Saturday, April 30, 2016

Joe Durham, 84, first African-American to hit a home run for the Baltimore Orioles

Joe Durham, the first African-American position player in Baltimore Orioles history, passed away April 28, 2016 in Randallstown, Maryland. He was 84.

Joe Durham
Durham followed pitcher Jehosie Heard, who broke the color barrier for the Orioles earlier in the 1954 season as a pioneer during the team's inaugural season. Prior to joining the Orioles, Durham was an All-Star in the Negro Leagues with the Chicago American Giants.

In my column for The Sports Post, I profiled Durham from a 2010 interview that I conducted with him, where he explains his career experiences from playing in the East-West All-Star Game, to the hardships he faced integrating the Piedmont League in 1953, one year prior to his major league debut.

"Joe Durham was a Negro League All-Star Before he made History with the Baltimore Orioles." - The Sports Post

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

2016 Topps Gypsy Queen and Museum Collection keep things hot for collectors

Now that the obligatory release of the 2016 Topps Baseball set is in the rearview mirror, the famed baseball company has opened up the season with two products that are primed to set the table of any collector’s lineup. The 2016 Topps Gypsy Queen and Museum Collection sets are next on deck in Topps’ expanding baseball card line.

This year’s Gypsy Queen set blends a classic retro portrait design with the clarity of modern card manufacturing to create a truly wide appealing collectible. With exciting action shots frozen in time by the masterfully painted canvases, the cards make for a journey worth pursuing. The 350-card checklist gives a nod to the past by honoring almost 50 Hall of Famers with a dazzling subset of short prints, while all the major stars and rookies are covered in the base set.

The box provided for this review provided an array of inserts including two autographed cards and two relic cards. In addition to the two dozen mini cards that were randomly inserted into the packs, the box also yielded a pack of 10 parallel mini cards, which are part of a more limited set of 100 mini cards.

2016 Museum Collection (l.) & 2016 Gypsy Queen (r.) / Topps
For collectors seeking a fancier indulgence, the 2016 Topps Museum Collection will satisfy their hunger. Each four pack box boasts one on-card autograph, one autographed relic, one quad relic, and one prime relic.

The thick glossy design of the Museum Collection cards are similar to Topps’ other high-end products, giving collectors a heavier feel that a premium product deserves. Each of the relic inserts that came in the box had vibrant patches that equally highlighted the relic and the player featured on the card. Especially attractive was the quad relic card that came in the box, featuring four prominent players from the same organization with a mix of bat and jersey pieces.

As collectors dig deeper into Topps’ releases during the baseball season, both the 2016 Gypsy Queen and Museum Collection products are worthy of a look. Whether it is a collector searching for a set oriented product in Gypsy Queen, or a guaranteed-hit product like Museum Collection, both issues offer satisfying returns for the purchase.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Medgal explores 'The Cardinals Way' of success in new book

Author Howard Medgal peels away the layers surrounding the long-standing mystique of the St. Louis Cardinals system of player development in his new book, “The Cardinals Way.” Detailing the history of the storied franchise that has garnered 11 World Series Championships, Medgal connects the dots from over a century of innovation that started with the legendary Branch Rickey and continues today under the watchful eyes of general manager John Mozeliak and owner Bill DeWitt Jr.

Click here to read a complete review of Medgal's inside look at the Cardinals system of success.

The Cardinals Way / Thomas Dunne Books

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Start the 2016 baseball season with Topps Opening Day

As fans turn their attention from watching prospects and non-roster invitees compete during Grapefruit League games to the performance of their favorite team’s franchise players, the Topps Company celebrates the journey into the 2016 season with the release of their Opening Day product.

2016 Topps Opening Day Baseball / Topps

The 2016 Topps Opening Day Baseball set is a perfect complement to the excitement surrounding the calls of the umpires summoning the major leaguers to play ball. Topps brings back a fun simplicity to collecting by making it easy for fans to compile an entire set by purchasing a box of cards.

Click here to read more in depth about Topps' 2016 Opening Day Baseball card set.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Watch Duke Snider as he hits a magical walk-off home run for the Mets

While Duke Snider will be forever associated with the Brooklyn Dodgers, "Boys of Summer," Snider returned to New York in a homecoming of sorts when he was purchased by the New York Mets in 1963 from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Well past the peak of his career, Snider batted .243 with 14 home runs in 129 games for the Mets who were only in their second year of existence.
One of Snider's most memorable moments in his only season with the Mets came during a  June 7th, 1963 game against the St. Louis Cardinals at the Polo Grounds. Digging in with two men on in the bottom of the 9th inning against reliever Diomedes Olivo, Snider crushed his offering into the second deck for a three-run walk-off homer.

Snider's magical Mets moment was recently published from the Major League Baseball vaults for everyone to relive. Take a few seconds to watch the sweet swing that produced 407 major league home runs.

Friday, February 19, 2016

How one teammate saw Tony Phillips as a stabilizing force for the Mets lineup

When the New York Mets acquired Tony Phillips in a string of perplexing moves at the trade deadline in 1998, many wondered if bringing Phillips to the Big Apple was the right move in Flushing. For Mets outfielder Brian McRae, Phillips’ arrival was just what the team needed to stabilize their lineup.

“I was excited when they said that trade went through because I was hitting down in the order by that time and we really didn’t have a leadoff [hitter],” said McRae speaking Friday evening from Marshall, Texas where he was coaching the Park University baseball team. “We had done all of the shuffling in the outfield with [Todd] Hundley playing a little bit in the outfield after [Mike] Piazza got traded [to the Mets], so it was good to have him on the ball club.”

Tony Phillips with the New York Mets / Fleer

The versatile Phillips passed away at the age of 56 on Wednesday February 17, 2016 in Arizona due to an apparent heart attack.

Click here to read how McRae developed a closer relationship with Phillips once he joined the Mets in 1998.

Tony Phillips, 18-year major league veteran dies of heart attack at 56

Tony Phillips, who enjoyed an 18-year career in the major leagues from 1982-1999 primarily with the Oakland Athletics, passed away Wednesday February 17, 2016 as the result of a heart attack according to Susan Slusser. He was 56.

An extremely versatile fielder, Phillips saw action at every position on the field except pitcher and catcher during his major league career. He amassed 2,023 hits with a .266 average over his 18 seasons with the Athletics, Detroit Tigers, California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, and New York Mets.

Tony Phillips on his 1986 Topps card / Topps

Phillips played professionally as recently as the 2015 season, when at the age of 56, he played in eight games with the independent Pittsburgh Diamonds.