Showing posts with label Jackie Robinson Day. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jackie Robinson Day. Show all posts

Saturday, April 28, 2018

2018 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball | Autographs, Inserts, Checklist, and Review

Sliding in on the heels of 2018 Topps Heritage Baseball, this year’s release of Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball series serves as formidable follow-up a heralded product. The set features a design that contains elements of the old and new school, giving collectors a tasty treat to start the season.

2018 Topps Gypsy Queen Variations and Short Prints / Topps
Immediately noticeable is Shohei Ohtani’s rookie card. With the two-way phenom taking the baseball world by storm, his presence in the set alone will draw fans to this product. Beyond Ohtani’s solo appearance in the base set, 2018 Topps Gypsy Queen has an attractive offering of parallels and variations that add excitement to opening a box (or case) of this product. The Jackie Robinson Day variations, numbered color parallels and rare Bazooka backed cards all give 2018 Topps Gypsy Queen a flavor of its own that will go down smoothly with hobbyists.

2018 Topps Gyspy Queen Bazooka Back / Topps
Each box guarantees two autographs and staying to true form, Topps provided sleek on-card autographs that pop. This box yielded rookie autographs of Garrett Cooper and Anthony Banda, with the latter a limited edition black and white variation. While neither are top prospects, Derek Jeter, Kris Bryant, Sandy Koufax, and the aforementioned Ohtani are some of the high impact names that comprise the autograph subset. For collectors who have better fortunes, their venture into 2018 Gypsy Queen may uncover rare autographed patch books (1:2877 packs) and the interesting pull-up sock relics (1:7920 packs).

2018 Topps Gypsy Queen Garrett Cooper Autograph / Topps
Staying consistent with last year’s release, the Fortune Teller mini insert cards return to feature 20 of the top young talents in Major League Baseball. The Tarot of the Diamond inserts follow along with the gypsy theme, an additional insert set that Topps should continue to preserve for future releases.

2018 Topps Gypsy Queen Tarot Card Inserts / Topps
While the presence of Shohei Ohtani’s autograph will lure many fans to 2018 Topps Gypsy Queen, the set’s pleasurable aesthetic and crisp on-card autographs creates a mystique that will keep fans chasing after it throughout the season.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bearing witness to Jackie Robinson Day in 1997

On April 15, 1997, the New York Mets hosted Jackie Robinson Night at Shea Stadium, where Major League Baseball forever retired Jackie Robinson's jersey number 42. Exactly fifty years prior, Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Boston Braves in 1947, serving to shatter the line of segregation in the sport.

I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at the game, as the Mets distributed tickets to local high schools to boost attendance. I remember an announcement being made that tickets were available and as soon as the bell rang for the next period, I went to the office to claim one. Excited to have my ticket in hand, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to bear witness to this historic event.

Media Gathering Around The Field at Batting Practice for Jackie Robinson Day April 15, 1997 / N. Diunte
Entering Shea Stadium for the game, there was a tremendous amount of security as President Clinton was in attendance. Seemingly at every turn in the stadium there was a Secret Service agent, constantly on the lookout for any potential sign of danger. On the field during batting practice, hordes of media gathered by the newly unveiled logo commemorating the event.


Jackie Robinson Day April 15, 1997 Shea Stadium / N. Diunte
During the fifth inning of the contest, Major League Baseball stopped the game for an unprecedented on-field ceremony that included a hobbled President Bill Clinton who was recovering from knee surgery, Rachel Robinson, commissioner Bud Selig, and a few of Robinson's former Brooklyn Dodger teammates. The President explained the significance of Robinson's legacy and why it was important that his number 42 was going to be permanently retired across Major League Baseball.

President Bill Clinton speaking during Jackie Robinson Day April 15, 1997 / N. Diunte

Taking in the game from the upper deck with hordes of other New York City high school students, there was a bond that evening that transcended team affiliations. We knew we were all spectators to a historical baseball event, one worthy of the President's time and attention. Twenty years later, the annual on-going tributes to Robinson and the doors that he opened, serve to remind us just how powerful his impact was on  the game.

Special Commemorative Program From Jackie Robinson Day April 15, 1997 / N. Diunte

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ralph Branca reflects on Jackie Robinson's April 15, 1947 debut

Brooklyn Dodger legend Ralph Branca was in New York City this week for the Sports Angels spring fundraiser, where he is Vice-Chairman of the organization that serves to support local youth sports initiatives. With Thursday's event occurring 63 years to the date of Jackie Robinson's April 15, 1947 major league debut, Branca, who won 21 games for the Dodgers in 1947, gave his recollections of being present for the historical breakthrough.

Ralph Branca with Jackie Robinson (L) and Pee Wee Reese (R).
Courtesy of Walteromalley.com
"That day, if you read the papers, basically, they didn't mention that he was breaking the color barrier," Branca said. "The papers said, Robinson went 0-3, walked, scored a run, and bunted successfully. It never mentioned that it was a great event in the history of the world. I say the world because he helped baseball number one, but also as baseball integrated, the country took a different view of blacks. It took the government seven years to pass a civil rights law, which was to the benefit of everyone, lessening our countries' prejudice. That event was great."

Branca cited the uncertainty surrounding debut as a reason for the media hesitating to label Robinson's debut as groundbreaking. The event was uncharted waters the press was still figuring out how to navigate.

"It was a strange new territory," he said. "People didn't know how to react or behave and the papers themselves didn't note it as a historic event, just as a write up of the game period."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Former Brooklyn Dodger Ray Hathaway remembers teammate Jackie Robinson

With Major League Baseball honoring Jackie Robinson today, 92-year-old former Brooklyn Dodger, Ray Hathaway looks back fondly on the time he spent with Robinson during his groundbreaking 1946 season in Montreal. Hathaway had appeared in four games in 1945 with Brooklyn after returning from World War II, and was trying to work his arm back into shape with Montreal.

Robinson impressed him from day one.

"After I saw him play the first game, I knew [he was going to be a star]," Hathaway said. "He fielded well, ran well and hit well. If you were scouting him, and [sitting] amongst the scouts, the question was 'What can't he do?' And if you saw him play, you would ask yourself the same question."

Hathaway thought Robinson wouldn't have to wait until 1947 to make his debut with the Dodgers.

"I thought he was ready," he said. "I thought he would be up [in Brooklyn] before the season was over."

Unfortunately, Hathaway didn't foresee a return to the major leagues. Plagued by a sore arm, he knew his window of opportunity was closing.

"I had already been there and I had arm trouble," he said. "I saw the writing on the wall."

He was about to embark on a 25 year long managing career the next season. At the end of spring training in 1947, he approached Branch Rickey about becoming a manager.

"We went to a game in Cuba," he said, "Mr. Rickey was there. I asked to speak to him. About the fifth inning, he asked, 'What's on your mind?' I told him I would like to manage. He [Rickey] asked, 'How do I know you can manage?' I said, 'You don't and neither do I. All I can promise is that we'll work.'" Rickey's response was one that left Hathaway with little time to mutter his decision, "If you are going to manage a team for me, be on my plane. I'm leaving in the morning for Miami."

Hathaway spent his early seasons as a player/manager for the minor league affiliates of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

"It was challenging [as a player/manager]," he said. "In spite of pitching, you always had to be ahead of the other manager by two innings."

After 1952, Hathaway took himself out of the rotation to focus primarily on running the ballclub.

"The only time I pitched after that [1952]," he said, "was if the pitching staff was getting their butt beat. I tried to save them."

Despite his previous arm troubles, Hathaway had something of a rubber arm, filling in from time to time until 1965 at the age of 48. He managed many legends including, Hall of Famers Dick Williams, Willie Stargell, and Bill Sharman. He has the second highest win total as manger of the Asheville Tourists minor league club, with his record broken only last season. He retired from baseball after managing the Wilson Pennants of the Carolina League in 1973.