Thursday, December 31, 2015

Things happen when I am in Vegas

I was in Las Vegas with my wife and relatives celebrating her birthday a few weeks ago and we were in the last hours of our visit when while sitting in the Mirage Poker Room, across the screen flashed the news that the Giants had signed Johnny Cueto.

Upon reflection, it did bring some memories.

I used to have Las Vegas as part of my sales territory in the 90s.

I flew in on Sunday, June 12, 1994 for my week of work. This was the night of the OJ Simpson murders. I think I read somewhere that OJ tried to call his girlfriend, Paula Barbieri (?) who happened to be in Las Vegas that night, possibly at the same hotel I was staying at. The call was around 10 PM a short while before the murders.

It was hard to follow the news being out of town that week, but I can remember being in the Treasure Island Poker Room and sort of following the White Bronco Chase as it was being broadcast live. Very weird to watch this while sitting in a casino poker room.

Some other time,  I remember being in a casino (most likely the Mirage) and while not watching the football game, there was just tremendous applause and thunder repeatedly on a key football game (either a late season Monday night football game with playoff ramifications or a post season game  itself). Never experienced anything like that before.

In 2007, we were also in LV celebrating my wife's birthday and I was following on the internet local High School (and a favorite team of mine) De La Salle playing in the second rendition of the state bowl games. I can remember being in our rental car on the strip and seeing DLS stretch its 24-7 halftime lead to 31-7 early in the third quarter and telling my wife, "De La Salle is going to win the state championship" (and also become the first north team to beat the south after 5 straight loses over 2 years). By the time we parked our car or used valet or whatever, a perfect storm of bad plays suddenly had the game tied at 31. DLS would go on to win 37-31 (they missed an extra point after being penalized for excessive celebration after the go ahead TD), then intercepted a pass and running out the clock, taking a couple of knees inside the Opponents 5 yard line to not run up the score.

I am sure more memories will surface soon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December 2015, Vegas, hot stove news and other items

Just got back from Las Vegas, where we celebrated my wife's birthday. We were joined by my wife's sister and her husband who ventured out from Michigan.

The highlights of the 4 days (easily) were (1) her birthday dinner at Wolfgang Puck's Spago restaurant in the Forum Shops at Caesar's. We have eaten there before (Valentine's Day 2003 a few months after she arrived from the Philippines, and her 30th birthday as well). The food, service and ambience were all superb. All 4 of us agreed it was a GREAT dinner.

The other highlight (2): the next morning we headed out to Red Rock Canyon,. I had heard of this and never went, but my wife's sister really wanted to go. What a great place. A beautiful sliver of red rock wedged in between the more normal slate and other colors in a spectacular setting. Research told us the red rock comes from iron ore in the mountain that oxidized... but why only that sliver and not the whole mountain? A great visitor's center as well. Was hoping to see a road runner or tortoise if not a coyote or puma, but there was one spectacular feature. As I was taking a picture of the canyon and opposite mountains, I tried to get a lot of "blue sky" as well and the sun was shining. When I took some pictures, although not visible to the naked eye, my photos showed a stream of light from the sun to the earth, and it was repeated on successive photos. Interesting, no one else could either see the stream of light OR duplicate it on their camera.

So we were sitting in the Mirage casino yesterday after dropping off her sister for their flight back to Michigan. Visiting the Beatles Love Show shop and area, and eating our huge pastrami sandwich from Carnegie Deli. We sat down for a few hands of poker and across the screen it flashed the Giants had signed Johnny Cueto. Wow. After losing out on Greinke and maybe 1-2 others, they have now signed 2 free agent starting pitchers. Time will tell if positive results come in, but at least they are trying. Now for a left fielder!

Oh, we also loosely watched the Warriors pull out a double OT win vs Boston to go 24-0 and then it seemed they just not never got rolling in losing to Milwaukee. 24-1 ain't bad though.

And yes for the 10th straight year, local high school De La Salle ventures out to play in the California State bowl games. (I think no one else has more than 6). They are 6-3 so far vs the very best teams talent laden SoCal has to offer. In the first year, 2006, they lost to an inferior team. DLS did not take it too seriously, letting the players practice with their winter sports teams, and even had players taking finals the day of the game. Ouch.  In 2007 they won but in 2008 lost to a superior Centennial team (the same team they beat in 2007). They then rattled off 4 very impressive wins in a row, all over very highly ranked Socal teams  (usually undefeated and ranked in the top ten nationally).  In 2013 they squared off vs #1 ranked St John Bosco, who PROBABLY was the better team, but on the opening kickoff, the DLS star sophomore running back was injured and did not play another down DLS lost 21-16 and had the ball inside the Bosco 40 with about 2 minutes to play but could not go any further. How important was the loss of the RB? Who knows, but in the 2014 state championship game, he rushed for nearly 300 yards AND had a long TD catch AND a 90 yard kickoff return. So next Saturday, DLS plays #1 ranked Centennial, who beat previously #1 ranked Bosco  62-52, scoring 55 points in the first half!  DLS is 3-1 so far vs Centennial in SBG, plus Centennial also lost to Palo Alto in 2010 making them 1-4 in state bowl games. Oh yes, for the first time ever, the games will be held in NorCal instead of SoCal. Go Spartans!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Collating cards ... and the occasional gift

In the old days, SOM cards did not come perforated. They were "cut cards" and were assembled by the game company after collating them from stacks of players. Occasionally, you would get a "double" when two cards of the same player were "stuck together". Quite often you see ebay auctions that will list 21 players for some teams that should of course have 20 players. More often than not it is a double.

I have purchased some complete older seasons recently and have had many dupes in the sets. I think around 7 or 8 total. And even better I think 2 of these are rare XP doubles. Always considered "a gift".

Back in 1971, I encouraged my friend to get Strat-O-Matic and he ordered the 1970 season. He got a double of Willie Mays! Can't get any better than that.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A short history of SOM extra players

Technically (well, sort of)  the first ever set to have "extra players" was the 1968 season which was released in 1969 which had an additional 80 players available as an expansion set for the 4 new expansion teams Royals, Pilots, Padres and Expos. This was the first year there were more than 400 players (480). I was not aware that this set existed until in the early 2000s when I sold most of my stuff then a year or 2 later rebought everything and the expansion players (and the rare original expansion roster sheet) were included in a complete 1968 set I purchased.

The 1969 season set that was released in 1970 came with now 480 players for the base set (due to MLB  expanding from 20 to 24 teams) and 96 more players which could be purchased separately as an "additional players" set for a total of 576 cards which was a whopping 44% increase over the 400 card sets previously available. It was noted that a few named additional players as well as all additional players should be used in "secondary roles". Jim Bouton was not included for either Seattle, Houston or as a traded card (see 1970) despite pitching in 73 combined games and having 122 combined IP

One odd thing I noticed over the years, quite often the additional players seemed to be a different printing from the base teams and would be quite noticeable - do not understand why they were not printed at the same time with the same quality.

In 1971, the 1970 set was released and for the first time, "traded" players were included that had no team name on their card. The 4 cards made that set 580 cards. In the first of a series of odd choices, Rod Carew (.366 in 204 PA) was made an XP for the Twins while Rich Renick (.229 in 204 PA) was made part of the base 20 main team. Of course this was not know to you until you received the cards and roster sheet. Tony Gonzalez was included as XP with the Angels (92 AB) but not at all with the Braves (430 AB). Weird, I believe this was corrected with the 1970 recreated set.

The 1971 set had the 576 players but in 1972 there were 2 traded and players and I believe for the first time, one player (Duke Sims) had 2 cards, one for each league, not listed as either a base team  member or an additional player so both Cleveland and the Dodgers would have 25 players. The other 2 traded cards Matty Alou and Dal Maxvill became late season members of the world champion A's. Maxvill had 8 AB in the ALCS vs Detroit and Matty Alou had significant playing time subbing for an injured Reggie Jackson in the world series.

1973 was weird in a couple of ways. First, 2 NY Yankee outfielders were traded late in the season and were left off the base Yankee team, (Matty and Felipe Alou) and if you did not buy the additional players your Yankee team was really short of outfielders. Instead of Matty (538 PA for NYY) and Felipe (293 PA for NYY as OF/1B) you had the likes of Celerino Sanchez (67 total PA) and Otto Velez (92 total PA) and Mike Hegan (143 PA for NYY as a 1B) making the BASE team for NYY.  Second, Jim Kaat was traded from the Twins to the White Sox and he had a combined 224 IP but was not included in the base teams or as a traded player but an additional player for the White Sox which made no sense at all. He had over 180 IP for the Twins and 41 for the ChiSox but was made an XP for the White Sox??? He should not have been an XP (again a lot of us back then did not buy the additional players) so a key pitcher in the AL with 28 decisions and 224 IP would not be in our sets. Oh by the way, XP is short for "extra players".

But we are not done for 1973, Bob Didier a reserve catcher who hit .455 in about 22 AB was included in the main set of 20 players for Detroit, but instead of using his 1973 stats and issuing him a card, they substituted his 1971 card (where he hit .219). You always see eBay listing for the 1973 Tigers that list 19 of 20 cards or 23 of 24 cards as the Didier card has "1971" listed as the year on his card and many assume that the card was accidentally placed in the wrong year. Weird on SOM to do this.

1974 had 4 traded cards available with the Additional players set, again it was weird to have Frank Robinson with 579 PA and traded within league to only be available as an XP (you usually don't see someone with 22 HR, tied for 6th in the league, as an XP).  Same for Alex Johnson who had 514 PA who was also traded in league. Also there was a sentence or 2 saying Herb Washington may be added to Oakland's roster as a pinch runner with a stealing rating of A and running rating of 1-17. Also, like Didier in 1973, Philadelphia's Terry Harmon's card was based on his 1973 stats (he had just 15 AB in 1974).  This card would result in the same confusion for eBay auctions that would list the Phillies with 19 of 20 cards or 23 of 24 cards.

1975 had just one traded player - Deron Johnson.

1976 had no traded cards - but had this time two A's pinch runners (Matt Alexander and Larry Lintz) who could be A 1-17 base runners. Plus there was available separately a 40 player expansion set for Toronto and Seattle.

1977 had 5 traded players and Lintz and Alexander again could be added as pinch runners etc. 3 players were advised to be used in secondary roles as their over use would change the team's results and it was noted that "due to the fact that Oakland sold or traded most of their pitchers, Dave Giusti is being included as an extra player (for Oakland) even though he finished the season with Chicago. Baltimore, Texas, Toronto, St. Louis and the Dodgers all had 5 XP vs the usual 4. Another odd choice for XP was Dwight Evans who hit 14 home runs and slugged .526 in 265 PA for the Red Sox while light hitting Rick Miller who had 220 PA and slugged .333 was on the base team. There was also Bernie Carbo who hit 15 HR and slugged .522 in 276 PA but for the group of 3, they took the 2 LH hitters (to go with Lynn and Yaz - plus Rice) giving them 4 out of 5 LH OF, Evans would  have been a very worthwhile choice.

1978 had no traded cards and all teams had 4 XP.

For 1979, the Yankees, Tigers and Mets had 5 XP while the Cubs had six(!) due in part to three players having cards in both leagues - plus there were three traded (no team) cards.

I guess I will stop here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Roster Sheets

I think (not sure) when I first started gaming in the late 60s and early 70s, I used to treat the SOM roster sheets that came with the game the same way I treated checklists with baseball cards. I either ignored them, discarded them, and definitely undervalued them.

Later, when I became a serious collector, I realized their true value and recognized they are a MUST HAVE for collecting teams and sets.

I even now don't want any old roster sheet, but ones that are clean, crisp, with no rips or tears (common) and definitely no ink, felt pen, or highlighter markings.

Maybe 10-12 years ago (or maybe longer than that), I even bought 8.5 x 14 protector sheets (and an accompanying 8.5 x 14 binder) to store those roster sheets that were that size, starting with the 1977 season roster sheet and also including many recreated roster sheets.

I keep my main set of roster sheets in a normal 8.5x11 binder and of course the larger ones in the larger binder.

The Oldtimers (I think) started out as 6 or 12 team sets. I have roster sheets for 20 teams, 28 teams, 34 teams (very rare) and of course 42 teams. Every time they added more teams, they just crammed them onto the same 2 page oldtimer roster sheet. The 20 team sheet had 10 teams on each side of the sheet. When they went to 28 teams (my first set)  they went to 14 teams on each side, somewhat reducing the size for each team. In 1974 they added the 6 1900-1910 teams and now with 34 teams they went to 14 teams on the front but a whopping 20 teams on the back. The teams are so tiny on the back you can hardly read them. This roster sheet was only available in 1974 and 1975 and is very rare, I was looking for one for YEARS until I finally found one on eBay 2-3 years ago. At this point, they should have expanded to 3-4 pages, not cramming 34 teams onto just 2 pages. And then in 1976, with the 1920-30B set of 8 teams they went to 42 teams. They kept 14 teams on the front page (but changed the page from portrait to landscape). And they stuffed 28 teams on the back page, also going from portrait to landscape. They EASILY should have decided to go to at least 4 pages. Sheesh. 

I currently have roster sheets going back to the original 1963 season and my collection includes the original roster sheets for the 1968-69 expansion set (ultra rare) and the 1976-77 expansion set (somewhat RARE).

Up until about the 1990 season, the roster sheets would have the "sales" year listed on top of the roster sheet instead of the statistical year. For example,  the 1968 stat season would have a roster sheet that said "1969 rosters". This can get confusing especially for novices or those not familiar with the game. It is very common to see eBay listings for example that say "1973 Strat-O-Matic teams" when they are in fact 1972 teams.

Even the game company does not get it right. The roster sheet archive on their website has many of the same errors, for example the "1989 roster" is actually for the 1988 stat season. When they started matching the actual year on the roster sheet to the actual stat year (apparently starting with the 1990 stat season) this ended the confusion. And they actually would say "1990 season roster" instead of the previous "1990 roster". As it is they do not have a 1989 season roster on the site. In addition, most of the 1960s and 1970s roster sheets on their site are the newer recreated advanced or super advanced versions ... seeing/getting an original version that came with the original versions are basically nil.

I recently wrote them a letter advising them of these "mistakes" and offering my original roster sheets (and the 2 expansion roster sheets) if they wanted them, have not heard back yet.

They may not be interested in these as they may want to market towards games and sets they can still sell and I acknowledged that in my letter.