Friday, July 10, 2020

Two more 1981 Fleer Star Stickers: Bake McBride & Greg Luzinski

In my continued quest for a signed 1981 Fleer Star Sticker set, I've two new pickups to highlight.

Bake McBride via Private Signing

C'mon. Look at that card. Fantastic.

"Shake 'n Bake" played 11 (often injury-shortened) seasons for the Cardinals, Phillies, and Indians. He was the 1974 N.L. Rookie of the Year, a 1976 All-Star, and a World Series champion in 1980.

In that '74 ROY campaign, he slashed .303/.369/.394, stole 30 bases and scored 81 runs over 150 games. McBride hit over .300 the next two seasons as well, with a career-high .335 mark in 1976.

After struggling through 42 games with the Cardinals in 1977, he was dealt to the Phillies. He finished the season hitting .339 with 11 home runs and 27 stolen bases. He posted a career-best 87 RBI for the 1980 World Series champs.

Injuries forced McBride to retire at the age of 33. He retired with a .299 batting average, 1,153 hits, 63 home runs, and 183 stolen bases.

Greg Luzinski via Ebay

Another 1980 World Series champ.

Greg "The Bull" Luzinski was a four-time All-Star and the 1975 N.L. RBI leader. In each season from 1975 through 1978, he was finished in the Top 10 of the MVP vote.

Over 11 seasons with the Phillies, Luzinski slugged 223 home runs. He joined the Chicago White Sox after the 1980 title season and was resurgent in a designated hitter role. He hit 84 more home runs over four seasons with the ChiSox.


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Friday, July 3, 2020

Rollie Fingers TTM Success

Sent: 6/8/2020 | Received: 6/16/2020 | 8 days
1/1: 1981 Fleer Star Sticker
Address: Home (Las Vegas, NV) from SportsCollectors.Net
Another 1981 Fleer Star Sticker success, and a Hall of Famer to boot.

Fingers revolutionized the reliever role over a 17-year career with the Athletics, Padres, and Brewers. He helped usher in the age of the closer, and at the time of his retirement his 341 career saves were the most all time.

He is a three-time World Series champion, a seven-time All-Star, a four-time Rolaids Relief Man of the Year, and a three-time MLB saves leader.

In 1981, his first season in Milwaukee, Fingers won the American League's (AL) Most Valuable Player Award and Cy Young Award. He went 6-3 and racked up 28 saves while posting a 1.04 ERA over 78 innings. He edged Rickey Henderson by nine votes, despite a WAR deficit of 1.5.
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Thursday, July 2, 2020

TTM Success: Two 2019 Spring Training Returns

I have some catching up to do on TTM returns, so let’s go with a two-fer. Surprising June/July 2020 returns that were sent during Spring Training 2019.

Chad Green TTM Success

Sent: 2/19/2019 | Received: 6/22/2020 | 489 days
1/1: 2019 Topps
Address: c/o NY Yankees ST
Chad Green had a bizarre 2019. He was atrocious in April – allowing 14 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings – before being optioned to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Following the stint in Triple-A, Green returned to form, posting a 2.64 ERA the rest of the way. In the process, he served as both a middle-innings reliever and as an opener (making 15 starts) with the ability to pitch multiple innings when necessary. More likely than not, he’ll fill that role again in 2020.

Sal Romano TTM Success

Sent: 3/7/2019 | Received: 7/1/2020 | 482 days
2/2: 2018 Topps, 2019 Reds Team Set
Address: c/o Cincinnati Reds ST
If you’re a follower of SportsCollectors.net’s recent successes page, Sal Romano has been a popping up a lot, signing from his home – which surprise, surprise is one town over (I had no idea). Unable to find any of his cards, I figured I’d miss this boat.

Lo an behold, I couldn’t find carts because I sent them already; to Arizona last Spring. And they found their way home.

The Southington, CT native as had 41 starts and 67 appearances over three seasons with the Reds. Romano worked exclusively in relief last season, at the MLB level, and struggled to a 7.71 ERA (and 1.837 WHIP).

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Gratitude for Free Cards | Thank You (x3)

Quick apology for my recent respite: Sorry. I’ve been busy of late. Good busy though. Most of my preoccupation is owed to a return to the Little League diamond.

Ages 8 and up in my neck of the woods have been welcomed back for an abbreviated summer season, so I'm coaching my older son Luke's team, the AAA Rangers.

Here in Connecticut, we’re one of the few states where Covid cases have been in decline. So with – no kidding – three pages of extra safety protocols, we’re back to playing baseball; we're back before MLB. It’s baseball with masks, restrictions on food (including gum and sunflower seeds), and a distanced dugout… but it’s baseball.

Back to cards...

Busy or no, I’m required to come back – if only – to express my thanks to a trio of bloggers and some generous goodies that have arrived in the mail recently. In the order I received them:

1. Thank you to Nick from Dime Boxes

I participated in three of Nick’s recent Free Stuff Friday giveaways and scored quite a few cool cards. I stuck mostly to the 70s (Ron Santo, Manny Sanguillen, Dock Ellis, Oscar Gamble) but strayed a couple of times off plan (Ron Washington, Satchel Paige).

The highlight, however, was this 1969 Deckle Edge Willie Mays.
I don’t have nearly enough Willie Mays in the collection – in fact the Willie Bloomquist-to-Willie Mays ratio in my collection is completely out of whack. 

2. Thank you to Jon from A Penny Sleeve for Your Thoughts

Again, jumped on a few Free Stuff Friday posts, and this time focused on (mostly) on cards for my eldest’s collection: two 1985 Hygrade Jackie Robinsons (he has a growing Jackie collection) and, of course, a few for his Yankees’ binders (Rizzuto x2 and Munson). The Jackie Robinsons aren't pictured as my son scooped them up and added him to his binder before I had a chance to snap a pic.

Plus, a couple odd balls for me…
I’m kind of a Christmas nut. Clark Griswold is a role model of mine. Love these.

3. Thank you to Greg from Night Owl Cards

I lucked into a Night Owl giveaway having earned an entry with a comment on a previous post. Greg offered up 16 prize packs that were so stuffed with cool items that I was paralyzed with indecision while a few items came off the board. I pulled myself together and came away with these four 1979 Topps Baseball Comics.

I’m not going to lie, these were not on my radar before I saw them up for grabs but I was charmed by their pop art-feel and now that they’ve arrived, I’m not at all disappointed with my selection. I may try to acquire the other 29. I love them.

He also added a trio of cards clearly clearly sourced by my recently added “Players I Collect” page. Thank you for that.
Didi goes to Luke’s collection and though the Carter is a dupe, the J.P. Richard card amazingly isn’t.


I’m under no delusions that I can offer any traffic or visibility to these three card-blogging giants, so I can’t steer any readers their way. Rather, I say again, thank you gentlemen. I am floored by your generosity. And as soon as I put together a few things that might interest you, I’ll send them your way.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Another Pre-Draft Stars & Stripes Return

Mere hours after posting three Stars & Stripes TTM returns, lo and behold, another lands in the mailbox. Another guy to pull for tonight (or tomorrow) in the draft.

Jeff Criswell TTM Success

Sent: 5/26/2020 | Received: 6/10/2020 | 15 days
1/1: 2020 Stars & Stripes
Address: Home (Portage, MI) from SportsCollectors.Net
Criswell worked as both a starter and reliever for Michigan. He shined in the pen in 2019 as the Wolverines came within one win of a national title. In 2020, he assumed the Friday starter role. MLB.com's Pipeline ranks him the #58 draft prospect.

From their write-up:
[As a starter, Criswell showed] the ability to work at 93-96 mph with heavy sink for several innings at a time. Both his slider and his fading changeup are solid secondary pitches that arrive in the low 80s.

While Criswell unquestionably has the repertoire and strong build to start at the pro level, he's still learning to harness his stuff. He lapses into overthrowing at times, which causes his delivery to get out of sync and his control to waver. If he can do a better job of locating his pitches, he could develop into a mid-rotation starter.

A Trio of Stars & Stripes TTM Returns Before the Draft

Happy draft day. I thought today would be the perfect day to catch up on my TTM returns from the Stars & Stripes blaster that I picked up a few weeks back. I’ll be honest with you: I was pretty lukewarm on this release after I opened it, but I’ve enjoyed getting these back as TTMs.

Heston Kjerstad TTM Success

Sent: 5/28/2020 | Received: 6/6/2020 | 14 days
1/1: 2020 Stars & Stripes
Address: Home (Amarillo, TX) from SportsCollectors.Net
MLB.com’s Pipeline ranks Kjerstad the #10 prospect headed into the draft. Kjerstad is a 21-year-old outfielder out of Arkansas.

From MLB’s write up:
He offers the best left-handed power in the 2020 college class and only potential No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson has more pop among collegians.
Kjerstad's strength and bat speed give him well above-average raw power to all fields … He's an aggressive hitter who always will accumulate strikeouts as a tradeoff for his pop … He's not a threat on the bases but plays a capable right field. His huge power and solid arm strength fit the profile for the position.

Drew Romo TTM Success

Sent: 5/28/2020 | Received: 6/9/2020 | 17 days
1/1: 2020 Stars & Stripes
Address: Home (The Woodlands, TX) from SportsCollectors.Net
#35 on MLB’s Pipeline rankings, Romo is a high school catcher out of the same high school that’s produced Paul Goldschmidt, Kyle Drabek and Jameson Tallion.

Per MLB:
[H]e's an outstanding defender who made strides offensively on the showcase circuit last summer … A potential Gold Glover, he possesses soft hands, advanced receiving skills and a strong arm with a quick release. He also garners praise for his leadership ability, work ethic and baseball IQ … 
A switch-hitter, he has a better swing from the left side but has improved from the right. The Louisiana State commit will provide more contact and on-base ability than power, but he can become a .260 hitter with 12-15 homers per year while running the bases better than most catchers.

Logan Allen TTM Success

Sent: 5/23/2020 | Received: 6/2/2020 | 10 days
1/1: 2020 Stars & Stripes
Address: Home (Deltona, FL) from SportsCollectors.Net
Rounding out my trio of Stars and Stripes returns is Logan Allen, a left-handed pitcher out of Florida International. Allen checked in at #46 on the Pipeline’s pre-draft rankings.

This from the MLB.com profile:
He goes right after hitters with three pitches. He sits right around 90 mph with his fastball, but can reach back for up to 93 mph when he needs to, and he commands it well, with good arm-side finish. His changeup is his bread and butter, a potentially future plus circle change he sells really well with good fade and sink that misses bats and elicits weak contact on the ground. His curveball is his third pitch, a breaking ball that can get a little big at times. He commands the ball very well and knows how to set up hitters. 
Because of his lack of physicality and lack of wow stuff, Allen's ceiling is somewhat limited. But he's shown the ability to keep hitters off-balance and could be the kind of advanced college lefty who moves through a system quickly, always a commodity when the Draft rolls around.

With these three, my number of Stars and Stripes returns is up to five; I previously received Nick Loftin (#36) and Andrew Abbott (#116). Hopefully all of these guys are selected high and have long/successful careers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Ron Gant TTM Success

Sent: 5/28/2020 | Received: 6/9/2020 | 12 days
3/3: 1993 Upper Deck, 1997 Metal, 1989 Bowman
Address: c/o Fox 5 Atlanta from SportsCollectors.Net
Before he became one of the most reliable TTM autograph signers around, Ron Gant was an All-Star outfielder, best known for his seven-year run with the Atlanta Braves (1987-1993).

Gant came up as a second baseman before transitioning to outfield in 1990. He took off from there, batting .303 with 32 home runs, 30 stolen bases and 85 RBI – good enough to earn the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

He duplicated his 30/30 efforts in ‘91 – joining Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds, (and later Barry Bonds, who did it three years in a row) – as the only players to register consecutive 30 home run/30 stolen base seasons. He won the Silver Slugger Award.

During the 1991 World Series – an eventual seven-game loss to the Twins – it was Gant who was the base runner on the controversial play at first with Kent Hrbek (aside: I have no dog in this fight, and sure seemed to me that Hrbek pulled Gant's leg off the bag).

Shortly after singing a $5.5 million deal for 1994, Gant broke his right leg in an ATV accident. He’d be released and he wouldn’t return until ’95 with the Reds. He earned an All-Star nod that season for a .276/.386/.544 slash and 29 home runs.

After three seasons with the Cardinals, he’d play short stints with the Phillies (1999-2000), Angels (2000), Rockies (2001), A’s (2001), Padres (2002), and A’s again (2003). He’d wrap his 16-year career a .256 hitter with 321 homers and 243 stolen bases.