Sunday, April 16, 2017

1983 Galasso 1969 Seattle Pilots Set

Renata Galasso of  Brooklyn, New York owned one of the largest sportscard mail order companies of the 1970s and early 1980s. In addition to selling massive quantities of cards from just about any manufacturer, the Galasso family also produced several oddball baseball sets themselves. The most notable release by the Galassos is probably a black and white set of 270 retired baseball stars, released in six series of 45 cards each from 1977 through 1984. Smaller sets highlighting the '62 Mets, Reggie Jackson, Dwight Gooden and the '61 Yankees were a few other examples released during the early to mid-1980s.

Another small Galasso set, released in 1983, was a 43-card effort detailing the 1969 Seattle Pilots. Most baseball fans know that the Pilots only lasted one MLB season, but interestingly enough, the team existed for two spring trainings. Everyone from Manager Joe Schultz to pitcher Bill Edgerton (who pitched a mere four innings for the club) can be found in the set, pictured in living color and wearing a Pilots uniform. 

The cards are the standard size of 2-1/2 by 3-1/2 inches, and are numbered from 1 to 43. Backs feature a short biography paragraph and a stat line for the 1969 season. Similar to other Galasso releases, the cards were sold through the mail in complete set form only. For a few extra dollars, collectors could obtain a set featuring an authentic signature from pitcher Jim Bouton. The set in our collection has the Bouton autograph, as well as the certificate of authenticity that shipped with the set. 

As should be expected, the Pilots didn't fare very well as an expansion team. Winning 64 games while dropping 98, the club lacked any semblance of a major star. Third baseman Tommy Harper was probably the best player on the roster, leading the team in games played (148), plate appearances (639), at bats (537), hits (126), walks (95) and stolen bases (73). Though he appeared in just 123 games, outfielder Tommy Davis led the club with 29 doubles and 80 RBIs. Workhorse pitcher Gene Brabender led the Pilots with 13 wins, 202.1 innings pitched, 139 strikeouts and 7 complete games, but also suffered a team-leading 14 losses. 

Not everyone cares about collecting sets issued years after the fact (fourteen years, in this case). In all fairness, these cards have a beautiful design, feature rare color photos and just kinda have that "cool factor" about them. An unsigned set today should set you back around ten dollars, while one with a signed Bouton should cost around $20 to $25.

Random Fact: There's a bar just outside the campus of Eastern Illinois University named "Marty's", in honor of Pilots pitcher Marty Pattin.

1. Jim Bouton, Pitcher
2. Joe Schultz, Manager
3. Bill Edgerton, Pitcher
4. Gary Timberlake, Pitcher
5. Dick Baney, Pitcher
6. Mike Marshall, Pitcher
7. Jim Gosger, Outfield
8. Mike Hegan, First Base
9. Steve Hovley, Outfield
10. Don Mincher, First Base
 11. Miguel Fuentes, Pitcher
12. Charlie Bates, Pitcher
13. John O'Donoghoe, Pitcher
14. Tommy Davis, Outfield
15. Jerry McNertney, Catcher
16. Rich Rollins, Third Base
17. Fred Talbot, Pitcher
18. John Gelnar, Pitcher
19. Bob Locker, Pitcher
20. Frank Crosetti, Coach
21. Sal Maglie, Coach
22. Sibby Sisti, Coach
23. Ron Plaza, Coach
24. Federico Valazquez, Catcher
25. Diego Segui, Pitcher
26. Steve Barber, Pitcher
27. Jack Aker, Pitcher
28. Marty Pattin, Pitcher
29. Ray Oyler, Infield
30. Danny Walton, Outfield
31. Merritt Ranew, Catcher
32. John Donaldson, Infield
33. Greg Goosen, First Base
34. Gary Bell, Pitcher
35. Jim Pagliaroni, Catcher
36. Mike Ferraro, Third Base
37. Tommy Harper, Outfield
38. John Morris, Pitcher
39. Larry Haney, Catcher
40. Ron Clark, Infield
41. Steve Whitaker, Outfield
42. Wayne Comer, Outfield
43. Gene Barbender, Pitcher

Thursday, April 13, 2017

1986 Leaf Baseball

Donruss, everyone's favorite card company during the mid-1980s, licensed the release of four baseball card sets to the Canadian market from 1985 through 1988. Cards measure the standard size of 2-1/2 by 3-1/2 inches. 

Falling under the "Leaf" brand, the cards from all four sets look just like their Donruss counterparts at first glance. The 1986 Leaf cards, which we are focusing on in this post, feature just one minor difference on the fronts - a small red box near the top that reads "LEAF '86" instead of "Donruss '86". Card backs are also generally similar, with the biggest difference on the Leafs being the inclusion of two languages - English and French Canadian (we're not sure if this strange jibber-jabber is a real language, so we're trusting Google's opinion on this one).

The four Leaf sets are complete at 264 cards each, while the Donruss sets of the day each featured 660. The theory behind the smaller Leaf sets was to include the star and starting players from each team, while trimming the reserve players and unproven rookies. Unfortunately for Leaf, unproven rookies were the hobby darlings of 1986. Speculators bought Donruss cards by the case hoping to find the likes of young prospects such as Jose Canseco, Kal Daniels, Cory Snyder, Paul O'Neill, Harold Reynolds and Lenny Dykstra... None of which were included in the Leaf set. 

While the Donruss set featured a twenty-card "Rated Rookies" subset, the Leaf set featured just three. Two of Leaf's three Rated Rookies were from Canadian teams, and both went on to become bona-fide Major League stars... Fred McGriff of the Blue Jays retired as a five-time All-Star with 493 career dingers, while Expo Andres Galarraga also collected five All-Star appearances and a couple Gold Glove awards. The third and final Rated Rookie to be included in the '86 Leaf set, for reasons that cannot be explained, was Phillies relief pitcher Dave Shipanoff. The back of Shipanoff's card found it difficult to be excited, stating he "...figures strongly in Phillies' bullpen plans for '86." Even though we know today that Shipanoff would never pitch in the Majors again, it still boggles the mind that Leaf chose to include a relief pitcher over one of the hot prospects mentioned above. In addition to McGriff and Galarraga, Leaf did manage to snag a few notable rookies in their 1986 issue, to include Ozzie Guillen, Vince Coleman and Mariano Duncan.

Leaf added two unique cards that were not a part of the Donruss set at all. Titled "Canadian Greats", and featuring portraits painted by artist Dick Perez, the two cardboard bonuses featured Expos pitcher Jeff Reardon and Blue Jays outfielder Jesse Barfield. Perez is also the artist who painted the 26 "Diamond Kings" portraits, a Pete Rose "King of Kings" card and Hank Aaron Hall of Fame card, all of which are included in both the '86 Donruss and Leaf sets.

I love all four Leaf sets released during the 1980s, and would recommend them to anyone looking to add star-filled, inexpensive sets to their collection. Though the Leaf cards were printed in smaller quantities than their Donruss equivalents, there's no monetary premium attached these days. Expect to pay ten to fifteen dollars for a set in nice condition.

Random Fact: Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek participates in a yearly Northern Minnesota snowmobiling excursion called the "Black Woods Blizzard Tour."

Saturday, February 11, 2017

1989 Smokey Bear Team Smokey GT Racing Set

Click here to find Smokey Card Sets on eBay

Why do we collectors search endlessly and tirelessly for elusive cards... Cards that are like finding a needle in a haystack? 

Because a needle sometimes pricks the finger that's clicking our mouse. And boy, it hurts so good. 

I have never claimed to be an oddball card expert. Like any other collector, the knowledge I've gained over the past 35-plus years has been self taught, and there are huge holes in my knowledge when it comes to certain oddball card releases. One such "hole" pertains to this gem of a racing set that was released back in 1989. 

Sponsored by the Forest Service-USDA, National Association of State Foresters and the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), this 28-card set features race car drivers, wives and lots of Smokey Bear. I'm not exactly sure how these cards were released, but I do know that there ain't many of these floating around. In my attempt to research the set, I've come up empty on all of my internet queries; I can't find a single photo or any mention whatsoever of this set anywhere. 

The cards are typical of a Smokey set released in the late 1980s. Measuring the standard card size of 3-1/2 by 2-1/2 inches, color photos adorn the front with a small Smokey head and IMSA logo found at the bottom corners. The subjects pictured on the cards are named along the front bottom, in a tiny font size that will have you looking for your reading glasses. Card backs are also typical Smokey, with a large fire safety cartoon occupying the majority of the space. Backs also list the team names, car models and hometowns of the card subjects. The cards are not numbered.

The set is loaded with names a racing fan will recognize, and at least three names for movie fans - Lorenzo Lamas, Bobby (Robert) Carradine and Paul Newman. I've posted large front and back scans of the Newman card, as they may be of interest. An excellent documentary detailing Paul's racing career was released in 2015 by Adam Carolla.

Smokey cards have always been among my favorites, and this little gem of a set is a welcome addition to my archives. I have no idea how many of these sets were printed a good 28 years ago... But what I do know is these phantom cards need to get grabbed fast if you're lucky enough to find them. 

Random Fact: Australian driver Geoff Brabham's father, two brothers, son and nephew have all been professional racers.

Click here to find Smokey Card Sets on eBay

Checklist (in no particular order)

(1) Paul Newman
(2) Lorenzo Lamas
(3) Bobby Carradine
(4) Jim Downing
(5) Dave White and Art Pilla
(6) John Morton and Geoff Brabham
(7) Steve Durst
(8) Buz McCall
(9) A.J. Foyt
(10) Martin Brundle and John Nielson
(11) Dorsey Schroeder and Bruce MacInnes
(12) Waino Kangas and Cliff Kangas
(13) David Loring
(14) Jan Lammers and Davy Jones
(15)Hans Stuck and Klaus Ludwig
(16) Scott Schubot and Linda Ludemann
(17) Steve Fitzpatrick and Bernie Pisczek
(18) Bob Wollek
(19) Chip Robinson
(20) Justus Reid and Bill Jacobson
(21) Neil Hannemann
(22) Roger Mandeville, Kelly Marsh, Don Marsh
(23) Chris Cord
(24) Amos Johnson and Dennis Shaw
(25) Linda and Randy Pobst
(26) Alistair Oag and David Rosenblum
(27) Juan Fangio, Dennis Aase and Willy T. Ribbs
(28) Smokey Bear

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

2016 Topps Now Baseball - Regular Season in the Books

Ryan Cracknell over at has compiled an excellent, all-inclusive checklist of the 2016 Topps Now Baseball set. His data includes the player name(s), team, event summary, date of event and total print run for each card. An eBay auction link is even provided for most of the cards, taking you right to any examples that are are currently available for sale on the platform.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

2016 Topps NOW Baseball - The First 158

Topps has kept the NOW cards a comin' since our last update on May 29, releasing another 52 cards in the past 20 days. In our second update on May 4, we did a little math and estimated that the NOW set might feature around 300 cards by season's end... At the current rate of issue, we'll have to bump that estimate up to 350 or so by season's end. 

Back on May 29 we highlighted the fifteen cards with the highest print runs, as well as the fifteen with the lowest. Beginning with an updated list of the fifteen highest print runs, we see a few new cards on the list that are highlighted in red:

#57          Bartolo Colon          8,826
#68          Max Scherzer          3,746
#69      Noah Syndergaard      3,670
#102         Julio Urias RC         2,992
#154         Ichiro Suzuki         2,798
#123      Corey Seager RC      1,900
#30          Jake Arrietta          1,808
#29            Kris Bryant            1,644
#12       Nomar Mazara RC       1,427
#59          Bryce Harper          1,366
#11         Tyler White RC         1,350
#9         Trevor Story RC         1,298
#20          Bryce Harper          1,286
#129     Cubs (Dual-Sided)     1,278
#122        Trea Turner RC        1,276

King Bartolo is in no danger of losing his crown when it comes to the highest print run. Ichiro's status as the all-time hit leader among Japanese and American pro baseball gave him a respectable run of 2,798 cards, but still not in the same time zone as Colon. Two new rookies, Corey Seager and Trea Turner, entered the list while three dropped off of it (Mazara, Story and Maeda). The fourth card to crack the above list is the first dual-front NOW card to be printed, which features four star players from the Chicago Cubs (in recognition of their fast pace to win 40 games this season).

While just two new cards have snuck on to the fifteen lowest print runs list since the last update, one of them has managed to take the top position. Twelve-year veteran and Blue Jays all-star Edwin Encarnacion's card released on June 11 has a print run of just 207, edging out former chart-topper Evan Gattis' run of 212. Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker grabs the fourth spot on the list with a print run of 216 cards. All of these are definitely worth keeping an eye on:

#141   Edwin Encarnacion   207
#79          Evan Gattis          212
#67        Chris Iannetta        215
#144     Matt Shoemaker     216
#52     Piscotty/Holliday     217
#24      Melvin Upton Jr.      226
#78      Kendrys Morales      227
#51         Corey Kluber         229
#53     Colorado Rockies     231
#8          Albert Pujols          244
#22           Chris Sale           244
#26         John Lackey         244
#58           Aaron Hill           246
#49        Justin Smoak        252
#66     Marwin Ganzalez     253

Mariner Dae-ho Lee maintains the lowest print run for a rookie with 363, but another rookie with a slightly higher run, Trayce Thompson, is one to watch. With a run of 431, the 25 year-old Dodgers' slugger has the potential to be a longball hitter for years to come (he also has a second card in the set with a run of 566). As we mentioned on the last update, Rangers rookie star Nomar Mazara is featured on three cards thus far in the NOW set, with his second card (#47) having a print run of just 468. Definitely keep an eye on the Mazara and Thompson issues.

These are attractive cards, and Topps has managed to build a nice fanbase of NOW collectors. If I had to choose one thing I didn't like about the set thus far, it would be the overuse of Gatorade/water celebration shots; I'd hate to see 20 or more of them by season's end!

As always, collect whatever makes you happy. Most collectors can't afford to purchase these cards on a daily basis, but you can guarantee that more bundle-style and pick-'em deals will be listed on eBay in the weeks to come. 

Find Topps NOW cards on eBay