A few of my favorite things….

It’s time for the second Blog Bat Around, and this time Gellman is asking us to show off the centerpiece of our collections.

1969 Topps Buddy Harrelson

1969 Topps Buddy Harrelson

Believe it or not, this is a bit of a puzzler for me. My current collecting is focused on obtaining autographs from all the players who ever played for the Mets… I’m actually doing pretty well. I have 556 different players represented in my collection. But the biggies in team history — Tom Seaver, Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges and Mike Piazza — are not among them. Hodges and Stengel probably never will be. So it’s a bit tough for me to pick a centerpiece there.

I’m also collecting unsigned Mets cards. I have nearly* every regular issue Topps Mets card since I was born, and I’m working on the older ones. I do have the full 1969 team set, and I’m tempted to choose that as my centerpiece. It’s from the year the Mets first won the World Series, and I have some nice memories of putting the set together. (My Dad gave me several of the cards — including Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan.) But it just doesn’t feel right… I never got to see most of those guys play, and I’ve only seen video of the 1969 World Series.

* I’m not quite sure how to deal with that Alay Soler shortprint Topps included as a gimmick card in the 2006 set.

The more I think about it, the easier it becomes to identify the centerpiece of my collection. Most people focus on the stars, but my collection is really more about the “other guys.” They’re more fun. You expect greatness out of a guy like Mike Piazza or Carlos Beltran, so more often then not, you’ll be disappointed.

Guys like Endy Chavez and Alay Soler really don’t foster those kind of expectations… so when you see an amazing (at the time) gamesaving catch, or watch a miraculous one-hitter it becomes something to remember.

So I focus on the other guys. I get excited to see guys like Claudio Vargas and Robinson Cancel on a checklist, because I want to see every Met get a card.

The centerpiece of my collection is my Jeff Innis player collection. Innis was a middle reliever for seven seasons with the Mets. His first full season was 1991, when he became the poster boy for obscurity. He became the first pitcher in Major League history to appear in 60 or more games in a season without recording a win, loss or save.

I didn’t really become a fan until 1992, though. The Mets were supposed to be great that year. They brought in stars like Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray and Bret Saberhagen… and they finished with a 72-90 record. Through it all, Jeff Innis went out there just about every other day and pitched, setting a team record with 76 appearances. Unlike most of the rest of his teammates, Innis had a pretty good year. He gave me somebody to root for on an awful team, and I started collecting his cards.

Beckett’s online database has 87 Jeff Innis cards listed. I have nearly all of them, plus a few that Beckett doesn’t recognize. (I wound up having to buy duplicate Kahn’s Mets sets to get an Innis card for my player collection since I didn’t want to break up the set in my team binder, so I’d also put the team photo card in the Innis binder if I could spot him.)

I’m missing a bunch of Barry Colla postcards, the 1990 Upper Deck error card that pictures (if memory serves) David West, and the 1991 Topps Tiffany card. I think I have all the others, though after Christmas I plan to go through their checklist and make sure — and see if I can’t fill in a few of those holes.

Here are a few of my favorites:

 

1984 Jackson Mets

1984 Jackson Mets

Jeff’s first professional card. He never was much for smiling for the photographer. 

 

1986 Jackson Mets

1986 Jackson Mets

Note the smile. Of all the Jeff Innis cards in my collection, this is the only one that features a real smile.

 

1989 Tidewater Tides (ProCards)

1989 Tidewater Tides (ProCards)

This, on the other hand, is the worst portrait shot on any of the cards in my collection. It looks like a mugshot.

 

1988 Topps Traded

1988 Topps Traded

In the big leagues, sometimes they use action shots. This is one of Jeff’s two rookie cards (the other came in the Fleer Update set). It’s the first time one of his baseball cards uses an action shot.

jeff-innistv

1990 Topps TV

Back to the posed shots. I’m not entirely sure how this set was orginally sold… maybe on one of the home shopping channels? It featured everybody that went to spring training with the Mets in 1990, along with the entire coaching staff. A neat idea that I wish would be repeated.

 

1991 Topps Stadium Club Pre-Production

1991 Topps Stadium Club Pre-Production

I’m not sure where these came from, either. It’s a 1991 Stadium Club card minus the gold foil and the gloss finish. One (or more) of the hobby dealers got ahold of these from somewhere and sold them as pre-production cards back during the early 1990s.

 

1991 Barry Colla postcard

1991 Barry Colla postcard

The one Jeff Innis Barry Colla postcard in my collection. For some reason, Jeff is posing with Darren Reed’s glove.

 

 

1992 Topps Micro

1992 Topps Micro

I really should have scanned this one against the standard 1992 Topps card so you could appreciate the size — it’s just a smidge taller than a standard postage stamp. I don’t have a clue what made Topps produce these Micro sets or who bought them — besides dedicated player collectors, that is.

 

1993 Kahn's Mets

1993 Kahn's Mets

I think this may have been the last card produced of Jeff during his Major League playing career. From 1988 through 1993, and again in 1995 and 1996, Kahn’s produced a giveaway set with all of the Mets players and coaches. The 1989 cards were ridiculously common, and the 1988, 1990 and 1991 sets were fairly easy to find. After that, they seemed to be a bit scarce. 

 

1994 Fleer

1994 Fleer

One of Jeff’s last cards. I like the closeup action photo and the simple set design.

After 1993, he was non-tendered and no one wanted to give him a Major League contract. He split 1994 between the Salt Lake Buzz and the Las Vegas Stars, then finished his pro career in 1995 with the Scranton Wilke-Barre Red Barons. As far as I know, he didn’t appear on cards with any of those teams.

jeff-innisbw

Of course, I don’t just have baseball cards. I’ve got a selection of black & white photos printed as postcards, a game-worn light warmup jacket, a game-worn road jersey, a cracked spring training bat and a pair of batting gloves… not to mention about a dozen autographs and other assorted odds and ends.

To me, the amazing part about this collection is that I was able to put it together back before the Internet was a big deal. The more common items were obtained through packs or local card shows. The rarer things were purchased from dealers who advertised in Sports Collectors Digest. Once I reached the point that I had most of them, I advertised in the back of SCD looking for oddball Jeff Innis items.

While I have no plans to sell any of my autographs or Mets cards, I can say without a doubt the I’d never let go of my Jeff Innis collection… I don’t think it would mean anything to anyone else.

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About Paul

Star Wars fan, NY Mets enthusiast, toy collector & amateur gardener. I like to take pictures & write things.

Posted on December 13, 2008, in Baseball Cards and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. There is definitely something fun about rooting for a guy on the fringe. One of my favorite players to collect growing up was John Mabry of the Cardinals. He had a decent career but after his first 3-4 years, he was done as a regular. So I know exactly what you mean.

    It’s fun collecting these guys. Maybe it’s just fun appreciating something that has no real “value” on the open market. The value becomes sentimental.

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  2. Also, that 1993 Kahn’s is just an awesome card. It’s like a cross between a playing card and a zoomed out, blurred, Stadium Club card.

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    • I do like that 1993 Kahn’s card. I wanted to show off one of the Kahn’s cards, and that had the most interesting design/photo combination.

      I was this close to starting a Joe Smith player collection. Maybe it’s better I didn’t, though. Of the 209 cards in Beckett’s database, there are 79 1/1’s and another 20 short runs (numbered to 10 or less). It takes a lot of the fun away when you realize there’s no way you’ll ever come close to completing a collection like that.

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  3. Nice post. I went through a similar struggle with my blog bat-around post idea(which I haven’t written yet), and came up with something a little different.

    Too bad Jeff Innis doesn’t have a jersey card. That’d be nice to add to the collection (or maybe he does — I’m just guessing that they’re not making jersey cards of everyday relievers from the early ’90s)

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    • I’m not really missing the jersey cards, to be honest. I have one of his real (full) road jerseys, and I’d like to try to get a home jersey at some point.

      I don’t think the relic cards hit until 1996 or 1997, and so far Jeff hasn’t gotten any cards since his retirement. (Not that I completely count out the possibility… 1980s/90s backup catcher Barry Lyons found his way into one of the Topps Fan Favorites sets.)

      I’ve been enjoying the blog bat around posts I’ve read so far, and I look forward to seeing more this week. I know I had fun writing mine (once I figured out what I was going to write about, that is. 😉 )

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  4. 79 1/1’s in Joe Smith’s collection?! That’s like 40% of his cards! I’ve never heard of such a thing.

    And what in the world ARE those 1 of 1 cards? Christmas cards? Unauthorized cards?

    Shoot, if I Goose Joak’ed a Joe Smith card, it’d be just as legitimate as 40% of the cards ever made of him.

    P.S. Tomorrow’s gonn’ be Lima Time

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  5. A good chunk of those 1/1 Joe Smith cards are printing plate cards. I’m not really a big fan of them, to tell the truth. (Not that I’d turn my nose up at one of a Mets player if I happened to pull it.)

    I’d rather have the unauthorized cards that you used to run across in the 80s. Some of those Broders cards had some nice photography. 😉

    I’m looking forward to seeing Lima Time.

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  6. Hi there. I just purchased a team set of player cards by Barry Colla that where sent to fans who wrote to the players from I believe 1986. The players are daqrrly Strawberry, Dwight Gooden mookie wilson and on and on… Does anyone know what the cards are called? I cant find any info of them on the web. Also, does anyone their value? Thanks for reading and go Mets in 11′!

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    • Do your postcards have a pre-printed message on the back thanking you for writing but saying that the player gets too much mail to respond individually?
      The team-issue Barry Colla postcards will.

      They are rarely found as complete sets and were primarily distributed in response to fanmail autograph requests. I’ve seen individual postcards go for between 50 cents and $10 or more, depending on the player and whether it was autographed.

      I think it’s more likely that you have a set of postcards put out by TCMA in 1985 or 1986. You can find them for under $10 per set on eBay.

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  1. Pingback: Virtual Card of the Day: 2008 Topps J.J. Putz « Paul’s Random Stuff

  2. Pingback: Card of the Day: 1991 Topps Tiffany Jeff Innis « Paul’s Random Stuff

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