Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Look What I Got! - Part One in a Series

Just won an auction on teh eBay today - the 2006 Topps Updates & Highlights Midsummer Covers #MC-VG, Vladimir Guerrero, numbered 9 of 10.  I'm not sure I've ever seen this card on eBay, and if I have, it's been a few years.

Maybe I should call this section "Reasons Why My Wife Wants to Kill Me."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Now THIS should be Ervin Santana's 2010 card.

Congratulations to the Angels on winning their third straight AL West title.  I was bawling like a baby when they all ran out to take a picture in front of Adenhart's picture in center.  Great job, guys.  Now let's finish strong, rest up, and obliterate the Sox when they come to town.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

1991 - A Great Year for Cards.

By the time 1991 rolled around, it had been 7 years since I had collected baseball cards.  By now I was living up in Chico, CA, with a bunch of high school friends, and it would be giving me too much credit to say that I wasn't doing very much with my life.  But gosh darn it, I was collecting the Topps set that year.  Not only did the set have a nice design, and the packs were cheap, but there was that all too enticing "40th Anniversary" design that somehow sucked me in.  Of course it didn't hurt that the local supermarket had them placed where I had to pass by them every time I was ready to check out.

 Topps had started releasing a parallel "Tiffany" set a few years earlier, but in '91 they went a step further with the "Desert Shield" set.  From

"When news hit the hobby that Topps was planning a special parallel set of it's 1991 Topps baseball set for the U.S. troops serving in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the set was immediately sought after by regular non-military collectors. The only difference in the regular Topps baseball set and the Topps Desert Shield parallel set is that the Desert Shield baseball cards all have a gold foil stamp on the front, featuring a palm tree inside of a shield, and the words "Operation Desert Shield" beside an American Flag."

Although the regular '91 set was easy to find, the Desert Shield?  Not so much.  Considering that there are supposedly only 6800 of each card in existence, and how often cards get lost/destroyed/never opened, this has turned out to be one of the most rare sets in Topps' existence.  Even the commons typically go for around five bucks a pop on teh eBay.

1991 turned out to be another mediocre year for the Halos, as they went 81-81.  Manager Doug Rader was replaced after being two games under .500 in 124 games by former player Buck Rodgers, who went a whopping 2 games over .500 the rest of the way.  Possibly the brightest spot in the season came on June 24, when a 39-year-old Dave Winfield became the oldest player in the history of the game to hit for the cycle.

This last bunch is actually from the '90 "Major League Debut" set.  Topps used the 1991 design for this set, that's why I include them with the '91s in my collection.  These cards highlighted the big time debuts of guys who made their debut in 1990 (complete with quotes from "The Register") - and for many of these guys, that's all they did.  Pete Coachman (whose given name is Bobby Dean, so I have no idea where the "Pete" comes from) had his only 45 ML at bats come in '90 (which seems weird, as he batted .311 - you'd think he'd have gotten another chance).  Scott Lewis had a 2.20 ERA in '90, but was pretty mediocre after that.  Jeff Richardson got one out to finish a game, and never pitched in the bigs again.  With results like this, it's no wonder that Topps only ran this set for three years.

The only Angels insert this year was a "Wax Box" card of Bert Blyleven, highlighting his reaching #4 on the all-time strikeouts list. I seriously do not understand why this man is not yet in the Hall of Fame. He won 287 games, often pitching for teams with losing records. This makes him the winningest pitcher not already in the Hall. He's currently 5th all-time in strikeouts (3,701) and 9th in shutouts (60). And he went 5-1 in the post-season, winning a World Series ring with the Twins in '87. Heck, he could probably still pitch for the Netherlands in the WBC today.

1991 Topps Angels Checklist

36 - Donnie Hill
57 - Jack Howell
84 - Bob McClure
107 - Luis Polonia
129 - Mark Eichhorn
153 - Bryan Harvey
176 - John Orton
195 - Wally Joyner
210 - Lance Parrish
231 - Doug Rader MG
255 - Brian Downing
273 - Johnny Ray
285 - Jim Abbott
355 - Chili Davis
395 - Chuck Finley AS
426 - Joe Grahe RC
452 - Bill Schroeder
477 - Mike Fetters
505 - Chuck Finley
532 - Kirk McCaskill
564 - Dante Bichette
615 - Bert Blyleven
630 -Dave Winfield
648 - Lee Stevens
667 - Kent Anderson
704 - Devon White
736 - Dick Schofield
755 - Mark Langston
784 - Willie Fraser

Wax Box Cards
A - Bert Blyleven

1991 Topps Traded
40T - Junior Felix
44T - Gary Gaetti
50T - Todd Greene Team USA
89T - Dave Parker
99T - Jeff D. Robinson
112T - Luis Sojo

1990 Topps Debut
32 - Pete Coachman
58 - Joe Grahe
88 - Scott Lewis
131 - Jeff Richardson
149 - Lee Stevens
169 - Cliff Young

regular cards: 41
inserts: 1

Monday, September 21, 2009

1981 - Strike!

1981.  Now we're talking!  I really starting taking baseball cards seriously in 1980, but 1981 was the first time I really made an attempt at completing the whole set.  This is definitely one of my favorite designs, as I still love the hat in the corner, and the fonts Topps used for the players' names on the fronts and backs of the cards.

By now, the free agency era in baseball was in full swing, and the Angels were one of the teams shelling out big bucks for top players.  But in spite of having already paid for the likes of Rod Carew, Don Baylor, Bobby Grich and adding Fred Lynn in the off-season, '81 wasn't a great year for the Angels.  Heck, it wasn't a great year for baseball.  The players went on strike in the middle of the season, causing a cancellation of 38% of the games that year.

Rather than just use overall records to decide the division leaders, it was decided that the season would be split in two.  Whoever was in 1st before the strike won that half of the year, and records were reset afterward, so whoever had the best records post-strike won that half.  Then the two teams played each other (or the second half second-place team if the same team won both halves) to see who won the division.

Unfortunately, the Angels didn't do well in either half.  They went 31-29 and finished 4th in the first half, and 20-30 in the second, finishing 6th.  This continued a trend of having bad seasons in years that end with a 1.

1981 was also the year that Topps greatly expanded the stats on the cards.  Through 1980, batters had 9 categories: games appeared in, at bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, runs batted in and batting average (G, AB, R, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, AVG).  Pitchers had games appeared in, innings pitched, wins, losses, runs, earned runs, strikeouts, walks and earned run average (G, IP, W, L, R, ER, SO, BB, ERA).  In '81, Topps added stolen bases, slugging percentage, walks and strikeouts (SB, SLG, BB, SO) for batters, and games started, complete games, shutouts and saves (GS, CG, SHO, SV).  For a stathead like myself, this was a huge addition to the cards, and was a big part of what made Topps way more enjoyable to collect than the new Donruss and Fleer sets that started up that year.  I never did end up completing this set, but I remember getting pretty close.

The early-mid '80s weren't a great time for Topps inserts, and the 1981 set had zero.  (After I shelled out some cash for them, I found out that those two Scratch-Offs weren't part of the main set.  Ah, well.)  But one great thing Topps did that year was reintroduce their Traded set.  They had fooled around a little bit showing some players in their new uniforms in '74 and '76, but it wasn't until '81 that they got serious.  The '81 Traded set added a ton of players, included the first Angels cards of Fred Lynn, Geoff Zahn, and current Angels Assistant General Manager Ken Forsch.

1981 Topps Angels Checklist

12 - Mark Clear
48 - Dave Skaggs
69 - Ed Halicki
100 - Rod Carew
121 - Larry Harlow
182 - Bob Grich
209 - Dickie Thon DP
214 - Angels Rookies Ralph Botting Jim Dorsey
227 - Fred Martinez
239 - Rick Miller DP
263 - Brian Downing
286 - Dave Frost
288 - Bob Clark
311 - Freddie Patek
340 - Bruce Kison
369 - Frank Tanana
391 - Dave Lemanczyk DP
410 - Bert Campaneris
422 - Dan Ford
454 - Andy Hassler
505 - Jason Thompson
529 - Dave LaRoche
557 - Chris Knapp
580 - Don Baylor
601 - Don Aase
621 - Tom Donohue
639 - Carney Lansford
652 - John Montague
663 - Angels Team/Mgr Jim Fregosi
701 - Joe Rudi
717 - Jim Barr DP

Topps Scratch-Offs
(not part of main set)
18 - Rod Carew
25 - Carney Lansford

1981 Topps Traded Angels

733 - Juan Beniquez
743 - Rick Burleson
764 - Ken Forsch
771 - Butch Hobson
797 - Fred Lynn
810 - Ed Ott
818 - Doug Rau
821 - Steve Renko
845 - Bill Travers
856 - Geoff Zahn

regular cards: 41

Friday, September 11, 2009

1971 - I Have no Snappy Comment for this.

Ah, 1971. The year the NASDAQ opened, the Libertarian party was founded, Disney World opened, women in Switzerland got the right to vote, and the London Bridge opened in Havasu. Oh, and the Angels played some baseball.

One thing I do know: Topps released a pretty cool set of baseball cards that year. With its black borders, understated design and lots of horizontal cards, 1971 remains a favorite of collectors.

1971 wasn't a spectacular year for the Halos. To start the team's second decade, Lefty Phillips managed the team to a 76-86 record, finishing 4th in the AL West. 3B Ken McMullen's 21 homers and 68 RBIs, and 2B Sandy Alomar's 39 stolen bases and .260 batting average led the offense.

On the pitching side, Andy Messersmith went 20-13 with a 2.99 ERA and 179 strikeouts. The pitching staff was great, but the offense was anemic.

1971 was the first major change in the Angels' uniforms since they began play in 1961. The basic colors remained the same, but the fancy script letters on the jerseys and the halos on the hats were replaced with a boring font and a lower-case a with a small halo at the corner. A small change to this uniform in 1972 would end up being the most iconic Angels uniform ever.

That last card there is a recent addition.  The 1971 Jim Spencer Scratch-Off was a thorn in my side for a while.  I've had the 1970 Jim Spencer Scratch-Off for years, but every time I saw a scan of something calling itself a 1971 Spencer, it was the exact same image.  I didn't know if the '71 really existed, if people kept mislabeling the pics or what.  It wasn't until I found the Topps Archive blog that I found out what the deal is - if you open up the Scratch-Offs from different years, they have different colors on the inside.  Once I knew that, I had the '71 in my hands the next week, which gave me all of the inserts from 1961 through 1998.  (Would be through 2002 if it weren't for those dadburn '99 Nolan Ryan autos.  Grr...)

1971 Topps Angels Checklist

15 - Andy Messersmith
43 - Steve Kealey
61 - AL Batting Leaders Alex Johnson Angels, Carl Yastrzemski Red Sox, Tony Oliva twins
67 - AL ERA Leaders Diego Segui A's, Jim Palmer Orioles, Clyde Wright Angels
78 - Jim Spencer
105 - Tony Conigliaro
152 - Angels Rookies-Lloyd Allen-Winston Llenas
174 - Dave LaRoche
205 - Gerry Moses
240 - Clyde Wright
256 - Tony Gonzalez
279 - Lefty Phillips
318 - Rudy May
360 - Jim Fregosi
401 - Tom Murphy
421 - John Stephenson
442 - California Angels-Team Card
466 - Ken Berry
485 - Ken McMullen
508 - Roger Repoz
526 - Ray Jarvis
559 - AL Rookie Pitchers-Terry Cox Angels, Bill Gogolewski Senators, Gary Jones Yankees
561 - Syd O'Brien
590 - Alex Johnson
614 - Billy Cowan
631 - Eddie Fisher
645 - Jim Maloney SP
657 - Jose Azcue
664 - Rookie Pitchers SP-Archie Reynolds Angels, Bob Reynolds Expos, Ken Reynolds Phillies SP
666 - Gene Brabender SP
676 - Tommie Reynolds
686 - Chico Ruiz SP
697 - Rickey Clark SP
707 - Fred Lasher
718 - Billy Wynne
736 - Mel Queen SP
745 - Sandy Alomar SP

Topps Coins
TCI4 - Jim Spencer
TCI28 - Sandy Alomar
TCI60 - Clyde Wright
TCI84 - Alex Johnson
TCI112 - Andy Messersmith
TCI136 - Jim Fregosi
TCI142 - Tony Conigliaro

Topps Scratch-Offs
20 - Jim Spencer

regular cards: 37
inserts: 8

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And the Thanks go to...

As I mentioned in the last post, I've researched the heck out of my collection, and continue to do so. Not only do I research the checklists that come in the packs, but I check multiple websites, and sometimes do somewhat random eBay searches to see if I missed anything (that's how I discovered the '64 Friendly Foes card).

So please let me take a moment to thank the following sites/people/organizations that have helped me put my collection together:

My wife. As much as she may want to, she's yet to kill me for spending this much cash on baseball cards.

Erich L., my former compatriot at Ricoh, for giving me the idea in the first place. My wife may curse you, but I love you, man.

Topps - If it weren't for them, you wouldn't be reading this blog (and would likely be doing something more productive).

eBay - Really kind of explains itself.

The Beckett Marketplace - Probably would have saved myself a few bones if I had started checking here earlier than I did. Also a great place to make sure I didn't miss any inserts. - The first site I found that had any sort of team checklists for sets prior to 2001.

Georgetown Card Exchange - They post the sell sheets for multiple sports, and have checklists for upcoming sets available long before anyone else I know of.

Surf laundry detergent - They released a series of "Baseball Card Collector Series" books in 1987 (one for every team, collect them all!) that not only let me know about some cards I was missing, but also included a nice season summary for every year through 1986.

Night Owl Cards - This site is the inspiration for the blog.  It's always well-written and entertaining.  It's done by the same guy who does The Topps Archives, a blog that's been invaluable in helping me figure out what's up with those early inserts.

Last, but certainly not least, Mr. Gene Autry, for making sure this franchise started with quality ownership (you may not have made a profit, but I know this team made you happy), and Mr. Arte Moreno, for leading this team to being the #1 sports franchise in America. I know you love this team as much as Mr. Autry did, and I owe you many beers.

I guess it's a good time--

--to mention that if you notice any cards I've missed in this collection, please let me know! I've spent countless hours pouring over every checklist I've been able to find to make sure I have the most complete collection of regular issue Topps Angels cards possible, but sometimes I miss things.

Heck, it was just earlier this year that I found out about the 2002 Topps Coaches' Collection Relic card of Don Baylor. Sure the main picture may be of him in a Cubs uniform, but the inset pic of him as a player features his 1977 card as an Angel. So I had to get it.

I guess this is a good time to talk about what I consider to be a "regular issue Topps Angels card." Obviously, if the team listed on the card is the Anaheim/California/Los Angeles Angels, be it a base card or an insert, it's in. But I also include multi-player cards, such as league leader, combo, 'rookie star', or playoff cards (even if it's another card of us losing to the BloSox) as long as there's at least one Angels player on it. So stuff like the 1964 "Friendly Foes" card of Leon Wagner and Willie McCovey is in, as is the 1983 "Super Vet" card of Dave LaRoche (he was with the Yankmes, but the inset pic is from his days as an Angel) and the aforementioned Baylor relic card.

Again, if it looks like I've missed something, please let me know, but keep in mind that I'm only collecting the regular Topps set. I'm not looking for any Upper Deck, Stadium Club, Pristine, Fleer, Chrome, Ricky and Lucy, Triple Threads, O-Pee-Chee, Yo Mama, Heritage, or anything else. In my entire 2000+ card collection, I've made maybe seven exceptions to this rule (and all for good reason). But if there's something that fits my collection and I somehow missed it, let me know!

And as Ed and Frank often said, "Thank you for your support."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

1961 - In the beginning...

It may be hard to believe now, but prior to 1961, there were half as many teams in Major League Baseball as there are today: 16. MLB had only reached the West Coast in 1958 when the National League's Giants and Dodgers moved out of New York (and who can blame them?).

The story has it that the American League wanted a franchise in Los Angeles, and was looking for a franchisee. Cowboy singing legend and media mogul Gene Autry went to the winter baseball meetings looking to buy the radio rights to this new team, and ending up buying the team as well. And thus were born the Los Angeles Angels (sort of - there had been a minor league team called the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League not long before). The team that had been the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins, and a new Washington Senators team was created along with the Angels to bring the number of teams in baseball to 20.

Now starting a new MLB franchise wasn't the same back then as it is today. Today, existing teams are allowed to protect a certain number of players on their roster, and the new teams can draft almost anyone else. But for the 1961 season, it was the opposite - existing teams got to pick a list of players on their rosters that could be drafted, so the new teams pretty much got stuck with the dregs of the league.

Experts predicted that the Angels would win around 40 games and come in dead last, but that wasn't to be the case. The Halos (so nicknamed because of the silver halos embroidered on their hats) went 70-91 (a first-year record that still stands today) and came in 8th place, ahead of the new Senators and the Kansas City Athletics, a franchise that was started in 1901.
Topps wanted to include players from these new teams, but they needed to print the first series of cards before anyone had been in an Angels uniform. As a result, the first bunch of Angels cards featured one player in a White Sox uni, and a whole bunch of head shots of guys without hats.

The Angels played their first season in a place called Wrigley Field, former home to the PCL Angels. Obviously this wasn't in Chicago (although both places were named after the chewing gum magnate), but on the south side of Los Angeles. The place was a bandbox, and set a season record for homers that stood for thirty years.

The Angels' skipper was Bill Rigney, who piloted the team from day one to partway through 1969. He had managed the Giants when they moved from New York to San Francisco, so he was already familiar with baseball on the West Coast.

Ah, finally we get to some Angels in Angels unis! While none of these cards are listed as short prints, they're all from the second and third series, so they start to get a little pricey. Especially those last few, which explains why I really need to find a better Gene Leek card.

 1961 was also in the middle of Topps' golden age of inserts. Every pack had an insert in it and, unlike today's inserts, they were meant to have fun with. The first two inserts below are Rub-Offs - temporary tattoos. The Duke Maas (misspelled Mass) Rub-Off would be the only time Topps would show him as an Angel (he never actually pitched for the team). The other images are the Topps Stamps from the year.

They played better than expected, largely because Mr. Autry had put together a solid front office, and hired a good manager in Rigney. They had four players hit over 20 home runs, led by Leon "Daddy Wags" Wagner with 28. Albie Pearson, a former Rookie of the Year who outplayed his 5' 5" frame, led the team with 11 stolen bases. Some of the players who got their first taste of The Show that year would go on to be Halos for years to come: Tom Satriano, Buck Rodgers, Dean Chance and a 19-year-old shortstop named Jim Fregosi. 1961 was a great start for the Angels.

1961 Topps Angels Checklist

65 - Ted Kluszewski
121 - Eli Grba
156 - Ken Hunt
163 - Ed Sadowski
176 - Ken Aspromonte
184 - Steve Bilko
195 - Jerry Casale
209 - Ken McBride
216 - Ted Bowsfield
225 - Bill Rigney MGR
246 - Bob Davis RC
263 - Ken Hamlin
272 - Tom Morgan
282 - Faye Throneberry
288 - Albie Pearson
291 - Tex Clevenger
329 - Julio Becquer
331 - Ned Garver
358 - Earl Averill
413 - Eddie Yost
448 - Del Rice
457 - Johnny James
464 - Leroy Thomas RC
466 - Ron Moeller RC
508 - Rocky Bridges
527 - Gene Leek RC
547 - Leon Wagner

Stamps Inserts
169 - Jerry Casale
170 - Bob Cerv
171 - Ned Garver
172 - Ken Hunt
173 - Ted Kluszewski
174 - Ed Sadowski
175 - Eddie Yost

6 - Los Angeles Angels
23 - Duane "Duke" Mass

That card at the top of this post is a 1961 Nu-Card Scoops #414. Yes, I realize I started off a blog about Topps cards with a card from another company, but what better way to get things moving than with a card announcing the birth of the Angels?