17 March 2012

Last of the Expos: Nick Johnson

Last transitional Expo/Inaugural Nat to be traded away.
Expos 2004 / Nationals 2005 - 2009
Nick as a "Damn Yankee"
Nick Johnson started his Major League career with the New York Yankees. Post-Nationals he would return to the Yankees after his brief stint with the Florida Marlins, and due to the Yanks super-star roster be sent back down to the Minors). Nick was the last of the transitional Expos/Inaugural Nationals players to be traded away. He was traded for a Minor League pitcher Aaron Thompson plus some cash on the 31 July 2009 trade deadline. Thompson has yet to be brought up permanently from the Minors and has since been traded away. He had been put on waivers by the Nationals and picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates he made his Major League debut with them. Last December he signed a minor league contract with the Minnesota Twins and was invited to their spring training.

 Nick was traded to the Marlins for this guy Aaron Thompson who is still in the Minors
Aaron Thompson in Nationals uniform 2010 (photo via wikipedia)

I was really upset with that trade as I have been with all the trades that involved a fave player. This one like most of the others I feel were not really worth it and the player the Nats traded for has since moved to another team, usually within a year or two.

As for the Ex-Montreal coaching staff most of them were fired when the club cleaned house while getting rid of Manny Acta in September of 2008 pitching coach Randy St. Claire was the lone exception who would last until June 2009 the last of the old Expos Coaching Staff.

Nick may not have been the best first baseman but he was the current Nationals "First" 1st baseman. When the Nationals started up in 2005 he was one of my fast first favorites along with Brian Schneider, Ryan Church and Brad Wilkerson. Part of his charm is his old-school way of wearing the high socks over the shorter pants, all he needs are the stirrups and he is the retro king. His on base percentage I thought was exceptional. He would often get to a full count and then after 10 pitches or so either draw a walk or force the pitcher to get him out. So yeah he struck out a lot.

23 September 2006 Shea Stadium vs New York Mets - Aftermath of collision between Nick and Austin Kearns

Unfortunately Nick has had a string of injuries over his career and set-backs due to those injuries. He never had much speed, and after his big leg injury at Shea Stadium in 2006 vs the Mets (a result of a collision with Austin Kearns) he was never the same running the bases, but he was still a decent first baseman.

Nick Johnson slides home to score vs the Boston Red Sox during spring training game 06 March 2012 Tho Orioles lost 5-4. - Associated Press photo

Currently Nick is trying to reboot his career with the Baltimore Orioles. He signed a Minor League contract (on 08 February 2012) with them and has been at spring training with them. I'm hoping for good things for both the B'More team and Nick. Now onto the cards.

I love vintage and I love these Retro sets. Ironically when I first saw one of the first Topps Heritage card packs for sale at a 7-Eleven (Football I think) back in 2001 or so I thought it was a terrible idea. I now think it is because football doesn't retro as well as baseball does. Now I really enjoy them.

2006 Topps Heritage Baseball - 188 Nick Johnson Nationals
(Front and Back)

2008 Upper Deck Baseball Series 2 - 700 Nick Johnson Nationals
(Front and Back)

2009 Topps Baseball Updates & Highlights - UH289 Nick Johnson Marlins
(Front and Back)

2005 Topps Heritage Baseball - 183 Nick Johnson Nationals
(Front and Back)

2003 Topps Total Baseball - 271 Nick Johnson Yankees
(Front and Back)

Senators/Nationals mentioned in this post:
Manny Acta
Ryan Church
Nick Johnson
Austin Kearns
Brain Schneider
Randy St. Claire
Aaron Thompson
Brad Wilkerson

On Deck Brian Schneider - (39) 23
In The Hole: Ed Brinkman - (2, 38) 11

Nick Johnson Baseball Reference

Posts on Nick Johnson from my other blogs:
2005 Donruss Diamond Kings: Nick Johnson Framed
Ice Fun: 2010-11 Upper Deck Artifacts Hockey Twofer (brief mention)
Back to Classic Pinstripes
What's Wrong With This Picture?

16 March 2012

Programs! G't 'Ur Programs Here!

On Sunday 04 March of this year 2012, I went to my good old Local Card Shop (LCS) "House of Cards" in Downtown Silver Spring, MD. I don't get there as often as I should. I won't mention the Non-Curly W stuff I got, but the "Piece de Resistance" was a Washington Senators Scorecard Program from 1965 for $15.00 in fantastic condition for a 47 year old program. The white paper is only slightly yellowed (shows mostly on the back along the middle edge, good old 1960s glossy magazine pages..

 Cover of 1965 Washington Senators Scorecard Program

1965 Senators Game Program Scorecard Visitors and Home pages pasted together
(scanner too small to do both pages together)

The center scorecard bit has the starting line-up/batting order filled out for both teams (the Senators lead-off batter isn't listed though weird). The visitors for this one the Cleveland Indians there are no scoring marks, but there are some small little swirly Q's on the ad to the right either to get the pen to write or to relieve some boredom.

 1965 Senators Program Scorecard Visitors Page
1965 Senators Program Scorecard Senators Home Page

Judging from the lineups (the starting pitchers in particular) it looks to be from 16 May 1965. (Thanks to the 1965 schedule posted at Baseball Almanac.com)

1965 Senators Program Scorecard Team Line-Ups

It was the first game of a doubleheader and an 8-7 "Curly W" for the record books, the second game that day was a 3-7 loss (a "Curly L"?).

I won't scan all the pages, unless I feel the need to show off all the ads or the rest of the players bios. Here is a typical page with the bio of 1964 off-season acquisition player Frank Howard who would become a key player to the Washington Senators ball club. There is also an advertisement for Ballantine Beer.

1965 Senators Program page with Frank Howard bio
and Ballintine Beer ad 

Program cost on game-day in 1965 = 15¢
Local Card Shop purchase 47 years later = $15.00
Value to Senators Memorabilia Collector born that year = Priceless

I may look for more Senators game programs in decent shape, preferably with the scorecard still in the program whether it has been filled in or not. If filled in I would probably want to see the overall condition first.

14 March 2012

Face of the Senators: Frank Howard

FRANK HOWARD - (9), 33
Face of the Senators
Senators 1965 - 1971
Frank and his statue at Nationals Park 08 April 2009 Unveiling
(photo from Nationals News Network blog)

"Hondo" is in the house!
John Wayne as Hondo Lane from "Hondo" 1953 Warner Brothers Pictures
(Promo photo from Denver Post. Com)

No Not that Hondo...This Hondo!

Frank Howard pic from 1965 Washington Senators Program

 Starting to grow up as a Senators fan, Frank Howard quickly became one of my if not my favorite Senator (Ed Brinkman, Casey Cox, Mike Epstein and skipper Ted Williams are also along there somewhere), but alas the team moved to become the Texas Rangers in late 1971. I'm pretty sure Frank was also a favorite of at least one of my older brothers if not both. I recall we used to have one of the 1970 Topps mini posters taped, thumb-tacked or push-pinned to the bedroom wall.

Frank Howard Promo Photo circa 1969

I think at one time this 5.5" x 8" promo photo may have hung on the wall as well Yes it has been 3-hole punched (well 2-hole punched) to go into a notebook binder and "scrapbooked on" on the back.

Frank Howard Promo Photo (back) circa 1969

I think some of those tape marks are from comic strip characters clippings (*Albert Alligator from the "Pogo" comic strip comes to mind for some reason) or some team logo from some sport. OK so I should try to get an upgrade for this photo.

I'm pretty sure at one time in my childhood I had his 1968 or 1969 through to 1972 Topps cards. Since I didn't get any 1973 cards (his final year as a player and final player card) in the day. I didn't get that one until just a few years ago via Ebay. I don't think I had any earlier ones and I know for certain as a kid I didn't have any from his early years when he was on the Dodgers. Some of those including his Rookie card (of which I have 2 for some reason) I have only gotten in recent years.

In the day before the 1972s came out (and then 1974s, 1975s) my favorite Topps baseball cards were probably 1968, 1969, and 1970. I wouldn't know about Bowman from the '50s for another few years yet. For some reason in 1971 I didn't really like the 1971s, maybe it was the plain black border or that most of the ones I had my 6-year old self instantly transformed them into "Poor Old Baseball Cards". As a kid I would do at least two terrible things to cards I would write in red ink on the front or black magic marker on the back my "K" initial in very large sloppy little kid print. On the 71s I usually didn't do the Large K on the front but I would color in the team logo on the hats on the players head shot on the back and sometimes do the very large black magic marker "K". A few of those poor cards I still have. Sadly most of the very large K cards I tossed out when I was 9 or 10 one spring along with bits and pieces I had from other "victim" cards for Scrapbooks.

I was "Scrapbooking" before what I was doing was called "scrapbooking" or even before housewives latched onto the concept as an artsy hobby. Well maybe not the old days of scrapbooking was pasting family portrait photos into photo albums in a creative way I guess. Anyway I would cut out the team logos from cards, or the hat from the player, the team's name or the player's picture and glue/tape them into and onto scrapbooks, scrap-papers. The 1970 Topps All-Star cards (with the faux The Sporting News newspaper background) were great to cut out with that star-burst shape they have. I know the 70s are just a gray border, but there was something about the faux signatures and the yellow backs with blue lettering that I liked. Now many years later I enjoy the 71s for what they are. Enough babbling I've got to show some pretty cards.

 1960 Topps Baseball - 132 Frank Howard RC Dodgers
(Front and Back)

 1970 Kellogg's "3-D" Baseball - 6 Frank Howard Senators
(Front and Back)

1970 Topps Baseball - 550 Frank Howard Senators
(Front and Back)

The Frank Howard cards that I remember most from back in the day are the 1971 Topps and this 1972 Topps. Even though I felt a bit betrayed by having my team move (Hmm can you say Baltimore Colts?) I think the little spark of having cards from a "brand new team" was lit a little bit in me back then.

 1972 Topps Baseball - 350 Frank Howard Rangers
(Front and Back)

1973 Topps Baseball - 560 Frank Howard Tigers
(Front and Back)

This last "Hondo" card actually has Frank's nickname "Hondo" on it. The nickname was first given to him by team-mates and then it spread to the fans, probably through the media and interviews with team-mates. The brief super Reader's Digest history of the "Ted Williams" card sets of 1993 and 1994. Ted's only son John Henry Williams started up a card company and produced these beautiful cards as well as a Football set in 1994. The company didn't last very long. Which is a shame because the sets are really beautiful.
 1994 Ted Williams Baseball - 88 Frank Howard Senators
(Front and Back)

Frank is one of three DC Baseball Heroes that are honored at Nationals park with "In-Action" statues. The other two are Baseball Legend Walter Johnson and one of the more sung-about "unsung heroes" of the Negro Baseball Leagues Josh Gibson. The statues look sort of like a cross between anime action sequences and some kind of ancient Hindu God(s) statues with multiple arms. I'm not a huge fan of the "In-Action" aspect of the statues, but I appreciate and respect the artistic originality of them. Some people call them just plain ugly, which was my first reaction. I like them a little bit now. More info on those statues can be read and seen here: Nationals News Network, and Nats320.

Frank is all about stories here is a nice two-part interview with him in 2007 by a DC Blogger  who is a longtime Senators/Nationals fan - Nats320 (AKA: Screech's Best Friend) [part one] [part two] and a catch up session in 2009 [Catching up]. One of my favorite quotes/stories is on Frank's bio page at wikipedia - "On April 14, 2005, baseball came back to Washington. In 1972 Howard had thought that before much time had passed, another President would deliver the opening-day pitch in the capital. Looking back, he remarked, "I thought that within five years it would be back. Well, 34 years later, here we are." Before the game at RFK Stadium between the Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks, Howard walked out to left field and was greeted by a loud ovation during pregame ceremonies which featured players from both former Senators clubs. At age 68, Howard joked, "I know I'm going to left field—if I can make it that far without having a coronary. I used to be able to sprint out there but don't even know if I'll be able to jog. I told (former Senator Ed) Brinkman, 'For crissakes, call 911 if I have a blowout in left field.' "

Senators/Nationals mentioned in this post:
Ed Brinkman
Casey Cox
Mike Epstein
Frank Howard
Walter Johnson
Ted Williams

Other Notable Washington DC Players mentioned in this post:
Josh Gibson (Negro Leagues: Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords)

On Deck: Nick Johnson - 24
In The Hole: Brian Schneider - (39) 23

*Edited: Originally said "Wally Gator comes to mind for some reason" got my gators all goulashed up I was really thinking Albert.

Frank Howard Baseball Reference

05 March 2012

Face of the Nats: Ryan Zimmerman

Face of the Nationals
Nationals 2005 - Present
One of the big decisions I had to make with this blog was what cards to feature first and which player to choose as the Lead-Off Hitter. It is hard enough trying to decide who to pick from the current line-up but to pick someone from the entire history of the Franchise? OK Technically the current Washington Franchise is just the 1969 Expansion team Montreal Expos and they inherited the Curly W through some kind of weird DC area osmosis. To be completely honest the Curly W should have remained buried in the remains of RFK stadium (even though RFK is still standing). I don't think I would have liked that though. It was hard enough spending 33 odd years without a real "homie" baseball team and not knowing if DC would ever have one again thus I was mostly a Football and Hockey fan during the "Non-Existent" years. To see a Washington baseball team without the familiar Curly W would be weird it would be like a New York team without some kind of interlocking NY logo. Sure the Baltimore Orioles are a red-headed (or rather orange-headed) step child of sorts and even though I have lived in Maryland all my life (minus a short 3 years of misspent college) the O's have never really felt like my Home "Homie" Team. I have still liked them followed them a bit and played the role of a casual fan. The odd thing about this current DC franchise is when the game commentators talk about franchise records and mention a player who only played in Montreal and never set foot in a Washington Uniform or played in DC it just doesn't sound right.

 Ryan Zimmerman 2008 Spring Training - Getty Images

I decided I would go with the man who is the Face of The Franchise and the Nationals very first draft pick for their Inaugural 2005 Season Ryan Zimmerman. Ryan recently signed a six year Contract Extension for $100 Million with a full No Trade Clause. That Locks "The Z-Man" with the Nats till 2019. Ryan is fine with that, and the Nats fans rejoiced! Ryan was called up on 1 September in the Nationals Inaugural 2005 season. Ryan may have missed out in getting the ROY (Rookie Of the Year) in 2006, but in 2009 he won not only the Silver Slugger Award but also the Golden Glove Award. That sort of makes up for not getting the ROY. Hopefully he will win many more GG Awards in his career, he as an uncanny ability to make some spectacular difficult to accomplish grabs look easy. He has been mostly healthy but there have been a few periods of injury, I don't recall him being out an entire season like Nick Johnson...

Sorry Nick that leg injury hurt me as emotionally as it hurt you physically.

...although an injury that puts a player out a few months seems like a full season to us super fans. In Nick's case it was a full season 2007.

Here are some early Z-Man (The Ziminator) cards I really like. Don't worry these are not my only Z-Man cards there are loads more to show sometime later.

 2006 Fleer Flair Showcase Baseball - Wave of the Future
#WF-4 Ryan Zimmerman - Nationals (Front and Back)

The 2006 Fleer Flair Showcase "Wave of the Future" sub-set is a 30 card set that features young players, many if not all of them rookies including Ryan who came in 2nd for the ROY to Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins card #13 in the set. Hanley's fellow Marlin Josh Willingham card #5 would join the Nats and become Ryan's team-mate 3 years later (and become one of my fave players). Josh is now with the Twins (the old Senators) on a 3 year $21 Million contract. Card #18 is Yankees' Wil Nieves who would become a Nat a year before Josh and be traded away the same year 2010. Wil appears to be with the Rockies in their Minor League System.

I really like the look of this set and how the design matches the imagery of the title. I might try getting this full sub-set. I at least need to get the Josh Willingham and Wil Nieves cards and card #28 Anderson Hernandez - Mets who would also be on the Nats (2008-2009) he is also an "Andersen" (see my "What I Collect" page at my Trading Card blog for the reason). I don't think these cards are too hard to get or too expensive so getting all of them is a strong possibility. I found an Anderson in an Ebay store for $1.50 delivered. I plan on picking that one up soon.

2007 Topps Allen & Ginter #220 Ryan Zimmerman Nationals
(Front and Back)

How I love me the Allen & Ginter sets (most of them anyway). These sets of "retro throw-back to the tobacco era" cards are somewhat responsible for the onslaught of retro-tobacco style cards that we find ourselves in now-a-days. They are not the only ones, but A&G helped get the whole "mini" tobacco-like bandwagon back on the road. There have been retro sets and vintage inspired sets many times before and will always be I suppose. A&G uses the size of original vintage tobacco cards, not just slightly smaller than the standard card as in the 1975 Topps mini Baseball. (I plan to do a post on the few '75 minis I have at my regular card blog contributions to the collection are always welcome).

Starting in 2006 Topps revived the Allen & Ginter concept of a multi-sport but primarily baseball card set with historical figures. One thing these sets like to do is have the "holding the bat behind your neck" pose. I liked that at first but since there seem to be several dozen of those cards each year it got old real fast. Anyway the mini sub-sets are actually variation sets because they have the same cards and same number of cards in the set as the base set, plus there are alternate backs and black border minis and usually 2 or 3 separate mini sub-sets so to collect a Master set of A&G each year you are collecting nearly a thousand or more cards.

2007 Topps Allen & Ginter Dick Perez Sketch Cards
#30 Ryan Zimmerman Nationals (Front and Back)

Man oh man A&G hit a homer with this 30 card sub-set. Each of the 30 teams is represented by their young ace players with a portrait by Dick Perez the man who drew the portraits for the Donruss Diamond Kings sets for so many years. They call them "sketches" but they really should be called Masterpieces some of them are better masterpieces than Upper Deck's "Masterpieces" and those sets are very sweet. The set is in alphabetical order by the Team's City and numbered so of course Washington is last. They remind me a little of Hall of Fame plaques mixed with tombstones. I've got the full Portrait set. I got it for $15 or $20 I forget exactly how much.

 These next four cards are the final four Zim cards of this post, and four of my very least favorite Zimmerman cards I still have. Why show and talk about four cards I don't really like much? They are variations of the same card. I like the initial concept of them but the execution is terrible in my opinion. After seeing them in person again I am starting to like them a little, but the problem with the silver leaf part is bad. I am speaking of the 2007 Topps Co-Signers.

2007 Topps Co-Signers Baseball #16 Base Ryan Zimmerman Nationals
(Front and Back)
(That little white splotch on the bottom is from the scanner not on the card)

The main reason I don't particularly like these cards is the silver top and bottom borders which look charcoal black in the scans can be hard to read and are silver leaf so they tend to scratch and ware down making the already hard to read names even harder to read. Some collectors love chrome stuff I am not a big fan of it and this particular use of it I think is bad. ACK the scan on that Zimmerman base card above is awful the silver image of Zim is really not that bad looking in person, the scan highlights and emphasizes the line detailing/shading they have. Notice on the back how they use the same photo as the color one on the front without the left hand cropped out but with his legs below his knees cropped.

2007 Topps Co-Signers Baseball Blue 116/250
#16 Ryan Zimmerman/Nick Johnson Nationals
(Front and Back)
 (again the back has some scanner schmutz on the bottom)

For these next three cards we add a bonus player Nick Johnson the last of the Expos/Original 2005 Nationals to be traded away. Now these color dual player versions again the concept isn't bad but the silver part of the card UGH. If they didn't have the silver leaf it would be OK and I would probably love them. The color comes out much better than the gray shading ghost on the base card. Oh and this "blue" version is serial numbered 116/250. The backs are not that awful just the frackin fronts. These two player variations add facsimile signatures on the front in silver and for the backs they use the same exact back as the base but with darker gray on the borders and the addition of the serial number at the bottom. They probably should have added the second player on the back somewhere as well, maybe have side-by-side head shots or profile shots facing each other?

2007 Topps Co-Signers Baseball Gold 158/225
#16 Ryan Zimmerman/Nick Johnson Nationals
(Front and Back)

This is the "gold" version of the Ryan and Nick card and is serial numbered 158/225, and the serial number is a smaller font than the other serial numbered variations and is more of a silvery-gold weird. The "gold" on the front of the card looks more like a tan or sandy brown to me rather than gold. Again the design and most of the card is OK and pretty sweet looking, but the silver top and bottom border sucks. Pardon my ancient Gallifreyan.

 2007 Topps Co-Signers Baseball Silver/Red 064/199
#16 Ryan Zimmerman/Nick Johnson Nationals
(Front and Back)

EEK! This is the Ugly Duckling Silver/Red step child card of the Ryan/Nick card it scans awful, but in reality it is a really nice looking chromish type card. Much better done than the base card and the color variations that have the silver borders. The serial number on this is a semi-low one 064/199.The facsimile signatures are in red on this.

So that does it for this post. We will be seeing more of Ryan you can bet as I said I've got loads more cards of his plus he is going to be with the team for quite a while and most likely be one of the few "franchise men" left in the league.

Senators/Nationals mentioned in this post:
Anderson Hernandez
Nick Johnson
Wil Nieves 
Josh Willingham

On Deck: Frank Howard - (9) 33
In The Hole: Nick Johnson - 24