View Full Version : Team Building Exercise - Common or Uncommon?

12-15-2015, 02:02 AM
Building team sets of game used bats is a particularly popular way for collectors to celebrate and remember their favorite teams of yesterday and today. Team sets are also a great way for newer collectors or a collector on a budget to maintain the excitement. It could also be a great bonding activity for a parent/child to do together.

Team collectors can purchase the bats in no certain order which provides a level of flexibility. In some cases though, there are bats that come up for sale that need to be grabbed quickly since they can be scarce. Once they're gone...they're gone.

Some of the more popular teams to collect include:

1927 New York Yankees
1954 New York Giants
1955 Brooklyn Dodgers
1961 New York Yankees
1962 New York Mets
1965 Minnesota Twins
1967 Boston Red Sox
1967 St. Louis Cardinals
1968 Detroit Tigers
1969 New York Mets
1969 Chicago Cubs
1975/76 Cincinnati Reds
1977/78 New York Yankees
1982 Milwaukee Brewers
1982 St. Louis Cardinals
1984 Detroit Tigers
1984 San Diego Padres
1985 Kansas City Royals
1987/91 Minnesota Twins
1990 Cincinnati Reds
1996/98/99/00/09 New York Yankees
2004/07/13 Boston Red Sox
2006/11 St. Louis Cardinals
2008 Philadelphia Phillies
2010/12/14 San Francisco Giants
2015 Kansas City Royals

No doubt I'm missing several others, but you get the idea. While this list covers mostly World Series teams, there are others (like the 2008 and 2011 Milwaukee Brewers not listed above) who are popular for other reasons. That 2008 Brewers team is remembered as the first Brewers team to make the playoffs since 1982 (a span of 26 years). The 2011 Brewers team won the division but eventually lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. Both of those teams have collectors who focus on putting together complete sets.

One facet of collecting team sets is the search for a variety of players from starting position players, to pitchers, to players who spent time mostly on the bench. The thrill of the hunt is strong with those who strive to collect their favorite teams. Unfortunately, what can be a joy for some can become a huge hurdle for others. While a complete set of 1991 Twins bats may run only a few thousand dollars and be fairly readily available, a complete run of 1927 Yankees bats would cost likely very close to seven figures to complete and be nearly impossible (even if money were no object).

The 1991 Twins have HOFer Kirby Puckett as the feature player. Bats of his aren't difficult to find and usually run $1500 or less for an autographed example. After Kirby, you've got Kent Hrbek, Dan Gladden, Greg Gagne, and Chuck Knoblauch. I think at most, Hrbek might cost $200 for a nice example and the rest are $125 or less.

The 1927 New Yankees on the other hand start and end with George Herman Ruth and Henry Louis Gehrig. A nice, "cheap" example of Ruth would likely be $50,000+ whereas that same Gehrig might run $70,000+. After those two there are still Hall of Fame members Tony Lazzeri and outfielder Earle Combs. If you're looking for completion you'll want pitchers as well and so you're on the hunt for Hall of Famers Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock. To be quite honest, I'm not sure a complete run of 1927 Yankees would even be possible. The 1927 Yankees are a wicked combination of high demand, high value, and extreme rarity.

Another team with a great selection of players is the 1976 Cincinnati Reds. The "Great 8" of Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Pete Rose, Dave Concepcion, Johnny Bench, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo, and Ken Griffey were the heart and soul of that Bicentennial Year team. Other players on the team that are popular with collectors include Joel Youngblood, Doug Flynn, Dan Driessen, and Bill Plummer.

These bats have gained in popularity over the last 10 years and because of this, prices (and demand) have increased. Bench, Foster, Geronimo, Morgan, and Perez would likely be termed as "scarce" since collectors tend to grab these up as soon as they are offered for sale. Bench bats from this time have seen a tremendous spike in popularity and value in part due to his notorious use of pine tar and overall great visual appeal. Pete Rose bats from that season have remained steady as their scarcity has not wavered. Bicentennial bats of Rose are rare and nice examples carry a premium price tag. Also during this time Rose also was using Adirondack bats which makes finding an H&B counterpart that much more difficult.

Perhaps the most difficult bat of the Cincinnati Reds "Great 8" is that of Ken Griffey. He also was known to use Adirondack bats during this time. H&B bats of his are extremely rare.

The bats manufactured by Hillerich & Bradsby that season featured the 1776-1976 Liberty Bell logo on the sweet spot. This stamping actually replaced the usual "Powerized" which was located to the right of the center label. This stamping alone adds some popularity to these bats as I've run into people who collect these bats simply because of the Bicentennial logo.

Flash forward twenty years and we jump ahead to look at the 1996 New York Yankees. Main position players on the Yankees that year include Derek Jeter, Wade Boggs, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams, Darryl Strawberry, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada, and Joe Girardi.

Clearly the most expensive player on that list is Derek Jeter, hands down, and deservedly so. The next tier would include Boggs, Bernie Williams, Posada, and Paul O'Neill. Third tier (in terms of pricing level) would include Tino Martinez and Darryl Strawberry. Other players who will sell for surprisingly good money include Cecil Fielder, Tim Raines, Mariano Duncan, Charlie Hayes, Luis Sojo, and Jim Leyritz. Prices on these other players that don't carry "star status" can reach astounding levels as collectors scramble to complete their sets. After all, who wouldn't pay $125+ for a Charlie Hayes if it means finishing a team set?

One of the best specific examples I can give as to the difficulty of putting together a particular team set is shown by sharing the story of GUU's own Mike Specht and his collection of 1984 Padres.

The 1984 Padres were the NL West Champions. They faced the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS and won the series 3-2. In the World Series, they faced a tough Detroit Tigers team that was led by Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, and Kirk Gibson. The Padres lost the series 4-1.

Some of the more popular players on the '84 team include HOFers Tony Gwynn and Goose Gossage as well as perennial All Star Steve Garvey and former Yankee Graig Nettles. Although in higher demand, bats of Nettles, Garvey, and Gwynn are fairly easy to locate.

Mike's first "wanted" post on GUU for this '84 team was on August 13, 2009. In it, the list consisted of just nine players:

Tim Flannery (128 AB)
Tim Lollar (68 AB)
Mark Thurmond (58 AB)
Andy Hawkins (41 AB)
Eddie Miller (14 AB)
Doug Gwosdz (8 AB)
Greg Booker (7 AB)
Luis DeLeon (4 AB)
Floyd Chiffer (3 AB)

These nine players were all members of that 1984 team. Tim Flannery was an infielder, Gwosdz was a back up catcher, Eddie Miller was an outfielder, and Booker, Chiffer, DeLeon, Hawkins, Lollar, and Thurmond were all pitchers.

Over the past 6 years, Mike has kept the want list updated when necessary.
2010, he acquired Tim Flannery and Eddie Miller.
2013, I found a late 1970s Doug Gwosdz minor league bat.
2013, I found a 1985 Tim Lollar Red Sox bat.
2015, he acquired a Greg Booker.

His most recent want list (as of December 7, 2015) left just the following.

Floyd Chiffer (3 AB)
Luis DeLeon (4 AB)
Andy Hawkins (41 AB)
Mark Thurmond (58 AB)

As far as I know, all that stands between Mike and a complete run are these four bats of players that would typically be referred to as "commons". Consider also that he was able to acquire just five bats of the nine players in the span of six years.

Luckily, there have been eyes on that list for the last 6 years and these names haven't gone unnoticed. I'm happy to announce here that in the last few weeks I managed to track down and acquire bats of Greg Booker (a duplicate as it would happen), Luis DeLeon, and Andy Hawkins. (At the time I started writing this, Mike hadn't yet acquired the Greg Booker so I am still including it in this article.)


The Greg Booker is a block letter last name only, 1986-89 Louisville Slugger model M110 with his #51 on the knob. There are a few black ink transfers which means this bat is most likely a Padres bat as opposed to an American League Minnesota Twins bat from 1989.


The Andy Hawkins is a signed, block letter last name only, 1986 Louisville Slugger model M110 with his #40 on the knob. This bat has what appears to be a foil stamped last name with 86-89 labeling these two characteristics together lend it to being a 1986 bat. It also has black ink transfers which means it was used in National League games.


The Luis DeLeon is a signature model 1983-85 Louisville Slugger model R124 with his #35 on the knob in black. It clearly dates to his tenure with the Padres in the mid-1980s.


And so, that brings us to the present. Mike's list of 1984 Padres that he needs now consists of just two bats:

Floyd Chiffer (3 AB)
Mark Thurmond (58 AB)

Surely, these players can't be that hard to find. After all, these are "common" players. Yet in all my years of searching and watching I've never seen one come up for sale. Rest assured, when one of these does surface if I see it, I'll be a buyer. These two bats have suddenly become as important as Gwynn, Gossage, Garvey, or Nettles.

That's the thing about team collecting. No one player is more important to a team set than another. They're all necessary for completion. I guess that's sort of a metaphor for a real life sports team. A baseball team needs to have all nine spots covered in order to be effective. Some players may be more valuable to the team, but they are all equally important.

12-16-2015, 08:07 PM
Look forward to more articles such as this. I used to subscribe to Sports Collectors Digest, and the one thing I really liked was the great articles about collecting.

12-16-2015, 09:26 PM

I like the article, and it's so true: the commons aren't really so common, in many instances.

Working for a previous authentication business, one of the bat authenticators (also a dealer) asked me to notify him when an obscure player on a championsip or popular team (like the '69 Cubs) showed up on eBay so he could pursue it if he didn't see it yet.

Dave Miedema

12-17-2015, 01:42 PM
Great write up Tim!

You left my team the 86 Mets off the list😢

12-17-2015, 01:45 PM

I like the article, and it's so true: the commons aren't really so common, in many instances.

Working for a previous authentication business, one of the bat authenticators (also a dealer) asked me to notify him when an obscure player on a championsip or popular team (like the '69 Cubs) showed up on eBay so he could pursue it if he didn't see it yet.

Dave Miedema

Especially true if they are pitchers Dave. All the bats I need to complete my team sets are pitchers.

12-17-2015, 08:21 PM
I've really enjoyed collecting my 2011 Cardinal jerseys ( team was not on your list!). It is interesting that the oddball players are the tough ones although I haven't found a 2011 Pujols that is for sale

12-19-2015, 10:40 AM
Great article Tim.

As I think about possibly working on a 2015 Royals Team Set, I am daunted by the likes of completing it with the likes of Raul Mondesi Jr, who made his career debut with a single at bat in the World Series. May have to settle for a minor league bat... :p

12-20-2015, 01:00 PM
Excellent work, Tim. Thanks for taking time out of your day to write these.

12-22-2015, 09:21 PM
The 1994 Montreal Expos is the team set I've been collecting

12-25-2015, 10:27 PM
Tim, great article! I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment on collecting teams, it can be very rewarding regardless of budget. Indeed, some of the best finds are those incredibly scarce gamers that no one bothered to keep. It is super what you did for mike! and I am sure he is thrilled with the new finds.

I collect Red Sox bats and have been trying to get a bat from each player who played from 1960 to the present. I never sought the pitchers bats because that would have been an impossible task. Dave, I totally agree that some of those "commons" are terribly uncommon. I have been locked in a few heated battles for some obscure bats, surely to the surprise of the lucky eBay seller or auction house. In many ways tracking down the obscure bat is even more rewarding than finding the "common" star bats. I started 25 years ago and have kept many of the original want lists that I would send snail mail to dealers and collectors looking for bats. It is fun to see how far the collection has come. Fast forward to today, and I need 5 bats to complete the collection: Felix Mantilla, Carmen Fanzone, George Smith, Ken Poulsen and Jeff Bianchi.

So if you come across any of those in your travels, drop me a line.

Best, Jeff

Soxbats at aol dot com

12-27-2015, 01:21 AM
Great first article, Tim! I hope to see more of this material here on the site, versus some of the other "stuff" you usually see..

01-04-2016, 09:23 PM
Hey Tim, thanks so much for the posts, it is great to build the overall knowledge of bat collecting "old school" style, without the photo match or MLB authentication. I have been a team collector for about 25 years (ouch I feel old) and I think it is a very satisfying way to collect game used bats with limited means. In fact, over the years some of my most thrilling finds were the most uncommon of common player bats. Sometimes the stars and HOFers are the easiest to find and collect. The common bats are the ones found at yard sales, flea markets and the occasional storage locker. I still need a few uncommon common bats to complete my collection and they are probably right now propping a door, laying on the floor of a wet basement and the favorite toy of the neighbor's dog.

soxbats at aol dot com