Friday, June 27, 2008

A Minor League Detour

As you might expect, based on the title of this blog, every post so far has revolved around Rickey Henderson. But, as might also have been expected, I'm a big baseball and Oakland A's fan as well. So, I therefore reserve the right to add in some non-Rickey related posts, which I'll attempt to connect to Rickey as much as possible.

My wife called me at work today, and asked if I wanted to go the Sacramento River Cats game, the AAA affiliate of the A's, as she could get us some free tickets. Since we didn't have any plans, and my birthday is tomorrow, I thought it sounded like a pretty good idea!

I was a little hesitant at first, as its been 100 degrees out in Sacramento, and like all of California, the air quality has been pretty bad due to all the smoke. But, as soon as she said that the tickets were in the "Raley Suite," I was sold! I've never been in a suite at a baseball game, and since the River Cats play in "Raley Field," I figured this would be a pretty good one!

The suite definitely didn't let me down. I knew that the seats would probably be pretty good, so I made sure to stop by my house and pick up the camera on the way to the game. For no particular reason, other than I had a blast at the game (the Cats beat the Tucson Sidewinders 9-3), I've included some of the best of my pictures below (click the pictures to view them larger, especially the panoramic one, which I think is my favorite).

These were our seats, and I don't think you could have found two that were better! We were almost directly behind home plate, and were right next to the press box.

The game started off slowly for the Cats, who got down 2-0 in the first on a Tim Raines Jr. 2-run homer. But, the best was still to come, and after four 2-run innings and a few homers of their own, the Cats ended up winning in a blow out.

From the stadium you get a really great view of the Sacramento skyline, with its iconic Tower Bridge on the far right.

I could get used to watching baseball like this! To my left you can see the press box, and the row of media guides lined up against the wall.

Since this is a Rickey Henderson blog, I've saved the Rickey connection for last. The River Cats play in the Pacific Coast League along with the AAA affiliate of the San Diego Padres, the Portland Beavers.

It was the Beavers with whom Rickey played for 9 games to start the 2001 season before being called up to the majors (he was signed late in Spring Training and needed to get some more swings in). In 40 at bats with the Beavers he hit .275 with 3 doubles, a walk, and a stolen base.

This is a PGE Park fan guide and schedule for the 2001 Beavers. Along with collecting cards and other oddball Rickey items, I like to collect schedules from the teams that he's played for during the season(s) that he played for them. I also collect all Oakland A's schedules, but I'll leave that for another non-Rickey related post.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

June 24, 1979: Rickey's MLB Debut

During most A's broadcasts this year they have a segment showcasing important events in A's history that happened on that day. While watching the game today, they showed a clip that I had never seen before. It was Rickey's Major League debut with the A's on June 24, 1979. He was only 20 years old at the time!

Here's what I believe to be Rickey's first at bat with the A's. Sorry for the poor quality, I basically just took a pictures of my paused TV screen.

During Rickey's debut against the Texas Rangers, 29 years ago today, he went 2-4 with a double, single, and his first stolen base! According to the A's 1980 Media Guide, only 4,752 fans were there to witness the historic steal.

When Rickey hit the double, he slid into second with his typical head first slide. But, for his stolen base, he slid feet first. A's announcer Ray Fosse said that this was the first time he'd ever seen Rickey slide feet first into second base.

What I also find really interesting, is that Rickey was wearing #39, a number that I never knew that he wore. He was #35 during his first stint with the A's, but when they first called him up, he probably didn't get much of a choice.

I have the video of this recorded on my DVR, and will hopefully be able to figure out how to get it over to the computer eventually. It might take me awhile, but I should be able to get it done.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Visiting Collections: 2000 Pacific Prisms Variations

The 2000 release of Pacific Prisms holds an infamous place in the history of my Rickey Henderson collection. It was this set, and its myriad of parallels and serial numbered variations, that proved to be the last straw in my quest towards perfection! After collecting Rickey cards for over 13 years, I had decided that it was no longer possible (either due to expense or shear numbers) to obtain every Rickey card ever made. It was a tough realization to come to, but one that I knew was imminent. I know, overly dramatic, but it was a big deal to me at the time.

When Pacific debuted the Prisms line of cards in 1995, it contained one and only one Rickey Henderson, his base card. The 1996 set contained a base as well as a gold version, which was still acceptable to me, as I did like some variation. Rickey was left out of the 150 card base set in 1997, but he was included in the 220 card "Gems of the Diamond" insert set (Does it seem odd to anyone else that there are almost 50% more "Gems" than there are base cards). In 1998, there wasn't even a Prisms set produced.

The 1996 Prisms base card is on the left, with the gold version on the right. I'm still actually missing the 1995 card, and hope to acquire it in the near future.

This Gems of the Diamond insert was the only Rickey card included in the 1997 set, as he was excluded from the base set.

In 1999, the set was back, only ironically, considering the onslaught of cards it would contain, it was now singular, and called Pacific Prism. As sort of a preview of what was to come, Rickey had a base card included in the set, a Red parallel, and Holographic Blue, Gold, Mirror, and Purple cards.

I only have the base version of his 1999 card, as seen above.

But, if 6 versions of the same card weren't enough, Pacific pulled out all of the stops for the 2000 (and final) release of the Prism line of cards, when there were a total of 15 different Rickey card variations to collect!

The pictures below are from a fellow Rickey Henderson collector, robe024, whom I met over at The Bench trading site. He meticulously and methodically worked through the 2000 Prism set, and was able to piece together all 15 of the available Rickey's. This was not an easy feat, which was made tougher by the fact that it was almost impossible to identify which variation was which! You knew what the base card looked like, but if you had a "silvery looking" variation, how were you supposed to know if it was the Rapture Silver, Slider Silver, Tinsel Silver, or one of the other silvery choices. After much hard work on his part, the scans below include all 15 variations, along with their accompanying identification. I commend him for the dedication necessary to put something like this together, as I know it wasn't easy!

Pacific Prism Base Card

Drops Silver (print run of 799)

Holgraphic Blue #/80

Holographic Gold #/480

Holographic Mirror #/160

Holographic Purple #/99

Pebbly Dots (print run of 691)

Premiere Date #/61

Rapture Gold (print run of 565)

Rapture Silver (print run of 916)

Sheen Silver (print run of 448)

Slider Silver (print run of 334)

Texture Silver (print run of 448)

Tinsel Silver (print run of 331)

Woodgrain Silver (print run of 331)

Surprisingly, looking back on this set today, I'm much less upset about what Prism was trying to accomplish. Yes, they did have 15 different variations, but most of them were at least accessible to the everyday collector, as long as they put in the necessary work to find one. This is in stark contrast to sets today, such as Topps Sterling and Triple Threads, which although gorgeous, produce an inordinate amount of low serial-numbered and 1/1 cards that are not accessible to most player collectors.

As you can probably tell, since I'm blogging right now, I have resumed my Rickey collection in the past year, now that I've finally gotten over what I affectionately refer to as the "Prism fiasco." But, it has now become more focused, and I've resigned myself to collecting only his base cards, which are readily attainable with a little effort. I'm still interested in the ever present inserts/parallels/game-used cards, but am trying to stick to only those which feature him in an A's jersey. That way, I can still enjoy the thrill of collecting, while keeping my sanity, and the balance in my bank account, at the same time.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Trading Rickey for Rickey

I received a package in the mail today which was somewhat of a personal milestone for me. It was the first baseball card trade I'd made since entering the world of blogging! I'd always had intentions of trading in the past, but things never quite worked out, and now they finally had.

Through this blog I was contacted by a member of The Bench, an awesome trading website that I knew nothing about. It turns out that there are quite a few big Rickey Henderson collectors over there, all of them willing to trade to increase their collections.

I was able to add 13 new cards to my collection (6 from my 1980-1995 want list) and traded away a similar number of cards in return. What a deal. In an even bigger milestone, these cards increase my total Rickey collection to over 1,500 different cards, I feat I'm quite proud of!

The top cards are the first three cards from the 1990 Star set. Not particularly rare, but I made the mistake of only buying cards #4-11 when I first got them about 15 years ago, and I refused to buy a complete set just to get the remaining three. But, I now found someone that would trade them to me as singles. As an added bonus, he even through in an unopened complete set! The rest of the cards are a few base cards and inserts that I missed out on while away from collecting.

The first card above may be my favorite of the lot, a 1987 Topps Tiffany Team Leaders. I always enjoy getting early Rickey cards that I'm missing, especially those from my favorite set of all time! The card on the right, a seemingly normal 1990 Topps Sticker, is actually a blank back, which are always fun to add to my oddball collection.

This last picture includes two more items off of my priority want list. I had a copy of the Pepsi disc on the left, but mine was missing the entire back portion, and I was finally able to find another one. I remember running around during a Little League All-Star game collecting these from the snack bar, but I never was able to find a complete set.

The Seven-Eleven disc on the right has actually been pretty elusive. In 1991 there were many different regional sets produced, and I always seem to come across only the Northern California version (identified with an "HG" for some unknown reason), which has a blue background. This disc is from the Northwest set (identified "SM"), and has an orange border. There are still three more out there that I'm missing, and I know I'll come across them eventually.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Researching Rickey's Beckett Checklist

I've been focusing more than usual lately on attempting to obtain all of Rickey's early Beckett listed cards, at least through 1995. I finally decided to go through my priority want list one by one, to see what I was still missing. One of the main reasons for this is that I had no idea what a few of these items were, so it was time to find out.

One of the first items I looked into was "1986 Baseball Star Buttons #55." I knew that Beckett has a tendency to number things on their own, but I had to find out what exactly these buttons looked like. After a little research, I found a thread on the Beckett Message boards, where someone had asked the same question about the Cal Ripken button last month. Someone posted a picture of the Ryne Sandberg button from the set, which looked relatively familiar, and lo-and behold...

I already had the Rickey button! The button is about 3" round and features a head shot of the player, along with the players name in all black capital letters in the button. On the side of the button it says "M.L.B.P.A. Baseball Buttons, Vincentown NJ 08088."

Included above are three other Vincentown buttons that I have, none of which are included in Beckett's master checklist. I've always been curious as to why some items are included, and others have not. I guess it will have to remain a mystery.

The button on the left is another 3" button that says "Baseball Buttons, Vincentown, NJ, O8088, 1990 MLB MLBPA." The two buttons on the right are only about 1 1/2" in size. The top button says on the front that it's from 1991, but the copyright on the side says "Baseball Buttons, 1990 MLB MLBPA." The bottom button, from 1992 and number 111 of 120 in the set, is marked "MLBPA Baseball Buttons, Vincentown NJ, 1991 MLB." Like the one before, the copyright year is one year before the year on the button. Also, note that these buttons all feature the same picture of Rickey, only cropped slightly different. Since these are all from the "Baseball Buttons" set, it seems odd that they are not recognized by Beckett.

To add even more to the mystery, in that same thread from the Beckett message boards, someone even posted a picture of the packs that the 1992 buttons came in, but they don't seem to look like the 1992 button that I have.

Now that I could check that button off of my list, I was now focused on the "1991 Baseball's Best Record Breakers #7." I had no idea what this card was, as it sounded like one of the Fleer boxed sets that were popular at the time, but I knew that couldn't be the case. After a little more research, I was able to find my answer. In 1991"Little Simon" produced a set of 4 different sticker books. Each book contained 24 pages and 18 giant stickers of various players. These sets included Baseball's Best...Aces of the Mound, Home Run Kings, Hit Men, and Record Breakers.

I had obtained what was identified to me as a 1991 Little Simon Sticker #7 in a large trade a few months ago, which I now realized was the exact sticker I was looking for!

On the left is the equally difficult to identify "1990 HOF Sticker Book #87," also produced by Little Simon. The 1991 Record Breakers sticker is on the right.

I not only had the sticker from 1991, but also the page from the book where it was suppose to go.

While researching these few items, I came across a couple of other interesting Rickey cards and variations, but those will have to wait for another post.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Starting Lineup Figures

I remember how excited everyone was when Starting Lineup (or SLU for short) released their first figures in 1988, and I couldn't wait to get the Rickey version. Unfortunately, because they were so popular, the toy stores in the area were always out of them, and the dealers at the card shows that did have them, were always asking way more than I was able to pay. I initially missed out on both the 1988 and 1989 Rickey figures, but finally acquired my first one in 1990, and now have every one that they have made (I think).

Luckily for me, those first two figures had Rickey in a Yankees uniform, while all the rest show him playing with the A's, so I wasn't missing much. The first two pictures (the 1988 and 1989 SLU's) were borrowed from eBay, as I couldn't possible have left mine in the package! Look for a post in the future with more details on the cards, coins, and posters that were included along with the figures.

The figure sliding on the left is the 1988 figure, while the one on the right is the "Series II" figure from 1989. The 1988 figure is the only one without a series number, which I'm assuming is because the manufacturer had no idea how well they would go over, and didn't even know if there would be a Series II. I finally acquired both of these early figures many years later, with the advent of eBay making collecting a lot easier.

The next three figures are from 1990 (Series III), 1991 (Series IV), and 1992 (Series V). As would be expected, the pictures of the "mint-in-box" figures are not mine, and were taken from completed auctions.

I've always liked the 1992 sliding figure, depicting Rickey sliding head first into the base. Since Rickey almost never slid feet first while stealing, it's much more accurate than the sliding figure from 1988. Even though Starting Lineup continued producing figures until 2001, the 1992 figure was the last time that Rickey was included in the set.

This group figure is an "Award Winners Lineup" produced in 1991 to commemorate the MVP, Cy Young, and ROY award winners from 1990. I purchased this "as is" from eBay, and never even had the box (this picture actually comes from Amazon).

This Headline Collection figure was produced in 1991 to commemorate Rickey breaking Lou Brock's single season stolen base record of 118. The figure is actually the same as the base figure from 1991, only with Rickey wearing the A's road gray jersey rather than the home whites.

What has always bothered me, however, is that the figure doesn't accurately depict what's going on in the article. When Rickey broke the record in 1982, the A's jersey's looked very different than they did in 1991, and he wasn't even wearing #24, but #35 at the time. It would have been awesome having a retro Rickey figure, but I guess this one is better than nothing.

Like the figure above, this is part of the Headline Collection, and was released in 1992 to celebrate Rickey setting the all-time stolen base record. Unlike the previous Headline figure, this one was perfectly made, and is probably my favorite of all.