Thursday, April 14, 2016

Vincent Velasquez

In the off-season, the Phillies traded their promising closer, Ken Giles to the Astros for 4 players. One of those players was Vincent Velasquez.

Valasquez started his 2nd game of the season, today, April 14. He was incredible.  He managed to throw a complete game, 3-hit, 16-strikeout, shutout against the Padres in Philadelphia. I only saw from the 5th inning on but it was a masterful performance. He mowed down Padre after Padre using mostly fastballs, clocking up to 97 mph. Only three Phillies have recorded 16 Ks in a game. Oh, and he didn't walk anybody. They would be Steve Carlton, Curt Schilling and Cliff Lee. Pretty fast company.

As near as I can tell, there are no 2016 Valasquez cards as yet, so I'm going to have to go with one of his cards from last year when he was still with the Astros. I believe he has more tattoos than Carlton, Schilling and Lee combined.

In 2 starts for the Phillies he is 2-0, with 15 innings pitched, 25 Ks, and and ERA of 0.00.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

1992 Donruss Rookies - Part 2

I posted the top 10 players in the set the other day, now just some interesting cards or players.

 Mondesi is the only player in this set who was named a Rookie of the Year. That was in 1994, when he beat out Manny Ramirez for the award. Although he had a pretty good career, he received no votes in 2011, his Hall of Fame eligibility year. He also may be the only player in the set with a son currently playing in the major leagues.

I remember than Ashley was touted as being a big prospect, having twice being named Player of the Year in the Dodgers minor league organization. He spent 6 years with the Dodgers and his final year with the Red Sox. He was never a full time player and ended with a .233 career average.

Bottenfield had a 9 year career, mainly as a middle reliever and spot starter. He compiled a 46-49 record. Currently he is the head baseball coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He took over the job there from Gary Carter when Carter passed away in 2011.

In 7 years, Bullinger had a 34-41 career record with 11 saves in his 7 year career. He one of only five pitchers to get a home run on the first pitch of his first at bat in the majors.

Cianfrocco has the dubious distinction of being the batter when Tom Browning broke his arm throwing a pitch on May 9, 1994. Browning tried to come back in 1995 and 1996 unsuccessfully.

Cole is the first player in MLB to have been born in the Soviet Union, Leningrad to be specific. He was 0-2 in 8 appearances for the Pirates in 1992. Which was his entire career in the MLB. He was on the Russian National Baseball Team in 2003 and 2007. Surprise, there's a Russian National Baseball Team.

Fortugno is the guy gave up George Brett's 3,000 hit on 9/30/92. Then he picked Brett off at first.

Frye made history on August 17, 2001 when he became only the second Blue Jay in history to hit for the cycle. The only other Blue Jays player to hit for the cycle was Kelly Gruber, who happened to be in attendance that day.

 Groom led the league in appearances in 1999 with 76, and is 35th on the all-time list of appearances with 786. He holds the major league record for most games pitched without recording a plate appearance. Here's his career batting record from

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

1993 1915 Cracker Jack Reprints

In 1993, to celebrate their 100th anniversary, the Cracker Jack company released a 24-card set of mini cards recreating some of the 1915 set of Cracker Jack. I have the only Phillie in that set, Grover Cleveland Alexander.

If you remember what the 2004 Topps Cracker Jack set (one of my favorite sets) looked like, you're know that the back of this card doesn't look much like 1915 Cracker Jack. The text is the same but this card has 3 lines of 1993 copyrights.

While researching my 1993 Phillies want list, I found another 1993 Cracker Jack Set which reproduces the entire 1915 set, with the original backs. The only reference I've been able to find is on doesn't mention it and neither do two large paper catalogs I have, the 2005 Beckett catalog and the 2008 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards. These cards are a bit larger than the card shown above, but still smaller than a standard sized modern card.  If anyone knows anything about these please leave a comment. On, these are called the 1993 1915 Cracker Jack Reprint set to differentiate it from the set above.

Grover Cleveland Alexander, who was apparently called Pete during his career was a 20-year player with a 373-208 career record. He spent the first 7 and the last year of his career with the Phillies. He was perhaps the only bright spot in the Phillies-Red Sox 1915 World Series, going 1-1 (the only game the Phillies won) with a 1.53 ERA. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1938. He was the subject of a biopic film in 1952. Ronald Reagan played Alexander and Doris Day played his wife.

Luderus started his career with the Cubs in 1909 but was traded to the Phillies in 1910. He played for the Phillies for the rest of his career, until 1920. He was the other bright spot in the 1915 World Series, hitting .438 and getting the first World Series home run for the Phillies.

Here's a rosy-cheeked fellow they called Jake from Palestine TX. Born in 1887 he played for the Phillies from 1915 to 1917. He had no ABs in the 1915 World Series but managed to steal a base.

He got the nickname after killing a seagull ("gaviota" in Spanish) in flight. He played for the Phillies most of his career, from 1912-1920. He was a power hitter during the dead ball era, and became the first player in baseball history to win five home run titles. Most of that is probably related to playing home games in Philadelphia's Baker Bowl. Of his 92 career homers, only 25 were hit on the road.

Even for 1915, that doesn't look much like a Phillies uniform to me. He played for the Giants in 1914 and appears on card #92 in the 1914 Cracker Jack set in this exact pose but labeled as a Giant.

Another dead ball era power hitter. In 1915, with the Phillies, he was 4th in the league with 11 homers. In 1910 he was the first man to hit two pinch hit home runs in one season. Here's a direct quote from his Wikapedia article. "On episode #1309, (airing March 23, 2009) of PBS's Antiques Roadshow, a man who claimed to be Becker's great-great nephew brought two photographs and a uniform belonging to Becker to the show for appraisal. The items were valued at US$50,000."

Known as Raindeer Bill due to his speed, he was Grover Cleveland Alexander's favorite catcher when they played together for the Phillies. Between playing, managing and scouting, Killifer had a 48-year baseball career.

This guy is listed as Possum Whitted in and Wikipedia but no reason is given. In 1914 he played for the Boston Braves who defeated the Philadelphia A's in the 1914 World Series. In 1915 he played for the Phillies who were defeated by the Boston Red Sox in the 1915 World Series.

Of these 10 cards this is my favorite. It's just something about the pose. Bert (his middle name is Albert) had a 6 year career and was 1 for 16 in the 1915 World Series. After his playing career he was one of the first chosen to be a manager in the All-American Girls Profession Baseball League. He managed the South Bend Blue Sox in 1943 and 1944. He lived to be 90 years-old, passing away in 1974.
Mayer was a pitcher with a devastating curve ball. He was nicknamed "Eelskine" because his curve ball was "so slippery". He had a career record of 90-71 and is considered one of the all-time best Jewish baseball players in history. Honus Wagner hit is 3,000th hit off Mayer.

Monday, April 11, 2016

1992 Donruss Rookies - Part 1

My collecting goal this year is to beef up my past year's Phillies collections. Sort of at random, I've been working on 1992. I needed 7 (of the 10) Phillies cards in the 1992 Donruss Rookies set and couldn't locate them on eBay. But I did find the entire set for around 10 bucks. I've always like the set and figured the Phillies cards I needed would be just a bit over $1 a piece. Since I didn't have very many of the set, and I liked the set, I decided to go for it.

For what ever reason, there are more Phillies in this set than any other team. It's not like these Phillies had any lasting impact on the team as players, although one of them, Rubin Amaro, would go on to eventually be the Phillies General Manager during the time the Phillies won the 2008 World Series.

 The card fronts have the same design as 1992 Donruss, except the cards are green rather than blue. I like the shade of green they used. The backs are quite a bit different than Donruss. The regular set has a nice player photograph worked into it.

A lot of the players in this set would not have cards calling them rookies in today's baseball card world as they hadn't had any MLB playing time before the set was released. A lot of them had some playing time in 1992, but probably after the set was released.

Although I don't think the set is of historical value, there are quite a few impact players included. There is only one ROY in the set but there is one Hall of Famer. I'm going to make 2 posts on the set. This post will feature the top 10 players in terms of longevity. I'm going by longevity as a marker for impact on the game. Not always a reliable marker but it mostly works for this set. The second post will focus on other interesting players in the set.

Whether you like him or not, Manny had an impact on the game. He had a 19-year career with Hall of Fame numbers. 555 home runs, a .312 career batting average, 1,831 rbis, and 12 A;;-Star Game appearances. He didn't make is major league debut until 1993 but most sets in 1992 included him as a rookie. He finished 2nd in the ROY voting in 1994, losing out to Raul Mondesi (who is also included in this set.

Matt Stairs certainly didn't have a Hall of Fame career but he played for 19 years. He hit 265 home runs and was on the Phillies 2008 World Series winning team. I believe that he is in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. He is currently part of the Phillies TV broadcast team.

Another 19-year player. He is a potential Hall of Famer with 200 wins and over 2,100 K's. He will be eligible for the Hall of Fame this year. At 45, he was the oldest active player in the AL when he retired.

An 18-year player, Pedro made his debut in September 1992. He is the sole Hall of Famer in the set. Martinez has a 219-100 career record (similar to Wakefield's) with a 2.93 career ERA. He was on the 2004 Red Sox World Series winning team. He was a 3-time Cy Young winner and appeared in 8 All-Star games.

Kent had a 17-year career. He's another potential Hall of Famer. He's been eligible for the past three years where he's been averaging about 15% of the vote. He had 377 home runs and was the 2009 NL MVP. I don't remember Jeff being a Blue Jay. He played 65 games in Toronto before being traded to the Mets for David Cone.

Pedro pitched for 15 years, compiling a 129-124 career record with a career ERA of 4.67 with 1,664 K's. He's been eligible for the Hall for 10 years but hasn't received a single vote.

Another 15-year man who made his money as a middle reliever. While such guys are important, it's hard to come up with big numbers. He has a 52-48 career record with 9 saves. I mostly remember Doug as a reliever for the Astros.

Although he played for 15 years, I don't know much about him. He was used mostly as a closer compiling a career record of 63-61 with 267 saves. That's good enough for the 31st place on the career list. He was a 2-time All-Star.

Flaherty spent 14 years mostly as a backup catcher playing mostly for the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees. I guess you can make a pretty good living at that. He'd earned over $16 million before retiring in 2005.

A 14-year-outfielder who was the 9th runner up for the 1995 NL Rookie of the Year award. He had 369 career stolen bases with his best year, 66, with the Royals in 1998.

Collectors often deride 1980s and early 1990s Donruss sets but compare this set to the drab 2016 Donruss set put out by Panini.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Movie Review: Batman V. Superman

Although I enjoy the Marvel Universe movies, I was a DC kid growing up, and Superman was always my favorite super hero. That's why I had to see "Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice".

I'm very much of a different opinion than many of the movie critics. We went into this expecting to not like the movie but my wife and I loved it.  After seeing the film, I'm convinced that some of the reviews were based on the trailers rather than the actual movie.

In the comics, Batman and Superman were the greatest of friends, but they also fought a lot, so the theme here isn't unfamiliar. This movie is a direct sequel to 2013's "Man of Steel". In fact, the movie starts with Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) down on the streets of Metropolis while Superman is fighting General Zod above the streets.  He's driving through the streets dodging cars and debris trying to get to the Wayne Industries building. He gets there just in time to watch the building crumble and to rescue an employee whose legs are crushed under a beam. This guy shows up later in the story and becomes an important plot point.

This is the set up for why Batman, a long established and feared, vigilante in Gotham, believes that Superman, the new superhero on the block, is such a menace. Superman is having his own troubles. Although mostly well-loved in Metropolis (the area destroyed in the fight with General Zod has been turned into a park with a giant Superman statue and the remains of Zod's ship) there are some who share Batman's suspicions. In particular, Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) is holding hearings on Superman.

The third main character in this battle is the evil mastermind Lex Luthor (a manic Jesse Eisenberg), who is manipulating Batman, Superman and Senator Finch to bring about the conflict of the title.

Finally you have the final two characters in the battle, Wonder Woman and Doomsday. Wonder Woman had been seen several times earlier in the film in her civilian clothes (a series of designer fashions) as she steals the device Bruce Wayne was using to steal data from Luthor. She later returns it to Bruce and from it he (and we) learn of other metahumans (like Aquaman and The Flash). While reviewing the data, Bruce has what seems like a vision, or dream of a future post-apocalyptic future where Batman is fighting soldiers with Superman logos on their shoulders while man-sized winged creatures are carrying people off. This was perhaps the most confusing scene in the trailers. Here, it's a warning from the future (or an alternative universe) from the Flash. You've got to be pretty geekily into the DC universe to realize this, which I'm not. That piece of information came from

Too many spoilers will be involved in explaining where Doomsday came from. I've perhaps already given away a major plot point by revealing that the creature shooting flame from his mouth is Doomsday.

There are a lot of questions raised by the premise of the movie and the trailers. Why is Batman so angry at Superman? How does he think he even has a chance in such an encounter? Superman is clearly pulling his punches in the trailer (he even says "If I wanted it you'd be dead already") but why is he pulling his punches? Why does Batman seem to so easily throw away his difficulties with Superman? In the trailers it seems they unite to fight Doomsday, but it's more than that in the movie. Where has Wonder Woman been all this time? What does "Dawn of Justice" even mean?

I thought that the movie had a credible plot and credibly answers all these questions. And it did a great job of setting up the future Justice League (DC's answer to Marvels The Avengers) movies.

I thought Ben Affleck was pretty good as Batman. He plays a much darker Batman then even the Christopher Nolen movies. Here Batman seems to mostly be going after child molesters and pimps. When he catches someone he brands a bat into their chests. Jeremy Irons, as Alfred is pretty good. The two of them seem to have been in the crime-fighting thing for a long time and both seem quite tired of it. I didn't care much for Henry Cavill as Superman in "Man of Steel" but he's better here. I still don't much care for Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Laurence Fishburne does another good turn as the scene chewing Perry White. Eisenburg plays Lex Luthor like  he secretly wants to be The Joker but he's an important figure in the movie.

So if you haven't seen it, I recommend that you do. 70% of the critics didn't like it but 70% of the viewers did.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

2016 Donruss First (and last) Look

Somebody must like Donruss or Panini wouldn't have trotted it out for a third year. I have the same complaints about 2016 Donruss that I've had for the last two years. The design is unattractive, The photography is uninspiring, no team logos, and the backs are terrible. I bought a single 30-card pack (same as last year) because I can't reach my stated (and impossible) goal of owning at least one of every type of card purchased if I don't buy something of everything I see. These are the cards going into my reference book.

The 2014 set had blue backs, last year they had orange backs (which were very difficult to scan), and this year they have this color. What color is this?

I'll grudgingly admit that I like the Diamond King subset this year. Panini is supposed to be issuing a Diamond Kings set later in April.

There are some retired players in the set. Topps is probably afraid they'd lose their MLB license if they made a Pete Rose card but Panini doesn't have to worry about that.

I managed to pull the entire Phillies set from the pack (both of them) but got no Astros (5 in the set).

I pulled some inserts as well.

Studio used to be one of my favorite sets each year. This incarnation isn't bad.

This guy had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and doesn't seem to be making much progress. He only pitched 6.2 innings in spring training this year.

Compare this to the Rated Rookie subset above. The photos appear to have been taken within milliseconds of each other.

I guess Panini has had the contract with USA Baseball for a few years now.