Sunday, October 4, 2020

Funny Baseball Cards and Silly Captions, Volume 7


Charlie Hough 1988 Topps Revco League Leaders

“Veteran pitcher Charlie Hough only agreed to appear on this Revco card after the drugstore company promised to give him 15% off his vitamins, Fixodent, Geritol, Metamucil, and Werther’s Original.”



Rick Dempsey 1983 Topps

“Rick Dempsey was known as something of a goofball during his career but the Baltimore Orioles catcher was actually sneaky brilliant. Here he’s using his 9th inning ‘gotta pee’ stance to subconsciously get the umpire to give him close pitches for strikes to get the game over with.”



Pete Vuckovich 1986 Topps

“I’m not gonna be the one to tell Pete Vuckovich that he has a bowl-cut mullet.”



Junior Felix 1993 Classic Update Blue Travel Edition

“Mired in an 0 for 26 slump, Junior Felix got so desperate that after taking a full count borderline pitch for a called third strike, he tried to row, row, row, his way gently down to first base.”



Rob Murphy 1990 Upper Deck

“During pregame warm ups, Rob Murphy couldn’t wait to download a picture of a bikini-clad Cindy Crawford to show his teammates from this thing called the World Wide Web. After the Red Sox won the game in extra innings, all that was downloaded of the picture was Crawford’s eyebrows. Finally six hours later, well after all his teammates had left the stadium, the picture finally finished downloading as an anxious Murphy sat alone in a dark clubhouse.”



Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla 1990 Topps

Back when they were teammates with the Pirates, Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla each visited a fortune teller and subsequently got in a debate over who would have the better future:


“Hey Bobby, I’m gonna win seven MVPs and you aren’t even gonna win one!


—“Well guess what, Barry? I’m gonna win a World Series ring in a closely-contested Game 7 and you’re gonna end your career with zero championship rings!”


“You think that’s great, Bobby-Bo? I’ll break Hank Aaron’s home run record six years after your lazy butt is retired!


—“Barry, I got ya beat—I’m gonna sign a contract that will not only make me the highest paid player in the game but also fetch me a million-plus per year until I’m 72!





Dave Kingman 1987 Topps

“I shudder to think what cruel prank Dave Kingman has played on some poor, unsuspecting soul to be laughing this hard.”

Kingman is remembered for being a one-dimensional slugger who hit towering home runs but struggled defensively, rarely walked, and struck out regularly while posting low batting averages. Kingman is also notorious for the cruel prank he played on Sacramento Bee reporter Susan Fornoff. In June 1986, while playing for the Oakland Athletics, Kingman sent Fornoff a corsage box with a live rat inside. The incident led to upper management souring on Kingman and was a major reason the club opted not to re-sign the slugger the following season.



Frank Zupo 1958 Topps

“During the 1950s, facial hair was frowned upon in the major leagues so some players like Frank Zupo grew unibrows as a symbol of defiance.”



Julio Franco 1990 Topps All-Star

“If you had the misfortune of lining out to Julio Franco, the second baseman would show you up by doing a goofy side-to-side dance move which was copied and popularized by MC Hammer.”



Zane Smith 1991 Topps

“Left-handed pitcher Zane Smith got so fed up with his teammates that he decided to post his grievances on a clipboard:


I. The playing of Winger & Warrant in the clubhouse must stop immediately!


II. Crop-dusting is only okay for farmers!


III. Please stop giving me hot foot when I’m on the phone with my financial advisor!


IV. Peeing in the shower is not an acceptable form of victory celebration!”



Rob Dibble 1992 Score Dream Team

“I was going to make fun of this card but then I realized there was a 0.001% chance that Rob Dibble might read this, so I decided against it.”



Gary Lucas 1987 Topps and Jim Rice 1990 Upper Deck

“First pitch? You sure, Jim?”

—“Trust me, Gary. I’m three years in the future. You hit Gedman with your first pitch in Game 5 of the ALCS.”

I’m not sure how 1986 Gary Lucas and 1989 Jim Rice are communicating between baseball cards three years apart from two different manufacturers but nevertheless here it is.



Brian Dayett 1986 Topps

“During his 1928 Presidential Campaign, one of Herbert Hoover’s slogans was ‘A chicken in every pot.’ For their 1986 set, Topps’ slogan should’ve been ‘A Brian Dayett in every pack.’”


----by John Tuberty

Follow me on Twitter @BloggerTubbs

Sources: SF Gate


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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

A Look at Steve Garvey’s Impressive Career and a Trip Down Memory Lane to Explore the Baseball Cards I Collected of the Slugger During My Childhood

I started collecting baseball cards in 1983 when I was a young child.  One of the players who made an impression on me during my early years of collecting was Steve Garvey.  When I entered the hobby, Garvey had been among the sport’s most prominent players for the better part of a decade.  Garvey played for two franchises during his career, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres.  Since my entry into the hobby coincided with Garvey’s move from the Dodgers to the Padres, for the majority of my childhood, I associated the slugger more with his latter years in San Diego than his prime seasons in Los Angeles.  Thus, nearly all of my cards feature Garvey clad in the gaudy brown and gold colors of the Padres rather than the classic Dodger Blue.  Although Garvey was in the closing stages of his impressive career, my collection gives an insight into the veteran’s standing in the game as many of his cards highlight his superstar status.

Garvey made his major league debut in September 1969 after being selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the thirteenth overall pick in the first round of the June 1968 MLB Draft secondary phase.  The Dodgers drafting of Garvey was fitting as he had served as the club’s Spring Training bat boy for several years during his childhood.  Garvey initially came up as a third baseman but made an alarming number of throwing errors which necessitated his move from the hot corner.  For the first few years of his career, Garvey struggled to break into the Dodgers starting line up.  However, after moving to first base in June 1973, Garvey finished the season strong, showing significant improvements on both defense as well as in the batter’s box.  After taking over first base, Garvey along with Davey Lopes at second base, Bill Russell at shortstop, and Ron Cey at third base gave the Dodgers an impressive infield of budding young players.  This promising quartet ultimately played together as an infield through the 1981 season and were a driving force in keeping the Dodgers a perennial contender in the NL West.  Garvey carried the momentum from his strong finish to the 1973 season into 1974, putting together an excellent campaign—wrapping 200 hits with 21 home runs, 111 RBI, and a .312 batting average.  Garvey’s breakout season helped the Dodgers win the NL West and advance to playoffs for the first time since 1966.  Los Angeles beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS to capture the NL Pennant but came up short against the two-time defending World Champion Oakland Athletics in the Fall Classic.  Garvey drew a lot of attention for his standout 1974 campaign and was voted NL MVP.  Garvey’s defensive work was also recognized as he was bestowed his first of four consecutive Gold Glove Awards.

1982 Topps Kmart MVP Series
A few years into the hobby, like so many kids and collectors, I picked up the Topps Kmart MVP Series box set.  The small set, which was released in 1982 but readily available for several years afterward, highlighted the MVP winners from 1962 to 1981 and featured a reprinted version of Garvey’s 1974 Topps to commemorate the year he won the NL MVP.  The card stood out to me because it showed Garvey in a Dodgers uniform.  I was aware Garvey had previously played for Los Angeles but up until that point all my cards and stickers of the slugger displayed him in a Padres uniform.  The reprinted variations of the Topps cards from the Kmart set gave me insight into past MVP winners and also a chance to see what some of the older card designs looked like.  Garvey’s 1974 Topps was one of the more memorable cards from the Kmart MVP set as the dusky image of the first baseman captured in front of a blurry backdrop of fans gave the card an especially old-time feel.  In addition, the horizontal orientation Topps used for Garvey’s card also made it unique.

Garvey proved his MVP-winning campaign was no fluke.  He put together a string of solid seasons and his ability to reach the 200 hit-plateau while batting .300 became hallmarks of his game.  In fact, between 1974 and 1980, Garvey accomplished these dual milestones each season—save for 1977 when he collected 192 hits with a .297 batting average but compensated for it by smacking a career-high 33 home runs.  Another hallmark of Garvey’s game was durability as the first baseman had taken the field for every one of his team’s games since September 3, 1975.  Los Angeles won back-to-back NL Pennants in 1977 and 1978 only to lose to the New York Yankees in the World Series each time.  Nevertheless, Garvey earned a reputation as a clutch-hitter for his strong postseason performances, most notably in 1978 when he clubbed four home runs in four games against the Philadelphia Phillies to earn NLCS MVP honors.

1978 Topps
For my first few years of collecting, the majority of my cards came from buying packs of the latest sets at convenience, big box retail, and drug stores.  Eventually I started buying variety packs which often included cards from special edition releases and older sets.  However, the variety packs rarely included any cards from sets prior to 1980, so anything from 1979 or before I considered an “old card.”  My next step as a collector was going to hobby shops which offered me the opportunity to buy “old cards” like Garvey’s 1978 Topps.  I bought Garvey’s 1978 Topps close to a decade after it was originally released and it was a big deal to me because I finally had a card of the slugger from a base set during his prime years with Los Angeles.  With the mix of red, white, and blue colors serving as a perfect complement to Garvey’s Dodgers jersey, the card has a decidedly patriotic feel to it.  When Topps issued this card, Garvey was fresh off another solid campaign in which he helped lead Los Angeles to their second NL Pennant in four years.  Garvey paced the Senior Circuit with 202 hits and finished runner-up to Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Dave Parker in the 1978 NL MVP vote.

During the strike-shortened 1981 season, Garvey saw his production dip a little as the slugger’s 122 hits and .283 batting average in the club’s abbreviated 110-game schedule were a tick below his usual standards.  Nevertheless, Garvey made the All-Star team for the eighth season in a row while the Dodgers returned to the World Series where they once again faced the Yankees.  Garvey batted a team-high .417 in the Fall Classic with his 10 hits leading both clubs as Los Angeles finally defeated their AL foe to capture the World Championship.  However, shortly after winning the World Series, the Dodgers split up their infield by trading second baseman Davey Lopes to the A’s.  With 16 home runs and a .282 batting average in 1982, the now 33-year old Garvey had his second straight campaign that was below par for the former MVP.  Following the 1982 season, Garvey became eligible for free agency and, after hitting an impasse in negotiations with the Dodgers, signed a five-year contract to join their NL West rival San Diego Padres.

With his move to San Diego, Garvey brought a veteran presence to a youthful Padres team in which all the other starting position players were under 30.  San Diego was coming off an 81-81 record which represented only the second time in the franchise’s 14-year history that the club finished the season with a .500 record.  Early in his first season with the Padres, Garvey set the NL record for consecutive games played when he surpassed Billy Williams’ mark of 1,117.  With 14 home runs and a .294 batting average through San Diego’s first 100 games, Garvey was in the process of putting together a solid 1983 campaign when he broke his left thumb sliding into home while trying to score on a wild pitch.  Garvey was lost for the remainder of the season and saw his consecutive games streak ended at 1,207 as the Padres repeated their 81-81 record of the previous year.

1984 Topps Drake’s Big Hitters
Between 1981 and 1985, Topps produced Drake’s Big Hitters, a small 33-card collectors’ edition set which featured prominent sluggers of the day and were available in packs of Drake’s Cakes snacks. The combination of getting a delicious snack and receiving a baseball card inside was one of the great memories of my childhood.  During my first two years in the hobby, my older sister and I collected Drake’s Big Hitters cards along with packs of 1983 and 1984 Topps and Fleer.  Those sets will always be special to me because they served as my introduction to baseball card collecting.  Any player who was included in the Drake’s Big Hitters set instantly had name recognition and credibility with my sister and me.  Since we were not fortunate enough to come across a Garvey card in any of the Topps or Fleer packs we opened during those years, I can safely assume that this 1984 Drake’s Big Hitters issue is the first card I owned of the slugger.

Garvey returned to action from his thumb injury and was joined by a couple of veteran acquisitions, Goose Gossage and Graig Nettles, who helped solidify the roster for the 1984 season.  Garvey was familiar with the club’s new pickups as the first baseman had battled both of them in multiple Fall Classics when Gossage and Nettles played for the Yankees.  With a core of solid veterans in Garvey, Gossage, and Nettles along with the emergence of young players such as Tony Gwynn, Kevin McReynolds, and Alan Wiggins, San Diego went 92-70 to win their first NL West title.  Although Garvey was no longer the perennial .300-hitter he had been during his prime years in Los Angeles, the slugger still managed to lead the Padres with 86 RBI while his .284 batting average ranked second in the club behind Gwynn’s NL-leading .351 mark.  Garvey’s postseason experience proved to be invaluable for San Diego.  With the Padres trailing the Chicago Cubs two games to one and facing elimination in the best-of-five NLCS, Garvey delivered an incredible Game 4 performance as he nearly single-handedly forced a decisive Game 5—going 4 for 5 while driving in 5 of San Diego’s 7 runs including a dramatic walk-off two-run home run off future Hall of Famer Lee Smith.  The Padres won Game 5 the following day to capture the NL Pennant as Garvey was named NLCS MVP for the second time in his career.  However, San Diego was unable to carry the momentum into the World Series and were only able to muster one victory against the 104-game winning juggernaut Detroit Tigers in the Fall Classic.

1985 Topps Record Breaker
Garvey finished 1984 with a perfect fielding percentage.  Towards the end of the season, Garvey surpassed Mike Hegan’s MLB record of 178 errorless games at first base.  Garvey extended the record to 194 before finally making an error early in the 1985 season.  Topps honored Garvey’s achievement by producing a record breaker card of the veteran in their 1985 set.  Garvey’s record mark stood for over two decades before it was passed by Boston Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis in 2008.  Nevertheless, Garvey’s 194-game errorless streak still stands as the NL record.  Oddly, Garvey was not included among the 1984 Topps record breaker cards for overtaking Billy Williams’ NL consecutive games mark.  To date, Garvey’s 1,207 consecutive games is the NL record and is in no threat of being broken anytime soon.  Despite going the entire 1984 season without making an error, it was not enough to win the NL Gold Glove as Keith Hernandez picked up the honor.  Nevertheless, there was no shame in losing out on the Gold Glove to Hernandez who is widely regarded as the finest fielding first baseman in the history of the game.

San Diego was unable to repeat as the NL West champions in 1985, sliding back to an 83-79 record to finish tied for 3rd place with the Houston Astros, 12 games back of the Division-winning Dodgers.  Garvey batted .281 with 17 home runs and a team-high 81 RBI.  Garvey made his tenth All-Star team while his 17 longballs and 184 hits were the slugger’s highest totals since 1980.  The following season Garvey posted similar power and production numbers with 21 round-trippers and 81 RBI but saw his average plummet to .255, the veteran’s lowest mark since he was first breaking into the majors.  The Padres also struggled, dipping well below .500 with a 74-88 record.

1986 and 1987 Topps
One of my most avid years as a collector was 1986.  After my sister and I enthusiastically collected Topps, Fleer, and Drake’s Big Hitters in 1983 and 1984, we were not as impressed with the look of the 1985 sets and our interest in the hobby waned.  My sister outgrew baseball cards and moved onto other interests while I was drawn back into collecting when I opened my first pack of 1986 Topps and quickly found myself buying more cards than ever before.  Garvey’s 1986 Topps always stood out to me and is one of my favorite cards from the set.  With his first baseman’s glove raised above his head, Garvey appears to be readying himself to call for the ball during infield practice.  Garvey very much looks the part of a veteran player in charge and focused on leading his team to victory.  The following year, Topps went with a wood grain design that was similar to the look of their 1968 set.  The wood grain design clashed with some teams, particularly those who wore blue like the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays but was a perfect fit for the brown and gold colors of the Padres.  As an adult, the shot of Garvey smirking while stretching on the field is kind of amusing but as a child this card was one of my favorites from the 1987 Topps set.

1986 and 1987 Topps Stickers
Along with baseball cards, I also collected Topps Sticker Yearbooks, particularly in 1986 and 1987 when I completed both sticker books.  During my early years as a fan, baseball cards and sticker books largely served as my sources of information on players and teams.  Underneath their stickers, Topps included the player’s stats from the previous season along with their career numbers.  Looking at Garvey’s career totals and comparing them to other hitters, I could see the veteran had been one of the top sluggers in the game.  Topps selected two players from each team to be prominently displayed with larger stickers than their teammates.  For both 1986 and 1987, Garvey and Tony Gwynn were picked to be San Diego’s two featured players.  On his 1987 sticker, Topps once again captured Garvey stretching, using a shot similar to the one used for the former MVP’s 1987 card.  Which makes me wonder, did Topps have some fascination with Garvey stretching?  Also, since Garvey was the starting first baseman for the NL in the 1985 All-Star Game, Topps showcased the slugger along with each of the other Midsummer Classic starters in a memorable All-Star page in their 1986 sticker book.

1986 Topps Rack Pack Glossy All-Stars and Mail-In Glossy All-Star Collector’s Edition
In addition to issuing an All-Star sticker of Garvey, Topps also made two 1986 All-Star cards of the veteran that are part of my collection.  Garvey was included in the glossy 22-card commemorative All-Star Game set that was available in Topps rack packs and was also part of the special mail-in glossy 60-card Topps All-Star Collector’s Edition.  Interestingly, Topps did not produce an All-Star card of Garvey for their base set as the company instead chose to use Keith Hernandez as the NL first baseman representative despite Garvey being the starting first baseman of the 1985 Midsummer Classic and Hernandez not even being among the reserves.  Garvey’s appearance in the 1985 All-Star Game was the slugger’s tenth and ultimately final trip to the Midsummer Classic.  Over the course of his ten All-Star appearances, Garvey batted a whopping .393 and was the NL starter at first base for nine of those games.  Garvey made his first All-Star team during his breakout 1974 campaign when he won the fan vote to be the NL’s starting first baseman on write-in votes despite not even being included on the ballot.  Garvey went 2 for 4 in the 1974 Midsummer Classic, scored the first run of the game, hit a game-tying double, made some key defensive plays, and was named All-Star Game MVP in the NL’s 7-2 victory.  Garvey capped his breakout 1974 by being named the NL regular season MVP later that year.  Garvey picked up All-Star Game MVP honors a second time in 1978, this time driving in a pair of game-tying runs and later scoring the deciding run after leading off the bottom of the 8th with a triple in the 7-3 win for the Senior Circuit.

1986 Leaf and 1987 Fleer
Two other Garvey cards I have from base sets are his 1986 Leaf and 1987 Fleer.  Aside from my standard Garvey cards from the Topps, Leaf, and Fleer base sets, every other card of the slugger I owned highlighted or underscored his superstar status in the game.

1984 Donruss Champions
For his MVP-winning All-Star performance in the 1974 Midsummer Classic, Garvey was included in the 1984 Donruss Champions series, a small set of oversized cards which honored active players and Hall of Famers for different achievements.  The card features a shot of Garvey finishing up his swing with the slugger’s face somewhat grimaced, looking slightly upward as if he flew out or swung and missed the pitch.

1984 Topps Ralston Purina and 1986 Topps Quaker Chewy Granola Bars
In addition to having Garvey’s 1984 Drake’s Big Hitters, I have two other cards of the slugger which were part of food based, 33-card collectors’ edition sets produced by Topps.  Garvey’s 1984 Topps Ralston Purina was available in boxes of Cookie-Crisp, Donkey Kong, and other Ralston cereals.  The back of Garvey’s card offers the interesting tidbit that a Junior High School in Lindsay, California was named after him.  Indeed, the learning establishment bore Garvey’s name from 1978 until 2011 when it was renamed Ronald Reagan Elementary School after it was transitioned into a kindergarten through eighth grade “ele-middle” school.  Garvey also was included in the 1986 Topps Quaker Chewy Granola Bars set which featured headshots of the game’s most prominent players with the company’s unmistakable logo in the top left hand corner of each card.

1987 Fleer Limited Edition Baseball Superstars
Garvey was also part of Fleer’s 44–card Limited Edition Baseball Superstars box set which was sold at McCrory’s stores.  During my early days of collecting, McCrory’s was a “five and dime” store which was a great place to pick up limited edition box sets as well as variety packs which included cards from earlier in the decade.  Garvey’s Fleer Limited Edition card shows the veteran receiving handshakes from his teammates with John Kruk appearing to be ready to give him a congratulatory smack on the butt while the Montreal Expos catcher looks on.  Based on his teammates’ reactions, it appears Garvey has hit home run.  If Garvey has in fact gone deep, Kruk’s presence in the picture means this shot is from an August 21, 1986 home game against Montreal.  Garvey hit a three-run home run off Expos hurler Dennis Martinez in the bottom of the 3rd inning, driving in Kruk and Kevin McReynolds to make the score 5-0.  The blast was the 268th of Garvey’s career.  San Diego ultimately won the game 6-0.  Montreal’s catcher that day was backup receiver Dann Bilardello.

However, after 1987, Garvey just seemed to disappear as, unlike previous years, he was not in any of the baseball card packs I opened, box sets I collected, or part of the sticker books.  As the card manufacturing giant, Topps’ packs were the most readily available but I also generally favored the company’s visually appealing designs over those of Fleer and Donruss.  Thus, Garvey’s wood grain 1987 Topps came to represent the end of the first baseman’s career for me.  During this era, hits, home runs, RBI, and batting average were the main statistics used to judge hitters.  While the sun still shone on the well-tanned Garvey on his 1987 Topps, the tiny stats on the back of his card provided some evidence that the former MVP was in decline as his respective hits and batting average had dropped from 184 and .281 in 1985 to 142 and .255 in 1986.  Nevertheless, Garvey’s dips in hits and batting average were somewhat offset by a modest increase from 17 to 21 in home runs while the slugger maintained his solid 81 RBI total of 1985.

Since at the time, baseball cards and sticker books largely served as my delayed news source, I would not find out until I was a little older and began to study the history of the game that Garvey had indeed played after his difficult 1986 campaign.  Hampered by shoulder issues that started in Spring Training, Garvey went hitless in his first 14 plate appearances of the 1987 season.  Garvey was batting .211 with just 1 home run in late May, when he aggravated his left shoulder during an exhibition game against the club’s Triple-A Las Vegas team.  Garvey went on the disabled list to undergo shoulder surgery which sidelined him for the duration of the season.  When his five-year contract expired at the conclusion of the 1987 campaign, Garvey became a free agent.  San Diego made little effort to bring the veteran back, only offering him an invite to Spring Training as a non-roster player.  Garvey expressed interest in returning to the Dodgers but as a 39-year old coming off shoulder surgery, the club was not receptive to their former first baseman’s overtures and did not tender him a contract.  Without a serious offer from his current or former team for the upcoming season, Garvey announced his retirement on January 14, 1988.

1988 Score
Despite his distinguished career and status as a former MVP, 10-time All-Star, and 4-time Gold Glove winner, Garvey was not part of the 1988 sets issued by Topps, Fleer, and Donruss.  However, many years later I found out that one card company, Score, included Garvey in their set.  In 1988, Score entered the baseball card marketplace when the company released their initial 660-card set.  Even though I bought countless packs of 1988 Score, somehow Garvey’s card eluded me and since I never looked at the full set, I did not know the burgeoning card company included the first baseman in their initial offering until recently.  Garvey’s 1988 Score captures the veteran with his arms extended, reaching for an outside pitch.  Garvey appears to have swung too low and as a result is either popping the ball up, fouling it off, or missing the pitch entirely.  The shot of Garvey struggling to hit the ball is a fitting representation of the former MVP’s disappointing, injury-marred final season.  The back of the card displays Garvey’s complete career statistics but also highlights the somewhat abrupt end to his career as he went from 162 games played in 1985, to 155 in 1986, to a mere 27 in 1987.  Nevertheless, Garvey was one of the most prominent players of his time.  Over an impressive career that spanned parts of 19 seasons, Garvey left the game with a .294 lifetime batting average, 2,599 hits, 272 home runs, and 1,308 RBI.  With cards that honored Garvey as an MVP, All-Star, Big Hitter, Champion, and Record Breaker along with his inclusion in several limited and collectors’ edition sets, it’s no wonder the slugger was one of the players who made an impression on me during my early years of card collecting.

----by John Tuberty

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