Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about Dale Case, who mailed three cards to former major-leaguer Glenn Hubbard to sign in 2002. Last week, he finally got them back:
Here is a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about Beau Thompson, a Chicago Cubs fan who has a goal of obtaining 1 million baseball cards of Cubs players.
Here 's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about an auction for a pair of "Moon Landing" sneakers belonging to Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the newly named Super Bowl card show in Rhode Island, a fixture in New England since 1976.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1973-74 Topps hockey set:
This book is perfect for the hot stove league.
Baseball fans love to argue. They love to compare and compile lists. In no other sport are fans so deliciously geeky.
If Harold Baines can get elected to the Hall of Fame, how come Gil Hodges hasn’t been enshrined? Can Mariano Rivera become the first unanimous selection in Cooperstown, or will it be Derek Jeter? Or, no one at all?
Who was the New York Yankees’ all-time center fielder – Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio?
That last question is part of the weighty debates addressed by Tom Stone in his new book, Now Taking the Field: Baseball’s All-Time Dream Teams for All 30 Franchises (ACTA Sports; paperback; $18.95; 614 pages). Certainly, this kind of analysis has been done before, but Stone takes a more cerebral approach, relying on statistics – old and new – to provide a clearer picture of who belongs on each major-league franchise’s dream team.
Stone devotes a chapter to each of the 30 major-league franchises, using several formulas — including Wins Above Replacement, or WAR — to present a clear-eyed look at the best of the best.
As a reader, you might disagree with some of Stone’s conclusions — is Robinson Cano really the all-time second baseman for the Yankees, as Stone suggests? Really? — but more often than not, Stone is right on the money. He analyzes each position and presents several nominees. Stone also includes the opinions of other authors before giving his final decisions.
I will give Stone kudos for mentioning Horace Clarke, even if just in passing. Horace was a switch-hitter who couldn’t hit from either side of the plate, but he was a grinder -- and a symbol of the Yankees' wandering through the wilderness from 1965 to 1975.
At the end of every chapter, Stone chooses one man as that team’s “franchise player.” I found myself trying to guess who it might be before finishing the chapter. Happily, our opinions were pretty much along the same lines. He also suggests starting lineups, tailored against right-handers and lefties.
Unlike some books, Stone does not go through the teams in alphabetical order. He starts with the teams that have had the most success, like the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers and Cardinals. That makes it more interesting, because these are the teams that have earned the most postseason glory. It’s a savvy move.
Stone includes the top WAR seasons for each team, and his depth chart at the end of every chapter provides an easy visual for the reader.
The only quibble I have with the book is when Stone makes apologies. “With all due respect to Roberto Clemente, Paul Waner, and Willie Stargell, it seems clear that Honus Wagner remains the best the Pirates have ever had,” Stone writes in one example.
There is no need to apologize. The numbers are clear, and Stone presents them logically. There is no question who the franchise player should be in several cases: Wagner (Pirates), Willie Mays (Giants). Tony Gwynn (Padres), George Brett (Royals), and Mike Schmidt (Phillies), to name a few. Stone's choices for the Cubs and Athletics are surprising, but not unreasonable. And, his choices for the Reds and Dodgers were reached with some good thought, statistics and the player's impact on the game.
Stone gives the reader plenty to chew on. From my standpoint, I believe he has figured out who the best players are at each position, and while his choices are open to debate, they are hard to argue with.
Still, it’s the hot stove time of the season. So, argue away.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily previewing the 2019 Topps Big League baseball set, which will be released in May.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1969-70 Topps hockey set:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1966-67 Topps hockey set, which included the rookie card of Bruins great Bobby Orr:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1983 Topps baseball set. Hard to believe this set is 35 years old!
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1963-64 Topps hockey set, the first Topps hockey product to display a horizontal layout design:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1962-63 Topps hockey set:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about a weekend auction sponsored by Mile High Card Company:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about a 1990-91 Hoops basketball card of the Knicks' Mark Jackson. In the background are two guys who appear to be the infamous Menendez brothers.
Here is my review of Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs, second edition, written by Ron Keurajian. The review is posted at the Sport in US History site:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about Dave Hill, a former minor-leaguer and CIA employee whose family is selling his massive autograph collection:
For those who believe baseball cards are an art form, this year’s Topps Gallery set would look appropriate in a frame, hanging on the wall.
They are that nice.
The 2018 Topps Gallery set is a retail-exclusive product that can be bought at Walmart. The hobby-style Collector box sells for $79.99 and contains 20 packs. There are five cards in every pack, and Topps promises two autograph cards in every box.
his is the second straight year that Topps has sold Gallery through Walmart, and there is also an online buying option for those who don’t want to venture near big box stores during the holiday season.
Lately, I’ve been buying blaster boxes in most cases to review products, but this time I splurged and purchased a Collector box. There are 200 cards in the base set, with the final 50 cards designated as short prints. I pulled 84 base cards and four short prints; the SPs have designations on the card fronts like “Apprentices,” “Artisans” and “Masters.” For example, the box I bought contained a Masters (Greg Maddux), an Artisan (Masahiro Tanaka) and two Apprentices (Dustin Fowler and Franklin Barreto).
The artists working on the portraits for this set include Mayumi Seto, John Giancaspro, Kris Penix, Kevin Graham, Carlos Cabaleiro, Dan Bergren, Evan Shoman and Gerry Garcia. Each artist is credited on the card back, so a collector will know immediately who created the portrait on the front.
The painted card fronts include portraits of star, rookies and legends.
The card fronts are mostly vertical in design. The player’s last name is at the bottom of his portrait, stamped in gold foil. The first name is presented in small script, while the last name is in big block letters. The Topps Gallery logo is positioned in the top right-hand corner of the card.
The player’s team is stamped in small capital letters under his last name. Curiously, one has to flip the card to find out the player’s position.
The player portraits are stunning, with rich detail and soothing background colors. Emotions are captured vividly, too. Al Minter’s card (No. 6) shows the pitcher’s strong concentration as he goes into the stretch. Marcell Ozuna (No. 30) shows strength through the contours in his face, contrasted smartly with a cloud-filled, blue sky background. Portraits of Bo Jackson, Ozzie Albies, Brooks Robinson and Charlie Blackmon are favorites, too.
You get the idea.
The card backs follow a vertical design, with a five-line paragraph called “Gallery Notes” giving a short summary of achievements and career highlights. Instead of a year-by-year line summary of a player’s career, Topps chooses a month-by-month breakdown from 2017, which is a nice change of pace.
Parallels have a Private Issue stamp and are numbered to 250. I pulled two of these cards. There are also parallels in wood, green (numbered to 99), blue (50), orange (25), and 1/1s in red. There are also parallels in wood, green (numbered to 99), blue (50), orange (25) and red (1/1). There are also 1/1 printing plates.
The two autograph cards I pulled were sticker signatures, which was slightly disappointing. The auto cards were of Braves pitcher Max Fried and Blue Jays shortstop Richard Urena.
The Gallery set offers several different inserts. The Hall of Fame Gallery is a 30-card set, and I pulled two cards plus a blue parallel of Brooks Robinson numbered to 99. Other parallels that might be found are in green (numbered to 250), orange (25) and red (1/1).
Heritage Set is a 40-card insert that is designed like the iconic 1952 Topps cards. I pulled four of these cards, including Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Manny Machado and Francisco Lindor. Parallels for this subset also come in green (numbered to 250), orange (25) and red (1/1).
Masterpiece is a 30-card insert set, which features a portrait-like black-and-white shot against a feathered action shot in the background. I pulled two of these cards —Derek Jeter and Andrew McCutchen.
Each Collector box comes with a Gallery Boxloader, which could include original paintings. I pulled an Oversized Base Topper — there are 50 different subjects— of Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
Topps’ slogan on its Collector Box is “The Art of Collecting.” There is an art to collecting, and Topps Gallery is an attractive set with cards that deserve to be framed.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the Winter Auction held by Goldin Auctions. This auction features memorabilia from the collections of Dick Enberg, Andre Reed and Alex English.
Here's a story I wrote about Sam Droganes, a Kentucky businessman who sold unopened cello packs of 1959 Topps baseball at a recent sale held by Heritage Auctions:
Here is a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about a second baseball with 11 of the living Hall of Fame class members who signed a ball for a 22-year-old New Jersey fan in June 1939 when Cooperstown opened its doors:
Topps continues to excel with its pro wrestling products. The 2018 WWE Women’s Division set offers collectors an extensive look of the women who are beginning to command as much attention in the wrestling world -- if not more -- as their male counterparts.
A blaster box contains 10 packs, with seven cards to a pack. There is also a hit in a silver pack that is included in the blaster.
She’s not featured on the blaster box, but Ronda Rousey has a presence, adorning packs with the former MMA champion dressed in a “Rowdy” top and a kilt. She certainly cuts a better figure in that outfit than the late “Rowdy” Roddy Piper did in his version.
The base set for the WWE Women’s Division product contains 100 cards, and like last year are divided into two distinct sections. Fifty of the cards showcase wrestlers from the WWE and NXT — including four legends like Wendi Richter, Lita, Alundra Blayze and Trish Stratus. The other 50 are broken down into 30 NXT cards, 10 Raw and 10 Smackdown Live.
The blaster box I bought yielded 30 of the WWE/NXT stars, six Smackdown Live cards, 15 NXT cards and four Raw cards.
The photographs in the set are a mix of posed and action shots. While Rousey may draw some crossover interest, the set gives plenty of attention to established stars like Charlotte Flair, Alexa Bliss, Naomi, Nikki Bella, Sasha Banks, Asuka and Bayley, to name a few.
There were two different inserts I pulled from the blaster box. One is available to all, and one was a Walmart exclusive.
Royal Rumble is an all-inclusive insert. There are 24 in the subset, and I pulled five from the blaster box I opened.
Women’s Champion is a Walmart exclusive that has 25 cards. Each pack from a Walmart blaster contains one of these cards. True to the average, I pulled 10 of these cards.
The “hot” card in the blaster was a Worn Shirt relic card of Ember Moon, a purple parallel that was numbered to 99. Other parallels in this subset come in silver, numbered to 50; blue (25), gold (10), black (5) and red (1/1).
Pro wrestling continues to maintain its popularity, and the card sets from Topps are certainly helping to keep the WWE stars in the mainstream for a new generation of fans.
As the holiday season approaches, books for the coffee table are always coveted gifts. And for baseball fans, a book full of beautiful photographs fits the bill perfectly.
Visual beauty and compact history lessons greet the reader in The Story of Baseball: In 100 Photographs (Time Inc. Books; hardcover, $30; 224 pages). Picking merely 100 photos to tell the story of baseball is tough, but the editors of Sports Illustrated were judicious in their choice of photographs, particularly in the era before the magazine was founded in 1954.
The book is broken into five sections, with each chapter representing a different era of baseball. “Beginnings” covers the 50-year period from the first professional baseball team in 1869 until 1919. “From Ruth to Robinson” bookends the emergence of the lively ball championed by Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson’s breaking of baseball’s modern color line in 1947.
“The Golden Years” covers the two-decade period from 1948 to 1968, and “Expanding Influence” ushers in the game’s expansion, labor strife and cherished records broken. Finally, “Wildness” covers the steroids era and the re-emergence of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox as baseball dynasties.
Every picture tells a story, and the one page of explainer type completes the visual.
There’s Christy Mathewson, Cy Young and Walter Johnson in classic pitching stances, and a photograph of the Holy Grail of baseball cards — the Honus Wagner T-206 tobacco card. Ty Cobb is sliding hard into third base and Babe Ruth is launching one of his 714 career home runs. Night baseball makes its debut and Cooperstown opens its doors.
A dying Lou Gehrig proclaims he is the luckiest man on the face of the earth, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams ooze grace and power, and Ralph Branca could not be consoled after allowing one of the game’s most famous home runs. Willie Mays made “The Catch,” Jackie Robinson dared pitchers and fielders to throw him out on the bases and Bill Mazeroski brought down the house in Pittsburgh.
The pictures showcase the smooth (Vin Scully behind the microphone) and the rough (Juan Marichal hitting John Roseboro over the head with a baseball bat), along with dignity (Roberto Clemente) and class (Hank Aaron). Carlton Fisk willing a home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series was dramatic, while Mark Fidrych and Fernando Valenzuela inspired crazes. Cal Ripken high-fived fans as he became baseball’s ironman, and Steve Bartman turned the Friendly Confines hostile when he reached for a foul ball during the 2003 NLCS.
And finally, there is the exhilarating moment when the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 seasons.
The black-and-white photos are stark and use shots from Charles Conlan, the Bain Collection from the Library of Congress (an archive of photographs archived by George Grantham Bain for his news service), the Bettmann Archive from Getty Images, the Life Picture Collection, the New York Daily News, The New York Times and the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.
The subject matter also wanders away from the major leagues, with photos from the College World Series, the Negro Leagues and the All-American Girls Professional League.
Color photos tell wonderful stories, too. There’s Casey Stengel deep in thought, Fidel Castro going into his windup, the intensity of Bob Gibson as he follows through on the mound, and Pete Rose barreling into Ray Fosse at the plate to win the 1970 All-Star Game.
The Rose photo is taken from a different angle than baseball fans traditionally see, and what makes Herb Scharfman’s photo so compelling is the expression of Cubs manager Leo Durocher, who served as third-base coach. Durocher, fists balled and yelling, has a satisfied look as Rose scores the winning run. It’s the kind of play Durocher loved, and the photograph captures it perfectly.
Some of the photographs seem a little out of place, but since they are from the archives of Sports Illustrated the authors are at liberty to use them. For example, the story of Sidd Finch was fun, but it was a concocted one and the accompanying photograph does not really symbolize the story of baseball. At least, not to me.
However, the photo of an animated Ted Williams demonstrating hitting techniques to Wade Boggs and Don Mattingly at a restaurant in Clearwater during spring training is Sports Illustrated at its photographic best. And the photo of George Steinbrenner astride a horse and dressed as Napoleon is laugh-out-loud funny.
One of Sports Illustrated’s strengths through the years has been the ability to create compelling and relevant headlines to go with its photographs. This book showcases that ability, with short, punchy phrases. “A Master Stroke” is the headline for the photo of Wee Willie Keeler “hitting ’em where they ain’t.” “Bright Idea” heralds the first night game in major-league history, and “Taking it to the Streets” immortalizes stickball games, and “Inside Baseball” immortalizes the day the Astrodome opened in Houston.
Telling the story of baseball in 100 photographs is a daunting task, but the editors of Sports Illustrated are equal to the challenge.
Here is the link to my podcast with author Howard W. Rosenberg on the New Books in Sports channel of the New Books Network:
One could stock a library with books written about the New York Yankees, the team’s players and the team itself. This storied major-league baseball franchise has a proud and rich history, with 40 American League pennants and 27 World Series titles.
Lyle Spatz, a baseball historian and author of several books about the Yankees, takes a look at every season-opening game in the team’s history. In New York Yankees Openers: An Opening Day History of Baseball’s Most Famous Team, 1903-2017 (McFarland; softback; $39.95; 471 pages), Spatz does more than present a dry listing of every Opening Day game. There are scene-setting descriptions, political and social issue that faced Americans every year, and nuggets of baseball trivia that will please both novices and experts of the game.
This book is a second edition. Spatz originally covered the Opening Days from 1903 through 1996. This update adds in the season-openers from 1997 to 2017, with a short paragraph about New York’s 2018 opener against the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s a chronological look, but it’s the type of book where a reader can skip around to a favorite year and see how the Yankees did.
There is a loose narrative that references previous years, but each opener can easily stand alone as a capsule of that year’s season.
The Yankees have played in five homes during their existence seasons, beginning at Hilltop Park in 1903 when the franchise was known as the Highlanders. The team moved into the Polo Grounds in 1913 and officially became known as the Yankees, and 10 years later opened Yankee Stadium. While the old ballpark was being renovated during the 1974-75 seasons, the Yankees played at Shea Stadium. Returning to a fixed up Yankee Stadium in 1976, the team remained there until opening a new Yankee Stadium across from the old location in 2009.
Here are some fun facts that a reader will glean from Spatz’s research:
“I have tried to convey to the reader the flavor of the period — what people were thinking, feeling and saying then — while also attempting to add some historical perspective,” Spatz writes.
He succeeds. Through research from box scores, newspaper articles—and in later years, from Retrosheet — Spatz gives the reader an insight into the pageantry and anticipation that has always accompanied Opening Day games.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily previewing the 2019 Gypsy Queen baseball set, which comes out in March:
I love to blog about sports books and give my opinion. Baseball books are my favorites, but I read and review all kinds of books.