Friday, March 22, 2019

Baseball Is Here

                “For its one, two, three strikes, you’re out, at the old ball game.”
                Every fan young and old knows the verses of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” written by Jack Norworth. 
                Come to Peoria, Arizona, and Padres fans can almost touch their local heroes at Spring Training.  Wait until April rolls around, and you can see those same athletes at Petco Park. 
                And for local sports followers, baseball at Petco is all they have left professionally.  The Chargers have become integrated in Los Angeles culture, leaving the Padres as the only major sports team in our beautiful San Diego. 
                Despite being cellar dwellers for many of the fifty years they have existed as a franchise, the Padres faithful should take some solace to know that championship teams are possible, as in 1984 and 1998.  It is too bad that the Friars played great opponents in the World Series.  First it was Detroit in 1984, and then the New York Yankees in 1998.  That Yankees team is always in the discussion of the greatest teams of all time.
                And the Padres have had their share of quality players through the years, led by Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman.  But there was also Dave Winfield, Randy Jones, and many others.  Remember Steve Garvey, Rollie Fingers, Nate Colbert, and Goose Gossage?  And who can forget Jon Kruk, Andy Hawkins, Garry Templeton, and even my former neighbor Craig Lefferts. 
                Of course, with Hall of Fame players comes valuable memorabilia.  So look to see if you might have some of the following items in your attic, den, or man cave. You might be in for a pleasant surprise or two.  But let me warn you first.  A Tony Gwynn signed baseball is not worth much.  It’s the old supply and demand concept.  Gwynn, bless his heart, signed too many to make a signed ball worth more than about thirty or forty dollars.  If you pay more than that at a charity event, you are basically donating to the charity. 
                However, a 1984 San Diego jersey of Steve Garvey went for nearly $3,000 at auction.  Garvey played for the Padres from 1983-1987, and hit probably the most famous home run in the club’s history, the homer in the 1984 playoff series against the Chicago Cubs. 
                A 1979 Padres road jersey of Ozzie Smith sold for nearly $6,000 at auction.  Smith played from 1978 – 1981 in San Diego, and was then traded to St. Louis for Garry Templeton.  Smith was known as “The Wizard of Oz” when he was with the Cardinals, and became a Hall of Famer.  I will always remember him for making the greatest fielding play I ever saw in a 1978 game against Atlanta. 
                A Randy Jones 1976 Padres signed jersey sold for nearly $2000 at auction. He was with San Diego from 1973-1980, with his two best years being 1975 and 1976.  You may have kept a 1976 Sports Illustrated with Jones on the cover.
                Of course, a Tony Gwynn game-used jersey is auctioned every so often. A 1998 Gwynn jersey was auctioned for nearly $700.  You might ask yourself why it would not sell for more. The answer is that he played his entire career from 1982-2001 with the Padres and he had plenty of jerseys. Supply and demand.  His Topps 1983 rookie card sells for around $80.
                Gwynn’s 1989 Silver Bat award went for nearly $20,000.  He won eight of them, as he led the National League in hitting eight times. 
                A 1996 Padres team signed ball sold for a few hundred dollars, while an original artwork from 2001 of Dave Winfield went for about $700.
                Now lets not forget the old San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) which had a team from 1936-1968.  There were baseball cards of players from that league as well.   An eleven card collection from 1950 of the Padres, distributed by Hage’s Dairy, went for more than $1,200. 
                A good time to get autographs is at Spring Training games.  But if you approach a player, please be courteous, and respectful, and say thanks. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Bobbinghead dolls are very popular collectible these days. There are both sports and non-sports dolls, and both types have soared in popularity and value in the last forty years.

         One reason that these dolls, also called nodders, are so collectible is that they have beautiful color, are usually of a theme or character, and are relatively inexpensive. Bobbinghead dolls really came into their own from 1960-1971, but are still quite popular even today. It is quite common for a sports team to have a bobbinghead doll as a promotional giveaway.

          The dolls are quite fragile, and naturally, the value of any doll drops dramatically if it is damaged or has been restored. If, you have dolls, or are considering collecting them, keep in mind a few things as you inspect the dolls:

                     Look at the dolls’ neck and ankles. These are areas where there could be
                       damage, and possibly the doll was reglued.                                                                 
                     Inspect the paint around these areas to see if it is the original paint.          
                     Often times tissue will be wrapped around the neck to prevent snapping.
                     Check the rear of the doll. There is often damage there, as well as chips.
                     Look inside the head of the doll for cracks. Sometimes cracks will be
                      noticeable on the inside, but be repainted on the outside.
                     A cracked doll will only be worth about ten percent of a non-cracked doll.

            The first baseball set of bobbinghead dolls was the 1960-1961 Square color base set. The rarest doll in this set was the Washington Senators doll with a dark blue base. Other sets in the 1960’s included the 1961-1962 white base miniatures, the 1961-1963 white base set, the 1963-1965 black players set, the 1963-1965 green base set, and the 1966-1971 gold base set.

             Football and hockey sets also were introduced in the early 1960’s, with the 1960-1961 National Football League Square wood base set, and the 1961-1963 National Hockey League Square base set.

             The most valuable sports doll is the Houston Colt.45s black player on a green base (included in the 1963-1965 black players set). There are believed to be only two or three of this doll in mint condition. As for actual player dolls, the most valuable is of Roberto Clemente.

              Of course, there are non-sports dolls as well. Regarding political dolls, the Jack/Jackie Kennedy kissing pair dolls are extremely rare, and valuable. They were distributed in 1963, shortly before Kennedy’s assassination. Upon JFK’s death, the dolls were no longer manufactured.

              Other valuable non-sports dolls include Dick Tracy, Batman, Robin, the Bob’s Big Boy, Werewolf, Frankenstein, and the Phantom.

                A set of the four Beatles bobbinghead dolls, made by Car Mascots, are quite rare and a real collector’s item Make sure you have the box and the cellophane.

                Because they are colorful, bobbinghead dolls display quite well. You do have to be careful when handling and moving them. A few of the bigger companies in the bobbinghead doll field are Alexander Global Productions, Team Beans, and Bensussen Deutsch and Associates (BD&A).

                As prices often fluctuate with this collectible, you need to look through a recent price guide to learn the current values.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

    One of baseball’s treasures that have not been absolutely proved to be found is that of the ball that Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants hit on October 3, 1951 to win the National League pennant.

     There has been speculation that the ball was indeed kept all these years by a friend of the man who claimed to have caught the ball in the stands that historic day. And that story may well be true. However, if you indeed feel that you have the ball, or you know someone who thinks that they have that famous ball, then please come forward. And you will need to have a good story to go along with the ball.

     Of course, the game between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers on that day in early October 1951 has been termed one of the greatest games ever played. For those people not familiar with the game, those two hated rivals were playing the third and final game of the playoffs to decide who would win the National League pennant. The Dodgers had a 13 ½ game lead over the Giants in mid-August, but the Giants had caught them on the last day of the season, to force a playoff.

     In the third and deciding game the Dodgers had the lead going to the bottom of the ninth. The Dodger pitcher Don Newcombe was taken out of the game and replaced by Ralph Branca. Bobby Thomson, a local New Yorker, had been a solid, not spectacular, player throughout his career. His homerun in the ninth inning to beat the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds that day would forever make him a marked man in baseball history. For that matter, Branca’s place in baseball history would now be remembered as well.

     Thomson’s homerun, called the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” is one of the most famous moments in sports history, not just baseball history. Why? Probably because the game was between two teams from New York who disliked each other. The Giants victory also capped off a dramatic comeback in late summer, and was achieved at the last possible instance. It showed to the American public that underdogs with long odds against them can prevail.

     So, where is the ball? Possibly it is still out there, still to be turned in. Possibly it went the way of old baseballs and was thown away. Possibly it was recently sold at auction. Of course, back in 1951 fans did not have the same craze for memorabilia as they have now. Who would know that baseballs hit into the stands, even if it meant winning the 1951 National League pennant, would have such historical significance and be worth a fortune? How much is that ball worth today? Oh, only about a million dollars.

     Maybe you remember the words of the late Giants’ announcer Russ Hodges when Bobby Thomson’s blast landed in the stands:  

“The Giants win the pennant,
  The Giants win the pennant,
  The Giants win the pennant.”

     But where is the ball that was hit into the stands?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

    Throughout the history of baseball many great players have graced the baseball diamonds across America.

     Players such as Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Roger Clemens, Honus Wagner, and scores of others will long be remembered. But the one player who has always stood out has been Babe Ruth.

     It was George Herman “Babe” Ruth who almost single-handedly saved baseball from fading into obscurity. No matter how many of Ruth’s hitting and pitching (yes, he was a pitcher early in his career) records have been broken, he is still Mr. Baseball.

     Even though Henry Aaron and Barry Bonds may have passed Ruth’s hallowed career homerun record, and his season homerun record have been surpassed by a few players, Ruth’s name will always be remembered. And he was a prolific signer of baseballs and other baseball items until his death in 1948.

     You may see many Ruth signed baseballs in auctions or in sales, but the one ball that has not yet surfaced is Ruth’s home run in Game 3 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs.

     The Cubs indeed were in the 1932 World Series, but, as you can imagine, did not win. In fact, they haven’t won in a long, long time. But that’s another story.

     The homerun that Ruth hit in Game 3 of that World Series is often termed the “called” shot.

     As legend has it, Ruth pointed to the centerfield stands, and on the very next pitch hit a ball to that same location to which he had just pointed.

     Fact or fiction that this incident really occurred? No one knows for sure, but it makes for a great story.

     There have been many Ruth stories that have surfaced through the years, and this is certainly one of them.

     Did he really point to centerfield? If so, why did he? Will we ever know?

     How much could this ball be worth? Real tough to say, but it might fetch a cool $1.5 million in an auction. Naturally, it will depend how many bidders there are, and if a bidding war develops, as it did with the McGwire 70th homerun ball.

     And of course, there are many people who do not believe the whole scenario of Ruth “calling” his Game 3 shot, so that if the ball does show up in an auction it will be considered “suspect” by many.

     If you feel that you may own this ball make sure you have the proper documentation. And believe me, the baseball Hall of Fame would gladly take the ball off of your hands.

     Even though you may not have the “called” shot Ruth ball, any Ruth-signed ball is valuable, very valuable.

     I have seen several balls signed by both Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Some collectors prefer a single-signed ball, while other collectors prefer balls signed by more than one star, such as Ruth and Gehrig on a ball.

     Babe Ruth is baseball, and baseball is Babe Ruth. And Babe Ruth and baseball are memories.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Baseball Press Pins


              One of the rarest, and collectible, of all baseball items is the press pin. There are many sports collectors who are not even familiar with what a press pin is.

                Actually, as the words imply, it is a pin given to a member of the press, presumably covering a sporting event. Although most sporting press pins have been associated with World Series and All-Star Games in baseball, there are now press pins associated with Super Bowls, NBA Championships, Stanley Cup Finals, Indianapolis 500 races, and the list is growing.

                Baseball press pins have existed for a little over 100 years, and have served as badges for members of the media at a major sporting event. Nowadays, the media are given more credentials than a metal pin, even though a press pin is now a commemorative, rather than a required item.  

                But, the roots of the baseball press pins, now truly collectors items, dates back to the early 1910s. The New York Giants manager, John McGraw, had a wide circle of friends who wanted to go to the games for free. McGraw did not want to say no to any of them. McGraw had passes given to his friends to get into the stadium. They would go to the press box as the working media was on the field interviewing players before the game. When the media would come to the press box area, they would find their seats taken.

                The solution was that the newly-formed Baseball Writers of America issued specially-designed lapel pins which would be required of anyone trying to gain access to the press box area. Since that time, press pins have been produced for nearly every baseball World Series and All-Star Games, and some other major sporting events.

                Press pins fit the criteria for a collectible. They are very scarce, they are very desirable, and most of them are in good condition. Besides, they are extremely lightweight and easy to move. As an example of how scarce they are, in the early years, no more than a few hundred were given to each World Series team. Even as late as the 1990s, only a few thousand were allotted to each team.

                Besides the actual press pins that were distributed to World Series teams, there are also vintage press pins known as “phantom” pins. These were press pins that were made for contending teams that never made it to the World Series. These pins were made just in case the teams did make it to the World Series. They are valuable as well, and sometimes are even worth more than the pins of a World Series team.

                The press pins of the Philadelphia Athletics from the 1911 World Series were manufactured by the Allen A. Kerr Company, and are worth the most in general, well into the thousands of dollars. That year was the first year press pins were made especially for the World Series. Nowadays, press pins from modern World Series are only worth a couple of hundred dollars even in Mint condition.

                However, in a 2012 Heritage auction, a 1922 World Series press pin which served the New York Giants and New York Yankees media, sold for $11,950. The pin was in Mint condition, and of course featured both New York teams. Both teams also played at the Polo Grounds, that year, the sight of all the World Series games.

                However, in 2013, there was a press pin that sold for nearly $57,000. A World Series press pin from the New York Giants 1912 World Series between the Giants and the Boston Red Sox sold for that incredible amount. It is one of only a few remaining pins from the year’s World Series. For baseball trivia buffs, 1912 was the year that Fenway Park opened in Boston, and the team has been playing there ever since.

                So baseball collectors; if you haven’t thought of collecting press pins, you might want to think about it now.

Friday, March 1, 2019

             “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron was one of baseball’s greatest players from 1954 to 1976.  Aaron debuted on April 13, 1954 as a player for the Milwaukee Braves, and made his last plate appearance on October 3, 1976 while a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Along the way, he homered 755 times, a record that was eventually broken by Barry Bonds.  In fact, Aaron is the only player to hit 30 or more homers in a season at least 15 times.

                Aaron’s professional career started in 1951 when he was signed to a contract to play for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League.  However, Major League Baseball had already begun to sign black players, starting with Jackie Robinson’s debuting with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.  Aaron made short work with the Clowns, and only played in 26 official Negro League games.  In 1952 Henry Aaron’s contract was purchased by the Milwaukee Braves.  In the Braves’ minor league system Aaron played primarily shortstop or second base.  However, that was soon to end.  When Braves left fielder Bobby Thomson, the Giants hero in the 1951 playoffs against the Dodgers, fractured his ankle, Aaron replaced him in the outfield.  The rest, so to speak, was history.

                Hank Aaron was selected as an All-Star 21 times, and played in 25 All-Star games.  In 1957 he was a member of the World Series champion Milwaukee Braves.

                Of course, Aaron was closely scrutinized once he became close to breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record.  Ruth’s record of 714 homers was for decades, but as with any record, sooner or later there was always a chance of it being broken.  And so it was with the home run record.  Aaron ended the 1973 season at 713 homers, one shy of Ruth.  The hate mail came in droves during the offseason, as how dare a black man surpass the iconic record of Babe Ruth.  But in the very first game of the 1974 season, Aaron tied the record, and broke it on April 8th, 1974, during the first home game of the Atlanta Braves.

                Aarons’ final homer, on July 20, 1976, against the California Angels, was his 755th career homer, and stood as the record until 2007, when San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds would surpass it.

                Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 with 97.8 percent of the votes.  At the time that selection percentage was the second highest in history, only to 98.2 percent of Ty Cobb in the inaugural 1936 Hall election.

                Since his retirement Aaron has served in several baseball executive positions.  In addition, in 2001 he was honored with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton, and in 2002 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush.

                For the baseball collector, most Hank Aaron items can be acquired without breaking the bank.  For example, an Aaron-signed official Major League baseball can usually be purchased for no more than $200-250.  In comparison, a Ruth-signed ball can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

                A signed Aaron replica jersey will cost less than a thousand dollars on eBay, while an original Hartland statue in good condition from the late 1950s will cost a few hundred dollars.

                An Aaron 8x10 signed photo is priced at $100-125, while a signed bat runs around $750-900.

                A Hank Aaron piece of memorabilia will always be a treasure for any sports collector. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

                Michael Jordan, considered by most basketball pundits to be the greatest basketball player, was only the 3rd player selected in the 1984 college draft. That sounds a little hard to believe, but it’s true. The Houston Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon with the first pick, and the Portland Trailblazers then selected Sam Bowie.

                Jordan then fell in the laps of the Chicago Bulls, who then became a perennial champion a few years later.

                There has been a lot of debate over whether Jordan should have been selected higher. In fact, Olajuwon was a great player with Houston. However, Bowie, an often-injured star at Kentucky was a victim to knee problems, and his professional career was short lived.

                And Jordan, you ask? Well, the guard from the University of North Carolina became the face of the National Basketball Association (NBA), that’s all.

                Actually, Portland filled a need when they selected Sam Bowie, so they cannot be blamed. After all, Tom Brady was the 199th pick in the 2000 college football draft by the New England Patriots. And for all you Dallas Cowboy fans, Tony Romo was not even drafted.

                But as for Michael Jordan, it is well-documented that he flourished as a high school senior at Laney High in Wilmington, North Carolina. He then took his talents to his nearby university at Chapel Hill, much to the delight of legendary coach Dean Smith.

                Jordan dominated professional basketball from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s. He led the Chicago Bulls to six world championships, and was the Most Valuable Player of the NBA five times.

                Ever since he was a youngster Jordan had wanted to become a professional baseball player. After he retired from the Bulls the first time, he joined the Birmingham Barons as an outfielder. He couldn’t hit well enough to make a real try, and in 1995, he returned to the Chicago Bulls. He later joined the Washington Wizards, and finally retired for good in 2003.

                In 2006 Jordan purchased a part of the Charlotte Bobcats, and became its majority owner in 2010.

                To this day, Michael Jordan is extremely visible across the world. Besides being the owner of a professional basketball team, he is in several television commercials, and hosts a golf tournament.

                Jordan is also very popular among collectors. His items are highly coveted, and sell for astoundingly high prices at auction. A few examples will suffice. A Michael Jordan designed Chicago Bulls championship ring from 1992-1993 went for $9000 at auction, while his 1994 signed minor league baseball contract went for over $15,000.

                Jordan’s game worn 1987-1988 Chicago Bulls jersey sold at auction for nearly $18,000, while his 1984-1985 game worn original Air Jordan shoes went for slightly over $31,000.

                Items from Jordan’s playing days at North Carolina are in high demand. For example, the 1982 college basketball championship game net from Jordan’s game-winning shot went for over $31,000 as well. That shot was against Georgetown in a 63-62 victory.

                How about his 1991 NBA All-Star game-used uniform? In that game Jordan scored 26 points, as he led the East squad to a 116-114 victory. The jersey went for $55,000.

                Finally, Jordan’s 1983 game-used jersey from his University of North Carolina Tar Heels days. College jerseys are always a big hit among collectors as there are so few of them, and this one was no exception. As expected, this college jersey went for top dollar. It went for $95,000.

                Jordan items are still very popular, long after his playing days were over. He is still recognized as a great player, and his legacy still prevails.

                Michael Jordan basketball cards are still very collectible, especially his 1986 Fleer rookie cards. His signed shoes are greatly in demand.

                Among basketball players, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain are the most collectible.

                If you have an opportunity to acquire a Michael Jordan item, go for it. You probably have a real winner. A slam dunk.

Baseball Is Here

                “For its one, two, three strikes, you’re out, at the old ball game.”                 Every fan young and old knows the...