A Discussion with Tim Carroll

Growing up, we learned to take care of our baseball cards because they would be valuable some day. We may even be able to sell them to pay for our kids’ college! Tim Carroll ignored that advice and the result is something wonderful.

Carroll cuts up baseball cards and turns them into unique works of art, which has gained him quite a bit of notoriety. Each piece takes between 45 to 60 hours to create, sometimes more. He recently took the time to talk with me about it.

’80s Baseball: I love your stuff. How did you get started and how did you come up with the idea to do what you do?

Tim Carroll: Thank you! I’ve always liked to draw, but a science conference trip to New Orleans with my wife back in 2009 changed my life.  We had spent the day walking through galleries in the Quarter, so art was on my mind.  It began to rain, and we walked into a convenience store.  I picked up a magazine that had a very small blurb about the 100th anniversary of the T206 Wagner.  I mentioned it to my wife, and let her know how amazing it would be to find one of those cards.  She told me I should take all of the cards that were in our closet (from my late ’80’s childhood) and trade them for one.  Obviously, it isn’t a quantity thing; it’s a quality issue.  That day stuck with me, and when I returned home, I decided to create a T206 Honus Wagner tribute, but I didn’t want to simply draw or paint it.

I pulled out my commons, started finding cards that resembled the background color, and began to cut and glue them down.  When the Wagner was finished, it was a nice sense of accomplishment.  Looking back now on my “prototype”, it was hideous, lol, but I LOVE it. I compare it to my work now and make my testimony of how it takes hard work and dedication to get better at something.

’80s Baseball: I see you used to be a teacher. What did you teach and how did you transition to being a full-time artist?

Tim Carroll: I created the Wagner two months before I graduated from Ole Miss with my degree in elementary education.  I had zero intent of it ever going past one piece. It was just something to do during a rainy spring back in 2009.

Tim Carroll ArtThen I made another, and another.  I began using other mediums, and people inquired about buying them.  I began to teach, but the supplemental income from the art I was producing was nice.  As I sharpened my skills, the workload increased. I was an elementary teacher for seven years, teaching everything from general 3rd grade to 2nd-5th grade mathematics. As time went on, I was taking on more and more commission work and it got to a point where I was spending every bit of my evenings and weekends working on art just to keep up.

I came to a career crossroads, so to speak, last year.  My wife and I had been discussing the proper time to transition. There had been some planning along the way, but when the moment came, it was a leap of faith.  I had been telling kids for many years to trust themselves, do what they love, (insert cliche here).  What I was telling them wasn’t empty, though I meant every word I was saying.

We live this physical life once, and when I reflect back on my life later I want to say I have no regrets.  Passing up the opportunity to use the talents and work ethic that He has given me would not have been the best move to make. So, I decided to practice what I was preaching to the kids, and with my wife’s unconditional blessing and support, I jumped.

Tim Carroll ArtIt has been an amazing last few months.  I get to have breakfast (and sometimes lunch) with my wife throughout the year without it being rushed.  I get to put everything away in the evenings and spend time with my kids like I wanted.  My weekends are free to take road trips, lazy days hanging out, going to ballgames, and just simply being where I’m supposed to be while they are young.  I loved teaching, and I miss having the direct positive impact on children’s lives that I did while I taught, but as a family-first guy…..this has been the coolest experience.

’80s Baseball: Upper Deck used your Ken Griffey Jr. piece. How did that happen? How cool was that to have a card company use your work that was made from their product?

Tim Carroll ArtTim Carroll: When I originally created the Griffey, Upper Deck shared it through their blog, and that was pretty much the extent of it, or so I thought.  A few years later, during the 25th-anniversary celebration, I received an email from them asking if I still had the piece. They brought it with them as they traveled to the Industry Summit in Las Vegas, and then to Florida where it was signed by Junior himself.

The reaction they were getting from the piece led them to commission several works from me, and I even had the pleasure of tagging along with them and working live at the Cleveland National in ’14, the Fall Expo in Toronto later that year, and even the NHL All-Star FanFair the following year in Columbus, OH.

For each event, I used Upper Deck cards to create pieces.  It was a treat each time, having people show up to the table on Day 1 of each event and then popping in periodically to see the progress.  I met so many people that I still converse with on social media. To boot, meeting Shaquille O’Neal at a bowling alley, Wayne Gretzky at the Hockey Hall of Fame, Pedro Martinez at the airport, Carey Price in downtown Columbus, among others (in non-signing environments, no less) was something that would’ve never happened without the Griffey piece.

 ’80s Baseball: Basic question but I need to ask: Where do you get all the cards? About how many do you have on hand at any given time?

Tim Carroll: I started with just the cards I had from my childhood, which was no more than 10-15 thousand.  Several people I met online offered, and continue to offer, support by sending cards should I need a specific set, brand, team, etc.

Tim Carroll ArtA local guy that once owned a card shop donated over 150 thousand at once, and a couple of collectors that needed to clear space also donated their junk era portions.  There have been several generous people that have given or offered smaller lots.  I appreciate each and every one of them.  Add that with a few cases of 87-90 Topps, Donruss, and Fleer that I bought, and I am now up to about 450K in my garage studio.  So, for anyone wondering, I’m good on commons for now!

’80s Baseball: Aside from commissioned work, what goes into your decision-making process as to who you’re going to work on next?

Tim Carroll ArtThat’s a great question and one that I’m not sure I have an answer for.  It’s more of a feeling or desire, I guess.  I have a list of pieces that I want to make, and cards get added to that list all the time.  I have even started several of them.  I try to finish one of those ‘just because’ pieces in-between finishing commissions.  I do that in an attempt to build my own collection of originals, although all are available.  I’ll begin something like a 1954 Topps Ernie Banks and then commission work will take over.  I’ll then start a Jackie Robinson Leaf rookie or another early Mickey Mantle.  Repeat.  I have so many that I have started that I need to finish!  That’s another bonus to doing this full-time.  I have the time to get to some of those non-commissioned pieces, and I have been able to strike a few off the list.

Find Tim Carroll

You can find Tim and more examples of his work on his website, on Twitter, Instagram, and on Facebook.

But Wait, There’s More!

Lest you think Tim’s work is limited to just cutting up baseball cards, think again. He works with all different kinds of materials.

Tim Carroll Art
Pine Tar
Tim Carroll Art
Band aids for The Big Hurt
Tim Carroll Art
Shattered baseball bats for Bo
Tim Carroll Art
and 1941 toothpicks for The Splendid Splinter

 

 

 

 

 

The Best of 2016 on ’80s Baseball

I started this blog 364 days ago. Since then, I’ve published 64 posts, including guest posts, for which I’m very grateful.

It’s been a great year and I thought I’d take a look back at the Top 5 posts of 2016 based (unscientifically) on page views.

Number 5: George Brett’s amazing 1980

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Brett was absolutely ridiculous in 1980 and this post tells the story of his remarkable season. If you’re going to hit .400, or even have a shot, it helps to have a summer like George Brett did in 1980.

 

Number 4: Schmidt and Brett in 1971

The Reds passed on a kid in their back yard. The Phillies snapped him up

The most important day of the 1980 baseball season may very well have taken place in 1971. One decision would have put Mike Schmidt in a Royals uniform and given the 1980 World Series a completely different look.

 

 

Number 3: Missed it by That Much: The Mike Parrott Story

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Mike Parrott was the opening day starter for the Seattle Mariners in 1980. Unfortunately for him, 1980 was just a horrible year, in more ways than one.

 

 

Number 2: You Forgot How Good J.R. Richard Was

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James Rodney Richard was absolutely dominant and 1980 was shaping up to be the best year of his career. Then tragedy struck and he never pitched again.

 

 

 

Number 1: Missed it By That Much: The Drungo Hazewood Story

<a rel=Drungo Hazewood had all the talent in the world. He was a can’t miss prospect for the Baltimore Orioles. Then he missed.

 

 

 

 

Thanks so much for reading and I look forward to 2017!

-J.D.

That Time I Met Nolan Ryan

Note: This is a guest post from Scott Ottenweller

In the late 70’s my family moved from New York to Columbus, Ohio. The Yankees had finally returned to prominence, winning the World Series in ‘77 and ‘78, I naturally became a Yankee fan. And I still am to this day. I was still relatively young at the time, so I didn’t get to watch many baseball games back then (except the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week!) but I remember “stealing” my Dad’s Sports Illustrated magazines and plastering my bedroom walls with pictures of my favorite Yankee players- especially Graig Nettles, my all-time favorite Yankee. When I was playing Little League I ALWAYS wanted to play third base, like my idol. I was officially hooked on baseball.

At that point, I also became an avid baseball card collector. I couldn’t get my hands on enough cards! I would try to collect all of the Yankee players of course, but I then became fixated on collecting an entire set of cards. As I would work on building a set, two things would happen. I would collect as many all-stars player cards as possible (like everyone else), but I would study the cards. I became fascinated with reading the player’s career stats, which led to learning more about the history of baseball, records that were broken and milestones hit. It was then that I realized that Nolan Ryan was in a class by himself when it came to starting pitching.

In the early 80’s, Nolan Ryan was THE strikeout king. No one came close to his stuff. In 1973 he set a record with 383 strikeouts in one season! By 1980, Ryan already had five seasons with 300+ strikeouts and had amassed nearly 3,000 career strikeouts. He had a legitimate chance of breaking Walter Johnson‘s record of 3,509 strikeouts, a mark that had stood since 1927. In 1983, he did indeed pass Johnson to become the all-time leader in career strikeouts (he ended his career with an astonishing 5,714 career strikeouts).

It was also 1983 when my family went to St. Petersburg, Florida for Spring Break. While the beach and sun was great, I was most excited to see a spring training game. The Cardinals’ spring training was held in St. Petersburg so my brother and I ventured over there one afternoon to watch a game and see if we could get some autographs. Before the game we managed to get a ton of autographs- guys like Dickie Thon, Denny Walling and Vern Ruhle among others. We then watched a rather boring affair as the Cardinals rolled to victory.

After the game, my brother and I stalked some players and coming out of the clubhouse we met Ozzie Smith! He was holding his son yet was still gracious enough to sign autographs for us as well as others. I was so pumped to meet “The Wizard”! But that wasn’t the highlight of the day.

As we were leaving the stadium, we noticed that the Astros players were out doing practice drills (batting, fielding, etc). I chalked it up to the coach being upset at the poor play of the day, but I was curious. So my brother and I walked around the stadium to a gate where we could look onto left field. We watched batting practice for a bit (ran down a BP homerun ball from Dickie Thon!) but then I saw a player doing calisthenics with the trainer. At first from a distance I couldn’t tell who it was but then I saw the number: ‘Ole #34. It was Nolan Ryan! My brother and I just watched- mesmerized. After a while, he finished up and started to come over. Nolan Ryan was coming our way!

Nolan Ryan Autograph
Ryan’s signature. The reward for their patience

It was just my brother and I and our patience was about to pay off. No one else was with us; other kids had taken off by then. Ryan gets to the gate and asks, “How are you boys doing today?” I could only muster one word: ”Good”. He then asks if we want him to sign the piece of paper we had in our hands. Another well thought out response: “Yes”. So I watched in amazement at the very moment I was getting Nolan Ryan’s autograph. Nolan-flipping-Ryan! A sure-fire Hall of Famer! One of the premier players in the league! And he was right in front of me. Just me and my brother. As he signed our papers, said goodbye to us and walked away, my brother and I looked at each other in astonishment. We just got Nolan Ryan’s autograph!! We gave each other a high-five and with huge smiles on our faces, took off to tell our parents and whomever else might be interested in our story. It was a moment I’ll cherish forever and is still my favorite autograph that I own to this day. Even better than the Derek Jeter autograph my Mom bought me for Christmas one year. That’s saying something…

Ozzie Smith, <a rel=

 

Scott Ottenweller lives in Columbus, OH where he roots for the OSU Buckeyes, Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Yankees.

 

Have you met one of your baseball heroes from the 1980s? I want to hear about it! Click here for details and tell me your story.

Schmidt, Carlton and the 1980 Phillies

 

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The poster hung on the wall of my bedroom in southwest Ohio for years. MVP and CY. Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton. My guys. I was far from unique in worshiping the two future Hall-of-Famers, but to this day the site of this poster still makes me smile.

The Phillies were considered underachievers entering 1980 because they hadn’t been able to reach the World Series. NL East crowns in 1976, ’77 and ’78 had resulted in being bounced from the playoffs by the Reds (1976) and Dodgers (1977 & 78). Signing Pete Rose for the 1979 season was thought to be the answer but injuries decimated the roster. It was do or die in 1980 and the Phils struggled out of the gate, going 6-9 in late March and into April. Then MVP and CY took over.

Schmidt earned Player of the Month honors in May by hitting .305 with 12 home runs and 29 RBI to pace the offense, while Carlton earned the Pitcher of the Month award, turning in a 6-1 record with an E.R.A. of just 1.66. Carlton flirted with a no-hitter against Atlanta on May 5th, going seven and a third before yielding his first hit.

There was one game that served as a microcosm of the month for the Phillies. On May 23rd, Carlton was just dominant against Nolan Ryan and the Houston Astros, throwing a complete game, four-hit shutout. The only runs he needed came in the 3rd inning when Schmidt homered with Rose and Bake McBride aboard.

Philadelphia went 17-9 in May and their 144 runs scored led the National League. It wasn’t enough to get them to the top of the division, but it was a much-needed step in the right direction. Another rough month early in the season coupled with strong play by the Pirates and the Montreal Expos could have spelled doom for the Phillies.

The NL East race went down to the final weekend of the season and the Phillies ultimately prevailed and went on to win their first World Series. But it may not have happened had their two best players not stepped up early in the year to get them back on track.

 

 

You Forgot How Good J.R. Richard Was

In December of 1979 the Houston Astros made Nolan Ryan the first million-dollar man history. Ryan won 324 games, threw 7 no-hitters and would lead his league in strikeouts eleven times en route to amassing more strikeouts than any other pitcher who ever player. But in 1980 he wasn’t even the best pitcher on his own team.

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in 1980, Richard and Ryan gave the Astros both reigning strikeout champs.

That honor belonged to James Rodney Richard. He stood 6 foot 8 inches tall and regularly hit 100 miles per hour with his fastball. If that wasn’t enough, he also possessed one of the league’s most devastating sliders. As a senior in high school, he allowed ZERO runs and was selected in the first round of the draft by the Astros in 1969. The 1971 Astros Media guide listed him as a “giant youngster who has an overpowering fast ball, but who obviously lacks control.”

J.R. Richard made his debut against Willie Mays and the San Francisco Giants in September of 1971. Apparently he wasn’t intimidated as he threw a complete game shutout and struck out 15, including Mays three times.

As his career progressed, control was still an issue. He led the league in walks three times and set a major league record in 1979 by throwing six wild pitches in an April 10th game against the Dodgers. He also struck out 13 Dodgers that day, allowing just six hits in a complete game 2-1 win.

From 1976 through 1979, he was one of the top pitchers in the National League, amassing a 74-51 record with 1,044 strikeouts in 1,125 and two-thirds innings and a 2.89 ERA. Only Steve Carlton won more games during that four year period in the N.L.

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Richard was dominant in 1980

In 1980, he was even better. Richard got the nod on Opening Day against the Dodgers and was perfect through six and a third innings before Rudy Law singled in the seventh. J.R. went eight and struck out 13 before giving way to Joe Sambito who earned his first save.

“It was coming out of a cannon,” said Law. “I’ve never faced anybody who can throw the ball like that, it was unbelievable. He’s one of the greatest pitchers in the major leagues. I don’t look forward to facing too many more like him.”

What made his Opening Day start different was that the 98 MPH fastball and the 13 strikeouts went with zero walks, something he was able to do just three times in 1979. To begin the season that way was a big boost for him.

“I think this was the best night I’ve had since I was in the major leagues,” said Richard. “Just getting the ball over the plate was my secret.”

On April 19th, more than 50,000 fans packed the Astrodome to watch Richard outduel Bob Welch in a 2-0 Astros win. Two starts later, Richard beat Tom Seaver 5-1 in Cincinnati to run his record to a perfect 4-0. But the undefeated record doesn’t pay justice to how dominant he was. In 37 and two-thirds innings, the big right hander surrendered just 13 hits while striking out 48 and recording a 1.67 ERA. Perhaps most impressive was the paltry .104 batting average the National League posted against him. The dominance continued through May and June and at the All-Star break his record stood at 10-4 with a 1.96 E.R.A.

1980 was shaping up to be his finest season. But Richard had also been plagued by health problems all year. He left his April 14th start against Atlanta with shoulder stiffness. The same issue kept him from finishing his April 25th start against the Mets. He left his June 17th start against Chicago due to a “dead arm.” Forearm trouble chased him early from his July 3rd start against the Braves. Obviously, something was wrong.

A Sporting News article on Richard’s situation trumpeted, “Houston has own JR Mystery,” a play on the “Who shot JR?” mystery of the popular TV show, Dallas.

In the Sporting News piece, Harry Shattuck wrote, “Pardon us Dallasites, but our JR saga may be as intriguing as yours… and Houston’s JR is real. Hard to believe, perhaps, but real”

On July 11th while the Astros were in Los Angeles, Richard was examined by renowned surgeon Dr. Frank Jobe who didn’t find anything wrong. On the morning of July 14th, Richard called Astros team doctor Harold Brelsford and told him he was ready to go that night against the Braves but on the mound he had trouble seeing the signs from the catcher. He lasted just three and a third before leaving with what the Astros called an upset stomach.

The fans and Astros General Manager Tal Smith were growing impatient and the rumors and accusations began to swirl. J.R. was accused of everything from being jealous of Ryan’s $1 million contract to just being lazy.

After the July 14th start, Richard was placed on the disabled list and underwent a series of tests at Methodist Hospital in Houston which uncovered arterial blockage in his right arm. The blockage was not considered serious however and no surgery was recommended.

Richard was released from the hospital and cleared for supervised workouts on July 26th. Four days later, during a workout at the Astrodome, he collapsed in the outfield. He was rushed to Methodist Hospital where tests revealed he had suffered a stroke. Apologies rained down from media members who had criticized Richard for asking out of games.

Richard being put into an ambulance after his stroke
Richard being put into an ambulance after his stroke

“Guilt has seized a lot of people in this town who believed in the weeks before his problem was diagnosed,…that Richard was playing his own kind of game.” wrote columnist Mickey Herskowitz of The Houston Post on August 3rd.

“Some wrote or said as much, and if anyone expressed any sympathy, or offered him the benefit of the doubt, no real notice was paid…. Our concern and shock were mixed with embarrassment and we ought to admit it.”

Richard never pitched in the big leagues again.

The Courtship of Nolan Ryan

The Houston Astros had one of the best pitching staffs in the National League in 1979, finishing second in the league with a 3.20 team E.R.A. Joe Niekro won 21 games, Ken Forsch threw the major league’s only no-hitter and 6 foot 8 fireballer James Rodney Richard led league in strikeouts. But new owner John McMullen wasn’t satisfied. In November he shook up the baseball world, and angered his fellow owners, by signing Nolan Ryan for the unheard of price of $1 million per season.

Ryan had established himself as one of the top pitchers in the game in his eight seasons as a member of the California Angels. He won 138 games and recorded nearly 2,500 strikeouts, leading the American League every year but one (1975). But a rift developed between Ryan and Angels General Manager Buzzie Bavasi in 1979 and that rift grew to a chasm as the season progressed.

Nolan Ryan with Angels
Ryan won 138 games as an Angel

Ryan’s contract was up at the end of the year and after a 1978 season in which he went 10-13, Bavasi was in no hurry to sign him to a big money, long-term contract. Things got more contentious as the summer wore on. Ryan and his agent Dick Moss gave Bavasi permission to seek a trade to Texas or Houston but a proposed swap involving Al Oliver was turned down by the Rangers and Houston’s offer of Bob Watson and Joe Sambito was rejected by Bavasi.

Ryan finished 1979 at 16-14 with a league-leading 223 strikeouts and a 3.60 ERA while helping the Angels win their first ever division title. His 16 wins tied for the team lead, but Bavasi wasn’t impressed, telling the media he could simply replace Ryan with two 8-7 pitchers.  “Buzzie did not understand,” said Don Baylor in his 1989 biography, Nothing but the Truth: A Baseball Life

“They could replace the win total, but they could not replace the pitcher, the wear and tear he saved the bullpen, the fear he put in the opposition. He was the only pitcher in the majors capable of pitching a no-hitter any time he took the mound.”

So Ryan entered the free-agent draft and had multiple suitors. George Steinbrenner and the Yankees offered $1 million per season but after beginning his career with the Mets, Ryan had little interest in returning to New York. He told Moss that if the Astros would match the Yankees’ offer he would sign.

Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan at the Astrodome

His three-year, $3 million deal was the richest in team sports history and gave Houston both defending strikeout champions in Ryan and Richard. They became even more devastating as bookends to the knuckleballing Niekro.

“Can you imagine this?” joked Pittsburgh’s Willie Stargell. “Hitting Niekro is like chasing a butterfly with the hiccups. Now they can sandwich him in there with Ryan and Richard. The commissioner should tie up the deal for the next five years. By then, I’ll be out of baseball.”

The 80’s are my 50’s

I grew up reading Angell, Halberstam, Kahn and others wax nostalgic about baseball in the 1950’s. The pictures they painted of sun-drenched afternoons at Ebbets Field or the Polo Grounds made the era come to life. I’m sure it was a magical time with great baseball. They can have it.

This isn’t an indictment of them as baseball men and it’s most certainly not an indictment of them as writers. The point is that was their time. The 80’s were my time. My affection for the 80’s comes not from the ballparks or the innocence of the time, but from being young and watching my heroes play baseball.

I’ve read countless accounts of people walking up the ramp and seeing the green grass at Yankee Stadium or some other baseball cathedral for the first time. You really get a sense of the awe they felt. I don’t have a similar memory of seeing the turf at Riverfront Stadium for the first time. Not the same, although the outfield at Riverfront was undoubtedly the greenest Astroturf I had ever seen in my life.

Riverfront Stadium
Behold the beauty

But I do have a brief but amazing memory of having blue seats for a Reds/Phillies game. I spent the pregame standing near the Phillies bullpen watching watch Steve Carlton warm up before the game. I don’t remember what year it was or who won. All I remember is that I was 10 feet away from Steve Effing Carlton! The guy who had won Cy Young Awards and had pitched my favorite team to a World Series Championship. And I was RIGHT NEXT TO HIM.

Steve Carlton
Lefty!

I didn’t watch games through knotholes, but my buddies and I did learn how to jump over the railing from the green seats at Riverfront into the blue seats and dash down the aisle before the usher could catch us. Once in the blue section, the world was ours and we could really see up close the same guys we watched on TV, back when Monday Night Baseball and the Saturday Game of the Week were a big deal.

Willie, Mickey & the Duke were amazing players. Hall of Famers all of them. I never saw any of them play live. But I did see Mike Schmidt play.

I saw Tom Seaver

And Johnny Bench

And Nolan Ryan

 

I saw Rod Carew

And Reggie Jackson

And Andre Dawson

Chicki-Crunch
Chicki-Crunch

 

I also saw Wayne Krenchicki

With the Reds AND the Expos

Were Feller, Yogi and Musial better than Seaver, Bench and Reggie? Maybe. Maybe not, but here’s the thing: I don’t care.

 

You can have Joe Black. I’ll take Bud Black

You take Campanella. I’ll take Carter.

You take Eddie Mathews and I’ll take Gary Matthews.

You can have Vin Scully. I’ll take… well, Vin Scully.

Garvey, Winfield, Schmitty, Luzinski… they were all my guys. They were larger than life. They were who I grew up watching, and the guys you grew up watching are mythical figures by definition.

The 80’s was the decade I came of age as a baseball fan. Willie, Mickey and The Duke were great, but I’ll take Willie Wilson, Mickey Hatcher and John “Duke” Wathan.

With no regrets.