Lessons from a Mother…Casey Candaele

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It’s Opening Day and I’m at my mom’s house, waiting for the Mariners game to begin. My wife and I made the decision to drop our satellite tv service when our two-year agreement expired last fall and I found myself conflicted as the new baseball season approached. What would I do for my Mariners fix? We live in the northwest, so subscribing to MLB.TV is out of the question because of blackout restrictions. I eventually decided to subscribe to the radio package for the weekday games and asked my mom if I could come over on Sunday afternoons to watch the games on Root Sports Northwest. So that’s the plan; with Easter being this Sunday and Opening Day being only a few days before that, I decided today would be the day to come over.

I really don’t know if mom will watch many of the games with me. Besides not being much of a sports fan, she has lupus and takes her medication on Sunday; whatever it is she takes, it causes her to be sleepy. I’m just hoping that she will be able to stay awake for part of the time I’m over there, just so that we can have that time together. Though I’m now an adult, there’s always something I can learn from her. She was my main influence growing up and taught me the importance of honesty, hard work, fiscal responsibility and treating others with dignity and respect. One of the best lessons I learned was how she raised my older sister, whose birth mother had left my dad when Kim was (maybe) two, as her own. This helped me in later years, as I would eventually marry a woman who was a single mother and whose ex-husband was completely out of the picture.

Casey Candaele learned a number of things from his mother, as well. In fact, she was the one who taught him the game of baseball. Casey’s father had left the family when the future big-leaguer was eight, so his mother was the one who would play catch with him, hit balls to him, and teach Casey the fundamentals of the game. It wasn’t until he was in high school that Candaele found out his mother had played in a women’s professional baseball league. Later, when Casey reached the majors, he would become the first major leaguer whose mother had played professional baseball.

Canadian-born Helen Callaghan was a part of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that played during World War 2. If that sounds familiar, it should: the movie A League of Their Own was based upon a documentary produced by Casey’s brother, Kelly- who also co-wrote the screenplay for the 1992 movie. Helen had been called the ‘female Ted Williams’ and was considered a star in the league, earning as much as $125 per week. Like her son, Helen (which happens to be my mother’s name) was diminutive and stood only 5’1″ and weighed 115 pounds, but she was what might today be called a ‘gritty player.’ Her style of play could be summarized in the words she taught her son, words that stuck with him all these years, “no matter what, you always play the game hard. You can always hustle because you can go 0-for-4 and you can make a couple errors, but you can never have a bad day hustling.”

Helen St. Aubin (she had later remarried) passed away from breast cancer in 1992 at the age of 69. But the things she taught her youngest son, who is set to begin his first managing gig, still remain to this day.

Note about the featured card: it’s a digital card I created on the Topps website.

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Ten in a Row

I guess when you’ve had as good of a career and have meant as much to your team as Felix Hernandez has to the Mariners, you’re afforded an opportunity to pitch on Opening Day- even if you’re no longer the ace of the staff. Is James Paxton the #1 on the Mariners’ staff? Yes. But I don’t have a problem with Scott Servais giving King Felix the ball today. When Felix takes the bump tonight it will mark the 10th straight season the Mariners have turned to him for Opening Day. Only six other starters in MLB history can boast such a claim: Walter Johnson (1912-1921), Robin Roberts (1950-1961), Tom Seaver (1968-1979), Steve Carlton (1977-1986), Jack Morris (1980-1993), and Roy Halladay (2003-2012).

And since it’s Opening Day and the King is on the mound, let’s take a look at some of the Topps Opening Day inserts he has appeared on over the years. I’m also going to post a complete checklist of his O.D. inserts, along with their status in my collection.

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  • 2012 Opening Day Stars #ODS-16 HAVE
  • 2012 Opening Day Elite Skills #ES-8 HAVE
  • 2013 Opening Day Stars #ODS-14 NEED
  • 2013 Opening Day Celebrations #SC-15 HAVE
  • 2014 Opening Day Stars #ODS-13 NEED
  • 2014 Opening Day Breakout #BO-18 NEED
  • 2014 Opening Day Fired Up #UP-8 NEED
  • 2015 Opening Day Stars #ODS-7 HAVE
  • 2016 Opening Day Bubble Trouble #BT-2 HAVE
  • 2016 Opening Day Striking Distance #SD-7 HAVE
  • 2017 Opening Day Stars #ODS-19 NEED
  • 2017 Opening Day National Anthem #NA-9 HAVE
  • 2018 Opening Day Team Traditions & Celebrations #TTC-KC Kings Court NEED

That Other Toy Company

Much has been made the past couple of weeks about the announcement that Toys R Us will be liquidating inventory and closing (or trying to sell) all of its U.S. stores. Not only was it covered at length by the news media, but it seems like every card blogger mourned the news by looking back at their favorite Toys R Us card or cards. And for good reason. The company has enjoyed a long history of involvement in the hobby- a run that began in the eighties and lasted into the nineties, before being resurrected in the 2010’s (not to mention those years they didn’t have exclusive TRU cards, but still sold packs).

As fun as the eighties and nineties TRU cards were (I like the more recent purple parallel versions, but they just weren’t the same), the cards from that other toy company were just as fun to collect. I’m talking, of course, about KayBee Toys. And as you might have heard: Strategic Marks, a company that purchases and re-establishes older brands that have left the public eye, has announced that it plans on bringing the toy store back to malls in time for Black Friday and the 2018 holiday shopping season.

KB Toys has its origins in Pittsfield, MA, where in 1922, the Kaufman Brothers (Harry and Joseph) started a candy wholesale business. The brothers didn’t get into the toy business until the 1940s, when they acquired a toy company as payment for a delinquent bill. The forties were a tough decade for confectioners due to a shortage of many key ingredients during World War 2, and by 1948 the brothers realized that their toy business was much more lucrative than their confectioneries. Thus, Harry and Joseph redirected all of their business focus on the toy company, which by then had been renamed Kay-Bee Toys and Hobbies. Their first retail store would open in 1959.

By the time shopping malls became a larger part of the landscape of suburban America, Harry and Joseph Kaufman had 26 retail stores. Then, in 1973, they made the decision to no longer operate in the world of wholesale, shifting their business solely to retail, where they were able to take advantage of the rise of the shopping mall. Three years later they saw the number of stores in their chain more than double, to 65 stores across New England, New York and New Jersey. Five years after that, in 1981, Kay-Bee Toy Stores, as it was now called, had 210 stores. The brothers sold the business in 1981 to the Melville Corporation. Under the Melville Corporation, Kay-Bee Toys would go on to acquire a number of smaller toy retailers- launching them into the upper echelon of toy retailers.

While the popularity of the shopping mall began to wane in the ’90s, Kay-Bee started to look outside the shopping meccas and opened its first free-standing stores in 1994. With over 70 new stores (branded as Toy Works), a larger product line and an expansion of many of its mall-based stores, the company was now the second largest toy retailer in the U.S., behind only Toys R Us . In 1996, the Melville Corporation sold its nearly 1050 stores to Consolidated Stores Corporation, who would re-brand Kay-Bee as KB in 1997. Under Consolidated’s leadership, KB Toys would enter the new millennium stronger than ever.

Bain Capital purchased KB Toys for $300 million in December of 2000; it was reported that the investment firm paid $18.1 million in cash while borrowing the rest. Then, only sixteen months after the deal, KB Toys would be forced to take out loans to pay more than $120 million in executive bonuses and dividends. Less than two years after that, KB Toys would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, from which they would emerge in 2005. The economic crisis of 2008 would force the toy retailer to begin liquidating in December of 2008 until February of 2009, when the last of its stores would close. Toys R Us purchased the intangible assets (logo, website, trademarks, and other intellectual properties) for $2.1 million in the fall of 2009. The retail giant would hold the KB name until June of 2016, when it allowed the trademark to expire. Six months later, Strategic Marks registered a trademark for KB Toys.

 

Cardboard

As far as Kay-Bee Toys and the trading card industry, the toy retailer was a part of the booming oddball card market of the mid 80s-early 90s. From 1986-1990, the company would sponsor 6 different boxed sets, one each year- with the exception of 1988, when Fleer would join Topps in producing a set.

The first set, released in 1986, was produced by Topps and featured 33 cards. The focus of the ’86 set was Young Superstars of Baseball. Subsequent Topps sets would also feature 33 cards per boxed set and feature the Superstars of the Game. Fleer’s lone contribution to the Kay-Bee Toys card sets came in 1988, with a 44-card boxed set with a Team Leaders theme.

Seattle Mariners in Kay-Bee Toys Sets

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1986 Kay-Bee Young Superstars of Baseball (2 Mariners:#7 Alvin Davis and #24 Jim Presley- acquired in TCDB trade with user belijr)

1987 Topps Kay-Bee Superstars of Baseball (0)

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1988 Fleer Kay-Bee Team Leaders (1) #18 Mark Langston- acquired in TCDB trade with belijr

1988-Topps Kay-Bee Superstars of Baseball #6 Alvin Davis NEED

1989 Topps Kay-Bee Superstars of Baseball (0)

1990 Topps Kay-Bee Kings of Baseball (0)

2018 Donruss Seattle Mariners

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I have had a love/hate relationship with Donruss cards since Panini rebooted the brand back in 2014. It’s not so much that I hate unlicensed cards, I just don’t like that Panini can’t get the uniform colors right. I’m sure it’s not that they can’t get ’em right, but a matter of not being able to due to some licensing b.s. I do like the fact that Panini incorporates some of the elements of the iconic designs from the ’80s sets in the newer sets. And every year when the set is released, I’m indecisive as to whether or not I’ll add any to the collection. This year was no different- but a trip to the recent card show changed my mind.

The 2018 set is an original design (that plays off the ’84 motiff) and is my favorite of the Panini-era Donruss releases. While five of the nine cards I picked up at the card show are the typical drab-as-a-Seattle winter variety, two of the cards feature photos with the teal jersey, which helps to bring a little bit of life to the pages in my binder. The other two cards I picked up pay homage to the ’84 set. As always, the back of the cards leave much to be desired. The design of the card backs for 2018 Donruss isn’t too bad, it’s just that Panini did a black-on-white look that is not very aesthetically pleasing.
Mariners Base Set:

  • 29 Robinson Cano (Diamond Kings)
  • 70 Jean Segura
  • 96 James Paxton
  • 102 Nelson Cruz
  • 133 Dee Gordon
  • 170 Kyle Seager
  • 171 Robinson Cano
  • 174 Felix Hernandez
  • 175 Ken Griffey Jr
  • 210 Nelson Cruz/Yadier Molina
  • 260 Kyle Seager – 1984 Retro
  • 261 Robinson Cano – 1984 Retro

INSERTS:

Long Ball Leaders- #7 Nelson Cruz

Promising Pros Materials- #19 Kyle Waldrop
VARIATIONS:

175 Ken Griffey Jr.

There are also a number of autographed cards that I won’t bother listing here. I would suggest looking at any number of other sites (Beckett, Panini, Cardboard Connection) for those checklists.
Piecing it Together:

I bought cards #29, 70, 96, 133, 171, 174, 175, 260, 261 at the March card show. Part of the decision to purchase was because my buddy Carl was selling them and I wanted to give him some business.

1987 Mother’s Cookies Mariners

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Overview:

As iconic as the 1987 season was for baseball cards (’87 Topps wood-grain design; Donruss’ beautiful black-bordered set– not to mention the epic rookie class), Mariners collectors had to wait until the fall to find cardboard depicting players in their new uniforms. Autumn would bring with it the Rookies, Update, and Traded sets, respectively, from the three licensed manufacturers (Donruss, Fleer, Topps). Collectors in the Seattle area, however, didn’t have to wait as long, thanks to an annual Stadium Give Away.

Besides being the first set to feature the Mariners in their newly minted uniforms, the 1987 Mother’s Cookies Mariners set was the forth consecutive one issued by the Oakland, California-based bakery. The first 20,000 fans entering the Kingdome for the August 9, 1987 game between the Mariners/Angels game received 20 of the 28 cards; eight other cards were available through a mail-in certificate. However, redeeming the certificates didn’t guarantee one would complete a set. This made finishing a team set difficult and encouraged collectors to trade among other fans/collectors in order to finish the set. Cards were handed out in a light, powder-blue packet that featured team name in the upper-third, “1987 Baseball Trading Cards Sponsored By” in the middle section, and the Mother’s Cookies logo in the bottom third of the packet.

New What?

After 10 years of futility, Mariners President Chuck Armstrong decided a change was needed. The renovation had started with a managerial change early in the 1986 season, followed by the purging of under-performing veterans later that summer. The Sporting News, in its October 12, 1986 issue, announced the final step: a total aesthetic transformation, set to begin during the 1987 season. Gone were the V-neck pullovers; gone were the racing stripes and the sansabelt pants with the bright elastic waistbands. Even worse, the team traded the Trident for a simple gold ‘S.’

The Mariners weren’t alone in the move away from the uniforms that had been made popular during the ’70s. Eight of the 26 MLB teams made the move that year to button-up jerseys and pants with a belt-loop. Others would follow until 1993, when the Reds would bring an end to the pajama-bottom era. Seattle wouldn’t be the only team to undergo a logo change for the ’87 season, either: the White Sox, Twins and Astros joined the Mariners in total makeovers, while others (Pittsburgh, New York Mets, and Atlanta) made minor changes.

Superstition

The change from the Star Trident to the gold ‘S’ came after the mother of then-owner George Argyros, who is Greek, warned her son of the inverted logo. According to Greek mythology, Poseidon, god of the sea, never held his trident pointing down- and an upside-down trident is considered to be back luck. Critics, fans and even team executives (former assistant GM Lee Pelekoudas, himself of Greek descent, being one) used this superstition to explain the team’s misfortunes, both on and off the field. Even the Seattle Times, in a February 3, 2017 article couldn’t help but connect the trident to the franchise’s futility; to be fair, it also pointed out the team would continue losing after the switch.

“In the 10 seasons the M’s wore the upside-down trident, they compiled a 641-924 record and failed to record a .500 season. Although, maybe it wasn’t the trident; it took until 1991 for the M’s to eclipse the .500 mark.”

Fans have seen a revival of the cursed trident talk the past couple of years, after the team brought the classic logo back on their spring training hats. Whenever an injury- or some other misfortune- happens, the cries of ‘burn the trident’ pop up on Twitter.

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Card Attributes:

  • Standard Sized 2.5″ x 3.5″
  • Full Colored Photos, taken at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
  • Glossy front with rounded corners
  • Set Size: 28
  • Card backs contained the player’s name, number, position and vital stats; How they were Obtained; card number; Mother’s Cookies logo; Autograph line for signature.

Checklist:

  1. Dick Williams
  2. Alvin Davis
  3. Mike Moore
  4. Jim Presley
  5. Mark Langston
  6. Phil Bradley
  7. Ken Phelps
  8. Mike Morgan
  9. Dave Valle
  10. Harold Reynolds
  11. Edwin Nunez
  12. Bob Kearney
  13. Scott Bankhead
  14. Scott Bradley
  15. Mickey Brantley
  16. Mark Huismann
  17. Mike Kingery
  18. John Moses
  19. Donell Nixon
  20. Rey Quinones
  21. Domingo Ramos
  22. Jerry Reed
  23. Rich Renteria
  24. Rich Monteleone
  25. Mike Trujillo
  26. Bill Wilkinson
  27. John Christensen
  28. Checklist

Piecing it Together: This set came from the collection of former MLB scout Jerome Alongi; purchased on eBay from Alongi’s widow.

Marty Martinez

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I can’t help but think what would have happened to major league baseball in Seattle if Marty Martinez had never been involved with the Mariners organization. Would they call a city other than Seattle their home today? Possibly.

A native Cuban, Marty Martinez attended the University of Havana for a year following high school and then enrolled in the University of Mexico, where he spent another year before being signed by famed Washington Senators scout Joe Cambria. Martinez began his professional career in 1960, playing for the Erie Sailors of the Class D New York-Penn League, and made it to the majors two years later. The 21 year-old spent the entire 1962 season with the Twins (relocated from Washington), but saw very little action that rookie season (24 plate appearances in 37 games). Marty returned to the minors in 1963, where he would toil for the next four seasons before returning to the majors in 1967 as a member of the Braves. Known for his joyous spirit and the passion he brought to the ballpark, Martinez spent the next six seasons as a utility player with Atlanta, Houston, St Louis, Oakland and Texas.

Marty’s coaching career began in 1973 with the Spokane Indians (the Rangers’ AAA team in the PCL), where he would serve as a player/coach. After two seasons in Spokane, Martinez was reassigned to the Rangers’ AA team in the Eastern League (Pittsfield), working as a coach and would later replace manager Jackie Moore (the man who would go on to coach the Oakland A’s). Marty continued as manager for the Rangers Double-A teams through two relocations, first to San Antonio in 1976, and then, Tulsa in 1977.

Martinez eventually landed as a scout and instructor for the Mariners organization and made an immediate impact. While in Puerto Rico in 1982, Marty saw an infielder playing in a semi-pro league who possessed great hands and a good bat. The player? Edgar Martinez. Marty arranged a tryout for the younger Martinez, whom Seattle would go on to sign to a $4000 bonus. When Edgar struggled mightily during his first professional season at Class A Bellingham (1983), it was the elder Martinez who convinced GM Hal Keller to be patient in Edgar’s development and send him to the instructional league- usually reserved for prospects- in Arizona. Keller, who did not view Edgar Martinez as a propsect, was reluctant, but finally agreed; years later he admitted how wrong he was in his evaluation of the future star.

Marty would play an important role in not only Edgar’s development, but many other players he scouted and signed to pro contracts (Omar Vizquel, being one such player), as well as in tutoring future infielders such as Spike Owen and Harold Reynolds.

“Baseball Marty,” a nickname given to him by Chuck Cottier, joined the Mariners major league coaching staff in 1984 and served at that level through the ’86 season. It was during that 1986 season that the popular coach got his one and only chance to manage at the big league level, filling in as interim coach for one game after Cottier’s firing. Unfortunately for Martinez, the Mariners lost 4-2 to Boston, leaving his career managerial record at .000. Dick Williams, who had been hired as the next Seattle manager, took over the helm for the next game. Williams did not retain Marty for his 1987 staff.

The Mariners, having promoted Calgary (Triple-A) manager Bill Plummer to Seattle, picked Marty as Plummer’s replacement midway through the year and then named him supervisor of Latin American Scouting the next season- a position he would hold until 1992, when Martinez was named third-base coach for the Mariners. Before retiring, Marty would also serve as manager of the Mariners Arizona League rookie team, where he helped in the development of Davis Arias, better known as David Ortiz.

Sadly, Martinez died of a heart attack on March 8, 2007. He was only 65 years old at the time of his death and was trying to get back in to the game at some level.

Chuck Cottier

An 11-5 drubbing at the hands of the Boston Red Sox on May 8, 1986, dropped the Seattle Mariners record to 9-19 and 7 games out of first place. The loss was the eighth in the past ten games for the Mariners and the sixteenth in their last 20 games. It was also the final loss of Chuck Cottier’s managing career.

The firing didn’t sit well with many of the Mariners players, who liked the easy-going Cottier. Some, such as Spike Owen and Phil Bradley, came to his defense, saying he wasn’t the problem and that firing the manager was the last thing the team should do.

The skipper wasn’t even allowed to finish his final game at the helm of the ship; Chuck got rung in the bottom of the third inning after arguing an interference call on shortstop Spike Owen, which resulted in a double play. The firing shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the 50 year-old Cottier, who earlier in the week had told the media he didn’t get paid to lose.
Speculation centered on three possible replacements: Dick Williams, Tony LaRussa (who was on the hot-seat in Chi-town) and Billy Martin (who was still under contract, despite having been fired by the Yankees). Martin’s agent had been in contact with the team, but compensation would have to be paid out to the Yankees in order to sign the controversial manager. Sources told the Washington Post that the team’s front office was split between Billy Martin and former Twins manager Billy Gardner before settling on Dick Williams, who most recently had managed the San Diego Padres. The “old-school” Williams became the Mariners fifth manager (six, if you count interim manager Marty Martinez) since owner George Argyros bought the team in 1981.

Less than 3 months after the Cottier firing, the Mariners had a baseball card promotion scheduled, where the first 20,000 fans would receive twenty of twenty-eight Mother’s Cookies cards. One of the cards to be included in the giveaway, as it was with all of Mother’s team sets, was a manager card. Having already produced a card featuring the recently fired Cottier, a decision was made to print another manager’s card- this one featuring the newest Seattle skipper. These were the ones that were part of the August stadium giveaway. Some cards featuring Cottier, however, made their way out the back door of the production plant.

I have never heard of the quantity available, but I was fortunate enough to pick up the two card set on eBay recently (there was also a coach’s card that had to be redone, as coach Jim Mahoney had also been fired) for $10. I nearly missed out on the cards, as I found a listing on a google search, only to find out the auction had ended. I emailed the seller and told him I have been looking for the cards- did he still have any? I’ve taken such action before on hard-to-find cards and sets and never received an answer, so I was pleasantly surprised to not only hear back from the seller, but that he still had the set. He told me he would relist it as a BIN and here it is, now in my possession.

I’m not aware of any other instances where Mother’s reprinted a manager card after a firing had taken place. The Oakland A’s fired their manager, Jackie Moore, on June 26th of ’86 and installed Jeff Newman as interim manager for ten games prior to the Tony LaRussa hiring. The firing was too close to their Mother’s stadium giveaway and didn’t provide enough time, apparently, to do a new card, so Moore was included in the Oakland giveaway.

Bob Galasso

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It was the spring of 1981 and I was in the sixth grade. We were out playing basketball during our lunch hour when I heard the taunting begin. Some kid, whom I didn’t know, was ridiculing another classmate because of the pants he was wearing. I couldn’t see the problem; the boy had on a pair of Hash jeans, which apparently were were no longer in fashion. I actually envied this poor soul. My older cousin, whom I revered, had worn them a couple years before that, and ever since then I found myself wanting a pair. I might have witnessed other such incidents prior to that day, but it’s my earliest recollection of someone being mocked relentlessly for the clothes they were wearing.

I thought of that incident while looking through my team binder the other day. Look at the Mariners cards from the 1982 Topps set and it seems as if Topps is mocking Bob Galasso, whose final season on a major league roster came in 1981, when he appeared in 13 games for the Mariners. While his teammates are sporting the team’s star trident on their 1982 Topps cards, Bob is shown wearing the classic logo. He’s the kid wearing Hash Jeans while his teammates are all wearing parachute pants.

What About Bob’s Cardboard?

  • Bob appeared on two cards as a major leaguer: 1980 Topps #711 & 1982 Topps #598
  • The photo on his rookie card is more recent than that on his final card
  • Bob wore #43 for the Mariners during his 1981 season; pictured here wearing #19, the number he wore in 1977, his first and only other season in Seattle.
  • Appeared on more Senior Professional Baseball Association cards than MLB cards: 1990 Pacific #200, 1990 Elite #56, 1991 Pacific #114

In its 1984 MLB season preview of the Atlanta Braves, Sports Illustrated pointed out the predicament the Braves had found themselves in as the season approached. Legendary knuckleballer Phil Niekro had been released, an attempt to sign free-agent Rich Gossage had failed, and Pascual Perez had been jailed on charges of trafficking cocaine. Simply put: they needed pitching.

“Out of desperation for a pitcher, the Braves took a serious spring look at Bob Galasso, who pitched in a Stan Musial League in Atlanta last year. A former Brewer and Mariner, Galasso spent the last two years ‘working at McDonald’s, selling cars and picking up trash,’ before landing a bank job. His comeback began with a tryout for a pitcher’s role in a film called Slugger’s Wife; a technical adviser, who also has ties with the Braves, recommended that Galasso call them. Galasso and his fastball will be a phone call away in Richmond.”

Bob did appear in 30 games for Richmond during the 1984 season, going 4-6 with a 3.20 ERA. In the 70.1 innings he appeared in, Galasso issued 51 walks (6.5 per nine) along with 7.3 hits per nine innings; he also had 70 strikeouts. Unfortunately, the Braves never called him up that summer and it would be the final season Bob spent in the Minor Leagues.

Bob eventually found his way into the upstart Senior Professional Baseball Association (the Senior League, as it was more commonly called), pitching for the Orlando Juice. Following a January, 1990 game against the West Palm Beach Tropics, in which Bob picked up a win, Tropics manager Dick Williams (yes, that Dick Williams) had this to say about the pitcher: “Galasso just overwhelmed us. He can help a major-league ballclub. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he gets picked up by someone.” Bob, who at the time was 38 years old, never heard from any major league teams after the Senior League folded.

They Grow Up…and Then They’re Gone

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Note: I began drafting this post last month and decided I had better finish it after hearing the news yesterday that Toys R Us has decided to shutter its stores.

When it was announced that Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy in September, I couldn’t help but feel like a part of me died. Yes, I know- filing for Chapter 11 protection doesn’t necessarily mean the business is going away completely, but it served as yet another reminder that things change. Industries change. Our favorite retailers come and go. My two sons are now adults, and my daughter will soon turn seventeen. It’s been years since we shopped for them at the toy retailer; will we be able to shop there for any future grandchildren?

“Retail stores use to be where merchants would assemble an array of product they’ve selected for their consumers. That was important because consumers had nowhere else where they could see such a broad array of products. Now that everyone has all the selection they could want on their phone, the original idea is obsolete. As smartphone penetration and internet use has increased, the importance of retail stores has declined.”- taken from Forbes, April 7, 2017

The contributing writer, Richard Kestenbaum, went on to say that consumers wants are changing and that transitioning from the form of retail that one generation wants to what another wants is nearly impossible for larger organizations. “It’s not the products, it’s the culture. If you’ve built a big organization that knows how to sell products one way, changing to another way is almost impossible.” Add to the mix debt loads that corporations take on, demographic shifts from the suburbs to the cities, and changes in consumer tastes (ie: brands, especially among teenagers), and it’s no wonder so many retailers are barely hanging on.

Our hobby isn’t immune from this, either. We’ve seen the closure of hundreds- perhaps even thousands- of card shops in the past twenty years; numerous card manufactures have gone bankrupt. And yet there are some who have adapted to the shifts in the card industry and are still surviving.

But for how long?

No matter how much I hate seeing my children grow and leave the nest (there’s also the paradox of wanting them to leave, but that’s a different story), there is a time that they grow up and are gone. No matter how much I want to see my favorite pitcher stay young and dominate hitters, he has aged and will have to re-invent himself; and then, he too, will one day retire and move on.

I’m going to miss those purple parallels. And even it Topps continues using them, it won’t be the same.

1998 Upper Deck Pepsi Seattle Mariners


Overview:

For the second consecutive year, Upper Deck produced a regional set, sponsored by Pepsi, for the Seattle Mariners. The 1998 Upper Deck Pepsi Seattle Mariners cards were individually wrapped and available in stores and Seattle-area restaurants. While the previous year’s Pepsi sets shared the same design as the 1997 Upper Deck base set, this year’s set was wholly unique. Card fronts feature player’s photo and silhouette and a rounded corner at the edge of the photo. Foil is used to the left of this area and features a swirl pattern in red, white and blue. The Upper Deck logo can be found in the top left corner, with the Pepsi logo in the bottom left corner. The player’s name and position, along with team name is included in an oval along the bottom of the card. The back of the cards feature a color photo and uses the same color scheme and swirl; ovals can be found on the card backs as well, with the card number and player name in one and a season highlight from 1997 in another. Players statistics from recent years are listed, some featuring All-Star and Playoff stats, where applicable. Logos for the MLBPA, MLB and Upper Deck are found along the bottom of the card. For all its glory, the ’98 set had one glaring omission: the Kid was missing.


Where’s Junior?

There was no player in the game during the mid-late ’90s who was more popular, nor as marketable, as Ken Griffey Jr, and so his conspicuous absence from this regional set is a bit of a mystery. For years he had enjoyed a good relationship with the Upper Deck Company, as well as Pepsi, the company that had sponsored a 9-card set in 1991 featuring Junior Griffey and his father, Ken Sr. The All-Star outfielder had been also included in a number of other sets sponsored by the soft-drink giant, including the Mariners regional set and Stadium Giveaway team set (each produced by Upper Deck) just the previous year. The Kid was an admitted Pepsi drinker and had done work for a bottler in the Seattle area while with the Mariners; he had also appeared in national ads for the company’s All Sport Body Quencher drink in 1995. There is no public record of him ever working for the rival Coca-Cola Company and like I said, he appeared in the 1997 Pepsi sets. So why was Griffey excluded from the set?

To answer this question, I reached out first to the Upper Deck Company, hoping against hope that someone there could help solve this mystery. The folks there were gracious and replied back quickly, telling me that they “would not be able to give [me] an answer as to why he was not included. The product is quite a few years old and it was information not given to us at the time. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

I then found the name of one person- Katie Lacey- who might be able to shed light on the situation. Ms. Lacey was the director of sports marketing for Pepsi-Cola Company at the time and was responsible for signing Griffey Jr and Sammy Sosa to deals in which the stars would be featured in ads and promotions. Unfortunately, I was not able to get in contact with Ms. Lacey, who is now the President and CEO of Crane Stationary.

An attempt to gain insight from a long time Seattle-area card seller proved unfruitful, as well. The most helpful input I received came from, of all places, a forum on the Trading Card Database, where user spazmatastic suggested that perhaps the star was in negotiations with PepsiCo at the time, which could have forbid Upper Deck from including him in the set. This makes the most sense, since Junior signed a multi-year contract with Pepsi early in 2000 for a national TV commercial. I couldn’t find any information that revealed when, and for how long, negotiations took place, but it could have been a long and arduous process.
Card Attributes:

  • Standard sized 2.5″ x 3.5″
  • Full-colored photos on both front and back
  • 17-cards in set
  • Card backs include Upper Deck’s trademark hologram

Checklist:

PM1 Rich Amaral

PM2 Bobby Ayala

PM3 Jay Buhner

PM4 Ken Cloude

PM5 Joey Cora

PM6 Russ Davis

PM7 Jeff Fassero

PM8 Bob Wells

PM9 Randy Johnson

PM10 Raul Ibanez

PM11 Edgar Martinez

PM12 Jamie Moyer

PM13 Alex Rodriguez

PM14 Heathcliff Slocumb

PM15 Paul Spoljaric

PM16 Mike Timlin

PM17 Dan Wilson
Piecing it Together:

Missing two cards (1, 15); most have been purchased through COMC.com

Sealed pack containing Moyer card was purchased off of eBay.