Saturday, April 29, 2017

Touring County Stadium through mid-1990s Stadium Club

There were a lot of reasons not to love Milwaukee County Stadium: the concourses were cramped, the seats were small, the bathrooms were far too few, it was cold, it was grimy, it had that god-awful scoreboard... but for a kid who went to his first game there when was five years old and kept going back until he was 18 and they closed it down, that big old battleship of a ballpark was nothing short of a palace. 

But the old girl doesn't get a lot of love outside of the Brewers and older Braves faithful. Which is why the Brewers team sets from 1993-1996 Stadium Club are some of my very favorite. These sets feature some of the best photography among Brewers cards ever and are some of the only cards ever to vividly use County Stadium in their composition. 


Let's start with the 1993 Rickey Bones. First, Bones is wearing what might be my favorite Brewers uni top of all-time, the early '90s BP/workout shirt. It's a bold look and perfectly captures the best color scheme the club ever used. We also get a nice sweeping view of the third base-side grandstands. That little square on the facade next to Bones' shoulder is the 40 second clock used during Packers games at the stadium.  


Next up is the 1993 Cal Eldred. "Cornfed" was one of the most promising young pitchers in baseball heading into the '93 season and had all the makings of a true ace. He poses here by the lower box seats, with those rails covering them to prevent people from cutting across an entire row of people (I guess?). 


Here is John Jaha showing off his mean-guy stance near the first base camera pit. Note how far away the top row of the upper granstand sits. Sitting up there felt like you were about three miles from the field. 


Always a childhood favorite of mine, "Hambone" appears to be in roughly the same spot as Jaha. On windy days at the stadium, those outfield light standards would sway like crazy. 


Aussie Dave Nilsson poses here with the press boxes behind him. Or maybe the two (yes, just two) luxury boxes the stadium featured. That whole row beneath the upper grandstand was some sort of special seating. I got to sit there once, for a game that Randy Johnson pitched. You sat on a folding chair with a little metal table in front of you that ran the length of the row. It was... kind of weird.



I really, really love this 1994 Ricky Bones. He is standing in one of the ramps that led from the concourse to the lower grandstand. The field sat roughly at ground-level, so when you used these ramps, you actually walked up to get to the seating bowl. This gave the effect of the field "rising" into your field of vision as you walked, something that never got old for me. Those old brick corridors were always dark and cold and the concourses were musty and crowded. But at the end of the tunnel was sunlight and green grass and the greatest game ever created. I love everything about this card, right down to the grunge-ass design. 



Greg Vaughn was a bad-ass masher back when 25 homers was a very big deal. He's on the top step of the Brewers dugout here. 



Ricky Bones again! This is 1995, so they've changed over to these horrifying baseball costumes. Between his arms, you can see the big, enclosed ramps that were installed at the far end of each side of the grandstands. A lot of people mistook these for offices. 



Vaughnie looking tough, once again. You get a nice view of the bleachers here, which were actually entirely disconnected from the grandstands. Bleacher ticket holders had their own entrance and concession stands and bathrooms, etc. It actually kind of had a minor league feel to it, out in the bleachers. There was plenty of room to walk around behind the seating with grassy areas and trees. 



Nilsson again. Although the Packers had, by this time, already played their last game in Milwaukee, you can still the little football camera hut on the roof, just to the right of the stadium club logo. 



Here's a nice one of JJ, standing in the right field corner as they set up for BP. Nice use of the shadows behind him.


And we'll close with another card I absolutely love. This shot was taken while Matheny was standing in the extreme right field end of the upper grandstand, probably most of the way towards the top. It's a dizzying angle and illustrates just how far away from the action you could sit. We can also see many of the highlights I've already pointed out, but there are a few new ones as well. You can see a banner on the top of the bleachers just next to Matheny's shoulder - that is the "Vaughn's Valley" sign that marked where Greg Vaughn's left field domain. You'll also notice a series of buildings past the bleachers on the horizon. That would be the Miller Brewery. 




Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Don't Open that Door When I'm in Here Trade-Baitin'!

I am someone who needs to have things just-so. Over the years, my card collection had fallen into terrible disrepair, which was both a symptom and a cause of my lack of interest in collecting. But now, with the blog up and running, I've gotten more active and, as a result, I've spent a good deal of time straightening everything up. 

Now that I've focused on what I want to collect, I also know what I don't want to collect. This leaves me with a good chunk of stuff I am eagerly willing to swap for stuff I am interested in, namely Brewers, Topps flagship/update, and the other random stuff on my wantlists. I'll do these posts periodically, as I weed more and more stuff out of my collection. 

UP FOR TRADE:

1993 ToppsGold Derek Jeter RC


I actually pulled this from a 50-cent pack a few years ago. I'm not real eager to just GIVE this away, as it is a pretty decent card. But I'm sure someone out there would enjoy it more than I do. And I'd gladly part with it for ... say ... a nice lot of late 70s Topps or something. I realize this is a pretty lousy picture... but you can see the same card HERE.

Football Cards


I don't want any of these. The cards in the box are mostly 1990 Pro Set (with some SPs, I promise), but you can also score a nice bunch of vintage, including what I am pretty sure is a full set of those Pro Draft cards that came with that old Parker Brothers game.

TTM Autorgraphs
 

There are two different lots here. The first is baseball - all former Brewers NOT in Brewers unis. I picked up almost all of these on ebay and am now in the process of replacing them with signed Brewers cards of each player. Ben Grieve, Bob Wickman, and Randy Wolf are among the "bigger" names. Not much value here, but anyone who collects ALL forms of signed cards might be interested. 

The second lot is football autos. ALL of these were obtained via TTM by myself. If you want to see a specific card, let me know and I can snap a pic or if you want to know the brand/year, just ask. I would swap these one at a time or as a lot, depends on what people are interested in and what they are offering. I would not mind at all to swap these for Brewers autos (see my wantlist here) but will consider all offers. 

I have available: Babe Parilli, Heath Shuler, Mark Kelso, Charlie Ward, Tony Boselli, Raymond Berry (with 'To Matt' inscription), Terry Bradshaw, Herschel Walker (to matt), Roger Craig, Eric Metcalf, Bryan Cox, Emerson Boozer, Aeneas Williams (to matt), Jeff George x2 (to matt), Trae Waynes, Daryl Johnston, Harry Carson, Golden Tate, Brock Osweiler (to matt), Adam Vinatieri (to matt), Joey Porter, Joey Galloway (to matt), Billy Sims 2x, WIllie McGinest, Charlie Joiner, Bruce Armstrong, Ed Too Tall Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Lawrence Taylor, Tony Dorsett (to matt).

Now, I cannot guarantee that any of these are REAL, of course. I can promise that they are what I received in response to a TTM request. I know there are some questions about Terry Bradshaw and LT, whether or not they actually sign their mail. Just something to keep in mind.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Card Show Haul/ Stuff up for Trade

It had been a damn long time since I'd been to a card show when I finally managed to make it out to the monthly Milwaukee-area show at Gonzaga Hall. I used to semi-frequent the shows held at Serb Hall on the city's south side (George Wallace wowed them there back in '64). The Serb Hall shows were always pretty sparsely-attended, so I wasn't expecting much at Gonzaga. As it turned out, it was a pretty packed room - over 50 dealers and a few hundred people. I went with the intention of doing some dime box-digging, looking for fun or weird stuff or Brewers I don't have or maybe some set fillers. But with the crowd and the combination springtime cold/hangover I was nursing, I wasn't much in the mood for elbowing for space at the monster boxes with a bunch of @nycguidovoice look-alikes in Bart Starr jerseys. 

I still managed to have a pretty productive show visit. I snagged a quartet of factory sets for $5 each - '87, '91, and '92 Topps and the beastly bastard that is 1991 Score. The Topps sets were a nice pick, as I am planning long-term to build a series of Topps baseball sets as a far back as I can afford. These are three sets I fairly adore, but there is little sport in hand-collating them and buying them on eBay means paying three times as much for shipping as the actual product. And that Score beast... it's a set I've always been interested in, mostly because of the mass of subsets, but I really have no idea what I'm going to do with it.


When I'm a little more binder/9 pocket rich, I'll page the Topps sets up. But for now, they will live in the corner of the closet shelf I have cleared away for cards. Look at pic!!! I feel like posting it on craiglist with a "THOUSANDS OF BASE BALL CARDS MINT $500" title. 

I also managed to knock a few players off my All-Time Brewers project list. I picked up Heritage cards of Brent Suter, Hernan Perez, and Travis Shaw and scored a few old police team sets, which are always good for obscure relief pitchers or catchers.


O! The joy of a page completed! Huzzah! I love how these police sets still dole out 1950s advice to kids, "Look both ways before crossing the street!" "Eat less candy!" "Don't trust the Kremlin!" This 2011 set is also weird in that they apparently expected kids to cut the cards into little standee-type things. They're not perforated or anything, either, which would make it a pretty tough scissors job for a child. 

I might have stopped here if not for my BIG WIN - yes, my number was drawn for a $25 show credit. I used it on something I wouldn't normally have picked up - NEW WAX! There wasn't a huge selection there, so I settled on an already-discounted box of 2016 Topps update. With the credit, it only cost me $15, which is a win in my book. It was a productive box, too. With the small stack of update I already had, I managed to get within three cards (18, 20, 67, if you have them) of the complete set. I also got a bunch of inserts that I really don't want. So anything below is up for trades. 

 
Some gold things numbered from 2016. I might hang on to the Berrios, since it's a rookie and all. I dunno. 


This guy! Numbered out of 65. I got a Matt Kemp numbered out of 50, too, but that one is already out in the mail. 







 Foily-faces! 





A laundry card! This was the "hit" of the box, which doesn't do a thing to change my lack of interest in hits. It's actually a pretty good-looking card - I like the colors and the graphics a lot, but I have no interest in keeping it. 




Some "Fire" inserts. These actually look pretty bad-ass. I'm not sure how the fire theme works in, but still. Anyway, I've got this one as well as Sano, Synenyrddrgaarrd, and Correa. I want none of them. 




3000 Hits Club... Hits? I have never heard anyone call it the "3000 hits club." Isn't it usually 3000 HIT club? Anyway, there's this and Wagner, Kaline, Clemente, Carew, and Murray. Have at them. 


This isn't even a card... come on, it's a damn advertisement for Franklin. There's this one and Cespedes. Take them off my hands.  

 

First pitch cards. I sorta liked this concept at first, but then I began to remember how much I hate celebrities. This Jo Jo, according to the back of the card, was on one of those 'find someone to marry' shows. Barf-city. I also have Warren G, April Ludgate, Keith Urban, Jeff Bauman, and Burke Waldron. Marry as many of them as you like. 

I'm also working on another trade bait post, which I should have up tomorrow. I swear to hell, I'm going to trick someone into taking my old Pro Set football.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Prospecting Through the Mail

I have been actively through-the-mail (TTM) autograph hunting now for about six years. When I got back into the practice (I also did it on and off as a kid, Pat Listach being my greatest get), I mostly stuck to established players who were known signers. But I also dabbled in going after younger players, who tend to be much more open to signing. I recall distinctly having a 2012 Heritage Mike Trout ready to go out - I even had the damn envelope addressed - at the beginning of the season, but pulled it back when he started the year at AAA. I meant to keep an eye on him and send it after he got called up, but I never bothered. Trout still signed pretty consistently back then and my failure to take an early crack at him is definitely my biggest TTM regret. 

Since then, I've been more pro-active in mailing to prospects and younger players. I've had some hits and some misses, so let's take a look at them.


2012 Topps '87 Mini Dustin Ackley

Ackley was a mildly big deal when I got this one, which probably went out around the same time my Trout card didn't. He'd had a sold 90-game debut with the Mariners the year before and placed sixth in the ROY voting. He had the M's starting SS job for a few season afterward, but didn't do anything too impressive. The Yankees got him at the deadline in 2015 and he is currently in the Angels minor league system. 


2012 Topps Gold Futures Paul Goldschmidt

Another of the '12 batch, I remember not getting this one back until after the season, one of those nice little surprises of a return you had forgotten mailing in the first place. I'm actually surprises I even picked Goldy in the first place, given how badly he burned my Brewers in the 2011 playoffs. Anyway, it turned out great as Goldschmidt has become one of the best first basemen in the game. 


2013 Topps Tyler Skaggs, Didi Gregarious and Alex Meyer

I snagged each of these during the 2013 season. Skaggs is a marginal big league starter and Gregarious has settled in as the maybe-going-to-break-out replacement for Derek Jeter in New York (and what a cool sig!). Meyer peaked at the #14 prospect in baseball in 2015, but struggled in a few big league stints. He's 27 now and has a 4.80 ERA with the Angels' AAA team. The Skaggs picture wouldn't load for some reason. But I promise you that it does exist.


2014 Topps Charlie Blackmon, Kolten Wong and Andrew Heaney.

At the outset, Wong was the real prize of this group. He went from top-100 prospect to ROY contender the year I score these, but has yet to have a true break-out season. He's now in a platoon at second base for the Cards and there have rumors that the team might trade him. Andrew Heaney was another big get, a former top-ten pick and one of the top lefty pitching prospects around. He had a decent season with the Angels (how do all these guys end up with the Angels?) but will miss all of 2017 recovering from Tommy John surgery. But as it goes, the real gem here was the guy I mailed to mostly as an afterthought. Blackmon was an All-Star in 2014 and got MVP votes and won a Silver Slugger last year. He's not on the level of Goldschmidt, but he's a big cog in one of the more explosive offenses in baseball. 


2015 Bowman Sean Newcomb and Austin Meadows

I mailed these out during Spring Training in 2016. Newcomb has since moved to the Braves, where became one of their top prospects, although he has thus far struggled in the high minors. Meadows was a nice scoop, as he is currently a consensus top-ten guy and has shown good speed and nice bat in the minors. He's still only 22, but he'll need to prove himself in AAA if he wants to make the jump to Pittsburgh. 



2016 Topps Trea Turner

Another nice get from ST '16, Turner was a wunderkind last year, batting .342 with 13 homers and 33 steals in just 73 games. He has huge expectations for this year and should be a big part of a very good Nats team. 



2017 ST Gets - Lewis Brinson, Brett Phillips and Aaron Judge

I haven't featured any Brewers yet because, frankly, most of the Brewers prospects I've been able to get have been low-minors or fringe guys. But this year, I managed to snag both Phillips and Brinson, two very-highly regarded outfielders, currently teammates at AAA Colorado Springs. Although Phillips struggled last year, he has been good out of the gate in 2017. Brinson has been murdering the ball, batting .355 with a 1.057 OPS. Do not be surprise to see one or both of these guys with the big club before season's end. And speaking of murdering the ball, Aaron Judge is off to a blistering start with the Yankees. He has five homers, which had traveled a combined distance of something like nine miles. 

I'll probably send out some more minor league TTMs this month or next after I check out who else has been returning so far this year. My hope is to get last year's Brewers first-rounder Corey Ray, who had been known to TTM from time to time.Perhaps to motivate myself, I'll pull out my 2012 Heritage Mike Trout and look at the blank space where the greatest player of this generation's autograph could have been.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Gumby Mystery

Long-time Brewers second baseman Jim "Gumby" Gantner doesn't get a lot of cardboard love. He was a staple of junk-wax era base sets, but appeared on only a handful of the many oddball issues of the era and hasn't been featured on an original card since he retired after the 1992 season. It's hard to think of an "iconic" Gantner card. While teammates like Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas and Cecil Cooper are pretty highly-regarded by collectors, Ganter is mostly relegated to the common bin. 

But there is a Gantner card that has always been near and dear to me. 




1992 Stadium Club. It happens to be one of Gumby's best-looking cards. Gantner is dressed in the sharp Brewers pinstripes and his trademark flap-less helmet, about to dive back into first as Cecil Fielder - at the height of his stardom - awaits the chase-back throw. Behind them is a full grandstand basking in the afternoon sun and ... hm ...


 ... what appears to be a tavern league softballer playing shortstop for the Tigers. Without a glove. And in Brewers colors. 

So who in the hell is this little mystery man? Thankfully, there was only one game in 1991 in which this scenario was possible. It was May 27, a very weird game in its own right. By the middle of the sixth inning, the Brewers were down 6-1. They scored four in the bottom of the inning to climb back in, then gave up two runs in the eighth before rallying to tie it in the bottom of the frame. It remained tied until the 14th, when the Tigers sent ten men to the plate and scored seven runs. The Brewers added a run in the bottom of the 14th to make the final score 15-9. The box score say that Alan Trammell played the entire game for Detroit at SS. But that ain't Alan Trammell. 

So, let's take a look at the game recap from the old Milwaukee Journal. And there, we find our answer. "The umpires, who barely made it to the ballpark in time for the game after coming from Baltimore Monday morning, didn't have their gear with them. Thus, they wore gray baseball pants, blue Brewers warm-up shirts and white souvenir caps with the Major League Baseball logo."

But isn't that an odd place for an umpire? It surely is. In addition to missing their luggage, the crew was also without John Shulock, who came down with an illness just before the game. This forced a three-man crew and the odd infield alignment. 

And for those of you dying to know how if Gantner got back in time, he did in fact beat Bill Gullickson's pick off attempt. But was soon after rolled up in a Tony Phillips-to-Trammell-to-Fielder double play. 


Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Brewer without a Card: Jim Edmonds

This is a new feature I want to do here at S'74 - highlighting some of the 100ish players who have appeared in a game for the Milwaukee Brewers, yet left behind no cardboard to prove it. This is an offshoot of my on-going All-Time Brewers Project, and you can view my need lists for that (as well as the BWoCs) here

First up is outfielder Jim Edmonds.


As a Brewer: He appeared in 73 games during the 2010 season after not playing in 2009. He hit pretty well as a Brewer, hitting eight homers and batting .276. He was traded to the Reds in a waiver wire deal in August for outfielder Chris Dickerson, oddly enough, another BWoC. 

For his career:  A borderline-borderline Hall of Famer. Edmonds played 17 years, a 4-time All Star, won eight gold gloves, and finished with a career 132 OPS+ - the same as Jackie Robinson and Joe Morgan. 

His cardboard stats: Over 4,500, per the trading card database. 

Why no Brewers Cards? He probably should have been featured in the 2010 Brewers police set, but was somehow left out. Since he didn't play in 2010, he was left out of that year's Topps flagship and then, by the time Update came around, he was with the Reds. 

The next best thing? I'll go with this '10 update card, it mentioned the trade from the Brewers on the back, even if it doesn't list his stats with Milwaukee. This was the last card issued of Edmonds as an active player. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

So Long, David Denison

I was saddened recently to hear of the retirement of Brewers farmhand David Denson. As you might know, Denson became the first affiliated professional baseball player to come out as gay while still active back in 2015. I've always admired people with the kind of courage to do what Denson did, and the fact that he was making history as a member of the Brewers organization made it even more special. Denson was never much more than a fringe prospect - he had filthy power but pretty significant contact issues. His road to the show would have involved a lot of long-shots and, given the poverty wages that players of Denson's level make, he decided that a career as a personal trainer was the best fit for him.

Photo Apr 05, 2 35 52 PM.jpg

I recently pickup up a signed 2016 Topps pro debut card of Denson for a few bucks on eBay. I already had a certified Bowman auto card, but this one was unique for its back-side bio...

Photo Apr 05, 2 36 05 PM

I like that Topps did that. Thinking back to when I was a kid, it would have been unimaginable to think of a baseball card mentioning that a player was gay. But hopefully, this all makes it easier for the next player to come out and will, eventually, lead to a time when the idea of mentioning that a player is gay again becomes as a strange as it was when I was a kid - not because it's a forbidden topic, but because it's so commonplace that no one cares anymore.