Rich Reminisces: What’s in a Name?

Happy New Year! If you happen to follow my Facebook page, you have seen over the past year I tend to post some funny names which pop up while doing COMC Identification work.
Those names range from the Unfortunate…
….to the sublime (Alexa Bliss, yes I’m referring to you).
This John Hillerman look-alike had the name of F.T. Mann. I just call him Fatty Man nowadays:
But another part of names, and we all have one, is how people are named after one another in sports history. We begin with Grover Cleveland Alexander who was, of course, named after the only U.S. President to regain the presidency after losing an election:
Grover Cleveland was interesting because in his first year in office (1885) he married the then 21-year old Frances Folsom, who would go one to live past the conclusion of World War II. He might not have looked the part, but he was considered quite the ladies man before he became President. He was part of the incredibly cruel 1884 election, which featured these two memorable slogans, the first being: “Ma Ma, Where’s My Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha Ha Ha”.
Cleveland assumed paternity of a child born out of wedlock.Through DNA testing of present day, we would have actually known who the father of the child was. Cleveland’s party used this slogan in response: “Blaine Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from the State of Maine.”  And you thought today’s politics were rough?
As stated above, the most famous person named after him is Grover Cleveland Alexander, who won well over 300 games in his fine career. He may best be known for saving Gave 7 for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1926 World Series. Contrary to legend. the famed strikeout of Tony Lazzeri was in the seventh inning, because the series ended with Babe Ruth being tagged out at 2nd on a steal attempt.
Another Hall of Famer named after a famous player who became even more famous than his predecessor was Mickey Cochrane. Cochrane was a Hall of Fame catcher and won a World Series as a manager before Bump Hadley‘s beaning ended his career.
A few years before Cochrane’s career concluded, a young man named Mickey Charles Mantle was born in Oklahoma. Now, I would have preferred Cochrane as the middle name, but the legend of being named after Cochrane was sufficient at the time.
And in a couple of other cases, we revert back to the 1st and 2nd name matching. This one is close to my heart, because well, the reason will be obvious. Chuck Klein had a nice career buttressed by playing in Baker Bowl.  Well this a nice photo of Mr. Kline:
Imagine my surprise while doing COMC Identification work to see a Charles Klein Stobbs as a name on a card:
And what is Chuck Stobbs best known for? While he was a competent major league pitcher, he is best known for surrendering a 565 foot homer to one Mickey Mantle:
And while the names of many athlete are getting stranger, sometimes we still see names we recognize…
Or whom we think is named after someone famous…
Part of me hopes Mr. Downs makes a mark in the majors because the original Jeter (Derek) is another one with a great name…..
You see, Derek Jeter’s full name is Derek Sanderson Jeter. Yes that is the same name of the 1960’s-70’s hockey wild man Derek Sanderson. Jeter is as controlled in his life as Sanderson could be out of control.
One of things I remember about Sanderson came from reading his autobiography where he claimed that his favorite song was “Poor Side of Town” by Johnny Rivers. Well, he did pick a great single for that purpose:

And since it seemed that between 1964 and 1968 Rivers recorded every song ever written, here are a couple of more I especially like by him:
And to conclude this “What’s in a Name” blog, while this is not related to people being named after others but sharing a same name, I have no other place to put this. In the 1960’s Paul Simon put this line into the lyrics of a song:
“”Be careful his bowtie is really a camera”
Which is a line from the song “America”. Well, did you think that two decades later a man named Paul Simon would have a brief run for the presidency and be best known for, you guessed it. wearing a bow tie?
Rich Klein can be reached at RichKlein@Comc.com

The Good Word: Manufactured Blog Post

(Note: COMC Communications Manager James Good wears many hats at COMC, including Social Media Manager and Blog Editor. While he does a wealth of the writing and curating of other blog posts found on our Blog, ‘The Good Word’ is a new regular Editorial style blog series where he will more openly share his opinions and thoughts on sports and trading cards.)

It is rumored that P.T. Barnum once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. I’d like to think that there are no such thing as suckers when it comes to collecting, but that every single one of us has a guilty pleasure or two that other collectors might see as silly or downright foolish. Whatever you want to call it, I have no shame in admitting that I love manufactured patch cards. Manufactured patches are hit-or-miss among most collectors, and I like how polarizing they are. There is very little gray area when it comes to them, collectors either love them or hate them.

My fascination with them began in 2008 when I was getting reacquainted with the landscape of the card industry following a hiatus from collecting. Among the first Felix Hernandez cards that I bought for my personal collection were his 2008 UD Premier Stitchings manufactured patches. The logo inside these cards was very well designed, and in Mariners colors as well.

The first Seattle Mariners card I ever fell in love with was obviously the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr.. The second was Alex Rodriguez’s 1994 Flair RC. The third card in that list is one from a set that most collectors are probably much less familiar with. When I first saw the 2007 Upper Deck Black Pride of a Nation set, I thought it was one of the most unique sets I had ever seen.  I was 22 years old at the time and didn’t have a lot of money, but I was able to strike a deal with a collector via a forum and in four $25 weekly paypal payments I was the owner of this beautiful piece of cardboard:

I think that when done right, a well-designed manufactured patch or logo card is better than most authentic game used swatch jersey cards. Don’t get me wrong, there is no substitute for a sick patch, laundry tag, or logoman. But take a look at the below series of cards and tell me which one appeals to you more:

Ok fine, maybe don’t answer that last one, because as far as I’m concerned the Babe Ruth Jumbo from Tools of the Trade is the pinnacle of jersey cards. It goes without saying that most of the time we would much rather have a historical piece of the game over a manufactured patch, so my theory doesn’t exactly apply to legends and Hall of Fame players. Which creates an interesting question. I prefer the manufactured patches of Tim Lincecum and Peyton Manning shown above now, but what about fifty years from now? Will the overproduced jersey and patch cards of today’s greats be coveted or as remotely desirable as some of present day in-demand Hall of Fame memorabilia cards such as 1/1 bat knobs and the  Babe Ruth that I shared above?

Card manufacturers will need to continually innovate as they roll out new products, parallels and cards that are intended to draw the interest of new collectors. For some lifelong collectors, flagship Topps Series 1 or the Young Guns RC’s in Upper Deck Series 1 hockey is more than enough to keep them ripping wax on a yearly basis. But as long as the demand remains for unique cards, the rat race of latest and greatest goes on. I think that manufactured patches, rings, and relics offer a solid creative outlet for them to continue to produce some unique additions to the hobby.

To wrap up the first installment of ‘The Good Word’, I felt compelled to share some of my personal favorite cards featuring manufactured materials. Enjoy!

Best of 2018: The First 100: Ranking Our Favorite Cards from Topps Living Set

As we enter 2019, we wanted to take the month of December to highlight some of our favorite blog posts of 2018. In this blog post, our two resident Topps Living Set experts weigh in on their favorite 10 cards from the first 100 in the set. This blog was originally published on 11/05/2018 and is presented in it’s entirety in this blog as well

This year Topps released a very unique and welcomed product named ‘The Living Set‘. Each week, three new cards are released into the set, which should theoretically never end. Each particular week’s cards are only available for that week and then never reprinted again. Current players can only have one card in the set unless they change teams. All cards are stylized after 1953 Topps, can feature current or retired players, and are created around the artwork of legendary sports card artist Mayumi Seto. Card #100-102 (week 34) were released last week, with #100 reserved for Babe Ruth. 

From the moment this set was unveiled, two of COMC’s employees were hooked on the concept, design, and the execution. Our Communications Manager James Good and Senior Business Analyst Grant Wescott each own a complete set up to this point in time and plan to continue to collecting the set as new cards are released each week. We asked them to choose their favorite 10 of the first 100 cards released in the set and give a reason why those cards resonated with them.

Grant Wescott:

“I’d wished for years Topps would produce an on-demand baseball set with the same, consistent design year after year, featuring only one player to a card, no parallels, and a checklist to eternity. The day Topps Living Set was announced was probably the best of my collecting life. Not only did they check all the boxes – that consistent design? None other than the most beautiful Topps set of all time: 1953. All meticulously hand painted by the talented Mayumi Seto. “

James Good

“In an industry that tries to consistently innovate by making cards flashier and more complex, the basic card stock and classic design of Living Set, as well as the focus on artwork, is a welcomed breath of fresh air. While I would prefer that Topps would let me pay for Living Set as yearly subscription service, as opposed to buying each week individually, there is a certain charm to the current format that plays well to my nostalgia for simpler times in the hobby. Just like opening a pack as a kid, there is that rush of excitement that comes with heading to Topps website each Wednesday to see who this week’s subjects are. I thought that sense of satisfaction was long gone in our day and age. Bravo Topps.”

What are some of your favorite cards in Topps Living Set so far? Who would you like to see featured in the next 100 cards? Do you have a set of your own? Let us know what you think about The Living Set in the comments below!

Rich Reminisces: Everything Old is New Again

How about that old axiom, everything old is new again? A few months a good friend of mine and head of the local SABR chapter here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area was giving a talk on his favorite childhood team, the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies and the Whiz Kids. During the conversation, he mentioned how Jim Konstanty, who pitched in 74 games that season, nearly half the team’s games, had an undertaker he knew back home working on ensuring the baseball spun enough.

Today we talk about spin rate for pitchers, but did you know that even back in 1950 they understood that how a ball spun was important? While there are no cards created of that hometown friend of his, we do have plenty of Konstanty cards. So yes, they were aware of spin rate way back when.

Recently, one of my friends posted on Facebook about Babe Ruth facing a shift back in 1919. We all may have thought the shift was created by Lou Boudreau to neutralize Ted Williams power, but instead they had tried shifts nearly 30 years prior.

In the same theme, I was reading in USA Today about how the 1963 Army-Navy game featured the birth of Instant Replay. Well, not so much because it might not have been called instant replay, but when Roger Maris hit this then record-breaking 61st homer in the 1961 season, the play was supposedly repeated almost immediately. While we’ll never know the true first time instant replay was used, the most famous usage of the term came in 1967 when Bart Starr scored on a quarterback sneak behind Ken Bowman and Jerry Kramer. Kramer kept a diary of his 1967 season and because that play was so famous, his tome would be titled Instant Replay. Kramer took his fame, and although his Hall of Fame induction was delayed way longer than it should have been, he is finally enshrined in Canton

Of course, it’s a shame that there is no card of this play, or any card at the time of the Hail Mary pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson, or so many other great plays. Those seem like truly missed opportunities. My one suggestion to card companies is to be more alert for future great plays and get those saved on cards. Not just on sets such as Topps Now or Panini Instant, but in the base sets as well so we can always relive our memories. I’m still upset to this day that after the 1975 World Series Topps no longer did their game-by-game reviews, but instead gave the greatest series of my lifetime up to that point such short shrift.

Although it is nice to have the shot of Fisk coming to the dugout as part of this card, but geez, I was upset then and today about how little that Game 6 was honored.

And yes, even in the card world. everything old is new again and still not keeping up with history.

Rich Klein can be reached at Richklein@Comc.com

Retail Therapy – Topps Holiday & Panini NBA Hoops Holiday!

Welcome back to Retail Therapy, an ongoing blog series where we test our luck and try to beat the odds while showing you some new products that should be available at a retail store near you. We’ve had some fairly miserable retail breaks in the past that you can check out here, so we were hoping to end the year on a high note.

In the spirit of the Holiday season, this time around we decided to bust a blaster box of 2018 Topps Holiday Baseball, and one 2018-19 NBA Hoops Holiday Box blaster as well. A recent trend in the industry has seen both Topps and Panini producing winter-themed products over the last couple of years. Topps actually produces a Holiday version of Bowman baseball as well that is far more festive, featuring Holiday Sweater parallels and Turkey Stamped Autographs. Unfortunately, we were unable to find the 2018 edition locally, so we opted for Topps baseball instead.

2018 Topps Baseball was up first, offering 10 cards per pack, 10 packs per box, and one guaranteed relic, auto, or relic auto per box. More likely than not a relic is to be expected, with the stated odds favoring the swatch over the pen.

 

For $19.99, the 2018 Topps Holiday Baseball is a fun blaster filled with plenty of big name stars and it’s fair share of rookie cards as well. Overall, there are 200 names in the main checklist, with only two parallels: snowflake (1:2 packs) and 1:1 gold snowflakes that drop one every 5,799 packs.

Will the Shohei Ohtani RC with a snowflake design go down in history as one of his most coveted rookie cards? Probably not, but it’s a fun low-end card for younger collectors and completionist player collectors.  The snowflake border pattern is much more festive this year in comparison to last year’s edition, which saw the snowflakes primarily on the upper right of the card.

However, the metallic snowflake parallel returns this year and is substantially worse than last year’s parallel. Can you tell which is which in the two Whit Merrifield cards above? In the card on the left you can see slightly raised texture snowflakes, indicating the parallel. This is in contrast to the 2017 Metallic Snowflake which threw a little bit of silver glitter in the winter pattern on the card. We received five of these parallels and they’re very underwhelming. In their place, we would love to see short prints of our favorite players wearing Santa hats or beards in 2019 – make it happen, Topps!

Oh, what is this? It’s a Holiday Miracle! We beat the odds and pulled a sticker auto of St. Louis Cardinals  Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Luke Weaver numbered to 10! With stated odds of 1 per every 297 packs, we beat the odds pretty good here for our first ever auto in the Retail Therapy blog series. The auto checklist includes the likes of Bryce Harper, Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, and Ronald Acuna Jr, but we’re not complaining!

Onto NBA Hoops, which to our surprise have a very well gift wrapping designed wrapper. Offering 8 cards per pack, 11 packs per box, and one auto or memorabilia card (on average) for $19.99, this winterized version of a Panini staple set should be a hit among casual collectors and younger fans of the game. The checklist features current stars, rookies, and legends of the past.

 

Overall, the card design lacks the holiday flair of the Topps Baseball design, as snowflakes can be found within the photography of the base cards and not around the border. This year’s hoops design is somewhat plain, but the set can usually be counted on for above average photography and it does deliver in this year’s edition. Our 11 packs yielded six rookie cards, with some packs containing two and most containing none. While we did secure a DeAndre Ayton RC, and the Miles Bridge RC should be of interest to COMC CEO and resident Charlotte Hornets Fan Tim Getsch, Luka Doncic was absent from our blaster.

Also absent from our blaster box was an autograph or relic! The Grinch known as (on average) reared it’s ugly head and denied us, taking away from some of the luster of our premium hit in the previous blaster. Each pack did contain an insert, most of which were well designed. We’ll echo our same sentiments about the NBA Hoops Purple Parallel that we did about the Snowflake parallels in Topps – they just aren’t festive enough, Panini! Is a gift wrapping border with a bow in the corner too much to ask for? We think not!

That’s going to do it for this installment of Retail Therapy. As always, any cards featured in our Retail Therapy series will be available for sale on the Blog_BreakHits account! Will some of these items be in your stocking this Holiday Season?

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