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Spring Training Links – 3/5/2012

Still Available

2012 Hallowed Ground Calendar

Ballparks of the Past – Vintage Classic Ballparks


No Reasonable Offer Refused Sale

During the off season, to help satisfy that hot stove itch, we’re having a “No Reasonable Offer Refused” sale on all limited edition lithographs until opening day. Call us at 860-567-7770 to make your offer and place your order. Our business hours are Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm east coast time. We will be the final determinant of what is reasonable. Standard shipping charges apply. You are invited to make what you think are reasonable offers and we hope we agree they are reasonable.


MLB 2012 Spring Training Schedule

MLB 2011 Final Standings

MLB 2011 Final Regular Season Statistics


Daily Six Pack Plus

Robin Ventura and the trial by fire

Thoughts at the start of Spring Training

Early numbers don’t tell Strasburg’s story

Valentine right man to right Red Sox’s ship

Cespedes takes BP with Manny, meets media

Bees, raccoons, oh my! Animals impact games

For No. 1 Seeds, Road to Title Comes With Bumps

For Mets Early Risers, Bacon, Eggs and a Workout

Mets Await a Key Ruling Amid More Negative News


Boston Red Sox

Josh Beckett, catchers learning to trust


Washington Nationals

Strasburg returns to the mound in spring training debut


Chicago White Sox

White Sox have three bullpen spots up for grabs in camp


Cincinnati Reds

Stubbs spent the winter clearing his head


Oakland A’s

Cespedes confident he can make quick transition to major leagues


Los Angeles Dodgers

All’s calm for Dodgers, at least on field, as preseason games begin



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The things you’ll do during the winter, stoking the hot stove!

Topps, the baseball card manufacturer, had a promotion last year that consisted of giving away at least 1 copy of every baseball card they’ve printed over the years. They called it “The Million Card Giveaway”. In order to qualify for the free cards, you had to purchase packs of 2010 Topps baseball cards and look for redemption cards. The redemption cards had pictures on the front of old cards and had a code on the back that was used to unlock a card. That card would be put into your on-line collection to eventually be redeemed and shipped to you or to be traded. Topps has pages dedicated to trading cards with other fans, something that I dove right into after redeeming my 1st card. I eventually ended up with 14 redemption cards, which turned out to be the following 14 baseball cards:

Bud Byerly, Lou Johnson, Del Rice, the 1980 Atlanta Braves Team card, Pat Kelly, Dick Bosman, Don Shaw, Miguel Dilone, another copy of the same Pat Kelly, Randy Milligan, Ted Martinez, Roy McMillan, Shannon Stewart and Sal Bando.

Not a lot of quality players. Not a Mantle, Aaron, Clemente or Mays in there. A couple of guys that had played in All Star games but not much more than that.But, when you think about all of the players that have had a card since 1952, you realize that the odds of getting something special are quite low, when receiving only14 cards.
So I decided to see what I could do in the trade market. As a Yankee fan, I figured that I’d aim to collect as many Yankees as I could, both in and out of Yankee uniform and, when I couldn’t get Yankees, try to get All Stars.
Trading cards. You can only request 1 card in each trade, as trades are between you and other people that have entered the redemption codes. But, you could offer multiple cards for the one card you were seeking. It seems like there are fans for every player out there, even those guys that just had a brief tenure in the Major Leagues. Over the last couple of months, I got rid of each and every card that I had redeemed. And I also got rid of many of the cards that I received in trade. There were Hall of Fame deals. There were dream trades. There were trades that made no sense at all.

Here are some of the cards that I received and traded away as I attempted to secure cards that I wanted to keep:

Bill Tuttle, Woody Woodward, a Checklist card, Tommy Helms, Balor Moore, Duane Kuiper, Paul Moskau, Bruce Sutter, Ron Guidry, Don Mattingly, Phil Nevin, Casey Kotchman, Jim Davenport, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Bob Martyn, another Nolan Ryan, Jim Willoughby, yet another Nolan Ryan, Earl Torgeson, Wade Boggs, Dave Winfield, Steve Cox, Todd Hollandsworth, Doc Ellis, Mark Hill, another Doc Ellis, Tony Gwynn, Pat Clement, Ricky Gutierrez, another Ron Guidry, Jorge Posada, Jim Gantner, Bob Owchinko, Bob Cerv, John Roseboro the Berra father and Son card and Woodie Held.

38 cards in that group, the cards I received in trade and then traded away. Some Yankees, some All Stars and some Hall Of Fame members in that pile. And more players that had a year or 2 of MLB experience with little impact on the game. All traded away for other cards I was offered or for cards that I requested.
So that makes 52 cards that I exchanged. And, after starting with only 14 cards and making 44 trades, I ended up with 48 cards due to offers that were made that were too good to be refused. Included in the deals made were a couple of real winners. 13 cards for Bob Cerv. 13 cards for Bruce Sutter. And, after each deal was completed, more trades offered, more offers made.

Here’s what I ended up with after a couple of months of trades:

Yankees: Don Mattingly, Jorge Posada, Dave Winfield, Chili Davis, Ron Guidry, Deion Sanders, Al Leiter, Dave Righetti, Billy Martin, Graig Nettles, Bernie Williams and a Don Mattingly record breaker card.

Yankees connections: Cecil Fielder, Bobby Bonds, Don Baylor, David Cone, Travis Lee, Wade Boggs, Fred McGriff, Damaso Garcia, another David Cone, Phil Niekro then and now, Pride of the A’s (Norm Sieburn, Hank Bauer and Jerry Lumpe) and Mel Stottlemyre’s son Todd.

Hall of Famers or close: Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount, Dennis Eckersley, Keith Hernandez, Harvey Kuehn, John Franco, Pedro Martinez, Omar Vizquel and Jim Gilliam.

One that I wanted for old time sake: Joe Lahoud, someone who grew up in my hometown, just a couple of years ahead of me in age, miles ahead in talent.


And the rest, the cards I took as parts of other deals and couldn’t get rid of: Jamie Quirk, Bob Montgomery, Buck Martinez, Greg Pryor, Bruce Boisclair, Larry Biitner, Reggie Sanders, Floyd Bannister, Chuck Finley, Silvio Martinez, Ray Knight, Darnell Coles and Dean Palmer.

Unfortunately, redemption cards were only active until February 1, 2011. So I have 4 redemption cards that were not turned in as they were received after that date. Trades end on February 28th. Cards that are not shipped by March 1st are donated to charity.

But the good news – In the 2011 packs, just released, are more redemption cards to be used in the new Topps Diamond Giveaway program, beginning March 1st. For more vintage cards.

Let the trading begin!

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Three of a Kind (Topps Combo), ltd ed litho

Three of a Kind (Topps Combo), ltd ed litho

Baseball cards. Topps and Fleer. That was it for brand availability when I began buying them in 1962. My newspaper route took me past the 3 neighborhood stores that sold the cards. A nickel a pack, a penny a card, and a stick of bubblegum included. Topps broke their 600 or so cards down into seven series of cards released at intervals throughout the season. Fleer, a small company based in Philadelphia, couldn’t compete with Topps for an every year product so they made special sets.

My father was a baseball nut, loved the game from a both an amateur players standpoint and a fans standpoint. Baseball cards were always around the house, as far

Ted Williams, ltd ed litho

Ted Williams, ltd ed litho

back as I can remember. Being a Red Sox fan, he had collected the entire set of Ted Williams cards that Fleer produced for 1959 and went to pains to explain to me how Williams represented everything great about America, as both a patriot and a ballplayer. And that began my love of cardboard pictures of players and the stats that defined their careers.
The 1st cards I remember purchasing were the ’62 Topps, the set with that wooden grained border that looked like the picture was peeling up in the bottom right corner

Roger Maris 61st Home Run, ltd ed litho

Roger Maris' 61st Home Run, ltd ed litho

to reveal the players name and team. Series 1 featured Roger Maris as card number 1, a fitting spot for the new home run king. Sandy Koufax was card number 5 and “Bob” Clemente was number 10. (“Bob” Clemente?) Ernie Banks was #20, Casey Stengel, manager of the Mets (!) was #29, Eddie Matthews #30. But for every one of these star cards, I’d end up with 5 Norm Larkers and 3 Johnny Temples along with several Vada Pinsons and a handful of Hobie Landruth cards . Players that changed teams would be shown with the logos painted out of their hats or hatless and, in the earliest series, rookies were given their own cards with a star in the top corner, announcing them as stars of the future. Howie Bedell? Ted Savage? League leaders were always a part of Series 1, in ’62 they were disembodied heads placed on colored backdrops with their names and stats below. Series 2 featured a Babe Ruth set of 10 cards, from his childhood in Baltimore to his farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. Series 3 featured the ‘61 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Yankees. Series 4

61 World Series, ltd ed litho

'61 World Series, ltd ed litho

had the action cards, multiple panel cards such as “Ford Tosses A Curve”, “The Switch Hitter Connects” and “Spahn Shows No-Hit Form”. Series 5 had the National League Sporting News All Stars and Series 6 had the American League version. Series 7 had the “Rookie Parade” another set of bodyless heads, 4 or 5 to a card, that featured rookies that had played their way onto the Major League rosters in Spring Training and had not been a part of the original set (Bob Uecker, Jim Bouton, Sam McDowell and Rod Kanehl among 37 players). Certain Hall of Famers and players that led the leagues in different categories were given the “rounded numbers”, Stan Musial was 50, Warren Spahn was 100, Al Kaline 150, Mickey Mantle 200, Norm Cash 250, Willie Mays was 300, Frank Robinson 350, Elston Howard 400, Jim O’Toole 450, Duke Snider 500.

Multiple player cards, some from different teams, were popular, too.  How come I have 15 Cuno Barragan cards and can’t get a single “Managers Dream” (Mantle and Mays) card? Or an “AL and NL Homer Kings? (Maris and Orlando Cepeda)? What the heck is this? “Redbird Rippers” – Lindy McDaniel and Larry Jackson? Huh? ” Tribe Trio” – Barry Latman, Dick Stigman and Jim Perry? Why? “Pride Of The A’s” – Norm Siebern, Hank Bauer and Jerry Lumpe? What’s this, a Yankees retrospective?  They were scattered among the different series along with team cards and managers cards.

I spent quite a bit of my paper route cash collecting these cards and ended up with a full set eventually. And I’d continue to do so throughout the succeeding years. But, in addition to investing my hard earned money, I invested my heart and soul into this wonderful game of baseball through collecting these cardboard icons.

And then, like a lot of other people, after moving out of the house in my early twenties and leaving my childhood toys behind,  my mother threw them away! Just the cards, not the memories.

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My maternal grandfather bought me a

Yankee Two Treasue, ltd ed litho

Yankee Two Treasure, ltd ed litho

Yankee hat when I was about 3.  He was a Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, dyed-in-the-pinstripe- wool, Yankee fan.  That was the beginning of my baseball education and the start of a life-long love affair with the sport. I don’t exactly remember what happened immediately after the “hat incident” but it couldn’t have been pretty. My dad and his side of the family were diehard Red Sox fans. The lived and died (mostly died at that point in time) for the Boston team, Ted Williams in particular. My father, born in 1929, had come of age rooting for the Boston teams of the 40’s and 50’s. Johnny Pesky, Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Mel Parnell – those were some of the icons of his sporting past.

Growing up in western Connecticut, the easiest place to visit for a game was Yankee Stadium, Boston and Fenway being too long a trek in the early 60’s. I went to my initial game at the age of 7 or 8, seeing Yogi Berra hit 2 home runs during a Sunday doubleheader. My 1st sight of the field, coming up through the darkness of the ramps at old Yankee Stadium,  to the main level, is something that is still very vivid in my mind 48 years later. The bright green grass, the rich brown dirt, the majestic sight of the monuments in center field. We’d eventually make the pilgrimage to Fenway, sitting in the left field rooftop box, which was equally impressive but my most memorable times in my formative years were spent going to games in the Bronx cathedral with my father, the Cub Scouts and my friends.

I have a lifelong friend, Claude, who’s dad would bring us to the Stadium some days when he was going to visit the ponies at Yonkers Raceway. He’d drop us off early on a Saturday morning, we’d get in the Stadium for batting practice (gates would open at 10 am back then for 1 pm Saturday matinees) and Mr Wallace would pick us up later, after the ponies ran and the ballgame was finished. Claude and I, with other friends, would go to many games over the years, ticking off the teams and players we’d see, trying to see all of the stars of the day. Watching batting practice was a treat. I’d always have my Willie Mays style glove with me, hoping to catch a foul ball. (Never did.) We’d get to see all the other teams stars and watch them as they prepared to play that day’s game. Al Kaline, Norm Cash, Rocky Colavito and the Detroit Tigers. Luis Aparacio, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles. Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Conigliaro and Jim Lonborg with the Red Sox. Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva and Camilo Pascual with the Minnesota Twins, just after they moved from Washington DC. The White Sox with ageless Hoyt Wilhelm, Tommy John and Nellie Fox. The Kansas City A’s, formerly the Philadelphia Athletics, with their roster of former and future Yankees. The new Washington Senators with crazy Jimmie Piersall and Minnie Minoso (once asked who was the greatest player in the game, he pointed to himself and said “me know so”). The Indians with Jim “Mudcat” Grant, “Sudden” Sam McDowell and Tito Francona. And the expansion Los Angeles Angels with Dean Chance, Bo Belinsky and “little” Albie Pearson. The New York Yankees, at the beginning of the 60’s, were an all star team –  Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Yogi, the list goes on and on. At the end of the decade, they were a bottom of the standings team, featuring players like Jerry Kenney and Roger Repoz and the unforgettable Horace Clarke.

I did make 1 trip to New York with my dad to see the National League play. We went to see the New York Mets play the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Polo Grounds, 2 years before Shea Stadium opened. The Casey Stengel led Mets were the doormat of the NL back them, trying to thrive with former all stars such as Gil Hodges , who’d been a star with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Richie Ashburn, a Whiz Kid from Philadelphia and big Frank Thomas. The LA Dodgers, who’d become the World Champions the next year, were led by Sandy Koufax, Johnny Podres, Don Drysdale, stolen base champ Maury Wills and Duke Snider.

Baseball was a sport back then, something that these talented players did for 6 months each year before returning to their off season jobs and lives. We actually met many of these visiting players during batting practice, they’d come over to the stands and sign autographs or just talk to the kids that were there early. They didn’t “big-time” you, they actually took the time to speak to you, kid with you and make you happy that you played the same game that they excelled at.

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Vintage Yankee Yarn, ltd ed litho

Vintage Yankee Yarn, ltd ed litho

There’s been quite a bit of talk about the New York Yankees “buying” their championships over the years. 34 years worth of talk and it’s not going away. The complaints are so numerous and uniform and almost sound as if the Yankees are allowed to live by a different set of rules than the rest of the Major League Baseball teams. Ever since Mr Steinbrenner signed his first free agent, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, on New Years Eve 1974, fans and sportswriters have complained that the 27 time World Champions are throwing their money around at an unfair rate, stealing the best players every year.

Let’s do a “fer instance”.

Say you own a hamburger stand. Suppose that you serve a good product at a fair price and people come from near and far to sample your burgers. All of a sudden, you find yourself more profitable than your competition. Do you plow those profits back into your burger stand to make it better and more enjoyable for your customers or do you go with the status quo and pocket the additional profits? The smart businessman would try to enhance his business and make it grow, attract more customers and thereby create even more business and even more cash flow that can be invested back into his stand. The American way.

Okay, let’s step away from the burger stand for awhile.

Baseball ceased being a “sport” a long time ago. It’s now a business. The arbitrators that declared Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith free agents in 1973 made it that way. Until then, players were “owned” by the club that they played for, there was no player movement unless these “good-old-boys” that were the owners decided to make a trade. Players did not control their destiny in any way, shape, manner or form. Once the players were set free, a business developed from a sport. Once Charlie Finley decided to not pay the money he owed the Catfish, the best pitcher in baseball was allowed to field offers from all of the “new” business owners and decide where he wanted to set up shop.

Back to the burger stand.

Suppose that the owner of the above mentioned burger stand decided to take the excess profits and stick them in his pocket. His competition down the street, seeing that there was more money to be made by improving his stand, adopts a similar plan for his joint but decides to plow those profits back into his business. His brand grows and keeps growing because he keeps trying to stay ahead of the competition. By re-investing and making his business better, he’s increasing his revenues.  All of a sudden, he’s hiring the best cooks, the best service people and promoting his business at a rate that was unheard of prior to that point. Is that an unfair business practice? No, that’s the American way.

Ok, back to baseball. The greasy fries are starting to get to me.

When Charlie O, the arrogant guy with the profitable team, the arrogant guy who’d won 3 consecutive Championships, decided that he didn’t want to plow those profits back into his club, didn’t want to pay what he, by contract, owed, the sport of baseball turned into the business of baseball. The Catfish was set free, as McNally and Messersmith had been, and the reserve clause was rendered null and void, as Curt Flood had attempted  in 1970. Some of the competition, George Steinbrenner in particular, decided that he wanted to become the best and most profitable owner in the business and started paying the best players to come to work for him. Year after year, player after player, good choice or bad, Steinbrenner used the open marketplace to attempt to create the situation that would render the competition as also-rans. As any business owner would do that wanted to be the best. The American way. It paid immediate dividends, as the Yankees won the American League pennant in ’76, losing the Championship to the Cincinnati Reds, and the World Championship in ’77 and ’78, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers, due in no small part to the signing of Reggie

Reggies Amazing Night, ltd ed litho

Reggie's Amazing Night, ltd ed litho

Jackson. Success breeds the need for more success, just as the smell of a good burger breeds feeling the need to eat. By creating the successful franchise, the Yankees began enjoying more and more profit. Instead of playing in front of empty seats, the Yankees were playing in front of packed stands. The profits grew. With all of the happy customers, sales of Yankees paraphernalia grew and profits grew even larger. Investment of those profits back into the business allowed the business owner to grow the business even more. The Yankees became a international brand, not just a local brand. That interlocking NY was soon found globally, on a the hat of a kid in England, a tee shirt in the Netherlands, a uniform in the Dominican Republic, a banner in Asia. And it brought that marketing possibility to all MLB teams, another way to grow the brands that had been long established in the United States.

From 1981 to strike shortened 1994, the Yankees, even though Steinbrenner kept re-investing, were not winners. For 12 years, other teams made the playoffs, other teams won the pennant, won the World Championship.  5 different teams won in each of the two American League Divisions. The Blue Jays won the American League East 4 years in 5, the Red Sox 3 of 5. The Oakland A’s won the AL West 4 years in 5. There were 5 different winners in the NL East and 6 in the NL West in that same span of time. The Pirates won the NL East 3 consecutive years and the Braves did the same in the NL West. Most of these 21 different division winners won with the help of talent acquired through free agency. The problem is, not all owners grasped the concept, that they too could elevate the marketing of their teams by signing the best free agents at market price and becoming a more successful franchise and thereby enhance their revenues and create a more even field of competition. They wanted to keep their profits, not take that chance, not sign that free agent. So, they’d be complacent after winning, expecting to rake in the profits that come after winning and not be a player in the free agent market every year. When it became obvious that these franchises were falling behind, both in revenue and in competition, they blamed their small market status and claimed that that was the reason for consistent poor showing in the standing.  The Yankees? Still signing free agents but making poor choices. Continuing to invest. But not continuing to win. Taking chances with the hope of making their business better. Then, for a while, signing with the Yankees meant having to constantly defend yourself in public spats with ownership, physical confrontations with the manager, the booing of the fans who expected a yearly winner. The Yankees became a disdainful destination for players but the players still used Yankee offers as a  valuable bargaining chip.  The problem then became one of collusion. Owners didn’t want to spend the big bucks that players were commanding. They stopped falling for the threat of Yankee offers. They knew that most players didn’t really want to go there, have to deal with that. They kept market prices down. The Yankees, meanwhile, retooled their front office. Retooled their leadership on the field. Refined their image. Steinbrenner’s suspension didn’t hurt. Other voices in the organization were heard and became the sound of  better judgement. Player development became a more important part of the plan. They became a bit more of a desired destination for the players. Showed some success. Brought up players developed in their own organization. Made some important trades for quality players. Still worked the free agent market but became more of  a home grown team, too. Then the ceiling fell in. The players went on strike during the 1994 season. Fans became former fans, to a much higher degree than in the strikes of ’72 and ’81. There was no postseason in ’94. No winner for the 1st time. Only losers. Owners, players and fans. Then a shortened season in ’95. Diminished attendance, diminished revenues.

The Yankees minor league system was starting to produce major league talent. Championship caliber talent. Bernie Williams first, in ’91. Then Andy Pettitte in ’95. After cups of coffee in ’95, Derek Jeter

Jeter reaching Greatness, ltd ed litho

Jeter Reaching Greatness, ltd ed litho

and Mariano Rivera

Yankee Stadium Finale, ltd ed litho

Yankee Stadium Finale, ltd ed litho

in ’96. Jorge Posada in ’97. The foundation for 4 World Championships in 5 years. Traded for Paul O’Neill prior to the ’93 season, David Cone and John Wetteland in ’95, Joe Girardi and Tino Martinez in ’96 season. All major plyers in the start of the Yankees run. Acquired the old fashioned way. Signed Jimmy Key in ’92, Wade Boggs in ’93, Kenny Rogers and Dwight Gooden prior to the ’96 season. All but Key were not major factors. All free agents. But still the Yankees were vilified for “buying” the Championships.

Fast forward to 2009. Pettitte, Posada, Jeter and Rivera are still the foundation. Add more homegrown talent – Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Ramiro Pena, Alfredo Aceves, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Dave Robertson, Chien Ming Wang, Francisco Cervelli. Most are major contributors, some minor and some not at all. Make some trades – Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, Damaso Marte, Xavier Nady, Chad Gauvin, Eric Hinske – some worked out, some didn’t. Throw in what’s left of the last 7 years of free agent signings – Hideki Matsui (’02), Johnny Damon(’06), Jose Molina (’08), CC Sabathia

Rebirth in the Bronx, ltd ed litho

Rebirth in the Bronx, ltd ed litho

, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira(’09) and you have this year’s World Champions.  4 of 9 starting offensive positions are manned by homegrown talent. 2 others came via trades. 3 in free agency. Starting staff is 3/5ths homegrown. 2 via free agency. Bullpen? Other than Marte, all homegrown.

So, my question is: Did the Yankees just build the better hamburger stand by investing back into it or did they buy it?

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