Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Tim Wallach: 4 Autographed Cards

My birthday is September 14th. I share it with a number of celebrities, but one that was always somewhat available to me as a child was Montréal Expos five-time All-Star third baseman Tim Wallach. And in most seasons, there was an Expos home game at the Olympic Stadium on that day.

Over the years, I have gotten Wallach to sign a bunch of cards for me, usually during batting practice before games, at times in charity softball games some Expos players took part in with or against local celebrities, be they radio or TV personalities, actors, musicians, or even hockey players (Stéphane Richer was a particularly avid ball player).

I chose to feature these four cards first because, judging by the blue sharpie type of pen used and signature, they seem like they're from the same era. Also, they show him wearing a wide variety of uniforms, something I like.

Let's start with his rookie card, from Fleer's 1982 Fleer:
It's card #210 in the set, and on it he's sporting the Expos' red Grapefruit League (training camp) jersey, with the then-regular powder-blue pants. Oh, and an awesome mustache. You'll notice there's more white on one side of the card than the other; that's not part of the design, the card was just cut off-center - the back has the same defect, one usually more synonymous with the Topps brand...

Speaking of Fleer, there's this card:
It's card #291 in the 1984 Fleer set and shows him wearing the Expos' white (home) uniform. The back of the card mentions he hit a home run in his very first Major League at bat (he also did the same thing in the minors). It's a simple card design, but beautiful and clear; as a matter of fact, the Vachon line of Québec desserts made an Expos team set in the late 1980s using the same scheme, pretty much, as did the Provigo chain of supermarkets.

The next two cards are cool on a whole other level: Wallach was more than just a pretty boy who could hit homers and play in All-Star Games: he was also a three-time Gold Glove winner (1985, 1988 and 1990), in an era when Mike Schmidt, Terry Pendleton and Matt Williams were at their peak and playing in more baseball-friendly markets. They're also from sets I collected over the summer while vacationing in Florida with my parents when I was 9 years old.

On the first one, he has an almost goalie-like stance, reminiscent of Mike Veronon or Ron Hextall when they had that ''I dare you to shoot it glove-side'' look:
It's card 70 of Score's 1988 Score set. The dent at the top is from the plastic penny sleeve, not the card itself, though I'm surprised the card is in the condition it's in: I would actually play with them, laying them on the living room carpet as if it was a baseball field, two opposing teams, throwing a dice and hitting it with the cards, making them run around the makeshift diamond. Most cards I bought that summer have creases and round corners.

But this card really rocks:
Not as crouched, sunglasses under his cap, Wallach looks all-business here, fitting considering he led the Majors that year with 42 doubles and was second in the NL with 123 RBIs. His specialty, actually, was a stat no longer kept track of by MLB, called ''Game-Winning RBIs'', which is exactly what it sounds like, and at which he usually led the majors. Clutch player, right here.

As for the card, it's from Leaf's 1988 Donruss set (card #222).

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