Month: March 2009

Braves Collection: David Palmer

1988 Donruss #266

David was part of a group of talented young pitchers that would start their careers in the late 70s and early 80s with the Expos (including Charlie Lea and Bill Gullickson). Along with the veteran Steve Rogers, they formed a formidable pitching staff that would win their division in 1981. Well, David Palmer didn’t as during the ’81 season he would suffer the first of many setbacks due to arm problems. Eventually, he would have the best year of his career in Atlanta in 1986, but it was all downhill from there.

In 1981, my family had just migrated from Memphis, TN to Columbus, GA. At the time, our minor league team in Columbus was an Astros AA team, the Columbus Astros. My first Astros game was against the Memphis Chicks and I was an OBNOXIOUS 11 year old to all the Columbus fans. I had my Memphis and Montreal hats and I loved to scream. Apparently, the guys in the Chicks bullpen were getting a kick out of me. One of the pitchers threw me a ball. I thought he wanted to play catch, but he kept saying “keep it”. So I did. It was an official Southern League ball and the pitcher (I assume) has drew a Chicks logo on the ball with a ballpoint pen. The pitcher was David Palmer on a rehab assignment.

Braves Collection: Manny Acosta

2007 Topps Rookies 1952 Edition #167

Manny is a solid bullpen pitcher who looks to have a lock on the Braves bullpen again this year. Ultimately, he’s destined for a career as a middle releiver as he doesn’t have the pitch variety to be a starter, and he hasn’t performed well in the closer role. His best chance for success in 2009 is for the Braves to keep Gonzales, Moylan and Soriano so that Bobby isn’t forced to use Acosta in a role for which he isn’t suited. 

Now, I like Acosta because he looks mad and like that in a pitcher. On this card however, he’s all smiles. That said, let me say, there has never been a more pointless set than the Topps 1952 Rookie Edition. Yeah, the 1952 design is every bit as classic as claimed … but lets give it a rest. This set serves no function except to provide a lot of cards of a lot of people that no one will collect. Ever.

Braves Collection: Rafael Soriano

2008 Upper Deck #44

Yeah, Rafael Soriano just looks like a big-time reliever. He’s angry, imposing, and never looks happy.  Unfortunately, he has arm problems and his 2008 season was a disaster. (Well, he pitched well enough when available; the problem is he just wasn’t available enough.) This year, the back end of our bullpen looks solid if Soriano and Mike Gonzales can stay healthy. As for the rest of the bullpen …

Sure, the solver foil makes it hard to read the name and the team, but a set with good, full bleed photography is almost never bad. This is the first Upper Deck I’ve ever tried to put together.

Braves Collection: Matt Franco

2003 Topps #510

Matt had one pretty good year in Atlanta and went on to finish his career in Japan. Here’s three facts about Matt I found at Wikipedia:

  1. His uncle is Kurt Russell.
  2. He set a major league record with 20 pinch hit walks.
  3. He was named in the Mitchell Report.

Good looking card from a good looking a set. I love the small inset head shots combined with an action shot ever since I opened my first pack of 1983 Topps.

Braves Collection: Kevin Coffman

1989 Topps #488

I always wondered how Kevin Coffman got his job. He was an 11th round draft pick, which isn’t really indicative of anything, but looking at his minor league stats doesn’t impress. He did have a year where he averaged over a strikeout an inning and another year where he almost averaged a strikeout an inning, but even in those years he had ERAs well over 4. Perhaps if I had a better memory, I would remember if he was one of those prospects everyone thought was “can’t miss”. As it is, he missed and I just can’t remember him.

Wow. You don’t get many cards, and on this one, it’s as boring a shot as you can imagine. I do love the “Now With Cubs” designation. It’s his only appearance on card that mentions the Cubs. He would pitch just over 18 innings with the Cubbies and would give up 23 earned runs. Ouch. I’m sure Cubs fans could have lived without the designation.

Fifth Blog Bat Around: 1979

I’ve been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember. I can remember playing catch with my Grandpa in front of our house in Memphis, TN while he told me stories about listening to Don Larsen’s perfect game on the radio or about Harvey Haddix’s 12 perfect innings. I remember my Uncle Larry telling me about seeing Stan Musial play in person as a kid. I remember playing Wiffle ball with my brother and my parents in our backyard. I just always loved baseball.

My earliest distinct memory of a baseball game is the 1977 World Series. I remember Reggie Jackson hitting three home runs, on the first pitch, in three consecutive at-bats. You don’t forget that. I may have been a Yankees fan, but I don’t remember for sure. I know I hated the Dodgers and the Red Sox. I couldn’t even begin to explain the reasons.
I can remember the one game playoff between the Yankees and the Red Sox in 1978. Bucky Dent might have been my first favorite baseball player after he blasted that home run over the monster. I remember becoming a Phillies fan during the playoffs when they lost to the Dodgers that same year. The Phillies would be one of my favorite early teams.
I’m sure that at some point in that time period above my parents bought me a pack of baseball cards. I’m sure of it. I can’t remember it. I couldn’t tell you what the cards were, but I know it happened. I think it would have had to. Now, 1979 I remember.
My favorite player in baseball in 1979 was the speedy second baseman of the Memphis Chicks, Tim Raines. I must have gone to ten games or so that season and at every game Raines was the star. I can remember Willie Stargell (whose 1980 Topps card I would chase for 25 years) and his Pirates winning the World Series, winning games six and seven on the road in Baltimore. I still think about that team whenever I hear Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family”. I remember the Yankees finishing in fourth place. I remember discovering This Week in Baseball for the first time and listening to Mel Allen talk about Pete Rose joining the Philadelphia Phillies.
I remember sitting the bench for the Schoolfield Methodist Midgets. I remember getting a hit and how proud my Granddaddy was for me. It may have been my only hit all season.
Mostly though, I remember this older kid who lived across the street named Randy and I remember a number of grocery bags, the paper kind of course, filled with cards. I remember becoming a baseball card collector for the first time.
I’m not sure why Randy had offered to sell me his baseball cards. We had been trading comic books for a year or two. He was much older than me and he was saving up money. I can’t remember why though. (Getting old … kinda sucks.) Still, he needed money and offered to sell me a bunch of cards. I ran home and asked Dad for the money and he gave me two dollars and I came back with a bag full of cards. Dad and I spent what seemed like hours that evening pouring over the cards. They were all from 1976 through 1979 and I loved every set from that era the second I laid eyes on them.
The next day Randy would offer to sell me more and Dad would again cough up the money for me. All told, I think we paid Randy 12 dollars for around a thousand cards. Was it a good deal? Who cares! Dad and I sorted the cards into teams and for the first time I would wrap baseball cards in rubber bands and store them in a shoebox. I was never so proud of anything in my life. Sitting there with my Dad sorting my first baseball card collection is my fondest baseball card collecting memory.
In 1980 I would become obsessed with the 1980 Topps set which remains my favorite set of all time. In 1981 we would move from Memphis to Columbus, Georgia. I was allowed to carry my box of 1980 Topps in the car, but my other cards, the cards I acquired that weekend in 1979, were packed with our other belongings for the move. I’d never see those cards again. The heart of a young kid was broken when he first arrived in Georgia. (Thankfully, having cable television for the first time, and discovering WTBS, would mend it and make me a Braves fan for the rest of my life.)
Actually, I didn’t lose every card from that weekend. A 1978 Jim Spencer was stored in my 1980 Topps box for what I can only assume was an accident. I still keep it in my 1980 Topps binder to remind me of the weekend I began my collection.
My relationship with my Dad right now is … at best … rocky. Still, I have that memory of 1979 and the weekend I became a baseball card collector. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I wanted to get back in this hobby. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this blog. Baseball cards remind me of a time in my life that I’ll never get back.
Thanks for reading.

Braves Collection: Anthony Lerew

2004 Topps #298

Yet another pitching prospect that just didn’t pan out. Three cups of coffee with the Braves, and he didn’t exactly set the world on fire. He would go on to have Tommy John surgery in 2007 and would return in 2008, but wouldn’t get a call up. He was released this spring to make room for Tom Glavine on the 40 man roster. Lerew was eventually signed by that favorite dumping ground for ex-Brave prospects, the Royals.

Will he make it as a big leaguer? Who knows. There were questions about his attitude and now coming off the injury …

Blah. 2004 Topps. Blah. Not bad mind you. Just, blah.

Braves Collection: Tito Francona

1969 Topps #398

I think most people would know Tito as the father of Red Sox manager Terry Francona. In his day though, Daddy Francona was a good player. Not a great player, just a good player. He was one of those guys who could really fill out a good ball team. He saw a lot of playing time with the 68 Braves and hit a respectable 286. The next year he would back up Rico Carty in LF and Orlando Cepeda at 1B. He put up a rock solid 295 through 51 games, but the Braves would sell him to Oakland. Unfortunately for Tito, he would never play in the post-season. If he had managed to stick with the Braves in 69, he would have gotten that chance.

I cannot stand older baseball cards that are in mint condition. They do nothing for me. Give me a card with bad corners, slightly off-center, a crease or two, a little writing on the back … that all it takes to make me a happy man. (I especially love marked checklists!) Yeah, I suppose part of the attraction is knowing that the only way I’ll be able to afford older cards is if they are in poorer shape, still, a beat up old card has character. I like character. I’m a character.

Braves Collection: Gary Sheffield

2008 Topps Moments and Milestones #52

So, how can a guy about to hit his 500th home run be considered a disappointment? Steroid crap aside, Sheffield just always seemed to underperform his talent, except, maybe, for contract years. Of course, his attitude stinks. He almost never seemed happy to be playing on a team.

That said, his first year with the Braves was solid, and then … in 2003 … he was outstanding, with an MVP caliber year. Maybe it was Bobby Cox’s influence, but he never seemed as unhappy in Atlanta as he did seemingly everywhere else. Of course, he bolted for the Yankees that off season. (On the other hand, I’ll never forget how Sheff just disappeared in both of his post-seasons with the Braves.)

I just didn’t hate Moments and Milestones as much as everyone else. Sure, the cards all looked too similar. The concept was a little dull to be honest. Still, I bought like four or five packs of the 2007 issue and got like 5 cards of Maddux, and a few of Glavine. Sort of an easy way to expand a player collection. Sure, a cheap and easy way … still.

Braves Collection: Horacio Ramirez

2005 Topps Total Silver Parallel #453

He could have been someone. Or maybe not. He got off to a promising start, but was just too damn inconsistent to ever be trusted. Then came the injuries. Now he’s splitting time between AAA and the majors and in 2007 managed an awesome 7.16 ERA for an ERA+ of 61. Ouch. The real mystery is that the Mariners let him start 20 games. Stick a form in him. He’s done.

I’m not big on parallel sets except for trying to get Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz cards. 2005 Topps Total was a different story though. I had just gotten back into collecting, but was focusing on the stuff I collected “back in the day”, along with the big three guys. Still, I was curious about what was up with new cards and I bought a blaster. I was hooked. I hit every Target in the area and bought up as many blasters as I could find. Eventually I bought a hobby box as well. I’m still a few cards short of the regular set, but I’ll get there. 

One day last year, I was in a local card shop and he had a partial set of 2005 Topps Total Silver that was missing only 50 cards for 20 bucks and since I knew I had at least 200 at home, I figured I’d give it a shot. Naturally, I’m still short, still, and again, I’ll get there.
I didn’t collect it long enough to say I miss Topps Total, but the 2005 set was excellent and is my idea of what a baseball card set should be. Lots of cards. Lots of different players, including the mediocre and bad ones.