Archive for Mark McGwire

Cards of Little Leaguers are cool, but of babies? Not so much.

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by Cardboard Icons

When I was a Little Leaguer, I thought the coolest thing in the world was to have my own baseball card. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, my league didn’t offer such things in the picture package.

But in 1991, thanks to a Donruss and Milk Duds promotion being held at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum (home of the Oakland Athletics) I finally got my own card, and the good folks hooked me up with Dave Stewart’s awesome 1990 statistics. I was legendary! OK, not quite. Nonetheless, I loved this card. I cherished it. I placed it in a hard case and displayed it with some of the best cards in my collection at the time, most notably my 1985 Topps Mark McGwire rookie.

At the time I was only about four years into the hobby and thought what a cool idea it would be to have cards of present-day stars that showed them when they were my age. I wanted to see what my heroes looked like as kids. And then lo and behold that same year I found a book called “Little Big Leaguers” and it came complete with a sheet of tear-out baseball cards, including this Tony Gwynn, which still sits in my collection.

Over the next two years, Donruss took this concept mainstream and placed in its “Triple Play” set a subset called “Little Hotshots,” which, as you can guess, showed Major Leaguer players as Little Leaguers. Check out this scrawny young Mark McGwire wearing, ironically, an A’s uniform. He actually kind of looks like Kelly Leak from “The Bad News Bears.”

The reason these cards are so cool is that when some kid looks at these, they get to see that all Big Leaguers got their start as kids. None of them came out of the womb with huge muscles and the ability to hit 70 home runs as Mcgwire did in 1998 or hit .394 like Gwynn did in 1994. They had to learn the game, hone their craft and be a kid.

So when Topps came out with the 2010 Topps “When They Were Young” insert set, I was again intrigued because I knew the set would show modern players as kids. The first couple cards I pulled were pretty neat, even if they were of mediocre players.

But then I snagged two cards that really gave me the creeps, those of Alex Rodriguez and Russell Martin.

What on Earth was Topps thinking when it made these two cards showing these pro players as babies? It’s bad enough the baseball card collectors get a bum rap for “collecting pictures of men,” but now we’ve added pictures of babies to the spectrum.

I know there already are cards (1993 and 1994 Classic) that show Alex Rodriguez as a high school player, but why even include him in this set if you’re not going to show him doing something baseball related. Although I will say that we did learn something from the A-Rod card: he ALWAYS had the purple lips.

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Shameless plugs: Don’t forget to vote for Cardboard Icons in Upper Deck’s Best Blog contest. Also, sometime this week I’ll be giving away an AUTHENTIC 1958 Topps Hank Aaron/Mickey Mantle card. See details here.

For McGwire, the past has become the present and future

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , , on January 12, 2010 by Cardboard Icons

Mark McGwire and Roger Maris rookie cards will forever be linked.

1999 Topps HR Record, No. 61

My jaw dropped, my heart skipped a beat; for a few seconds I wondered if someone had sent the Associated Press a false statement reportedly on behalf of Mark McGwire. But within minutes, it became increasingly clear. This was not a joke: Mark McGwire was admitting to using steroids.

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mark McGwire was absolutely one of my favorite baseball players. Before he even stepped into a St. Louis Cardinal uniform, McGwire was a baseball hero to me. I had the Jose Canseco-Mark McGwire “Bash Brothers” poster on my wall; I emulated his swing when I played sandlot ball; I rushed home after school to catch the last inning or two hoping that Bill King, who announced the A’s games over the radio, would call another of McGwire’s homers. All of this was before the 1998 season, the one that turned McGwire into a figure that transcended sports.

The fact that McGwire used steroids is not what shocked me; it’s the way the news came out. There wasn’t some reporter who broke the story, it came from McGwire himself in a statement to the Associated Press, and then the rest of the world. And it happened on a Monday, not some Friday afternoon as these things usually go down.

And on the same day, McGwire agreed to an hour-long interview with  Bob Costas — who  is a baseball fan like you and I — but also a damn good broadcast journalist. This wasn’t an Alex Rodriguez moment where he threw on some lip gloss and had a sitdown with softball thrower Katie Couric in prime time. This was Bob Costas, who McGwire knew was going to pelt him with real question after real question.

1989 Upper Deck

I watched that interview three times Monday night, and each time I winced at what I was hearing. If you ask the big-time baseball writers, they’ll tell you McGwire failed because he didn’t confess to everything. There were no details about where, when and how much. But rather some vagueness to the amounts of performance enhancing drugs. McGwire says he experimented with them in 1989, and then started using them in 1993 to help recover from injuries. He then used them on and off throughout the rest of the decade, and added in some Human Growth Hormone, as well as the then over-the-counter supplement Androstenedione.

To a person looking for every little detail, the answers were not enough. In fact, even if he had told us tons of details, many would still be dissatisfied with his confession because a person who has lied rarely tells a complete truth; they always hold something back. At least that is the perception of many.

Ball signed by Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco; obtained in person by a friend who gave the ball to me.

For me, and many fans, I do think McGwire has given us what we needed to hear. We needed to know that he used performance enhancing drugs; that he did so early in his career, and that he did so during his single-season home run record-setting season. What no one is buying is that he used them solely for healing his injuries à la Andy Pettitte; so that “my body can feel better.” I’m calling B.S. I mean it’s not like people play the lottery just to feel the thrill of winning, they love the prizes that come with it too. I digress.

What McGwire did do though, was tackle this problem head-on, even if it was several years after it really started to boil over. I believe the timing of his answers were in-fact linked to a perceived legal issues about his non-statement statement to Congress five years ago. But the timing was also strategic in the fact that it came still two and a half months before the baseball season started. Sure the issue will crop up at different points in the future, but it will, for the most part, die down unless someone unearths some stunning fact that will need yet another confession.

What we did learn on Monday, though, that I think is telling is that McGwire still believes there is a shred of credibility in his career statistics. There is no way we as fans can simply look at McGwire’s home run and walk-rate totals and say he is qualified to be a Hall of Famer; I don’t think McGwire would argue that. That is why he ducked that question at the end of the interview: “I’ll let those with votes decide.” We can remember him as being one of the best of his generation, and I think that’s about as far as we can go at this point. His achievements of the 1998 season are already commemorated in Cooperstown, I think that is good enough for now.

1998 Leaf Rookies & Stars SP Checklist w/ Sammy Sosa

As news of the McGwire confession broke on Monday, I did start thinking that if anyone else was going to confess to using performance enhancing drugs, then that would have been the best day to do it. What better way to end the years of suspicion than to have some of the biggest names suspected of using enhancers to admit their guilt all at once. It would have been a massive pill to swallow, but we all could have moved forward. But the problem is that some of the suspected cheaters — including a guy who is my favorite all-time player — are facing legal troubles linked to their deceitfulness. They’ve dug themselves so deep in a hole that it is impossible for them to get out of it unless they are granted immunity … and we all know that’s not going to happen.

As far as collectibles, I really am not sure what bearing this will have on McGwire’s items. They’ve pretty much already hit rock bottom. I remember giving a speech during college as an assignment discussing the increasing price of Mark McGwire’s rookie card. I spoke about how the card went from $15 to more than $250 during the 1998 season. I almost feel like I should go back and do another speech given that his rookie can be had for about $10 now. I digress.

I do wonder if interest in McGwire’s items will pick up a bit. In the short-term, people may go nuts for his autograph just to say they have one. But long-term I wonder if his confession will resonate with collectors, who may find themselves again interested in the items they had once abandoned as suspicion of guilt built around the slugger.  Will McGwire’s rookie ever reach the heights they once had? No. But that does not mean that some collector’s can’t find it in their hearts to pay an extra couple of bucks for good condition McGwire cards. I do think he still has a following, even if much of his achievements were built through the ingestion of a pill.

1998 Leaf Rookies & Stars “Standing Ovations”: A significant serial number

Posted in Card of the Day with tags , , , , on November 15, 2009 by Cardboard Icons

1998LeafRCSStandingOMcGwirefrontSince the late 1990s, serial numbered cards have become a staple in our hobby. Prior to their introduction, collectors were left wondering just how scarce scarce was. With a serialized print run, collectors were able to determine just how many copies of a certain card existed, and which one in the entire run they owned. They also were able to add perceived value to their card if their copy was a certain serial number, i.e. the first, last, the player’s jersey, number, etc. In 1998 I opened a fair share of Leaf Rookies & Stars blasters and pulled this “Standing Ovations” Mark McGwire card, serial numbered 4949/5000. What’s the significance of this card: the serial number. The actual number 4949 means nothing, but “49” does — it was the number of home runs he hit during his 1987 rookie year. Now I realize this is a bit of a stretch, after all 4949 isn’t 49. But 4949 is just so much cooler than say, 3726 or 1165. Does the serial number add value to the card? No. But it has rendered this particular card unattainable as it remains in by box of Personal Collection inserts.1998LRCStandingOMcGwireback

Thrift Treasures Part XVI: Binder of cards for $2

Posted in Thrift Treasures with tags , , , , , on November 10, 2009 by Cardboard Icons
TT16MoVaughn

The Intimidator

It’s not so rare for me to walk into one of my local thrift stores and see a bunch of cards for sale. Sometimes they are literally junk, other times they are solid vintage cards that have taken a beating by their original owner. Nonetheless, if the price is right and something catches my eye, I’ll bite no matter what they are really worth. After all I am a card collector and a blogger, worth is a relative term.

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The haul this time is a small 1-inch green binder full of sports cards stuffed into binder pages. There were four sports stuffed into 18 9-pocket pages, each little slot filled with two cards, just like we used to do as a kid. The eye test must have turned a lot of people off initially. The binder had been marked down no less than five times starting at $14.96, all the way down to the $1.99 that I got it for.

Well start with a few cards from the 1993 Upper Deck set:

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Jay Buhner playing a game of grab-ass with Ken Griffey Jr.; an odd card of Yankees catcher Matt Nokes taking hacks off a tee; Franklin stubbs looking rather stub-like due to the camera angle; Thomas Howard and his rubber baseball bat;a shot of Leo Gomez’s crotch; Omar Vizquel showing off the latest in home video cameras, and a classic card showing a player hold the card you are looking at. Oooh, magic.

A pair interesting cards from 1993 Score:

TT1693ScoreBacksLove the lengthy stat box for Bert Blyleven and the false vitals for Mike LaValliere. Any really believe LaValliere is 205 pounds? Didn’t think so.

Three cards of Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson:

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A trio of 1993 Dennys Upper Deck Grand Slam cards. Love these:

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Two 1993 Best minor league cards, Troy Percival and former Blue Jays prospect Florida State Quarterback Chris Weinke. Yes, its the SAME Weinke.

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Two Nolan Ryans: 1992 Donruss Coca-Cola and 1993 Mothers Cookies Farewell Set

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Half a 2003 Oakland Athletics Stadium Give-away set, including The Big Three: Zito, Hudson and Mulder, as well as Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada

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And my favorite cards in the binder, 1993 Athletics Mother’s Cookies cards including Tony LaRussa, Mark McGwire and Dennis Eckersley.

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What I cant figure out is why on earth there are SIX Kevin Seitzer cards. Hmm.

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Happy Fourth: 1991 Fleer Pro-Vision Mark McGwire

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , on July 3, 2009 by Cardboard Icons

1991FlerProVisionMarkMcGwireFor a year now I’ve been looking for my copy of the 1991 Score USA Flag card, the same one Night Owl has posted today, the same card I ALWAYS think of on the Fourth of July. Anyhow, this 1991 Fleer Pro-Vision Mark McGwire is the second card I always think about on this holiday. Have a safe and Happy Fourth of July.

Oh, and for the record, this is easily one of the Top Three Metallica songs I’ve ever heard. Kinda fitting (in a dark way) for today.

Metallica — One (video)

Lyrics

Card of the Day: 1987 Fleer Barry Bonds rookie

Posted in Card of the Day with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2009 by Cardboard Icons

uu87fleerbondsbgs85So yesterday as I awoke from an early evening nap, I happened upon a golden nugget from Yahoo Sports — a story about Barry Bonds and the legality of HGH, and the classifications of the Cream and the Clear as NOT being steroids at the time they apparently were used by Bonds.

I could not do the story justice if I were to recap its substance in just a few words here. And honestly, you’re better off reading the real reporter’s story — he’s the guy who put in the hard work; I’m just a guy with a blog.

But what I’m wondering is if this story could change the way people thing about the All-Time Home Run King, and what this could mean for Bonds in our hobby. Continue reading

My Newest Addition; Thoughts on Rickey, Rice

Posted in New Addition, Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2009 by Cardboard Icons

This piece was written by hand Jan. 12, 2009 and transcribed for this blog on Jan. 15, 2009. Some portions have been added.

111_0065Well, I almost called my shot. Just as I alluded to last week, my wife and I indeed this weekend welcomed into the world our newest addition — Alexa, born early Sunday morning.

Since her birth, the world has seemed like a different place. My wife and I are still in the hospital — I’m actually writing this by hand  as I listen my daughter make the funniest noises — so we’ve yet to feel any sense of normalcy. And for me, this really means that I’ve yet to see what life is like at home with my daughter and wife, who is recovering from Cesarean Section surgery.

But I’m not going to turn this into a diary about the joys of fatherhood. I bet a blog about such a topic would be more popular than my little blog about baseball cards, but I’m not going down that road here. Instead I want to talk about stuff I’ve missed. Continue reading