Best of 2018: 2018 Topps Heritage Baseball is Here! Let’s Look at the Inspiration…

As we wrap up 2018, we wanted to take the month of December to highlight some of our favorite blog posts of the year. This one comes to us from blogger and collector Kin Kinsley, who’s work you can check out in the links below. This story was originally published on 02/26/2018 and is presented in it’s entirety in this blog as well

By Kin Kinsley

(Note – Please welcome guest blogger Kin Kinsley to the COMC Blog. Kin is a lifelong collector and accomplished writer who currently writes content for his two blogs – I Feel Like a Collector Again and Bean’s Ballcard Blog.)

It’s almost time for one of the most anticipated baseball sets of the season to hit hobby shops and retailers.  The 2018 Topps Heritage set is scheduled for a February 28th release.  This year’s set design mimics the popular 1969 set, so let’s take a look at the set kids were collecting in the summer of ’69.

Cream of the Crop: The Three Top Cards of 1969 Topps

1969 Topps #533 Nolan Ryan
Combining the career leader in strikeouts and a higher series release makes Nolan Ryan one of the most desired in the set. Even for the poorest condition of cards, you should expect to pay at least $30…if you’re lucky.

1969 Topps #260 Reggie Jackson
The card of “Mr. October” Reggie Jackson is the top rookie in the set. Best known for wearing glasses and as a Yankee, the image of a young Jackson sporting an Athletics vest provides a very different look. Picking up anything other than a poor condition cards will likely set you back more than $40.

1969 Topps #500 Mickey Mantle
Mickey Mantle’s sunset card may be the most popular card in the set because, well, Mickey Mantle. The card is in one of the most common series, but more cards haven’t hampered the price or collectability.


Who’s the New Guy?: Three Featured Rookie Cards of 1969 Topps

Reggie Jackson’s rookie card is the most well-known in the set.  However, there are some other quality rookies in the set:

1969 Topps #597 Bobby Floyd/Larry Burchart/Rollie Fingers
Rollie Fingers is the “other” Oakland Athletics rookie in the set that has been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  In 1992, he was just the second reliever elected.  Twelve years after this card was released (1981) he won BOTH the American League MVP and Cy Young Awards.  You should be able to get lower condition copies of the card for $20 or less.

1969 Topps #630 Bobby Bonds
I’m sure that to many Bobby Bonds is best known as Barry’s dad.  The elder Bonds accomplished many of baseball’s “first” and held all-time records at the time of his retirement.  He was the first player to have two 30/30 seasons and ended his career accomplishing this a record five times (later matched by Barry).  He also held the career and season records for times leading off a game with a home run, but both records have been broken.

1969 Topps #516 Earl Weaver
Who’s to say that a manager’s rookie card can’t be desirable?  It can if it’s Earl Weaver.  The best example I can give of why is the sheer number of post-career sets that Weaver appears in.  They are all as a manager, as he never made it to the bigs as a player.  He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996 and you can easily find a copy of his rookie card for less than $10.


Shenanigans and Mishaps: Three errors and variations from 1969 Topps

1969 Topps #653 Aurelio Rodriguez
It’s not an error or variation, but the Aurelio Rodriguez is one of the better known cards in the hobby.  Why?  He’s not pictured on the card but instead, it’s an Angels batboy. The switcheroo wasn’t known for a few years so the error was never corrected.  You can easily find this card for less than a couple bucks.

1969 Topps #500 Mickey Mantle (VARIATION)
There aren’t many variations in the 1969 Topps set so I’m sure Mickey Mantle being one of them is pure happenstance.  Instead of Mantle’s last name appearing in yellow, it’s white on the variation.  If you want to acquire this one, be prepared to shell out some good money.

1969 Topps #47 Paul Popovich
The Paul Popovich variations are my favorites in the set for a couple of reasons.  Popovich attended West Virginia University (my alma mater), making it a favorite for that reason alone.  Also, it’s the only card in the set with three variations.  There are two airbrushed versions (thick and light) that the Cub “C” is not visible on.  There’s also a version where you can still see the “C” despite the airbrushing (pictured above).  The version with the “C” showing can command a premium, but nothing too significant.  I find it interesting and reflective of the innocent days passed in trading card collecting.

Best of the Rest: Three “Cooler” Cards From 1969 Topps

1969 Topps #650 Ted Williams
Let’s face it, not everyone that would like a Ted Williams card from his playing days can afford one.  I’ve been collecting for more than 30 years and have never really looked because the prices are out of my comfort zone.  However, most anyone should be able to lay down $10 or so to pick up a copy of this card.

1969 Topps #100 Hank Aaron
I feel that Hank Aaron was pretty decent with the lumber himself.  People think of him as a power hitter but either forget or don’t know that he also hit .305 during his career.  You can usually find low grade copies of the long time home run king for under $10.

1969 Topps #237 Bobby Cox
There are more than a handful of things iconic about the Topps brand.  One of them is the All-Star Rookie Trophy on the front of cards.  Bobby Cox didn’t make the Hall of Fame for his playing career, but he was one of the All-Star Rookies.  This is his only mainstream card from his playing days and you can find copies for around $10.

One of the best things about our hobby is the multitude of ways to acquire and collect. I always encourage that collectors get out there and support your local card shop, but if that is not an option, Topps Heritage should be available today at most retail locations on February 28th. For those collectors uninterested in the pack rippin’ experience, 2018 Topps Heritage should be appearing on the COMC marketplace in just a few weeks. Regardless of how you choose to collect, enjoying the experience is the most important aspect. Happy Collecting!

Rich Reminisces: 1969-70 New York Knicks Team

Some people don’t like to admit their age or how long they have been doing various aspects of their life. On the other hand, I am proud to say that I’ve been following sports for more than 50 years now. Obviously, one does not always give today’s players the same respect as they do to the ones from their youth.

A few months ago, I watched the entire first half without interruption of a Warriors/Cavaliers NBA finals game and was struck by just how great of a team the Golden State Warriors are. That is correct, they play as a great team even if one of their players gets so hot for a game because they let them explode. Witness the Klay Thompson NBA record 14 three-pointers recently. Somehow, that record reminded me of the game Kevin McHale scored 56 points for a Boston Celtics record, only to inspire Larry Bird to post a 60 point game just nine days later. It makes you wonder if Steph Curry will be going for 15 three pointers in a few games.

Of course, in those 1980’s days there were not enough cards issued for anyone to commemorate those games. Today, we’d have a Panini Instant card and then another one issued a few days later. Since we don’t have any of those for the Celtics, how about a nice Kevin McHale Rookie Card instead? That nine-day interim between those two events reminded me of how the WWF (now WWE) passed the Heavyweight Championship torch from Pedro Morales to Bruno Sammartino. Since you could not have a good guy defeat another good guy, you had to have an interim champion. Well for nine whole days, Stan “The Man” Stasiuk was the WWF champion until Bruno pinned him.

Hey, anytime I can digress and mention Stan “The Man” Stasiak, it’s a good day. But back to the real point, the Warriors remind me of the New York Knicks team of my youth, of which they were renowned for their team play. There is a famous clip from Game 7 of the 1970 NBA finals versus the Los Angeles Lakers in which each player gets passed the ball and there was not a dribble during the sequence. Of course the whole Game 7 began with the famed “Is Willis Reed going to be able to play” discussion in New York. No one knew until Willis came out of the runway dressed in his warm-ups and ready to attempt to play. The entrance of Willis Reed is one of the great moments in NBA history. Topps only had one player to put on a card for each game and as you will see they had good reason to choose their selection for Game 7.
However, there is a NBA finals card of Reed, but it features Game 1 action.
Note: the other player featured on this card is Jerry West, known as the player the NBA Logo is modeled on.
After Reed hit his first two shots in the opening minute of Game 7 he never scored another point, but the Lakers were so demoralized they never were really in the game. The Knicks were led by Walt “Clyde” Frazier who had 36 points, 19 assists, 7 rebounds, and a few steals. Steals were not an NBA stat then so those were not officially recognized, but he had a few that night.
The other Knicks player in the picture is “Dollar” Bill Bradley, who was quite famous in his own right because of his NCAA experience. Bradley had a few short years prior set an NCAA record while at Princeton with 58 points in a tournament game. He also later became an U.S. Senator from New Jersey.
The other two starters were Dave DeBusschere, who was such as a baseball pitching prospect that the Chicago White Sox protected him and let Denny McLain be exposed in a draft. The Tigers took McLain, but before he flamed out, he became the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season. With what teams are doing today, there are many who will not even have ONE starter start that many games, and thus McLain will be the last pitcher with 30 wins in a season for a long time indeed.

By the way, this rookie card featuring DeBusshere and others as floating heads is a cool card in that it was issued in 1963, but Topps had first series issues and just as many of us have difficulties getting used to a new year, Topps still thought it was 1962 when they were beginning their 1963 set. This was corrected reasonably early to reflect the correct year.

The final starter was Dick Barnett, who had a jump shot with his legs going in an almost question mark design, and also loved to say “Fall Back Baby” whenever he shot. By the way, with everything else gong on in Game 7, Barnett chipped in with 21 points very quietly.

One aspect about sports in New York around 1970 was that the world was seemingly revolving around getting books out about the Jets, Mets and Knicks, who within an 18-month period all won their first championship. There was even a commercial featuring the Knicks subs getting pulled from the starting lineup because they had dandruff. I could not find that commercial, but you’ll have to trust me that it was made.

And for those of you who want to devote about 90 minutes of so of your life and see what real team game NBA basketball once was, here is a YouTube video of the famed game 7:

Thanks for reading and we’ll see you again real soon with another reminisces or two about days past and present

Rich Klein can be reached at RichKlein@Comc.com

BEST OF 2018: Behind the Cards: The Fred Hutchinson Story

As 2018 comes to a close, we want to take a moment to look back at one of our very favorite posts that we have ever shared on the COMC Blog. A long time COMC user graciously submitted this incredible career retrospective of Fred Hutchinson. We’re hoping to be able to share his writing with as many sports fan as possible. This story was originally published on 03/09/2018 and is presented in it’s entirety in this blog as well

—–

(Note from COMC: The following post comes to us from the desk of Stan Opdyke, a lifelong fan of the game of baseball who started collecting cards over 60 years ago. He has an affinity for the Baltimore Orioles, his favorite team in his youngest days. Through his involvement in the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Mr. Opdyke was inspired to research and write this brilliant look at the cards produced by the life and times of Fred Hutchinson. If you would like to submit your article to us for consideration to be published on our blog, please email us at staff@comc.com.)

Hutch-e1327186696334

Fred Hutchinson

Fred Hutchinson, at the age of 18, began his professional baseball career in 1938 as a pitcher for his hometown Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League. Baseball cards were relatively scarce items at the time, at least in comparison to what they would become after World War ll, so unsurprisingly no baseball card of Hutch was produced in his first professional season.

Hutch was sensational for the Rainiers in 1938. Pitching most of the season as an 18 year old, Hutch compiled a 25-7 won/loss record and a 2.48 ERA. On his 19th birthday on August 12, 1938, he pitched before a standing room crowd at Seattle’s Sick’s Stadium in search of his 19th victory. Hutch got the win in a game that stands with the Edgar Martinez double that defeated the Yankees in the 1995 post season as one of the most iconic baseball games ever played in Seattle.

Hutch’s superb season drew the attention of major league teams and one of the two major producers of baseball cards in the 1930’s. On December 12, 1938, the Seattle Rainiers traded Fred Hutchinson to the Detroit Tigers for four players and $50,000 Depression era dollars. The huge outlay of cash undoubtedly influenced the Goudey gum company to include Hutch in its 1939 Premium set. The other major baseball card manufacturer of the era, Play Ball, did not issue a card of Hutch in 1939. 

1939 Fred Hutchinson Goudey Premium

The 1939 Goudey Premiums are listed in the 2013 Standard Catalogue of Vintage Baseball Cards in two distinct series, R303-A and R303-B. The R303-A cards are slightly smaller but otherwise identical to the R303-B cards. Both series of 1939 Goudey Premiums are unnumbered. Hutch appears in the 303-A series. The 1939 Goudey Premiums are baseball cards in that they were issued by a gum company and depict images of baseball players. However, in other ways they are not like baseball cards at all. The smaller sized 303-A cards still measure a very large 4 inches x 6 3/16 inches, far too large to fit in anyone’s shirt pocket. The Goudey Premiums also differ from typical baseball cards because they are printed on paper stock that is about the thickness of a newspaper page. The 1939 Goudey Premiums have the look and feel of a small poster.

The photograph Goudey selected to use of Hutch is a portrait of a teenager sporting a warm grin. It is a rare photo of a smiling Fred Hutchinson. When he grew older, Hutch was given the nicknames “The Bear” and “Old Stoneface,” quite a contrast to the photo on his 1939 Goudey Premium card.

Hutch struggled in 1939.  His trouble began in Spring Training when he lost the ability to throw strikes. His lack of control would have undoubtedly cost him a major league roster spot had the Tigers not invested so much money in him. However, because of the huge cash outlay, Hutch began the 1939 season in the major leagues.

Hutch made his major league debut in one of the most significant games in baseball history. The New York Yankees played against the Tigers in Detroit on May 2, 1939, and for the first time since May 31, 1925, the name of the legendary Lou Gehrig did not appear in a regular season box score. The Yankees scored early and often without Gehrig in the line-up. With the Tigers trailing 13-0, Hutch was brought into the game by Tiger manager Del Baker. Nothing went right for Hutch. Pitching just two-thirds of an inning, he surrendered four hits, five walks and eight earned runs.

Hutch was sent to the minor league Buffalo Bisons of the International League after his disastrous major league debut. His traditional pitching numbers (won/loss and ERA) were better in Buffalo than in Detroit, but in both the major and minor leagues in 1939, his performance significantly lagged the excellent season he had for Seattle in the Pacific Coast League in 1938.

1940 Team Issued Fred Hutchinson Buffalo Bisons card

Hutch’s demotion to the minor leagues led to his second appearance on a baseball card. In 1940 the Buffalo Bisons issued a team set of baseball cards. The 1940 Bisons cards are printed on thicker paper and are much smaller then the 1939 Goudey Premium cards. The unnumbered 1940 Bisons Fred Hutchinson card shows him winding up as if he is about to deliver a pitch. The photograph was obviously staged because the picture was taken on the grass in front of a dugout rather than on a pitcher’s mound.

Hutch pitched for both Buffalo and Detroit in 1940.  Detroit won the American League pennant in 1940 and Hutch was included on the Tigers World Series roster. He pitched one World Series inning against a team he would one day manage, the Cincinnati Reds. He allowed one walk, one hit and one earned run.

In 1941 Hutch, pitching for the Buffalo Bisons, turned in a performance reminiscent of his sensational 1938 season in the Pacific Coast League. He won 26 games for Buffalo in 1941 and in 284 innings he turned in an excellent 2.44 ERA. With such a stellar season behind him, Hutch seemed destined to earn a spot on the Tigers major league roster in 1942. World War II however intervened.

Hutch enlisted in the Navy shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He served in the Navy’s physical education program. Hutch pitched for Navy teams in Norfolk, VA, Seattle, WA, and Hawaii, so during the war he was able to keep his baseball skills sharp.

The baseball players who served in the military in World War II returned en masse to organized baseball in 1946. Hutch was part of the 1946 waive of ex-servicemen returning to professional baseball.  He spent the entire year in 1946 with the Detroit Tigers. It was the first time he spent a full season in the major leagues.

1991 Reprint of 1947 Tip Top Bread Fred Hutchinson Card

In 1947 Hutch appeared for the first time on a post war baseball card. The Tip Top Baking Company issued several regional baseball card sets in 1947 to promote the sale of Tip Top Bread. The unnumbered cards feature black and white pictures with the player’s name, position, team and league affiliation printed underneath the photo. Hutch’s Tip Top Bread card features a close up portrait of him wearing a Detroit Tigers cap.

In 1948 Hutch did not appear on a baseball card. In 1949 two gum manufacturers, Bowman and Leaf, produced baseball cards of Hutch. Fred Hutchinson’s 1949 Leaf card is his highest priced card. The 1949 Leaf set is extremely difficult to complete. About half the cards in the set are short printed and Hutch’s card is among the short printed cards. His 1949 Leaf card in excellent condition is worth $900.00. By way of comparison two other Hutch cards that are also difficult to find, his 1939 Goudey Premium card and his 1947 Tip Top Bread card, have much lower prices. His Goudey Premium card in excellent condition lists at $75.00 and his 1947 Tip Top Bread card in excellent condition lists at $150.00. (All prices are from the 2013 Standard Catalogue of Vintage Baseball Cards.)

In 1950, Bowman was the only gum company to produce baseball cards. Hutch is included in the 1950 Bowman set. His 1950 Bowman card is derived from a painting that was transformed into a baseball card. The painting depicts Hutch at the very end of his follow through after delivery of a pitch. Bowman got good mileage out of the painting because they used again in 1951. That same year, Hutch was named to the American League All Star team. He pitched three innings in the 1951 mid-summer classic.

In 1952 Hutch made his first appearance on a Topps card. Topps produced its first baseball card set a year earlier, but in its initial set the company did not issue a card of Fred Hutchinson.  Topps made up for its 1951 omission by producing a magnificent card of Hutch in the 1952 set. Bowman again used a painting to create the front of its baseball cards. The artist hired to paint Fred Hutchinson must have noticed the look on Hutch’s face after he had surrendered a long home run.

The Tigers had a miserable year in 1952, almost as miserable as the look on Hutch’s face on his 1952 Bowman card. On July 5th, with the club in last place, Tiger manager Red Rolfe was fired and Hutch was hired to replace him. Hutch remained on the Tigers active playing roster after he took over as manager. He continued in his dual role as a player and a manager in 1953.

Both Topps and Bowman included a card of Hutch in their 1953 sets. Topps took a page from Bowman by using a painting as the template for the front of its 1953 cards. Bowman emulated Topps by issuing a larger baseball card in 1953 than it had produced from 1948 to 1952. (Bowman did not issue a card of Hutch in 1948).  The 1953 Bowman set is considered by most collectors as one of the best baseball card sets ever produced. Hutch’s 1953 Bowman card is representative of the picture quality that exists throughout the set.

Hutch retired as an active player after the 1953 season.  He managed the Tigers for one year after retiring as a player. Neither Topps nor Bowman included managers in their 1954 sets, so 1954 marked the first time since 1948 that Fred Hutchinson did not appear on a baseball card.
After the 1954 season ended Hutch informed the Tigers he wanted a two year contract. The Tigers refused to offer more than one year. The impasse led to Hutch’s departure from Detroit when he refused to sign the one year contact he was offered.

Hutch was out of a job, but he was not out of baseball. In 1955 he returned to his hometown to manage the Seattle Rainiers to a Pacific Coast League pennant.  A year before Hutch”s arrival, the Rainiers began issuing baseball cards to fans who purchased popcorn at the team’s home games. Seattle minor league teams issued popcorn cards every year from 1954 through 1968.  It is hardly surprising that Hutch, the popular hometown manager, was included in the popcorn cards the team produced in 1955.

In 1956 Hutch returned to the major leagues to manage the St Louis Cardinals.  Topps was the only gum company that manufactured baseball cards during the three years Hutch managed the Cardinals.

Topps did not issue a card of Hutch while he managed in St. Louis. Topps  included few cards of managers in the sets it produced from 1956 to 1958. Brooklyn’s Walt Alston and Philadelphia’s Mayo Smith were the only managers Topps included in its 1956 set.  No managers were included in the 1957 set. In 1958 Topps issued only two cards of managers, a card of Reds manager Birdie Tebbetts with two of his players, Frank Robinson and Ed Bailey, and a card on which managers Casey Stengel and Fred Haney appeared together.

Hutch enjoyed some success with the Cardinals. In 1957, St. Louis finished in second place, fueling expectations that the team would contend for the pennant in 1958. However in 1958 the Cardinals played poorly, and as a consequence, Hutch was fired shortly before the 1958 season ended.

In 1959 Hutch returned to Seattle to once again manage the Rainiers. His second stint with the club lasted only three months. He was in town long enough though to appear in the 1959 edition of Seattle Rainiers popcorn cards.

In the middle of the 1959 season, Cincinnati Reds manager Mayo Smith was fired. Hutch was chosen to replace him.  Hutch managed the Cincinnati Reds to a 1961 World Series appearance. As was customary, he served as the National League All Star manager the following year. As a result of managing in the 1962 All Star game, Hutch became one of about a dozen men in baseball history (Hank Bauer, Yogi Berra and Alvin Dark are a few of the others) to manage and play in a World Series and manage and play in an All Star game.

Hutch remained the manager of the Reds until deteriorating health caused him to take a leave of absence in 1964. Hutch appeared in each baseball card set Topps produced from 1960 through 1964.

In late December of 1963 Hutch was diagnosed with cancer. He died of the disease eleven months after he was diagnosed. Between diagnosis and death, Hutch managed the Cincinnati Reds for most of the 1964 season. The determination and courage Hutch displayed during his last baseball season is told by Bruce Markusen in his excellent Hardball Times article, available online, “The Final Year of Fred Hutchinson’s Life.”

Hutch resigned as the manager of the Reds in a letter he sent to team owner Bill DeWitt dated October 11, 1964. Exactly one month later he died in Bradenton, Florida.

Update: Canada Post Potential Work Disruption & Delays through January 2019

Following five weeks of rotating strikes, Back-to-Work Legislation for Canadian Post employees to return to work has been passed by the Canadian Government effective on November 27th. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) have been on rotating strikes since October 22nd, and may continue to the fight the legislation that was recently passed.

Impact on our Canadian Customers:

The rotating legal strikes have created a severe backlog of mail and parcels, which is expected to grow even larger due to the increased volume of eCommerce over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period. Delivery delays are expected to continue for the foreseeable future through the Holiday season and into January 2019.

While Canada Post is operational and working diligently to minimize service impacts, mail and parcels will be handled on a first-in, first-out basis. Even after striking stops and Canada Post stabilizes, mail and parcels recently shipped will still be subject to the same lengthy delays as mail and parcels shipped during the rotating strike period.

Because these delays will vary in length, COMC is unable to provide an accurate timeline for when orders placed to Canada may be delivered once they enter the Canada Post mail system. If these delays create a delivery inconvenience, we recommend taking advantage of COMC’s Buy Now, Ship Later functionality. With this feature, customers are able to purchase items, or transfer them from Upper Deck’s ePack Service, and request shipment at a later date once postal delays have been resolved.

If you do not yet have a COMC account, sign up for free here.

In the meantime, we encourage you to visit www.canadapost.ca/update to read about the latest developments and sign up for email updates.

If you have any questions, we’re here to help! Contact our Customer Service at staff@comc.com or 1-800-517-3540.

Thanks,

– The COMC Team

 

Previous Update from September 19th, 2018:

As you are likely aware, Canada Post services may experience a disruption as early as September 26 amid negotiations with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. In the event of a work disruption, COMC and Upper Deck e-Pack shipments to Canada will experience delays. Shipments will be held at our Burnaby, BC office and will be promptly shipped when work resumes.

Orders already in the Canada Post system during a work disruption will remain in their system until Canada Post resumes operations. Please anticipate delays in delivery times for these orders. Should the work disruption occur, we strongly recommend our Canadian customers take advantage of COMC’s unique service which allows customers with a COMC account to buy over time and ship everything together in a single shipment when Canada Post resumes operations.

Canadian sellers: You can either drop your consignment submissions off at COMC Canada in Burnaby, BC or use alternative carriers such as UPS, FedEx, and Canpar. There will be no service delays for cards stored remotely in Canada purchased by non-Canadian residents

What’s a Few More Years?

Before the three Seahawks Super Bowl appearances from 2006-2015, and the rise of the Seattle Sounders FC, the city of Seattle was once an energetic baseball town.  The phrase “Refuse to Lose” swept through Washington state in 1995 as an unlikely Seattle Mariners team made a historic playoff push that fell short to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS. The magic of that season carried over for many years to come, and while that particular era of the Mariners never achieved success greater than that 1995 season, a message was delivered to a faithful Mariners fan base: This team can contend.

I talk highly about our past so that I can disappoint you with the present. For the past 17 seasons, Mariners fans have slowly watched the magic of the 1990’s disappear with each failed attempt to make the playoffs. It took a record breaking 116-win season, a Manager of the Year in Lou Piniella, and an MVP and Rookie of the Year performance from Ichiro Suzuki for the last Mariner’s team to make the playoffs, falling short to the New York Yankees in the 2001 ALCS. The organization has not won more than 93 games in a year since and have only had seven .500 or better seasons during their playoff drought.

Being a die hard Mariners fan is like living in a perpetual state of Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons. Queue the Memes…

To offer perspective of how long those 17 years have been, here is a short list of things that have happened in that time frame:

  • Apple’s stock price rose from $1 (Oct 2001) to $180 (Nov 2018)
  • Professors and Trainers have discovered 556 new species of Pokemon, bringing the total number of Pokemon from 251 (2001) to 807 (2018).
  • Lebron James went from 0 career points to fifth most in NBA history.
  • John Cena has won 16 World Championships in the WWE.
  • COMC was founded and has processed 58 million cards and counting.

The failures of the franchise have compounded over the better part of the last two decades. At this point, it’s nearly impossible to point the finger at any one point in time as the definitive reason why the team has yet to earn so much as a wildcard spot. First, the team couldn’t win with big free agent signings like Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre. Then the team couldn’t get it done by trading prized prospects for pitchers who under performed. And most depressingly, the team couldn’t so much as come close to one single playoff appearance through the rise and fall of a King’s career.

So here we are in the cold winter months before the 2019 season, and a tear down of a team that won 89 games but finished 3rd in the A.L. West following a “That’s so Mariners” collapse is underway. Mike Zunino is gone, leaving a void behind the plate. ‘Big Maple’ James Paxton is now in the Big Apple, and Justus Sheffield is the latest name in a long laundry list of pitching prospects that we are told to believe will bring playoff baseball back to Seattle. Off the top of my head, here’s some other names on that list of pitchers who we were promised would bring us back to the post season:

Travis Blackley, Matt Thornton, Phillipe Aumont, Brandon Morrow, Brandon Mauer, Doug Fister, Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, and Michael Pineda. 

For fans of teams that are perpetual contenders, the winter months are an exciting time of speculation and imagination.

“Which free agents will my team sign?”

“Who’s available that we can trade for that will make an immediate impact?” 

For Mariners fans however, the actions of “Trader” Jerry Dipoto cannot be predicted, outside of the guaranteed two or more swaps a year with the Tampa Bay Rays. Will he crack open the piggy bank? Will he take on another project player who maybe just needs a change of scenery to live up to their potential? Though the fear, doubt and uncertainty of a cruel history of losing will always linger in the background, the Mariners fan base will always be optimistic that management is leading the franchise in the right direction. After all, Jerry was the guy who signed Mike Trout to a six year deal through 2020 with the Angels right?

“But James, he also gave Josh Hamilton $120 million in 2012 and Albert Pujols a 10-year /$240mil deal at age 32.”

Oh yeah. As I said, lingering doubt.

Would you trust this man with your franchise?

I’ve got to say, living in the perpetual fear that any player on your favorite team can be traded has been one of the most trying and mentally exhausting experience as a fan that I’ve faced while aboard the S.S. Mariner. Closer Edwin Diaz chased K-Rod’s magic number of 62 saves, coming up short at 57 (in an 89-win season mind you), but still had one of the most dominate seasons ever as a closer.  He’s likely gone, especially in a climate where lights out closers yield a huge premium. Mitch Haniger, an emerging superstar and offensive spark plug over the last two years, as well as my personal favorite player since the golden era of “Big Time Timmy JimTim Lincecum, could also be on his way out for a strong yield of prospects. While the salary dump of Robinson Cano, Dee Gordon, Kyle Seager, and Felix Hernandez would be welcomed, the thought of not resigning Nelson Cruz and watching him tee off against the M’s while wearing an Astros uniform is downright frightening. And then there’s Ryon Healy, Ben Gamel, Dan Vogelbach, and Jean Segura, who could all be on the move before having their fair chance to win as Mariners.

“To win as Mariners.” Heh. I don’t even know what that means anymore. The Yankees and Red Sox have taught us that you can buy your way to the post-season. The Marlins have taught us that you can draft your way to the World Series. Most recently, the Astros have taught us that you can tear it all down and rebuild your way to Post Season excellence. But it doesn’t appear the Mariners are committing 100% to any single one of those tried and true methods. The only thing that is for certain in the team’s future is that Ichiro, the last connection remaining to a Mariners team that made the playoffs, will suit up in an M’s uniform in 2019 at play at the age of 45 when the Mariners and Athletics open the season in Japan next March.

The Mariners are a lot like that toy that you really wanted all year and finally got on Christmas Morning, only to realize it was damaged. No one can seem to find the receipt, so it can’t be returned, but your Dad is certain that he can fix it. I don’t know if it will be a Christmas Miracle this year that will make or break baseball in Seattle, but we’re this deep in, so what’s a few more years?

Rich Reminisces: 1962 Mets

I mentioned in my previous column about how much I enjoy the YouTube page “Classic Baseball on the Radio“. While they have some games such as the World Series and All-Star games that you would expect them to have, the regular season games they also have are sometimes famous in their own right. One of those games is from the 1962 New York Mets season. Now when a team loses 120 games in a season, usually the fans leave in droves. But because those Mets were so lovable, they actually drew more fans than you would expect, considering how bad they were and the Polo Grounds location.

I say all that because there is a 1962 Mets/Cubs game saved which actually had two memorable moments before the 1st inning was even concluded. I had read about one of those moments when I was very young, but never knew it was not an apocryphal story, while the other was noted but still difficult to believe. By the way, last article’s subject Roger Craig does not appear in this game. In case you want the spoiler, here is the Retrosheet recap of the game on June 17, 1962.

The first of those two events occurred in the top of the 1st inning. You see a Cubs rookie by the name of Lou Brock deposited a homer into the Polo Grounds center-field bleachers.

Now it may not seem like hitting a homer into the bleachers is so special, but remember just eight years earlier, the most famous catch in baseball history occurred in those vast expanses of the Polo Grounds. If you have not seen this play and are a baseball fan at all, I’m shocked. The most amazing aspect of this catch was not just how far Willie Mays  ran to catch the ball, but the amazing spin and throw immediately afterwards. There was a runner on second base and despite how far the ball was slugged, the runner only got to third base.

Mays was such a great center fielder for so many years. More than 15 years later this next catch occurred. In some ways, this is a harder catch than the more famous effort:

The great aspect of the 1954 catch is how it is immortalized on this 1959 Topps card:

But going back to Mr. Brock, while today we think of him as a singles hitter who accumulated more than 3,000 hits in his career, during those early stages he would constantly be in double digits for doubles, triples and homers. During the 1967 season, which may have been his best season, Brock garnered 65 extra base hits, with 21 of those having left the ballpark.

He continued his hot hitting in the 1967 World Series, leading the Cardinals to their second World Championship in just four seasons. This 1968 card show his effect on those games:

When he retired,Brock had set the record for most career stolen bases. He was later elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

With that, the top of the first has been concluded but the real fun stuff occurs in the bottom of the first inning. As we noted, those 1962 Mets were on their way to 120 losses, and among their highlights they never won a game on a Thursday that season. While Roger Craig is the Dallas COMC official player, the most popular player on those Mets was a man named Marvin Eugene Throneberry whose initials spelled out MET. Somehow that all seemed appropriate as Marv was a decent player until he got to the Mets and then just imploded as a player.

Sadly, although some of the later additions to the 1962 Mets are immortalized on cardboard, we would have to wait until 1963 for Marv to receive his Mets card. Why is this 1962 game important to Marv’s legend? You see, in legging out a triple, Marv missed both first and second base on his way to third. When the appeal play at second worked, famed manager Casey Stengel went out to challenge the call, but one of the umpires informed him he also missed first base. The radio broadcast and retrosheet actually verifies this seemingly impossibility. Now, as a fledgling dealer in the 1980’s, I would have loved to have seen Marv on a 1962 card for today’s affordability reasons. I’m kind of glad he has attainable 1963 cards instead.

And almost 60 years later, having proof of both of these events saved on tape showed what I had heard about as a young child but always assumed was not true when it came to “Marvelous Marv”.  Thankfully Marv had a nice renaissance in his later years as he became one of the famed Miller Lite spokesmen. While he passed at the early age of 60, Marv is still a beloved figure for those who liked those early Mets teams.

Rich Klein can be reached at RichKlein@Comc.com

COMC on the Road: 2018 Legends Weekend Recap & Dice Game Winners

COMC’s very own “Viscious” Verne Siebert (Google him!) and Barry Mah  working the booth.

We had a fantastic time last weekend at the 2018 Legends Weekend 1st annual Western Canada Hockey Expo at the Langley Event Centre! Thanks to all who stopped by our booth to chat, play our dice game, or drop off consignment submissions. And thank you very much to Bossa Productions for bringing this show back! Here’s hoping for many more great years to come!

2018 Legends Weekend 1st Annual Hockey Expo Dice Game Results:

(Roll a 3, 4, or 5) – 2017-18 Upper Deck #247 Brock Boeser RC – nucksfan167
(Roll a 6 or 7) – 2016-17 Upper Deck #201 Nico Hischier RC – MikeDempsey
(Roll a 8) – 2013-14 National Treasures #110 Joe Cannata Autographed RC #55/99 – trex604
(Roll a 9) – 2015-16 MVP #280 Nikolay Goldobin RC – ezccollectables
(Roll a 10) – 2017 Upper Deck National Convention Prominent Cuts VIP #VIP-2 Connor McDavid – sandbagger 
(Roll an 11) – 2015-16 Trilogy Rookie Premieres #160 Nikolay Goldobin Level 2 Auto #417/499 – Aldamji007
(Roll a 12) – 2015-16 MVP #281 Jake Virtanen RC – sgillis
(Roll a 13) – 2016-17 MVP Rinkleaders Achievement #RL-0 Wayne Gretzky – CanucksFan58
(Roll a 14 or 15) – 2017-18 Upper Deck A Piece of History #PC-HS Henrik Sedin – micerule934
(Roll a 16, 17, or 18) – 2015-16 The Cup Gold Spectrum Foil Autograph #183 Jake Virtanen #32/36 – scottym912

To claim your prize, you must contact staff@comc.com with your name and username before January 18, 2019 @ 23:59:59 PST.