Monday, January 31, 2011

2008 Chachi #11 Greg Dobbs

The Phillies Room bids a fond farewell to Greg Dobbs, who signed a minor league deal with the Florida Marlins today.  Dobbs was a member of the 2008 World Championship team, and he was one of the premier pinch-hitters in the game in 2007 and 2008.  He led the majors in pinch-RBIs (18) in 2007 and he eclipsed Greg Gross' all-time single season Phillies pinch-hit record with 22 in 2008.  Injuries, a slumping bat, and a team of rarely rested regulars, cut his playing time significantly in 2009 and 2010.

Dobbs is a favorite of my wife, Jenna, as his first daughter was born the week after our first son, Doug.  Not that he'd remember us, but we've met Greg on three different occasions - once at a pre-season luncheon and twice during the Phillies' photo days.  On all three occasions, Jenna asked him how his daughter was doing and he was kind enough to twice pose with Jenna and Doug.

Best of luck, Greg, except of course when the Fish are playing the Phils.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

1955 Topps Phillies

1955 Topps #62, #79, #130
When I decided to start this series of posts, I knew there would be sets in the '50s and '60s for which I had very few cards to display.  Such is the case with the 1955 Topps set.  To date, I own only three of the ten Phillies featured in the set.  After reprinting its 1952, 1953 and 1954 sets, Topps halted the practice and there's no reprint set available for the 1955 cards.  I wonder if they'd ever consider resurrecting this idea?  How many modern day collectors would love to own reprints of complete Topps' sets from the '50s?

The Set
1955 Bowman #17
Number of cards in the set:  The small set is numbered to 210, and four cards were never issued.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  It's horizontal.  I've never been a huge fan of completely horizontal baseball card sets, which is ironic given that the 1956 Topps set is the best baseball card set of all time.
Notable competition:  Bowman released its final baseball card set in 1955, until Topps resurrected the brand in 1989.  The '55 Bowman set is better known as the "TV set," featuring the classic wood-grain TV design.  If I had been a kid in 1955, I probably would have spent my lawn cutting money on packs of Bowman, and not packs of Topps.  After all, in 1955 televisions were crazy cool and the 1955 Topps set might have looked square in comparison.  My other thought upon first seeing the '55 Topps set would have been, "Oh look, it's the 1954 set again, but this time it's sideways."  And did kids buying packs of '55 Bowman back in the day get bummed when they pulled an umpire card?  My suspicions were confirmed by this fine blog entry over at Dean's Cards, which notes the umpire cards are hard to find today as they were the first cards to be discarded back in 1955.

1955 Phillies
Record and finish:  New manager Mayo Smith led the team to 77-77, 4th place finish.
Key players:  Richie Ashburn hit .338, beating out Willie Mays and Stan Musial for the National League batting title.  Del Ennis had another big year, hitting .296 with 29 home runs and 120 RBIs.  Catcher Stan Lopata made the All-Star team while hitting .271 with 22 home runs.  Robin Roberts was named The Sporting News' top pitcher for the third time, thanks to his 23-14 record.  Rookie closer Jack Meyer led the league in saves with 16.
Key events:  Smoky Burgess was dealt to the Reds in a six-player trade in April that brought back catcher Andy Seminick.  The team's hope of contending quickly evaporated in May following a 13-game losing streak.  
1955 Topps #62, #79, #130 (Backs)

1955 Phillies in 1955 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are only ten Phillies cards in the 1955 Topps set, bringing the cumulative five-year total to 60 Phillies cards in the 1951 through 1955 Topps sets.
Who’s in:  This set represents quite possibly an all-time low for Phillies representation.  Here's what we've got, starting with the team's manager and then going in order of game appearances in 1955 -

  • Manager Mayo Smith (#130)
  • Reliever Bob Miller (#157) - 40 games, 8-4 with a 2.41 ERA
  • Third starter Herm Wehmeier (#29) - Started 29 games, 10-12 with a 4.41 ERA
  • Reliever Thornton Kipper (#62) - 24 games, 0-1 with a 4.99 ERA
  • Infielder Ted Kazanski (#46) - 9 games, 1 for 12 with a home run
  • Reliever Jim Owens (#202) - 3 games, 0-2 with a 8.31 ERA
  • Pinch-hitter Danny Schell (#79) - 2 games, 0 for 2
  • Pitcher Tom Qualters (#33) - 0 games, pitched with a Phillies' farm team in 1955
  • Second baseman Lou Ortiz (#114) - 0 games.  I'm stumped here.  Ortiz played for three different minor league teams in 1955, none of which were affiliated with the Phillies.
  • Pitcher Tom Casagrande (#167) - 0 games.  Casagrande appeared in 5 games with the Phillies' AAA team in Syracuse in 1955.
All of the above except for Smith, Miller and Casagrande also appeared in the 1955 Topps Doubleheaders set as well.

Who’s out:  Everybody else.  Inexplicably, the 1955 Topps set contains no Phillies regular position players.  If you wanted baseball cards of any of the regulars or starting pitchers other than Wehmeier, Bowman was the way to go.
Phillies on other teams:  There aren't even any Phillies on other teams in the set.
What’s he doing here:  That question could be asked for seven of the ten Phillies players featured in the set, but the inclusion of Ortiz and Casagrande are complete mysteries to me.
Cards that never were candidates:  Ashburn, Ennis, Roberts, Lopata and Meyer.
Favorite Phillies card:  Do I have to pick one?  I'm going to go with the card of Lou Ortiz, just for the intrigue of it.  In a quick Google search, I found this "where are they now" article on Ortiz.

2004 Topps Heritage #1, #19, #76
Other Stuff
Recycled:  Unlike its predecessors from the early part of the '50s, Topps has left the 1955 Topps design pretty much alone.  It used the design for its 2004 Topps Heritage set, and then the design slunk back into the Topps vault.
Blogs/Websites:  Bob Lemke (yes, that Bob Lemke) created a wonderful custom 1955 Topps card-that-never-was for Richie Ashburn.  This is the kind of stuff I need to figure out how to do with Pixelmator!
Did You Know?:  17-year-old Fred Van Dusen made his Major League debut with the Phillies on September 11, 1955, in the second game of a double header against the Braves.  In the top of the ninth, with the Phillies down 9-1, Van Dusen came to the plate as a pinch-hitter for Phillies pitcher Lynn Lovenguth.  Braves' pitcher Humberto Robinson plunked Van Dusen, and the rookie took his base.  Van Dusen never made it back into a Major League game, bouncing around the minors until calling it quits in 1961 at the age of 23.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

1953 Bowman Color #103 Del Ennis

Growing up in South Jersey, two of my Dad's favorite Phillies were Dick Sisler and Del Ennis.  It's impossible to post a baseball card of either of these players and not think of him.

In my recent post on the 1953 Topps Phillies baseball cards, I gave a slight edge to the 1953 Topps set over the 1953 Bowman Color set.  Featured here is the one and only Phillies card from the 1953 Bowman Color set currently in my collection - a near perfect baseball card of Phillies' slugger Del Ennis with the sun on his face and blue skies in the background.

As a nine-year-old, my Dad undoubtedly pulled this card from a new pack, smiled, and then promptly stuck it in his bicycle spokes.

Happy birthday to my Dad today, without whom . . .

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The State of the 2011 Chachi Set Address

1983 Topps #664
My fellow bloggers, baseball card collectors, Phillies fans: 

Almost two year ago, I started this humble little blog with the goal of sharing and discussing Phillies baseball cards from my collection, sharing my custom-made baseball cards using baseball card designs of yore, and finding a creative way to goof off at night once the kids were in bed.  We now live in an era in which it is very satisfying to follow and root for the Phillies.  I am proud and honored to be possibly one of the top 1,000 baseball card/Phillies/custom card blogs on this entire fine planet we share.

As most of you may be aware, I have made the switch to an iMac recently, rendering my PC obsolete and putting me at square one in terms of learning and adapting to a new graphic design software package.

At the advice of a few senior advisers, and after careful consideration, I have decided to try my hand at Apple's Pixelmator.  The software package has received its share of favorable reviews, and I like its slogan of, "Image editing for the rest of us."  As soon as my schedule permits, I'm going to sign up for one of the hip and cool "Personal Projects" sessions at my local Apple store, in the hopes of producing something that closely approximates the baseball cards presented here.  [Pause for polite golf applause.]

1983 Topps #301
Yes, the 2011 Chachi set will eventually feature the popular design from Topps' 1983 baseball card set.  [Pause for applause.]  I attempted to make a prototype for this post using Pixelmator, but after several hours of redundant double clicking, stunted lasso dragging and, unfortunately, a few muffled curse words, I must admit defeat.  In short, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.  I want to learn and I plan to learn, but real life and my family's dependence on me for a paycheck dictates that I potentially postpone the release of the 2011 Chachi set until such a time that I can put forth a product deserving of the Chachi name.

A few of you have realized by now that the 2010 Chachi set stands incomplete at 58 cards.  The masses (all three of you) have cried, "Where's our Brian Bocock card?  Where are the 2010 Leaders cards?",  and finally, "When will get a highlight card celebrating Roy Halladay's Cy Young award?"

1983 Topps #252
I hear your cries, and your voices ring loud and true.  The 2010 Chachi set will rise again, and it will be completed.  I will finish what I started and I will not rest until Nate Robertson gets his 2010 Chachi card, even though it's completely undeserved and wholly unnecessary!  [Pause for vigorous applause.]  These are challenging times, when one has to know how to use different palettes and brushes and layers and swatches.  But I'm up to the challenge, and I will not be defeated or daunted just because I have no idea how to remove Luis Aguayo from a baseball card and replace him with Wilson Valdez!  [Pause for frenzied applause.]

I thank you for your readership, your insightful comments and your patience.  2011 is going to be an exciting year, and the 2011 Chachi set will appear at some point in our bright futures.  God bless you, God bless baseball cards and God bless Chachi.

[Point enthusiastically at random audience members, turn, moonwalk, throw in a little cabbage patch and exit.]

2000 Fleer Twizzlers #6 Curt Schilling

It's always fun when readers leave comments that send me heading for one of my baseball card binders and the handy-dandy Standard Catalog.  To recap, Dan and Kevin left the following comments on my 1954 Topps Phillies post.

From part of Dan's comment:  . . . I would like to add another set for which the design was recycled, 2000 Twizzlers (I think it was made by Fleer also so it makes sense) . . .

You are correct sir!  In conjunction with Twizzlers, Fleer released a 12-card, glossy-finished set in 2000 that could be found in bags of the delicious licorice.  Curt Schilling was the lone Phillies representative in the set.  Other than the glossy finish, the new number and the Twizzlers logo at the lower right on the reverse of the card, the card is identical to Schilling's regular Fleer Tradition release.

From part of Kevin's comment: 1954 also had a few other food sets to get different players of these days I may make a checklist for these old sets to figure out the player selection.

After a quick scan of the Standard Catalog, I came up with the following Phillies available in various food and tobacco issued sets in 1954:

  • 1954 Dixie Lids - Richie Ashburn
  • 1954 Red Man Tobacco - Richie Ashburn, Curt Simmons, Robin Roberts
  • 1954 Red Heart Dog Food - Richie Ashburn
  • 1954 Wilson Weiners - Del Ennis
And the hunt for the 1954 Wilson Weiners Del Ennis card is on!  Must.  Have.

Monday, January 24, 2011

1954 Topps Style Chase Utley

2003 Topps Heritage #179,
2007 Topps Wal-Mart #WM20
One of the themes discussed in the comments section on my 1953 Topps Phillies post is the frustration felt by baseball card collectors when Topps re-uses one of its vintage designs and botches it badly.  In my opinion, the company has done a great job with its Heritage releases.  They've paid attention to quirks and nuances of their earlier sets, capturing the look and feel of the original while showcasing current players.  Then there are the cards that completely miss the mark, such as the recent Vintage Collection insert set issued within packs of 2010 Topps, and the retail exclusives found within packs available at Target or Wal-Mart only.  Such is the case with this Chase Utley card from 2007.  (I'll compare and contrast Phillies cards from the 2010 Vintage Collection in future posts.)

Any schlub can take a current picture and slap it onto a template approximating a vintage Topps design.  Heck, I've been doing it for years with my Chachi sets.  But Topps is Topps, and when they revisit card designs from their own history, they should be spot on.  Anything less is just plain lazy.

I've presented Chase Utley's baseball cards from the 2003 Topps Heritage set and the 2007 Topps Wal-Mart insert set side by side.  Other than the shrunken size, the Heritage card looks and feels like a 1954 Topps card.  And I'm fine with the semi-transparent Topps Heritage logo in the bottom right corner as an identifier for the set.  The Wal-Mart card would be wonderful if I had put it together, but Topps should hold its reproductions to a higher standard.  The modern Topps logo doesn't belong on the card, let alone in the top left corner.  The font is slightly off, and the Phillies logo is too small when compared to the original.  Finally, Utley's facsimile autograph is missing.

With the Wal-Mart card, I always wondered why Topps didn't just go back to the fine 1954 Topps template it created (and presumably still has saved somewhere) when it put out its 2003 Heritage set.  It's your history and your "heritage," Topps.  Do it right, or don't do it at all.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

1954 Topps Phillies

1994 Topps 1954 Archives #24, #41, #45, #78
The battle between Topps and Bowman for players' rights intensified in 1954, as player selection in both baseball card sets continued to suffer.

1954 Topps #247
The Set
Number of cards in the set:  There are 250 cards in the complete set.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  For the first time, collectors got two photos on the front of the card - one color portrait-type shot of the player and another miniature black and white action shot.  I've always liked the use of the full color backgrounds too.  And I'm a sucker for baseball cards with the team logo featured on the front, especially since Topps started using the correct Phillies logo this year.
Notable competition:  Bowman issued its penultimate set in 1954, featuring 224 cards.

1954 Phillies
Record and finish:  The Phils finished in 4th place with a record of 75-79.  A steady decline was beginning and the team wouldn't finish above .500 again until 1962.
1954 Topps #247 (Back)
Key players:  The key player summary could begin and end with Robin Roberts.  The future Hall of Famer started the All-Star Game, pitched two one-hitters, went 23-15 with a 2.97 ERA, and led the league in wins, strikeouts (185), innings pitched (337) and complete games (29).  Richie Ashburn had another solid year, hitting .313.  Catcher Smoky Burgess (.368 average while splitting duties with Stan Lopata), left fielder Del Ennis (.261, 25 home runs and 119 RBIs) and second baseman Granny Hamner (.299, 13 home runs, 89 RBIs) were the top offensive performers for the club.
Key events:  New general manager Roy Hamey surprisingly fired manager Steve O'Neill in July when the Phils were in third place with a 40-37 record.  Terry Moore was hired to replace O'Neill and the team went 35-42 for the remainder of the season.  Moore was fired after the season ended.  Murry Dickson, acquired before the season from the Pirates, led the league with 20 losses.
1994 Topps 1954 Archives #127, #183, #236, #196

1954 Phillies in 1954 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are 14 Phillies cards in the '54 Topps set, bringing the cumulative 1951-1954 total to an even 50.
Who’s in:  Proving that Topps' lackluster player selection is not a recent trend in its sets, here's the break-down of the Phillies cards kids could expect to find in packs of '54 Topps - Just three regulars (second baseman Hamner, third baseman Puddin' Head Jones and center fielder Ashburn), one bench guy (shortstop Ted Kazanski), five guys who appeared in 13 games or less with the Phillies (Johnny Lindell, Mickey Micelotta, Stan Jok, Paul Penson and Thornton Kipper), two players who didn't suit up with the team that year (Mike Sandlock and Tom Qualters), and a manager card for O'Neill and two coaches' cards for Earle Combs and Eddie Mayo.  That's lousy player selection.
Who’s out:  Pretty much everyone, but the notable omissions are catcher Burgess, first baseman Earl Torgeson, shortstop Bobby Morgan, outfielders Ennis and Johnny Wyrostek, pitchers Roberts, Curt Simmons, Dickson, Herm Wehmeier and Jim Konstanty.
Phillies on other teams:  Wehmeier was purchased from the Reds on June 12th and he's featured on card #162 with his former team.
What’s he doing here:  The five guys appearing in 13 games or less, as listed above.  Stan Jok had 3 at-bats with the '54 Phils, striking out twice.
Cards that never were candidates:  Roberts, Ennis, Burgess, Simmons and short-time manager Moore.
Favorite Phillies card:  Ashburn's card, by default, and because I own a beat up copy of the original.

2000 Fleer Tradition #423, 2000 Fleer Tradition Update #U93
2003 Topps Heritage #127 and #190
Other Stuff
Recycled:  Topps reprinted the set in 1994, shrinking the cards and doing away with the full bleed tops, opting for a clean white border surrounding the entire card instead.  Fleer borrowed heavily from the design for its 2000 Fleer Tradition set, a set that pre-dated the 2003 Topps Heritage set by three years.  I liked both sets so much that I put together hand-collated sets of both back in the day.
Blogs/Websites:  Want to view the entire 1954 Topps set?  Head over to the Virtual Card Collection and enjoy.
Did You Know?:  Here are just a few "Inside Baseball" tidbits that can be found on the back of the Phillies' cards:

  • Mickey is a rug-measurer during the off-season!  (#212 Mickey Micelotta)
  • When only 12, Steve worked in the coal mines at Scranton!  (#127 Steve O'Neill)
  • Richie broke into baseball as a catcher in 1945.  (#45 Richie Ashburn)
  • In high school, Tom dreamed of playing for the Phils!  (#174 Tom Qualters)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2010 Topps Heritage #179 Chase Utley

We're on the back end of the longest month of the year.  We've got a few inches of slush on the ground.  It's cold, it's gray and I'm entering a stretch at work where I don't come up for air for weeks at a time.  So I figured this was a perfect time to take my first stab at the Phillies' opening day 25-man roster.  This is of course barring injuries, any late signings or any other surprises pulled off by Ruben Amaro, Jr.

The Phillies recently avoided arbitration with both Ben Francisco ($1.175 million for a year) and Kyle Kendrick ($2.45 million for a year) and for all intents and purposes, this sets the team's roster.

Starting line-up (8) - Catcher Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard at first, Chase Utley at second, Placido Polanco at third and Jimmy Rollins at short.  Raul Ibanez in left, Shane Victorino in center and Francisco in right.  I'm fine with Francisco starting the season as our regular right fielder.  A few years ago, the team gave Jayson Werth a shot at the starting job and that turned out OK.  And you heard it here first - Utley is going to have a monster year.  I just have a feeling.

Starting rotation (5) - Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Joe Blanton.  That was fun to type.  There's a 50-50 shot that Blanton gets dealt prior to the season opener if Amaro can find a team willing to deal a solid prospect and absorb some of the big righty's salary.

Bench (6) - Catcher Brian Schneider, outfielders Ross Gload and Domonic Brown, infielder Wilson Valdez, Rule 5 infielder Michael Martinez, and outfielder John Mayberry, Jr.  Brown is going to start the season in Philly, but he could be shipped back to Lehigh Valley if Francisco starts getting at-bats against left-handed pitchers.  If Martinez flops in Spring Training, Brian Bocock could steal his roster spot and Martinez would be sent back to the Nationals.  I gave Mayberry a spot because I have a feeling that manager Charlie Manuel is going to go with only 11 pitchers.

Bullpen (6) - Closer Brad Lidge, set-up guy Ryan Madson, long man Kendrick, middle relief guys Danys Baez and Jose Contreras, lefty J.C. Romero.  Kendrick slides into the rotation if Blanton gets dealt.  Antonio Bastardo or Vance Worley will be the first pitchers recalled if there's an injury or if either Romero or Baez gets off to a shaky start.

So there you have it.  Who is on your 25-man roster at this point?  Did I get anything wrong?

Monday, January 17, 2011

1991 Topps 1953 Archives #22 Howie Fox

As I was cleaning up the 1953 Topps reprint cards I scanned for yesterday's post, I realized I had neglected to include the card of Howie Fox in my summary of the 1953 Topps Phillies cards.  As I mentioned in the post, Fox didn't play for the Phillies in 1953, but he did appear in 13 games for the '52 squad, starting 11 games and muddling through with a record of 2-7.

Fox spent 1953 in the minors with the AAA Baltimore Orioles and then became one of the original big league Orioles in 1954 when the St. Louis Browns re-located to Maryland.  Fox spent a total of nine seasons in the Majors, seven of those seasons with the Reds, before calling it quits in 1955.

Sadly, on October 9, 1955, Fox met an untimely death when he was stabbed and killed in a bar he had recently opened in San Antonio, Texas.  The fine Orioles Card "O" the Day blog covered Fox's story back in July.

And now for a bit of lighter news . . . I misspoke in this post when I mentioned I now owned a Phillies baseball card from each of Topps' sixty base sets.  As of this writing, I don't own any original 1953 Topps Phillies cards.  The hunt will be on the next time I attend a baseball card show.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

1953 Topps Phillies

1991 Topps 1953 Archives #10, #146, #88, #79
I've always preferred Topps' "sophomore" effort over its inaugural freshman set.  (I'm not ignoring the '51 sets, but it's hard to hold them in the same class as the '52 and '53 sets.)  The 1953 Topps set is gorgeous.  It uses beautifully painted portraits of its subjects as Topps continued to battle Bowman for the hard-earned allowances of young baseball fans across the nation.  The '53 Bowman Color set is a classic in its own right, but there's something about the '53 Topps set that appeals to me a little more.  It's a shame Topps hasn't dipped back into this well more, as it's only reproduced the design in its 2002 Topps Heritage set.  I wouldn't mind seeing a Topps 53 set, showcasing portraits of the rookie classes of 2011 or 2012.

The Set
Number of cards in the set:  Although the set numbers to 280, there are only 274 cards in the set as six cards were never issued.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  When I'm rich and famous, I'd love to collect this set.  The only drawback is the lack of notable Phillies players in the set, which I'll get to in a a little bit.  The write-up in the Standard Catalog notes this is the first time the back of baseball cards featured a trivia question.
Notable competition:  Bowman issued two sets in 1953 - a 160-card color set and a 64-card black and white set.  Trying to keep up with Topps, both Bowman sets contained a line of prior year and career statistics on the back.
1991 Topps 1953 Archives #102, #140, #59, #136

1953 Phillies
Record and finish:  After winning 87 games and finishing in fourth in 1952, the record slipped to 83-71, but the finish improved to third place in the National League.  The Phils had finished the '52 season as one of the hottest teams in baseball, and they were primed to compete in the Senior Circuit in '53.  But it wasn't to be, as injuries and a red hot Brooklyn Dodgers team couldn't be overcome.
Key players:  Robin Roberts led the league in wins (23), strikeouts (198) and complete games (33) on his way to being named The Sporting News' pitcher of the year for the second consecutive year.  Richie Ashburn led the league in hits (205) while hitting .330 for the year.  Lefty Curt Simmons (16-13, 3.21) had another successful year and Jim Konstanty, who started 19 games for the Phils, made a nice comeback with a 14-10 record.  Left fielder Del Ennis (.285, 29 home runs, 125 RBIs) had another solid year.  Granny Hamner (.276, 21 home runs, 92 RBIs) was the starting shortstop for the National League in the All-Star Game, but he was moved to second over the summer to make room for rising prospect Ted Kazanski.
Key events:  Simmons cut off the end of one of his big toes in June, missing a month of the season.  Second baseman Connie Ryan had six hits in a game against the Pirates on April 16th.
1991 Topps 1953 Archives #311, #288, #318, #307

1953 Phillies in 1953 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  There are only 9 Phillies cards in the '53 Topps set, which is well below the average for the 16 existing teams at the time.  Even worse, two of the nine Phillies featured didn't play a game for the team in 1953 - Howie Fox, who played for the AAA Baltimore Orioles all season, and Ken Heintzelman, who was released by the Phils on April 4th.  We're up to 36 total Phillies cards in Topps' first three years.
1991 Topps
1953 Archives #88 (Back)
Who’s in:  The Topps Company's ongoing disputes with Bowman over player contracts meant that not many Phillies were in.  There's only four of the regular position players - catcher Smoky Burgess, Hamner, third baseman Puddin' Head Jones and right fielder Johnny Wyrostek.  There's also two bench players (Ryan and infielder Tommy Glaviano) and just one lone pitcher who actually pitched for the Phils in '53 - Karl Drews.
Who’s out:  Just about everybody else - first baseman Earl Torgeson, shortstop Kazanski, outfielders Ennis and Ashburn, pitchers Roberts, Simmons and Konstanty and the entire bullpen.
Phillies on other teams:  Pitcher Johnny Lindell was purchased from Pittsburgh in August and he appeared in 11 games for the Phillies.  He appears on card #230 as a Pirate.
What’s he doing here?:  Fox and Heintzelman, as mentioned above.
Cards that never were candidates:  Ennis, Ashburn, Roberts, Simmons and Konstanty.
Favorite Phillies card:  I'm going with Willie Jones' card with its blue sky background with white fluffy clouds.  Although it would have been cool had Topps crammed in "Puddin' Head" on the front of the card instead of "Willie."
2002 Topps Heritage #30, #179, #246, #288

Other Stuff
Recycled:  Topps reprinted the '53 set in 1991, dubbing it 1991 Topps Archives, "The Ultimate 1953 Set."  Topps included 57 "cards that never were" featuring black and white photos and colored backgrounds, which completely failed to capture the look and feel of the original.  What could have been a cool concept was botched as the cards that never were looked absolutely nothing like the cards that actually were, save for the colored black or red box and team logo.  Had they done it right, the 1953 Topps Ashburn card would have looked like this.  As mentioned above, Topps used the design for its second Heritage set in 2002.
Blogs:  Check out this excellent entry on the '53 Topps set over at The Golden Age of Baseball Cards.
Did You Know?:  The Phillies logo used by Topps on its '52 and '53 baseball cards was never actually an official logo of the club.  The correct "official" logo in use at the time by the team on its publications and advertising materials was the logo featured here.  I've always wondered why the people at Topps generated their own Phillies logo for its earliest baseball cards instead of using the official logo.  Perhaps the thin blue line circling the Phillies' cap was too hard to replicate on a baseball card?  The official logo makes its long-awaited debut in the '54 Topps set.

Friday, January 14, 2011

2010 Upper Deck #561 Citizens Bank Park

January is my least favorite month.  My work schedule picks up and I find that days go by without me spending more than a few minutes outside.  I leave for work in the dark and I drive home in the dark.  This week, my daily commute has taken me on Interstate 95 past Citizens Bank Park twice a day.

As I drove home tonight, an optimistic thought crossed my mind as I passed by the ballpark onto the ramp taking me to the Walt Whitman Bridge:  It's almost spring.  In a few short months, the Phillies will be back and the ballpark will come alive with the sights and sounds of baseball.

I can't wait.

Monday, January 10, 2011

1952 Topps Robin Roberts x 5

1983 Topps 1952 Reprint #59, 2001 Topps Archives #235,
2002 Topps Archives #87, 2004 Topps Shoe Box Collection #8
In my post on the 1952 Topps Phillies cards, I alluded to the fact that Topps went back to the well on more than one occasion when it came to reprinting certain of its vintage baseball cards.  Such is the case with the 1952 Topps Robin Roberts card.  The card was first reprinted in 1983 when Topps released a snazzy blue box containing reprints of the entire 407-card set.*
2002 Topps Archives
Reserve #69

The card made its next appearance in the 1989 Topps Baseball Talk set, which I featured in a post last November.

In 2001, Topps released its popular Archives set, and Roberts' '52 Topps card was a natural fit for the set.  Topps liked including the card so much in its 2001 Archives set that it decided to flip the Archives logo over to the other side and include it in its 2002 Archives set as well.  We also got an extra shiny version of the reprinted card in the 2002 Topps Archives Reserve set.  Sadly, 2003 passed without any further '52 Topps Roberts reprints.  But the card reappeared in 2004, this time in something Topps was calling the Shoe Box Collection.

And who knows? Maybe one day I'll actually own one of the originals.

*Topps couldn't come to terms with five of the players appearing in the original 1952 Topps set, so the reprint set actually only includes 402 cards.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

1952 Topps Phillies

1983 Topps 1952 Reprint #216, #221, #223, #357

Perhaps no other baseball card set in the long legacy of Topps has been as self-celebrated as the 1952 set.  Topps has run out this design in numerous retro-themed baseball sets throughout the past decade, beginning with its initial Heritage set in 2001.  If you collected baseball cards in the 2000s, it was nearly impossible to not own a reprint, in shiny form or not, of the iconic '52 Topps Mickey Mantle card.  Topps was also generous with the amount of other reprints it provided to collectors, as I'll show in a future post with the '52 Topps Robin Roberts card.

Unlike the previous year, Topps did not dabble with any other specialty sets in 1952, choosing instead to put all its energy into the six series of baseball cards released throughout the summer and into the fall.

Santa brought me the complete 1952 Topps reprint set for Christmas in 1983, and it's been lovingly displayed in 9-pocket pages in a binder ever since.  (The original blue box it came in is tucked away around here somewhere.)
1983 Topps 1952 Reprint #203, #13, #47, #44

The Set
Number of cards in the set:  A whopping 407 cards were included in the set.  I didn't research this, but this had to have been the largest baseball card set released since the sprawling tobacco card sets from the beginning of the 20th century.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  Criticizing the 1952 Topps set is like trying to nit-pick the Beatles' White Album.  You just don't do it.  It's a classic, it set the standard for modern-day baseball card sets and I'll appreciate it's grandeur no matter how many times Topps subjects us to the design in future retro-based sets.  And it was the first set to feature team logos on the front, which is just awesome.
Notable competition:  Bowman released a 252-card set that was pretty much a rehash of its '51 issue.  They got rid of the black name plate on the front of the card and replaced it with a facsimile autograph.  

1952 Topps #213

1952 Phillies
Record and finish:  The team's record of 87-67 was respectable, but it was only good enough for fourth place in the National League, 9 1/2 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Key players:  Roberts enjoyed one the best years of his Hall of Fame career, compiling a record of 28-7 with a 2.59 ERA and 30 complete games in 330 innings pitched.  He was named The Sporting News' National League Pitcher of the Year.  Curt Simmons returned from the military to go 14-8 and start the All-Star game for the National League squad.  Catcher Smoky Burgess led the team with a .296 batting average.  Burgess had been acquired from the Reds in December 1951 in a 7-player trade that saw popular Phillies Andy Seminick and Dick Sisler shipped to Cincinnati.  Rookie Mel Clark began what appeared to be a promising career by hitting .335 and stringing together a 17-game hitting streak.  Del Ennis (.289, 20 home runs, 107 RBIs), Puddin' Head Jones (.250, 18, 72) and Granny Hamner (.275, 17, 87) enjoyed strong years offensively.
Key events:  Owner Bob Carpenter removed Hamner as the team's captain following a particularly poor road trip in June.  Later that month, manager Eddie Sawyer was fired and was replaced by Steve O'Neill.

1952 Topps #213 (Back)
1952 Phillies in 1952 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set:  Phillies players were featured on 20 cards in the set, and with 16 teams in the Majors in 1952, that's a below average number for the 407-card set.  If you're keeping track at home, the Phillies have been featured on 27 cards so far in Topps' base set infancy.  
Who’s in:  The eight starters have cards, although the team's regular right fielder is pictured with the Reds.  (More on that in a bit.)  The starting rotation of Roberts, Russ Meyer, Karl Drews, Simmons and Howie Fox are all represented.  The main guys from the bullpen and a few bench players round out the team set.
Who’s out:  Outfielder Mel Clark is missing, and he'd have to wait for the '53 Bowman Color set for his first baseball card.  Back-up catcher Stan Lopata isn't represented, nor is reserve outfielder Jackie Mayo, who appeared in 50 games.  If you wanted a 1952 Phillies card of reserve infielder Jack Lohrke, you'd have to search for him in packs of Bowman.
Phillies on other teams:  Right fielder Johnny Wyrostek was acquired from the Reds in May 1952 for Bubba Church.  Both Wyrostek (Series 1) and Church (Series 6) are featured in the set as members of the Reds.  Catcher Del Wilber played in two games for the Phillies early in the season before being sold to the Red Sox in mid-May.  He's featured on card #383 with the Red Sox.
What’s he doing here?:  Pitcher Con Dempsey appears on card #44 with the Phillies, yet he never played a game with the team.  He pitched in three games with the '51 Pirates and the back of his 1952 Topps card mentions "The Phils drafted him, hoping he shows some of his Pacific Coast League form."  Dempsey's best season in professional baseball came in 1949 with the San Francisco Seals, when he went 17-14 with a 4.23 ERA.  (And what's going on with the "P" on Dempsey's hat?)
Cards that never were candidates:  Wyrostek, Clark, Lopata, new manager O'Neill.
Favorite Phillies card:  With all due respect to the cards of Hall of Famers Richie Ashburn and Roberts, Smoky Burgess' card is just cool.  Had I seen this card in the summer of '52, I would have wanted to wear my catcher's mask on top of my head, just like Smoky.

2001 Topps Heritage #334, 2006 Topps 52 #139,
2007 Topps 52 Debut Flashbacks #DF13, 2008 Topps Trading Card History #TCH34
Other Stuff
Recycled:  As mentioned earlier, the 1952 Topps design was replicated in Topps first Heritage set, released in 2001.  They used the design again in their "rookie" based Topps 52 sets in 2006 and 2007. 
Blogs:  It's not a blog per se, but check out for pictures of all the cards in the set (front and back), cards that never were, and rotating baseballs.
Did you know?:  To date, the only actual '52 Topps Phillies card that I own is that of first baseman Vernal Leroy "Nippy" Jones.  I added this card in a summer 2010 Check Out My Cards binge when I decided it was time to own a Phillies baseball card from each Topps base set.  I needed a card from 1952 and one from 1957 to conclude the quest. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

2009 Topps Chrome #239 Sergio Escalona

Pitcher Sergio Escalona was designated for assignment yesterday to make room for the re-signed J.C. Romero.  The lefty reliever spent the entire 2010 season toiling for the AA Reading Phillies.  Throughout the 2009 season, Escalona appeared in 14 games in relief for the Phils, as he was recalled from the minors on six different occasions.  His longest stint with team came when rosters expanded in September.

Escalona appeared in both the Bowman Chrome and Topps Chrome sets in 2009, along with the Finest set in 2010.  Most importantly, Escalona was card #35 in the 2009 Chachi set.

Friday, January 7, 2011

1954 Bowman #191 Karl Drews

I was recently on the good end of a lopsided baseball card trade.  Reader John had contacted me before Christmas to ask if I'd be interested in a trade.  "But of course," I replied.  John had taken the time to go through my wantlists and list out the cards he had to offer in exchange for cards off his wantlists.  He mentioned he'd trade heavy in my favor.  I had no idea how true that statement would prove to be.

John's Phillies wantlist is extremely impressive.  He's down to needing turn of the century tobacco cards, obscure inserts from the '50s and '60s, oddball cards from the '80s and random parallel cards from the '90s, along with one or two cards from base sets throughout the '80s and '90s. I attacked his wantlist with zeal, only to come away with about a dozen Phillies cards from my doubles pile from the '80s and '90s.

1958 Topps #268
True to his word, John still wanted my pitiful little pile and in exchange he'd send me 10 cards from the '50s from my wantlists.  Well the cards arrived today, and I'm sitting here wondering if this is how the Indians' general manager felt when he unloaded Von Hayes for five Phillies players in December 1982.  I received this 1954 Bowman card, two cards from 1957 Topps, and eight cards from 1958 Topps.  (The other Topps cards will be prominently featured in upcoming "Topps Phillies" posts.)

Thank you John, and I've saved your wantlist in the hopes of finding some of the other cards you're trying to track down.

If you're looking for a good trading partner and you happen to have any extra Phillies tobacco cards, Bazooka cards from the '60s, or even a spare '97 Bowman's Best Atomic Refractor, let me know and I'll gladly shoot you John's e-mail.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 Topps Red Backs #23 Roy Halladay

Another day, another cool card in the mail!  This time, reader Jeff sent along this 1951-style Roy Halladay baseball card, from the Red Backs insert set found in packs of 2010 Topps.  Jeff had astutely picked up within my post on 1951 Topps Phillies cards that I was still trying to track this card down.

Thanks Jeff!

In other news, the Phillies made the re-signing of lefty reliever J.C. Romero official today, and they invited seven additional non-roster players to Spring Training.  This brings the non-roster player count to 19, and their ranks include catcher Dane Sardinha, reliever Brian Bass, infielders Delwyn Young and Robb Quinlan.

Also invited, for the second year in a row, was catcher Tuffy Gosewisch.  I said it last year, and I'll say it again this year - how can you not root for a guy with a name like that?  That's a name that just belongs on a baseball card.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

1977 Kellogg's #41 Jim Lonborg

One of the cool things about this blog is every once in a while I'll get a random Phillies baseball card in the mail.  Reader Brad came across this lenticular delight shortly after the start of the new year, noticed it was on one of my wantlists and sent it my way.  So after a long, hard day at work, this beauty was waiting for me among the bills and unwanted catalogs in yesterday's mail.

Thanks Brad!

We now return you to one of slowest offseasons in recent Phillies history.  (Not that I'm complaining, of course.  If adding Cliff Lee to your rotation results in a slow off-season, I'd sign up for that every time.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

1951 Topps Phillies

1951 Topps Blue Backs #8
Topps burst onto the baseball card collecting scene in 1951 with its dual 52-card playing card sets - now commonly referred to as the Red Backs and the Blue Backs.  The cards came two to a pack with a piece of caramel, for just a single penny.  Each of the reference sources I checked note the Blue Backs are much scarcer than the Red Backs, although I was able to add the two Phillies Blue Backs featured here to my collection before I could track down any reasonably priced Phillies Red Backs.  Go figure.  (The 1988 Standard Catalog makes mention of the "recent discovery of a large hoard of unopened boxes" of Red Backs.)
1951 Topps Blue Backs #29

Topps tried its hand at a few other baseball card sets in 1951 - the Connie Mack All-Star die-cut cards, featuring 11 Hall of Famers; the "Current" All-Star die-cut cards, featuring 11 current players; and a Teams set, featuring black and white portraits of nine different teams, including the Phillies.

1951 Topps Red Backs
Unopened Pack
The Set
Number of cards in the set - 52 in the Blue Backs, 52 in the Red Backs
My very brief thoughts on the set - Until very recently, this was the only Topps set for which I did not own any Phillies cards.  However, back in the mid-80's, my parents bought me an unopened pack of Red Backs for Christmas, which remains unopened to this day.  (Perhaps this was one of the packs from the "hoard"?)  And I'm wondering now if this pack was the victim of an unauthorized search, since there's no evidence of a piece of caramel contained within the pack.
1951 Topps Blue
Backs #29 (Back)
Notable competition - 1951 Bowman is an awesome set.  Just check out these cards.  1951 Topps wasn't even in the same league as 1951 Bowman, and the folks at Topps went back to the drawing board to figure out something new for 1952.  For the record, there are 25 Phillies cards included within the '51 Bowman set, including cards for manager Eddie Sawyer and Curt Simmons, who missed the entire 1951 season while serving in the military.

1951 Phillies
Record and finish - After going to the World Series in 1950, the remnants of the Whiz Kids finished 1951 with a 73-81 record and in fifth place in the National League.
Key players - Puddin' Head Jones (.285, 22 home runs, 81 RBIs) led the way offensively, with help from Del Ennis (.267/15/73) and Richie Ashburn (.344 average).  Robin Roberts (21-15, 3.03 ERA) and Bubba Church (15-11, 3.53 ERA) anchored the rotation.  Ashburn led the league in hits with 221, and he was second in the league in stolen bases.
Key events - The Phillies Encyclopedia offers this harsh assessment of the '51 season:  "The team was a shell of its former self as slumps, inflated egos, and an attitude that it could win by merely stepping on the field carved a path to destruction."  Jim Konstanty, the 1950 National League MVP, had a lackluster season, as did Granny Hamner, Eddie Waitkus and Andy Seminick.

1997 Topps Stars
Rookie Reprints #2
1951 Phillies in 1951 Topps
Cards needed for a complete team set - 7 total, including 2 Red Backs and 5 Blue Backs.  There were 16 teams in the Majors in 1951, so the Phillies having 7 cards is above average.  I would expect the popularity resulting from their 1950 World Series appearance helped this.
Who’s in - It's hard to argue with the player selection here.  All seven players featured for the Phillies were regulars in 1951.  Only second baseman Putsy Caballero got left out.  In fact, Caballero did not receive a Phillies baseball card until the issuance of the 1975 TCMA Whiz Kids set.
Who’s out - There are no Phillies pitchers featured, making Roberts, Church and Konstanty prime candidates for 1951 Topps cards that never were.  However, Roberts and Konstanty both made appearances in Topps' Current All-Star mini-set.
Phillies on other teams - None.  There were no other 1951 Phillies featured elsewhere within Topps' 1951 sets.
What’s he doing here - No arguments here.  Every Phillie who got a 1951 Topps card makes sense.
Favorite Phillies card - I'll go with the Dick Sisler card by default, just because there's not much from which to choose.  Sisler is one of my Dad's all-time favorite Phillies, and his key double in the final game of the 1950 season helped send the team to the World Series for the first time since 1915.

Other Stuff
2003 Topps Chrome Blue Backs
Relics Refractor #BBCR-JR
Recycled - This certainly isn't an all-inclusive list, but I found several instances in my collection where Topps went back to its first baseball card design.  Most recently, Topps revisited both Blue and Red Backs with insert sets found within its 2010 release.  Roy Halladay is featured in the Blue Back set as a Blue Jay and (fittingly) in the Red Back set as a Phillie.  (Still trying to track this card down.)  Topps also used the design for an insert set included with its 2003 release.
2010 Topps Blue Backs #6
Blogs - As far as I know, there are no blogs dedicated to the 1951 Topps set out there, but please check out the fine Topps Archives blog for all sorts of great stuff related to the company's early years.
Did You Know? - For years, I had listed the Gus Zernial card on my Phillies wantlists.  In various price guides, two variations of Zernial's Red Back #36 card are listed - one variation has him "with Chicago" and the other has him "with Phila."  It didn't occur to me until very recently that a) Zernial never played for the Phillies and b) the "Phila." referred to was the Philadelphia Athletics.