Thursday, October 30, 2014

Burying my disappointment in an avalanche of cardboard

Perhaps you've heard that 1.8 percent of major league baseball fans are happy because the Giants won the World Series again. As you can imagine, I'm part of the 98.2 percent that is not happy. In the least. I can't bring myself to say it was a great postseason or Series or any of that 'yay, baseball!' stuff because I'm too INVESTED.

Also, I'll never get used to the fact that a team that ended the season six games behind gets a World Series trophy. That's regardless of whether it's the Giants or not ... OK, it annoys me more that it's the Giants ... but, really, baseball what are you doing to yourself? I know it's irreparable and most fans have moved on and the other sports have been dealing with this for a long time since way back when I was a child, but six games behind, man. Six. Games. Behind.

Anyway, it's another lost postseason and to add to that joy I've worked 15 days straight and there's no real certainty about my next day off. October has not been friendly other than the pretty colors outside, so it's time to immerse myself in something that is friendly.

Baseball cards.

I recently received a glorious package from Dave, who has sent me so many goodies that I really need to be linking him. He doesn't have a blog, so I think I'll just throw his name down in the labels as a proper tribute.

As usual, Dave covered just about all the bases when sending me a package, forcing me into a top 10 countdown (sorry, Lost Collector) of the most fantastic items. They're pretty cool.

10. 2009 O-Pee-Chee box bottom with KERSHAW!

Dave has sent one of these before, and it's still intact. But I think I'll be cutting this up so I can add the Kershaw blank back in my collection. He can't be hanging out next to Ryan Braun anyway.

9. Black bordered OPC!

Wow, there were a lot of these.

A lot of these.


That's not all of them either.

Upper Deck trolling the Marlins.

 8. Dodgers

I'm not ranking these higher because they're mostly modern guys and I don't want to think about modern baseball right now.

These did give me my first look at Stadium Club, and I like them a lot. I'll never collect the full set because I learned from 2008 Stadium Club that Topps can't leave SC alone with out screwing up the collation or other nonsense. But the cards themselves look terrific.

That's better. Here are some Dodgers who were able to win their division and ... here's a thought, then play in the World Series! They won some, too.

7. One-and-Dones

That Dave is always thinking ... and coming up with cards. I like the One-and-Done Series that I do where I find players who had just one card in a major set for their whole career. But I've never made a collection out of it.

Thanks to Dave, I now have a collection. A nice vintage collection, too!

6. 1956s!

I'd love to rank these higher, but, you know, they were all Braves. One's from my hometown though (Logan), so I'll be nice to that one.

5. A&G Minis!

The majority of these have already qualified for the frankenset binder. Some very, very nice ones there.

4. 1981 Donruss

I was so excited to get these that they were the first items I crossed off the want list. This group is abundant with Pirates ... and Rusty Kuntz.

I'm starting to get a new appreciation for '81 Donruss with this project. I love the Sanguillen card. Is that a wife-beater he's wearing?

3. Night Cards

Lots and lots of night cards, too. Many of them looked like above.

And some of them looked like this:

I've never been happier to receive Yankees cards. I also never knew that there were so many night cards in early 1960s Post sets. I have several of them now!

I've always wanted this card. This is the famous Earl Weaver Sees a UFO Manager Rookie Card.

But I don't think it's actually a night card. I think it's an "in the dugout" card or maybe an "in the clubhouse" card. I can't even tell you if that item Weaver is staring at is a light. Maybe it IS a UFO.

2. 1972 Topps high numbers

First there's future Dodgers pinch-bunting extraordinaire Vic Davalillo.

Then there's one of the greatest Hoyt Wilhelm cards of all-time.

Then there's this miscut beauty, which happens to be on the Best Dodgers Cards Ever Made top 100. It's No. 20 on that list, but I really need to do another update of that list.

Last one, but couldn't be finer. Love Bob Veale cards. Love Bob Veale cards in front of the biggest batting cage of the 1970s. Love Bob Veale cards in front of the biggest batting cage of the 1970s while Veale is wearing the same jacket that my daughter bought recently minus the "P" on the front.

1. Random Vintage

Is there a better kind of vintage?

This Dodgers card of John Kennedy isn't quite random because I'm a Dodger fan, but how about this one? ...

Every collector must have a Colt .45s card in which the uniform features a gun on the front of the jersey. Different times, man.

But the foursome that put Random Vintage squarely at the top is even better:

You're looking at my first cards of all four of those individuals (I probably had an O.J. Simpson card back when I was a kid but all those football cards disappeared long ago).

Sure there's some controversy there, but as a Bills fan, I should have a Simpson card. And as a writer, I should have a Jim Bouton card (actually, come to think of it, I do). And as a fan of 1970s beer commercials, I should have a Bob Uecker card. And, finally, if you put "Choo Choo" as someone's name on a baseball card, that should be in my collection, too.

I feel more complete than I did before I got these cards.

So that was some kind of haul!

I'm so buried in cardboard greatness that I don't even remember who won the World Series.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Best set of the year: 1987

Today you're all focused on Game 7 of the World Series (or should be). I am, too, although part of me has turned to mush because that's what every Oct. 29th does to me.

But I try to convert this mushy holiday in which I met my girlfriend for life into something about baseball cards every year. And since that special Oct. 29 came in 1987, I figured that's the best time to feature the sets of 1987 in the Best Set Of The Year series.

In this series I arbitrarily rank the sets issued each year from 1981 forward. Since we're at 1987 now, we've stepped squarely into the junk wax era. Topps, Donruss and Fleer were all very prominent in 1987. Sportflics also issued their second set (and the first one that I ever saw). But I don't consider Sportflics a major set, so I'm excluding them.

I'm a little hesitant to rank these just because '87 sets seem much beloved by the 30-something crowd and I'm entirely too dismissive of sets from the late '80s. In 1987, I was very much into the college and bar scene and cards were barely a thought. I collected a few rack packs of Topps, that's it.

But then that's what this blog is for, opinionating, right?

Here we go:

1987 Topps -- the front

Plusses: A distinctive and memorable design. Wood borders, although a blatant self-tribute by Topps, make for an unforgettable look. ... the photographs are much improved over 1986 Topps in terms of quality ... team logos are always fun ... the colored name rectangle really stands out for certain teams (the Oakland A's, especially).

Minuses: No position designation! This drives some collectors wacky. ... I always though the logo was kind of floating in the air up there. The placement seemed odd. ... Oh, and this:

You already did this design, Topps. For those who argue that Topps was getting stale right around this time period, this is an excellent example.

1987 Topps -- the back

Plusses: Hey, look! Topps put the vital information on the bottom! This was very unlike Topps, although it was probably just copying Fleer, which did that in 1982. ... The back is more readable than the Topps card backs that immediately preceded it. ... For cards where there's room (limited year-by-year stats), Topps includes "On This Date" facts, which are sort of interesting.

Minuses: You will never get me to like yellow on cards, unless it's a 1972 Topps Astros card. ... Still more '80s card back dullness. In many cases the card back is just complete stats.

1987 Topps -- overall

Plusses: For whatever reason, it seems to be the set that got a lot of collectors into the hobby. Maybe because it was everywhere. ... The rookie cup returned! Yay! For the first time since 1978, Topps featured a rookie cup on cards depicting members of its all-rookie team. This is something that should have never left. ... Some memorable cards, like the Kevin Mitchell dust-up shot. ... Got to like the Topps cardboard. I'll mention this every time (at least until the 1990s). ... Another big set of 792 cards. ... Some pretty good rookies during a time when the rookie was king. Barry Larkin, Rafael Palmeiro. Coveted cards of Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco, too. Plus the Bo Jackson Future Star.

Minuses: I have completed every Topps flagship set of the 1980s except 1987. It just doesn't hold my interest. ... I think '89 Topps has it beat, but it'd be a pretty good race between the two in terms of which set is more abundant and therefore more worthless, monetarily speaking.

1987 Fleer -- the front

Plusses: One of my favorite Fleer looks from the '80s. Love blue. Love the gradient design. ... The color bar works very well with some teams in terms of tying the photo with the design. ... It features a cool, sleek look that appeals to me. ... The logo is nice and not big and jarring.

Minuses: The amount of border on the card sometimes crowds the photo. It's more apparent on some cards than others. ... A lot of closeups of players not doing anything, which was rather standard for Fleer.

1987 Fleer -- the back

Plusses: Fleer is still numbering its set by team with the previous year's World Series champions at the start. So much easier for organizational purposes. ... The back is more colorful than past Fleer backs (i.e. more than one color). ... The "How's He Hitting 'Em" is a nice graphic that was advanced for its time. The pitchers cards featured "He's Got The Stuff", which rated a pitcher's repetoire.

Minuses: The famous Fleer "wasted space" for players with few years in pro baseball. ... The graphic is very small and hard on the eyes (especially for non-kids). ... Fleer stayed with vertical backs throughout the '80s, which I never liked.

1987 Fleer -- overall

Plusses: I love "blue sets" ... The cards give off a "premium" glossy vibe even though they aren't. ... The team logo still rules and everyone knows it. For the second time this decade, all three sets featured the team logo on the front. That's Fleer's doing. ... Rookie cards of Barry Larkin and Jamie Moyer.

Minuses: I'm not one of those that loathes it when the design overpowers the photo, but I think this is one of the sets in which this happens.

1987 Donruss -- the front

Plusses: Black borders for the second time in three years. Black borders rule. ... The "path of baseballs" about a third of the way down the card are fun for some people. Emphasis on "some people".

Minuses: These black borders are no more immune to chipping than any others. ... This is one of my least favorite black border sets of all-time. In fact, I think this is the set that made me realize that not all black-bordered sets were cool (later confirmed repeatedly by Bowman). ... I actually hate the path of baseballs. Like many things that Donruss did in the '80s, it looks childish and drawn by a 9-year-old and we probably could have a much cooler card without them (I know you disagree, I don't care).

1987 Donruss -- the back

Plusses: Once again, give credit to Donruss for full names and contract status.

Minuses: The same back every freakin' year. Anytime I see a Donruss back from the '80s, Bob Seger's "Still the Same" plays in my head and BOB SEGER SHOULD NEVER PLAY IN MY HEAD. ... The return of yellow. Ugh. But if we're being accurate, it's actually gold.

Because 1985 Donruss was yellow. (*and you're still the same, I caught up with you yesterday*)

1987 Donruss -- overall

Plusses: You've got to give Donruss credit for trying again with the black border. ... Features one of the more memorable rookie cards of the 1980s in mustachioed Greg Maddux. ... Rated Rookies continue to have staying power, especially with the likes of Mark McGwire and Bo Jackson in the set.

Minuses: It seems that I have an issue with sets with rounded borders (1987 Donruss, 1983 Donruss). ... Overall, it's not a bad set (if you avoid the back), but like many Donruss sets of the '80s, it doesn't float my boat.

And now it's time to reveal the overall winner.

The best set of 1987 is ...






Believe me, I swayed between Topps and Fleer right until the end. If I get more '87 Fleer cards, maybe I'll change my answer.

Ranking: 1. Topps; 2. Fleer; 3. Donruss

Total ranking: Topps - 5; Donruss - 1; Fleer - 1

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I know someone who works at Topps

I bought another rack pack of Topps Update last weekend just because the usual panic over not yet owning any Dodgers from this set kicked in again.

A few cards through the rip, I came across this Derek Jeter All-Star card, and my first thought was, "oh, this is the card Sooz made."

Think how about how unique that thought was. That was the first time in more than 40 years of collecting cards that I have ever thought that. I actually now know someone who works at Topps.

I realize that I'm exaggerating somewhat here. I've never actually met Sooz in person. I've interacted with her on Twitter many times and on her blog A Cardboard Problem back in its heyday. I've entered a group break of hers and traded cards and notes through the mail a couple times. Some emails, too. I know her as well as anyone can collecting cards through the internet.

I also know that she didn't actually "make" that card. Like she says in her post about it, she had nothing to do with the design. But she did help select the photo of her favorite player and crop it.

These realizations will help me quiet down another exaggeration of mine -- the exaggerated expectation that a member of the card bloggerhood now working for Topps will suddenly change Topps into the kind of card company that I want it to be and make the kind of sets I want them to make.

This is unrealistic for these reasons:

1) I have no knowledge of how Topps works, but I'm assuming that Sooz is one employee among many. A new cog in a well-established machine. If she rises up the ranks into corporate, then we'll revisit this.

2) We bloggers don't know what we want. We have this grand vision of how the card collecting world should be and what new sets should look like, but the problem is it's one vision. There are other visions, too. I see different visions from mine on card blogs every day. Topps tries to accommodate many visions, which makes me sad, but probably makes some other collector happy. Last I knew, Sooz was mostly a player collector. I don't player-collect. How am I supposed to expect her hiring to suddenly transform the 2015 Topps set into 792 cards with middle relievers, fewer inserts and no short-prints?

3) I'm pretty sure that someone at Topps has been reading card blogs for quite awhile. Just because someone who used to regularly write a popular blog is working there now, doesn't mean Topps is going to drop its coffee in astonishment and say, "Wow! I never heard that before."

4) I can blame Topps' modern ways all I want for my growing disinterest in current cards, but the fact is I'm old enough that current cards pale in comparison with older cards. So my opinion about the current state of affairs is lacking heart.

That said, having "one of us" inside Topps is pretty cool and no doubt will help collectors in probably many ways if it hasn't helped already.

I'm proud of Sooz, as much as a distant card blogger can be, for moving from sportswriting to writing for Beckett to working for Topps (I hope she's writing some card backs, or will at some point). She's taken advantage of where she lives and her interests to get what she wants.

Working at Topps seems pretty ideal to an outsider. I think anyone who ever read "The Great American Baseball Card Flipping Trading and Bubble Gum Book" would agree with that.

I can't say I dream of working for Topps at One Whitehall Street anymore (I have a phobia about NYC traffic). But I'm sure at some point as a teenager or even as an adult, I would have sent in my resume.

The allure of actually creating a collectible baseball card is too strong. And that's why it's cool that I "know" someone who works at Topps.

As a kid I made my own baseball cards. Long before Topps was making 1975 tributes or Upper Deck was ripping off the '75 design, I was creating '75 themed cards of monsters or stuffed animals or my own baseball characters with scissors and index cards.

So, that's the appeal. Sooz is living out my childhood, in the adult world.

Just to reinforce the reminder of how cool that is, later in the rack pack I pulled this:

Hope the job is as spectacular as the 11-year-old me envisioned, Sooz.

Don't bury Topps' sets in Derek Jeter cards.

Although I see you've gotten a head start.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The show must go on

So, when your blog hits a million views, that's a good time to take a break, right? Or when you've worked 12 straight days, that's a good time for a breather, huh? Or when you don't feel like much of a collector because trades aren't being transacted as much as before and purchases have shrunk to almost nothing, that's when to give it a rest, hmmmm?

Or when you don't have any time to formulate a decent post, or when the ones that are thought-out get little reaction, or when you're grown so cynical that you even bother to notice either of those things, that's the time to step back, correct?

Or when baseball's about to end, basketball (bluuuh) is about to begin, and the team you like the least is about to celebrate a World Series title for the third time in five years, that's when to call timeout, you know?

You know?

Yet, here I am.

Disillusioned and dedicated, I'm pressing forward.

What has me blogging for another day is a package from Greg A. (hey, that rhymed -- THERE's a reason to go on). It is a very productive package because it took out the Nebulous 9 -- which is now a Nebulous 6 -- and a few other very recent wants.

I'll show the nebulous needs first because I want to get them in the binders first:

1990 Topps glossy Tim Belcher.

Glossy cards were the height of innovation around 1981. Yet, Topps churned them out for another decade, so long that I didn't realize glossy cards were still being issued in 1990 until about three years ago. As Tom Cochrane once said, "the secret is to know when to stop."

1994 Fleer Brett Butler/Tony Gwynn Superstar Special

This completes the '94 Fleer Dodgers team set for me (on to the Update set, wheeeeeee!). This card depicts two cancer victims, one who beat it and one who ultimately lost to it. And just to continue this happy theme, Butler is wearing a Campanella-Drysdale memorial patch. Let's hurry to the next card.

2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Paco Rodriguez

That Chevron add just enhances the old-timey feel doesn't it? I don't know what the Dodgers are doing with Rodriguez. If there is a strategy called "Demoralize The Guy Until He Quits" then the Dodgers are right on track.

2014 Topps Heritage Brian Wilson

Last card to complete the Dodgers team set for Heritage, too. Not thrilled the blue rubber band man has to be in my collection, especially with how he pitched this past year.

OK, those were the Nebulous 9 cards, now let's move on to some unlicensed material that Greg sent.

Two from the first Panini Cooperstown Off With The Tops Of Their Heads set. That Dodger set is now complete, too. Just a bazillion few inserts left. All unlicensed.

These Hometown Heroes cards come with black borders, too? Panini knows it's Panini, right? It can't be doing that stuff.

This is an insert from Hometown Heroes. I was about complain about how all I'm going to do is lose this tiny thing and why are there five Dodgers in an insert set, but then I started flipping it back-and-forth in my hand and ... wow, I need one of these at work.

All right, let's move on to the licensed stuff. And it's the best kind, too -- Allen and Ginter:

That wipes out all but three of the A&G Dodgers needs from this year. Excuse me one moment while I drive to Target so I can go to the card aisle and laugh at all the A&G blasters.

Oh, and I'm just going to leave this right here*:

Moving on to something happy ....


These can whisk away the cranky, too.

This also probably explains why I'm continuing to blog despite all of the reasons outlined in the beginning. Those reasons are really just "excuses". Cards make me happy -- most of them anyway. And anything that makes me happy is worth doing.

The show must go on.

Two million views?

Two million views.

*Fix this. Now.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Awesome night card, pt. 224: my first World Series

I've almost gone the whole World Series without showing a World Series card. Where are my manners?

This card recounts the first World Series that I remember wanting to see. As I've said before, I faintly recall seeing highlights of Carlton Fisk's foul-pole home run during the 1975 World Series. But as far as actively being interested in viewing the World Series, that wouldn't come until 1976.

I remember a little about the '76 World Series. The first game took place during the day, on a Saturday (Series from 1969-76 started on Saturday). But my remembrances are from night games, particularly Game 4, the final game, in which I probably viewed the first three innings and then was scooted off to bed.

I wasn't around to view the scene above, relief pitcher Will McEnaney beginning the celebration on the mound, as first baseman Tony Perez runs in to great the teammates charging out of the dugout.

But I remember seeing Johnny Bench's home run in the third inning of Game 4. It was one of two that he hit in that game. The Reds were a behemoth then and I remember regarding their invincibility with disdain. Bench could do no wrong, and the World Series that year was all about the catchers, Bench and the Yankees' Thurman Munson, both of whom enjoyed terrific Series.

Topps recalled the '76 Series in its 1977 set with three cards.

The night card at the top, when you turn it over, lists the Yankees' Series stats:

The second night card I showed lists both teams' pitching stats on the back:

The other card in this Series subset is not a night card:

Both photos were no doubt taken during Game 1 of the Series, which was a day game at Riverfront Stadium (every action photo from Riverfront -- or probably any '70s Astroturf stadium -- looks like they're playing on a green Serengeti).

The back of that card showcases the Reds' batting stats:

This is one of the most impressive lineup displays I believe that I have ever seen. The Reds didn't use one extra player during the whole Series. Seemingly, the only reason they used nine is because a designated hitter was required for the first time.

The '76 World Series is also notable to me because it's one of the few times I have rooted for the Yankees. My guess is I did this because I was cheering for the underdog (and against the team that won the NL West over my Dodgers by a combined 30 games in 1975 and 1976).

And it was my first experience with World Series disappointment. The Reds swept my choice of a winner.

Since then, I've endured many disappointments in the Series as my team seems to lose more often than not.

Each year I root for someone in the Series (I don't understand why other fans don't), and here are the times that the team I chose actually won:

1979: Pirates
1981: Dodgers
1982: Cardinals
1984: Tigers
1985: Royals
1988: Dodgers
1989: A's
1991: Twins
2002: Angels
2003: Marlins
2004: Red Sox
2005: White Sox
2007: Red Sox
2008: Phillies
2013: Red Sox

I had a pretty good run there between 2002-08, I guess.

For the record, the teams that I have rooted for in the Series since 1976 have won 15 times and lost 22 times. It actually hasn't been as terrible as I thought.

And if the Royals can pull a Series championship in a couple of days then I might actually believe that nice guys can finish first.


Night card binder candidate: 1976 World Series (Cincy wins 2nd straight series), 1977 Topps, #413
Does it make the binder?: No. It can't knock out this card, which is also #413, as painful as the memories are.

(P.S.: Yes, I know about the million page views thing. No, I have nothing planned. Been working 11 days in a row. Thanks for reading! ... Or clicking!)