Retro Jays Cards

Baseball cards helped me fall in love with the game and the Blue Jays. Over a couple of decades I have spent way too much time, and probably money, collecting memories of my baseball fandom. This is a place to wallow in nostalgia for cheap pieces of cardboard and the players on them.

Check out a Random Card

Dave Stieb, 1988 Score, #76

On the last day of the regular season, Jordan Zimmerman no-hits the Stanton-less Marlins with just 104 pitches and gives to all of us the git of Stieb.

As a new policy around here, no-hitters in the postseason will result in a Roy Halladay card. Yes, he did it with the Phillies, but SCREW YOU HE WILL ALWAYS BE A BLUE JAY TO ME…sorry….sorry. The Blue Jays season ending always leaves me a little on edge and defensive. It is nothing to do with you. It is my thing and I will find a way to deal with it. It was unfair to unload on you like that.

Does anyone want to drink whisky with me in a barely lit room and talk about our Brandon Morrow, Colby Rasmus and Casey Janssen feelings?

Josh Phelps, 2003 Playoff Portraits, #94

Before we begin, let’s take a moment to appreciate this beautiful portrait of Josh Phelps. Notice the intricate brushwork that intimately captures the sadness in his eyes. Let’s also acknowledge that an artist took their valuable time to paint a portrait of Josh Phelps. What an odd thing. 

Moving on.

One of the many glorious details of the Jays 14-4 beating of the Mariners Monday night was Jose Bautista passing George Bell and moving into a tie for third place all time on the Blue Jays home run list. But what is getting no press is that by passing Bell he has moved into first place in home runs for Blue Jays players whose last name starts with the letter B. You see where this is going.

Below is the list of the top players in home runs by first letter of their last name. I cribbed this idea from an offhand mention by Roger Angell in his book on David Cone about what record Babe Ruth and Jamie Quirk had in common in the late 90’s. Answer: most home runs for their letter of the last name. Sadly he has since lost that distinction. Damn you Carlos Quentin.

I present to you the Blue Jays home run alphabet.

(Note: Home run totals are as of Sept. 23, 2014 and only include position players and their home run totals as members of the Blue Jays.)

A - J.P. Arencibia (64)

B - Jose Bautista (203)

C- Joe Carter (203)

D - Carlos Delgado (336)

E - Edwin Encarnacion (157)

F - Darrin Fletcher (61)

G - Shawn Green (119)

H - Aaron Hill (96)

I - Garth Iorg (20)

J - Cliff Johnson (54)

K - Randy Knorr (15)

L - Adam Lind (146)

M - Lloyd Moseby (149)

N - Dioner Navarro (12)

O - John Olerud (109)

P - Josh “The Portrait” Phelps (47)

Q - Guillermo Quiroz, Tom Quinlan (tie, 0) {thanks to @jaysmaniac on twitter for catching my Quinlan omission}

R - Alex Rios (81)

S - Ed Sprague (113)

T - Frank Thomas (29)

U - Willie Upshaw (112)

V - Otto Velez (72)

W - Vernon Wells (223)

X - *No player has ever made the majors with a last name starting with X

Y - Michael Young, Eric Yelding (tie, 0) *These are the only two players who ever made the majors at any point in their careers and also spent time in the Blue Jays minor league system.

Z - Gregg Zaun (45)

There it is, as perfect an example of how I waste my time as I could hope to construct.

Roy Lee Jackson, 1982 Donruss, #541

Whatever is going on off camera, Roy Lee Jackson doesn’t seem to like it one damn bit.

Dave Stieb, 1981 Fleer, #414

Another no hitter, another Dave Stieb card to hand out. This one goes to Tim Lincecum who no hit the Padres today…wait. This feels familiar. Dammit Padres, you let Timmy no hit you two years in a row? I think this is all part of the bad karma for rejecting a proud history of glorious, distinct uniforms for your current forgettable garb.

But this is not about you San Diego, this is Timmy’s moment. Today’s impressive six strikeout, one walk performance means we all get to stare upon the greatness of Stieb. His flowing hair blowing in the breeze of Exhibition Stadium as he gazes into the distance. Visual poetry.

Thank you Tim Lincecum. Thank you for giving us yet another opportunity to have some Dave Stieb in our lives.

Tony Fernandez, 1984 Donruss, #32

Last night’s ridiculous play by Brendan Ryan sent me down the same internet rabbit hole as most amazing shortstop plays - desperately seeking Tony Fernandez clips.

I’ve said it before, but Tony Fernandez is the player most responsible for my love of baseball. The only clear memory I still have from seeing my first game live in 1986, besides the fact Exhibition Stadium was bloody cold, is the feeling of awe I had from watching Tony Fernandez play shortstop. And even though only a few of his plays are available online, watching them still brings back some of the same feelings. For example, his robbery of Mike Gallego with a beautiful throw while moving the opposite direction. It is a total cliche, but it seems almost effortless.

Dave Stieb, 1986 Topps All-Star Collector’s Edition, #43

You know the deal. Someone in baseball throws a no hitter and we award them with a Dave Stieb card.

Today’s recipient is the best pitcher in the game Clayton Kershaw, who only needed 107 pitches to reduce the Rockies lineup to a quivering mass of hitless sludge.

Clayton gets another line in his Hall of Fame bio, baseball fans are able to watch a master at his best, and we all get to stare at the glorious image of Dave Stieb. Look at him. Churches have been built in honour of less inspiring images.

What I am trying to say is just by seeing this card we are all winners-  except the Rockies, who are most certainly losers. Your weird purple mountain cult should be hanging its head in shame today Colorado.

(Except you Tulo. You have nothing to ever feel bad about you big, bright shining star…this is turning creepy. Sorry.)

Blue Jays Team Set, 1983 Fleer Stamps

OK, so these are not cards, but they were produced by a card company so I am willing to file them under “close enough.”

This is the Blue Jays team set of Fleer Stamps from 1983, one of several odd gimmick products the company produced in the early 80’s. After the courts ruled Topps’ deal with the MLB Players Association was an illegal monopoly and opened the door for companies like Fleer and Donruss to compete in the baseball card market, oddities like these were common as a way to try and gain ground with collectors.

Launched in 1982, the original Fleer Stamps were sold in packs of ten and collectors could buy specially designed album sheets to store/display their collection. They flopped. Basically, buying a pack of ten small stamps was not seen as a particularly interesting use of anyone’s money. Especially when you could buy full size baseball cards for the same basic price.

But Fleer took another chance in 1983, selling them in big sheets of 72 stamps or in plastic dispensers of 18 that could be used as coin holders after you removed the stamps. They ran ads with the sell line:

"Its an action packed plastic stamp dispenser that clips onto your belt and doubles as a coin bank!"

Action packed? Sure.

And yes, these flopped too. The two year stamp experiment came to an end.

The players in the Jays 1983 team set were: Jim Clancy, Garth Iorg, Damaso Garcia, Hosken Powell, Dave Stieb and Willie Upshaw.

Joe Carter, 1994 Studio Heritage Insert Series, 3 of 8

I love cards that celebrate the history of baseball and the heritage insert series included in several Studio sets in the early 1990’s are among the best. The eight card 1994 set featured stars like Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas and Don Mattingly in vintage jerseys from their franchise’s history. For example, Bonds is wearing the New York Giants 1905 jersey, which was black that year in the sport’s first ever use of a third “alternate” jersey. For the history/uniform fetishist in baseball, the insert series is as good as it gets.

Since it was still a little early for nostalgia for the powder blue pullovers from 1977, the set features Joe Carter in a jersey that had deep meaning for him personally-  the 1942 Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League.

Carter’s connection to the Monarchs and the Negro Leagues is very real. Living in Kansas City since the mid-80’s, Carter has been a passionate supporter of the city’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in no small part because of his personal relationship with its visionary founder, the late, great Buck O’Neil.

Following his incredible playing/managing career with the Monarchs, O’Neil began scouting, and later coaching, for the Chicago Cubs and closely scouted/signed a number of future MLB stars including Lee Smith, Lou Brock and Joe Carter.

O’Neil tells the story of signing Carter in his autobiography, I Was Right On Time:

In 1981, I was high on a right-handed power hitter for Wichita State, name of Joe Carter. So were a lot of other scouts. We had the second pick, and we took him, but Joe also had the option of not accepting our offer and returning to Wichita State his senior year. Complicating matters, Joe’s advisor was his coach, Gene Stephenson, who wouldn’t have minded having him back for another year. I had to find some way of making everybody happy. So what I did was promise Joe and Gene that he would get more money than the first pick in the country, a pitcher from Oral Roberts named Mike Moore. That had real appeal to Gene, who could tell his recruits that Joe Carter got more money than anyone in the draft. It was just a little more, maybe a thousand dollars, but it worked. “Now you’re on my street!” Gene told me when he saw our offer.

As with Lou Brock, the Cubs traded away Carter before he became a star. But as with Brock, I have followed Joe’s career with pride and joy. I could not have been happier when he hit that home run to win the 1993 World Series. As you know it gave the Toronto Blue Jays their second consecutive world championship. As I well know, it gave a second consecutive World Series trophy to Cito Gaston, their African-American manager.

Before he passed away he was one of the more vocal supporters for Joe Carter to be inducted to the Hall of Fame.

Carter has made the celebration of Buck O’Neil’s legacy a big part of his life in the years since the legendary man passed away. He helped lead the fundraising initiative to restore and preserve O’Neil’s home, left vacant and crumbling in southeast Kansas City. He is also a frequent speaker at events celebrating the museum and O’Neil.

Dave Stieb, 1985 Fleer, #117

We resume the tradition for 2014. When a pitcher throws a no-hitter they are given the reward of having a Dave Stieb card posted in their honour. This is truly a prestigious form of recognition.

This beaming Stieb face comes courtesy of Josh Beckett’s 128 pitch, six strikeout moment in the sun against the Phillies (who are still trying to play professional baseball for the rest of 2014. How cute.) This one is particularly difficult because my hatred for Beckett from his days with the Red Sox has not seemed to die down. Masshole forever, apparently. So now I have to deal with having to associate someone glorious and pure like Dave Stieb, with barely human Josh Beckett. But those are my issues to manage through alcohol and good old fashioned denial.

So congrats Josh. I hope you get shelled in your next ten starts.

As a side note, this is the 300th post to this odd little project of mine and I wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who reads it, shares it, makes requests and continues to indulge my nerdy, nostalgia driven time waster. I know I don’t post here nearly as often as I used to (apparently children require personal attention) but I will continue to try and find time to at least make a passing, half-assed effort. I will do it for you, because I care.

So thanks again. 300 posts. There it is.

Al Leiter, 1991 Topps, #233

"This looks casual, right guys? Seems natural and not at all forced and awkward?"

It may look like a centerfold pose, but this is how you sit when you don’t want to crush the dip tin in your pocket. Veteran move Leiter. Veteran move.