Monday, February 28, 2011

2007 Topps Heritage #493 Roy Halladay AS

Phillies 6, Blue Jays 3
Spring Training Game 3 - Monday Afternoon, February 28th in Dunedin 

One Sentence Summary:  The Phils beat the Blue Jays as Roy Halladay started his Spring with a pair of scoreless innings and Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz each knocked in a pair of runs.

What It Means:  It means another field report from Christopher -

On Day 2 of my 2011 excellent adventure, the Phillies bats showed up and the Phils beat the Blue Jays, 6-3, in Dunedin.

Roy Halladay looked great. Two innings of scoreless baseball made me look forward to Roy pitching in games that count in about a month. The worst part of the day was when
Charlie Manuel took Halladay out after two innings instead of letting him throw a third, but I guess there are worse things in the world. What was a great game for Phillies fans was actually somewhat dull for most of the time given that Florida Auto Exchange Stadium (more on that in a bit) was "packed" with less than 4,000 fans.

Getting back to the game, Placido Polanco drove in two runs as did Carlos Ruiz, who got the scoring started with a two-run double off Jays starter Jo-Jo Reyes in the second inning. The newly named Florida Auto Exchange Stadium was filled with Phillies fans who cheered every hit, walk, and run scored. As for the stadium name, I have no idea. Seriously? Can't Dunedin just name their stadium after a bank or an insurance company like everyone else? I won't get on my soapbox about naming rights, at least right now. As the public address announcer said multiple times today, "delightfully different" Dunedin surely is different - at least when it comes to the name of their stadium.

The Phillies are back to the friendly confines of Bright House Field for two games starting tomorrow. First up is the Tigers, who will face
Cliff Lee on Tuesday in his first start this spring. I look forward to hopefully seeing Cliff Lee perform just as well as Joe Blanton and Roy Halladay have the past few days. Plus, if the games I've seen here are any indication of how the starting rotation will pitch in games that count, I will be a happy man when the Phillies return north to Citizens Bank Park come late March and early April.

Top Hitters:  Polanco and Ruiz, along with Ben Francisco.  Francisco added another hit and RBI to raise his early Spring average to .571.

Top Pitchers:  Halladay looked sharp and J.C. Ramirez threw two shutout innings while striking out four.  Ramirez was one of the four players acquired from the Mariners in December 2009 when the Phils made the mistake of trading away Lee.

Featured Card:  I still have the 1958 Topps set on my mind, so this is another card from the 2007 Topps Heritage set.  Just like the original set, the last cards in the 2007 Topps Heritage set feature All-Stars from both leagues.

Other Stuff:  Domonic Brown is 0 for 9 so far this spring with six strikeouts . . . Matt Anderson, who signed a minor league deal with the Phils in January, pitched a scoreless eighth inning against the Blue Jays.  Anderson was the overall number one pick in the 1997 amateur draft, and he hasn't appeared in the Majors since 2005 . . . The Blue Jays played sloppy baseball, tallying five errors.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

1979 TCMA Baseball History Series #4 Robin Roberts

Yankees 7, Phillies 3
Spring Training Game 2 - Sunday Afternoon, February 27th in Clearwater

One Sentence Summary:  Starter Joe Blanton pitched well in his Spring debut, but the Phils managed just five hits and the Justin DeFratus/Michael Schwimer relief combo allowed six runs over two innings as the bad guys won.

What It Means:  Not a whole lot.  But friend o' the blog Christopher is back in Clearwater again this year.  He was kind enough to file this field report:

It's spring, and that means both tax season and Spring Training. Guess which one brings me more joy?

I took another trip to Clearwater to see the Phillies play, but today's game left me with only one positive: At least Joe Blanton pitched well....

The Phils' bats were silent for way too much of the game to really make it a contest, so a day after coming back to win 5-4 against the Yankees in Tampa, the Phillies lost their Clearwater home opener, 7-3, to those same Yankees.

As for Blanton, the least regarded pitcher in a rotation the likes of which have probably never been seen before, he pitched well for the early innings. However, once he came out, the wheels fell off the mound and the Yankees scored runs in bunches. Most of the Phillies regulars started, but they were fond of striking out and swinging at bad pitches. When the Phillies did hit the ball, they were already so far in the hole, it didn't matter.


Chase Utley didn't play, and we found out later that he has patella tendinitis in the right knee. He's had a rash of injuries the past few seasons, so let's hope this injury does not affect the games that count starting in late March.

Monday brings the Phillies to a game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin and a
Roy Halladay-Kyle Drabek match-up. It could be a great game, but even a so-so game in spring training is better than a Monday in the office.

Truer words have never been spoken. Thanks Christopher!

Top Hitter:  Ben Francisco doubled and homered, accounting for two of the team's five hits.  It's crazy early, but Francisco (the new regular right fielder?) has looked good in his first two games.

Top Pitcher:  Blanton walked the first Yankee on four pitches and then settled in to retire the next nine in order.

Featured Card:  Hall of Famer Duke Snider passed away today at the age of 84.  I've featured a card of Phillies Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, as Robbie holds the distinction of allowing 19 home runs to Duke, the most career home runs off one pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball.  Snider also hit the final home run ever at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn off Roberts on September 22, 1957.  This card is from the 291-card collectors' issue from 1979, featuring the top stars of the 1950s.  The fronts and backs of the cards borrow from the 1953 Bowman Color set.

Other Stuff:  Check out the archives here, here, here and here for Christopher's prior year Clearwater reports.

1958 Topps Phillies

2002 Topps Archives #141, 1958 Topps #171, #348 and #433
Of all the Topps cards from the past 60 years, I'm perhaps the most unfamiliar with the 1958 Topps set.  In my younger collecting days, I had somehow managed to obtain samples of baseball cards from all of the Topps base set offerings from 1952 onwards, with the exception being this set.

1958 Topps #387
The Set
Number of cards in the set:  The set is numbered to a whopping 495, but card #145 was never issued due to Ed Bouchee's suspension for the first half of the 1958 season.  (See below for further details.)
My very brief thoughts on the set:  It's similar to the 1954 Topps set, with its bright backgrounds and portrait shots and it's a step up from the 1957 Topps set, despite the basic design and the mugshot-like fronts.  I dig the player's name appearing in large font at the top of the card.  And to borrow from Section 36's comment to my 1957 Topps Phillies post, this set seems more classic and less "old."
Notable competition:  Hires Root Beer released a 66-card set, available on the side of the soda's cardboard cartons.  There are 11 Phillies featured, and the set uses the "knothole" design which apparently had been in the running as the design for the never-released 1956 Bowman set.

1958 Phillies
1958 Topps #387 (Back)
Record and finish:  Kicking off a dark period in the franchise's history, the Phils finished in last place with a 69-85 record.  They would remain in the basement until 1962, when expansion teams and the hapless Chicago Cubs helped to elevate the Phils to a 7th place finish out of 10 National League teams.
Key players:  Richie Ashburn won his second National League batting title, going 3 for 4 on the final day of the season and raising his average to .350 to top Willie Mays and his .347 average.  The Phillies Encyclopedia calls Ashburn's season "one of the finest seasons of any player in modern Phillies history."  He led the league in hits, walks, triples and outfield putouts.  Left fielder Harry Anderson had an outstanding year, hitting .301 with 23 home runs and 97 RBIs.  Rookie pitcher Ray Semproch went 13-11 to start the season, but then won only two more games from mid-July through the season's end.  Robin Roberts had a comeback year of sorts, going 17-14 with a 3.24 ERA.
Key events:  The Phils acquired slugger Wally Post from the Reds in December 1957 for Harvey Haddix.  His 12 home runs in '58 marked a career low since he had become a regular with the Reds in '54.  Manager Mayo Smith was fired in July, and he was replaced by the team's manager from 1948-1952, Eddie Sawyer.  The team went 28-41 following Sawyer's return to the team.

1958 Topps #353, #181, #116 and #186

1958 Phillies in 1958 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are 29 cards in the team set, bringing the cumulative eight-year total to 137 Phillies cards.
Who’s in:  7 of the regulars, 9 bench players, the 5 top starting pitchers, 5 relievers, 2 guys in the Phillies minor league system that year (Chuck Harmon and Dan Landrum) and a team card.
Who’s out:  First baseman Ed Bouchee was supposed be card #145 in the set, but Topps pulled his card after he was suspended for indecent exposure.  (See Wrigley Wax for required reading.)  Apparently rehabilitated, Bouchee returned to the Phillies in mid-season.  Reliever Seth Morehead got left out again, even though he pitched in 27 games.
Phillies on other teams:  There are three players who appeared with the Phillies in 1958, but appeared in the 1958 Topps set on different teams.  Tom Qualters appeared in just one game with the team in April before being sold to the White Sox.  He appeared as a member of the White Sox in the set's high series.  Catcher Carl Sawatski (card #234) was acquired from the Braves in June, and catcher Jim Hegan (card #345) was acquired from the Tigers in July.
What’s he doing here:  Mack Burk appeared in one game for the 1958 Phillies, striking out in his lone plate appearance in a game in June.
Cards that never were candidates:  Bouchee's #145 (obviously) and Morehead (again).
Favorite Phillies card:  Post had spent the first six seasons of his career wearing a Reds uniform, and he appears on his first Phillies card wearing the Reds' sleeveless vests from 1957.  It's perhaps the first Topps Phillies card to poorly mask a player switching teams in the offseason.

2007 Topps Heritage #45, #230, #310 and #326

Other Stuff
Recycled:  Topps used the 1958 Topps design for its 2007 Heritage set.
Blogs/Websites:  I am amazed and impressed that Cardboard Junkie is trying to put this set together.
Did You Know?:  The most valuable card in the set is a super rare variation of Frank "Pancho" Herrera's rookie card without the "A" at the end of his last name.  An internet search shows that examples of this variation have sold for thousands of dollars.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

2001 Topps #751 Keith Bucktrot/Dane Sardinha

Phillies 5, Yankees 4
Spring Training Game 1 - Saturday Afternoon, February 26th in Tampa

One Sentence Summary: Third string catcher Dane Sardinha's two-run single in the eighth drove home the tying and go-ahead runs as I blissfully watched the game on TV.

What It Means: The Phils won the first game of their Grapefuit League season, behind a few timely hits and mostly effective pitching.  Cole Hamels looked just OK in his two innings of work, allowing an unearned run and two hits in his spring debut.

Top Hitters: Sardinha, Ross Gload and non-roster invitee Josh Barfield all had multi-hit games for the Phils.  Ben Francisco turned a ball completely misplayed by Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher into a triple and eventually scored the team's first run.

Top Pitchers: Vance Worley and Mike Zagurski contributed scoreless frames.  Reliever Jason Grilli, in camp with the Phillies' minor leaguers, earned the save despite allowing a few base runners in the ninth.

Featured Card: Sardinha made it into 13 games last season with the Phillies, getting the call when Carlos Ruiz went on the disabled list in June.  He's featured on this Topps Draft Picks card with former Phillies top draft pick Keith Bucktrot.  Bucktrot was taken as the team's third selection in the June 2000 draft and ten years ago, you would have easily picked Bucktrot to have made his Phillies' debut before Sardinha.  However, Bucktrot would go 35-42 in six minor league seasons within the Phillies organization, never advancing beyond AA Reading.  He was released during Spring Training 2006.  Sardinha made his big league debut in September 2003, and he's since bounced from the Reds to the Tigers to the Phils.

Other Stuff:  Apparently the game on Thursday against Florida State doesn't count against the official Spring Training stats or standings, so it's an exhibition exhibition game.  I've changed the notation at the top of that post to remove the "Spring Training Game 1" label . . . Chase Utley was out of the line-up again (sore legs) as was Jimmy Rollins, who was a guest at the White House yesterday.  In a B-game, reliever Danys Baez was lit up against a bunch of Blue Jays' minor leaguers, allowing five hits and five runs in two-thirds of an inning.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

2004 Playoff Prestige #146 Ryan Howard

Phillies 8, Seminoles 0
Spring Training Exhibition - Thursday Afternoon, February 24th in Clearwater

One Sentence Summary:  Ryan Howard drove in the first runs of the Spring with a 2-run double in the first and seven Phillies pitchers combined to throw a 4-hit shutout against the Florida State Seminoles.

What It Means:  Sweet, sweet baseball is back.  For the first time since Howard stood and stared at a called third strike in Game 6 of the NLCS, baseball is back.  Hallelujah.

Also, I thought I'd try a new game summary format for my 2011 Phillies game summary posts, so I'm trying out this "quick hits" format thing.  However, I'm not optimistic about my ability to post a game summary after each Spring Training game.

Top Hitters:  Howard went 1 for 2 with the aforementioned 2-run double.  Eleven different Phillies contributed eleven total hits.

Top Pitchers:  Drew Naylor started and pitched two innings, earning the win.  Michael Stutes struck out the side in the sixth.  Naylor spent 2010 with AA Reading, and Stutes split time between Reading and AAA Lehigh Valley last year.

Featured Card:  Howard appears ready for some Spring Training action on this Playoff Prestige baseball card from seven years ago.  He's come a long way since then, winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2005, an MVP award in 2006, and a World Series ring in 2008.  This year, Howard looks to improve upon his "down" year in 2010, in which he hit .276 with just 31 home runs and 108 RBIs.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Cure for Sitting and Moaning

2011 Topps Commemorative
Patch #TLMP-RH
I see the light at the end of the tunnel now.
Someone please tell me it's not a train.
- Cracker, "I See the Light," 1992

I'm not going to lie to you.  It's been a brutal winter, and the last few weeks have taken their toll on my mental health.  On an annual basis, this is most likely the busiest 3-week period at work for me and it's more likely than not (inside joke) I'm working 12+ hour days and at least one day on the weekend.  My Dad was doing better for a stretch and then we ended up taking him back to the hospital yesterday afternoon.  My gas gauge is pointing to E, and there have been days when I've been seriously tempted to just sit and moan.

If not for my family and friends, the daily Spring Training reports from Clearwater, and Phillies baseball cards received in the mail from fellow bloggers, this post may just have been a bunch of self-centered whining.  Instead, I'm pleased to bring you highlights from recent magical bubblelopes that have appeared in my mail box over the past week.

2010 Topps Chrome Purple
Refractors #127
Ron from Section 36 recently pulled this manufactured patch card from a 2011 Topps blaster, and he was kind enough to set it aside for me.  This is only my second manufactured patch card, and I can't decide if I like these or not.  It's definitely a cool card, but I'm not sure how to store the thing and I have no idea what Roy Halladay and the 1950 Phillies have in common.  Ron sent a few other Phillies cards for my collection, including this shiny purple card of current Washington Nationals' outfielder Jayson Werth.  This is the first shiny purple baseball card in my collection.  Again, it's definitely a cool card, and I'm happy to have it, but I don't get why some collectors go ape-poop over these things.  Conclusion:  I will need to obtain more Phillies manufactured patch cards and shiny purple baseball cards in order to form a more informed opinion.

I also received a package from Jason from The Writer's Journey.  (Jason - Your package was mailed today.)  In one of our e-mail exchanges arranging the trade, Jason had mentioned that he had "tried to pull a bunch of oddball stuff," which immediately piqued my interest.  True to his word, his package contained a wide variety of Phillies cards from the '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s and '10s.

1978 Topps #271, 1988 Topps Stickers #125, 1988 Topps Stickercards #5, 2005 Upper Deck Past Time Pennants #67

The '78 Topps Randy Lerch card goes into my '70s Phillies binder as I inch closer to completing the '78 Topps Phillies team set.  The smaller cards of Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and new Phillies third base coach Juan Samuel are from the 1988 Topps Stickers set.  Somehow, this set has eluded my collection all these years.  And finally, it's rare for me to come across a Richie Ashburn card I've never seen before, but Jason sent this card (along with a Jim Bunning card) from the 2005 Upper Deck Past Time Pennants set.  I can honestly say I did not know this set even existed until viewing these cards.

Thanks again to Ron and Jason.  Your cards arrived at the perfect time and they helped to stave off a bout of sitting and moaning for the foreseeable future.

Monday, February 21, 2011

2011 Phillies Wantlist

2011 Topps #232
One of the nice things about there not being many baseball card releases these days is that I can actually focus on trying to put together a "master" team set from the new Topps releases.  I typically wouldn't go after the parallels and manufactured patch cards listed below, but since there's not much other new product out these days, and since I kind of like these cards, I figured, "Why not?"

The only Phillies cards from the 2011 Topps set I haven't listed below are the cards I don't know much about - the Diamond Die-Cuts for example.  These cards seem to only be available through a wrapper redemption program, which seems like a lot of work just to track down these inserts.

I'll track my 2011 Phillies "needs" in the post throughout the year.

Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
Autographed Chrome Prospects - BCAP-LG Greene
Autographed Prospects - BPA-SV Valle

Bowman Platinum
Dual Relic Autographs - IV Ibanez/Victorino/89

Topps Series 1, 2 and Update
Blue Diamond (Walmart Exclusive) - BDW16 Lee
Diamond Anniversary Parallels - 460 Hamels, 469 Blanton, 495 Victorino,  511 Phillies Team, 524 Martinez, 638 Madson, US85 Halladay AS, US92 Pence, US100 Lee, US117 Stutes, US154 Lee AS, US189 Valdez
Diamond Die-Cuts - DDC44 Ruiz, DDC50 Howard, DDC53 Rollins, DDC72 Hamels, DDC95 Brown, DDC109 Schmidt, DDC110 Halladay, DDC130 Utley
Ruby Red (Target Exclusive) - THP16 Lee
Throwback Commemorative Patches - CL Lee, CU Utley, MS Schmidt, MS Schmidt (Update version)
Topps 60 Autographs - T60A-CL Lee, T60A-CU Utley, T60A-RH Howard, T60A-DB Brown, T60A-SV Victorino
Topps 60 Relics - T60R-RH Howard, T60R-RI Ibanez, T60R-RR Roberts, T60R-JR Rollins

Topps Allen & Ginter
Autographs - CU Utley, RH Halladay
Relics - JR Rollins, SV1 Victorino (Bat), SV2 Victorino (Jersey)

Topps Gypsy Queen
Autographs - DB Brown, RH Halladay, RHA Howard, SV Victorino
Relics - RH Howard

Topps Heritage
Black - C15 Halladay LL, C54 Worley
Baseball Bucks - BB61 Halladay, BB62 Howard, BB63 Brown
Clubhouse Collection - CCR-CU Utley
Stamps - Howard, Oswalt, Ruiz, Rollins, Halladay, Lidge, Hamels, Lee

Topps Stickers
Base Set - 207 Pence

Also interested in 2011 Phillies autographed, game used or relic cards. Please inquire within.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

1957 Topps Phillies

1957 Topps #54, #91, #224, #231
I've always viewed the 1957 Topps set as a bit of a let-down following the iconic 1956 Topps baseball card set. In short, and this is only my personal opinion, I think the '57 Topps cards are dull. The colors are washed out and there's really no vibrancy to the set. But I wonder what I would have thought upon first seeing these cards in the summer of 57? First off, the size of the cards is smaller than the Topps cards from 1951 through 1956. Would that have ticked me off? I probably would have had my older Topps cards stored in a shoe box, held together with rubber bands, and the smaller '57 Topps cards would have looked out of place within the box. But would I have liked the full color pictures on the front? I’ve read dozens of blog posts over the past few weeks critiquing and analyzing the 2011 Topps set. What did young collectors think back in the spring of 1957 when they opened their first packs of '57 Topps baseball cards?

The Set
Number of cards in the set:  Mirroring the number of cards in the '52 Topps set, there are 407 cards in the complete set.  If you include the mega rare four unnumbered checklists, it's a 411-card complete set.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  Meh.  It introduced the now standard baseball card size of 2 1/2" by 3 1/2", but it's still a let-down after the classic '56 Topps set.
Notable competition:  Just a few regional and food issued sets were around to compete with Topps.

1957 Topps #15
1957 Phillies
Record and finish:  The team finished at an even 77-77, in 5th place in the National League behind the pennant winning Milwaukee Braves.
Key players:  First baseman Ed Bouchee hit .293 with 17 home runs and 76 RBIs.  He shared the rookie spotlight with Jack Sanford who went 19-8 with a 3.08 ERA while leading the league in strikeouts (188).  Sanford bested Bouchee for National League Rookie of the Year honors.  Fellow rookie Harry Anderson shined as the team's regular left fielder, hitting .268 with 17 home runs.  Rip Repulski led the team in home runs with 20, and Richie Ashburn once again led the team with a .297 average.
Key events:  Following the '56 season, slugger Del Ennis was traded to the Cardinals for Bobby Morgan and Repulski.  The Phillies Encyclopedia summarizes the 1957 season for the Phils as a rebuilding year, noting that "1957 became the year of the Phillies' youth movement."  The team found themselves in first place as late as July, but a 9-19 slump in August erased any hopes of a Postseason.  It didn't help that Robin Roberts lost 22 of his 32 starts, in one of the worst years of his career.

1957 Phillies in 1957 Topps
1957 Topps #15 (Back)
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are 27 Phillies cards in the set, topping the 21 cards found in the '56 set in the prior year.  We're up to 108 total Phillies cards in the run of Topps sets starting in 1951.
Who’s in:  Everybody.  Even though I'm not a huge fan of this set, this set represents the first time Topps didn't leave any Phillies behind.  The eight starters are featured, six bench guys made the cut, the five pitchers in the starting rotation are in, along with four relievers.  Rounding out the team set are a team card, catcher Mack Burk who played with the Phillies in '56 and '58 and two guys traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers the week before the season started - Elmer Valo and Ron Negray.  One of the guys acquired from the Dodgers in the trade, Chico Fernandez, appeared as a Phillie in a later series in the set.
Who’s out:  Reliever Seth Morehead appeared in 34 games for the team, but he wasn't featured in the set.  Andy Seminick played in 8 games before calling it a career.  It would have been nice to have had one more card of the long-time Phillies catcher.
Phillies on other teams:  Chuck Harmon (#299) was acquired from the Cardinals for Glen Gorbous in May.  Reliever Warren Hacker (#370) was selected off waivers from the Reds in June.  And Ron Northey (#31) was signed in July after being released by the White Sox.
What’s he doing here:  I can't really argue with any of the player selection within the team set.  Saul Rogovin got a card in the set, but only pitched in four games for the '57 Phils.
Cards that never were candidates:  Morehead and Seminick.
Favorite Phillies card:  I don't own many '57 Topps Phillies cards (yet), but I've always liked the Valo card with the new-fangled television camera in the background.

2006 Topps Heritage #326, #164, #211, #471
Other Stuff
Recycled:  Topps used the '57 Topps design for its 2006 Topps Heritage set, my least favorite Heritage set to date.
Blogs/Websites:  I am very much against the encasing of baseball cards within plastic crypts, but I thought this was a good overall article summarizing the set.  It's a little more favorable in its review of the set than I was.
Did You Know?:  Del Ennis enjoyed another solid season in 1957, his first with the Cardinals, hitting .286 with 24 home runs and 105 RBIs.  His production dropped significantly in 1958, and he was traded after that season to the Reds.  Part way through the '59 campaign, Ennis was shipped to the White Sox where he appeared in just 26 games before being let go in June.  Thus ended the 14-year career of one of my Dad's favorite Phillies.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

2003 Upper Deck #476 Brandon Duckworth

I'm concluding my review of former Phillies reporting for Spring Training with other teams with a look at the AL East and AL Central teams.

AL East
Baltimore Orioles
Staff - Third base coach John Russell (84-88)

Boston Red Sox
Non-Roster Invitee - Pitcher Brandon Duckworth (01-03) and catcher Paul Hoover (09-10)
Staff - Manager Terry Francona (manager 97-00)

New York Yankees
40-Man Roster - Outfielder Greg Golson (08)
Non-Roster Invitee - Pitcher Freddy Garcia (07)

Tampa Bay Rays
Non-Roster Invitee - Pitcher R.J. Swindle (08)
Staff - Third base coach Tom Foley (85-86)

Toronto Blue Jays
2003 Topps 205 #126
Staff - Hitting coach Dwayne Murphy (89) and first base coach Torey Lovullo (99)
And although he never suited up for the Phils, top prospect Kyle Drabek is in camp too.

AL Central
Chicago White Sox
40-Man Roster - Pitcher Gavin Floyd (04-06)

Cleveland Indians
40-Man Roster - Catcher Lou Marson (08) (and honorable mention to shortstop Jason Donald)
Staff - Third base coach Steve Smith (07-08)

Detroit Tigers
No former Phillies will be taking the field in Lakeland this spring.

2003 Playoff Portraits #78
Kansas City Royals
40-Man Roster - Pitchers Bruce Chen (00-01) and Robinson Tejada (05)
Non-Roster Invitee - Third baseman Pedro Feliz (08-09)

Minnesota Twins
40-Man Roster - DH Jim Thome (03-05)

And my posts from a few days ago need updating.  Russell Branyan (07) signed a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks today, while the San Diego Padres signed a minor league deal with reliever Geoff Geary (03-07) yesterday.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

1989 Donruss Baseball's Best #184 Ken Howell

To celebrate the first week of Spring Training, I'm sharing one of my annual rituals.  Each year I go through the active rosters, coaching staffs and non-roster invitee lists to see where former Phillies have landed.  This post looks at the NL West and the AL West.

NL West
Arizona Diamondbacks
Non-Roster Invitees - Infielders Cody Ransom (10) and Andy Tracy (08-09)

Colorado Rockies
The Rockies don't have one former Phillie donning the purple and silver this spring.

Los Angeles Dodgers
40-Man Roster - Pitcher Vicente Padilla (00-05) and catcher Rod Barajas (07)
Non-Roster Invitee - Infielder Juan Castro (10)
1989 Donruss Baseball's
Best #215
Staff - First base coach Davey Lopes (coach 07-10) and bullpen coach Ken Howell (89-90)

San Diego Padres
Staff - Hitting coach Randy Ready (89-91; 94-95) and bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds (90-91)

San Francisco Giants
40-Man Roster - Outfielders Pat Burrell (00-08) and Aaron Rowand (06-07)

1989 Donruss #487
AL West
Los Angeles Angels
40-Man Roster - Outfielder Bobby Abreu (98-06)
Non-Roster Invitee - Pitcher Eric Junge (02-03)

Oakland Athletics
There are no former Phillies on the 40-man roster, but there are plenty of former Phillie farm hands - Gio Gonzalez, Josh Outman, Adrian Cardenas and Michael Taylor

Seattle Mariners
Non-Roster Invitees - Pitchers Fabio Castro (06-07) and Nate Robertson (10)

Texas Rangers
40-Man Roster - Reliever Arthur Rhodes (06)
Non-Roster Invitee - Outfielder Endy Chavez (05)
Staff - Pitching coach Mike Maddux (86-89)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2008 Grandstand Clearwater Threshers #40 Brian Schlitter

The Phils completed their first transaction of the early spring today, claiming lefty pitcher Brian Schlitter off waivers from the New York Yankees.  To make room for Schlitter on the 40-man roster, pitcher Drew Carpenter was designated for assignment.  Schlitter was actually drafted by the Phillies back in 2007, and he spent parts of two seasons within the Phils' minor league system before being dealt to the Cubs in August 2008 in exchange for Scott Eyre.  Eyre, of course, helped the Phillies down the stretch and throughout the 2008 Postseason, earning a World Series ring for his efforts.

Schlitter made it into seven games for the Cubs in 2010, pitching eight innings and running up a 12.38 ERA.  He was squeezed off the Cubs' roster in January and selected by the Yankees a few days later.  He was the odd man out with the Yankees upon their signing of Andruw Jones yesterday.

There's a good chance Schlitter actually makes the Phillies out of Spring Training.  With J.C. Romero a question mark and with word that Antonio Bastardo's elbow is flaring up, Schlitter could compete with Mike Zagurski for the open lefty bullpen role.

Carpenter could remain with the Phils if he clears waivers.  Over the course of the past three seasons, Carpenter pitched in just five games with the Phillies, going 1-1 with a 9.31 ERA.

Sarge:  Upon reading about the acquisition of Schlitter, my immediate reaction was, "Sarge (Phillies announcer Gary Matthews) is going to have really tough time with this guy's name."  My astute wife, Jenna, observed, "And what happens the first time Sarge tries to describe back-up catcher Brian Schneider throwing the ball back to Schlitter?"  The mind boggles.

Monday, February 14, 2011

2007 Upper Deck Phillies #15 Greg Dobbs

Finally!  Phillies pitchers and catchers had their first official work out in Clearwater today and the long, fairly miserable winter of 2011 is close to being completely behind us.  One of the things I like to do at the start of Spring Training is scour each team's 40-man rosters and non-roster invitees for former Phillies.  I'm going to go around the league to see who ended up where, starting with the NL East and Central teams.

I'm limiting my search to former Phillies, and not former Phillies prospects, as that task could be a little too labor intensive.

NL East
Atlanta Braves
40-Man Roster - Closer Billy Wagner (04-05) (although he's announced his retirement)
Non-Roster Invitee - Pitcher Rodrigo Lopez (09)
Staff - Pitching coach Roger McDowell (89-91)

Florida Marlins
40-Man Roster - Reliever Brian Sanches (06) and 3rd baseman Wes Helms (07)
Non-Roster Invitees - 3rd baseman Greg Dobbs (07-10) and infielder Joe Thurston (06)

New York Mets
Staff - Pitching coach Dan Warthen (77)
I'm not counting catcher Ronny Paulino or pitcher Taylor Buchholz as neither player suited up for the Phillies in an actual regular season game.

Washington Nationals
2007 Upper Deck
Phillies #25
40-Man Roster - Outfielder Jayson Werth (07-10)
Non-Roster Invitees - Pitcher Joe Bisenius (07) and outfielder Matt Stairs (08-09)

NL Central
Chicago Cubs
40-Man Roster - Pitcher Carlos Silva (02-03) and outfielder Marlon Byrd (02-05)
Staff - First base coach Bob Dernier (!) (80-83; 88-89) and third base coach Ivan DeJesus (82-84)
Each year when I perform this exercise, I'm always surprised to see where certain former Phillies have landed.  I had no idea my all time favorite Phillie was named the Cubs' first base coach this offseason.  Very, very cool.

Cincinnati Reds
40-Man Roster - Infielder Miguel Cairo (09) and third baseman Scott Rolen (96-02)
Staff - First base coach Billy Hatcher (94)

2007 Upper Deck
Phillies #21
Houston Astros
40-Man Roster - Pitchers Sergio Escalona (09), Nelson Figueroa (01;10) , J.A. Happ (07-10) and Brett Myers (02-09), outfielders Michael Bourn (06-07) and Jason Michaels (01-05)
Staff - Manager Brad Mills (coach 97-00)

Milwaukee Brewers
40-Man Roster - Pitcher Randy Wolf (99-06)
Non-Roster Invitee - Pitcher Zack Segovia (07)
Staff - Manager Ron Roenicke (86-87) and hitting coach Dale Sveum (92)

Pittsburgh Pirates
Staff - Third base coach Nick Leyva (manager 89-91)

St. Louis Cardinals
40-Man Roster - Relievers Ryan Franklin (06) and Trever Miller (00), pitcher Kyle Lohse (07), infielder Nick Punto (01-03)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Collecting the 1956 Topps Set

1956 Topps #255
I had started to put together a post summarizing the 1957 Topps Phillies baseball cards.  But then I decided to first dedicate one more post to the best baseball card set of all time.  This is the story of how my Dad and I started collecting the 1956 Topps set.

I think it was either the summer of 1983 or 1984 when a shoebox of vintage baseball cards, football cards and a few non-sports cards arrived into my world. The box contained about a hundred cards dating between 1950 and 1956, and for the most part, they were all in excellent shape. A friend of the family was in the process of cleaning up and moving into her new house when she found the old shoebox and she wondered if the only kid she knew who collected baseball cards (me) would be interested in looking through it – maybe even taking the box off her hands.

1956 Topps #155
She dropped the box off to my parents and asked them to have me look through the box and take what I was interested in. Turns out, I was interested in everything. Up to that point, the oldest cards in my collection were cards from the early '70s I had obtained through trades or cards that my Dad had picked up for me at yard sales or small baseball card shows. (My Dad had given me a few dog-earred ’59 Topps cards – Juan Pizzaro and Jim Busby – a few years prior, and I completely forget how or why he had purchased these cards for me.)

My parents asked me to pick out a few cards from the box, and then we’d return the rest to the family friend. Problem was, I wanted them all. I really wanted them all.  I diligently and meticulously went through one of my price guides and determined the “value” of the treasure chest. I probably used my Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guide No. 4, edited by Dr. James Beckett, and I had no way to value the football or non-sports cards.  My memory is fuzzy, and I can't find the original tally, but I think I came up with the box being worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 to $400, which I knew my parents definitely did not have in their discretionary spending budget. But they could tell how much I wanted those cards, as I lovingly studied each and every one and handled each as if it were some long-lost artifact.

1956 Topps #168
I don’t know the exact details, but I believe my Dad went back to the friend and told her we’d take the whole box, but only if she let him give her some money for it. I believe she was genuinely shocked that the box of old cardboard pictures had some value, and that someone was willing to give her cash for it. My Dad shared the list I had created showing the “book value” of the cards and he mentioned how it was going to be close to impossible to get me to pick and choose which ones I wanted. When all was said and done, the family friend, who had absolutely no intention of making money on this endeavor, walked away with (I think) something in the neighborhood of $100 for the whole lot.

Within the spoils were 44 cards from the 1956 Topps set – by far the most cards from any one set. I studied them, I sorted them, and I pretty much memorized every detail of those 44 cards.  There were no Phillies cards in the Original 44, but I've selected players with Phillie ties from the lot to display here.  (See my explanations at the bottom of this post.)
1956 Topps #222

And so a few years later, in the summer of 1987 while on a family vacation, I was giddy with excitement when we came across a few ’56 Topps cards in the Walker Gallery on the main drag in Cooperstown, New York. My Dad and I studied the cards for sale and he casually asked me the question, “Why don’t we try to put together the whole set?” We bought four cards that day for $9.25.  Those cards, along with the 44 from the magic shoebox, became the basis for our 1956 Topps set.

No Phillies:  There were no Phillies in the Original 44, but there were a few players with Phillie ties.  Hall of Famer Bob Lemon was the team's pitching coach in 1961.  Harvey Kuenn finished up his 15-year career in the Majors by playing in 86 games for the 1966 Phillies and hitting .296.  Dave Philley was with the Phillies from 1958 to 1960.  He hit an even .300 in 204 games.  Sammy White served as the team's back-up catcher in 1962, making it into 41 games and hitting .216.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

1956 Topps #72 Phillies Team

There were three variations of each team card released in the 1956 Topps set - with the date on front, with no date and a centered team name, and with no date and the team name at left.  I have the more commonly available "no date, team name at left" variation in my '56 Topps set.  The team cards from the set are cool in that they actually identify the players, coaches, and personnel featured.  I figured my post on the 1956 Topps Phillies cards wouldn't be complete until I fully catalogued the 37 men featured on the Phillies' 1956 Topps team card.

Based on my somewhat thorough and non-scientific research, I'm going out on a limb and saying the picture was taken at some point in 1955.  The men featured can be broken down into six subsets:

Blaylock made it into
the '56 set after all.
1.  The Usual Suspects (13):  These are the regulars - guys who saw significant playing time in 1955 and into 1956.  Stan Lopata, Marv Blaylock (who wasn't featured in the '56 Topps set), Granny Hamner, Willie Jones, Del Ennis, Richie Ashburn, Jim Greengrass, Andy Seminick, Roy Smalley (also not in the '56 Topps set), Robin Roberts, Curt Simmons, Jack Meyer (listed as "Meyers" on the card's front) and Bob Miller.  Regular second baseman Ted Kazanski must have missed photo day, as he's not included in the picture.

2.  The Reserves (5):  These are the guys who played with the Phillies sparingly in 1956, but they had been with the organization since 1955 or earlier.  Glen Gorbous, Bobby Morgan, Jim Owens, Murry Dickson, Herm Wehmeier.

3.  The Field Staff (5):  The manager and coaches.  Manager Mayo Smith, and coaches Benny Bengough, Wally Moses, Whit Wyatt and Maje McDonnell.

4.  The 1955 Phillies (9):  These are players who saw time with the team in 1955, but were gone by the time the 1956 season rolled around.  Peanuts Lowrey, Ron Mrozinski, Thornton Kipper, Lynn Lovenguth, Gus Niarhos, Jack Spring, Mel Clark, Dave Cole and Earl Torgeson.

Ortiz strikes again
The last two subsets are the most interesting, in my mind.

5.  The Prospects (2):

Lou Ortiz:  My new favorite non-Phillie is actually featured on the team card.  I wrote about my fascination with Ortiz in my '55 Topps post.

Tom Qualters:  Bonus baby Qualters pitched 1/3 of an inning for the Phillies in 1953, giving up six earned runs and earning a 162.00 ERA.  He bounced around in the minors before making it back to the Phils for seven games in 1957 and 1958. 

6.  The Batboy, the Trainer and the Dude in the Suit (3):

The Kenny Bush
rookie card
The guy standing to the far left is Phillies trainer and physical therapist Frank Weichec, Sr.  I did a quick Google search for "weichec phillies" and found this brief write-up which mentions that Weichec was the trainer for both the Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles from 1949 to 1961.

The dude in the suit standing to the far right is traveling secretary John Wise.  Ennis' Wikipedia entry mentions that he and Wise at one point operated a bowling alley in Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania, following Ennis' playing days.

And he's not named on the front of the card, but the batboy sitting in the front is none other than Kenny Bush, who served in that role from 1949 until 1961, and then went on to serve as the team's clubhouse manager for several decades.  Here's an ad from a 1955 issue of Boys' Life featuring the young batboy.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    2011 Topps #242 Brad Lidge

    I'm a few weeks off the pace from last year, when I opened my first packs of 2010 Topps on January 22nd.  Target came through for me again this year, and I purchased three rack packs of 2011 Topps this past Sunday.  I had to wait until opening the second half of the second rack pack before encountering my first Phillie of 2011 - this Brad Lidge card.  Sadly, I found only one other Phillies card - Chase Utley at #214 - in the remaining packs.  (eBay, here I come.)

    I've read through a lot of bloggers' posts regarding their thoughts on the 2011 Topps set, and I feel as if I've seen pictures of just about every base card and insert at this point.  My initial thoughts on the set are similar to how I felt about the 2010 set - I like it.  For me personally, the front of a successful modern-day baseball card should possess four things:

    1.  A nice picture of the player:  From what I've seen, it looks as if Topps really paid attention to its photography and picture selection in this year's set.  I especially like that you can see the "HK" on the outfield wall behind Brad Lidge, paying tribute to Harry Kalas who passed away in 2009.  Topps must have Photoshopped out the "HK" patch on the front of Lidge's jersey.

    2.  The player's name is legible:  Check.

    3.  The player's position is on the front of the card:  It's hard to see on this Lidge card, but it does list him as a pitcher below the banner with his name.  Cards without players' positions on the front upset me.

    4.  The team's primary colors are represented:  Check.  And as a bonus, the player's team's logo is on the front of the card.

    If I could change one thing about this design, I'd have the team city at the top of the circle surrounding the team logo, and I'd have the team name at the bottom of the circle.  Writing out "Philadelphia Phillies" at the top and bottom seems crowded and redundant.

    The backs are unremarkable, but they'll do.  I like the easy to read number in the top right corner and I'm OK with Topps repeating the picture from the front in the top left corner.  Maybe I've missed it, but I haven't read any commentary on the little blurb contained on the right side panel of each of the card backs.  The Lidge card contains this passage:  "In the 2000 Topps set, card number 242 was David Wells."  How did Topps decide to go with this card in the write-up?  Does the 2000 Topps set contain the best card #242 in Topps' sixty year history?  In any event, it's quirky, so I've decided I like this.  I'm hoping it's only a matter of time before some other obsessive compulsive blogger decides to put a list together of the cards mentioned on the backs of the 2011 Topps cards.  

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    1956 Topps Phillies

    It's especially fitting this post is running today, as we had to admit my Dad to the hospital on Friday.  He continues to struggle with his health, and it's honestly difficult to turn off my worry button and focus on day-to-day functioning.  This post is for my Dad.


    1956 Topps #120, #180, #220

    The 1956 Topps set holds a very special place in my heart.  Starting in the summer of 1987, and ending with a box under the Christmas tree in 2007, my Dad and I meticulously and lovingly hand collated a complete 1956 Topps set.  We started with a stack of about forty cards that came into my collection through a pure stroke of luck and then we hand picked each and every one of the remaining 342 cards ourselves.  Cards were purchased from baseball card shows, flea markets and stores up and down the East Coast from Cooperstown, New York, down to Raleigh, North Carolina.  We both aged twenty years during the process, with me going from a gangly seventh grader in 1987 to a married man with a son in 2007.  When (and if) I ever have additional time to start a second baseball card-related blog, I'd write about each of the 342 baseball cards comprising the 1956 Topps set - where we bought each card, my thoughts on the cards, and where I was during those twenty wonderful years of collecting this set with my Dad.

    The Set
    Number of cards in the set:  There are 342 cards in this set, including the two unnumbered checklists.
    My very brief thoughts on the set:  It is awesome.  I'm incredibly biased, given my personal connection to the set, but I'd argue this set has more "classic" baseball cards in it than any other.  It's also the first set to include team cards and the league presidents.  The backs feature a large three-panel cartoon highlighting events from the player's career.
    Notable competition:  For the first time in its young history, there really was no major competition for Topps.  There were a few regional or food issue sets released, but Topps' buy-out of Bowman in 1956 gave the company several years with no direct competition.

    1956 Topps #183, #127, #290

    1956 Phillies
    Record and finish:  Fifth place in the National League belonged to the Phils after their 71-83 finish.
    Key players:  Catcher Stan Lopata led the way offensively, with 32 home runs and 95 RBIs.  Del Ennis (.260, 26 home runs, 95 RBIs) and Puddin' Head Jones (.277, 17 home runs, 78 RBIs) turned in their usual steady output, and Richie Ashburn finished sixth in batting with his .303 average.  Robin Roberts missed winning 20 games for the first time since 1949, and his 18 losses led the league.  Curt Simmons made a fine comeback, going 15-10 with a 3.36 ERA.
    Key events:  The season was pretty much over by the end of April, as the Phillies lost 15 of their first 20 games.  On September 25th, Brooklyn pitcher Sal Maglie no-hit the Phillies as the Dodgers won, 5-0.

    1956 Phillies in 1956 Topps
    1956 Topps #120 (Back)
    Cards needed for a complete team set:  Finally, a legitimate team set!  There are 21 Phillies cards in the 1956 Topps set, which is just right given the size of the set and the 18 teams in existence in 1956.  A master set of Topps Phillies cards from 1951-1956 consists of 81 cards.
    Who’s in:  All 19 of the players featured actually saw playing time with the Phillies in 1956.  A team card and a manager card for Mayo Smith round out the team set.
    Who’s out:  First baseman Marv Blaylock and second baseman Ted Kazanski didn't make the cut.  Back-up infielders Solly Hemus and Roy Smalley were also excluded.  Of the pitchers, I would have included a card of reliever Ben Flowers who appeared in 32 games with the Phillies in '56.
    Phillies on other teams:  Flowers was acquired with Harvey Haddix and Stu Miller from the Cardinals in May in exchange for Murry Dickson and Herm Wehmeier.  Both Haddix and Miller appear in the '56 set with Cardinals.  Regular right fielder Elmer Valo was released by the Kansas City Athletics in late May and signed with the Phils a day later.  He's card #3 in the set.
    What’s he doing here:  Wally Westlake, who was the end of a productive career, appeared in just 5 games with the '56 Phillies, going 0 for 4 as a pinch-hitter with three strikeouts.
    Cards that never were candidates:  Blaylock, Kazanski, Smalley and Flowers.  Back when I knew how to use the graphic design software on my PC, I "fixed" the Haddix, Miller and Valo cards to properly show them as Phillies.
    Favorite Phillies card:  If I had to settle on one, I'd go with Ashburn's card.  If I didn't have to settle on one, I'd go with each of the 21 Phillies cards in the set.
    2005 Topps Heritage #50, #120, #156

    Other Stuff
    Recycled:  I went a little overboard in 2005 when Topps used the 1956 Topps design for its Heritage set.  I believe I bought six boxes (is that half a case?) in my attempt to complete a master set.  Six years later, I'm still trying to complete the set.  (But I have a ton of doubles if anyone wants to set up a trade.)  Fleer also loosely based its 2001 Tradition set on the '56 Topps design.  And of course, there were the ubiquitous Topps Big sets from the late '80s, which I think I'll need to cover in a separate post one of these days.
    Blogs/Websites:  Back in this blog's infancy, I did a card by card run-down of the Phillies featured in the 1956 Topps set.  A summary post with links to each card featured can be found here.
    Did You Know?:  Shortstop Hamner pitched in three games for the '56 Phils, lasting 8.2 innings and owning a 4.32 ERA.  On August 31st in Pittsburgh, he actually started a game, lasting into the 5th inning and allowing four runs on nine hits.  The boxscore makes it look as if Haddix was the scheduled starter, but Hamner had to come in as an emergency pitcher to start the game.  He managed to pitch three shutout innings, striking out Pirates' slugger Frank Thomas in the fifth.