Rich Reminisces: Willie Mays

Willie Mays was the definition of a five-tool baseball player. Whatever he did on a baseball diamond he did well, and he did well until he was 40 years old. He outlasted all his contemporaries and made what might be the most famous catch in all baseball history. While those won’t be one of the cards we discuss today, that catch was honored on this 1959 Topps baseball card:

We’ll begin with his 1951 Bowman card. Just as with Mickey Mantle, who also was a 1951 rookie player and rookie card, this card is in the last and more difficult Bowman series. What most people do not realize in today’s world was when Dr. James Beckett published his first price guide book in 1979 there was only a $5 difference between the Mays and the Mantle card.

Yes, you would have done terrific with either card if you had put them away in 1979 and not have them seen the light of day for the following 40 years, but in those days Mantle was considered just a hair better than Mays in terms of pricing.

The next year we had his first Topps basball card. His first Topps card is in the second toughest series of the legendary 1952 Topps set and has never been an easy card for collectors to find. While not as difficult as the renowned last series, these are all pretty tough cards and the Mays is never readily available at shows or through the big auction houses

As you can see this also happens to be a very attractive card design and the attractiveness of the card works well with the expensive price tag. Another of my favorite Mays cards from his playing day is this 1962 Topps Superstars card with Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.If you look carefully you will see Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks with their back to the camera. Pretty impressive with either group of players I would say. And if you had those two players on your team during the 1954-1965 time period you probably would have been able to, well in the words of famed sportswriter Red Smith, “serving strawberries in the wintertime just about every season.” You would not have needed a lot more help to make a great team.

If you were collecting cards in the 1960’s, you learned Topps used certain numbers to honor the superstars. Usually if a player had a card number ending with 00 or 50 they were not only beloved, but also considered the key cards in the set. That tradition continued for a long time, even famously in the 1985 Topps set when Oddibe McDowell was set up to be card #400, when Topps featured the 1984 Olympic gold-medal team and then Mark McGwire was #401. More than three decades later you wonder if Topps would like that numbering sequence back. 

Another one they would like back came in 1969 Topps when Mays was shockingly given card #190 after a long streak of being a key number.  There were a lot of things going on with Topps in 1969 in terms of their relationship with the MLB Players Union, and I wonder if they even thought they would be able to get all seven series they released out the door. The first two series were heavily front-loaded with stars and superstars, and we can look at that with modern conjecture. If you are really interested I would recommend reading Mark Armour‘s work on that card era, for he has done a yeoman job on the research and appreciates the time from both the kid he was at the time and the excellent researcher he is today.

But without further adieu here is card #190 in 1969:

Finally we end our tour with the last regular season card issued of Mays. Willie returned to New York during the 1972 season when the Giants were looking for a soft landing for his career’s end, and his presence helped the New York Mets get to the World Series the following year. Now he was pretty much through as a player in 1973, but in 1972 he still had one last dramatic flair to his career.

This clip of Mays’ first homer as a Met came against the Giants no less and turned out to be the game-winning hit.

That was on Mother’s day in 1972, and it seemed like Mother’s day was big in New York for baseball highlights. We had this one five years earlier; In fact, it was five years earlier to the day

But we digress, and here is Mays 1973 Topps card as a Met.

Now, I always wished Topps did more career retrospective cards but we were lucky in 1974 to have this “accidental” Mays card as part of the 1973 World Series highlights:

What do you want us to write about in future columns on the COMC Blog? We want to hear from members of the COM Nation! We want this to be as much YOUR column as it is mine.

‘Living 200’: Ranking Our Favorite Baseball Cards from Topps Living Set #101-200

Shop Topps Living Set Trading Cards on COMC

Last year Topps surprised the trading card industry with a unique one-of-a-kind set like no other produced before. The baseball card set was called ‘The Living Set‘, and each week three new trading cards would be released and sold only online for a seven day span. Once that window was over, the cards would never again be printed. Players could only be featured in the set one time per team they’ve played for, and the set would feature rookies, veterans, and legends. Produced entirely using the artwork of legendary sports card artist Mayumi Seto, the set is stylized after the iconic 1953 Topps baseball design.

The set started off extremely strong with Aaron Judge (Print Run 13,256) earning the coveted first card in the set. The set was overall met with optimism and speculation, as many of the key rookie cards in the set produced huge print runs, such as Ronald Acuna Jr. (PR: 46,809) and Gleyber Torres (PR: 28,550). While superstars, rookies, and hall of fame players still generate large numbers (such as #200 Mike Trout with a print run of 22,017), the set has come back to earth in weeks, with most print runs hovering in the 3000 range.

COMC Communications Manager James Good and Senior Business Analyst Grant Wescott each own a copy of the full set from #1 to #200 and counting. Some 30 plus weeks ago, we asked them to talk about the set and give their 10 favorite cards from the first 100 in the set. You can read that blog here. With the set now surpassing 200 cards, we’ve asked them to chime in with their 10 favorite cards from #101 – 200. 

Grant Wescott (In no particular order)

Topps Living Set Card #200 – Mike Trout – Print Run: 22017

Topps has historically saved round numbers on many of their checklists for the very best in the game. Remember Babe Ruth at #100? I don’t think there was much doubt leading into the card #200 release day who would be featured on it.

Topps Living Set Card #193 – Ken Griffey Jr. – Print Run: 8369

Beautiful card of my all-time favorite player. That swing never gets old.

Topps Living Set Card #180 – Nelson Cruz – Print Run: 3581

The Nellie you see on this card is the Nellie you see in every game he plays, defying multiple laws of nature while wearing a grin.

Topps Living Set Card #173 – Fernando Tatis Jr – Print Run: 10099

One milestone for any young professional baseball player is when they get to see their first Topps card. There has to be a little extra appreciation from this 20 year old star when that card happens to be such an amazing hand-drawn portrait.

Topps Living Set Card #154 – Stan Musial – Print Run: 4575

One of baseball’s good guys, Stan the Man was famous for making people happy both on and off the field.

Topps Living Set Card #132 – Daniel Mengden – Print Run: 3250

Topps Living Set has seen a few errors along the way, but none so blatant as the Rollie Fingers wrong name error (I kid).

Topps Living Set Card #127 – Kris Bryant – Print Run: 5361

A striking image of Kris Bryant, who appears is now back to his 2016 MVP form.

Topps Living Set Card #192 – Wade Davis – Print Run: 2605

Nick Markakis famously held the long-standing record for low print run since week 2 of TLS with 2,678 copies. That is, until Howie Kendrick came along at card #183 with 2,633 copies. That is, until just a few weeks later when Wade Davis set the new low with this card. As someone who plans to buy the set forever, it’s kind of fun to watch my complete set become even rarer.

Topps Living Set Card #109 – Nolan Arenado – Print Run: 4065

Artist Mayumi Seto captured some big emotion on this one. Arenado is one of the elite players in the game today, yet for some reason still a bit overlooked in the hobby. I love this card.

Checklist Card 1-100 & 101-200 – Print Run: 4393

I’m going a little off script here because 1) these are two cards, not one, and 2) they aren’t technically part of the set. Doesn’t matter. I was more excited than I had reason to be when these were released. I’ve never checked a single box on a checklist. I’m not about to start now. Why does this make me happy?

James Good (Ranked in order of favorites)

Topps Living Set Card #193 – Ken Griffey Jr. – Print Run: 8369

There was no other pick for me. Griffey was an unexpected surprise at #193, and tops my list as my favorite TLS card in the entire set, surpassing Babe Ruth (#100) and Mitch Haniger (#54) in my top 3. That iconic Jr. smile is infectious.

Topps Living Set Card #179 – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Print Run: 27749

This was clearly a landmark card for Topps and Seto, so I’m guessing that she had plenty of time to work on this portrait. It clearly shows in the photo-realism of Vladdy Jr.’s first true Topps RC. The level of detail of this card, especially when it’s in-hand, is unreal. The hat logo, the hair, the Nike swoosh logo. I’ll take this card all day long over his first flagship Topps RC in series 2.

Topps Living Set Card #200 – Mike Trout – Print Run: 22017

We all knew that Mike Trout was going to be #200, and the card delivered exactly what we wanted, and what the set needed. The huge print run was a shot in the arm to TLS at the right time.

Topps Living Set Card #127 – Kris Bryant – Print Run: 5361

I love the sideways glance of Bryant in this card. The Cubbies deep blue jersey is among my favorite jerseys of all-time, so I might be a bit partial here.

Topps Living Set Card #156 – Ryon Healy – Print Run: 2765

Healy has a lot of critics here in Seattle, but I’ve been a big support since the day we traded for him. This card that broke a 102 card drought for the Mariners in Topps Living Set and also captured Healy’s positive personality and his professed enjoyment for the game the baseball so very well. It’s a shame he’s dealing with spinal stenosis, the same ailment that shortened the career of fellow 3B David Wright.

Topps Living Set Card #136 – Mariano Rivera – Print Run: 8945

The timing of this card was impeccable – right after Mariano became the first player to unanimously be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the first year eligible.

Topps Living Set Card #118 – Nolan Ryan – Print Run: 6745

Ryan’s career spanned the course of 4 different decades. Ask 10 different fans about Ryan, and you might get 10 different memories. My earliest memories as a fan of the game were of ‘The Ryan Express’ as a non-nonsense 40-something fireballin’ Texan. This card brings me back to all those early 90’s junk wax cards of him that helped kick start my passion for the hobby.

Topps Living Set Card #178 – Xander Bogaerts – Print Run: 3776

I’m not much of a Red Sox fan. Correction, I slightly despise most Boston-area teams (Ya’ll aren’t the underdogs, ever, just stop). But I love this card of Bogaerts. Again, the artwork on this card when it’s in-hand truly makes me appreciate the card so much more.

Topps Living Set Card #106 – Cal Ripken Jr. – Print Run: 6423

Similar to my memories of Nolan Ryan, I best remember Cal Ripken Jr. during his iron man stretch, with the gray hairs on the sides of his head becoming more prominent each year. That said, I love the throwback artwork on this card, and the white Orioles cap really seals the deal.

Topps Living Set Card #121 – Buster Posey – Print Run: 3990

Catchers get the short end of the baseball bat when it comes to trading cards, often depicted wearing their full gear. This card steps away from that, giving us an excellent portrait of Buster that shows a side of him that few cards have. Now let me get on my soapbox…

Buster Posey is one of the most underappreciated players of this era. Even Giants fans will credit the team’s three World Series in six years to their stellar pitching, pointing to Madison Bumgarner, and I don’t disagree. But who do you think called all those games behind the plate? Three Rings, Four Silver Sluggers, 2010 ROY, a Gold Glove, and a Batting Title later, I can’t wait until Cooperstown calls for Buster Posey.

We’re 200+ cards into the set, and yet there are so many players who haven’t earned a spot into the coveted Living Set yet. Who do you want to see in the next 100 cards? Let us know in the comments below! 

2019 COMC Baseball Card Fantasy Pack Team Update

Members of the COMC Team are always looking to find new and unique ways to enjoy opening packs of trading cards. Sure, we could just rip through hobby boxes and packs looking for our big hits, but where is the fun in that? Earlier this year we introduced you to our fantasy baseball meets trading cards concept , which consisted of opening packs of 2019 Topps Opening Day Baseball Cards and creating a team based on the players found within.

To make it fun, we’re playing using a salary cap and the player’s real-life salaries, and the scoring system is based on how many wins your team is worth, rather than the individual stats found in traditional fantasy baseball. We’re now two months into the 2019 MLB season, which has been full of twists and surprises. With 1/3rd of the season under our belt, we felt this was a good time to check in and see how our picks are doing.

If you didn’t catch our first blog at the start of the season, we recommend that you check it out to get caught up all of the rules of the game. That being said, let’s recap the scoring format that we outlined in the original rules of the game:

Hitting Scoring 
Every 40 runs = +1 win
Every 15 Home Runs = +1 win
Every 15 Stolen Bases = +1 win
Every 30 RBI’s = +1 win
Every 50 walks = +1 win

Pitching Scoring:
 Every 5 Wins = +3 Wins
Every 5 losses = -1 Win
Every 5 Saves = +1 Win
Every 75 Strikeouts = +1 Win

The 2019 COMC Fantasy Baseball Team

No Surprise Here: Mike Trout Leads our team in offense!

DH: Mark Trumbo (0 points)
C: J.T. Realmuto (1 Point)
1B: Anthony Rizzo (2 points)
2B: Gleyber Torres (1 point)
SS: Francisco Lindor (0 points)
3B: Rafael Devers (2 points)
OF: Ronald Acuna (1 point)
OF: Mike Trout (4 points)
OF: Mitch Haniger (3 points)

SP: Justin Verlander (4 points)
SP: Gerrit Cole (3 points)
SP: Trevor Bauer (0 points)
SP: Blake Snell (0 points)
SP: Jacob Degrom (0 points)
Closer: Edwin Diaz (2 points)

23 Total Team Points

Bench Reserves:
Hitter: Juan Soto (1 point)
Hitter: Max Muncy (1 points)
Hitter: Whit Merrifield (1 point)
Pitcher: Dereck Rodriguez (-1 points)
Pitcher: German Marquez (2 points)

Analysis: We’re on pace to finish the season in the 70-80 point range, which is well under the 100-point threshold we predicted our team would finish at.

Designated Hitter Mark Trumbo isn’t expected to play until late June at best, which likely means that we’ll be replacing him with Juan Soto or Max Muncy off the bench due to not appearing in at least 108 games this season. Rafael Devers has been a pleasant surprise all over the stat sheet, and despite having what appears to be a slump season for him, Mitch Haniger has filled the right statistical categories (runs, HR, RBi’s) to notch three points.

Texas Heat: The career revival of Justin Verlander continues in 2019!

On the pitching side, our Astros one-two punch of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have accumulated the wealth of our pitching points. Justin Verlander has nine wins and counting as of this writing. Trevor Bauer and reigning American League Cy Young Winner Blake Snell have regressed in 2019.

We know that some readers of the COMC Blog are also playing along at home. How is your team doing so far? We want to hear from you! Have you found a way to turn your trading card collecting experience into a game? We want to hear about it! Drop a comment below and let us know!

Rich Reminisces: “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton

2019 is the 50th anniversary of what may be the most important book ever written about baseball. The tome which changed the world was “Ball Four” written by Jim Bouton and edited by Len Shecter.

Jim Bouton, who should have had Topps cards in 1969 and 1970 so we could have even better memories of that era, was as the author the key person of the book. After all, Bouton did pitch in 73 games during the 1969 season, which included two major league teams and a short minor-league stint.

Before going to the Seattle Pilots, Bouton had been a New York Yankee and was a remnant from the final days of the Yankees dynasty. While it was obvious from all his writings that he truly loved the game, the fact he looked at things differently was a cause of consternation for baseball officials. One of the things to remember is if all he had written about was how baseball players were human (young, loved to chase girls on the road, used coarse language, etc.) that would not have been so bad. Or as the story at the time goes: “If you see a word you don’t know, don’t ask your mother about those” to deal with the four letter words. This book took the inside stories which were evolving, beginning with Jerry Kramer’s book “Instant Replay” about the 1967 Green Bay Packers and Frank Beard’s book “Pro” about the golf tour.  

Bouton took these books a step further and was not nearly as family friendly as some of the other books in that process. Bill Freehan’s “Behind the Mask”, which actually pre-dated Ball Four’s release was also an inside look at a team, but without most of the non-baseball material covered in Ball Four. Of course there was a difference in Freehan playing almost every day as a position player and Bouton spending a lot of time in the bullpen, having more time to hear all those stories. Both Freehan and Bouton’s books are based on the 1969 season, so when the Seattle Pilots played the Detroit Tigers there are two different ways those games are dealt with.

The most amazing thing about these books was perhaps the self-examination needed for these diaries, as all of these athletes had seasons at or near their career peak during around that time. And in the case of Jerry Kramer, there is this memorable block of Jethro Pugh to give Bart Starr the room needed to score the winning touchdown in the 1967 Ice Bowl game  

But what really upset major league baseball was two fold:

1.) How he was able to show that the legendary Mickey Mantle was not perfect but just another person with typical male urges.
2.) He also showed how players were not properly paid, and some of the monetary troubles players had were because management had so much control.

Those issues as much as anything was what organized baseball got freaked out about after the book was published in 1970. Remember similar to today, there was a growing divide between the young athletes and those establishment types that were in charge. Today, much gets into the public because of social media use, which never used to be part of the discussion.

The other thing to remember was because of this book we were able to get a first person look at the 1969 Seattle Pilots, which were a one and done team. Since they were only in existence for that one year, the idea that we have this much information about the team is a gold mine.

Although the Pilots were an expansion team, they had several people important in baseball history. One of those players, who got traded before Spring Training even concluded was Lou Piniella. “Sweet Lou” may have had a sweet bat, but he was not always the mellowest player on the field. Piniella had what is called a “Red ***”, and more than 20 years later his temper was still well remembered.  He is the last Cincinnati Reds manager to take the team to the World Series and the only Seattle Mariners manager to lead them to the post-season.  And here is a brief part of a Sassoon ad which showed on television.

And there are plenty of other people who are remembered fondly because of their places in the day to day life of the Seattle Pilots. After all, Joe Schultz, a long-time baseball man, was the manager of the team and understood they were not going to be winning many games. Thus, one of his great pieces of advice was to “Pound the Old Bud (Weiser)” after every game.

We also have people who were almost “counter-culture heroes” at the time such as Steve Hovley and Mike Marshall:

And there is also Gary “Ding Dong” Bell:

Fred Talbot, is probably still waiting for his part of the 25,000 dollar prize since he, somehow as a pitcher, hit a grand slam in the designated inning of a fan contest. No, the money never came, but the story still lingers. There is no Topps card of him as a Pilot, so instead here’s his 1969 card of him as a Yankee.

And while I could talk about all the players and their roles in the book such as Marty Pattin‘s Donald Duck impression, the final couple of players I’ll talk about in this article is Greg Goossen. Goossen came up as a young man with the Mets and is responsible for one of the most memorable Casey Stengel lines: “This is Greg Goossen, he’s 19 years old and in 10 years he’s got a chance to be 29.

As a boxing fan, I’ve always been fascinated since Goossen is part of the boxing Goossen family, and before his passing actually was one of the corner-men in several important fights. He also became a stand-in for Gene Hackman in films, and did very well financially doing that seemingly thankless role.

And how else could I finish but by showing a card of Dooley Womack aka THAT Dooley Womack, who Bouton was traded for during the middle of the 1969 season. They had been Yankees teammates in 1966-68 before both of them began their last few seasons. This is Dooley pictured as an Houston Astro.

On a personal thought, I wonder if you could argue the eventual acceptance of Ball Four was one of the precursors to the work Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein did to uncover the Watergate Scandal. By that time we had started getting used to the concept that people who had previously been protected by media members were not being treated as normal human beings. Scandals were far fewer before 1970 and Ball Four than afterwards.

  Was this book and the honest appraisal of baseball players a tipping point in journalistic history?

Guest Blog: Collecting What you Love – A Few Quick Tips

(Editor’s Note: Please welcome Tanner Jones to the COMC Blog. Tanner Jones is author of Confessions of a Baseball Card Addict and has been in love with cardboard since he was a child.  For the past 30 years, he has gone from being a casual collector to…scratch that…he has never been casual about collecting baseball cards.  He is an addict!  You can visit his website at www.TanManBaseballFan.com)

Let me ask you a question.  Have you ever purchased a baseball card you have fallen in love with?  If you are like me, you have – many times.  Now, let me ask you another.  Have you purchased a card that you didn’t love?  If you are like me, the same answer is true:  many times.  Perhaps it was a card that you thought you wanted, but turned out that it was just due to the hoopla around it created by others.  In other words, you bought it because other people loved it.

Perhaps you have indulged in one too many boxes, case breaks or razzes, only to find your collection is littered with cards you simply don’t care about.

What to do about it

It appears as though our hobby is far above average when it comes to being made “liquid” in the sense that we have many options to sell the cards that no longer appeal to us.  Websites like COMC make it easy!  All you have to do is sit down with your collection, and determine what you want to keep.  The rest can be put in the for sale/trade pile.  From there, you can use the proceeds of your sales to put into cards that will put a smile on your face.

Only buy what you love

Isn’t our hobby great?  There are so many collecting niches to choose from!  We may find the refractor shine more mesmerizing than anything else we lay our eyes on.  Holograms that jump off the card can captivate us as we tilt them back and forth.  Patch cards allow us to feel like we have a piece of the game as we rub our fingers over them.  Vintage cards are like mementos that have survived numerous wars and depict players that the childhood version of our grandfathers marveled at.

Before diving in head first, sit down and really think about what you love about this hobby.  Do you want to collect a certain type of card?  A player?  Team?  Even if you narrow it down to a certain player or team, more specificity is still likely warranted.  With the sheer amount of cards being produced each year, it can be easy to get in over your head – and quickly. Instead, perhaps consider only focusing on a certain date range for a team or perhaps only the career years for your favorite player(s).

Those are just a few ideas – don’t be afraid to really put pen to paper and jot down all of your ideas, while window shopping for cards on COMC.  With each card that passes by your eyes, ask yourself if it is something you truly want.  If it is, then the odds are it is likely a good candidate to add into your collection.  Don’t forget to set a budget, either!

Remember:  Collecting only cards you love that are within your budget is key to having a fulfilling and meaningful collection.

Rich Reminisces: The 1973 Mets

By Rich Klein
Recently I heard the sad news of George Thomas Seaver (we know him better as Tom) beginning his long goodbye as his great mind is slowly becoming less active and he is suffering from Alzheimer’s. This news comes just as the New York Mets begin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their “Miracle Mets” season. Let me assure you, if you were in the NY Area in 1969, that was truly a miracle season. So many things occurred that year which were a confluence of events never to be repeated or duplicated.  When this 1969 Topps card was released the Mets were just starting to roll a bit towards their successful conclusion.  Thankfully for collectors without deep pocketbooks there is no “White” last name version of this card. If there were, the 1969 Master Set collection cost would have grown by a decent chunk of change.

Because baseball was so important in ’69 and the Mets were such a great story,  with them located in New York and having had such a short history at the time, there were countless books written about the team during the next few months. I believe I read every single one of them. Yes, there was actually a time where reading print in all forms was how we garnered information, and in my cas,e put the information into my muscle memory, which when my turn comes to forget everything but the past, will be remembered much easier than what I had for lunch yesterday! (Grilled chicken sandwich with sautéed mushrooms, grilled jalapenos and grilled onions and a side salad).

But the real point is that those books were able to talk both about the days when the Mets were lovable loser. In fact, the Mets had books written about their beginning when the great newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin penned a tome about the 1962 team. Since New York was a major media capital back then, and the team was so bad they were good (yes Marv E. Throneberry we’re thinking of you), a detailed tome about their debut season was a first as far as I know.

Image result for jimmy breslin can't

So 7 years later was the year we first walked on the moon, and since all things seemed possible, why not have a baseball team do something we thought was impossible?  We have tons of material about the 1969 Mets, but what we don’t have very much about is a Mets team which four short years later almost completed an even greater miracle.

The 1973 Mets had many of the same key players of the 1969 team, but the team was carried by their pitching staff led by Tom Seaver. They also featured Jerry Koosman and Tug McGraw as their key pitchers, and some of the same position players including Ed Kranepool, Cleon Jones, Ken Boswell, Wayne Garrett, Bud Harrelson, and Jerry Grote.

If you look carefully enough you can see Yogi Berra 5th from the left on the second row and Tom Seaver two people to his left and Cleon Jones directly to Seaver’s left.  We’ll let other sleuths identify the rest of the team, but remember this is a photo of the 1972 team. And based on not seeing Willie Howard Mays, I’d say this was produced in 1972 spring training.

The reason this team was such as miracle was because as late as August 30th, 1973 the Mets were mired in last place, but the NL East race was so bunched up that every team could have a hot streak and become competitive. Although the Mets were in last place in the six-team National League East Division, they were only  6 1/2 games out of 1st place.Now remember, in 1973 there were no wild card spots, so you won the division or you went home.

The team that went on the run was the Mets. The story goes that General Manager M. Donald Grant went to give the team a pep talk and Tug McGraw was reacting sarcastically and stated, “You gotta believe!” Well, those three words became the mantra for the team in September, and they went on to win their division with an 82-79 record.

The “Tugger” would run with the publicity he garnered from this run and became quite the media darling. He helped to co-author a daily comic strip which you can still find a compilation of in book form:

Image result for tug mcgraw comic

September was when the school year begin in New York, but all kids big and small were too entranced by the events going on. There was a play against the Pirates in which the baseball had about a one percent chance of ricocheting off the wall in a way which would it would go back to the fielder. The miracle bounce occurred and lives on forever thanks to youtube.

A few days after that, Willie Mays, who had returned to New York the previous season to finish out his career, finally announced he would be retiring from baseball. As he said he knew it was time for Willie to say goodbye to America. The Mays Tribute Night part of this video begins at approximately the 12:45 mark.  Today, the Mets would have figured out a way to do that on a sunny Sunday afternoon with tons of publicity. Believe it or not, there was not much advance notice for the Mays ceremony.

Finally, on a rainy day in Chicago, the Mets clinched the division and the weather was so bad that the second game was never played. The game might have been played if it mattered to the pennant race, but since it did not, why risk injury to any of the players? Here is restrained way the Mets clinched the National League East.

The Mets would then go to the playoffs and defeat the Cincinnati Reds, who were just beginning to evolve into the Big Red Machine. The highlight was a brawl instigated by a fight between Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose. Many fans then already did not like Pete Rose because of the 1970 All-Star game collision with Ray Fosse, so this just added to the hatred of Rose in New York.

That is a video of their kerfuffle. Big Bad Pete Rose versus Bud Harrelson. who by that point in a season might not have even weighed 150 pounds.

The Mets would then go deep into the World Series against the Oakland Athletics and force the series into a 7th game to be on the precipice of winning a second World Series. However, the A’s, led by their pitching staff, proved why they would be able to win three straight World Series in the 1970’s. Thanks to Topps practice at the time of showing pictures from each World Series game we did get one last 1974 Willie Mays card out of our packs. Now I realize Topps did certain things in those days to appease the target audience of kids, but the lack of a 1974 Mays card ranks right up there with other players who never received a final tribute card.

Off the top of my head such cards as a 1964 Stan Musial, 1967 Sandy Koufax and 1977 Hank Aaron would have been great for the kids then and the adults today. I’m convinced one reason the 1969 Mickey Mantle is so beloved is because he did not formally retire until March 1969 and Topps had already planned his card. Thus he got the last cards those other greats missed.

And as for Tom Seaver, as he heads into the long goodbye. he would pitch for more than another decade and amass more than 300 career victories, as well as gaining a first ballot selection by the BBWAA to elect him into the Hall of Fame on the 1st ballot.

This is just a cool modern card of “Tom Terrific” so we can all remember him as he was.

Guest Blog: Let’s Go Back to the 80’s for a Minute

(Editors Note: This post comes to us thanks to the Call to Arms we put out earlier this month seeking guest writers. Please welcome longtime COMC Member FairDeal to the COMC Blog!)

2020 will mark my 40th year for collecting sports cards. Collecting has been more than a hobby for me. It’s been a way to stay connected with my favourite teams and athletes, not to mention buddies who also collect. It’s also been about building something I can be proud of over several decades as well as act as a cathartic release during tough times.

My collection is comprised of baseball and hockey cards (1980 to present) with rookie cards, pre-rookie cards, refractors, active-era Carlton Fisk as a player I collect, and few favourite built master sets acting as the foundation of my prized haul. For this Blog entry, I want to share with you the story of the two first cards, which caught my eye and remain, to this day, on the centre shelf in my Sports Collectibles Man-cave.

1979-80 o-pee-chee Brett Callighen:

The 1979-80 season was the inaugural NHL campaign for the Edmonton Oilers. A young 18-year-old prodigy named Wayne Gretzky captured the hearts and imagination of all Edmontonians (if not all Canadians as a whole) with unparalleled vision of the entire ice surface and play-making ability. The future was bright for this young up-start squad – the sky was literally the limit. Numerous Smythe Division Titles, Campbell Conference Crowns, and 5 Stanley Cups to follow – not to mention hall of fame nods for almost a quarter of the active roster. Despite the pre-social media fervor and ground-swell excitement surrounding Wayne, my favourite Oiler was his line mate and left-winger Brett Callighen.

Callighen was a journeyman winger who had been a part of the World Hockey Association (WHA) originally with the New England Whalers then later with the Edmonton Oilers. Smooth skating and creative passing skills made Brett Callighen a force to be dealt with. Through that first NHL season, Brett was paired with Wayne on most nights and he would end up with 58 points despite missing 21 games to injury.

When the week’s worth of chores were successfully completed, it was allowance time and hockey cards were certainly a priority for me. The ‘79-80 O-Pee-Chee set had an amazing blue edge border with white swoosh down the right side with team logo anchored in the corner. Each pack contained 14 cards and a stick of gum that often would ruin a card if it became attached.

Each card served to mesmerize and I was always waiting with anticipation for the next opportunity to visit the corner store to get more of them. Obtaining Callighen’s card was almost an obsession from day one! Unfortunately cracking my first few packs did not yield my favourite player. Now I won’t say that I traded a Gretzky for a Callighen; that would be like Jack and the Beanstalk in trading a field’s worth of cows without the beans growing into too much. However, I do recall having to part with a number of good cards, in a lop-sided trade, to get the elusive card number 315 of this set. I remember beaming in having this card proudly showcased on my dresser during that first season; it was an amazing childhood experience that I still smile at when I look at it.

Callighen would play through two more injury-plagued seasons with the Oilers before being released prior to the 1982-83 season. When the announcement came in the local newspaper that Callighen had filed for retirement from the NHL and signed with HC Lugano in the Swiss Elite League, I was as crushed as a 12-year-old boy could be. Brett gave up pro hockey for good after the 1985-86 season and would make periodic appearances with the Oilers Alumni during events over the next 3 decades including the final epic send off for the Edmonton Northlands Coliseum.

1980 Topps J.R. Richard

Some of my favourite childhood recollections come in the form of watching Montreal Expos games with my Dad. The two of us, on a weekend, seated on the couch with junk food in hand, with games on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) were a staple and nothing could change that.

On August 13, 1979, Dad and I prepared for another tilt on the tube; this time the opponent was the Houston Astros. We had our ace Steve Rogers going that day so victory was a certainty…or so I thought…

The opposing pitcher that day was J.R. Richard. Before Randy Johnson, there was another tall lanky fire-baller who dominated hitters with triple digit MPH touching fastballs, J.R. Richard. As the game progressed, hitter after hitter for the Expos were sat in rapid fashion by J.R via a strikeout and weak ground outs. Among the strikeout victims were future hall of famers Gary Carter and Andre Dawson. The ball just exploded out of J.R. Richard’s hand as he delivered each pitch. With his super long and lanky frame the ball seemed to be halfway to home plate already at the point of release. The Astros came out on top via a complete game victory from their starter that day. (See the box score below):

https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/HOU/HOU197908130.shtml

The next season, I started to purchase Topps baseball cards (to go along with the O-Pee-Chee hockey cards) and I knew immediately that the J.R. Richard card was a must have. Fortunately, I was able to find his card in a purchased pack and I was over the moon! The photography captures a dominant pitcher who was likely on his way to sitting down another hitter with the shameful fruitless walk back to the dugout after a strikeout.

Sadly, 1980 would turn out to be J.R.’s final season in Major League Baseball and after retirement, personal problems led to homelessness and a series of life challenges for Mr. Richard. Happily, J.R.’s life made somewhat of a turnaround in the 2000’s, as he was involved in a documentary on his story as well as a series of appearances with the Astros organization. The images of him delivering that fastball was unreal and the 1980 Topps Card was something I absolutely treasured then and still treasure now.

Takeaways:

These two cards are cherished possessions, and illustrate that despite having almost no market value but, incredibly special to me, from a sentimental lens. There are literally thousands of cards in my collection that I would part with before getting rid of these two. Whenever I open a box or pack and struggle with the condition of an upper-end candidate for grading or lament a short-print, wishing it was a 1/1 instead of out of an /100, I look at these two cards and am reminded not only of great memories of yester-year but humbly brought back to why I started to collect and continue to collect to this day. They keep me grounded for sure. It also helped me build a foundation for why I collect:

· Collecting keeps me young with connections to heroes of the past.
· Collecting keeps me connected with players and teams of today whom I follow.
· Collecting may seem antiquated, but the stories and hunt of each card can make it special for you!
· Collect if you love it because life is short and doing something you love is worth it. I will continue to do it until there are literally no cards left to buy or trade.