Monday, June 18, 2018

The good in Twitter

If you look at my Twitter profile page, you will see that Twitter says I joined the social media site in September 2012.

Like almost everything on Twitter, that's only partially accurate.

I actually joined Twitter in 2010. Then after just over a year of viewing non-stop angst, constant self-promotion and a relentless stream of topics that I didn't sign up for at all, I scrapped my Twitter account.

But several months later I decided to give it another try. Twitter had tweaked itself enough so that you could streamline what you wanted to see a little better. The mute button -- what I think is possibly the greatest creation of the social media age -- ensured that I could remain a part of the electronic Tower of Babble without going insane from daily inanity spewing from my timeline.

These days, what I view on Twitter is mostly information about trading cards and baseball. That's really all I care about when it comes to screen time. Oh, people try to pollute my timeline with wrestling or soccer or the latest fantasy film money-making scheme, but that's easy enough to avoid without having to block a soul.

What I still dislike about Twitter are three things:

1. Shilling: My Twitter is still rampant with shilling, mostly because that's what makes the hobby go 'round. I purposely don't follow a lot of box breakers because all they do is shill and I'd like to preserve my sanity. But mostly, I put up with shilling because I know it's a necessary evil  when following the Twitter trading card world.

2. People using their keyboard as an excuse to do nasty things. A female collector, relatively new to the hobby, revealed that she had received several unwanted online advances through direct messaging in Twitter purely because she was a woman in the hobby. I can't believe the amount of gross things that guys do online because they think they're anonymous, but to attempt to suck someone innocent into your warped world is quite possibly the worst abuse of Twitter. It's pure evil. Sad, sad, sad, creatures.

3. Politics. I can barely tolerate politics in any medium, but it's without a doubt at its worst on Twitter. Political subjects are incredibly complex, it doesn't matter what the topic. Yet, Twitter is notorious for its inability to handle complex topics. Does this stop people? Nope. Just about every political tweet, no matter what side, contains untruths, or, at best, incomplete information. These are topics that not even a 40-inch story in a newspaper each day of the week can fully address, and there are thousands upon thousands who think a series of tweets can handle it. I won't even get into how insidious political twitter is.

But, yet, there I remain, tweeting away (although less often lately because there is no time). Because, if you really look -- and sometimes you really have to look -- there is good in Twitter.

Sure, there is fun Twitter and informative Twitter and "well, I learned something new" Twitter. There is charitable Twitter and world-joining Twitter and nostalgic Twitter, and my goodness, historical Twitter might be the greatest thing.

And then there is small gestures Twitter.

Thank goodness for small gestures Twitter.

This is where the baseball card at the top of the post comes in.

The card is from the 1990 Topps Career Batting Leaders set. The Career Batting Leaders set was issued in 1989 and 1990. The 1989 cards display red borders and the 1990 cards display green borders. They are 22-card sets that feature a distinctive illustration of a pair of disembodied hands holding a bat alongside the left or right border.

Those are the rather spare backs, although Topps makes the limited factoids exciting, doesn't it?

The cards were issued one per blister pack only at Kmart, and, man, are they a bitch to find, or at least at a reasonable price.

I think they might be one of the trickiest sets of the junk wax era to complete. Most of the cards sell in double figures. Right now, on COMC, you can find only eight cards from the '89 and '90 set for less than six bucks a pop. The lowest price is just over 2 bucks (Julio Franco gets no love). The majority sell for more than 10 dollars.

And, then, there are all those cards in the set that are perpetually sold out. That's what makes completing the 22-card sets difficult.

One of those cards that is always sold out is Eddie Murray.

Murray appears in both the 1989 and 1990 sets as a Dodger. Murray is the only card I care about in the sets, but I've never been able to land one, mostly because I can rarely find one. When I do find one, it's at a price I don't want to play.

This is where Twitter shows the goodness of its heart.

There was a collector I followed on Twitter a year or two ago. Some of you know who he is. His name is Matt. He is an Orioles fan. He's also a big Eddie Murray collector.

Matt quit Twitter some time ago. It's probably been a couple years now. I don't know why he quit. Maybe it was all the shilling, creepiness and political know-it-alls. But, whatever the reason, I know he's still collecting. And I know he's still looking out for his former Twitter collecting buddies.

Matt and I used to chat on Twitter about Eddie Murray cards occasionally. A little over a year ago, I received a private message from a mutual Twitter friend, Shane. Shane said Matt wanted to let me know an Eddie Murray box bottom card was available online. I told Shane to thank Matt and I found and bought the card.

Last month, I received another message from Shane. This time Matt wanted to let me know there was a 1990 Topps Career Batting Leaders Eddie Murray card for sale on COMC.

Oh, boy, that's one I really wanted!

The price was steep for a card from 1990, but I had realized I'd have to pay if I wanted that card. So I was able to get the dealer to cut a couple dollars off the price and the Murray card with the disembodied batting hands was now mine!

Thanks, Matt, from the Twitter beyond!

There's still the matter of getting the 1989 Career Batting Leaders Murray (the one with the airbrushed Dodgers cap). But I'll get it. Maybe Matt will find it for me again.

That is if Twitter hasn't driven me away so I've joined Matt in the Twitter beyond.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Stuck in traffic with Series 2

In the whirlwind that has been my life this month, I found myself going absolutely nowhere for a portion of Thursday afternoon.

I was in the middle of yet another road trip, the third one this week. This one was for work, and because it was job-related, it became quickly apparent that it would be a waste of time. The only thing that could save it was a side visit to the nearby Walmart to see if I could spot some Topps Series 2.

I found it right away, which was shocking as I was pretty much in the middle of the country, where SUVs share the road with tractors and buggies. Who knew that the Amish wanted Series 2, too?

The problem was getting back into civilization to open the contents of the 72-card hanger box I bought. The neighboring village is undergoing a summer construction project smack in the middle of downtown. It's not much of a downtown, but the main road happens to be the main artery in the entire county. Everyone -- and by everyone I mean every tractor trailer hauling anything from Plattsburgh to Syracuse -- is driving that road through that tiny downtown.

And I had to drive that road, too.

I encountered the back of the traffic line way back near the golf course. I wasn't anywhere near downtown. And that's where I sat. I felt really sorry for the dog sitting in a portable kennel in the back of the pickup in front of me. We stared and stared at each other as the minutes passed, until I realized -- HEY! I have Series 2 in the car!

And so I opened it. There in a supposedly moving vehicle that wasn't moving at all, Series 2 made its debut in the middle of a traffic snarl.

Believe me, I had time to examine every card from behind the wheel. If I had set up that scanner app on my phone, I probably could have published this entire blog post while waiting for anything with wheels to move.

So let's take a look at what I found while stranded in that bucolic-yet-orange-cone-infested village:

#523 - Matt Bush, Rangers

Matt Bush's wild-and-crazy career stats line has been reduced to an uninteresting three lines on the back of this card. Gotta save room for #TOPPSBASEBALL, I guess.

#656 - Brian Goodwin, Nationals

Brian Goodwin appears to be looking for a second fly ball.

#671 - Tyler Clippard, Astros

#543 - Luis Castillo, Reds

This card is appropriate because every time I see a Reds game on TV, there is no one in the stands. It's one empty red seat after another.

#462 - Paul DeJong, Cardinals

#422 - Victor Caratini, Cubs

#698 - Ryan Sherriff, Cardinals

Are you counting rookie cards? Normally this is something I do with Update, but we've got two already, plus a future star/rookie cup.

#655 - Andre Ethier, Dodgers

OK, I can stop showing every card now, I finally pulled a Dodger.

Ethier's appearance is interesting as it was pretty obvious he wasn't going to play in 2018. With just 22 games in 2017 (and 16 in 2016), I wonder why Topps decided on the final tribute?

#683 - Adam Eaton, Nationals
#512 - Mike Napoli, Rangers
#513 - Mike Zunino, Mariners

#592 - Gorkys Hernandez, Giants

Much too nice of a card for a filthy, dirty Giant. Each player should have flies hovering around them. I wish bad things for this team this weekend.

#673 - Adam Frazier, Pirates
#572 - Dillon Maples, Cubs (3rd RC)

#503 - Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays

I'm starting to become mildly surprised when I pull veterans. That's not a good sign.

#699 - Drew Smyly, Cubs
#521 - Jose Osuna, Pirates

#393 - Corey Kluber, Indians

Time for the horizontal portion of our show.

#595 - Addison Reed, Twins

#407 - Pat Neshek, Phillies

#447 - Carlos Gomez, Rangers

Please allow me an insensitive rant.

I am growing tired of the increasing number of hitters wearing the protective helmet guard across the side of their face. I understand some started wearing it after getting hit in the face, I get that. But have all these players had cheekbones shattered? I feel weird even saying this since it's a safety thing, but I don't like the look. It detracts from the personality of the game, and makes it more anonymous, like football. I get that the pitcher is throwing 100 but with all the arm armor already, does anyone have guts enough to step inside the batter's box as they are?

#551 - Yacksel Rios, Phillies (4th RC)

#564 - Mets team card

This card shares a card number with Joey Rickard but it is not one of the dozens of variations in the set. It's just a flat-out error. There is no card #565, just two #564 cards. "Oh what a tangled web we weave ..."

#365 - Dynamic Dodgers (checklist)

And here's the other card number out-and-out error. This card shares #365 with Mallex Smith. There is no card #364. It's like we traveled back to the 1950s when skip-numbers were a regular thing, except we've added a pile of variation cards, confusing the crap out set collectors again.

#567 - Felix Hernandez, Mariners

#403 - Luis Torrens, Padres

I think Zip-Zap should collect every Luis Torrens card, Tim Wallach style. I'm more than happy to give up a Padres card.

#494 - Adalberto Mejia, Twins

#578 - Melky Cabrera, Royals

The horizontal cards are much more interesting than the vertical cards. I think it's time for that all-horizontal set.

#620 - Chris Young, Angels

There is some photoshopping funny stuff going on with this card. Young does not wear No. 20 with the Angels. He wears No. 24. He did not wear No. 20 with the Red Sox, his previous team, either. He wore No. 30.

#644 - Carlos Perez, Angels

#367 - Liam Hendriks, A's

#622 - Ryan Rua, Rangers
#525 - Johan Camargo, Braves

#659 - Diamondbacks team card

Pretty card. The photo happens to have been taken in Dodger Stadium. It's also the first game of last year's NLDS against the Dodgers. The Dodgers won this game (and the series). Perhaps it should feature the Dodgers lined up instead.

#S-55 - Dillon Maples, Cubs, Topps Salute (5th rookie card)

This is the second Dillon Maples rookie card that I've pulled in this box. Try explaining this to the collector from 1983.

#351 - Bryce Harper, Nationals, gold parallel

Harper's presence on the front of the box is so powerful, it created a gold parallel inside.

#83AS-54 - Greg Maddux, Braves, 1983 All-Star insert

#579 - Carson Fulmer, White Sox, foil parallel

#585 - Brandon Crawford, Giants, image variation

My heart sank when I saw this. I knew it was an SP instantly and it had to be another dirty Giant. This will be packaged up for Adam as soon as I possibly can (which means it'll be in my house like a month too long). I hate that I even scanned it.

#II-13 - Mark McGwire, A's, Instant Impact insert

The scanner cut off the bottom of the card, but you get the idea. This is a new insert series for Series 2. It appears to be a rookie-retro theme?

#AJ-16 & AJ-6 - Aaron Judge Walmart series cards

These cards don't deserve their own individual scans. I clearly went to the wrong big box store, because the Target exclusives are Cody Bellinger cards. But I would rather collect colored border parallels than a bunch more Bellinger cards.

#LITM-12 - Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals, Legends in the Making insert
#LITM-5 - Kyle Schwarber, Cubs, Legends in the Making insert

I just know this is making some Cardinals and Cubs fans all itchy.

#568 - J. C. Ramirez, Angels
#664 - Gregor Blanco, Giants

#556 - Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox

#483 - Drew Pomeranz, Red Sox
#648 - Derek Holland, Giants
#371 - Cole Hamels, Rangers
#457 - Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox
#359 - Wade Miley, Brewers
#464 - Travis Jankowski, Padres
#598 - David Robertson, Yankees
#677 - Brandon Moss, A's
#499 - Justin Bour, Marlins
#385 - Jason Hammel, Royals
#449 - D.J. LeMahieu, Rockies
#687 - Blake Treinen, A's
#695 - Matt Davidson, White Sox

#582 - Albert Pujols, Angels

Wooo! I got a little bored there!

#541 - Dwight Smith Jr., Blue Jays
#496 - Leury Garcia, White Sox
#637 - Manny Pina, Brewers
#647 - Jose Urena, Marlins

#484 - Kenta Maeda, Dodgers

Yay! Just in time for his return to the starting rotation! The Dodgers are proving that you can have zero idea of where your next starting pitcher is coming from and still be in contention.

#373 - Jorge Bonifacio, Royals
#545 - Nicholas Castellanos, Tigers
#472 - Matt Garza, Brewers
#508 - Ryon Healy, Mariners
#617 - Doug Fister, Rangers
#507 - Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks

All right, as you can see toward the back half of the package I was getting as bored with the cards as I was bored sitting in backed up traffic.

But it did make for a nice distraction.

I have to say, I don't understand how commuters in major cities deal with traffic like this on a daily basis. I remember a cousin of mine mentioning -- when he lived in New Jersey -- that he spent four hours of his day driving to and from work. No thank you.

Not even if it allows for opening baseball card packs on the Thruway.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Where have I been?

Stop tapping your foot. I have my reasons.

I was out of town during my daughter's college orientation. My dog has arthritis in his back and neck and lets out the most ear-piercing, heart-wrench squeals of pain. I'm juggling about five different tasks at work that each, by themselves, is known for being time-consuming.

Baseball cards are still on my mind. But that's as far as those thoughts travel these days.

It's 10:45 at night and I'm really too tired to type out words, but it's important to show the cards that people have sent me.

Some period of time ago, I received an email from Kyle of Nolan's Dugout reconnecting and letting me know he had some cards off my want list. Back then I had time to reply to emails, and that's why I have some cards now to show.

Ah, yes, clearly I am out of practice and need to go back to blogging school if I'm starting out with a 1988 Fleer card.

But actually it's the final card I needed to complete the set. My mission to complete most of the 1980s Fleer sets has claimed another victim. The '81 Fleer set is next.

These three cards are the final non-variation cards that I needed to finish the 2013 Panini Hometown Heroes set. So, essentially, I've completed that set, too.

Two sets completed on this post. Pretty good for being absent, huh?

Kyle also took care of a couple more Nebulous 9 needs of the Kershaw variety. I am getting very close to 600 Kershaw cards. Let's hope I am still blogging when I reach that milestone.

These aren't as exciting as the Hometown Heroes trio. They're about as exciting as this post.

Look: some other cards that I needed.

I think.

I'm hoping to get another post up -- maybe even two -- before the week is out.

But I need to see what life is demanding first.

I hope to be more present the next time

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Put coach in, Topps

I'm still going through the cards that I received months ago from ARPSmith's Sports Obsession. I'm in the middle of filing a batch of 1982 Donruss and I've enjoyed recalling one of the unique aspects of the set.

Coach cards.

There are eight individual cards of coaches in the '82 Donruss set.

This seems completely bizarre from the viewpoint of the modern card set, but take it from me, it wasn't exactly normal finding these old dudes in our packs of 1982 Donruss when the stuff was on store shelves.

I didn't have much of an issue with the cards. They seemed kind of cool actually. The coaches I pulled were Vada Pinson, Johnny Podres and Tommy Davis. I knew those guys. Two of them were former Dodgers. And since they had retired several years prior, this was my first chance to own picture cards of those guys. The 1982 Donruss card of Johnny Podres dressed as a Minnesota Twin was my first Johnny Podres card.

Donruss chose the coaches wisely. The majority of them had been stars in the major leagues during their playing careers. It would have been a feat to pull any one of the above coaches when they were players.

That's how you know Donruss didn't select just any coach for the set. There is no coach card of Alex Monchak or Monty Basgall or Peanuts Lowery -- all coaches during the 1981 MLB season.

The card backs underline the reasoning for selecting these coaches. The writeups are all about how great the coaches were as players and the backs include lifetime playing stats.

Of the eight coaches in the set, I have all of them except for Harvey Haddix, another fine player in his day.

Those are the others.

The exception to the '82 Donruss rule -- pick only past MLB stars -- is the Cal Ripken Sr. card (what I believe is the "rookie card" for the career minor league player).

I'm not sure why Ripken Sr. was added with the others as Donruss could have selected another former star for a coach card (how great would it have been to see Bob Gibson, a coach for the Mets in 1981, in a Mets uniform on a card?).

It's possible they were jumping on the Cal Jr. bandwagon by adding his dad into the set. He's certainly not included for his major league playing record.

The coach cards may have seemed a bit out of place in '82 Donruss back then, but looking back on it, it added some character to a rather ho-hum set. This wasn't something anyone was doing. Coaches almost never made card appearances on their own. If they showed up at all, they were attached to a manager card, likely as a floating head.

I would love to see coach cards in a mainstream product again.

I know it will never happen -- you're more likely to see a pre-pre-pre-pre-pre-pre-pre-rookie prospect card of some 7-year-old in a future set than a card of a coach.

That's too bad, because as I've mentioned many times before, I collect cards to enjoy all aspects of the game, not just certain star players or rookies. I want to see it all represented.

Topps could even make a coaches insert set and I'd be interested. Don't short-print that thing though.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Hocus pocus ... er, harum scarum ... er, helter skelter ... er, HONUS BONUS!!

Are you starting to feel like I don't have any time for you?

Sorry about that. It's true. I don't have any time for you.

But you've figured that out already. Perhaps it's me cutting down to posting four days a week (from a former twice-a-day poster). Perhaps it's no card packages from me for weeks. Perhaps it's the lack of in-depth content or unusually short posts, at least by customary NOC standards.

As usual it's not me, it's the job. Work. Eat. Sleep. That's about all I've accomplished recently.

I'm hoping to shake myself out of my stupor at least somewhat after this weekend, because, thank the sports gods, THIS IS THE LAST WEEKEND OF HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS UNTIL WHATEVER TOO EARLY TIME THEY DECIDE TO START THEM UP AGAIN!!!!!

I know there will be a time when they decide it's an excellent idea to play high school sports around the calendar with absolutely no break at all. I see them inching closer toward that ridiculous bright idea every year. I only hope I retire before it becomes reality.

But you don't want me to squawk about scholastic sports when I can squawk about baseball cards, and to that I say:


That was fun.

I'll say it again.


OK, I'm done now.

The first time I saw that there was some sort of card set called HONUS BONUS (sorry, I can't stop), I was dumbfounded.

Honus Bonus? What a weird name for a set!!! What the heck were these? And without any Honus Wagner floating head in the upper right corner? That just seems like a waste.

With just a minimal amount of research (again, the time issue), I discovered that these cards are really part of a fantasy baseball game. It's a dual-interest set. You can play the game or you can collect the cards. Or, if you have much more time than I do, you can do both! You can HONUS and BONUS!!!

The cards aren't anything to get excited about though. Since they're not licensed by MLB, you get a bunch of side-angles. And the photos are all greyscale.

But the design is colorful and they look a little bit nice when all the teams are mixed together, so that's something.


I know that's been bothering you since you saw your first HONUS BONUS card.

Getting compared to the 1999 Upper Deck salad tongs set isn't going to make Honus Bonus feel any better about itself, but it's not easy being only a partially licensed card set trying to make its way in the very stifling modern card world.

Unfortunately, the whole Honus Bonus thing appears to have come and gone. The web site went down a few months after it went up. All that's left are a bunch of HB cards from 2017 scattered through repacks and the interwebs.

In my usual late fashion, I didn't see a single Honus Bonus card in person until a package arrived from Sportscards From the Dollar Store several days ago. (I still haven't gotten that package for him out the door. It's been sitting on my desk for almost 3 weeks). The Julio Urias card is the first of my own.

I was completely thrown by how smooth and slick it is. Not what I was expecting.

Beyond that, there's not much to say. I suppose I should put up a want list for the Dodgers. But I don't know when I'll get to that. Perhaps I need to repeat HONUS BONUS to myself a few times and it will write itself!!

Anyway ...

Let's show some licensed card needs that were also in that package with the Honus Bonus card:

OK, I cheated. That's a Panini card. So it's still not licensed by MLB, but it is licensed by the USA and tell me, which is a bigger deal (no political statements, please)?

And how much fun is it to see an 18-and-under Clayton Kershaw?

Gee Whiz, the Dollar Store is filled with unlicensed stuff. Tell me when was the last time you saw a Dodger uniform with WHITE numbers on the front? The answer is: never. You've never seen that. What Panini is showing you is not reality.

One more unlicensed card and I promise I'll find some licensed stuff to show.

This is the best that Panini baseball gets (outside of that Hometown Heroes set that it decided was too good to produce again). When Panini is faithful to the Donruss sets of the past, it looks fairly good. Not great, but Panini will take "fairly good" I have a feeling.

The first MLB-licensed card of this post is from Bowman Sterling, a set that fancies itself so fancy that mere commoners who shop at chain stores will never find it.

I don't see what the big deal is anyway. Aside of Alex Guerrero being a complete flop, the printing on it is almost unreadable.

OK. Now, NOW, we are getting somewhere. Back in the days that you could be a company from Canada and still come at consumers with a full-on licensed card. A full-on licensed card that represents two teams on one card!

Doug sent several 1971 O-Pee-Chee Dodgers, but I had the others. What I didn't have was:

1975 Topps O-Pee-Chee Dodgers!!!!!

That's too awesome because that means I'm at least halfway to having the full 1975 OPC Dodgers set. That might be worth a want list!

Because this package was from Canada that means it also came with cards that you expect from Canada.

Yes, hockey Sabres.

But we're not done.

More hockey Sabres!

None of these guys still play for the Sabres (Gil Perreault no longer plays for the Sabres? No kidding). That's what happens when you collect Sabres: a whole bunch of dudes that don't play for them anymore.

The only two guys in the stash still playing for the team. We'll see how long they last.

Every time I get Sabres or Bills cards I promise to myself that I'll finally get them organized to figure out what the heck I have.

But then work taps me on the shoulder and there's no chance of that happening.

I hope I can get back to posting at least 5 times a week at some point. And I'm hoping to get a few packages sent out on Monday.

Anything more than that will be a bonus.

7 posts a week and two mailings a week, and that's a ...