriously following Texas in 1987. Inky had his own fan section in Arlington Stadium. His defense was minimal and he never reached 90 RBI in a season while with Texas but he was Juan Gonzalez before there was a Juan Gonzalez.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Just a couple of things.

1. I will be away from my computer starting tomorrow and running through Thursday. Obviously that will preclude posting. I hope to be back at it by Friday.

2. Mrs. Spiff mentioned that it might be good to let folks know what cards I might need. The wantlist for the Rangers is just too long. I do have a partial list as well as Matlack and Pudge lists at my other site here:

1989 South Atlantic League All-Stars - Ivan Rodriguez

Ivan on Monday again, number 26 in this set. Here we come to the next card in my first Pudge binder. I apologize for the scan, I had to try it three times to get it this well.

This card was, for me, hard to find. I finally had to buy the team set and break it up. Not too bad really since there were some other Rangers minor leaguers in there as well. Besides that, as a Jon Matlack fan I am used to breaking up team sets to get the players I want.

Not a bad looking card. Kind of looks like pictures you see of high-school players in yearbooks. The card is slightly smaller than your average trading card and is put out by the "Grand Slam Card Company." This is the first minor league card of Ivan's that we find actual stats on the back of. We see that halfway through the 1989 season (July 8 to be exact according to the note) he had a .205 average and 27 RBI. He also had four homeruns and two stolen bases. No defensive stats. We are also reminded again that 1989 was his first professional season.

New Links

I have added three new card links for your enjoyment:

1. - This is a huge database of Twins stuff. I say stuff because it covers cards, photos, publications, memorabilia, and lots of other Twins items. It is a "conglomeration of many different collections" that showcase almost anything a Twins fan would want to gaze at.

2. Topps Traders - Written by a Cardinals fan who loves to collect Topps sets. Jeremiah has a full run of Topps sets from 1974 - 2007 as well as an interesting blog.

3. The Fleer Sticker Project - This guy has an amazing knowledge of Fleer stickers. Very interesting blog.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

1981 Donruss - Mickey Rivers

Mick the Quick makes an appearance on today's card. #496 in Donruss' first set Rivers appears to be strolling back to first. Probably after a foul ball.

The initial offering from Donruss isn't a bad set, it just isn't a real standout either. This card is off-center and the stock is light. Some of the photographs were blurry in the rest of the set and I question the border color choice. Having said all of that I still like this card. Not a usual pose to catch a player in. I like the lack of too much spangle and chrome on the card. The back only gives 1980 and career stats (one of my pet peeves) but does list about six career highlights.

My favorite stat for Rivers has to be the 70 stolen bases in 1975 when he played for the Angels. Stealing is an art and seems to be becoming an overlooked one. The most he would ever steal for Texas was 18 in 1980. That helped him steal player of the year honors as well.

Mickey is considered one of the better outfielders for Texas in the 80's. He made the 2007 Rangers Hall of Fame ballot but was not selected.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

1985 Fleer - Sticker

Anyone other than me remember these stickers? This one is from 1985 but I think Fleer did them all the way up through 1992 before they stopped. I always considered them a bonus and preferred them to Topps' gum. At least you might get your team's logo. After you had one for your set you could paste them wherever you felt like it.

The back of this sticker is a form for entering a sweepstakes. The drawing started on February 28, 1985 and ended on July 30 of the same year. All one had to do to enter was send in your name and address and tell why you thought that Fleer cards were the best. A handy check-off form was provided listing four reasons. The reasons were: "Outstanding action shots," "New multiple image photos," "New color coded borders," and "Stars kids want most." They didn't even list the reason I always thought was Fleer's strong point: numbering the teams together as opposed to randomly. That system really helped us team collectors.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

1987 Broder Rookies - Ruben Sierra

This is a 1987 Rookies card put out by Rob Broder. Number six of 60. The corners came rounded and there are no stats on the back. I have several of this type of card of different player and I have always liked them. Clean shots, no borders. Just like the look.

Looking at Ruben here you can see hints of his trademark bad attitude. When he came up in 1986 he was a force to be reckoned with on the field. Hitting home runs from both sides of the plate at a pretty young age Sierra was the wave of the future. He had an attitude problem though. Surly with fans and not speaking English to reporters he quickly built a bad reputation.

Early in 1987 Ruben's star was still rising. I was a rabid Rangers fan and he was the hottest thing since sliced bread. I was as wild about Sierra as a lot of my friends were about Bo Jackson. Bo was local and Sierra was not so I had a never-ending outlet for any Jackson cards and an endless abundance of Sierra cardboard to pick up. Money was the problem. I worked and worked to put together a decent gathering of Sierra. Then I saw the Beckett article about sending cards off to be autographed. I sent a few and got them back. Wow! So close to the game! I worked up my nerve and finally sent off my prized 1987 Topps Ruben Sierra rookie card. The card was booking for around $6-$8 so I only had one. I waited for weeks as hope slowly dimmed. Months passed and I gave up the card for lost and set about trying to replace it. It took some time and a lot in trade but I finally landed one. A couple of years later I saw an article where Ruben talked about just throwing away the cards sent to him for autographs. I figure that is where the jewel of my collection ended up. I never saw it again and I never forgave Ruben Sierra. When he went to Oakland I was more upset that Texas got Canseco than that they got rid of Sierra.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

2006 Topps - Ian Kinsler

The Rangers announced today that they have signed Ian Kinsler to a five year contract. Seems like a sound move to me. To mark the moment I have selected Ian's 2006 Topps card, number 632, as the card of the day. Sorry that it didn't scan better, too much foil on some of these newer releases. The back of the card informs us that, as of the release date, Ian had no major league playing experience. In three years in the minors he put up a .304 batting average with 44 home runs and 207 RBI. It also tells us that Kinsler was originally a shortstop but got moved to second in 2005 when it looked like Alfonso Soriano might be leaving.

Kinsler shows a lot of promise as a young player. As the card says on the back, it might be his chance to shine. It is nice to see Texas locking him in for a long term deal. Hopefully the middle infield of Kinsler and Young will be a productive offensive and defensive duo for Texas. That and you have to like a guy who wears his socks old school.

Monday, February 18, 2008

1989 Star Gastonia Rangers - Ivan Rodriguez

Getting into the Ivan on Monday groove. I think that I will just go through my Pudge binders in order. This for lack of a more creative way to do it.

Number 20 in the 1989 Star Gastonia Rangers team set is today's card. This is the second minor league card of Ivan's that I have. Pudge didn't spend much time in the minors and so his minor league cards are sometimes hard to find. I think I have most of them but am still chasing a few.

I like the picture on this card. Something about examining the bat for cracks makes for a nice shot in my opinion. The border color matching the blue of Rodriguez's uniform helps some as well. We don't glean much more information from the back of this card than we got from the 1989 ProCards card posted last week. It confirms that 1989 would be Pudge's first professional season and that he was signed as a free agent in 1988. Amazing to realize that there was really that little to report on his career at the time.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

1991 Donruss - Charlie Hough

#146 in the 1991 Donruss set shows Charlie about to deliver his signature knuckleball. After being purchased by Texas from the Dodgers in 1980 Charlie spent the next decade being a mainstay in the Ranger's starting rotation. One of the last knuckleball pitchers Hough was well known in Texas. He was a pretty durable pitcher leading the league in games started in 1984 and 1987 and innings pitched in 1987.

I remember watching Charlie pitch and having my Grandfather point out that the catcher was using an extra big glove to make sure he trapped the ball. You don't catch a knuckleball, you trap it. When the Rangers signed Nolan Ryan the local papers ran a side-by-side comparison of the two big wheels in the rotation. Nolan remarked that he knew he was hurt it he was in pain when he pitched. Hough replied that he never threw without pain. Judging from his expression when he threw I am guessing he was telling the truth. I was stunned when Charlie was granted free agency and left the team after the 1990 season. He had been there the entire time I could remember following the team and I couldn't believe he was leaving.

Friday, February 15, 2008

1993 Upper Deck - Juan Gonzalez

Juan makes his first appearance in an apt setting as a fan favorite on card #755. When this picture was taken Gonzalez had just posted his first 40+ home run season in 1992. He captured the A.L. home run title that year with 43 and would repeat in 1993 with 46 zingers. All told he would have five 40+ years with Texas and help them to their only three post-season appearances as a team. One of the big guns in a pretty powerful lineup. When Juan went to the plate for Texas the loudspeakers played the "Imperial March" from Star Wars. He was bigger than life and Rangers fans loved him.

Got to like this card. Juan signing autographs at Spring Training apparently. The ballpark looks minor league. I had to laugh when I realized that the shorter kid on the left is wearing a Cincinnati Reds cap. Looks like he had the wrong league and team.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ticket stub - June 6, 2003

Today's card of the day isn't even a card after all. This is a ticket stub from a game played at Arlington on June 12, 2003. Not a real significant game as far as baseball history. The Mets pounded Texas bad enough that we actually got to move down on the third base line in the sixth inning.

What makes this stub important to me is the date. This was two days before I got married. That is why I was in Texas in the first place that day. My brother (an A's fan) was back from overseas with the Air Force (he bought the tickets with his Military ID, that's why it's marked half price), my father-in-law, Dad, and my Grandfather rounded out the rest of the party. Even though the Rangers lost we had a great time. I got my love of the Rangers from my Grandfather. He was always hoping that the next year would be the year. He loved baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals but switched to the Rangers when they came to town in 1972 and never looked back. Growing up we would occasionally attend a game when visiting my grandparents. Good times in the bleachers at Arlington Stadium. This would be the last game I would attend with my Grandfather. His health declined, I got busy being married and having kids, and he passed away last July. I have several other stubs from Rangers games I have attended but this one just might be the most important to me.

Monday, February 11, 2008

1989 ProCards - Ivan Rodriguez

Today's card of the day is #1006 in the 1989 ProCards set. This is Ivan Rodriguez's first card. It leads off my Pudge collection.

There are a couple of things that strike me about this card. One is how young Ivan looks. Not really surprising since he was only about 17 years old when this picture was taken. One the back of the card we find out that Ivan was signed as a free agent on July 27, 1988. We also see that he is 5-10 and weighed in at 188. What we don't see is how good he was/is. There are no stats at all on the back of this card, just a notation, "First year in professional baseball."

I like minor league cards in general and ones of players I follow in particular. Looking at one you get a glimpse of a world of promise at the beginning of a career. Being there at the start would be really neat. These kind of cards give one the opportunity to do just that.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

1982 Fleer - Al Oliver

Today's card of the day is #326 in the 1982 Fleer set, Al Oliver. This is one of Al's last Ranger cards as he played the 1982 season with Montreal. During his four seasons with Texas the lowest average Oliver had was .309 and had 117 RBI in 1980. 1980 was one of only two times he broke 100 RBI in a season during his 18 year career. Overall it appears that Oliver gave the Rangers some of the best years of his career. An interesting side note is that the same trade that brought Al to Texas also brought Jon Matlack from the Mets. It was a weird four team trade that is still a bit confusing to look at.

Fleer's second year offering wasn't much to look at as far as design. The front is pretty plain. The back of the card helpfully gives all of Oliver's stats to date. That is something I miss on modern cards. Most cards anymore only give the last two or three years of a player's stats. The one thing that sticks out to me about this card is Oliver's cap. I had one like that in the mid-80s. Who would have ever figured that a big bat like Al would wear an adjustable net back cap? You would think that by the time this picture was taken he would have had enough contractual clout to get a fitted cap.

Friday, February 8, 2008

2005 Topps Heritage - R.A. Dickey.

R.A. Dickey is number 253 in this great looking set. It seems that both Topps and Upper Deck do a pretty good job on the retro looking sets. I have always liked the way these sets look. The downside to collecting the Rangers is that they have no cards before 1972. I pick up Senators from 1961 - 1971 as well but have no place in my team collection for cards before 1961. Sad since I really prefer a lot of the older designs to the more modern ones. The Topps Heritage, Bowman Heritage, and some of the retro Upper Deck sets give me a chance to get some of my Rangers on these great looking cards.

Dickey seems to be a good choice for a card of this type. Look at those socks. That's the way they are supposed to be worn and I am glad to see some players going back to the classic look. Ian Kinsler is another Ranger that comes to mind who wears his socks high like that. When R.A. signed with Texas they did a physical on him and found he was missing a ligament in his throwing arm. Apparently he was born without it. Not one to miss an opportunity Dickey then asked for a bonus on his contract. Why? Well, with one less ligament he stood a smaller chance of injury.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

2003 SPx Young Stars - Hank Blalock

This card combines all three of the things that I sometimes like, sometimes hate about modern card collecting. First, it is game used. I consider game used cards to be a neat concept but way over-used by the card companies. Second, the pack-certified autograph. Again, a good concept (especially for players who are bad about signing through the mail) but somewhat overdone. Not as badly as the game used craze though. The third thing is the serial numbering. I actually like this idea more than the first two. Kind of gives a little extra thrill to the hobby without seeming to make it too high-end. Well, it does that so long as things aren't numbered to anything below 25 or so.

I don't really loathe any of the concepts discussed above. I think they are over-used today but are ok in moderation. My collection has never and will never consist solely or primarily of game used, autographs, or serial numbered cards. Having said that I have a few. The ones I have are either of my team or players or are up for trade. Like sugar, a little can be nice, too much can be sickening.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Little Big Leaguers - Jim Sundberg

Sunny puts in his first appearance with this definitely odd-ball Little Big Leaguers card. I have no idea what year the set was from as it has no copyright year or other indication. It was from one of his years with Texas as it shows the Rangers as his team on the back of the card. There are perforations on the edges like it was in a magazine at some point. A fun card in spite of the "Yankees" on Sundberg's uniform.

Very possibly one of the most popular players in Rangers history, and the best catcher until Ivan Rodriguez, Sundberg was known as a straight laced player. Sadly this was not always the case. The back of this card informs us that, when he was 10, Jim hit three home runs in one Little League game with a bat that League officials later said was illegal. Probably the power was a tip-off to the League. Sunny was a sight to behold behind the plate but wasn't ever much of a threat at bat.

Monday, February 4, 2008

1993 Rangers Keebler - Jon Matlack

Number 248 in the set is Matlack. I like this card because I collect Matlack and so I get Jon in a Rangers uniform. Two for one so to speak.

I also like the card because of the set. I only have series #5 (of 8) in the set but have always liked the idea and would love to get the other seven. The set was given away at home games during the 1993 season and included every player, manager, and coach up to that point to ever appear in a Rangers uniform. Very cool concept in my book. It would be great if the Rangers could update the set every few years. The only downside to the whole idea is that the sets are so hard to come by.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

1990 ProCards - Tack Wilson

Card of the day is number 1534 in the 1990 ProCards set. For some reason this is actually the only card I have from this team set. I do like the card though, for several different reasons.

First, Tack. What a nickname. Tack's real name is Michael but you don't find that out until you turn the card over. Second reason is the cap. Looks like the ones the Pittsburg Pirates wore in the late 70's and early 80's. Try and find a cap like that now.

By the time Texas signed Tack in 1988 to a minor league contract his major league career was over. OKC was as high as he got for Texas. In 12 major league games with two different teams in 1983 and 1987 Tack got six at bats and hit a combined .333. In his five position games his fielding percentage was 1.000. Kind of wonder why he never got a second look.