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

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.

Tony Fernandez, 1991 Score, #432

I sense a great deal of anger out there today. Look, sometimes you get the satisfaction of watching your team launch pitch after pitch over the wall and other times your team’s bullpen is a dumpster fire. It is a long season. Everyone needs to relax. Another game tonight. And tomorrow. And the day after that. Don’t drive yourself mad in April.

Do what I do, look at Tony Fernandez. Just look at him. Isn’t he glorious? I have a small shrine dedicated to him in my basement and I turn to it when I need baseball serenity. Seriously. This is a thing I do.

Let me share my Fernandez peace with all of you. When life throws you a sliding Gary Gaetti, find the path of least resistance and make the play. These are the life lessons Tony Fernandez continues to teach me.

Duane Ward, 1988 Topps, #696

I recently read “It’s What’s Inside the Lines That Counts” which is one of former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent’s collections of stories from ex-players. They are done in the oral history style of the classic Lawrence Ritter book “The Glory of Their Times.”

One of the players interviewed was Cal Ripken Jr. and when the topic turned to pitchers he hated to face I was a little surprised at the first name he mentioned.

“The guys that bothered me were the guys that had natural sinkers that ran in, sinker-slider types. Duane Ward comes to mind really quickly.”

I loved Duane Ward and think he is still quite underrated and lives a little in Tom Henke’s shadow, but even I was surprised to see him at the top of the list of pitchers Cal Ripken Jr. feared.

So I decided to do a quick check of their career numbers and Ripken actually hit Duane Ward pretty damn well posting a .300/.364/.450 slash line in 22 plate appearances. (Everyone whisper “small sample size” three times under their breath and we can move on.) Meanwhile, against long time Blue Jays ace Dave Stieb? In 71 plate appearances .224/.268/.328. Maybe Ripken blacked the terror of Stieb from his memory.

Or maybe Ward comes to mind because he was at the centre of one of Ripken’s most significant career moments. It was July 27, 1993 and it would end up being the last time the two would ever compete against each other.

It would still be two years before Ripken would ultimately break Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak, but the record was on a lot of people’s minds because his wife was in the final weeks of pregnancy midway through the season. Speculation was running rampant that Ripken would end the streak to be present at the birth of his son. Ripken himself said he wanted to be there no matter what, but as he talked with his wife he was having doubts saying he did not want his son to be labelled as “responsible” for the streak ending. 

(Side note: WTF? What kind of awful human being would feel anything other than understanding, appreciation and celebration for someone choosing to be there for his wife and child and…oh right we are still having a debate on players taking parental leave in 2014. Never mind. We are all doomed.)

“It worked out in sort of a dumb-luck way. My boy was really big. He was nine pounds and he was still a couple of weeks early. The doctor wanted to get him out. And it just so happened that there was an off-day right in between Minnesota and Toronto. I flew in for the birth of my son, then flew on, and hit a home run off one of the hardest guys I hit a home run off, Duane Ward. I hit a home run to celebrate his birthday. So, I don’t know what I’ve done, but I can only tell you it was important for me to be there for the birth of my son.”

The home run was the only one Ripken ever hit off Ward, but the Blue Jays still held on to win the game 6-5.