Thursday, November 26, 2020

Sweeping up the Leaves

Last weekend the Mrs. and I mowed, blowed, and raked the leaves from our lawn. While I was in the front yard I witnessed a high-speed chase. Some genius had apparently stolen a car and drove it the wrong way down our one-way street. A cop car followed closely behind. "High speed" might be misleading, since the suspect was dragging a bag of (not my) leaves on the front of (not his) car. The two cars were probably traveling about 30 mph when the pursuit led them off our street and toward the park. I heard two more sirens and then no sirens so their pursuit didn't last much longer.

What does this have to do with 1993? Nothing really, except that I was picking up leaves at the time. And, coincidentally, I had just made a trade for most of the 1993 Leaf cards remaining on my want list.

World Series hero Joe Carter was one of the 29 set fillers I acquired in a trade with TCDB user rencherg. Most of them went to my second set, though a few were brand new to my collection.

Dave Hollins was one of the new-to-me singles. Jose Lind was another. I only need these two and Ken Griffey, Jr. to complete a second 'main' set - though I plan to upgrade the Jay Buhner and Pat Listach cards:

This was a fairly big trade, much more than my usual PWE swap. That's because Rencher needed 55 of my Topps flagship dupes from 2016-2018. I also sent him 1993 Leaf extras of Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson, and Robin Ventura. In addition to the set fillers I picked out some 1993 Upper Deck cards.

Jack Morris is the only Hall of Famer among these five, which would probably sound strange to someone in 1993. (Dwight Gooden and Lou Whitaker didn't make it?) Gary Sheffield could join Jack one day - if we all decide to overlook things like PED use and quitting on your team.

The rest of the baseball cards I acquired are not from 1993, but I might have to use this blog for trade posts since The Collector is planning some kind of Football Week event. I was thrilled to pick up some 2018 Topps Chrome cards, including some guys for my All-Time Teams project (in case I give up on the set build.) I don't plan on building the 1994 Leaf set (perhaps one day?) but these guys are ATT reps, too. And then there's the Chief Wahoo logo. I have a bunch of 1999 Victory football helmet cards and thought I'd start adding the baseball logos to my collection. 1999 Victory is a really nice low-end set that I didn't appreciate at the time because I was too focused on Finest.

Some 1991 football cards - all Hall of Famers except Randall Cunningham. I had a near-set of 1990-91 Skybox but I broke it up. It was only the main set, so I missed out on HOFer Alex English and these logo cards:

Series II would have been pretty pointless without these beauties. The coach cards were neat, too, but less of a novelty at the time. 

I'll have more TCDB trade posts in the next week or two, and if they feature at least one card from 1993 I'll post 'em here. Hopefully I'll get back to posting some music/entertainment/news things here, too.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

1992-93 Topps Archives Basketball (and a trip to the HOF)

 Here's a neat little set I've been building through TCDB trades.

In 1992-93 Topps returned to the basketball card market, producing NBA sets for the first time in over a decade. In addition to a 396-card flagship set and a 400-card Stadium Club set, Topps filled in the gaps of their "lost decade" with this 150-card Archives offering. The title is a bit misleading; nowadays the Topps Archives brand recycles past designs they used for earlier sets of the same sport. Since there were no Topps basketball cards from 1982-1991 the familiar baseball designs were used for this Archives set.

The first eleven cards depict each year's #1 overall pick using an original design slightly reminiscent of Stadium Club. A recap of that year's first round is on the back, using the front photo in the background.

The set starts with 1981 #1 pick Mark Aguirre, and the timeline starts with his draft year. Topps did produce a 1981-82 basketball card set - but 1981 draft picks were not included. Therefore, eleven of the top players from that draft are featured in a modified 1981 Topps baseball design:

Not only did Topps assign each subject a design from their draft year, they appear to have selected photos from each player's rookie season. In that case the "Archives" name is certainly appropriate.

I have 65 of the 150 cards in this set - and not one of them are from the 1982 portion. So let's skip ahead to 1983:

Aside from the 1981 design, every other subset looks exactly like its baseball counterpart. Of course the colors pop a little more on these, and the cardstock is smoother.

I have just three cards from the 1984 section, including one that arrived in a trade with TCDB user RefsInTheBack. Randy collects cards with referees in the background, as shown on Stockton's card. I did not acquire this card from him; the Bowie was part of our trade.

Obviously Michael Jordan's card is in the 1984 section. I have to assume that it's responsible for sealed boxes of this set selling for $100 or more since there are no rookie cards or autographs to be had and the only insert you can pull is a gold parallel (I have just one, a Kenny Smith from the 1987 section.)

There are an inconsistent number of cards within each "missing" year, based on how many players from that draft class were active in 1992-93.

For example, there are 17 subjects using the 1985 Topps baseball design, and 12 in the 1986 portion.

This was the draft year of Len Bias and many other players who struggled with drug addition.

The 1987 Topps baseball design looks even better with basketball players. Must be that hardwood finish. It's a damn shame we never got to see Bias teamed up with Reggie Lewis, who also died far too young.

Here's Harvey Grant, a year later than his brother Horace. Whoever said White Men Can't Jump never met Thunder Dan.

1989 might be my least favorite flagship baseball design but it looks a little better in Archives.

1990 was the first year I paid any attention to the NBA draft. I managed to trade for the Dennis Scott twice in the same week because the first trader took so long to respond. 

Archives concludes with nine players from the 1991 Draft and two checklists.

This is a low priority set for me, in that I trade for these when I can't find anything else I need on someone's trade list. I think I'd enjoy it a lot more if the cards weren't so condition sensitive. I've got a lot of worn corners, some scratched copies, and a few with some paper loss or "snow", likely from bricking. 

If you have any cards from this set (in any condition) let me know. My wantlist is posted on TCDB.

***Bonus Ball***

Among the boxes of papers I brought home when my mom moved in September were two pamphlets from my visit to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. You can tell by her handwriting on the front when we visited the museum:

I asked her to find pictures of our trip but she didn't come across any and I didn't want to make her go crazy. So I'll just open these up and give you a little look at what the Basketball Hall was like 27 years ago:

Here's a map of all the exhibits. I'm sure 90% of this has changed since that summer.

I scanned the back mostly for the suggestion side: what will the Hall look like in the year 2000?

The other pamphlet is just a membership offer. I have no idea why we saved it, but it's got Michael Jordan on it, so it must be worth something lol.

Have you been to any sports Halls of Fame? If so, how long ago?

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, November 8, 2020

This Ain't A Scene, It's A Goals Race

Expansion teams often cause a statistical spike in a player's performance. In 1961 Roger Maris, Norm Cash, and other baseball stars had career years as the Angels and Senators entered the MLB. The Devil Rays and Diamondbacks began play in 1998, and not coincidentally home runs increased (though there were ::ahem:: other factors that led to that Long Gone Summer.) 

I hadn't given much thought to this correlation in other sports, so let's explore that here.

The NHL is notorious for (over)expanding, and in 1992-93 Tampa Bay and Ottawa entered the NHL, bringing the league to a nice even number of 24 teams. The San Jose Sharks were in their second season and so superstar scorers like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Brett Hull had three weak teams on which to feast. 

The Lightning weren't terrible in 1992-93, winning 23 games and earning 53 points in their inaugural season. Tampa finished last in the Norris Division but their wins/points exceeded the total of the Senators and Sharks combined

Eric Lindros entered the league during this season, and if a first-year player was going to score 50, 60, or even 70 goals surely it would be the most hyped prospect since Mario Lemieux. Furthermore, if an established veteran player was going to score 70 (or more) in this season, surely it would be Lemieux -- assuming he could stay healthy.

Brett Hull had scored 72, 86, and 70 goals in the three previous seasons. In an expansion year he could easily tally 80. Also, the schedule expanded to 84 games and the New Jersey Devils hadn't yet ruined hockey with their offense-stifling neutral zone trap which they definitely invented because they weren't very talented /S.

 In summation, someone was about to score a ton of goals.

Superstar scorers did indeed take advantage of these offense-friendly conditions. In 1991-92 nine players scored over 100 points. Three players - Lemieux, Gretzky, and Kevin Stevens - tallied over 120 points. 

In the 1992-93 season ten players scored more than 120 points. 21 players broke the century mark, and five players lit the lamp at least 60 times. Wayne Gretzky wasn't one of them; a back injury limited him to a career-low 45 games and he'd already become more of a playmaker than a scorer. 

Brett Hull didn't score 60 goals in '92-93, either. The only player to net more than 54 goals in the previous season, the "Golden Brett" tallied 54 - which was barely enough to crack the top ten. Perhaps he didn't have the same chemistry with newly-acquired center Craig Janney than he'd had with Hall of Famer Adam Oates. 

Eric Lindros didn't light the lamp 60 times in his freshman season. He didn't light the lamp 50 times. Lindros tallied 41 goals - an impressive total for a first-year player, and the third-highest output of his career. While everyone in the hockey world surely expected him to earn Rookie of the Year honors before the 1992-93 season began, the Calder trophy would be awarded to a sniper who nearly doubled Eric's goal total.

Now that we've discussed some of the usual suspects who weren't major players in the 1992-93 NHL goals race, let's look at the five contenders for the goal scoring crown (for which there is now an actual trophy.)

Pavel Bure won the Calder trophy in 1991-92 after scoring 34 goals in 65 games. At age 21, the "Russian Rocket" set the league ablaze with 60 markers in his sophomore season of '92-93. Bure would score 60 more the following season, which was good enough to lead the league in 1993-94. The Hall of Fame sniper would post three more 50-goal seasons in his injury-shortened career but didn't quite reach 60 goals again.

Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille his high-water mark in 1992-93, scoring ten more goals than his previous career high. The L.A. Kings' superstar served as team captain in Gretzky's absence, leading the team in goals with 63 and assists with 62."Lucky Luc" feasted on the second-year Sharks, scoring eight goals in seven games against their California competitors. He tallied two against Ottawa and one against Tampa.

Mario Lemieux didn't need expansion teams to pad his stats, he simply needed to stay healthy.

"Super Mario" scored in each of his first twelve games, ending November with 29 goals in 26 games. Bure wasn't far behind with 24 in 25 contests. The 1993 goals race was Lemieux's to lose, until the legendary center was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in January of 1993. 

Despite a two-month hiatus limiting him to 60 games Mario still managed to score 69 goals - a total that projects to an astounding 96 had he suited up for all 84 games. The NHL's MVP scored 55 points in 20 games after returning - enough to earn him the Art Ross trophy as the league's leading point scorer but not enough to lead the league in goals.

And so the goal scoring race would come down to two surprise finalists: Buffalo's Alexander Mogilny and Winnipeg rookie Teemu Selanne.

Both players were drafted in 1988. Selanne was the Jets' first round pick (10th overall), while the Sabres selected Mogilny in the fifth round. The 89th overall pick made his NHL debut in '89 after defecting from the Soviet Union. Selanne stayed in his native Finland through the 1991-1992 season, representing Suomi in the Winter Olympics. He scored his first NHL goal against the Sharks. 

Mogilny had two Hall of Fame linemates feeding him the puck. Pat LaFontaine was acquired from the Islanders early in the 1991-92 season. Dave Andreychuk was a power-play specialist in the midst of back-to-back 50-goal seasons when he was traded to Toronto in February 1993. Buffalo also boasted former Jets superstar Dale Hawerchuk, who dished out a career-high 80 assists in the 1992-93 season.

The Jets didn't have nearly as much firepower surrounding their young star. Offensive defenseman Phil Housley (acquired in the Hawerchuk trade) was their leading scorer in the prior two seasons. Setting up Selanne - and fellow rookie stars Keith Tkachuk and Alex Zhamnov - earned Housley a career-high 97 points.

By the All-Star break, Winnipeg had become "Team Teemu" and Mogilny (briefly known as "Magic" IIRC) had already scored his 50th goal. On March 1st Pavel Bure scored his 50th and 51st goals, tying him with Selanne for second place. Mogilny was way out in front with 63, but Selanne was about to heat up.

In the final month of the season Mogilny was running out of gas. The Russian winger tallied two goals against Tampa on March 20th, giving him a total of 71 goals in 71 team games.

Selanne had kicked off a nine-game goal scoring streak a week earlier, which ended on April 3rd. By then he had scored his 73rd goal, pulling him within one goal of catching Mogilny.

There was no Goals Race listing in the sports page like there would be for a home run race, at least no sports page that I read, so I had to check the individual box scores every night. This was difficult as Sabres games would appear but Jets listings often looked like this:

Los Angeles at Winnipeg late

Selanne took the lead with a goal against Toronto five days later. Mogilny was mired in his worst goal-less drought of the season (six games) entering the final day of the season. How would this race end?

Here's Mike Tirico with the highlights:

Thanks for joining me on this special season review. I assure you the next post here will be much, much shorter.


Saturday, November 7, 2020


The last time an incumbent U.S. President lost an election was 1992

Bill Clinton took the oath of office on January 20th, 1993.

If you watch this short clip you'll notice two prominent politicians on either side of President Clinton. By his side is of course his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. I don't have to tell you that she lost the 2016 Presidential election to our current POTUS, Donald Trump.

Bill Clinton's opponent in the 1992 election is also present. I can't imagine there being any doubt at the time that George H.W. Bush would attend the swearing in of his successor. Sadly, I can't imagine Trump doing the same. 

Joe Biden will be the oldest President in American history. Kamala Harris will be the first female Vice President in American history, in addition to becoming the first non-white VP.

More history has been made in this election, as Biden has already received the most votes of any U.S. presidential candidate (and we won't know the final total for quite some time.)  Due to the record turnout, Trump's total in this election -- which he lost -- will be the second-largest in American history, passing Barack Obama's victorious total in 2008.

Good job America! Now let's all hope for a peaceful transfer of power to the President-Elect and Madam Vice President-Elect - as there was in 1993, and every other American election (including 2016.)

Thanks for reading!