Wednesday, September 30, 2009

1993 Pinnacle Cooperstown Dufex -- Card #2,000!!!

As you probably noticed in the title, my Rickey collection reached a significant milestone lately, when I acquired my 2,000th different Rickey card! I've come along way from categorizing my cards on stapled pieces of binder paper, and I really can't believe I've made it this far.

Due to the vast increases in his cards during the end of his playing career, I still don't even have half of the almost 5,000 total cards of his that were produced. But, if you focus on anything released from 1977-1995, I have over 97% of the recognized cards, which drops only slightly to 92% if you extend the time period out to 1998.

In 1993 Pinnacle released a 30-card "Cooperstown" collection factory set. When I first came upon this card at a card show, it was actually still fairly rare (it's a common card now), as the factory sets could not be found everywhere. But, up until the advent of eBay, I had no idea that a parallel version of this card even existed!

The 1993 Pinnacle Cooperstown Dufex card above, along with the release of 1993 Select, was Pinnacle's first foray into the use of Dufex (they call it "FX" on the box) technology. I first saw this card on eBay about 10-years ago, and due to the crazy prices with which it was selling, I had kind of written off ever acquiring one. But, thanks to being very patient, and getting a very good deal, I can now call it my own. 1993 was a rather important year in terms of sports card innovation , as Topps also released the first ever "refractor" card in 1993 Finest (another card that I'd LOVE to add to my collection).

The card above is not the back of the Rickey card, but is a card that was inserted into the 30-card dufex set. There has always been a bit of mystery surrounding the Cooperstown Dufex cards, as no one was exactly sure where they came from. There was a total of 1,000 sets produced, but it's not clear how many of these actually made it into circulation.

Whenever I have a question regarding the background of a specific oddball release, the first place I look is BAMCards online eBay store, and once again they didn't let me down. (Note: BAMCards is not a sponsor of this blog -- although I wouldn't mind if they were -- but just a seller who knows a lot about 1980's and 1990's oddball releases). The quoted text below, as well as the letter from Pinnacle, are both thanks to the vast knowledge of BAMCards.

"The Dufex version was a non-commercial set that was actually a 'Full Attendance Prize.' These were given to the members of the SCAI, a now defunct dealer association, who attended each and every meeting of the SCAI November 1993 Conference in Dallas Tx. Contrary to some reports, the cards were not really handed out at the conference but were a commemorative gift mailed to the 'Full House participants' by Pinnacle in late February 1994."

"The SCAI President, who complied the attendance winner list, has indicated that the total fell far short of that originally anticipated by Pinnacle. As the Conference attendance was light, and as each meeting, generally card company promotions drew fewer and fewer dealers, the number that attended all was embarrassingly small."

"Before each meeting encouragement was given to the members to attend as Pinnacle, Topps, Pro Set and others promised gifts. But many of the actual attendees were the employees of the manufacturers. So it is likely that some of the sets sent several months later to those on the Full House list ended up in the hands of people who were not active hobbyists. Some other sets may have also been given out on Pinnacle factory tours or through a radio show."

So, there you have it, the story behind a rather interesting oddball release. In 1994 Pinnacle first included a "Museum Collection" parallel in their base set, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Defensive Indifference

Every once in awhile I come across an article which I find interesting (although most people probably would not), which also has a slight Rickey Henderson connection, but they don't always make it onto the blog. Since this article is about base stealing, and mentions Rickey at the end, I figured it was worth posting.

Keeping score is definitely a lost art, and is a skill that I'm glad my dad taught me when I was younger. It's also something that I hope to be able to pass along to my own son, although it will probably be impossible to find a scorebook when that time comes around.

The following article was in yesterday's New York Times, and discusses the interesting nuance that is "defensive indifference." I knew all about the rule, but I did learn something new in the article. If Rickey was stealing a base (in a defensive indifference situation), and falls down and gets tagged out along the way, he is not stuck with a caught stealing. Since it wouldn't have been a steal in the first place, he can't be punished with a caught stealing, which makes perfect sense, but isn't something that I had thought of before.

Safe at Second, but No Stolen Base to Show for It
by Jack Curry

A player takes an unchallenged lead off first base, dashes to second and makes it safely without a throw. The runner has advanced, but because there was no attempt to thwart him, he does not receive a stolen base. Instead, an official scorer bellows “defensive indifference” in the press box.

Defensive indifference is exactly what it connotes: a situation when a team was unconcerned about preventing the runner from advancing. After official scorers consider the score and the inning, if the pitcher made pickoff attempts and if the first baseman was positioned behind the runner, they determine if the dash was a steal or defensive indifference.

“It’s an old rule and a very good rule,” said Bill Shannon, who has been a scorer for 31 seasons. “I’m loath to give away statistical achievements.”

But what about the runner who has successfully scooted the 90 feet? Some players contend they should be credited with a stolen base. If the team’s defensive strategy was to give away the base, should the runner be rewarded for taking what was available?

“I feel like you should get something for doing it,” said Nate McLouth, a center fielder for the Atlanta Braves. “It’s the only way to advance that doesn’t show up in the stat column.”

Actually, there are statistics for defensive indifference, although they are not mainstream numbers. In a season in which Albert Pujols is approaching 50 homers, Ichiro Suzuki has collected more than 200 hits again and Joe Mauer is batting over .370, only a fan club for official scoring would have a clue how many times defensive indifference has been called this season. The Elias Sports Bureau said there had been 274 calls before Tuesday’s games.

Defensive indifference is a sleepy but established rule that has been in Major League Baseball for 89 years. Bob Waterman, a senior baseball staffer at Elias, said the addendum, “No stolen base shall be credited to a runner who is allowed to advance without an effort being made to stop him,” was placed in the 1920 rule book. The rule is typically enforced in the ninth inning of a lopsided game when the defense yawns as a runner grabs a meaningless base.

It is such a sleepy rule that Carlos Beltran of the Mets, the career leader in stolen-base percentage with at least 200 steals (286 for 324, 88.2 percent), said he did not “even know” what defensive indifference was. Once the rule was explained, Beltran showed that he was aware of it.

“If the first baseman plays 50 feet behind me, there’s no way that’s a steal,” Beltran said. “As a base runner, I wouldn’t want that.”

Still, there are examples of players’ accumulating statistics in other sports because opponents do not defend them. Basketball players go unguarded in garbage time. In football, a team that has a 28-point lead with two minutes left will surrender chunks of yardage.

“That’s football, though,” Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said. “That’s different.”

Why is it different?

“You’re trying to eat the clock in football,” Shannon said. “We have a linear game. The clock will never eliminate the other team.”

Steve Hirdt, the executive vice president of Elias, noticed references to defensive indifference while researching play-by-play accounts of games from the 1920s. In an article about the imminent rule change in The Chicago Tribune on Jan. 30, 1920, there is a headline that reads, “Cut Out the Joke Steals.” Hirdt called it a good rule because it protects “the spirit of what a stolen base is.”

But Hirdt also noted another situation where players get statistical credit when the opponent is offering something. If teams lead by several runs and the opponent has a runner on third with less than two outs, they do not play their infield in. So teams are willing to give up a run batted in to a hitter, but in those instances, they get an out in return.

Because the runner who goes to second in a defensive indifference situation does not earn a steal, should he be punished if he tumbles and is tagged out?

“You’re out,” the Yankees’ Derek Jeter said.

Marquis Grissom, who stole 429 bases in his career and is now a coach with the Washington Nationals, agreed.

“If you fall down, too bad,” he said.

Not really. Hirdt noted that Rule 10.07(h) states that a runner cannot be nabbed with a caught stealing if he would not have been credited with a steal if he had been safe.

Shannon estimated that he calls defensive indifference about a dozen times a year. When Shannon called it with Rickey Henderson as the base runner more than 20 years ago, a Yankees public-relations official complained. Shannon told the man he would change his call if Henderson finished with 999 career steals. That was Shannon’s way of saying he was never altering his call.

“Achievement,” Shannon said, “is not a gift.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Padres Commemorative Photo Giveaway

I have to apologize for the lack of posts lately, as I've taken a little bit of a break from the blog. This past July and August were the two most prolific months in the blogs history, with 14 and 16 posts, respectively. I needed a bit of time to catch up on other things, and just returned from a week long vacation in Disneyland.

My 14-month old had a blast, as did his parents. Now that things have slowed down a bit, and I've finally recovered from Cooperstown, I hope to get back to a more typical schedule. The Rickey "news" has definitely slowed now that the Hall of Fame Induction is behind us, but I can always find something new and interesting (at least too me, and a few other crazy Rickey fans) to write about.

I just got this double-sided 5x7 card that the Padres gave out to the first 10,000 fans at a game on August 7th. The Padres were holding a Hall of Fame Weekend of their own, and wanted to celebrate one of the newest inductees. Although Rickey didn't play for the Padres very long, he did set quite a few records while he was there.

Both the front and the back of the card includes some pretty cool artwork. You don't find too many oddball Rickey items being produced anymore, and I was glad to be able to add this one to the collection. Other than some items that I picked up at the Hall, I've tried to limit myself to items that will store easily in a binder, and this 5x7 fits the bill perfectly!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rickey Henderson Field at Oakland Tech

Rickey Henderson's high school Alma mater Oakland Tech has decided to honor the most famous member of their 1976 graduating class. Oakland Tech's Carter Field, otherwise known as the "Field of Dreams," which was just built in 2008, will be renamed Rickey Henderson Field in a ceremony to be held on October 3rd at 10am. Thanks to Jim at TasteLikeDirt for the heads-up, as I missed this announcement while away on vacation.

Here's the official resolution from the Oakland School Board approving the name change. I really hope that they don't have to follow the resolution exactly as worded, as it would not be pretty if they actually named it "Ricky" Henderson Field. You'd think that after over 30 years they'd be able to spell his name right, and this is coming from a School Board no less!

Rickey and his mother will both be in attendance, as will Ken Korach, the radio voice of the Oakland A's. The full press release can be found here. The field was built on the former Carter Middle School playground, hence the initial Carter Field moniker.

I won't be able to attend the ceremony, but if anyone is local to the area, I'd love to see any pictures that you could send. The end of the press release also indicates that commemorative shirts and caps will be sold, and I'll be sure to keep everyone updated as soon as I can find out more.

For more pictures from Rickey's Senior yearbook, click here.

To add an interesting wrinkle to the story, and make things a little difficult for kids playing baseball in the area, there already is a Rickey Henderson Field in Oakland!

In 2006, the Oakland A's and the GoodTidings Foundation, renovated "Lucky A's Field" in the Arroyo Viejo Recreation Center in East Oakland, and renamed the baseball field "Rickey Henderson Field." Although no one is probably interested, here's the minutes from the 2006 Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, during which the motion for the renaming was passed (it's on the bottom of page 3). It's amazing what you can find online!

Here's Rickey throwing out the first pitch at the field that was renamed in his honor, at the first of what will be two Rickey Henderson Field's in the City of Oakland (photo from SF Chronicle).