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Friday, Mar 06, 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.

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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Panini’s Americana set will have box office appeal

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

They are the kinds of card sets I enjoy. Any time you can combine history with pop culture, I want to collect it.

And that’s the appeal I see in Panini America’s 2015 Americana set, which will hit the shelves in early April.

There will be plenty of movie stars and musicians. What brought the set big credibility in my (warped) view last year was the inclusion of 3 Stooges cards, which also were big hits in Panini’s 2012-13 Golden Age sets. Maybe Panini is holding back, you know, with a big splash announcement about relics from Stooge films like “Hoi Polloi” and “Three Little Beers.” Sure hope so.

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Collect call: 2014 Bowman Chrome football

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

If you enjoy collecting shiny cards and rookies, then the 2014 Bowman Chrome football set is a perfect blend. Bowman specializes in rookies, and this year’s product does not disappoint.

A hobby box consists of 18 packs, with four cards to a pack. Topps is promising one chrome autograph per hobby box. The base set has 220 cards (110 veterans and an equal amount of rookies), plus there are 50 rookie variations.

The hobby box I open produced 27 veterans and 32 rookies. There were four base rookie refractors, plus a black refractor of Packers receiver Randall Cobb, numbered to 299; a pulsar refractor of 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (271); a bubbles refractor of Seahawks receiver Kevin Norwood (99) and a red refractor of Cardinals cornerback Tyrann Mathieu (25).

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Previewing the 2015 Allen & Ginter set

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

It’s hard to believe that Topps will put out its 10th edition of Allen & Ginter this summer.

I still find this one of the more intriguing sets every year, with its blend of sports icons, political figures, giants of history (and obscure ones, too) and a sprinkling of pop culture. Each year, I await the release of A&G; this year, that comes on July 22.

In the past week, Topps released information and images about the 2015 Allen & Ginter set. The base set, as usual, will have 350 cards. Fifty of those cards will be short prints; on average, they fall one in every two packs.

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Collect call: 2014 Bowman Sterling baseball

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staaff

The idea of opening a pack of baseball cards and finding three autographs out of four cards is mind-blowing.

That’s what Topps is offering with its 2014 Bowman Sterling baseball product. With six packs in a hobby box, a collector can expect to find 18 autograph cards — well, perhaps a few redemptions instead of signature cards, but the autographs eventually come.

Here’s the rub: unless a collector is heavily into prospects or draft picks, he or she may not recognize any of the players in this set. Players that signed for this product were first-year players, prospects on the rise and 2014 draft choices.

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Novel about 1950s women’s wrestling a sweetheart debut

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Old-time professional wrestling was all about illusion.

Ed Farhat wore a burnoose, threw flames and used a pencil to carve up opponents as the Sheik. Larry Shreve was born in Canada but became infamous as Abdullah the Butcher, the Madman from the Sudan. And Mildred Bliss, who began her working career as a stenographer, later ruled women’s wrestling as Mildred Burke.

“You want to be someone else,” Angelina Mirabella writes in the opening line of her debut novel, a telling phrase that will lead the reader through the grimy, seedy, sometimes lurid and always cutthroat world of women’s professional wrestling of the 1950s.

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Collect call: 2014 Topps Strata football

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BY BOB D’ANGELOTribune staff

Topps Strata football offers collectors an affordable set with some nice hits. This is the third season for this product, and I still enjoy the vertical design of the cards. Granted, the background behind the players still reminds me of a large air conditioning vent, but that feature is a little more muted this year.

Here are the particulars. Strata has 100 base cards, plus 100 rookies. There are an additional 20 short-printed rookie card variations.

In addition, there is a 50-card autograph subset, plus 41 Clear Cut Autograph Relic cards. The latter typically will be the big hit in a hobby box.

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