Monday, July 13, 2015

2015 Topps Archives

Recently I won an eBay auction and acquired some cards from the 2015 Topps Archives set.  One of the cards I got was Willie Mays.  The Willie Mays card from the 2014 Archives set is nice, but it is a short print so I probably won't ever add it to my collection.   With this new set, I was happy to get the Mays card.

Topps 2015 Archives Willie Mays Card #300.

A big disappointment with the new Archive product, was that you can't read the players names on some of the cards.  Last weekend, I was at a local flea market and it was the first time I had seen any of the new Archive cards.  The first thing my friend Mark showed me about the new Archive product was that on some of the cards you couldn't read the players names.

From the eBay auction, Andrew McCutchen was one of the cards that I got. 

Topps 2015 Archives Andrew McCutchen Card #257 

His card was a reprint from the Topps 1983 set.  Note that his name is printed in yellow and you can't read it.  There were also other cards with this same problem.  After noticing this, I would have believed that Topps, before issuing the set, would have seen that you couldn't read these player's names and they would have possibly used a different shade of yellow so the name could be read. 
I compared the 2015 Archives cards with cards from the original Topps 1983 set.  I don't remember this being a problem with the 1983 set.  For Pirate cards from that set, Topps used a different shade of yellow and you can easily read the players names.

Topps 1983 Jim Morrison Card #173

I am wondering why Topps didn't use a darker shade of yellow for the 2015 Archive product.  As a consumer of baseball cards, Topps has the best product on the market.  Yes, Panini is out there, and some of their product is ok, and it is getting better, but whenever I see their cards I am reminded of Topps football cards from the early 1970s. 
Topps 1972 Roman Gabriel Pro Action Card #128
The airbrushing job of the Rams players' helmet makes it look like they are crystal balls.  If you look deep inside one of these helmets the future would show that the Rams aren't going to win a Super Bowl until they get a quarterback who worked stocking shelves at a Hy-Vee grocery store for $5.50 an hour.

Here is a photograph of the actual helmets the Rams wore in the early 70s.
So I am wondering if Topps is producing cards, even if they are undesirable like some of these Topps 2015 Archives, knowing that collectors will buy them anyway.
Oh, I did get a Chipper Jones card.  I was able to pass it on to my best friend who collects Chipper Jones. 
Topps 2015 Archives Chipper Jones Card #72 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Raider Great Kenny "The Snake" Stabler - RIP

Word is getting out that Oakland Raider great quarterback, Kenny Stabler passed away earlier today.  Stabler, known as "the Snake", was a left handed thrower who played for the Raiders from 1970 through 1979.  He earned his nickname "the Snake" from his high school coach following a long, winding touchdown run.

One of my earliest football memories was Stabler coming in to the December 1972 American Football Conference (AFC) playoff game against the Steelers in relief of Raiders starting quarterback Darryl Lamonica.  The Raiders were trailing the Steelers 6 - 0.  With 1:17 left in the game, Stabler scrambled out of the pocket and broke free into the Steelers' secondary and scored a touchdown on a 30 yard run that gave the Raiders a 7 - 6 lead.  However, the game will always be remembered for the Steelers next drive that ended the game.  I still remember sitting in disbelief as with 22 seconds left in the game, Steeler quarter Terry Bradshaw connected with running back Franco Harris on a fourth down 60-yard completion, as the Steelers won the game 13 - 7 on a play that will always be remembered as the "Immaculate Reception".   The win was the first playoff victory in the Steelers four decade history. 
This was the beginning of a fierce rivalry between the Steelers and Raiders. In the 1970s, the Steelers and Raiders were the among the best teams in the AFC and the National Football League (NFL). The Raiders regularly met the Steelers in the playoffs, and the winner of these games went on to win the Super Bowl in 3 straight years, from 1975–77.  Stabler was the Raiders quarterback of teams that played in five consecutive AFC Championship games, between the 1973-74 and the 1977-78 seasons.
Topps 1973 Ken Stabler Card #487
At the time, I was a Raider fan and I remember many great plays made by Stabler. 
During a playoff game in December 1974, with 24 seconds left in the game, Stabler found running back Clarence Davis with the game-winning touchdown pass among "the sea of hands" of three Dolphins defenders as the Raiders won the game 28 - 26. The loss eliminated Miami from the playoffs after they had made it to the Super Bowl in each of the last 3 seasons.
There was the "Ghost to the Post" when Stabler connected on the over the shoulder catch to tight end Dave Casper that lead to a game tying field goal, in the December 1997 AFC playoff game against the Colts.  The Raiders ended up winning the game 37 - 31 in the second overtime, when Stabler connected with Casper on a ten yard touchdown pass.
I also remember  the September 10, 1978 game where the Raiders trailed the Chargers as the game was ending.  "The Holy Roller" (also known as "the Immaculate Deception" by San Diego Chargers fans) is the nickname given to a controversial game-winning play by the Raiders.  It was officially ruled as a forward fumble that was recovered by Casper in the end zone for a touchdown, ultimately giving Oakland the 21–20 win.  There were differing interpretations of how this play should have been ruled, and it has remained a controversial play. The NFL amended its rules after the 1978 season in order to prevent a recurrence of a forward fumble play.

Stabler was the quarterback of great Raider teams, including the 1977 Super Bowl Champions when he guided the Raiders to their first Super Bowl victory, a 32-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings.  His Raider teammates included Hall of Famers, Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Fred Bilenikioff, George Blanda,  Dave Casper, Bob Brown, Ted Hendricks, and Ray Guy.  Also his coach John Madden is in the Hall of Fame as is their team owner and general manager, Al Davis.  He was named as a second team quarterback on the NFLs All Decade team of the 1970s.  It is a shame that Stabler never made it to the Hall of Fame although he was a integral part of the great Raider teams of the 70s.  
He finished his career playing two seasons with the Oilers and two seasons and a part of a third season with the Saints.  While playing for the Saints in the strike interrupted season of 1982, he lead them to an upset victory over the defending Super Bowl Champion, 49ers.  The game was the first game at the 49ers home field, Candlestick Park, after the strike ended.  Stabler completed all five of his passes on a 99-yard touchdown drive in the rain, giving New Orleans an early lead, as the Saints survived a late San Francisco rally and beat the 49ers, 23-20. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Good-Bye, Candlestick Park

The reports from the Bay Area this week say that work crews have completed the demolition of Candlestick Park.  The former home of the Giants and 49ers has now been leveled to the ground.  Planning now for the site is for the construction of an outlet mall, a hotel, and 600 homes to be built by late 2017 or early 2018.

Candlestick Park opened on April 12, 1960 as Vice-President Richard Nixon threw out the opening pitch for the baseball game between the Giants and Cardinals.  The Giants won the game 3 to 1, as starting pitcher Sam Jones pitched a complete game three-hitter.  The game's first runs scored came on Orlando Cepeda's 1st inning triple which plated Don Blasingame and Willie Mays.

2010 Topps Heritage Flashback Card #BF6

Candlestick Park served as the home of the San Francisco Giants from 1960 through 1999 and home for the San Francisco 49ers from 1971 through 2013. 

A history of events at Candlestick Park include:

The 1961 All-Star Game

The 1961 All-Star Game was played at Candlestick Park.  A gust of wind reportedly caused relief pitcher Stu Miller, then a member of the Giants, to be blown off the mound.  In the top of the 9th inning when Miller, who replaced Sandy Koufax, went into the stretch for his first pitch, a fierce gust of wind hit his shoulder. As Miller remembers, the result was more like a flinch than being blown off the mound.  The play resulted in a balk. Later in the inning, the American League tied the game 3 - 3 when Al Kaline scored on Ken Boyer's error on Rocky Colavito's grounder.  Miller gave up an unearned run in the top of the 10th inning as the American League took a 4 - 3 lead.  However, Miller's National League teammates bailed him out in the bottom of the 10th inning and made him the winning pitcher.  Against Oriole and American League reliever, Hoyt Wilhelm, Hank Aaron lead off the inning with a single and he scored on a double by Miller's Giant teammate Willie Mays to tie the score.   After Wilhelm hit Frank Robinson with a pitch, Mays scored the winning run on Roberto Clemente's single.

Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron stand together for a picture after the 1961 All-Star Game 
Game Seven of the 1962 World Series
The 1962 World Series matched the New York Yankees and the San Francisco Giants.  With the Series tied 3 games a piece and the Yankees leading the Giants 1-0 going into the bottom of the ninth of game seven, Giants pinch-hitter Matty Alou led off with a base hit bunt. His brother Felipe struck out, as did second baseman Chuck Hiller.  Willie Mays came up and hit a line drive double into the right field corner. Alou rounded third and thought about scoring but held up, not wanting to test the arm of Yankees right fielder Roger Maris.
With men on second and third and Giants slugger Willie McCovey coming to the plate, the Yankees and their ace Ralph Terry had a decision to make. Should Terry pitch to McCovey, who had a triple in the game and had hit a home run off Terry in Game 2? Or should Terry walk McCovey to load the bases and take his chances with another Giants heavy hitter, Orlando Cepeda?
The Yankees chose to pitch to McCovey.
On the first pitch, McCovey hit a foul ball near the right field stands. Terry then threw a fastball inside that McCovey got around on, launching a shot right at Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson, who snagged the line drive, ending the game and winning the World Series for the Yankees. McCovey would later say it was the hardest ball he ever hit.
1963 Topps 1962 World Series Game #7 Yanks Celebrate as Terry Wins Card #148

The Beatles Live at Candlestick Park

At Candlestick Park, on August 29, 1966, the Beatles had their last live concert.  What is remembered about The Beatles' farewell concert performance is that only half the tickets were sold, leaving some 25,000 seats in the stadium empty.

The 49ers arrive for the 1971 Football Season
Candlestick Park was enclosed during 1970–71 in preparation for the 49ers arrival, scheduled for the beginning of the 1971 football season.  Pictures for some cards from the 1972 Topps baseball set were taken at Candlestick Park during the 1971 season.  These cards show the construction of the upper deck, which added seats for football and enclosed the stadium.
Topps 1972 Frank Duffy Card #607
Frank Duffy was a member of the 1971 Giants.  In May of that year, he was traded to the Giants in a deal that sent outfielder George Foster to the Reds.  After the season ended, in November, Duffy was traded to the Indians in a deal that sent him and pitcher Gaylord Perry to Cleveland and brought pitcher Sam McDowell to San Francisco.
This card of Fran Duffy was selected because he was photographed as a Giant in Candlestick Park sometime during the 1971 season.  His cap was airbrushed to included the Cleveland "C".  Also, if you look over his right shoulder you will note that the bowl that was constructed to enclose Candlestick Park was not yet completed and was still being worked on.
This Ted Sizemore card, is a better picture of the work being done to enclose Candlestick Park.  Note, over Sizemore's right shoulder, the framing for the future upper deck of the park.
Topps 1972 Ted Sizemore Card #514
Some of the other cards from the Topps 1972 set that show the construction of the upper deck of Candlestick included: Doug Rader Card #536, Jerry McNertney Card #584, Jim Ray Card #603, Ivan Murrell Card #677, Don Mason Card #739, Jim Wynn Card #770.
The Catch
It was January 10, 1982, and the San Francisco 49ers were hosting the Dallas Cowboys for the National Football Conference (NFC) Championship.  The upstart 49ers were returning to the championship game for the first time since the Cowboys defeated them 14-3 on January 2, 1972.  The Cowboys had appeared in eight of the first eleven NFC championship games, winning five of them, as the 49ers had yet to made it to the Super Bowl.
The Cowboys lead the game at halftime 17 - 14, and as the third quarter ended the 49ers had gone ahead 21 - 17.   One minute into the fourth quarter, the Cowboys kicked a 22-yard field goal that cut the 49ers lead to 1 point. The Cowboys then recovered a fumble at midfield to set up a touchdown pass by their quarterback, Danny White, giving Dallas a 27–21 advantage. Things got better for Cowboys when cornerback Everson Walls recorded his second interception of 49er quarterback Joe Montana on the 49ers next drive. Dallas managed to pick up a few more first downs, but was forced to punt, and the 49ers got the ball at their own 11 with 4:54 left in the game.
Montana subsequently led the 49ers 83 yards to the Dallas 6-yard line.  Facing 3rd down and 3 on the Cowboys 6 with 58 seconds left, Montana rolled to his right to avoid the Cowboy rush and threw a high pass that wide receiver Dwight Clark reached in the air and caught for what ended up being the game-winning touchdown reception. 

However, the Cowboys needed only a field goal to win, and had enough time left in the game for one last drive. White threw a completion that almost went for a touchdown, as Cowboy receiver Drew Pearson was caught at midfield by defensive back Eric Wright, with a game saving tackle. One play later, the 49ers sacked White, forcing a fumble that they recovered.  The 49ers had their victory and were headed to Super Bowl XVI.  Between 1982 and 1995, the 49ers appeared in and won five Super Bowls.
Montana's throw to Clark will always be remember by 49er fans as simply "The Catch".
Game Three of the 1989 World Series

1990 Score Lights Out: Candlestick Card #701
The World Series was scheduled to return to Candlestick Park on October 17, 1989. The series matched the  Bay Area's two teams, the National League Champion Giants against the American League Champs, Oakland A's.  At 5:04, about twenty-five minutes before the beginning of Game 3, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area. After the quake, police and players wandered the field in bewilderment, unaware the quake had rocked the area's bridges and highways, and that there were fires in downtown San Francisco. At approximately 5:35 p.m., after coming to the conclusion that the power at the park couldn't be restored before sunset, Commissioner Fay Vincent postponed the game, setting no date as to when the series would continue.  The earthquake killed 63 people and demolished several bridges.  Candlestick Park survived with limited damage and Game 3 begun 10 days late as the A's eventually won the World Series.
Paul McCartney Closes Candlestick Park
At the age of 72, Paul McCartney took the stage at Candlestick Park on Aug. 14, 2014.  After 54 years, this was the final show to ever be performed at Candlestick Park.  McCartney's performance was within days of being 48 years after the Beatles played their last concert at Candlestick.

My memories of Candlestick Park
My first trip to Candlestick Park was as a teenager during the first weekend of September 1977 for a Giant and Cardinal game.  I had just graduated from high school and I attended the game with a classmate.  The feeling that I remember was that as I walked from the concourse to my seat, and I saw the field for the first time, the green of the grass just splashed on me.  I don't know how to best to describe those feelings, but I'd seen a lot of major league games on a black and white TV (that was the only TV my family had), but this was the first Giants game that I was attending.  I will always remember the colors and sounds and the excitement of being in the crowd at the beginning of the game. 
I was able to return to Candlestick Park for about twenty Giants games.  I never had a chance to attended any 49er games.  Some of my memories of those games were that even in the middle of the summer, I always worn a down jacket to night games as the stadium was normally foggy, windy, and cold.  I also remember going to Sunday doubleheaders.  Since I lived so far from the city, on these days, I would normally stick around until the bitter end of the second game.  I just remember being so exhausted at the end of the second game, and always wondered how tired the players were.  I feel sorry now that the younger fans of today don't ever get the chance to experience a doubleheader.
One game I remember was the Giants home opener for the 1979 season.  The Giants were coming off a third place finish in 1978, when they had a 89 - 73 record and finished six games behind the first place Dodgers.  After completing the 1978 season with their best record since they had won the National League Western Division in 1971, there was a lot of excitement for the 1979 season.  The Giants lineup included third baseman Darrell Evans and 23 year-old right fielder, Jack Clark.  Also, Billy North was signed away from the Dodgers as a free agent and was to start in centerfield, and Bill Madlock was going to play second base.  The pitching staff was lead by All-Star left hander, Vida Blue.
Tickets were in high demand for the April 10 opener, as the Giants were hosting the Padres.  A buddy of mine and I ordered our tickets in December and ended up getting box seats in the upper deck above the right field foul pole.  The game was tied 2 - 2 in the bottom of the ninth as former Giant pitcher John D'Acquisto entered the game for the Padres, replacing starter, another ex-Giant hurler, Gaylord Perry.  D'Acquisto retired the Giants first two batters of the inning.  Giants Manager Joe Altobelli pinched hit for shortstop Roger Metzger, sending Willie McCovey to the plate.  McCovey singled to keep the inning alive.  Max Venable ran for McCovey and John Tarmargo was sent up to pinch hit for Vida Blue.  Tamargo homered and the crowd went wild as the Giants won the game 4 - 2.
This spring I was in the Bay Area and drove north up 101 by Candlestick Park.  The demolition was in progress as sections of the park had already been removed.  Looking back now, maybe I should have stopped and taken a few pictures, but as I drove with traffic, I said my good-bye to the Stick.
Candlestick Park 1960 - 2015
Photo of Candlestick Park taken 8/22/09 of preseason football game of 49ers vs Raiders

Photo taken 6/30/15 as the demolition of Candlestick Park ends