Tuesday, September 28, 2010

1921 W9316

Researching the history of the Chicago White Sox and baseball cards can be a daunting task. I've run into my share of oddball items, misspelled player names and misidentified cards, players and teams. The further one goes off from the safety of T206, the weirder it tends to get.

Strip cards are nothing new. They've been around for at least a century. They could be considered a novelty in today's hobby. Most of the strip cards that I've seen are very well done for something so tiny. If there aren't photos on the cards, there are drawings or paintings that range from average to excellent.

With great disappointment, I found a set of ten strip cards from 1921. Identified as W9316, these ten cards have to be the absolute poorest example of a vintage card. If there wasn't a player's name underneath the crude drawing, I don't think that anyone would be able to identify each player.

Out of ten players, the White Sox unfortunately have one card.

9 - Ray Schalk

I must point out the positives in this set. It's technically vintage. Ray Schalk's name is spelled right. The kid who colored the cards with crayons kept inside the lines. That's all the positive aspects that I can find for this set. If it were a kid's drawing, the cards would rate higher. The outline of the player tells me that a kid did not draw it. A child may have colored it, but the outlining skill is actually too well done, if that can be believed. This is where being an art major pays off.

This set is known for the bright ruby red lips that every transvestite was known to wear in the privacy of their own home in the early twentieth century. What that says about the ten baseball players chosen, I have not a clue. I can guarantee that no player ever wore this shade of lipstick during a game.

Adding to the embarrassment of this set is the poor condition that most of these cards are found in. It looks like the kid who colored inside the lines passed the strip of cards down to his toddler sibling to have a go at it with the safety scissors. Every cut example that I've seen from this set suffers from a horrible hand cut butchering.

The generic player masquerading as Ray Schalk has no idea that he will be part of the most hated vintage set. The "deer caught in the headlights" look on "Ray's" face seems pleasant enough, but if you could lift the plain white cap off of his head, you would find lobotomy scars.

Worst. Set. Ever.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Favorite Cards: Minnesota Twins

2007 Allen & Ginter Mini Wood #261 - Torii Hunter 1/1

Let me start off by saying that I do not have this card. There is only one in existence and it is not in my collection. I also have no idea whose collection this is a part of currently.

In 2007, I saw the base card of Torii Hunter, in the Allen & Ginter set and fell in love. There was something about the exaggerated expression on Torii's face that made this a favorite of not only me, but many other collectors. I have a copy of the base card which will not leave my extended collection.

In 2008, Torii's card in the Topps Heritage set came close to capturing the lightning in a bottle magic of the 2007 Allen & Ginter card, but couldn't overtake the perfect storm of unexpectedness and priceless. Regardless of what Torii Hunter accomplishes in his career, he is the proud subject of two great cards. Not every ballplayer can say that.

I have never even come close to sniffing a mini wood parallel card. It never showed up in any pack or hobby box that I purchased. On the secondary market, these cards usually command a pretty penny. I love the idea of them though and I hope to add one or more wood mini cards of players or teams I collect.

When I saw the image of Torii Hunter's wooden mini card earlier this year, it had managed to capture the same euphoria of the original card upon first view. I'm usually not one for endless parallels, but I would make an exception for this card. The feelings captured from the original card and the uniqueness of this parallel make this my favorite card of the Minnesota Twins.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Card Spotlight: 9-24-10

1992 Ultra #41 - Donn Pall

I remember really liking Donn Pall when he was with the White Sox. Every time I saw an interview with Donn, he had a big infectious goofy smile. He truly loved the White Sox. After all, he grew up not far from Comiskey Park as a White Sox fan in Evergreen Park, Illinois.

It was always special when someone who is a fan finds himself on the team he rooted for as a kid. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn't. When Donn first came up, in 1988, the White Sox were in shambles. It would only get worse through the 1989 season, as the Sox finished in seventh place.

Perhaps it was this factor that really endeared Donn Pall to many fans. It's hard to root for a last place team. I don't care how much of a fan you are. Sure, you still support the team. You still watch and you still cherish every victory. Losing grates on the fans as well as the players after awhile. The players that have great attitudes slip into the hearts of the fans and it's hard to shake.

When the White Sox rebounded in 1990 with 94 wins, firmly taking second place to an unbelievable Oakland Athletics team, it was more than just a moral victory. The players who survived the devastation of the past few years were vindicated. The fans who stuck with the team were rewarded. Players emerged from the wreckage of the late eighties teams just before the wrecking ball fell on their baseball palace.

Jack McDowell, Bobby Thigpen and Robin Ventura became household names along with the likes of Carlton Fisk and the traded Harold Baines. Players who would normally not be given a second thought entered the minds of Chicagoans on a daily basis. Donn Pall was one of those players.

Besides the sheer joy that Donn exuded in every interview, he really sealed his place in team lore when Tim Raines was traded to the team. He selflessly gave up his number thirty to the incoming Rock Raines and switched to number twenty-two. In many fans' minds, this was just another example of a class act by a local talent done good.

One of the first autographed baseballs (possibly the first) that I owned was from Donn Pall. I still have that ball and it is up front and center among the few autographed balls that I have in my collection. During the 1993 pennant run, it was hard to see Donn traded to the Phillies that September. For some fans, it was even harder to see him pop up on the Cubs later the next year. I'm sure it did wonders for his family life. If I recall correctly, he married into a family of Cubs fans.

Donn may be a common to most people, but he was a special part of many White Sox teams to me. I will always hold Donn Pall in a higher regard because of how he acted on and off the field, with the White Sox. It was great to spy Donn on the field on August 29, 2010, taking part in Frank Thomas' number retirement. Donn may never receive that honor himself, but that doesn't mean he wasn't in the fans' hearts.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

One of the most frustrating things with my Birth Years card series is waiting for usable pictures to appear.

I am down to one card remaining for the 2010 season. This series, which lately has been coming every Wednesday until yesterday, will be postponed until a proper card can be made or the end of the season. I'm still waiting for a usable photograph of relief pitcher Gregory Infante. I have three photos of him in a Chicago White Sox uniform, but there are issues with each one.

The first is an extreme close-up of Greg on his first day with the parent club, with an upside-down Gatorade cup stuck to his hat with gum. It's definitely a different photo, but I can't use it for a 1987 Topps card. The second is another close-up of Greg, not as close as the first one, but still not usable on the card design because it was done with a studio backdrop. The third is another angle of the Gatorade cup, this time a wide shot.

The third shot is usable, but it doesn't fit in with the general vibe of the card set. See, that's important too. The wrong type of photograph can break the illusion of that year's original set. Anyone can make a custom card and slap a photo in there. I pride myself in getting the details right, at least most of the time.

Gregory has been with the club since September 1st, when the Gatorade cup pictures were taken. Since that point, he has appeared in four games spread out over 3.2 innings. To me, that would seem ample time to get at least one usable game photo taken. Or at least a shot of him warming up or just hanging around the stadium. The kid made his MLB debut on September 7th and there isn't one single photo of that? Out of the sixty-three pitches that he has thrown as a big leaguer, not one picture exists? That's ridiculous.

Instead, I've been seeing too many pictures of Manny Ramirez, every other reliever that's entered a game this month, and an Oakland A's fan that needs to see a dermatologist about some nasty two-tone green fungus growing on their skin.

There are ten more games. I'm hoping to find a decent photo of Infante pitching during those ten games, but if not, there will be a card all ready to go. Not one that I'm 100% on, but one that might have to do.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

1910 E102

The E102 is a strange card set. It consists of twenty-five players, three of which have picture variations (Doyle, Miller and Wagner). One additional card has a picture variation and a wrong name (Schmidt).

Those are pretty typical for an issue of this era. What makes this a strange set is that no one is certain about where these came from originally. There is no particular candy company associated with this set. There is no company identification on either side of the card.

Another problem with this set is that no one can agree 100% on when it was issued. I imagine that would clear up if a company is ever identified as the manufacturer. Until then, there are several years which this set is listed. I've seen listings as early as 1908 and as late as 1911, but the general consensus is that this set was issued in 1910. According to the American Card Catalog compiled by Jefferson Burdick, these cards were issued between 1909 and 1911 by a anonymous caramel company.

The White Sox have one card in this twenty-five card set.

Patsy Dougherty

This set is also a bit of an anomaly, since the player's position is listed. In the case of Dougherty, left field is specifically listed. Typically, the player's position is not mentioned on the front of a card in this era. In the instances that they are, usually the more generic position of outfield would be given to a left fielder.

The card front is bright and the colors pop, which is the norm for cards from this era. The E102 cards are especially condition sensitive. Finding one in pristine condition is almost an impossible task. If you can find one, in any condition, cherish it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And She Has Sung

You were expecting a fat lady, perhaps? This is Chicago. When the fat lady is supposed to sing us off, Koko Taylor shows up with the blues.

And if the message isn't clear, here's Overkill to well, overkill.

Congrats to Jim Thome. Oh yeah, and the Twins too.

1999 Fleer Tradition

My life was not focused on baseball cards for many years after the 1994 strike. Kudos to those who stuck around, but it seems the majority of the stories out there are similar to mine. Fed up with the overproduction and devaluing of cards, along with the fallout ill-will from the strike, caused many collectors to pack up shop and pursue other interests.

One by one, the collecting bug has bitten again and we are lured back into the fold. Upon our reentry into card collecting, we immediately look for the familiar names of our youth. One of those names is Fleer. An adult reentering the collecting world today would be shocked to learn that Fleer is no more. Even more surprising would be the fact that Fleer declared bankruptcy and was bought by Upper Deck. Upper Deck has their own card issues, which we won't get into here.

Smack dab in the middle of this is the 1999 Fleer Tradition set. This is the second year that the flagship Fleer set was morphed into Fleer Tradition. Gone was any set without a secondary tag after the Fleer name. I'm not sure who had this brilliant idea, but looking back on that decision, was it really necessary? Probably not.

This set came out in a period where the majority of Fleer sets looked similar. Oh sure, they were somewhat distinguishable from one another, but looking at any random card resulted in knowing that it was made by Fleer.

The front of the card was glossy with foil stamping. In 1999, I'm sure this was still something somewhat special. Today, it's boring, since nearly every card has some sort of foil embedded in the card. Still, the design is understated, which is usually good. In this case, it's good, even though the design doesn't stand out.

The back of the card is refreshing. A nice photograph greets you on the back, as well as full stats. That is something that was a bit of a rarity during this period. It's nice to see a well designed back.

The White Sox have 18 cards in the set.

34 - Frank Thomas
53 - Mike Caruso
87 - Ray Durham
119 - Magglio Ordonez
150 - Mark Johnson
211 - Craig Wilson
229 - Brian Simmons
240 - Paul Konerko
298 - Jeff Abbott
314 - Jim Abbott
349 - James Baldwin
377 - Chad Bradford
434 - Bobby Howry
441 - Wil Cordero
504 - Greg Norton
526 - Jim Parque
551 - Bill Simas
573 - Mike Sirotka

The only rookie card is Chad Bradford. Paul Konerko has an odd card, showing him with the Cincinnati Reds. It includes the color scheme for the Reds, but lists him on the White Sox. It's a pet peeve of mine to show a player on one team and list him on another. It's an interesting dynamic within the team set though.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Favorite Cards: Toronto Blue Jays

1983 Topps #488 - Alfredo Griffin

Unlike the previous entries in this series, this card is different in several ways. It features a team whose first game (against the White Sox) took place roughly five and a half months after my birth. This is also the first card featured that is younger than I am. It is also the first card to feature a Rookie of the Year, even though he had to share that honor with John Castino of the Minnesota Twins in 1979.

This is a copy of a card from my very first pack of card, back in 1983. I've told the story of that pack several times, so I won't re-hash that here. I will however re-hash and add things about the card itself.

Thumbing through that first pack could have been disaster. I was unimpressed with players that I was unfamiliar with and teams that I didn't follow. There were posed players that looked older than my grandfather, to my six and a half year old eyes. Then, I came across this card of Alfredo Griffin.

The first detail I noticed about the picture was the pucker of Alfredo's mouth. The second detail that caught my eye was the ball. It looked like he was about to miss the ball, but seeing only one frame of a play in motion, it was hard to tell for sure. I can remember looking at Griffin's headshot and thinking that he looked so sincere. He had a kind face. I was heavy into the Blues Brothers at that time (and still am), so the fact that Alfredo had sideburns like Elwood Blues may have subconsciously held my attention too.

It could be a combination of all these things and more. Whatever the reasons, I have not been able to get this card out of my memory. I thought so much of it as a child that I wrote "$1.00" in black crayon on the back. To me, at that time, $1.00 was the equivalent of pricing it at $100.00 today. It meant that much to me.

I have no idea what happened to this card. I assume it is tucked away in a box somewhere in a closet, trapped with other childhood memories. I did run across it about a decade ago, but I was in a non-collecting phase of my life, so I put it back wherever it was and forgot about it. I haven't been fortunate enough to replace the card and it is not on a high priority list. I have my memories and somewhere in my house rests the card, waiting to be discovered.

I haven't found another Blue Jays card that has ever captured my interest more than this card. It's been twenty-seven years and the search continues, but this Blue Jays card will be tough to beat.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

WSC Vintage: Art Weaver

Card #25 - Art Weaver

Art Weaver caught fifteen games with the Chicago White Sox in 1908. Over those fifteen games, he sported a .200 average and a .953 fielding percentage. Weaver's final Major League game was on August 8, 1908. Fans said that Art's ultra thin physique reminded them of the hands of a clock, so his nickname became "Six O'Clock".

His best days were in the minors just before and after his stint with the White Sox, where he put up averages in the mid to high two-hundreds, topping three hundred twice, reaching a career best .355 average for the Salt Lake City Skyscrapers in 1912.

Asthma-related health problems eventually forced Art out of organized baseball and contributed to his early death, at the age of 37, in March 1917.

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Talk Like A Pirate Day's official MLB spokesperson,

ThAARR be the treasure, me hearties!

Davy Jones' locker be in me mouth. ListAARRRine, please!

ThAARR be me name and numbAARR!

When you see the whites of my numbAARR, I be huntin' for ya!
One day, through a perfect alignment of karma, David Aardsma will play for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Until then, MLB's "Talk Like A Pirate Day" spokesperson, David Aardsma, will be one team away from greatness.

Blog Bat Around: The Commissioner

David from Indians Baseball Cards Has issued a new round of Blog Bat Around. This new installment deals with the announcement of Bud Selig finally giving up his "temporary" power as acting commissioner in 2012.

What would you do as MLB's next commissioner? Would you stand pat or would you issue a plethora of changes? What would be your legacy?

With much thought, I narrowed many ideas, some with merit, some Nikola Tesla crazy, and came up with the ideas that most made sense to me. There wouldn't be anything as disturbing as caught steroid users wearing pink versions of their uniforms with frilly lace. Although that could be an effective deterrent. Instead, I will focus on a few on field and a few off the field changes.

If I were given the reigns of baseball commissioner after Bud Selig stepped down, I would change a few things about the game we love.

First let’s go with the on field changes.

I would add two teams to the American League. This would not only ensure that every team plays the same amount of interleague games, it would even teams out between the leagues. The first team would be located in Central Canada, possibly Winnipeg, Manitoba. The people of Winnipeg already support their minor league Goldeyes. Another team in Canada is a must. The farther away the team is from the debacle in Montreal, the better off it will be. Vancouver, British Columbia is too close to Seattle. Winnipeg is far enough from Minneapolis to be successful. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Edmonton, Alberta are also possibilities.

The second team would be located in a central location between the West Coast and the Midwest. More than likely in Billings, Montana. It has a population over 100,000. It is also located in MLB’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. These two locations would expand the popularity of the MLB without sacrificing the territories of established MLB teams.

The 162 game season would also bring some changes. April and September will be exclusively dedicated to divisional play. Every team will start play within their division and each team will end play within their division. This should create a sense of urgency at the beginning of the season and exciting pennant races at the end. To accomplish a smooth transition, each league will be split into four equal divisions. There will be no wild card team. The winner of each division will enter the playoffs. The existing three tier system will stay in place. Two divisional games and one championship game per league, with each league’s winner meeting in the World Series.

Interleague play will remain, but will be played throughout the months of May and June through mid-July. Eight teams will play interleague games at any given time throughout this time period. The other twenty-four teams will play regular league games. Each team will play six interleague series (three home, three away) during this time. This will ensure that fans of interleague play will have something to watch and fans of regular league play will always have something to watch during the two and a half months leading up to the All-Star Game.

The All-Star Game will no longer determine home field advantage in the World Series. It will be just an exhibition game. Regardless, it will be played until a winner is declared. Each team will be allowed to ask MLB players in good standing (current or retired) watching the game in the stands to enter the game in the event that extra players are needed. Players in the stands have the right to refuse, but will suffer the humiliation of ridicule, unless injured. To help ensure that players take the game seriously without the added implications of home field advantage, the All-Star MVP will also receive a monetary bonus that is equal to one year of his current salary.

The designated hitter position will remain in the American League parks only. Connie Mack originally thought of the DH position back in 1906. That legacy and link to our past will remain.

Now for the off the field changes.

Any lifetime ban will be upheld, without question or discussion. Once a player is deceased, he will be reinstated and will be entitled to any benefits or accolades that a player in good standing would be eligible for. Simply put, this would mean that players like Buck Weaver will be reinstated and could receive legitimate votes towards Hall of Fame consideration. Players such as Pete Rose would not be eligible for this treatment until they are deceased. A lifetime ban should only cover the individual’s lifetime. As long as a banned player is alive, he will receive no acknowledgment from MLB.

A salary cap would be in place, which would be determined during postseason play, and announced at the conclusion of the World Series, for the next year. Each team that exceeds the salary cap will be subject to a luxury tax that is equal to the amount over said salary cap. In addition, each team that exceeds the salary cap will have ticket prices and concessions half the price of the previous season for any amount of time that they are in excess of the salary cap. This will hopefully curb abuse of the salary cap by hitting a team in the pocketbook more than any luxury tax, alone, would be able to do. If a team wants to exceed the cap, it will cost them dearly.

I think these changes, while possibly unpopular at first, will allow the game to naturally grow and thrive into the lexicon of the 21st century. They should allow every team to be more in control of their own destiny and expand MLB into previously untapped territories. It will also allow the population to focus more on the sport itself rather than the questionable decisions past commissioners.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cards That Never Were #39

1962 Topps - Ted Kluszewski

Klu had a hastily put together Angels card in the 1961 set. He is listed on the Angels, but there was no attempt to cover up his White Sox hat. Ted retired after the 1961 season and Topps saw no reason to grant Kluszewski a final card in the 1962 set.

Ted made Angels history on April 11, 1961, when he hit the first home run of the franchise's existence, in the first inning of the first game. That home run traveled to deep right field. Big Klu followed that up with a home run to deep right field off of another pitcher the following inning.

Despite being a part time player in his last few years, Ted appeared in 107 games for the Angels in their inaugural season. I would think that this would be enough for a final card in the following year's set, but apparently not. This corrects that oversight.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Did You Ever?

Did you ever catch a moment that no one else appears to see? It seems odd to you. You almost dismiss it, but something nags at you. Something sinister is afoot.You can't quite figure it out. Things seem to be going so well. Something in the air is off. You are about to witness something bad.
You finally realize that the odd and unsettling moment is about to happen. You try to warn everyone, but no one can hear you. You beg and plead with everyone, but it's like they can't see or hear you.
As the tragic events unfold, you still hold out hope that your warning will reach someone. Anyone. Someone has to listen, but despite your best efforts, there is nothing you can do. Tragedy is unavoidable.
As you see the horrific events in real time, you can do nothing except watch, slack-jawed, unsure of what can be done. Dumbfounded, you sit down and watch in silence, realizing there was nothing you could do.
You think to speak, but finally realize that no one can hear you through a television set and there is no one to call. Finally, when everything has reached its inevitable conclusion, you walk away and mumble something about the team should hire you as a clairvoyant. It crosses your mind for the briefest of seconds before the absurd thought trails off on its own. You sit down and prepare for tomorrow, when your services will likely be called upon again in a moment of second sight, for no one but yourself.

Card Spotlight: 9-17-10

2010 Allen & Ginter #108 - Paul Konerko

Paul Konerko has come to epitomize what it means to be a White Sox player. You go out everyday and do your job to the best of your ability and try to scratch out a win in any way possible. Bumps and bruises will be obtained along the way, but unless those inhibit your ability to bring an A game, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back out and give them hell.

There have been many players that have fit that mold in the past 110 seasons. Their names litter White Sox lore and are too numerous to mention here. If you've been following the White Sox for awhile, you develop a keen sense of who these players are. They are embraced by the fan base. They are always brought up when talking about past games. They hold that special balance of moxie, determination and blue collar work ethic that makes them favorites in Chicago.

Last night, Paul Konerko showed White Sox fans exactly why they scream "Paulie" over and over again when he steps to the plate. It's not because the fans are looking for the long ball or awaiting that clutch hit. It's because Paul Konerko is one of our own. He plays with a "no quit" attitude that oozes out of every pore, every fiber of his being.

Last night, Konerko was hit between the nose and lips with an inside pitch by Twins starter Carl Pavano. Lying on the ground, bleeding, after the pitch, Konerko got up and was checked out by the White Sox staff. The opinion was to pull Konerko from the game, but Paul would have nothing to do with that. In his next at-bat, on the first pitch, Konerko hit a monstrous home run that made the statement that he is not afraid and will not back down. This is the type of player that White Sox fans love. They go about their business quietly, but when the time is right, they strike, not with their fists, but with their bat, or with their pitch or with their glove.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What Killed The 2010 White Sox

While there are many culprits in this case, one truly stands out above the rest. Before we get into that, let's take some time to review.

The Sox started off with a horrific April and May, where nothing seemed to go their way. They followed that with a June and July for the ages. August and September have been slightly above average.

I'm not going to pour through statistics. I'll leave that to other sites that do that type of analysis extremely well. How does that line go? You can use statistical science to prove that an elephant can hang off a cliff tied to a daisy. But use your eyes, your common sense. Well, something like that anyway.

Myth #1: The "DH by committee" idea fizzled from the start.

Answer: Not really. A strong finish by Jim Thome has really made the decision not to retain his services stand out. Was it a season killer? Only in the sense that Jim Thome is doing these things right now for the team in first place. Compounding this myth is the fact that Thome will be getting his own sitcom in the offseason, "Everybody Loves Thome". You simply cannot dislike this guy. And that's what hurts the most. The players that have filled out the DH role have been inconsistent at best. Ozzie Guillen seemed to pine for the days where anyone could be the DH. Fred Manrique filled in at DH in the eighties. That's not the type of production you want out of the DH spot. The DH by committee idea had legs, but the wrong people constantly filled its shoes. Next year should see an end to the widespread use of this philosophy, but that's not what killed the Sox.

Myth #2: The bullpen blew the season.

Answer: Not likely. It's maddening to watch your bullpen give up hit after hit and lose games. The truth is that every team goes through streaks like that. These things get amplified during a playoff run. Does is hurt that Sergio Santos, who had been very effective all year, gave up a four run lead in Kansas City? It most certainly does! But Freddy Garcia loaded the bases before Santos came in. After that grand slam pitch, Santos pitched effectively. The negatives always stick out more in your mind. The bullpen has actually been largely effective this year. The stretches where every member of the bullpen seems to go into a funk at the same time isn't pretty, but that's not what killed the Sox.

Myth #3: If it's not the bullpen, certainly it must be Scott Linebrink's fault!

Answer: Nope. Blame Scott Linebrink for many things, including a bloated contract and a tendency to give up the long ball, but he did not kill the Sox. He has had less outings where he has blown a save or jeopardized the lead. Ozzie has been using him sparingly, but he has shown a resilience this year that has never been seen by Scott in a White Sox uniform. I can count more times this season where Scott has come out and pitched a 1-2-3 inning than in any other season on the Southside. Scott Linebrink did not kill the Sox.

Myth #4: Ozzie's circus has poisoned the Sox.

Answer: Hardly. What circus are you referring to? The Twitter controversy? Anything controversial involved his son, not Ozzie. Throwing players under the bus? The last time that happened was when he made Sean Tracey cry, which was four years ago. Ozzie has actually mellowed this year, as he has the past few seasons. Any focus on Ozzie actually benefits the team more in the long term. It takes the heat off of the players, creating a better team environment. Ozzie's circus has not killed the Sox.

Myth #5: The starters can't hold the leads.

Answer: Here's where fact and fiction merge. The starters have had trouble holding leads, but usually that's been happening when the Sox have had little or no runs on the board. It's simply not a good game plan to ask starters to constantly hold a one run lead or not give up any runs. That's a recipe for failure. Runs are going to be given up. If not, then every pitcher on the team would have an ERA of 0.00 and the Sox would have a record of 144-0 coming into game play tonight. That's not only unrealistic, that's impossible! The starters did not kill the Sox.

Myth #6: Injuries have plagued the White Sox this season.

Answer: There have been injuries this year, but show me a team that doesn't have injuries. Jake Peavy's season ending injury could have been a big blow to the Sox, but it hasn't. Other pitchers have stepped up their game to accommodate the loss of Peavy, until the arrival of Edwin Jackson. Other injuries to players are a normal part of any season. Other players step in and figure out how to win while their teammate is on the DL or sitting out a few games. The Twins have been without their closer and their regular first baseman for a good chunk of the year and they are doing fine. Injuries have not killed the Sox this year.

Myth #7: The White Sox can't hit.

Answer: Yes, they can hit just fine. Konerko has had a renaissance season. Averages that were low towards the beginning of the year are evening out and climbing. The hitting is just fine.

Myth #8: The horrific start sealed their doom.

Answer: Nope. If that sealed their doom, why were they in first place as recently as August?

Myth #9: Joe West killed the season.

Answer: No. While there is strong evidence to support that Joe West does not like the White Sox and will do things in and out of his jurisdiction to make it tougher for the White Sox to win, his crew does not umpire every game the Sox play. It only feeds into his gigantic ego to blame him when it's not the case.

It's easy to play the blame game, but the death of the 2010 White Sox season comes down to three things and all three involve the hitters. Like I mentioned in myth #7, the hitters get their hits. There is nothing wrong with getting the players on base. Whether they get a hit or a walk or are hit by a pitch, the batters get on base. The main problem comes when the bases have runners in scoring position, the Sox try to do to much and end up causing one or two outs with each ensuing batter. It is the inability to hit with runners in scoring position that has killed the White Sox this season.

Instead of taking the approach of hitting a fly ball to the right side to advance the runner with less than two outs, possibly scoring a run in the process, the Sox have usually either ground into a double play or popped the ball up in the infield. This has killed more rallies than any other reason this season.

Compound this with popping up or grounding out early in the count during the first time through the order and trying to hit everything out of the park the second time through. It just doesn't work the majority of the time. By the time the Sox get around to the business of hitting effectively, in most games, it's the sixth or seventh inning already. The opposing starter is out (or on his way) and the hitters have to adjust to multiple pitchers from the bullpen, thus throwing away eighteen at-bats.

Ozzie may want to take a cue from his playing days and have his lineup foul off pitch after pitch the first time through. This quickly eats up the pitch count and potentially gives the batters better pitches to hit, while sending the opposing pitcher to the showers early. That would be refreshing.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

WSC Birth Years: Brent Morel

Card #70 - Brent Morel

Born: April 21, 1987

Brent opened a lot of eyes in 2010 Spring Training. Morel wasn't going to break with the team, but he made the decision more difficult than it should have been. His defensive skills have been steadily improving since rookie ball in 2008. Primarily a third baseman, the Charlotte Knights have tried Brent out at shortstop in 2010.

Morel made his MLB debut on September 7, 2010 with a pinch hitting appearance in the ninth inning. In his third MLB game is when Brent smacked his first hit in the majors, a solo home run to deep center field, leading off the third inning. It gave the Sox the lead over the Royals and hopefully will be the first of many home runs in the majors for Morel.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

1974 Topps Stamps

I've never understood the stamp craze with baseball and Topps. I understand the appeal of stamps. I had a collection for a very brief time in the late eighties. By brief, I mean probably two weeks. I understand the appeal of baseball players on ephemera. I collect that sort of thing, you know. Put the two together and I'm a bit lost.

Topps certainly has a thing for making test products. This set was available as a test run and came in five cent packs. Each pack contained a strip of twelve stamps and one of twenty-four team booklets to store your favorite team's collection.

Each stamp measured 1" x 1.5". There were 240 stamps in the complete set or essentially ten stamps per team, since there were only twenty-four teams at that point.

Coincidentally, there are ten stamps featuring White Sox players.

Dick Allen
Stan Bahnsen
Terry Forster
Ken Henderson
Ed Herrmann
Pat Kelly
Carlos May
Bill Melton
Jorge Orta
Wilbur Wood

This is a neat oddity. Like I mentioned earlier, I don't understand the attraction of putting these two separate hobbies together. Was there a big "collect stamps" movement going on in the sixties and seventies? Was card collecting still considered a kids hobby at that point? I suppose if it that were the case, then adding coins and stamps to baseball was a way of helping children graduate to a more adult "collecting" hobby.

Whatever the reasons for this test set, I'm happy to know it exists. The prices aren't totally outrageous on the secondary market. It's a team set to collect here and there, when there's a few extra dollars in the PayPal account burning a hole in your cyber pocket.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Trading For Cards Sake

I'm slow getting to blogs sometimes. I wish there were more hours in the day, so I could read and/or discover all the ones pertaining to baseball cards. When I started blogging back in November 2007, there were just a handful of blogs. It was easy to keep track of each individual blog. The ones that would pop up were much easier to spot.

Today, it sometimes feels as if I'm wading through a sea of cardboard blogs. I try to get to as many as possible, which is why I have my blogroll set up with the most recent first. I go down the list and check just a little beyond the point of the most recent blog that I remember reading on my last check. I check out the blog lists on other blogs to see if any new ones popped up that I missed. This usually nets the majority of card blogs out there, eventually.

I'm almost embarrassed to say that I only recently discovered For Cards Sake. Nick, the great author of the blog, e-mailed me initiating a trade. Usually I ask if any trader has a blog. For whatever reason I didn't this time. It was only after I received Nick's package in the mail that I discovered he had a blog. the embarrassing part comes when I discover that he's been operating since last year and trading with blogs that I currently read. Doh!

For Cards Sake is now proudly displayed in the blogroll and I just received some great cards from Nick! In addition to the awesome Esteban Loaiza relic, there were a smattering of White Sox cards from the past decade. There were even three cards from the 2008 Moments & Milestones set. Two of Frank Thomas and one of Jim Thome. That's three cards closer to the completion of my crazy goal from 2008.

Thanks, Nick! This was a great trade! Look in your mailbox shortly for some cards!

More On Billy Sullivan Jr.

Sometimes when I'm researching a player's background, all I can come up with is a name, a date and a few statistics. Other times, I come away with a treasure trove of information. In the case of Billy Sullivan Jr., I hit the mother lode.

I found scans of photographs, letters and other documents that gave me a rounded picture of who exactly he was, during the time he played ball. Players who patrolled the ball fields years before most of us were born are more than just a name and a few lines of stats. They were living and breathing people, who had lives outside the park. They had the same flaws and faults that we do. The same aspirations to achieve ran through their blood as well.

I'd like to share a few scans that I ran across. Here's is Billy with his Pierce Arrow automobile inside Comiskey Park.
Originally this was going to be the photo that graced WSC Vintage card #24. While this is a very cool photo, I deemed it unusable for the card set's purposes. When the scan was blown up to focus on Billy, the resolution was absolutely terrible. The whole idea about the card set is to see faces and to get a better understanding that these players were no different than the men we see on the field today. The face was unrecognizable when blown up to an appropriate size for card framing.

I only use photos with the player this far away, if there is no other photograph that shows better detail. There were a few other pictures that gave more detail, so I ended up using another shot. Still, I had to share the photo find. It's just too cool to keep to myself.

I also found scans of several correspondence between Billy and various clubs. Several involved the White Sox. Here is a scan of one letter that caught my eye. It shows off the recruiting style of the Old Roman, along with a genuine interest in how Billy's father, a former employee (player) of Comiskey, was getting along.
In this final scan, I chose a card from several White Sox players and the manager.
It's a bit difficult to pinpoint when this card was signed. Jack Rothrock was only on the White Sox in the latter part of 1932. Luke Sewell didn't join the Sox until 1935. Johnny Kerr was gone from the White Sox after 1931. Zeke Bonura started with the Sox in 1934. Lew Fonseca was out as manager early in the 1933 season.

Most, if not all, would have crossed Billy's path at some point. It's an interesting mix of players on one card with a White Sox logo. For these scans and more, check out this page. Be sure to look at the second and third pages for a more in depth look at the personal papers of Billy Sullivan Jr. It's a fascinating look into the life of a player from the thirties and forties.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

WSC Vintage: Billy Sullivan Jr.

Card #24 - Billy Sullivan Jr.

Billy is a second generation White Sox player. His father, Billy Sullivan played with the Sox on their 1906 World Championship team and played for parts of thirteen seasons on the Southside. His son, Billy Jr., played only three seasons with the White Sox, but made enough of an impression on Charles Comiskey that numerous letters were sent to persuade Sullivan to continue his career with the White Sox.

Initially, Billy resisted following in his father's footsteps as a catcher. Long after he left the White Sox, Sullivan relented and spent the latter half of his career at the backstop. While with the Pale Hose, Billy mostly played third and first base. On a rare occasion, he would play in the outfield. In 1933, when manager Lew Fonseca tried to turn him into a full time catcher, Billy concentrated on his law degree at Notre Dame.

In February 1934, he was transferred to the Milwaukee Brewers, a AA team at that time. In October 1934, Billy returned an unsigned contract to the White Sox and by November 1934, his contract was traded to the Indianapolis club. He wound up playing for the Reds in 1935 and continued a sporadic career until 1947, mostly catching. Despite the contract situation with the White Sox, Sullivan and the ChiSox kept up a friendly banter well into the sixties.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cards That Never Were #38

1975 Topps - Danny Cater

Yes, Danny has a card in the original 1975 Topps set, but it shows him with the Boston Red Sox. Cater was not much of a household name, but he probably should have been. He led the AL in fielding percentage for first basemen in 1968, with the Athletics. That year he also finished second to Carl Yastrzemski in batting average for the American League.

Danny was traded to the Cardinals in late March 1975. He only played in 22 games for St. Louis before his last appearance in June 1975. The Cardinals were the only one of six teams in his twelve season career that did not see Cater hit a home run.

Perhaps if Danny made it through more of the season we would have seen a final card with the Cardinals in the 1976 set. Since June 11, 1975 was his last MLB appearance, I'm treating this as a lost traded set or a later series set.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The 3rd Annual Stale Gum Trade

I always look forward to trading with Chris Harris of Stale Gum fame. He always goes the extra mile in trades. Chris sends an e-mail message offering things off of my want list, roughly once a year, out of the blue. The e-mail always seems to be a complete surprise. Like a stalker in the shadows, Chris instinctively knows the perfect time to initiate a trade.

I perused his want lists and found much more than I expected to send. The trade was approved and then I dragged my feet for a few days. I wouldn't say dragged my feet really. Chris usually throws in a surprise or two, so I wanted to repay that kindness from the past with a little something extra of my own.

Eventually, the package I put together for Chris got out of my house and into the hands of the US Post Office. I'll assume that my package arrived just fine because today a package arrived from Chris.

Inside were some things off of my want list, like we had agreed to in the first place. A late addition to the trade was this beautiful autographed card of Dayan Viciedo.
It would be my first Viciedo autograph and I believe my first card of him in a White Sox uniform. Even the filler cards got a laugh out of me. An 88 Donruss Milquetoast greeted me first. That would be Fred Manrique to those who have come recently to this blog. Followed by two 87 Topps cards of decent players, at least by late 80s White Sox standards. Those two being Floyd Bannister and Daryl Boston. Two local favorites. Nice touch.

Most of the cards were holes in my 2010 list, so I won't bore you with specifics. 2009 was represented by a gold Podsednik Topps Update card. 2008 found another card toward my foolish goal of collecting the cards against the White Sox from the Yankee Stadium Legacy set. I still don't know where the hell my head was when I decided to collect that. And 2008 Topps Heritage (the entire set). And the White Sox card of Thomas and Thome in 2008 Moments & Milestones. Yeah, I think I needed to be on meds or something back then. The 2005 World Championship team was represented by a Joe Crede Topps Hot Button card.

Thanks, Chris! I hope my package arrived safely. I really enjoyed this trade. Let's do it again next year!

Card Spotlight: 9-10-10

1966 Topps #199 - ChiSox Clubbers (Bill Skowron, Johnny Romano, Floyd Robinson)

I"m glad that a card like this exists. It's not often that you see multiple players from the same team on one vintage card, unless that team was originally New York based.

On this card you have the top three home run hitters on the White Sox from the previous season. Skowron and Romano had 18 each and Robinson had 14. I imagine Danny Cater (who also had 14 home runs in 1965) was unavailable for the photo op. Those 1965 White Sox won 95 games, seven behind the first place Twins. If there had been divisional play that year, I'm sure that more of those players would be household names.

One could make a justifiable argument that many of the White Sox players of the sixties would have rocketed to stardom, if divisional play had started earlier. The 1963 White Sox won 94 games and finshed second. The 1964 White Sox won 98 games and finished one behind the Yankees. In 1967, the White Sox finished three back in the middle of a cluster of teams. The season wasn't decided until the final week.

If you've ever had the pleasure of listening to Moose Skowron speak about his playing days, you can really get the feel for how close the mid-sixties White Sox teams really were. He'll talk about his days with the Yankees, but he seems to really get excited talking White Sox baseball. He has an endless supply of anecdotes from his playing days. It's nice to see that some of those memories are captured on cardboard.

Win This Tim Raines Auto

Or don't. There are other cool prizes too! Check it out and enter to win!

I was impressed with Obak last year and it continues to impress in 2010. Make sure you don't miss out on your opportunity to win some great cards from Drew's Cards!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Who Wears Short Shorts?

Someone actually posted some footage on YouTube that features one of the three games from 1976, where the White Sox play in shorts! My computer gets wonky sometimes with YouTube video, but I saw enough great images in there to post this.

This isn't the infamous Kansas City game. This game is against the Orioles. I wasn't alive quite yet when this was filmed (I was still in utero). There's a nice beer stacking contest at the end of the clip and shots of the shower. Good stuff!

You see pre-game, with Ken Kravec pitching, Chet Lemon batting and someone who is not a player (but in uniform) catching. Most importantly, you can see the game itself. My guess is that it is August 22, 1976, the first game of a double-header. It must have been an exciting game... for Orioles fans. Jim Palmer won his 17th game on the season and Reggie Jackson hit a pinch-hit grand slam in the ninth. Boston fans even have something to cheer about in this game. Bucky Dent was hit by a pitch.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

WSC Birth Years: Alejandro De Aza

Card #69 - Alejandro De Aza

Born: April 11, 1984

Having a taste of the big leagues with the Florida Marlins in 2007 and 2009, Alejandro was hoping for the best when he was claimed off of waivers by the White Sox on October 21, 2009. He came to Spring Training with the ChiSox hungry to make the team and opened plenty of eyes.

De Aza was one of the last players cut before the Sox headed into the season. That fantastic spring made it an easy decision when the rosters opened up in September 2010. Alejandro was among the first group called up. He has been used as a pinch runner during the first week with the Sox. De Aza has taken the opportunity and ran with it; literally. During his first days with the parent club, Alejandro has one stolen base and scored a run in four appearances.

Uniformly By The Numbers

Who was the first person to wear number eight for the White Sox. I'll give you a hint... it's not Bo Jackson.

The correct answer would be a player named Bennie Tate, way back in 1931, when the White Sox first started putting numbers on their uniforms.

How do I know these things? Well, I did the research. The fruits of my labor are here for you to enjoy. A complete rundown of who wore what uniform number for the White Sox and what year.

Marvel in the glory of having access to Chico Escarrega's uniform number from 1982. Or perhaps you were wondering who wore number fifteen before Frank Thomas' debut. It's true. Big Frank didn't always wear number thirty-five. And sorry to disappoint, but nineteen players wore Ted Lyon's retired number sixteen after he did. How could you live before you knew that number sixty-six debuted in 1935?! I sure don't know how I survived before that tidbit!

To seal the deal, I've included actual pictures of White Sox players wearing each number. The only one I couldn't find in a White Sox uniform was Rich Sauveur. Since he is the only one at his number, you'll have to settle for an empty uniform with his name and jersey number.

Why did I do this? Because I've always wanted to. What good is this information to you? That's anybody's guess. Maybe someone will win a bar bet or something. Hopefully, the information will give you a better opportunity to familiarize yourself with the players. I think it'll be a cool way to get closer to the game. I know I'll never think of Italo Chelini in quite the same way after discovering his uniform numbers.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

2010 Topps 206

Another year and another set ripped from the vaults of yesteryear. I do like the retro sets, but I'm hoping that Topps will raid some of its other properties for untapped set potential.

This set is a beautiful disaster. It mimics the original tobacco sets as inspiration, but the effects are mixed. Some cards turn out simply stunning, as the Carlos Quentin pinup with the tasseled hair demonstrates. There is a perfect expression on his face and there is a quizzical and playful look about the card. Jake Peavy's card looks amazingly perfect. Both Beckham cards look fine. The short print card (#307) looks like someone hit the "sharpen more" button a few more times than necessary. Other than that, it is a fine example of bringing retro into a modern set.

Other cards don't fit well with the retro look. The cards are fine, but the images chosen look out of place. Alexei Ramirez seems like a well hydrated zombie on his card. Gavin Floyd looks like he's getting over the flu. On Mark Buehrle's card, the background is outstanding, but the subject looks a little off. Not bad, just off. John Danks reminds me of the character "Francis" from the Bill Murray movie Stripes. This card makes me think that he might someday inherit the "Psycho" nickname from Steve Lyons. Alex Rios is technically fine, but he ends up looking like he's straight out of a rejected Coneheads baseball concept shot by Edie Baskin.

The White Sox have nine cards in this set; eight base cards and one short print.

37 - Gordon Beckham
46 - Carlos Quentin
108 - Alexei Ramirez
155 - Jake Peavy
177 - Gavin Floyd
186 - Mark Buehrle
214 - John Danks
217 - Alex Rios
307 - Gordon Beckham

Not a bad effort from Topps. I've certainly seen better, but it could have been a lot worse. The eight base cards have a bronze parallel and six mini parallels. Collect what you will.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Ex Files: Greg Walker

Greg started his MLB career with the White Sox in 1982. Throughout the 80s, he put up respectable numbers in a White Sox uniform. Walker had a good size following in Chicago, in a city that was hungry to embrace good players.

He was originally drafted by the Phillies in 1977, but was taken by the White Sox in the 1979 rule 5 draft. Greg was a mainstay at first base until medical ailments forced him out of games.

When Mike Diaz, Russ Morman and Billy Jo Robidoux proved not to be long term solutions, the White Sox converted Carlos Martinez from third to first for the 1990 season. Greg's role on the team was reduced to utility player by 1990 and he was released by the end of April, after only playing in two games.

In May 1990, the Orioles signed Walker and used him as a designated hitter and occasional pinch hitter, in place of an average Sam Horn. In fourteen games, Greg had five hits, all singles, for a .147 average. He also managed three walks, two RBI and his last stolen base. The Orioles released him on July 3, 1990. It's not the best ending for a player that was once considered a power hitter.

The White Sox moved onto a very slight upgrade at first in Carlos Martinez, before giving way to the superior Frank Thomas in August 1990. The Orioles ended the Greg Walker rejuvenation experiment and yielded the designated hitter and pinch hitter role back to Sam Horn.

Image borrowed from The Great Orioles Autograph Project, since decent images of this card are scarce.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

WSC Vintage: Joe Tipton

Card #23 - Joe Tipton

There may be no other player as important to the White Sox as Joe Tipton ultimately became. Joe hit a dismal .204 for the White Sox in his only season on the Southside, in 1949. The Tipton name has become synonymous with a baseball card in terrible shape, yet the man is instrumental to White Sox history for something that happened to him that was out of his control. Tipton was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics, in a move that cemented his name in Sox lore. While the unremarkable 1949 season was left behind in Chicago, the trade brought a future Hall of Fame player that became a fan favorite in Nellie Fox.

Joe's time with the White Sox proved to be mixed at best. Tipton's saving grace was his keen eye at the plate. He averaged a walk every seven at-bats. His on base percentage was usually high, with the career low of .306 being in 1949, as a member of the Chicago White Sox.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Card Spotlight: 9-3-10

1995 SP #12 - Jimmy Hurst

I heard a lot about Jimmy Hurst in the mid-90s. Unfortunately, it was all card talk and he disappeared off my radar after 1996. He never made it to the majors with the White Sox, but in September 1997, he debuted with the Detroit Tigers.

Jimmy only spent that one month playing in the majors, but he stuck in my mind due to all the White Sox cards he had. In my second wave of collecting, the more cards a prospect had, the better they would ultimately be. Or so went the thinking in my adolescent mind. It wasn't until many years later that I finally purged that type of thinking from my mind.

The last time that I saw Jimmy Hurst was in a very unexpected place. I hadn't given him much thought in the past decade, but I saw his name in the lineup as a designated hitter at a game in Joliet, Illinois. I saw the name and immediately thought of the former White Sox prospect. When I got home, it turned out that I was right.

It was the same night that I spotted Floyd Youmans as the Joliet Jackhammers pitching coach and Wally Backman as their manager. I guess the Independent League is the place to spot former Major League players. I thought that Jimmy was the designated hitter for the Jackhammers, but it turns out that I was mistaken, at least according to the records. I must have seen him play for the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks.

It was exciting seeing former big league players in an unexpected setting. Especially a few with White Sox connections. Backman was a minor league manager in the White Sox organization, who likely would have been the parent club manager after Jerry Manuel, except he was openly rooting for the Sox to lose so the managerial job would become available. Youmans attended Spring Training with the White Sox in 1993. Hurst spent six seasons in the White Sox minor league system. It goes to show that you can find White Sox connections almost anywhere you look.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Goose Joak Cards

A whole slew of White Sox related Goose Joak cards were uploaded yesterday. The last wave should be near October. You can view the new additions and every other Goose Joak card (it's up to 659 cards collectively) for 2010 right here!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

According To Statistics

Blogger has a new "stats" feature. According to the stats, my top two blog posts off all-time are about these guys.

#1 - Rusty Kuntz
So here's a photo of Rusty Kuntz milking a cow at Angel Stadium.

#2 - Johnny Dickshot
So here's an autographed photo of Johnny Dickshot.

What does that tell you about my audience?

WSC Birth Years: Manny Ramirez In Action

Card #68 - Manny Ramirez In Action

Born: May 30, 1972

A bonus card base on the "In Action" subset from the 1972 Topps set.

WSC Birth Years: Manny Ramirez

Card #67 - Manny Ramirez

Born: May 30, 1972

Manny's presence in a lineup makes everyone around him that much better. On August 31, Manny stepped out onto the on deck circle and caused such a stir with the opposition that A.J. Pierzynski was able to hit a three run home run.

Making his official debut with the White Sox the next day, on September 1, 2010, Ramirez went one for three and was hit by a pitch right between the numbers on the back.

Manny is known as a character and should be quite a match for manager Ozzie Guillen, who is known for his own colorful antics. Whatever the final result, it should be interesting on the Southside in September.
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