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Thursday, Apr 02, 2015

The Sports Bookie

A sports blog by Bob D'Angelo

Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia.

Collect call: 2014 Topps Supreme football

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By BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

It can be a gamble when buying a hobby box of cards that contains one pack and is in the $70 to $90 range. A collector might hit it big with an autograph of a big star or hot rookie, or perhaps pull a card of a middle-of-the-road guy.

That’s what a collector faces when buying a hobby box of 2014 Topps Supreme football. There are some nice autographs and patch cards, along with book cards and dual relic book cards. It’s a high-end product that can be very rewarding.

Veteran autograph cards, numbered to 50 or less, include greats from the past, such as John Elway, Ronnie Lott, Dan Marino, Deion Sanders, Jerome Bettis, Bo Jackson and Mike Singletary. Current stars like Tom Brady, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte and Vincent Jackson also have autograph cards. Rookie autos include names that should be familiar to collectors by now — Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Odell Beckham Jr., Derek Carr and Johnny Manziel. Those cards are numbered to 125 or less.

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Legendary UF star from 1940s gets his biggest reception

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

It’s been more than 70 years since he caught his last pass, but Fergie got his biggest reception Monday night.

Forest K. Ferguson Jr. — the second football All-American in University of Florida history, a fearsome high school football star on Florida’s east coast, and a war hero who distinguished himself on D-Day, was honored by his hometown Monday night. Stuart city commissioners unanimously approved a motion to dedicate a gazebo and memorial plaque on Memorial Day in Ferguson’s name. The Forest K. “Fergie” Ferguson Jr. Bandstand will be located, appropriately enough, in Bandstand Park near downtown, a medium-length pass from the old football field where Ferguson led Stuart High School to its first conference championship in 1937.

And make no mistake, Ferguson could catch a pass. And rush the quarterback. He was a two-way end, a giant for his time at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. As a senior for the Gators in 1941, he caught a 74-yard reception in a victory against the University of Miami — a school record that stood for a dozen years, set in an era when the forward pass was rare. In that game, he also made 12 tackles and intercepted a pass. He also excelled in games the Gators played against the University of Tampa from 1939 to 1941.

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Total recall: Topps addresses 2015 Tribute baseball issues

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Topps is in total recall mode.

The company issued a statement on Friday regarding damaged autographs that have appeared in packs of 2015 Topps Tribute baseball, which hit the shelves of hobby shops on Wednesday.

Several collectors voiced complaints about autographs that were scratched or appeared to be bubbled up on the card. Since Tribute is selling in the neighborhood of $50 per pack (with an autograph or relic card in each pack), it’s certainly a big deal for a collector who received a card that appears to be damaged.

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A secret game that changed America

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

While searching for the history of basketball, author/historian Scott Ellsworth found something more relevant.

“I found the history of my country,” he writes in the introduction of “The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph” (Little, Brown and Company; hardback; $27; 388 pages).

What Ellsworth discovered — and writes about so vividly — is a story rooted in sports, but with implications that were much more important. On a Sunday morning in the spring of 1944, in a locked gymnasium in Durham, North Carolina, a basketball game involving blacks and whites took place.

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Hodges biography sheds more light on a humble man

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BY BOB D’ANGELO Tribune staff

On his website, author Mort Zachter refers to “anivut,” the Hebrew word for humility.

While writing his biography of Gil Hodges, Zachter encountered a large dose of humility when he telephoned the widow of the beloved first baseman and manager in 2006.

“You’re the first person who ever called me to talk about Gil that I’m not speaking with,” Joan Hodges said.

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Collect call: 2014 Topps Mini Chrome football

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By Bob D’angeloTribune staff

For collectors who enjoyed Topps Chrome football, Topps Mini Chrome football is a pint-sized replica. The format is pretty much the same, and some of the shiny cards will be refractors and parallels. The biggest difference is the size—the cards measure 21/4 inches by 31/8 inches.

There are no surprises with the base set, either — 220 cards, broken down into 110 veterans and 110 rookies. A hobby box will contain 24 packs, with four cards to a pack on average.

I stress “on average,” because in the hobby box I sampled, the first pack I opened had six cards. Not a bad start.

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Inspiring life made Joe Black more than a Dodger

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Mention the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s, and it’s easy to conjure up legends. Jackie. Campy. Pee Wee. Duke. Newk. Gil. Skoonj.

But for one shining season, Joe Black was just as important to the Boys of Summer. In 1952, Black was a 28-year-old rookie pitcher who went 15-4 with 15 saves and had a 2.15 ERA. He was the National League rookie of the year and finished third in voting for the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

And while Jackie Robinson opened the door for blacks to play major-league baseball in 1947, Joe Black was a trailblazer in his own right. In Game 1 of the 1952 World Series, he pitched a complete-game, 4-2 victory against the New York Yankees to become the first black pitcher to win a postseason game.

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Collect call: 2014 Topps Fire football

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Talk about making a splash.

The debut of Topps Fire football certainly bombards the senses, with a card design that looks like it was inspired at a paintball tournament. Player photos are set against an artistic background that plays up the fire angle Topps is trying to achieve.

Traditionalists might groan at this busy-looking design, but there probably is some appeal for this type of card. To a lesser extent, Topps Valor comes to mind.

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Collect call: 2015 Topps Series One baseball

Published:   |   Updated: February 15, 2015 at 04:05 PM
BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Topps made a few tweaks to its flagship baseball card set this year. Series One for 2015 has more cards in the base set — 350 instead of the 330 that has been the standard the last few years. And the design is different. For the first time since the 2007 base set (remember those black borders?), Topps’ layout will not feature white-bordered cards.

In the past, those white borders were a plus, giving the cards a sharp, clear look. But honestly, a change of pace is not bad. This year’s model utilizes a primary color from the player’s team to give the card front a more colorful look. The photography remains sharp, and Topps continues to find new and distinctive expressions for some of the players. On the card back, Topps has inserted “Series One” above the card number — in case we weren’t sure, I guess.

For example, card No. 56 shows Matt Garza with an intense expression and a fist pump, perfectly capturing the emotional pitcher who threw the first (and only) no-hitter in Rays history on July 26, 2010. On card No. 67, Hunter Pence sticks his tongue out a la Michael Jordan while making a fielding play. And if you thought Garza was intense, card No. 213 shows the concentration and strain of Angels pitcher Jered Weaver as he is at the apex of his windup.

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Penance in pinstripes

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

It’s common to read about athletes who never reached their potential. Success and failure are ingrained in sports. There are winners and losers.

Athletes — and people in general — are afraid of failure. But what about a guy who is afraid of success?

John Malangone fits that second category. He was a strapping, young 5-foot-10, 195-pounder who came of age during the 1950s, rising from the tough East Harlem section of New York. He was a catcher, a powerful hitter with a fine throwing arm. He had a boxing background and devastating punching power that made him even more intimidating. The New York Yankees saw him as an eventual replacement for Yogi Berra.

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