March 16, 2005 -
|Cal Ripken Jr.||$11.99|
Spring brings out the best in sports. March Madness takes off, the NBA’s true season — the playoffs — kick pro hoops into overdrive and baseball begins its marathon season. Though some may known McFarlane Toys best for its Spawn and movie toys, the successful toy company is also the premiere source for sports collectibles. To commemorate the start of the baseball season, McFarlane Toys is releasing a new Cooperstown Collection series. Six of the greatest players in baseball history are included this year.
The six-inch figures are highly detailed if not highly-posable. Each comes with a molded stand painted and textured to look like infield dirt. The only notable flaw in packaging is a lack of info on each players. These are Hall of Fame superstars, they deserve to have their historic numbers noted on the packaging. Otherwise, there’s really nothing but brilliance here. But which one’s best? Check out our breakdown of each baseball star.
Willie Stargell #8
McFarlane Says: He was Pittsburgh’s hero, but everyone’s friend. The man known as “Pops” was one of the most endearing players in baseball history. Willie Stargell earned a nation of fans with his earnest smile and fearsome power. The patriarch of the “We Are Family” Pirates clubs, Stargell was named the National League MVP in 1979 at the age of 39! Willie led Pittsburgh to World Series titles in 1971 and 1979 and brought a jovial presence to the park rarely seen since.
We Say: Stargell is probably the least interesting of the figures. He may be family, but he’s also the only one posing before the action. This is Stargell watching as the pitcher begins his windup. Who thinks of Willie Stargell waiting for the pitch? The figure looks great, but compared to the others, this is the least impressive pose.
Willie Mays #24
McFarlane Says: If there are five “tools” in baseball then Willie Mays must have been a carpenter. The Giants’ star outfielder excelled in all facets of the game — hitting for power and average, stealing bases, fielding and throwing with brilliance. He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1951, played in 20 All-Star games, earned 12 Gold Gloves and two National League MVP awards. Mays played the game at a higher level and helped turn a generation of wide-eyed kids into baseball fans.
We Say: One of the top three greatest players to ever stop on the field, Mays is best-remembered for an over-the-shoulder catch. However, just like the statue that immortalizes him outside SBC Park, Mays is shown following his slugger’s swing. Mays looks great, uniform dirtied muscles strained, his entire body thrown into the swing. Still, this cat did field, ya know?
Catfish Hunter #27
McFarlane Says: It’s hard to remember the name James Augustus Hunter, but no one forgot how “Catfish” pitched. The star pitcher for the Athletics, “Catfish” won 21 or more games five seasons in a row and recorded a perfect game in 1968. Hunter won the Cy Young award in 1974, and finished his career on Broadway — pitching under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium. Though injuries ended his career at age 33, Hunter won 224 games and five World Series titles.
We Say: Oakland’s man with the magic ’stache is mid-windup on the mound. The only pitcher in the set, Catfish is a great addition to the Cooperstown Collection. Of course, I’m an A’s fan, so what would you expect me to say? Head down, ball gripped to throw a breaking ball, Catfish looks in his element. This is one of the best figures in the set.
Babe Ruth #3
McFarlane Says: George Herman Ruth remains as one of the most dominant sports figures of the 20th century. “The Babe” brought unparalleled power to the game of baseball, often out-homering other teams during his early career. After winning 89 games as a left-handed pitcher for Boston, the Red Sox shipped him to the Yankees in exchange for a curse and some cash. Ruth led the American League in homers 12 times, crushing 714 longballs while leading the Yankees to seven pennants and four World Series titles.
We Say: Wow. The Babe sure was an ugly man. The unattractive yet loveable slugger is captured at the end of his classic home run swing. The pose is spot on and the ’20s era Yankees uniform is extra baggy, as it should be. The Sultan of Swat chased Carlton Fisk from this set. Oh, Babe, you still find a way to curse Red Sox fans.
Mike Schmidt #20
McFarlane Says: Baseball fans had high standards for defensive play at third base following Brooks Robinson’s marvelous career, but Mike Schmidt showed fans a defensive clinic while also putting on a fireworks display. Schmidt hit 30 or more homers in a season ten times, en route to 548 career dingers. His determination at the plate and in the field brought him 12 All-Star selections, ten gold Gloves and three National League MVP awards. Schmidt was a tough guy in a tougher town, but even the nastiest of the Philly faithful tip their caps to the redheaded monster at the hot corner.
We Say: The best figure in the series, Schmidt is captured at the moment of contact. You can practically hear the crack of the bat. Not to be critical of Schmidty, but that pine tar on his bat is riding a little high.
Cal Ripken Jr.
McFarlane Says: Cal Ripken Junior was born in Maryland, played 20 seasons for the Orioles, and retired to start a developmental team in their minor league system — it’s safe to say that when cut, he probably bleeds orange. Cal won the American League Rookie of the year award in 1982, and the A.L. MVP award one year later while leading Baltimore to a World Series championship. His unbelievable career is actually overshadowed by one singular record. Ripken shattered Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played — breaking the old mark of 2,130 games (JSM) and setting a new standard with 2,632. The record is impressive in and of itself, but the timing of the chase was perfect. Baseball had alienated much of its fan base with the players’ strike and the cancellation of the World Series in 1994, and it was the dogged determination of Cal Ripken chasing Lou Gehrig’s record that brought thousands of fans back to the game.
We Say: The modern day Iron Man is pictured circa the early ’80s, when the Orioles were hot stuff. Ripken was all about the fundamentals, so it makes sense he’s about to snag a routine grounder to short. Bonus points for the dirt on the left ass, a sign that Ripken must have slid into second in a previous inning.