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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cooperstown Cards: CMC Finds in a Box

When I got looking through a big box of cards, it would probably be helpful to have a big CMC checklist right there with me, preferably searchable.

Considering there are 880 cards in the CMC set, with closer to 900 total players, that's a lot of names to remember. Especially when I'm searching a box for those players in other sets.

I, of course, knew a few by name. There are the more famous ones, like Frank Thomas and Bernie Williams. Those actually are probably the most likely to show up in random dealer's box. But sometimes there's some extra ones, and sometimes there's ones I pick up by accident.

I mention this because I'm getting back to our October trip to Cooperstown and the cards I picked up then. There's still a few cards I haven't gotten to yet. These are the CMC players I dug out of of a big box in a shop on Cooperstown's main drag, just down the street from the Hall of Fame. And I dug through this box all while my wife patiently waited outside. Thankfully, it was a nice day.

Probably one of the easiest players to find in a box like that is Thomas, the White Sox' first pick in the 1989 draft. He made the CMC set as a member of the AA Birmingham Barons and he took off from there. He ended up with 521 major league home runs by the time he was all done in 2008.

The Thomas card I pulled from the box is that 1997 Score offering with Thomas "Goin' Yard." There isn't much information on the card. According to the card back, Thomas played first base, a very interesting piece of information.

Then there was a run down of Thomas' home runs by year up to that date. He hit seven in 1990, the year he started with Birmingham. He had 222 through 1996.

The Williams card I pulled from the box was his 1992 Topps offering. There wasn't much in the way of extra details on the back. But, of course, there was Williams' full stats up to that point, dating back to 1986 when he played for Sarasota.

He played both 1989 and 1990 at Albany, hitting .281 with eight home runs at Albany in 1990. In 1991, Williams played his first games with the Yankees in the Bronx, 85 of them. He hit just .238, but would be a fixture with the Bombers for years to come. (Just a quick note, I wrote this up last Monday, but didn't get around to posting it until today. Just after I wrote it, the randomizer picked Williams' card. His feature went up Tuesday.)

I knew Vinny Castilla was in the CMC set because I'd profiled him here back in April. When I spotted his 1992 Fleer Prospects card, I snapped it up. The back describes Castilla as "not your typical Minor-League player, many of whom are barely out of high school or college. Castilla is 30 years old ..." That was unusual, especially being considered a prospect at that age.

Problem is, it appears Fleer had a wrong date of birth for Castilla. Sometimes that's understandable, sometimes players shave a year or two off to appear younger. But with Castilla, it appears Fleer had Castilla six years *older* than he actually was. It wasn't just his date of birth they had as 7-4-1961, they actually pointed his wrong age out in the text, as the reason he wasn't a typical minor leaguer.

According to listings on Baseball-Reference, Baseball Cube and Wikipedia, they all have his date of birth as 7-4-1967.

"Last season," the card back reads, "he achieved a dream that must have seemed impossible just a few years before: he played in the Major Leagues, coming up to the Braves in September."

For the record, the back of Castilla's CMC card does has him actually a year younger, born in 1968.

The last CMC member card I pulled was this Kevin Maas card, his 1990 Fleer card. Maas burst on the scene in 1990, playing 79 games for the Yankees, hitting 21 home runs. I remember everyone going nuts looking for his cards in 1990. He was the next big thing.

Of course, that never worked out. He played almost all of 1991, hitting 23 home runs, but he also struck out 128 times with a batting average of .220.

The accidental CMC player card was actually that Maas card. It was accidental because of the other player on the card. I'd never heard of him, George Canale. But, since this was a 1990 Fleer prospects card, I figured I'd run him through my master CMC checklist.

Sure enough, he was right there with the Brewers' AAA team in Denver. I just haven't gotten to him yet. That meant this card not only had one CMC set member, it had two. It was a dual CMC set member card.

Canale made it to the majors himself, but for a much briefer stint. He was there in 1989 with the Brewers for 13 games. He returned for another 10 in 1990 and 21 games in 1991, his final appearance in the majors.

727 - Vinny Castilla, Fan Favorite, 4/5/10
789 - Bernie Williams, Fans Know, 11/23/10

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