With that to start off my visit, I was sure to go whole hog. I’m not even going to wait to jump into it, so I’ll just show off the Bagwell relic that I snagged for cheap right away. If you look at the bottom corners of the star, you’ll notice the hint of a pinstripe down there.
This entry was originally going to be about three or four separate posts, but it’s No. 150, so let’s pile the whole thing in together! Get ready for a doozy, y’all.
This trip was vintage-heavy, and strong. You’ll see. I picked up some of my old favorites, like these two Stargells here. I love those old Pirates sleeveless jerseys, but man, that ’65 with the windbreaker underneath it is pretty atrocious. The card is stellar, though. 1970 is a set with which I’ve fallen deeply in love. It’s so simple.
Booooooooog!!! Who doesn’t love Boog Powell? No, not that minor league kid, I mean this big lovable beast. When I was collecting as a kid, I made sure to pick up a few nice vintage Powell’s as I gathered Hall of Famers. So when I saw some swell Boog cards as I was rifling through boxes, I snapped them up for my collection.
1973 is another of my favorite sets, and probably yours. So I took a quick look through the box and nabbed a few more Hall of Fame favorites, like Brooks Robinson and the Killer.
Marichal isn’t necessarily one of my favorites, but I think this guy was only 50 cents with the sale. I flipped through the oddball box and scooped up this Vida Blue 1977 cloth sticker.
In that same box I found a stack of the 1968 Topps Game inserts, and quickly pulled up my checklist to see who I still lacked. I managed to add four more to the set, with Brooks Robinson and Gene Alley leading the way.
Joe Torre and Pete Rose round out the bunch. Aside from centering, these are all in fantastic shape.
More Boog! I wasn’t about to let some Deckled Edge cards slip through my fingers. I think my stack had grown significantly by this point, so I only picked up a few, including Powell of course. I added a young Felipe Alou, potentially to send for an autograph, and the Rusty Staub for my Astros collection.
If I haven’t said it before – and I believe I have – I’ve begun collecting an assortment of oddball pitchers. One of the most notable among these is Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. Two birds in my collection are worth, well, I think these cost about a dollar.
The other two big names in my eccentric pitchers collection are Dock Ellis – famous for his LSD no-hitter, and Bill “Spaceman” Lee, who should need no introduction. Ellis has a little more than 50 cards out there, and Lee just under 80, so I think these are personal collections I may be able to tackle.
The 1978 set has really grown on me as well, and I think it’s because I spent so much time trying to recreate it in custom format. One of the things I like about it so much is that it is a very clean design, much like the 1976 cards. So when the biggest ‘fro in the business popped up in the box, I took the Gamble. Sad Al Oliver was too good to pass up as well. How can someone playing with Pops look so down? Is this the saddest a baseball player has looked on a card?
Meanwhile, these two pickups were for autographing purposes. Brent Strom is the Astros current pitching guru. He was with the club in the 90’s as well (under Terry Collins I believe), and is actually depicted in Astros gear on a Mother’s Cookies coaches card that I need to get. Finding a nice vintage piece of cardboard with him was pretty cool.
I’ve been meaning to write to Bobby Valentine for a while now, he’s a pretty solid TTM signer via the university that he coaches. I can’t say too much about this card other than he’s a strapping young lad here and it’s super-clean.
I’ll likely revisit my custom version of the ’78 cards, with a few updates. I would make the border and team name correspond to the team colors – Bobby’s card does, but the Astros are like green and pink – and probably add a team logo to the front somewhere. I did tinker with a horizontal version of the card that I rather liked. If anyone knows a good script font that corresponds to the team names, let me know.
I wasn’t about to let this visit roll by without seriously attacking the 1974 set that I’m trying to finish, especially with cards at half price. I went into the shop with about 30 cards left on my list, mostly bigger names, the Winfield rookie, and about half of the “Washington Nat’l Team” Padres cards, plus a few errors.
Well, I made good on 10 more of those cards, leaving me currently with 17 left to go. Nine are the Washington variations that the shop didn’t have, two more are error cards of the rookies.
The 1974 set starts off with a several card salute to Hank Aaron, and I managed to pick up the last three cards I needed.
Being that we are in Texas, the Nolan Ryan card is just about always overvalued. I was happy to finally lock that one down. This bunch of cards was heavy on the Hall of Famers.
1974 is an advancement over 1973, which has excellent posed shots and some atrocious action shots. The action photography is a bit better across the ’74 set, as illustrated in this Tom Seaver card.
Most of the shots are still posed, however – and they look damn good. Check out that second year Schmidt! It seems that Topps had their photographers focus on better action shots of pitchers, as you’ll notice that the Carlton is the third pitcher you’ve seen actually on the mound.
This young Evans was the sole non-Hall of Famer in my ’74 purchase. You’ve gotta love that big bat barrell Yaz card, too. I know I lucked into finding a fairly complete set to start me off (about 100 cards short), but the borders and flags of the ’74 set have a really nice vibe.
As for the big names I’m still missing, there’s the aforementioned Winfield rookie, which tends to go for around $50 and will likely be the last card I bring home. Other notables are Reggie Jackson, Dave Parker, Thurman Munson, and Bob Gibson. I’m still hunting down two error variations of the 4-man rookie cards late in the set. There’s also a checklist out there that’s eluded me.
More ’78s – see what I mean with the green and pink? That’s awful.
I picked up a few ’79s as well, including these two lovely shots of Watson and Howe at the plate. Look at all the straining in Howe’s neck!
Ok, so this here Cheo Cruz isn’t an Astro card. But it’s his rookie, so I had to get it. That’s a thick ol’ Chris Burke Bowman card, one of the few non-vintage items I picked up in this visit.
Oh, and did I mention I found some minis? I’ve got about half of the minis for the team set, and the Cruz is the only card I lack in full size.
So with all that in hand, I was just about ready to check out, but the owner was stuck talking to someone. I browsed around some more, flipping through binders of assorted things, when out popped these beauties.
I took the lot up to the counter, (there’s a few more that aren’t depicted here) and inquired. He pulled out the old Standard Catalog to see which, if any, of these commanded a premium, and told me that Hank would be three bucks, this phenomenal Clemente would be five, and the rest were a buck each. I went back to the binder and found a few more, and I think he wound up selling me a dozen for ten bucks.
That was a truly fantastic find.
I paid for my cards and walked out the door, a mixture of elation and despair, believing that I had just made the final trip to a card shop in Houston in my life. I sat in my car and pored over my cards momentarily, and sighed deeply. Sports Collectibles of Houston was a great shop. They didn’t get a ton of new product in, but I wasn’t there for the new product. I was there for the discount bin, and the shelves upon shelves upon shelves of vintage cardboard.
Fortunately, the fates shone down upon me, and not two days later I was alerted to one remaining shop in Houston, one which my furious googling had failed to reveal. But that’s another story for another post.
If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me on the long read.