Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Well, lookie there

I've got myself another little recurring series here. It's another one of those time-savers that requires minimal thought. In other words, it's almost a Tumblr post. (Remember my Tumblr page? It was a good idea until I realized the format doesn't think fondly of words and that was the end for me. This also means never expect to find Night Owl Cards on Instagram).

I'm calling it "well, lookie there." It's what one might say as they're going through their collection and spotting something interesting that they are discovering for the first time. ... OK, it's what I might say as I'm going through my collection and spotting something interesting for the first time.

The posts in this series after this one will feature some sort of name or title after the "well, lookie there," intro, at which point I expect readership to plummet dramatically for this particular series. That's usually how it goes.

The debut entry has to do with Juan Samuel and his 1992 Upper Deck card. It's a handsome devil of a card, showing Samuel diving into the base one-handed, perhaps completing one of his 23 stolen bases in 1991.

1992 UD is a rather attractive set and this card is a perfect example.

And sometimes the photo is so good, you get to see something very similar in the same year:

Could be wrong, but I think this is the same play just a second or two before the photo on the Upper Deck card. The Upper Deck photo is better because of the base and the glove hand, but give Triple Play credit for knowing the value of dirt flying. Also, Triple Play let everyone in on the fact that this photo was "Awesome Action," while UD just let that go understood.

There are a number of examples of the same photos, or photos from the same play, appearing on competing baseball card brands. The first one I discovered is the famous 1982 Topps-1982 Fleer Rod Carew debacle in which the exact same photo was used.

Stuff like this is a product of competition and embarrassing when it happens. Today, Topps owns all of Major League Baseball photographically so the only repeat photos that you see are when Topps gets lazy and uses the same picture on different brands. Are they embarrassed? Should be, but probably not.

So that's your eyeful of 1992 Juan Samuel on Well Lookie There.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The most important cards of the day

I don't do breakfast.

I usually rouse myself out of my tree hole around 11 a.m. (although it's been a lot earlier lately for a variety of inconvenient reasons). By the time I'm ready for food, everyone else is at lunch. And because I consider lunch food infinitely more desirable than breakfast food, I simply slide into lunch with everyone else.

Breakfast rarely exists in my world.

This, no doubt, is heartbreaking news to whoever came up with the slogan, "breakfast is the most important meal of the day." They have no shot at shoving burnt toast and scalding coffee down my throat. The Eggo and Jimmy Dean people are powerless over me.

I sound pretty smug about that, but I admit, this would be a tragedy if people were still putting baseball cards in and on cereal boxes. I'd have to eat cereal for lunch, I guess. Which would be quite the sacrifice because, boy, do I ever love sandwiches.

Breakfast being the most important meal of the day would only make sense to me if you were starting off your day with a brand new baseball card, like I did as a kid in the '70s. Forget about the food inside that box. This was the most important CARD of the day.

In fact, I was taken back to that wonderful time, when breakfast actually mattered, by a recent package from R.C., hot on the heels of his earlier envelope. In that recent package were a whole host of breakfast cards, including the best breakfast cards of all:

Kellogg's 3-D Super Stars.

As I hope you know, these are my all-time favorite oddballs. Apparently they are others' all-time favorites, too, because I rarely receive them in the mail, and I don't see them much at card shows either. So I am very happy about these particular cards.

The Billy Buck card is from the 1982 Kellogg's set. This was long past my childhood fascination for grabbing the one card inside the cereal box. I'm not nearly as enamored with the '80s Kellogg's cards as the '70s. But kudos to 1982 for looking very much like the familiar blue-bordered '70s Kellogg's cards that spark so much nostalgia.

Cards like this, for instance.

How cool is a 3-D card of Dick Allen in a bonafide Cardinals uniform? Topps never showed Allen in a Cardinals uniform, preferring instead to list him with the Cardinals in the 1970 set but hide the fact that he was really wearing a Phillies uniform. By 1971, Allen was off to the Dodgers and then the White Sox. His Cardinals days long forgotten.

I enjoy my Kellogg's cards as uncracked as possible. But I will make so many exceptions for this card.

More Cardinals' ever-so-slightly-cracked greatness. While the Allen card is from 1971, this is four years later and Lou Brock's Kellogg's card immediately after he set the season stolen base record with 118. This would have been one of the best possible cards to pull out of a box of Frosted Flakes in 1975, especially because Hank Aaron didn't make the set.

Here is Jim Palmer posing between the twin '72 slashes. Sorry, '72 Kellogg's, this is one design where you didn't have it all over Topps. I never understood the odd slanted ribbons on these cards. But give me a minute to drink in the 3-D action and I'll forget.

Here we go! The Kellogg's cards from 1977 and 1978 (this Munson is from '78) are my sweet spot. Those are the years when I brushed the most cereal flakes from my elbows reaching for those cards. I really didn't like Munson at this time -- and if I did pull it then, I probably would have scammed a Yankee fan for 10 cards in return for scowling Thurm.

We're exiting the '70s with this one. This is a '79 Kellogg's card of Pete Rose. Please note the "infield" designation on the card. Rose had already moved on to Philadelphia by the time this card appeared in boxes. There is a Phillies logo on the back as well as mention of Rose's transition.

So, yes, we're out of the '70s, but we're not done with the breakfast cards.

Here is something I've never seen in person before:

These are 1997 Wheaties cards, which were issued on Wheaties boxes. Please note the fairly expert cutting on these cards.

I particularly appreciate the Piazza and Nomo cards. The dimensions are a bit odd for page storing (too tall and too narrow). But I will let that pass because I'm viewing these for the first time!

There is another breakfast slogan that is sort of a spin-off of the "most important meal of the day" line.

Wheaties used to say: "Better eat your Wheaties!"

That was a particularly bossy way to guilt you into consuming their tasteless soggy leaves each morning in hopes you would become the next Olympic athlete -- or in 1997, the next baseball All-Star.

But I'm wise to all those breakfast sayings.

I don't eat Wheaties, but I have Wheaties cards.

I don't eat Frosted Flakes, but I have my precious 3-D Kellogg's cards.

You have to get up pretty early in the morning to sucker the night owl.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Awesome night card, pt. 261: the Dodgers don't deserve a card

About a week ago, the king of the Supertraders, Wes of Jaybarkerfan's Junk, announced that he wasn't interested in being the Braves supertrader anymore. With the Braves flailing through another season, collecting the team didn't interest him that much.

That's not something I ever see myself doing, no matter how long the Dodgers go without returning to the World Series.

But I do reach my smaller breaking points. This is one of them.

I never expected the Dodgers to be a World Series or even playoff-contending team this season. I said that on this blog near the start of the season. But I did expect them to play with some degree of intelligence, meaning you beat the eternally bumbling teams of Major League Baseball that we all know -- particularly the Padres.

The Dodgers can't even do that now. Thanks to a meager offense, which has basically been an issue for the team since Gary Sheffield and Shawn Green left, and a horrific bullpen in the seventh and eighth innings, the Dodgers are now losing to the Padres, a team they absolutely murdered as the season opened.

I do not blame Kenley Jansen for surrendering Melvin Upton's winning home run on Friday. If the Dodgers continue to put relievers out there who can't find the plate, who are obviously ill at ease with their chosen profession, then I blame the system. I blame not only Dodgers management, but the template that managers and coaches follow like sheep that says a starting pitcher, who is clearly superior to any other pitching option on the team, must give way to garbage.

I have watched so many games over the years where an Alex Wood strikes out 13 and then is removed, just because he gave up a run in a now 1-0 game, just because that's the way we've done it for 20-plus years, so that someone else can eventually sabotage his own team. I don't want to watch games like that anymore. I enjoy good starting pitching more than just about anything else in baseball. Meanwhile, my least favorite thing on a baseball field is pitching incompetence. It's unwatchable. If I was a manager and a relief pitcher came into a tie game or with a lead and they walked a batter, I would pull him. I would last a week as a manager, but that is the worst possible thing for a relief pitcher to do in his job. If I was called into work because someone else couldn't finish the job and I proceeded to put typos in all of the headlines, I'd be fired.

(I know the Dodgers relief pitching was good Saturday until the fateful 11th, but that is one game. The problem is the inconsistency).

This is not a Dodgers problem. This is a major league problem and something I've railed about for years. It ruins the appeal of the game for me. And those who are 20 or 30 years old probably have no concept what I'm talking about, but they don't remember starting pitchers who regularly pitched into the eighth and ninth. Unfortunately, because of the way pitchers are trained now, players like Wood are probably incapable of going the distances that pitchers did until the '90s. That, to me, has left us with an inferior game.

The Dodgers don't deserve a night card for the way they've played even with all of the injuries. The bullpen is a spectacular disaster. The starting pitching is hit-and-miss. The offense is a barely noticeable blip.

I am not responsible for what I do to a Chris Hatcher card if one shows up this year. Or Carl Crawford.


Night card binder candidate: Melvin Upton Jr., 2015 Topps Heritage High Numbers, #619
Does it make the binder?: Yes. That's your fault, too, Dodgers.

(Update: Since I wrote this, the Dodgers offense woke up (with the exception of Crawford) and the relief pitching did a decent-ish job in 17-inning victory that could be described only as a beautiful disaster. Figures).

Friday, May 20, 2016

Variation of the same theme

I know nobody cares about my little problems, but I've made it a part of my blog act for going on eight years now, so there's no way I can dial it back.

I always reserve my trade packaging for days off. It's the only period when I have enough mental energy for finding, sorting and packaging cards. I'm way too much of a mess during work days to be doing that stuff. Who knows what you'd find in your envelope if I tried to squeeze packaging in during a work shift. Some old tissues wrapped around thumb tacks or something similar. It'd be ugly. And harmful.

So, Wednesday was my day off. I was ready to get some packaging done.

It was then that I realized that my daughter had her road test. The test was scheduled for 1 in the afternoon, which, for a night owl like me is like scheduling it at 8:30 in the morning. I set my alarm early -- 10 a.m. But there was no need because fire engines screamed down my street at 7, and I approached the day with a refreshing 3 1/2 hours of sleep.

Like every school in America these days, getting my daughter out of the building is akin to getting permission to transport political prisoners out of the country. Sign this. Go here. Not THERE. HERE. Sign this again. Wait outside. Then, and only then, the school finally coughs up my kid.

This was road test No. 2. Because nobody was ready for road test No. 1, that's for sure. So there was a little pressure, because here in New York, if you fail two road tests, you've got to pay more money. But I'm happy to say, she passed and there have been no incidents in the two whole days that she's been driving out on her own.

That's more than I can say for the woman across the street from me.

An hour after the road test, I was in the backyard when I heard someone talking to me. I turned and it was a police officer, yammering about good neighbors and bad neighbors. I had no idea what he was talking about. It turns out the 87-year-old woman across the street backed into my car parked in the street and then took off, leaving a white streak across the driver's side. Lovely. She's not a sweet old lady either. She's grumpy. With a driver's license she clearly shouldn't have.

So I spent a good portion of my day off with accident reports and insurance forms. And, yes, it's fortunate nobody was hurt but I've got cards to send!!!

I'm handling all of this stuff alone because my wife is out of town on a work trip. I was all set to call her about the day's activities when I found out from someone who took the trip with her that my wife was sick from food poisoning and spent the whole day in her bed at the hotel, with the notable exception of several vomiting trips. She's five states away, so there wasn't a lot I could do, but I spent the rest of the day really trying to figure out what I could do.

And that was the end of my day off. Nothing got packaged. Nothing got sent. Everything is sitting on the desk where it was sitting since the previous week. I'm starting to forget who the cards are supposed to go to, even with sticky notes everywhere.

Of course, everyone has their problems. This -- the road test, the accident, the food poisoning -- is all a variation of the same theme, which is -- I HAVE NO TIME.

And speaking of variations of the same theme, I just got a card package from Colbey of Cardboard Collections.

Every card from that package that I needed was a variation of the base card.

Take a look:

We call them parallels, but they're actually a variation of the base card.

(Add League back into the Dodgers' still-combustible bullpen and that bullpen would burn Dodger Stadium right to the ground).

I believe this Bowman Chrome card is a variation on Jose De Leon's regular Bowman card. Or not. Who knows. I've stopped caring.

This is my first 2016 Gypsy Queen mini -- a shrunken variation of the base card.

This is my first Kenta Maeda card. And it's a snazzy one, too. It's one of those shiny minis (a variation of a variation, or a parallel of a parallel, if you wish).

More mini variations of variations, but these variations are on the back.

OK, I lied on the Jackie Robinson. That's a regular old regular mini, that I somehow needed.

This also isn't a variation. It's a regular old base card that I already own. But it was just too cool not to show.

Now don't worry, I haven't given up on trying to get packages out. There's another day off coming in a few days.

Never fear, Wrigley Roster Jenga, Dawg Day Cards, Sportscard From The Dollar Store, Dime Boxes, The Lost Collector, Royals and Randoms, Too Many Verlanders, Fantastic Catch and a few others (I'll remember them, I promise). There can't possibly be another day like Wednesday happening in back-to-back weeks.

Things are looking up. I have extra time now that the kid is driving, the wife is back to herself, and the old lady across the street's house is for sale. Soon she won't be able to hound us with vehicle mayhem anymore.

All in good time.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

C.A.: 1975 Topps Maximino Leon

(Hi. If you're in the habit of waiting for new posts to pop up on your blog roll or the old-fashioned Blogger dashboard thing, then you might have missed out on my last couple of posts. Blogger seems determined to make me into an early morning poster -- refusing to publish new content that I posted on my blog in the early evening and instead publishing it at 6 in the morning, when I am always 100 percent asleep. Meanwhile the blog roll acts like I did publish it during the previous evening, but it doesn't appear on the blog roll until 6 in the morning, and by then it has disappeared off the most recent items on everyone's blog rolls. I realize I'm complaining about a free service, which is something I just criticized people for doing in the last post. But some of you didn't read that post because of Blogger hijinks. Also, I know the old tricks about republishing the post to goad it into appearing. That ain't working. Believe me. Anyway, it's time -- I think -- for Cardboard Appreciation. This -- whenever it shows up -- is the 240th in a series):

I just realized the other day that I have been pronouncing this player's name wrong. For more than 40 years, I have been pronouncing his name wrong.

This is borderline crushing because the players who appeared in that first year that I collected are important to me. I feel like we have a connection that I don't have with players from the '80s, '90s or today. If I was ever one of those idiots with an entourage, these would be the guys in my entourage. The players in 1975 Topps.

I pride myself on my knowledge of '75 Topps guys. And I certainly thought I knew how to pronounce the names. I know how to say "Sudakis," "Grabarkewitz," and "Friesleben." I privately shame people who flub "Apodaca," and I'm certain I'm the only one who knows how to correctly pronounce "McAnally." I can't even claim ignorance over Latin names. I've known Winston Llenas' last name is pronounced "Yay-nas" since I was yay-high.

I feel like I know them. I know everything about them -- or at least everything that their baseball card says about them.

And this baseball card says this player is named Maximino Leon.

But I didn't see that as a kid. I saw Maximo Leon.

That's what I called him. Maximo. I thought it sounded cool. MAXIMO. I wanted a cool name like that.

For the years that followed, this unmemorable relief pitcher for some really lousy Braves teams teased me with his name. I'd call him "Maximo" and Leon would stare back at me, looking mildly perturbed for botching his name. I could have simply called him "Max." That's how he signed his name. And if you look him up on baseball-reference or wikipedia, he's called "Max" there, too.

Apparently nobody wants to make the same mistake I did.

It's all Topps' fault anyway for being so damn proper. Instead of keeping it simple and printing "Max Leon" on his cards, it had 9-year-old boys stumbling over his name.

I'm sure that now that I know his name isn't "Maximo," I'm still going to call him "Maximo." There's no way I'm going back after 40 years of this.

So how about you? Any baseball names you botched as a kid? I can't be the only one.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A noncontributing zero

If you know the work of comedian Louis CK then you know the blog title reference and you may have his whole routine that includes that phrase memorized. I know I do. It resonates with me because, yeah, I'm part of the older generation now looking down on the "generation of spoiled idiots."

Of course, "everything's amazing and nobody's happy" is now a saying on a T-shirt, and it will take you all of 20 seconds on youtube to find his bit on the old Conan O'Brien show. You can also -- if you really want to waste some time -- read the moronic comments on the video in which people demonstrate exactly what Louis CK is talking about by complaining that he is only funny because the interview/routine is scripted.

OK, noncontributing zero, who scripted it? And how much did you pay to view it? And why am I reading the comments?????

But I am not above being ungrateful. There have been times when I haven't appreciated the amazing in my life, the amazing people in my life. It happens.

It's happened on the card blogs, too.

For years now, David of Tribe Cards, the man who was the first to sent me cards through the mail just because, has been conducting free giveaways. That's basically why his blog exists. To give away cards.

The last three years, he has more or less been opening a different pack a day and distributing the contents to those who have entered. Then he raffles off the unclaimed cards, too. All of this seems to take an amazing amount of time, effort and money, and I've said more than once how impressed I am with what he is doing.

Distributing the cards seems to be the most difficult part, and I certainly understand. When I have five card packages to mail out -- as I do now -- I am forever stalling. Sometimes I'll even do yard work before I finish packaging up a mere three envelopes. I don't know what my behavior would be if I had to package up 30 or more envelopes at once.

Yet, there is that tiny part of me, that noncontributing zero part of me that keeps thinking, "when do I get my cards?"

Back in 2014, the first year of the giveaway, David pulled this for me:

I couldn't believe my luck. David doesn't open anything super fancy during his Pack a Day Circus giveaways, because like just about all of us, he isn't made of money. So I was shocked that he pulled this.

And then I waited for it. And waited.

Most of the time, I was fine with that. It was a giveaway. I was aware how busy he was. He'll get to it. I've gotten cards from him plenty of times. It's not a big deal. It's not even a big deal if I never get the card.

But that was too much for the noncontributing zero to hear. "You WON that card," it said. "When are you gonna git that card?"

There's a line in Louis CK's bit where he says about an airline passenger, "How quickly the world owes him something he knew existed only 10 seconds ago."

That was me and the Kershaw relic.

I don't feel good about that.

So, you know what?

I forgot about it. It left my brain. For months. Maybe even a year.

Then, a few weeks ago, David announced he was sending out those cards from 2014, along with what he had pulled this year, too. I got that package in the mail a couple of days ago, and when the Kershaw relic showed up, I said "oh, yeeeeeaahhhhhhh, I remember that!" I was surprised all over again.

That's what happens when you're not obsessed with gimme, gimme all the time.

There were several other Kershaws in the package -- good thing I picked him when Dave was asking for players we wanted, huh? These are three that I needed, including my first look at this year's Gypsy Queen Kershaw. It's not bad. The design is only mildly upsetting this year.

More 2016 GQ. The Walk-Off Winners card is pretty nice. The back informs you that Jackie Robinson played in the era "before the term walk-off was termed." Yeah, so did the teenager in my house. So what?

The best cards in this giveaway are the items that have been elusive so long, not because they're rare or anything, but just because they've snuck through the cracks. This is one of those cards.

There were lots of Hanley Ramirez cards. I apparently asked for Ramirez as one of my players. I don't remember. 2014 has pretty much left my brain.

These are here just to give you an idea of the assorted goodies that Dave sent.

I have to say that I enjoyed these a lot more once I let go of the "when are these free cards going to GET HERE?"

I like to think that I'm more grateful than I once was. But I'm still working on that when it comes to cards.

But at least you'll never catch me complaining that my phone is too slow. Like Louis CK, I remember when the phone made sparks when you dialed a number. We're pretty much the same age.

Get off our lawns.