Sunday, March 11, 2018

Why Joe Presko faces his biggest mound challenge yet

Standing 5'9" and 165 pounds in his prime, Joe Presko could have easily blended in with the great St. Louis Cardinals fans that filled Sportsman's Park; however, Presko was far from ordinary. He stood tall on the mound alongside his Hall of Fame St. Louis Cardinals teammates Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, and Enos Slaughter in the 1950s while he went toe-to-toe against the star-studded lineups of the National League in his era. Throughout his six major league seasons with the Cardinals and Detroit Tigers, "Baby Joe" went 25-37 in 128 appearances.

During a recent trip to my local baseball card shop, the owner just received a small box of vintage 1952 Topps baseball cards. I waited until the guy next to me was done looking at them, and shortly after I started my search, Presko's iconic 1952 card jumped to the forefront. A few dollars later, his card became the first from that landmark set to enter my collection. The next day, I sent it off to Presko with the hopes of his signature and a possible interview.

Joe Presko Signed 1952 Topps Card / Author's Collection
A week later, Presko returned the card boldly signed with a note that exemplifies the connection that the men of this generation made with their fans. At 89, Presko made time to sign the card despite taking chemotherapy treatments to battle an opponent more fortuitous than the likes of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Duke Snider.

His desire to continue to reach out to his fans while battling cancer, speaks loudly to the close bond those who played during his era feel with the fans who keep their memory alive.

Note From Presko to the Author / Author's Collection

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Top 5 Reasons to Love 2018 Topps Heritage Baseball

Topps resurrects their 1969 design with the release of 2018 Topps Heritage Baseball. This set is beloved by collectors for a variety of reasons, primarily due to the fine details they replicate as an homage to the throwback issue. We cracked open a fresh box of 2018 Topps Heritage Baseball and found these five hallmarks that will make you fall in love with this year's set.

5) Player Checklists –
Trying to keep track of your 2018 Topps Heritage set? How about some help from Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, and Kris Bryant? Staying true to form of the 1969 Topps protocol, 2018’s checklist cards feature face shots of today’s top stars, providing collectors with an additional look at their favorite players while they mark off their progress towards a complete set.

2018 Topps Heritage Aaron Judge Checklist / Topps

4) Seattle Pilots Autographed Tribute Cards –
A Ball Four revival anyone? Jim Bouton leads the signers from the limited edition 1969 Seattle Pilots 50th Anniversary tribute autographed cards. Former Pilot Steve Whitaker once referred to the team as, “the orphans of the league.” Fifty years later, Topps proves they still have a home in the hearts of fans and collectors with these special autographed cards.

Jim Bouton Seattle Pilots Autograph / Topps

3) Imperfections –
Most modern sets are bred to perfection with borderless images, high gloss finishes, and centered designs. While going through the first few packs of this 2018 Topps Heritage Baseball box, I drew the occasional off-centered card. By the time I opened the last pack, these 60/40 or 70/30 centered cards averaged one per pack. With so many modern issues made in perfect symmetry, pulling some cards that had centering flaws only added to vintage experience that Topps Heritage provides.

2) Variations –
Funky nicknames? Action shots? Color swaps? Newly traded players? Solo rookie prospect cards? Topps has all of the bases covered with the short printed variations in 2018 Topps Heritage Baseball. These detailed variants force collectors are to pour over the details on each card, savoring the nuances to see if they have landed one of these scarce issues.

Victor Robles Image Variation SSP / Topps

1) Shohei Ohtani –
Would it be anyone else? Topps wasted no time getting this year’s most coveted rookie in their 2018 Topps Heritage Baseball set by including Ohtani as a last minute short printed variation to the set. Early sales of his short printed rookie are selling for $200 each, while his autographed versions have sold for in excess of $3,000.
$3,000 anyone?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Baseball Happenings Podcast - Breaking down Mets spring training with Bill Whitehead

Bill Whitehead, AP and MLB writer covering the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, checked in with the Baseball Happenings Podcast to break down the hectic first week of 2018 Mets spring training.

Tim Tebow / Bill Whitehead
Whitehead gave us the inside scoop on Dominic Smith, and why his late arrival to practice was out of character for their young first base prospect. He covered Smith extensively during his 2015 season with the St. Lucie Mets.

During the 30-minute interview, Whitehead also provided updates on the myriad of injuries during the first week of camp, his thoughts on the Mets new manager Mickey Calloway, where Tim Tebow fits in the Mets plans, and why Peter Alonso and P.J. Conlon are two upstarts to keep your eyes on during the spring. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Baseball Happenings Podcast - Mike Trombley dishes out big league financial advice

Mike Trombley, an 11-year major league veteran with the Twins, Dodgers, and Orioles, came on the Baseball Happenings Podcast to discuss how professional athletes can best look out for their financial interests both during and after their careers. He is currently the head of Trombley Associates, a family-run financial management company in Massachusetts where he took over for his father Ray who started the company over a half-century prior.

In the wake of the recent news about Jake Peavy losing a reported $15 million due to his financial advisor’s involvement in a Ponzi scheme, Trombley explained the pitfalls that many major leaguers face trying to manage a sudden windfall of riches while keeping their attention on what is going on in between the lines of play.

“There were a couple of [Major League] friends of mine that [had] their agents paying their bills for them,” Trombley said. “They never even saw a bill.”

During the 20-minute interview, Trombley dishes out practical advice on what to look for in an investment professional, as well as his experiences of managing his money while living the hectic life of a Major League Baseball player.

Baseball Happenings Podcast on iTunes.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Baseball Happenings Podcast - Chris Carr and the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest

Chris Carr, runner-up to Kobe Bryant in the 1997 Slam Dunk Championship, recently discussed in our latest podcast going one-on-one against the future Hall of Famer in the dunk contest. In the 20-minute interview, Carr, who is now the assistant woman's basketball coach at Kansas State University, explains why he thought he had a better performance than Bryant, as well as gives an inside look of why guarding a young Bryant was an easier task than squaring up Michael Jordan.

Chris Carr 1997 Slam Dunk Contest Interview

Carr finished the first round with the highest score, giving him the opportunity to be the last dunker in the finals. Bryant scored a 49 with his first dunk, but left the door open by missing his second attempt. Carr saw his chance for victory.

"I knew I was going to have to come with something really good ... because he [Bryant] had a big game in the rookie game and wasn't the MVP ... so he was out to win something this weekend," Carr said.

Carr finished with a 45 on his final dunk, a potent attempt, but not enough to surpass the 49 that Bryant put up with the East Bay Funk. Looking back over 20 years later, Carr still feels like he got the best of Bryant in the contest.

"I still don't think that he beat me," he said. "I'm going to every year put out a tweet and copy him on it just to try to rile him up a bit."