Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Thanks, Adrian Beltre

This is the last card of Adrian Beltre that I acquired before he announced his retirement.

Is it any wonder he retired?

Beltre is one of the select few greatest talents I have ever seen on a baseball field. He's on the short list that includes Rickey Henderson, Gary Sheffield and Dwight Gooden. There's a reason the Dodgers signed him as a 15-year-old and he was the youngest player in the majors in 1999.

That's why it's extra painful that Beltre will go into the Hall of Fame as a Texas Ranger. Until this past season, Beltre had spent equal time -- seven seasons each -- with the Dodgers and the Rangers. He is another player the Dodgers should have never let go. Right up there with Pedro Martinez and Mike Piazza.

It's painful not only because of the number of third basemen the Dodgers employed between Beltre's departure to the Mariners and current corner man Justin Turner. It's painful because Beltre was a genuine pleasure to watch and to cover, not just because of his awesome talent but because of his whimsical personality and all of those stories about ghosts and refusing to wear a cup and going after anyone who touches his head (don't touch his head!)

That was a great deal of fun during his Dodger days. But Beltre loosened up as he got older and better examples of his personality were displayed while he was with the Rangers.

The problem is I have like 7 cards of Beltre as a Ranger. I have close to 300 of him as a Dodger.

If I'm doing a proper tribute on a card blog, there's no question I need to show my favorite Dodger Adiran Beltre cards. A base card from 2017 Topps just won't do.

So here are 21 Adrian Beltre cards -- for his 21-year major league career -- in no particular order, to fit the unusual, one-of-a-kind, awe-inspiring, now-retired Beltre. These are a lot better than that Panini card I showed.

1. 1997 Bowman Chrome International

The holy grail of Adrian Beltre rookie cards is Beltre's Bowman Chrome refractor from '97. I ain't got that one. But this is close enough. It's a pretty terrific card of a prospect that everyone knew was going to be a big deal.

2. 1999 Bowman Chrome Diamond Aces insert

It's interesting how Topps/Bowman treats its superstars. If they're a phenom from the start, they'll get plenty of cards and also plenty of snazzy inserts. This is one. Then, when the player begins to establish himself, the number of inserts and extras goes down. It takes a huge season -- like Beltre had in 2004 -- to draw the attention of the insert-makers. But more on that later.

3. 1999 Upper Deck Ovation "World Premiere"

I love the red filter. This was the card era where companies preferred gold and cold, metallic colors, unless you were outrageous like Circa. So cards like this really stand out.

4. 2001 Heritage

Just a stately and classy card. Beltre looked remarkably the same throughout his career. I'm not talking about his physique as it's obvious he got bigger. But his face never seemed to change.

5. 1999 Keebler

Why would I show those ghastly white Dodgers' caps? Well, because Beltre is also displaying on his upper arm that his hero was Ron Cey!

6. 1999 UD Choice, autographed

This is my only autographed Adrian Beltre card. It showed up at my house just over a month after I started Night Owl Cards. It was from Dave of Tribe Cards -- the second time he had sent me cards in less than two months of blogging! And it was a freakin' card autographed by Adrian Beltre. Good gawd.

7. 1999 Bowman's Best Future Foundations insert

Woooo! Numbered to /3000!! I'm not quite the sucker for diecut cards that '90s card fans are but I do like them quite a bit. The unfortunate thing about cards like these is that neither scanner nor camera can capture how spectacularly shiny this card is.

8. 2004 Upper Deck

Not counting inserts or relics, there aren't a lot of horizontal Beltre cards in my collection. I don't know why that is, because I bet he could make some awesome horizontal cards. This one isn't bad.

9. 1999 Topps

This looks like a plain, ordinary Topps base card. How spoiled are collectors from post-1993? This happens to be Beltre's FIRST Topps base card, something that would make young collectors like me swoon back in the 1970s. This is a special card, if only to me.

10. 1998 Upper Deck Retro

Not even out of his teenage years and we had a glimpse of what Beltre was all about. There may have been no more determined a player out on the field, but he always liked to have fun.

11. 2005 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia shoe/cap/jersey patch relic

This relic card had to go and top all my other relic cards. It laughed in the face of my Beltre bat card. It scoffed at my Beltre jersey and bat card, it snickered at my shoe, cap and plain-old jersey card. No this card had to play the patch card (although if I'm being honest, some of the other relic cards I just mentioned look nicer than this one).

12. 2001 Pacific

I am naturally awed by great-fielding third basemen. Maybe only right fielders impress me more. I have no doubt that despite the contorted mess Beltre is in, he threw the runner out.

13. 2002 Fleer Platinum

I was excited for a moment because I though this was a photo of Beltre at his locker. Those photos have been few and far between since the 1980s. But it's merely Beltre near the bat rack, which admittedly is still pretty cool.

14. 2005 Fleer Diamond Tributes insert

Beltre had shoved off to Seattle by 2005. This was unfortunate, as I mentioned, but also because after Beltre's monster year in 2004, there should have been a full-out assault of Beltre inserts and other odes to the MVP runner-up. Instead, we had some sets showing him as a Dodger, some showing him as a Mariner and some just leaving him out altogether. Sad times. At least Fleer knew what to do.

15. 2001 Leaf Limited

Beltre's throws to first base were quite different. Because his arm was so good, he would barely take a step forward and just use his entire upper body to get it there. I don't know if this picture is a great representation of that, but it sure looks unique to me.

16. 1999 Metal Neophytes insert

Another card I had to shoot instead of scan. It's really a wild card. And the title is wild, too. Such big words!

17. 2001 Topps

The card I think of when I think of Adrian Beltre cards. It just seems to sum everything up. That prodigious swing. All that power is captured in that photo. Beltre looked intimidating. That's a fact. I can see why people might be afraid to approach him, but really it was all show.

18. 2004 Studio Rally Caps insert

Finally, a card that lets Beltre's personality shine. I love this. I love the way Beltre played. He was goofy without letting it overwhelm him. Thanks, Adrian.

19. 1999 Skybox Thunder Unleashed insert

I wouldn't wish Skybox's prose on anyone. But this is an outstanding insert. Adrian Beltre is bolting off the front of a cereal box! Plus, the audacity of Skybox writing "All Natural" in the middle of the steroid era. Yikes!

20. 2001 Donruss

What a card. Makes me want to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance.

21. 2005 Upper Deck

Because Beltre wasn't even 30 when he left the Dodgers, there aren't many "regal" cards of him, in which he looks like the experienced titan of the diamond. I like this one because the photo does revere the guy and also because it shows him next to another Dodger power guy at the time, Shawn Green.

So, those are 21 of my favorite Adrian Beltre cards. There are a lot more that I like -- I know because I pulled more than that. But overall, I think he deserved even better cards. Players of his era, like Pujols and Ichiro, received a lot more card love. But I'd put Beltre up with them in terms of talent.

And as far as being a gentleman and a fantastic teammate? I don't think anyone is comparable.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Dodgers' 2018 season hasn't ended yet

People who merely watch baseball -- let's call them "no-frills baseball fans" -- theorize that the 2018 baseball season ended on Oct. 28th, the last day of the World Series.

But those of us who watch baseball and collect baseball trading cards know better.

The end of a given season isn't when the games end. It's when your collection for the year is finished.

These days, this could mean that the season will never end, considering how many sets there are and then all that extra stuff, like inserts and parallels and variations and online cards and blah, blah, blah.

But if you put a limit on it -- say, determine that the season ends when you've collected all of your team's flagship and update base cards -- then you can have your own season-ender date, which likely will give you a few more weeks of baseball season as I'm still working on the Update Dodgers.

This is a much more satisfying finish to a season than what the games offer you. Unless you're a Red Sox fan, your season ended with disappointment. But when you collect cards of your favorite team, your season ends with triumph every time! The last card! I'm done! Let's celebrate! The season is OVER!

I prefer looking it that way (my team losing consecutive World Series might have something to do with that).

There are other 2018 team set completions though that signal the season is coming to a close. For example, I recently finished off the Dodgers' team-issued 60th anniversary set. And by that I mean Andy of Stadium Fantasium sent me the last two stadium giveaway cards, the Dodger cards from the 2000s and the 2010s.

Let's have a look at those.

Here are the six guys that appeared in the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s sets, this time on the 2001 Topps design.

You can see that there is no foil on these cards, even though 2001 foiled up the names for its set.

Clayton Kershaw is the "decade representative" and the seventh card in the set. This is the card that caused confusion when the set was first being released because if the same 6 current ballplayers are being featured for each set, why is Kershaw's card being shown? Turns out it's because he was the 2000's version of the Sandy Koufax card in the '60s, the Don Sutton card in the '70s, etc.

His placement in the 2000s makes him seem a little older than he is. Kershaw actually made an appearance for the Dodgers during the tail-end of the decade. Someone like Shawn Green or Adrian Beltre would be more appropriate, I think.

Here are the 2010s cards, using a design we all know from 2018 -- it's Topps' 2018 flagship design.

All of these are different images than what's on the respective players' flagship cards, which is cool and much appreciated.

Yasiel Puig is the 2010 decade representative. No real argument with that. I like all the Brewers references in the background. Kinda appropriate. Mash those Sudsies, Yasiel!

Puig is the last card in the set. The set is numbered throughout (also very cool) and there are 42 cards total. It is a very well-done set, especially for a stadium giveaway.

Since my set is complete, I thought I'd compare each of the six players' cards.

Cody Bellinger is first up.

His best card is the 1985 Topps one, although I think the image used for the 1994 card is very 1994.

The 1977 Kenley is interesting because it's an earlier photo of him, without the scraggly hair and beard. My favorite card might be the '94 just because it features his all-important leg kick.

I like the '65 Corey Seager card best. The action shots on 1985 and 2018 are neat, too. The 1977 photo doesn't look right. That was even old-school in 1977, unless you were sitting on a 4-player prospects card.

I think Chris Taylor got the best cards in this set. Love the 1985 card, and the 1994 and 2018 cards. Those could be the three best out of the whole set.

Again, the photo on the 1985 Topps card is perfect for that set. The '94 photo is sweet and the 2018 one is flat out weird. And I dare you to hold up the '65 card next to a picture of Gritty and tell me who is who. Turner has apparently shaved his beard, but I don't believe it's gone for good.

The newly retired Chase Utley is up next. Any of these cards work for me. I kinda like the 2001.

Finally each of the decade representatives.

Koufax and Piazza were no-brainer picks for the respective '60s and '90s. I know licensing probably came into play, but I would have gone with Valenzuela or Hershiser over Lasorda for the '80s. I'm sure Don Sutton doesn't like hearing this, but Steve Garvey would've worked better for the '70s. At least give Sutton the perm he was wearing in '77.

Andy didn't stop with those 60th anniversary cards though.

He also picked up three packs of another Dodger Stadium card giveaway for National Trading Card Day.

Andy said these cards weren't part of the National Trading Card Day set that was available at card shops on Aug. 11. Instead it's a 10-card team set (there were similar NTCD team-specific giveaways at other MLB stadiums, too).

After opening up the packs, it looks like I have all 10 cards!

There's an extra Bellinger and Kershaw.

Too cool!!!

I am always envious of anyone who gets to visit Dodger Stadium regularly. Especially if there are things like cards floating around the stadium.

Andy also sent two of the monthly scorebooks from this year. I'm always a sucker for periodicals.

So as you can see, the Dodger 2018 season is still going strong and it hasn't ended yet.

I'll let you know when it does end. Because it means I'll have completed the 2018 Topps flagship and update Dodgers set (never mind those extras)!

Another season ending with a celebration instead of disappointment.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A discount box full of stuff I'd never buy

A couple of weeks ago I received a package from Cardboard Catastrophes that contained stuff that I would never buy.

This doesn't mean I didn't want what Jeff sent. It's just that I was amazed that virtually the entire package contained cards that either I have no access to, would never end up on a shopping list, or are from sets I avoid like the plague.

The card up top, a 2002 Topps Tribute item, is from a set that I've never purchased in my life. Did/does Tribute come in packs? I have no idea. I don't have a card shop near me that sells actual cards and Tribute never made an appearance in a big box store that I know of, yet Jeff found this semi-rare item in a discount box.

Oh, did I leave that part out? Apparently all these cards came from some crazy discount box that he happened upon.

This was in a discount box, from what I understand.

It is from 2015 Panini Cooperstown, numbered to /75, die-cut a number of ways and looks like a giant mouth is swallowing Don Drysdale. I, frankly, would never pay cash for this if I stumbled across it, but I never would, and certainly not in a discount box.

More numbered stuff. This time down to /25. Is this how underappreciated Panini is? I see Panini in card show discount boxes all the time. It's clear many collectors ignore it. But a numbered Pee Wee in a discount box?

All right, this is from 2018. I'm guessing this wasn't in the discount box. Or maybe it was? I don't know what to think anymore after that Pee Wee.

I think I actually like the look of that card.

Yet another Panini item. This is a numbered parallel of one of the goofiest cards all year. Sure, this deserves to be discounted. Its value should be pennies. Even with the shiny border, I would hesitate grabbing this.

Ah, yes, a manufactured patch. I definitely don't seek these out. You don't want to know where I keep all my manu-patch cards. ... OK, I keep them in a box. But it's a box I never look through. In fact, I don't know where the box is right now. But, yeah, a picture of Garvey. I like that!

OK, yeah, weirdness. That's Triple Threads from 2014, of Koufax, in the discount box.

Triple Threads is not for me. It doesn't show up in the store down the street, it's way too fancy-looking for me, all that marble and other stuff as if the cards should echo when you put them in a box. The card thickness stretches pages and so on. This is never on my radar.

Inception, however, looks a lot nicer. Again, the thickness makes me never want to put it in binder pages. But they are snazzy cards. If they were readily available, I'd probably buy some. But since they aren't, I never think of them.

Yet, apparently they showed up in this discount box.

Actually, all of these cards, the high-end and the nonlicensed, the shiny and the patchy, I WOULD buy if the circumstances were right. In other words:

a) The cards were available where I live

b) The price was right

c) There wasn't anything cheaper or more licensed when I had cash to spend.

So, yeah, these are wanted cards.

However, Jeff did send something I definitely would never buy:

Not if it was the last card on earth.

(Always gotta be a smart-ass).