Wednesday, December 17, 2014


As someone who collects cards, it's difficult for me to think of dupes -- otherwise known as duplicates, doubles, the same exact thing -- as something desirable.

But in real life, a dupe isn't all bad. Twins, for example. Parents of twins love their dupes. And plates. I'm told it's a good thing when the dishes you set out for dinner all look the same. Socks are usually dupes, too, unless you're a teenage girl. A weekend is a dupe -- two straight days off. See? Dupes can be good.

As for cards, I still avoid dupes for the most part. As a set and team collector, I'm required to have a number of dupes just so I can complete both set and team missions. But other than that, the best I can do is tolerate dupes.

In my Dodgers binders, if it's a card from before 1978, then, yes, I'll allow a duplicate in the binder. Anything after than that has to be pretty special for me to include the same card back-to-back on a page.

The card you see above is an example of both exceptions to the dupe rule. First, it's from before 1978 so it goes in the binder. Second, it's a pretty special card -- one of the greatest Dodgers cards of all time, according to this list, which I need to update again.

So I will be adding it to the binder. The card on the left, which came from Dave, of "Dave sends great cards" fame, is actually an upgrade to the '64 ERA Leaders card on the right. I had pined for this card for a long time on the blog before finally getting a copy.

Now I have two, and nothing amuses me more right now. Two versions of the two Dodgers on the card!

The Koufax-Drysdale card came with another 1965 Topps leaders card:

This is definitely not a dupe. This was a Nebulous 9 need and the last 1965 Topps Dodger-related card that I needed to complete the team set. In case you're wondering, Sandy Koufax finished fourth in 1964.

Dave sent me one other dupe, and it's kind of an unusual one:

Yup. It's my first yearbook dupe.

I have just one Dodgers yearbook from the 1960s, and wouldn't you know it? It's this one.

I love this yearbook as it's the one that follows the Dodgers' World Series title in 1965. When I was in my "buying yearbooks" stage as a teenager, I focused mostly on the mid-1970s, but then on a whim decided to land this one too.

So, hmmmm, now I have two.

I don't expect this to get any results, but if someone has a Dodger yearbook from 1973 or earlier and it's in relatively decent shape, I'll trade one of my '66 yearbooks for it. It's in great shape, too.

I have three more cards here from Dave that aren't dupes, let's take a look at them:

1972 High Numbers! Gloriously miscut!

I could stare at the Astros Rookie Stars card all day. What a fantastic piece of '70s memorabilia that is. Can you imagine any card company taking up that much real estate for an Electric Company design today?

Also, if you look really closely at the Jim Fregosi card, somewhere around the tree in the distance, you can see Nolan Ryan cackling.

These three cards, of course, will be the first ones in my 1972 binder, because no one but no one has dupes of '72 high numbers. That would be rude.

Speaking of which, now that I have two, maybe I'll start hoarding this card like that guy with the 1964 Curt Flood card.

Nah, that'd be kind of jerky.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thinking outside the box

There is a lot of talk about whether cards look better with or without borders. I can see points for both, but in general I'm a border guy. Borders help make a set distinguishable over time. Most Fleer Ultra sets will never be able to say that.

But here is one thing about bordered sets that I've never seen brought up anywhere else, and it has to do with the 1991 Topps set:

Some of the player images OVERLAP THE BORDER!

Here is what I mean:

Felix Fermin's foot doesn't get cut off at the toe just because his spikes have hit the white border. They overlap into the white space!

Why all the exclamation points?

Well, up until this time, as far as I can tell, Topps sets featured a clearly defined border. And the image didn't stray into it. Pick whatever pre-1991 set you want. There's no glove straying into the black edges in 1971 Topps. There's no bat wandering into the purple of 1975 Topps. There's no elbow bumping up against the hockey stick in 1982 Topps.

But in 1991 Topps, time and again ...

... players are breaking the border wall.

It's like they've entered into a new dimension. All those years of being confined within four corners. All those "rules" about the pristine white border. So constraining.

It didn't matter anymore. Did it, Dwight Evans' bat?

I knew there was a reason I liked 1991 Topps other than the original, terrific photography. They were literally thinking outside the box!

However, I'm not willing to give Topps full credit.

I have my suspicions that it got this border-barrier-breaking idea from somewhere else. And, no, it was not Upper Deck.

It was Fleer.

During the late 1980s, Fleer went with very thick borders. I don't even think you can call them borders in some cases. And there's no way they could get a full major league baseball player within the photo space reserved for, say 1989 Fleer.

So the players instead broke out into the border, most notably in 1990 Fleer.

I think this is where the '91 Topps idea originated.

Early '90s Classic did the same thing periodically.

But even if it wasn't original I think it was best executed  by '91 Topps.

Now, if only it could have been done with 2008 Topps.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Words I never use

As a guy, there are certain words I never say. It's not like I go out of my way to avoid them. It's just that I don't know why I'd ever have the occasion to use them and actually never even think to use them.

For example, "delectable." When in the hell would I ever use that word in public? It's so foreign to me that I just had to look up how it's spelled. I know what it means, but honestly, why use such a freakish word when "tasty" or, um, "good" would work just as well?

Along those lines is the word "delicious," a word that I use only -- forever and ever -- to describe food. I will never use it to describe anything else and I get a piercing pain directly above my right eye when anyone uses the word to describe other things.

But something strange comes over me when it comes to baseball cards. Words that I never use often pop into my head the minute I see a certain card. It's like that word is the only word that will describe the card perfectly, and I find myself uttering that word for the first time in my life.

For example, these two cards ...

... are ADORABLE.

There it is. I've just said the word "adorable" for maybe the second time in my life. The only other time was probably a reaction to my daughter when she was 18 months old, which is totally allowed when you're a young father with a little baby girl.

And, apparently, it's also allowed when seeing cards like these.

Each of these treasures are mini Bowman Chrome cards that came out this year. The Kershaw is from JediJeff of 2 by 3 Heroes and the Urias is from Kenny from Torren' Up Cards.

I've pretty much been mini'd out by all of the new tiny cards that we've been bombarded with the last two or three years. But something about them being turned on their side in a horizontal format makes me want to squeeze their little cheeks -- the cards' cheeks, not the player's cheeks. I may have just used the word "adorable," but I'm not grandma.

So, now that I've used a word that I never use, the floodgates are open. Let's see how many other words that I never use can be applied to cards.

Here is another mini Bowman Chrome card from Kenny. It's blue bordered and shiny and numbered to /99. And I find that ... DIVINE.

Ow. That was painful. Not even a pretty card like that justifies me using that word. I'm sorry I even wrote it. And I'm even sorrier that I tried to make it rhyme.

Another card from Kenny of pitching prospect Chris Reed. The border color on this card is what some people would describe as TAUPE.

And there you are. The first time I've ever used the word "taupe".

Taupe, defined as a cross between tan and gray, has always confused me for reasons that I attribute to not paying attention to weirdly named colors. Recently, I once described something that was taupe as "mauve" and was practically laughed out of the room by a female acquaintance. Mauve apparently is a purplish color and I was mixing those two words up for about 35 years.

Now I have it straight. Thanks to a baseball card.

These two cards are from JediJeff and I think I can describe both of them -- very shiny and dazzling -- as FETCHING.

Now it's possible I have used the word "fetching" once or twice in real life -- and not merely to describe what my dog was actively doing -- but only in the most joking manner possible. Yes, women can be fetching but I'd feel like I was from the 1940s if I were to use that word in public, and if anyone slapped me for saying it I think I'd agree with them.

But cards? Hell, yeah. Cards can be fetching.

Check out this thing that Kenny sent me. It's a crazy diecut from Bowman Chrome featuring the Dodgers' future/current center fielder and another guy who was talked about as a possibility in the Matt Kemp trade (but it didn't happen).

This card is so fantastic that I could channel my inner Marcia Brady and call it DREAMY.

I've never used "dreamy" for any other reason except to hassle my daughter (I swear I'm really a writer in real life, it's just that we don't come across a lot of these words in the sports department).

More Kenny cards. He sure does love Bowman Chrome don't he? I think if I were not in my right mind and I were to look at all of these cards at once I would call them ZESTY.

The only time I've used the word "zesty" is in an ironic sense and even then I didn't like myself very much afterward.

Anyone using "zesty" by its proper definition should probably be punched unless they have their own cooking show. Even then, someone should punch them after the show.

But these graphics?

These charts that they have on the back of Bowman Chrome this year?

Sorry, but they're zesty.

Kenny is always turning up overseas cards, mostly of the Sega CardGen variety. He very nicely supplies translations for the card backs. (I believe the Dee Gordon photo is from his 2012 walk-off single in the 10th inning on Father's Day).

These cards are very exotic to me and I might even call each of these cards a DELIGHT.

That's another word I've never used in a non-ironic sense. But I challenge you to come up with an argument for why that isn't an appropriate word for these cards.

Cards are so -- yes, delightful, that they make me expand my vocabulary, forcing me to find new words to describe the many varieties of cardboard sent my way. Jeff and Kenny did an excellent job.

In fact, I've saved a few cards that Kenny sent for their own separate post. The cards are so good that they are adorable, fetching, divine and zesty all rolled into one.

In short, they are epic.

Now that's a word I've used a lot.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


I think I've come to the point in my life where I finally have a firm idea of which people have made me who I am. Sadly, I am also at the point in my life where those people are starting to leave me. It's already been a month filled with saying goodbye.

My mother-in-law died about a week-and-a-half ago. She, of course, brought my wife into the world, someone who has shaped my ideas and direction in so many ways. My mother-in-law didn't have a lot to do with my hobby, although she did buy me this, which I use to this day, a lot.

Today, I found out that Sy Berger died. Berger, as many know, is the father of the modern-day baseball card. He brought my hobby into the world. Responsible for turning Topps from a simple gum company to a name that has evoked images and memories of trading cards for generations, Berger is remembered for creating the iconic 1952 Topps set; setting the industry standard for many trading card fundamentals like stats on the back; crushing the competition for decades; and of course dumping cases of 1952 Topps into the ocean.

Berger befriended hundreds of baseball players, signed them to contracts for "steak money" (5 dollars), and put their pictures on cardboard that was the perfect size for clutching and crumpling by 9-year-old boys.

Berger and Topps came along at the right time, during the post-war boom, amid a generation focused on youth and an America ready to recreate. Baseball had never been better nor more appreciated than during the 1950s. But Berger also knew what to do with the opportunity.

Topps, thanks to Berger, was thriving and the only card company around when I started in the hobby in the mid-1970s. It had been that way for years, basically since Topps bought out Bowman in the mid-1950s.

By the time 1974 arrived, Topps was so ingrained into American culture that even people like my mother, who still has never watched a full baseball game in her life, could spot baseball cards at the market and know that this would be something that her boys would like.

From the moment I pulled that Tommy John out of a cello pack, I was fascinated by the concept that Berger had imagined 22 years prior.

I credit Berger for who I am. Yes, I am a father and son, brother and husband, boss and employee, writer and editor, but I am also a card collector. The hobby defines who I am, and even though I left it for 10 years or so, it never left me. I've always been a card collector.

The cello pack of '74s turned me on to what was possible. But when I purchased my first packs of cards with my own money the following year and pulled this Darold Knowles card (yes, this very one), from the first of three packs, that's when I knew there was no going back.

I had found one of the loves of my life.

I had no idea who Sy Berger was then, and probably wouldn't know for decades to come.

But in those first three packs was a card that paid tribute to Berger. Yes, it was a self-congratulatory piece of cardboard, but if I looked closely, I could see his handiwork in the pictures of '52 cards of Bobby Shantz and Hank Sauer.

Since those days of my childhood, the trading card industry has experienced booms and busts, sold millions, spawned dozens of companies, and morphed into a business that caters to adults, not kids.

Its transformation has made quotes like this from Berger, from "The Great American Baseball card Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book," seem quaint:

"I get calls all the time from different people, asking how they can get complete collections of cards," said Berger in 1972. "I have to tell them I have absolutely no idea. When (baseball commissioner) Bowie Kuhn asked me for a set of Topps cards a few years ago I had to buy one from an ad in 'The Sporting News'. We don't do any selling directly to collectors. We're only interested in doing business with kids."

Berger retired from Topps 17 years ago and became a consultant for the company until 2002. I've wondered a few times what he thought of how Topps produces cards now, with the oversaturation of sets, the plague of parallels, and other common complaints about modern cards. He was a businessman and maybe he saw it as inevitable progress -- you have to change with the times to stay viable and make money. But I'm sure he didn't agree with everything.

Still it was always comforting to know that Berger, a guy who also collected cards as a kid, knew how cool his profession was.

"I wouldn't trade places with anyone in the world," he said in 1972. "This is the kind of job you couldn't even invent."

There aren't a lot of people who I've never met who I can say shaped my life forever. Berger is one of those people.

I can't think of a better childhood for myself, opening colorful 1975 Topps on a sunny day while walking home from the drug store, or in my hotel room on vacation, or in the schoolyard during recess. If Berger never existed, would cards have been around then? Would I have enjoyed my childhood as much or remembered it as fondly as I do?

Would I be collecting today, writing a blog today, writing three blogs today?

I think the answer is obvious.

Berger made me who I am. He made every card blogger who he or she is. The fact that the hobby still exists and will for years to come is his doing.

Thank you, sir.

We'll press on.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Having a blog means better Christmas gifts

Not long into starting this blog I discovered that people have it together far more than I do. While I'm stumbling through life trying to figure out where I put my snowbrush, how I'm going to pay for any Christmas presents and why I forgot to get a haircut again, others already have the who, what, when, where, why and how marked, targeted and checked off.

But I did do one thing right. I started a blog about baseball cards. Because of that, those very together people take time out at this time of year to send me Christmas card packages.

I'm in awe of their planning.

Christmas card packages mean I will get exactly what I want every Christmas. It balances out the socks and gloves. It adds fun to what can be a humdrum part of the holiday for an adult. It basically means better Christmas gifts than before I had a blog.

How do I determine whether it's a Christmas package? Well, they wish me a Merry Christmas, duh. Some are especially together and send a holiday card.

I recently received a slew of Christmas card packages and it will take me until the 25th to get to them all. The first one is from Spiff at Texas Rangers Cards.

Spiff is one of the first bloggers to send me cards and he's still doing it to this day, complete with a business card and Christmas greetings. A couple of cards jumped out at me:

This is a companion card to last night's post.

I mentioned yesterday that 1970s cards sometimes didn't do a complete job of showing what was great about the '70s.

Fortunately there was Upper Deck in the 1990s. UD's All-Time Heroes sets from 1993 and 1994 captured what the '70s was all about. This '93 All-Time Heroes BAT triple folder card of Rick Monday shows the dramatic moment in 1976 when Monday, playing for the Cubs at the time, snatched the American flag from two protesters who were intent on burning it in the outfield at Dodger Stadium.

It's probably Monday's most famous moment, more so than even the home run he hit in Montreal to win the NLCS for the Dodgers in 1981. It's sad that it took until 1993 for it to show up on a card.

This is a terrific item and I'm very happy I have the pages to showcase these folders.

I am making it a mission next year to finish off all the Dodgers from the Fleer boxed sets from the late '80s/early '90s, they've been roaming around freely, taunting me for way too long.

The problem is, I don't know what I'm looking at half the time. This is a card from the '89 Fleer SuperStars boxed set, which my want list told me I have already. I don't have it already. Yeah, this mission is going to be fun.

By the way, exciting photo.

More 2015 goals (this from a guy who doesn't make New Year's resolutions or goals): GET A BLEEPING CLUE OF WHAT I NEED FOR 2014.

I blew off this year in card collecting worse than any year since 2005. I have no idea what Dodgers I still need from 2014 Update because I'm still working on Dodgers from 2014 Series 2. Fortunately, Scott Van Slyke's magnificent beard told me I needed this card.

My first 2014 sticker. And the bestest 2014 sticker.

I wonder if Kershaw will make A.J. Ellis his exclusive catcher?

Spiff sent a mess more Dodgers, including team sets of things like '92 Score and '90 Fleer, which could come in very handy if I plan to collect the full set of either, which if you're thinking that's what I'm going to do you can just leave right now.

So, we'll call this Christmas card package #1.

From one of the Together People.

Friday, December 12, 2014

C.A.: 1974 Topps Mike Schmidt

(Today is National Ding-A-Ling Day. Really. I have no comment -- except to say, it's time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 218th in a series):

I was watching an episode of Cheers on Netflix the other day because that's what people at my stage of life do, watch 25-year-old sitcoms and revel in the comedy of our younger days.

In the episode, Rebecca was holding a contest at the bar in which patrons would guess the number of jelly beans in a jar. She said that such activities were popular because people wanted to "return to the innocence of their teenage years." (much as I was doing at that moment).

Then Woody said, "Yep. The '70s were great weren't they?"

That line drew a big response from the laugh track because Woody was always young and clueless. And at that time in the late '80s, growing up in the '70s did mean that you were young. And people like Rebecca and Cliff would look at you with scorn because you were a youthful know-nothing wandering amid people much wiser in years.

I wanted to turn to someone and say "See? People who grew up in the '70s were once youthful! They said so right here!" But nobody was there, and I went back to finishing the show and then after that probably looked at the blogs or Twitter in which yet another person was recalling the glory days of 1997. Because they're Woody now.

That was a lot of words to get to my point, which is that the '70s were indeed great, but sometimes they didn't do a good job of preserving the decade's greatness.

I'll use this card of Mike Schmidt as an example. It was just featured over at Phungo, and he pointed out one of the most distinctive quirks of 1970s baseball -- the bullpen car with a cap for a roof. You can see the car in the background to the left.

These cars were laughable but charming at the same time -- like the clothes that everyone wore in the '70s. I don't know how the relief pitcher didn't break up being escorted to the mound in one of these cartoon cars.

I loved them as a kid and when Phungo issued a challenge on his post to find other bullpen cars on cards, I went right to work.

But the problem is that, like I said, the '70s didn't do a great job of preserving the '70s. Sure you can still see the hairstyles and the uniform styles. But, as I've mentioned before, where's the card of Mark Fidrych smoothing the mound? How come there aren't more photos of players wearing pillbox caps (it wasn't just the Pirates who wore those in the '70s)? Why aren't there White Sox players wearing shorts?

I looked and looked and looked through my '70s cards, and I have a lot of them, and I couldn't find another bullpen car.

It's possible that there's another one out there. I'm woefully lacking in Hostess cards and that's fertile ground. I also am lacking in 1973 Topps, although I'm not sure if the cars were around that early in the decade.

But I know that if bullpen cars were a phenomenon of the 1990s, there would be dozens of cards featuring them. The '90s had every aspect of the baseball decade down. You don't issue a zillion sets in 10 years and not cover the hell out of everything. 

But since this was the '70s, until another one is spotted, the '74 Schmidt is the only card I can find with a bullpen car.

Still, my searching mission wasn't in total vain.

What would you say is the record for the most baseballs on one card.

Three? Four?

There are at least 16 on this card.

Yup, Woody, the '70s were definitely great.