Friday, June 25, 2021

Rookie of the Year Spotlight: Harvey Kuenn

Some of the collections I have been working on over the years are starting to get filled out and my goals are being reached. As a result, I'm starting to slow down a little when it comes to acquiring many cards for some of my mini-collections. Now that the collection is filling more and more complete, I wanted to start showcasing the cards I have, player by player.
One such collection is my Rookie of the Year collection. I love collecting players who have won the award as the top newcomer in each league. This wasn't born of hot rookie hype and the desire to prospect. Rather, I became fascinated thinking about the careers of guys like Eric Karros, Jerome Walton, and Tim Salmon, who experienced varying degrees of success but may not have become superstars. I thought it would be fun to have a collection that chronicles the individual career journeys of rookie stars--whether they burned bright and flamed out quickly, regressed to the mean, or wended their way to Cooperstown.
My goal has been to fill a binder page for each player who won the award in my lifetime and to fill a row for older players. I may expand that later as I expand my vintage collection. The ultimate goal of my binder is to show a card from every different uniform the player wore, from fresh-faced rookie to grizzled vet. This series is to commemorate each Rookie of the Year's career and show my collection of their cards. I placed all of the past winners into and got my order. The first player up is:

Harvey Kuenn

Harvey Kuenn made his Major League debut in 1953, playing in 19 games for the Tigers. The next year, he became the club's regular shortstop. He made an immediate impact, leading the league in plate appearances and hits while batting .308. He made the first of eight consecutive All-Star games in his rookie season.

Kuenn ran away with the Rookie of the Year award. He received 23 of 24 votes; the lone vote for another player went to Boston outfielder Tom Umphlett.

For his career, Kuenn played 15 seasons for 5 teams. He spent his first 8 seasons with Detroit, making the All-Star team in every one of them except his 19-game cup of coffee in 1953. Before the 1960 season began, he was traded to the Indians for Rocky Colavito. He spent only one year in Cleveland, making another All-Star team while batting .308 again. The next year he was on the move again, this time being traded to San Francisco for Johnny Antonelli and Willie Kirkland. He appeared in 515 games over five seasons for the Giants before being shipped to the Cubs in a mid-season trade. By this time, his bat was in decline. At the time of his trade to Chicago, the career .304 (to that point) hitter was batting a measly .237. That season, he played fewer than 100 games for the first time in his career, and he would never reach that milestone again. The Phillies bought his contract in 1966, and he finished his career that season in Philadelphia. Kuenn led the league in hits four times, doubles three times, and batting average once (a .353 mark in 1959). Baseball Reference gives him a career WAR of 26.0.

After his playing career, Kuenn went on to manage the Brewers in 1982 and 1983, not counting one game as manager in 1975. He posted a career record of 160-118 and won the AL pennant in 1982.

The three cards above are not the only ones I have of Harvey Kuenn. His 1966 Topps card is in my Cubs binder. To fully chronicle his career in my ROY binder, I still need another Cubs card, along with the Indians, Giants, and Phillies.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I plan to highlight each Rookie of the Year winner through the course of this series.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Let Me Show My Appreciation (A Giveaway)

Last week, my father-in-law shared this screenshot to our family group text thread.

With it, he expressed his wish that more thoughtful acts of kindness like this one occurred in our world. He was impressed that somebody took the time to write a note to thank the eBay seller a letter of thanks. I, too, appreciate seeing the gesture and I echo the sentiment that the world would be a better place with more kindness, generosity, and graciousness. My thoughts immediately turned to the card collecting community that I know, and I see those random acts of kindness all the time. Bloggers frequently do giveaways; TCDB has a "Pay It Forward" thread on its forum that is constantly being updated; the blogs are full of posts that thank the senders of various cardboard goodies. My hobby world is filled with the acts of kindness my father-in-law wishes he could see more of.

Like this, for example:

I recently claimed these two cards from Jay at Card Hemorrhage during his latest Free Card Friday. Thanks, Jay!

To show my appreciation for all of the good in the Internet cardsphere, I'm going to be doing several giveaway posts. I feel a little self-conscious doing this type of thing because I feel like I never have any good trade bait that people would want. But if you see something you do like, claim it!

Group 1:

Group 2:

Group 3:

All of these are parallels of some type.

Group 4

Anybody ready to play with some Toys R Us?

Group 5

Or some old stickers?

Group 6

Some horizontals

Group 7

Any takers on everyone's favorite yellow set?

Group 8

Some non-sport and a Dave Winfield pin

Group 9

A bunch of 2013 Bowman football

Group 10

Or 2013 Bowman Black
There you have it. If there is anything you want, tell me in the comments. If I don't have your address, email me at tntcardsstg at gmail. I'll send your claims via PWE. My goal is to do several of these before summer is over, just to say, "Thank you," to all you great people out there who put so much goodness into the hobby.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Overdue TCDB Roundup (Part 3 ) + Some eBay Cougars

I love collecting BYU football players. Over the past few years, it has been my favorite collection to grow. It feels like college connections are less common than pro fandoms among collectors, so barring the few NFL superstars that the school has produced, I usually have little competition in getting cards and many of my trading partners are probably happy to unload the common BYU cards I request in trades. But anybody who pays attention to football news probably realizes that this year, I will have competition for a certain young QB. Zach Wilson just became the highest NFL draft pick to ever come out of BYU, going #2 overall to the Jets. I anticipate that I'll have some trouble trying to pick up Zach Wilson cards at price points that I feel comfortable paying. But I have been at it already.

Leaf Draft dropped last month and I entered a player breaks, trying to score Wilson. I didn't win any breaks, but I was able to pick up both of his cards in the base set on eBay afterward. These two cards cost me just $2 shipped. Here's the crazy thing: I didn't read the listing carefully and I didn't realize that the All-American subset card was part of it. I thought I was only buying the one on the left. That was a nice surprise.

In the meantime, I bought another single of the All-American card. This was a surprise, too, because the seller sent me 3 copies. He included a note that said he sent all three because there was chipping along the left side on all three backs. But I wasn't too concerned about that. Now I just have three copies of this Wilson!

The one Leaf player break I did win was Matt Bushman, and I ended up getting lucky enough for auto. You know, BYU sent 12 players to the NFL this year, five drafted. At this time last year, I would have said only two players on the team were NFL-caliber: Bushman and Khyris Tonga. Then the team exploded into the national spotlight--and Bushman didn't even play. He suffered a season-ending injury on the first day of training camp last August. So for the hype surrounding the Cougs last season, Bushman missed it all, but still received a UDFA contract from the Raiders.

While searching for other Zach Wilson cards on the cheap, I came across these that are copyrighted by somebody called "Rookie Gems." Normally, I don't go for customs, but since I have seen other Rookie Gems on eBay, I figured they were probably decent quality. The artwork is pretty good, too, so I liked the look of them. Since I worry about finding any cards that I can afford, I decided to try these for the novelty of it.

Here are the backs. I have to say, these Rookie Gems cards, while well-designed, look much better in pictures on the computer screen than in-hand. The cardstock is awful and pretty much every custom I've ever received from you bloggers is higher quality. But at least they'll be somewhat unique in my collection.

Leaf brought back Pro Set this year, and I was happy to find this one in a Jets lot. For under $5, I picked this card up, along with some other Jets cards, including a Darrelle Revis rookie, a numbered relic of Revis, and a relic of Leonard Williams. How I was the only person to jump on this lot, I don't know.

My first cards that have all the licenses to include legitimate uniform photos came from Score. I was lucky enough to pick up this lot for around $3 per card. That happens to be more than I would like to spend, but it was reasonable to me, so I jumped on it. As more football releases have come out, the Zach Wilson cards I'm seeing are more expensive, so I'm glad I picked these up. My Wilson collection has a decent start now.

Chris Wilcox is another player I failed to win in a break. Luckily I found this lot for just a tad more than a dollar per card.

So I've been pretty busy on eBay, at least by my standards. But many of my TCDB trades this year have brought in some former Cougars. To finish my outstanding TCDB trade posts, we'll take a look at BYU players I've swapped some cards for.

Kyle Van Noy rookies. And I love that retro Bowman of all-time leading receiver, Cody Hoffman. For my money, I would have pegged John Beck to have a better NFL career than what I've seen from Zach Wilson, so I hope for Zach's sake I'm wrong. By the way, if you watched any BYU football games last year you probably heard about the Beck-Wilson connection, when Zach used his time off of campus during the pandemic to drive to California and train with Beck.

Taysom Hill. Will he beat out Jameis Winston to replace Drew Brees? If he didn't claim the job outright last year in his extended audition, I'm not sure it will happen. But Sean Payton seems to love him, so we'll see.

How about some Cougars with Super Bowl rings? McMahon, Gouveia, and Morris all have one. Vai Sikahema was the first Tongan to play in the NFL. Ronney Jenkins didn't finish his college career at BYU because he transferred to Northern Arizona, but he managed to score 29 total TDs in his two seasons with the Y.

Some baseball Cougars and a pair of football players who found themselves playing in Canada. Sweet CFL cards.

And we'll end with these former BYU baseball players. And speaking of baseball, I need to wrap this up to get my sons to their little league games tonight. Go Mets and White Sox (little league-wise, that is)!

Friday, June 4, 2021

Another A-Z Challenge: Favorite Players

I love making lists. So I'm all in on this latest A-Z challenge of naming a favorite player for each letter of the alphabet. For my list, I tried to choose only players that have played in my lifetime so I would have an actual memory of them. There are some older greats, however, that I've been far more interested in learning about their achievements than in following contemporary players, so a few players on here finished their careers before I was born. For some of these players, I can't explain why they are favorites. Many are Cubs. Some just seem like good dudes or are easy to root for. Some I like the way the play, like contact hitters, consistent performers, or good baserunners. And there are a few that I just gained some kind of attachment to in my youth.

A: Jake Arrieta

2015 Panini Diamond Kings #67 Jake Arrieta Front

 Two Cubs no-hitters.

B: Javier Baez

My current favorite player. 

C: Roberto Clemente

2012 Panini Cooperstown - Hall History #6 Roberto Clemente Front

An all-time great and all-time great guy. I wish I could have seen him play. 

D: Andre Dawson

 1991 U.S. Playing Card Co. #J♣ Andre Dawson Front

League MVP on a last-place Cubs team. 

E: Dennis Eckersley

1993 Hostess #11 Dennis Eckersley Front

I really liked the A's when I was a young kid in the late 80s and early 90s. Eck was a dominant pitcher at the time. 

F: Bob Feller

2016 Topps Archives #163 Bob Feller Front

I've always been fascinated with Feller's career, military service, and fireball. Another I wish I could have seen. 

G: Mark Grace

1997 SkyBox E-X2000 #61 Mark Grace Front

 My favorite player ever. The 90s hit king.

H: Rickey Henderson

There were a few H's to choose from, but Rickey was one of my favorites as a kid. He was just cool

I: Ichiro

2004 Fleer Classic Clippings #8 Ichiro Suzuki Front

One of the best contact hitters any of us have ever seen. 

J: Randy Johnson

2015 Topps Update - Highlight of the Year #H-84 Randy Johnson Front

 His dominance and personality made him fun to watch.

K: Jason Kendall

1997 New Pinnacle #120 Jason Kendall Front

Probably my favorite catcher. I loved that he could run (pre-ankle injury).


L: Derrek Lee

My favorite player through the aughts. 

M: Greg Maddux

1991 Stadium Club #126 Greg Maddux Front

I love how Maddux pitched. I don't love that he left Chicago after his first Cy Young and then proceeded to win the next 3 NL awards.

N: Otis Nixon

 Like many other bloggers have stated, "N" was hard. I liked Nixon's speed.

O: John Olerud

 1994 Post Cereal #24 John Olerud Front

Good hitter and easy to root for.

P: Hunter Pence

Such goofy, fun personality. Hunter Pence signs and his reaction/interaction were my favorite.

Q: Jose Quintana

2018 Topps Gypsy Queen - Green #70 Jose Quintana Front

I don't hold the price the team paid in the trade against him because it wasn't his fault. There wasn't much choice for "Q," though.

R: Cal Ripken, Jr./Nolan Ryan

1998 Collector's Choice #40 Cal Ripken Jr. Front1991 Upper Deck - Baseball Heroes: Nolan Ryan #16 Nolan Ryan Front

Probably my two favorite non-Cubs ever. It is impossible to choose between them and just unfortunate that both started with "R." 

S: Ryne Sandberg

One hundred twenty-three games without an error. And a slugger, too.

T: Mike Trout

2013 Topps - Making Their Mark #MM-2 Mike Trout Front

Hands down the best player I have ever seen because he may be the best ever. 

U: Chase Utley

2014 Donruss #19 Chase Utley Front

Behind two former Cubs (also on this list), the scrappy Utley is my favorite second baseman that I've seen play. 

V: Justin Verlander

2016 Topps Gypsy Queen #34 Justin Verlander Front

I think appreciate how much Verlander helped franchises that had been not-so-great in my lifetime find success while he was on the team.

W: David Wright

2008 Topps - Back To School #TB5 David Wright Front

 Because David Wright is Mr. Met. I appreciate his great play for one team throughout his career.

X:  I got nothing.

Y: Carl Yastrzemski

2016 Stadium Club #60 Carl Yastrzemski Front

Triple Crown winner. I never saw him play, but he was my favorite historical figure for "Y."

Z: Ben Zobrist

2016 Bowman's Best #28 Ben Zobrist Front
World Series MVP for my 2016 Champions.
*All images taken from TCDB, but is a card I own in my collection.

So there you have it. These may not be the best to ever play, but they're the players I tend/tended to root for the most, for varying reasons. I may have to try this with other sports, too. I had fun doing it.