Flipping For Some Star Power

I suppose I could have written this post last night, but I was whiling away the hours transfixed on various election coverage. I won't bore you with the hoary details, save to say that while Beto dropping in Texas was mildly heartbreaking if not completely unexpected, the narrowness of the margin was quite stunning. It looks like several down-ballot Democrats benefited from the turnout, including flipping two House seats here in Texas that were held by some real jackholes. It looks like our County Judge is going to flip - that position is a massive misnomer, as this is essentially the person that manages Harris County - the third largest county in the nation and home to a population larger than many, many states. The really nice local result is that our County Clerk flipped - he was a horribly incompetent dude. Sure, we have two weeks of early voting, but who cuts of early voting at 4:30 pm every day of it? Oh well, at least we didn't elect a dead guy - scratch that, dead brothel owner who passed a few weeks ago and was found by arguably the most famous male porn star in history. Way to go, Nevada.

Nolan has reason to look skeptical in front of those rainbow tiered seats, with a 27 year-old graduate student - albeit a seemingly very capable one - taking over as County Judge. Ed Emmett had held that role for the past 11 years, and had been in local politics for 40. Say what you will about establishmentarianism, but the guy was a very moderate Republican, always reaching across the proverbial aisle, and he's been the champion of finding a new use for the Astrodome, and secured its historical status along with the initiative to move forward with the redevelopment plan.

Ah, you see what I did there? I brought the whole thing full circle. So thank you for your service, Mr. Emmett, and godspeed to you, Lina Hidalgo.

So where did that Nolan - and the rest of these cards come from, anyway? Well, this was another TCDB trade from back in April, with a new trading partner: Jill, whose handle is jt58203. She was kind enough to let me send a bunch of 2017 and 2018 flagship her way in exchange for what you see here, along with a few more cards. The Nolan finished off my 1989 Fleer team set, finally.

In my last post, I showed off an excellent 1996 Collector's Choice checklist highlighting the massive 12-player trade between the Astros and Padres in 1995. In that trade, this infielder-outfielder duo was flipped - 

- for this one! It was nice to see these puppies flip my way in the trade, as they're helping me check off some mid-90's sets. The Petagine and Finley cards helped me finally put 1995 Donruss and 1994 Collector's Choice to rest, respectively, and while I still need a few '95 Fleer (Reynolds, Veres & Williams) and '95 Topps (Hunter, Johnson, Elarton), this trade also wrapped up these two: Fleer Update and Topps Traded team sets. Yes, there was even more 95 Fleer Update than I'm going to post here, because I'm a sane person.

Alright, now we're getting to that star power I promised in the title! 1996 Pacific Crown Collection and 1997 Upper Deck - a set that's been growing on me lately. This was the advent of Upper Deck "game dating" certain photos, which they would continue in 1998. This can be a really cool concept, although "Battles for a roster spot in Spring Training" is a less than thrilling caption. It's fun to be able to nail the photo to a specific date, though.

There was also some lovely 1999 Upper Deck Black Diamond in the package - a set that must have come out earlier in the year than I'd expect, as The Big Unit is not only still depicted in his Astros digs, but also denoted as still with the team. He's got several cards from 1999 where he's shown in the shooting star but denoted as having signed with Arizona. This was a super cool set to me when it originally came out, but I could only ever afford a couple packs as a kid.

The big score of the package, though, was a very nice complete team set of the Astros from the 2003 Topps 205 series. That includes a lovely Nolan Ryan and not just one new Jeff Bagwell - 

- but three new Jeff Bagwell cards! Why so many? Who cares!? I don't need to know why there are so many in the set, I just needed them!

Many thanks for the trade, Jill! I'll need to check your want lists again to see if I can send some more your way.

A Quick Swap With Carlos

I'm trying to polish off the trades from April so that I can continue my streak of catching up on overdue posts and hopefully be back to 0 in December. Here's a real quick trade package that I shouldn't have neglected for so long - but back in April I think I was still posting about stuff from 9 months prior, so what's changed, really?

These cards came in from Carlos, aka Corozco over at TCDB. We did an even-up 13-for-13 swap - something that's a bit rare for me this year given that I've been trying to reduce the excess cardboard around these parts. I'd sent him an envelope full of new cards - some Donruss, Topps, GQ, and Heritage, and in return I got a lovely little package that helped me out in several areas.

One of my favorites was this green parallel from last year's GQ set, featuring David Paulino. I had some high hopes for this kid, but it seemed the organization soured on him after he got popped for a PED suspension last year. They shipped him to Toronto as part of the Giles-Osuna trade at the deadline this season.

Wait, what is this junk waxness? I was pretty stoked as I think both of these polished off team sets, if I remember right. Always fun when you let a checklist creep back into those want lists.

Ah, 1996 Collector's Choice - a very fine set. I picked up a handful of these in this trade. That's one of Berry's first cards in an Astros uniform, and one of May's few Astros cards. I think it was actually a dupe that I picked up to send to him for a signature.

My favorite card pickup from that set, however, is easily this checklist highlighting the massive TWELVE PLAYER trade between the Astros and Padres in 1995 (sigh - you were missed Steve & Ken). As the card mentions, it was the largest trade since 1957, when the A's made not one, but two trades of such magnitude, involving 12 and 13 players each. It doesn't touch the 18 player swap between Baltimore and the Yankees in 1954, though. I'm impressed that they got 10 of the players involved onto a card. I'm guessing this was a Spring Training shot.

The final highlights here were a pair of Biggio inserts - a very nice 2015 GQ mini and a 2004 Bazooka Tattoo. I love growing the Biggio and Bagwell collections. It'll be fun to check and see just how many of those I've added at year's end.

Thanks again for the swap Carlos!


I Didn't Post About Them (Yet), But I Definitely Didn't Throw Them Out

Back in April I received a swell little package from Jared of the blog CMMDTO - Cards My Mom Didn't Throw Out. While I haven't had the misfortune of my mom throwing out my cards, it's certainly a tale familiar - and familial - to me. That'll have to wait for another post, however - probably in about two weeks time.

Meanwhile, I owe a little recap post about the sweet cards that Jared threw my way. First up was this 1988 K-Mart memorable moments card of Nolan Ryan. It's always nice to be able to knock of the oddball team sets, and when it comes to the 80s, that often means finding the Nolan Ryan card(s) last.

But as cool as landing this card was, it was far from the coolest thing about this package.

I'm not going to waste any time either - let's have a look at the best part first:

TOPPS TEK! Oh hell yes! Acetate glory! Jared sent two cards from the 1998 set my direction, the first of which was this superb Moises Alou, pattern 8. One of the features of this set is the "Upcoming Milestones" section on the back. Topps had Alou pegged to reach 1000 hits, 150 HR, and 1000 games all in 1999. He finished the 1998 season with 966 / 145 / 919, respectively, but wouldn't reach those milestones until the 2000 season as he missed all of 1999 due to injury after tearing his ACL in the offseason.

Tek is just really too cool. I can't wait until I can fill pages of it with the various patterns and see a whole load of it together. This Pattern 32 version of Richard Hidalgo was the other card Jared sent my way, and it pegs Doggy for 500 hits in 2001, 250 RBI in 2002, and 100 homers in 2003. He fell 14 hits short in 2001, but had already racked up 299 RBI by the end of that season, and eclipsed 100 homers towards the end of the 2002 campaign.

There was also a nice pair of shortstop cards in the bunch. I do love me some late 90's Pacific, and he Correa - while logoless - is still a sweet minor league issue of him.

There was also some more shiny in this pack, including a sparkly mini Josh Hader (sigh) and a very red Finest Jeff Kent. This Finest set design confuses me, it doesn't have any logic to it.

And finally, there were some throwback designs in there as well. The Backe is a lovely '06 Heritage, harkening back to the '57 design, which is one of my favorites. The Carlos Lee is from the 2007 standalone Topps Turkey Red set, and I just love the old school park in the background.

Many thanks for the cards, Jared!


October TTM Report

Alright, I won't make you wait until the end of the month once more to see what fresh ink showed up in my mailbox during the past month. Here's your October TTM Report. Once again, I haven't been writing a ton, so it's a little light, but I'm pretty happy with what I got.

Alfredo Griffin: 3/4, 621 days.

My first return was from Alfredo Griffin, whose big league career started in 1976 with Cleveland. Between '76-78 he got into 29 games before being traded to Toronto in the offseason. That gave him a real shot at playing time, where he finally put in a full season of games and split the AL ROY award with Minnesota's John Castino. Their slash lines were very similiar:

Castino: .285 / .331 / .397 / .728
Griffin:  .287 / .333 / .364 / .697

While Castino held the edge in power (5 HR in just under 400 AB to Griffin's 2 in just over 600 AB), Griffin's speed netted him 21 stolen bases to Castino's 5. B-Ref has Griffin at 2.5 wins on the year, to Castino 2 in about 2/3 of a season. Not bad.

After seeing some responses from Griffin on SCN, I decided to take a shot at him, writing him care of Angels Spring Training back in January - of 2017. It took a while, and he held onto an 84 Donruss that I sent along, but 3/4 cards is still really nice. These '86 Donruss don't look to bad with some ink, and I was particularly excited to add another signed '81 Fleer to my growing stack of them.

Jed Lowrie: 2/2, 228 days.

The next return to arrive was sent out to Spring Training as well. This one was sent out to Jed at A's Spring Training in late March. He's signed for me once before, but kept both of the Astros cards I'd sent and instead signed the '09 UD (Red Sox) and '14 Topps (A's) which I'd included, so I decided to take another shot. He personalized my cards this time, which is totally fine by me.*

I'm really fond of that 2013 Heritage card, so it's the one that made it to the Astro-graphs binder, unseating the previous '09 UD return. Unfortunately, I didn't get any response to my letter, in which I asked him about his hobby - photography. Jed dabbles in it, and if you're curious you can check his website. As Nick V. said when I pointed this out to him, "he needs to get some tips from Randy Johnson. :p"

* I'm totally cool with this as long as they get my name right, which he did. I've gotten a few "To: Mark" inscriptions before, which is always a little awkward.

John Halama: 2/2, 288 days.

My last return of the month was another one I sent out in January (of this year), after spotting a  fairly rare return from John Halama. I was very happy to get this one back. John's time with Houston was brief, but he was fun to watch while he was here. The lefty prospect was shipped off on October 1, 1998 as the PTNB portion of the Randy Johnson trade in 1998. Randy was a very expensive rental, but somehow I still feel it was worth it in the end. If ownership hadn't been so tight with the finances back then, they could have probably re-signed him that offseason.

Given that I haven't been writing that many requests, it was nice to see three show back up in the mailbox in October. I was able to add a ROY auto to my collection, another signed '81 Fleer, a new Astro-graph, and upgrade another from a non-Astro card - a pretty darn good month. Here's hoping November will be even sweeter.


The Pride of Dulles High

My high school is not known for great sports teams - at least not to my knowledge. Supposedly the soccer and football programs were pretty good a half-generation before us - say, about 10 years before I was there, which would have lined up nicely with when some of our then coaches were attending the school - so who knows if there's any truth to that.

Wait, I take it back - we had a very good women's basketball team, if I recall.

But I digress - not much of note has come out of John Foster Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas. I grew up in Sugar Land for the most part, which lies in Fort Bend County - just to the southwest of Houston, and one of the main (and fairly well off) suburbs. I mention well off, because frankly speaking, we know it takes money to play competitive baseball now, with all the travel leagues and whatnot, on top of general equipment.

While the area has produced plenty of baseball talent, and even some major leaguers, most of that talent went through our main rivals, Clements and Elkins. According to baseball reference, Clements has produced two major leaguers - Matt Albers and Mark Quinn - along with another 10 players that went into pro ball. Elkins has done even better, producing four big leaguers: Kip Wells, James Loney, Chad Huffman, and Matt Carpenter, and another five players who advanced to pro ball. That last list includes Wardell Starling, whom I recall as a two-sport star, but primarily as a gangly, 12 year-old pitcher and the pride of the 1995 Little League World Series Champions.

Dulles, on the other hand, has sent seven guys into pro ball. I was certain that list included my friend and high school teammate Billy Mohl, who pitched at Tulane after we graduated. But while Billy was selected in the 25th round of the 2006 draft by the Phillies - ten rounds after they picked one Riley Cooper, of whom you football fans ought to be familiar - he didn't sign. Cooper didn't sign either, for what it's worth. In fact, out of the Phillies picks through the 33rd round, only Mohl, Cooper, and Brian Billings (31st round) didn't sign.

But only one Dulles graduate has touched the major leagues, and I say touched in the most fleeting sense. That would be Philip Joseph Barzilla, a lefty-lefty pitcher who predated my time in high school by just a few years. Following his time at Dulles, he pitched for two seasons at Alvin Community College before transferring to noted baseball powerhouse Rice University, where he spent two years on the roster in the bullpen. At Rice, he finished with a 7-2 record and 14 saves in 93 innings across 55 games, notching a 2.52 ERA. You can find those stats in the middle of this PDF recapping the baseball season following his senior year. He was picked in the 4th round of the 2001 draft by the Astros, which had to be a cool feeling.

On June 6, 2006, Houston placed Roy Oswalt on the 15-day DL and purchased Barzilla's contract from AAA Round Rock. He was 27.

Philip appeared in a total of one game, pitching just 1/3 of an inning and facing a total of two batters. That game was on Sunday, June 11, 2006 - a 14-4 rout of the Braves at Minute Maid Park. Barzilla came on with two outs in the bottom of the 8th inning, allowing a single to Atlanta's Brian Jordan before inducing a fly out to center field by Braves catcher Todd Pratt (who was pinch hitting for Brian McCann).  Despite being up 14-4, Houston sent utility man Orlando Palmeiro to pinch hit for Barzilla in the top of the 9th, and sent Dave Borkowski out to finish the game.
Edit: you can watch all of Philip Barzilla's major league career in this clip on YouTube - which appears to have maybe been uploaded by Barzilla himself, and is most definitely set to Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla."

The Astros optioned him back to AAA on June 14, 2006, and that was the end of his major league career. 

Phil was actually at the Legends Weekend event in 2017 - which should tell you a little bit about how much the "Legends" tag means, but he does have the second-shortest appearance by an Astro ever, so I suppose that's legendary in a way. Larry Yount's misfortunate Astros career consisted of getting injured whilst warming up, but he had been announced and was throwing on the mound, so he was technically entered as appearing in a game.

I got a signed team-supplied postcard of Phil at that event.. He has exactly one Astros card, from the 2006 Topps '52 Edition set, which has three parallels - Chrome, Refractor, and Gold Refractor versions. They haven't been the easiest to find, although I haven't really been aggressively hunting them.

Well, I finally tracked a copy down - I think I threw it in a Sportlots order, and hunted down an address so that I could send it to him in hopes of an autograph. I dropped that in the mail in mid-June, and three months later it came back - no return letter, which I was hoping for, but a lovely signed card for my Astro-graphs collection nonetheless.

Barzilla's card is obviously a photoshop job. I'd had my suspicions, but it was confirmed when I stumbled across this photo of him with AAA Round Rock while writing this post.

Philip pitched in the minors through 2009, before spending a season with Veracruz of the Mexican League and then finishing his baseball career with the Brother Elephants of the CPBL in 2011. Here's his only card with that team, from the 2012 CPBL Player of the Year set.

Phil also played for the Italian team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, which was managed by longtime Astros bench coach and minor league manager Matt Galante, and featured fellow Astros Mark Saccomano, Mike Gallo, and Dan Miceli.

There's still hope for Dulles to have another major leaguer amongst their alumni, as well, although it may be slim. Galli Cribbs, finished 2018 at the AA level with Arizona. He's listed as a "second baseman - outfielder - shortstop" however, and hit just .211 in 96 games in his age 25 season. It's not a great shot, but I'm pulling for him now.

This has been your September TTM Report. Yep, just one card - but a pretty cool card for me.


Dime Boxing by Mail, Part 2

As we I mentioned at the beginning of yesterday's post, Nick is an absolute Dime Box legend. We all know this, surely, but were you aware that he's a trading legend as well? Not only did he send me a lovely bunch of Astros which I documented yesterday, but also he managed to hit up several other guys I collect and even dropped several more Buccos in my lap.

Let's start big - Big Unit that is. Stadium Club's late 90's issues are probably my favorites, but the 2000 and even 2001 sets are still very strong. This one gets it perfect.

Nick even sent me a card of Randy with a bat in his hands! I've got to admit, a pitchers batting mini-collection has often crossed my mind. I try not to let it linger there, though - I've got enough going on here. There was some fantastic Pudge Rodriguez content in this package as well, including this action shot.

And also this Panini sticker from 1992! Nick even snuck some Cansecos into this package. I kind of let that collection loose once I decided to pare down a bit, but stickers are rad and this one is a keeper.

As are these two - because one is a food issue, and another is a very nicely done 1987 Throwback that just feels really good in hand. 

Here's another guy who I'm not chasing anymore, but can definitely appreciate some solid cardboard of when I come across it. Skybox E-XL from 1996 is one of my favorite 90's sets - and possibly the first paper framed cards to come out. I'm not entirely certain, but they're certainly the first ones I can recall. I love the USA highlight card from the 2013 Panini USA Champions set. That'd be another good one to send off for an autograph.

As promised, there was plenty of good Pirates content in this grouping as well - in fact, that's going to be the rest of the post, so strap in, and crank up Sly & The Family Stone. Cobra's in the house! It's another Kellogg's card too! 1981 Fleer is certainly a superior design, but something in me really loves the simplicity of the 1982 Fleer set.

Oh man, what's this? An absolutely delightful oddball of Roy Face, the Baron of the Bullpen? Yes please! This was an exciting find.

Nick also found me a great pair of Great Ones, including the 1987 Hygrade issue. The Pirates uniforms are so classic looking. I just love them.

But the thing that really put a big smile on my face was this - new Mazeroski cards! Thee's a lot going on here on the front of this 2005 SP Legendary Cuts base card. Set logo, team logo, position, uniform number, full name, Upper Deck, stylized filigree - I mean a lot going on here. I dig it though - maybe it's just Maz's beaming young smile sucking me in. I'd love to see this set reworked with a little of the noise removed, though. Hmmmmm. *files this away in custom cards notes*

There was not one, but six new Mazeroski issues awaiting me in the envelope. You're going to see them all, including this 1994 Ted Williams, which I'm a tad bit surprised I hadn't picked up yet.

Oooh, here's an issue of photo re-use by different brands! That's a mid-aughts Upper Deck Sweet Spot Classic card on the left - and a rather nice looking card it is, I must say. On the right, we have one of the four-up Star Stamps stickers from 2014 Panini Golden Age. This goes into the Maz binder, and not the Nolan collection because, well, priorities. That's also Nolan with the Angels, so I don't need to sweat tracking down another copy.

Here's a pair of Topps cards to round out the six-pack. One is a recent Archives issue, the other comes from the 2001 American Pie set, taken somewhere down the first base line at Forbes Field - if the stands weren't enough for you, the Cathedral of Learning towering in the background should have been a dead giveaway. Rollie Fingers, Roger Maris, Billy Martin, Nolan Ryan, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, Bob Gibson, Frank Robinson, and Maz himself make cameo appearances in the border. At least I think that's Billy between Roger and Nolan.

The Mazeroski cards were far from the only thing to smile about, though. The thing that brought the biggest beam to my face was this last card:

A gently-loved 1965 Bill Virdon! In case you didn't know the set by the design, someone has helpfully scrawled some assistance on Bill's left shoulder. That doesn't bother me, though - it's an excellent card of this former ROY, outstanding outfielder, and (still) winningest skipper in Astros history! Aside from the addition, it's in pretty nice shape as well.

Thank you so much for the excellent package, Nick! Sorry it took me so long to post about it, but know that these were most appreciated.