Tuesday, March 31, 2009

1969-70 Topps #75 Elvin Hayes

After almost two years of blogging about University of Houston collectibles, primarily just learning about Cougar history and the card industry, I've come to a decision. I've decided to focus on collecting Elvin Hayes.

There are several reasons for this:
1) Elvin was the most successful team sport athlete to ever play at UH. I don't think there is any doubt about this. He holds almost ever scoring and rebounding record at UH. He was the only Cougar basketball three time All American, was a two time consensus All American, and was the National Player of the Year. He was the first Cougar to have his number retired. Imagine if he could have played for the varsity as a freshman. That's not even considering his impact as one of the first African Americans recruited to UH along with Don Chaney and Warren McVea.

After his incredible college career, he also had an amazing pro career. He was the 1st pick in the NBA draft and was the last rookie to lead the league in scoring. Twice he led the league in rebounding. He was a 12 time All Star, won an NBA title in 1978, and was named one of the Top 50 All Time NBA players. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
2) I love the collecting options for Hayes. Vintage cards are available back to 1968, but I can also collect modern cards still being released including autographs and relic cards. Cards are available in both pro & UH uniforms. Plus the number of cards available for Hayes is enough to keep me interested for a lifetime, but not so many to be ridiculous. Elvin currently has 236 cards to collect that I know of. That's an achievable goal except for the 1 of 1 cards and maybe some of the super low print runs. Compare that to someone like Olajuwon who has 2148 cards. That's just a crazy amount.

So to start my Elvin Hayes collection, I bought his rookie card, the 1969-70 Topps #75. While this is not his first card (that would be the 1968 Jack In the Box card), it is considered his rookie card because it is the first mainstream release.

This is an oversized card featuring Hayes in his San Diego Rockets uniform. The layout on front is classic with a clean design that really focuses on the player even with the black and white illustrations of basketball players surrounding the photo.

The back features rookie stats and comments on his first season. It also features a graphic noting that he had 40 schools offering him a scholarship and he chose Houston.

I look forward to obtaining more Hayes cards although I'm also picking up other players on occasion. My blog will continue to focus on on UH athletes, but whenever I acquire a new Hayes card, you can bet it will be featured here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Checklist Update - New players and cards

The checklists have been updated. I thought I had a comprehensive list and it was going to be easy to keep up with it... just check some Cougar legends like Olajuwon and Drexler and some of the more recent players to make the pros like Alridge and Avery, and the list is complete. Boy was I wrong.

This update includes 342 new cards. Donnie Avery has the most new cards with 77. Some other existing athletes with new cards include Anthony Alridge (15), Otis Birdsong (7), Michael Bourn (4), Clyde Drexler (20), Elvin Hayes (8), Brad Lincoln (40), Hakeem Olajuwon (33), and Chris Snyder (2).

But this checklist update is about more than athletes previously on the list. This update includes the addition 35 baseball players who never made it to the major leagues. So who is the ultimate University of Houston collector? These 35 players have 133 minor league and prospect cards.

The checklist now includes 269 Cougar athletes and 14,336 cards and collectibles. There's something for everyone. As usual, newly added cards and players are highlighted in color so they're easy to spot.

Monday, March 23, 2009

2007 SAGE DECADEnce #23 Kevin Kolb

Since SAGE does not have an NFL license, it focuses on draft picks and college players. They've released the first 2009 football product with SAGE Hit. Unfortunately I don't see any University of Houston players on the list. The good news is that most of the impact players for the Cougars last year were Freshmen and Sophomores so hopefully that means a good season next year and more draft picks in the future.

In 2007 Kevin Kolb was featured in SAGE's DECADEnce set on card #23. The front of this card is absolutely beautiful. Kolb is featured in a closeup picture preparing to throw the ball. Major bonus points as usual for a player in his Houston uniform. The red uniform really stands out against the shadowed background, especially against the green field. The yard line markers provide a nice graphical element to complete the background.

The back, on the other hand, leaves alot to be desired. The same shadowed field and stadium from the background on the front of the card is used. That's actually not a horrible backdrop for the text. The disappointment to me is the stats provided. I LOVE stats, but this card provides NFL pre-season stats. Who cares about pre-season stats? College stats would have been much more informative, especially in a brand that focuses on college players in college uniforms.

Overall though, a very attractive card for the Cougar collector.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

1994 Classic #35 Lamar Smith

Lamar Smith came to the University of Houston in 1992 after playing two years at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College. He led the Cougars in rushing in 1992 with 845 yards and again in 1993 with 417 yards despite a shoulder injury. His biggest game came against Texas in 1992 when he ran for 159 yards in a losing effort. He is included in the UH record books with the fifth most yards per rush in a season (7.6 in 1992) and third most average yards per play in a season (7.61 in 1992)

Smith was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth round of the 1993 draft. Other Cougars in the 1993 draft were Allen Aldridge (2nd round) and Ryan McCoy (6th).

Lamar played in the NFL from 1994 to 2003 with the Seahawks, Saints, Dolphins, and Panthers. For his career, he rushed for 4,853 yards on 1,322 carries. His most notable NFL game was when he set the record for most rushes in a playoff game with 40 in 2000 for Miami against Indianapolis. He gained 209 yards rushing, another 18 yards receiving, and scored two touchdowns as the Dolphins won 23-17.

Today's collectible is the 1994 Classic #35. Classic was primarily considered a company focused on Draft Picks and Prospects. This card is an example of this focus featuring Smith as a Draft Pick in his UH uniform.

The thing that stands out to me most is the helmet. I've grown to accept the current UH logo, but I LOVE the classic logo on this card. Unlike the current logo which resembles Kentucky's, the classic logo is distinctly Houston's. There is no confusing it with any other school. As a branding effort, being unique is a very desirable trait. Plus using the skinny logo for athletics would be consistent with the university's use of the logo for academics. A consistent logo and marketing strategy is critical for branding.

The back lists Lamar's collegiate statistics and a brief history of his college career and skills. The comparison to UH and Cowboys great Robert Newhouse is a little of a stretch. Newhouse could be argued as the greatest running back in UH history. Smith was a solid player, but what he accomplished at UH was not comparable to what Newhouse accomplished.

This card also has a Gold variation. This variation has gold foil in the bottom left corner and for the NFL draft logo.

A special thanks to Victor for the quality scans.

Monday, March 16, 2009

2008 Stadium Club First Day Issue #109 Garrett Mock

Garrett Mock played baseball for two years, 2003 and 2004. The 2003 season was a very good one for the Coogs. The team went 37-30 playing a very difficult schedule. That schedule prepared the team for a run in the NCAA tournament. UH won the College Station Regional. UH started the Regional slowly losing their first game, but they then proceeded to win the next four including the last two beating Texas A&M at their home field. The Coogs lost in the Super Regionals to Rice who went on to win the national championship. The team finished ranked 16th.

The pitching staff of the 2003 team was loaded. Along with Mock, the pitching staff included Brad Sullivan, Danny Zell, and Ryan Wagner.

The 2004 season was a little more difficult. The Coogs went 30-29 and missed the NCAA tournament. Mock had a solid season though leading the team in ERA. His performance and potential were good enough to get him drafted by Arizona in the third round of the Major League Baseball draft.

Garrett played a few years in the Minor Leagues before landing with the Washington Nationals. He made his Major League debut on June 8th, 2008. He pitched 41 innings as a reliever going 1-3 with a 4.17 ERA. Let's hope he stays in the big leagues and has a successful career.

Today's card is the 2008 Stadium Club First Day Issue #109. 2008 marked the return of the Stadium Club brand know for its amazing photography. It returned as a mid level card set with some controversy due to its fairly high price.

The cards are beautiful though. The photography maintains the tradition of the Stadium Club brand and this card is no exception. I feel like I'm in the batters box waiting for the pitch to fly by me.

The First Day variation is another Stadium Club callback based on the first day of print production. The card is limited to 599 produced so it's not exceptionally rare by today's standards, but much rarer than the original Stadium Club product.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

1969-70 Topps Rulers #4 Elvin Hayes

If you think gimmick cards and crazy cards are a recent invention, think again. Today's collectible is the 1969-70 Topps Ruler #4 featuring Elvin Hayes.

These cards were an early insert set. To make them fit in the pack, they were printed on very thin stock and folded. When unfolded they measure 2-1/2" x 9-7/8".

This card features a drawing of Elvin Hayes next to a "ruler." This is a very odd ruler. It shows the players height and is numbered in feet, but the markings between the numbers are broken down more like inches. But it's not inches because it old measures about 8-1/2 units, but the card is 9-7/8" long. OK... I majored in math at the University of Houston so I'd prefer the cards to have a real unit of measure.

I love this card anyway. I love art cards. I wish it looked more like him, but it's a fun card and a fun concept.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

2008-2009 Topps T-51 Murad Mini #145 Clyde Drexler

First Topps based retro cards on classic designs like the 1958 Topps set. Then it copies some of the earliest baseball cards with Allen & Ginter. Then the earliest football cards with Mayo.

Recently Topps copied one of the earliest basketball card sets, the 1910 Murad cigarette cards. Today's card is the Clyde Drexler #145 Mini variation.

I can't decide if I like these or not. I need to see one in person to make a final decision. Some cards you can look at a picture on the internet and know it is amazing. Some you can tell are horrible. Some, like this one, you need to see in person.

I love the pennant. I love the logo. I love the background even though it has nothing to do with basketball. It reminds me of postcards from the 1940s and 1950s.

Some people are suckers for Chrome and Refractor cards. I'm not, but I'm a sucker for art cards whether they are paintings, drawings, or computer modifications of pictures to make it look like a piece of art. For me to enjoy an art card though, it must have some artistic merit, no matter how little, AND it must still resemble the player. I just can't tell enough from web pictures. I think I like these cards, but I reserve judgment.