Friday, October 29, 2010


Meet the twins: 1971 Topps Greatest Moments Jerry Grote GAI 6 and PSA 6.

Greatest Moments was a Topps test set, which means it saw limited distribution back in the day, probably only in some Brooklyn candy stores. The cards are larger than the standard 1971 issue, but wear the same basic black as the main set.

Some of the “greatest moments” essayed on these cards are a bit questionable.

The Grote, for example, celebrates his 20 putouts in a game on April 22, 1970. He got 19 of those by catching Tom Seaver's strikeouts, but Topps did not see fit to recognize Seaver's accomplishment as a great moment.

Which is kind of like celebrating Shakespeare's pen for having written Hamlet...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I inherited a large box of cards from my neighbor Steve when he moved away.

He was several years older than me, but cool enough to let me play stickball in the street with the bigger kids.

The majority of these cards were from 1965 to 1967, with some stray 1964s speaking to his first dalliances with collecting, and a small stack of 1968s signaling the end of the affair.

The cards were well kept—neatly stacked and lightly rubberbanded, with sharp corners and edges.

I can remember running through the piles: Koufax, Koufax, Mantle, Mantle, common, common, Rose, Rose, Rose. I added his box to my own burgeoning pile.

Then sometime in late 1976 or early 1977, a baseball card shop opened in our town. One day, I went in with this box of thousands of 1965-1967 cards. The owner offered me $100. Christ, I had never held a $100 bill in my life. So of course I took it.

I don’t regret this all as much as you might expect. I don’t spend a lot of time wishing I had the cards back, doing imaginary calculations. I mean, there’s no way the cards would have made it through my teenage years without being sold and/or swapped for a handful of magic beans, anyway.

Sometimes, though, I would like to have a couple of hours alone with that box. Just to sit on the floor and go through the stacks one more time: Koufax, Koufax, Mantle, Mantle, common, common, Rose, Rose, Rose…

Monday, October 25, 2010


1971 is the Velvet Underground of Topps baseball sets.

It was reviled in its day for being too dark, too moody, too European.

The accepted logic throughout the 70s held that it was a nihilistic set. A set for the smack addicts to flip down on Houston.

But then, slowly, the set began to grow in esteem. People started to embrace it for its very darkness. The weird, experimental edges (game-action photos, player portraits on the reverse) were no longer considered outré, but were instead being absorbed into the mainstream.

Time finally caught up to the guiding aesthetic of the 1971 set.

Accepting this premise, the 1971 Topps Bud Harrelson is a White Light/White Heat card...

Friday, October 22, 2010


I can spot a 1972 Topps high number from a mile away.

The photos are sharper in series 6, the resolution cleaner.

It looks like many of the shots were taken in the light of Florida spring, rather than in the summer murk of New York and Detroit and Philadelphia. This helps give the pictures a clarity and dimension that are absent from most of the cards in series 1 through 5.

1972 high numbers are radiant.

And if you listen closely, you can hear them speak.

Dave Marshall wants to tell you that he set a Mets record for pinch hits in 1971. He wants you to know that no frame can contain his lumber, and that, hell yes, he makes blue satin look good.

Dave Marshall wants you to know that he is not afraid of the long shadows looming behind him.

I will play on for another year, he says.

And he does, and then retires in 1973 at age 30.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


This is the only graded card I own that has a qualifier: ST, for stain.

I won it accidentally for $3-- the seller hadn't listed the qualifier in the auction title, and I was lazy enough to miss it in the scan and the item description.

But I can't for the life of me find the stain. I took it out on the patio the other day and swirled it around in the sun like a gold panner, but couldn't see a hint of gum or wax.

Perhaps the stain is... THE GODDAM WHITE SOX UNIFORM.

I mean, that banner across the card front seems pretty clear: M E T S.

Yet somehow Charlie is representing the South Side.

Generally, Topps airbrushers would have at these photos with all the finesse of your stoner neighbor up the block decorating his van with a Point of Know Return mural. But this they let slide...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


How did this happen to you, Jose Cardenal?

You couldn't be worth more than a couple of bucks in your NM 7 state, yet here you are, sealed in a thick slab of Beckett plastic.

Jose Cardenal, I'm pretty sure you're bulletproof now.

I really like the 1967 Topps set. Clean design, sharp pictures, and God's own typography on the card fronts. Eminently readable black text on a spearmint-green field on the backs. Groovy high numbers like Brooks Robinson, Rod Carew, and Tom Seaver.

Plus, posed photos like this one. Jose demonstrated respectable power in 1966 (16 HRs), but the man is not afraid to show you some bunt.

This card came to me as a ride along in an auction for another card of interest, but dammit Jose, you're wearing me down. My love for you is growing stronger every day...

Monday, October 18, 2010


The plan for this particular piece of internet real estate is for me to write about my collection of graded baseball cards, one slab at a time.

My primary area of interest is Mets' cards, from 1962-1973, with the occasional "other" joining the collection by accident or by whim.

I expect that I'll mix fact, fiction, and conjecture in pretty equal measures, much as I have for the last 5+ years on my music blog, sliced tongue.

Feel free to drop by any time.