Friday 23 September 2016

Looking back: Zellers Expos Baseball Pro Tips - Gary Carter

When I was a kid a new mall opened up in my neighborhood, the Herongate Mall in Ottawa. (Searching online, it opened in 1981.) There were all sorts of great stores, including a pet store to look at, and a cookie place that introduced me to double chocolate cookies. One of the anchors of the mall was a Zellers department store.

The following summer, Zellers paired with the Montreal Expos and put out a 60 card set of Baseball Pro Tips. Cards were distributed in 20 panels of three cards.

I remember making my way to the mall to get the cards, especially the Gary Carter ones! I don't remember how they were given away, but imagine it wasn't with purchase because I don't think that I would have had as many as I did. If you had asked me a month ago, I would have figured that of course I had collected the whole set at the time, separating the panels into their individual cards, and putting elastics around them with the rest of my cards at the time.

I recently picked up a full set of cards still attached in panels. Looking at them, I'm now sure that I didn't have them all. I didn't remember there being 20 panels/60 cards. I'm still sure I had all the Carters, but a lot of the others seem new to me.

I hope to eventually show all of the cards, but this post will look at those of my hero, Gary Carter.

Gary Carter had five of the twenty panels, broken down as follows:

Cards 1A - 1C - Catching Position
Cards 6A - 6C - Fielding Pop Fouls
Cards 13A - 13C - Fielding Low Balls
Cards 16A - 16C - Catching Stance
Cards 19A - 19C - Hitting Stride

Remember to read the tips from right to left to match the card photo above
I was a catcher in Little League. I wore number 8 whenever I could get it. And I tried to follow the advice on these cards. Signs, though, they didn't come into play until I was older.

I was so happy when I became old enough to actually have a separate mask and helmet, as opposed to the mask that was fixed on the helmet that covered my whole head. I just felt so much more like a real catcher when I was able to just pull the mask off and throw it aside.

I remember going to practices and having the coach pull me aside to practice blocking errant balls. He had a bucket of tennis balls that he would toss in the dirt right in front of me. Good times!

I credit catching with making me not afraid of the ball. Later in life, in a men's baseball league, I often led my team in being hit by pitches because I wouldn't really make a serious effort getting out of the way. I would twist my body enough to make it look to the umpire that I was trying to avoid the ball but had no problem letting myself get hit in the arm or the thigh. I once remember an opposing catcher trying to call me out to the ump as not having tried to move out of the way but the ump still gave me first base. BTW, the other catcher was right!

Over the years my stance changed dramatically as I tried emulating what I saw other catchers do on tv. I can't say that I ever mastered Tony Pena's style of sitting on one leg with the other extended outwards, I really wasn't that flexible. Do a Google search for it - I can't see how that would be comfortable.

Now, I only played around with other stances when there wasn't anybody on base. If there was a runner on base I would be prepared to shift my body to throw to whatever base I might need to.

As for the hand placement, as a kid my throwing hand would be solidly behind my back. As I got older, and when I played in the men's league, my hand would mostly hang behind my right leg/shin. That got me in trouble once when instinct took over and made me grab for a foul tip that jammed my thumb nail into my thumb. That hurt.

Hey, how did a hitting card sneak in here?

I was a good hitter, with good hand-eye coordination that was mostly a contact hitter when I was young that developed power when I got bigger.

As with most Canadians, I think my baseball swing was influenced by my hockey playing. I shot left in hockey, and batted left in baseball. Like a lot of left-handed batters I liked the low ball.

And writing all of this has made me realize just how much I miss playing baseball.

The tips on these cards seem so basic now but I know that I loved reading them when I was a kid.

And of course, seeing these tips remind me of another avenue of instruction that I had as a kid with another catcher, Johnny Bench. Does anyone else remember "The Baseball Bunch"? What other avenues of baseball instructional tips do people remember?

Thursday 22 September 2016

More from the Shoebox

I was pleasantly surprised to come home to a PWE from Shane at Shoebox Legends and happily opened it to see what I might find.

Befitting his blog name, it started with a legend.

2010 Topps Triple Threads - Sepia #99 (#/499)
A great shot of Jim Brown with those two facemask bars on his helmet. I remember reading that Brown often complained about people trying to poke his eyes in the pile on the ground after a tackle. You can see how easy it would be with this photo.

The other interesting thing is how empty the stands are behind him. I wonder where and when the photo was taken.

A second member of the Hall of Fame also lurked in the envelope.

2011 Panini Limited #101 (#/499)
Two of my earliest Browns favorites are Ozzie Newsome and Clay Matthews. I understood when Newsome moved with the team to Baltimore, but I really still can't understand why he had to wear a Ravens shirt while being interviewed for the A Football Life episode on the 1995 Cleveland Browns. I understand all the others being interviewed wearing the colors of the team that they were working for, but I found it insensitive for a Browns legend to wear his Ravens shirt talking about the move that ripped the hearts out of Browns fans. I know he is their GM, but still, could he not have worn a neutral shirt?

In any case, I still love Newsome's playing career, and respect the job he has done in Baltimore, and love that I continue to see him in his Browns uniform on cardboard.

There was also a couple of nice shiny cards.
L: 2013 Panini Prizm - Prizms Light Blue Pulsar #18
R: 2014 Bowman Chrome - Rookie Autographs Refractors #RCRA-TW
Both players are still playing in the NFL - Jackson with the Colts, and West with the Ravens.

I love the look of the Blue Pulsar cards. It doesn't fit in with the color of the Browns uniforms, but I don't care. I like them.

When I opened the envelope I could have sworn that I already had the West card. Short of time at a card store or show, I probably would have passed on it figuring that I already had it. It looks just like so many other West autograph cards that I have from 2014.

Surprise! I needed it! Always room for one more autograph in the collection.

A couple of Gridiron Kings parallels of the current running backs.

L-R: 2015 Panini Gridiron Kings - Red Framed #29; #128
I love the art look to these cards even though I think that I read that they are digitally enhanced to achieve that look.

I'm sure that Crowell and Johnson will be leaned on this Sunday when Cody Kessler gets his first start.

And finally, it finished with a former Browns quarterback.
L-R: 2014 Topps Chrome - 1963 Minis #26; 2016 Score - Showcase #75 (#/99)
I know that I'll be adding Manziel cards to my collection for years. His cards are rapidly approaching being among the top 10 players in my collection, and at some point they will pass the amount of cards I have of Bernie Kosar.

Shane, thanks for the great cards! I keep looking at cards that I have put aside to send you. I should really get to that soon.

Wednesday 21 September 2016

First Browns card on Panini Instant

Time to join in against the card companies' new gimmick of instantly released cards to commemorate events as they happen.

I've read other bloggers' objections to Topps Now, and now get to make my own decision with football cards from Panini Instant.

As I start writing this, there is over an hour left on the first Browns card being offered on Panini Instant. It commemorates first-round pick Corey Coleman's game against the Ravens last Sunday where he had two touchdowns and over 100 yards receiving.

This is what I saw when I looked at the site:

No, I didn't buy the 1/1, or in fact, any of these cards. I'm not going to say that I would object to ever adding one of these cards into my collection, but it won't be from them, and it won't be at any of these prices.

If one ever appears as part of a trade, I'll take it, or if I see one at a buck or two online or at a show, I might consider it, but I just can't support these cards at these prices.

Does anyone know what happens to the rest of the numbered cards if they don't sell out? (I can't be bothered to poke through their site to find out.) If only one person buys a #/5 card, does only one get made or will they find another way of distributing the other four cards? If only one gets made, and word gets out about that, what does the 1/1 person think of spending $50 more for the same print run even though their card has a /1 instead of a /5?

I really haven't thought too much about chasing the rainbow in the past, even though I know that with printing plates and 1/1 cards that it is very unlikely to complete one. However, as much as I complain about parallels, there is something fun about looking at a page of the same cards with color (or whatever) differences.

Seeing a company's own breakdown, however, for their perceived value of a numbered card really makes me rethink whether I even want to keep continuing to try and grab parallels. Who am I kidding? I will, for now, but now the thought is there so that may change in the future.

I don't know if it is in the best interest of a card company to make me want to think about how I'm collecting and spending my money. They may not like the decisions that I come to.