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.
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:
Jeff’s first professional card. He never was much for smiling for the photographer.
Note the smile. Of all the Jeff Innis cards in my collection, this is the only one that features a real smile.
This, on the other hand, is the worst portrait shot on any of the cards in my collection. It looks like a mugshot.
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.
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.
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.
The one Jeff Innis Barry Colla postcard in my collection. For some reason, Jeff is posing with Darren Reed’s glove.
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.
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.
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.
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.