Friday, July 31, 2009

Now I can breathe again

Sometimes it's best to keep memories repressed.

I don't ever want to recall that Orel Hershiser pitched for the Giants, let alone get a cardboard reminder in the mail.

However, in one way I am glad that this Hershiser card is featured here. Because that means the trade deadline is over, I can exhale, and this is a harmless baseball card trade post, rather than a "why, oh, why did the Dodgers trade half their team for Roy Halladay" post. Halladay is still spending his Loonies in Toronto. As it should be.

(Meanwhile, I just read that the Dodgers were supposedly close to a deal with the Padres in which they would have acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell for James Loney, Russell Martin, Blake DeWitt, James McDonald and Ivan DeJesus Jr. Holy Smokey! Do people who run the Dodgers know the team has had the best record in baseball for almost the entire season?)

The Hershiser nightmare card came to me from Mark of Stats on the Back. He's been giving away cards, and it's my turn to feature my loot. All but two of the cards Mark sent were Dodgers. The other two were of Hershiser dressed for Halloween.

That's the other one. Look how sinister he looks in that uniform. The darkness, the shadow across his face. It's pure evil! Fortunately, Orel came to his senses and retired as a Dodger.

Time to look at some good guys. And I'll start with one of the best.

It's everybody's American hero, Rick Monday. This American Pie card commemorates Monday's famous rescue of the American flag from burning, at the hands two protesters at Dodger Stadium, during the bicentennial year. I debate whether Monday's more famous for that act or the home run he hit against Montreal that put the Dodgers in the World Series in 1981.

More '70s reflections, with the ho-hum 2005 Upper Deck Classics set. A lot of lousy photos in this set, Davey Lopes included.

A 1972 card is always appreciated, even one that I have already. Because this one can go into my 1972 set binder. If I had one. Right now my '72s are mixed with other sets from the '70s that I am nowhere near completing.

The insanity of this card will speak for itself. There was no time in which Mariano Duncan was considered a superstar. None.

Nomo! Now that's Pinnacle done right, unlike that earlier Hershiser monstrosity. And Nomo pitched for the Red Sox, Brewers, Tigers, Devil Rays, Royals, and even the Mets, but he never threw a pitch for the Giants.

Don't you feel cheap and dirty when you admit you need Opening Day cards? I do. So I'm going to say this is a duplicate. Ha, ha, Mark. Sorry. Got this one already. Didn't really need it (ok, yes I did).

Only my second card of Zach/Zack Wheat, who still owns a bunch of Dodgers records. Wheat led the National League in slugging percentage at .461 in 1916. They didn't slug very well in 1916.

And this is my first card of Van Lingle Mungo, which is a shame because it's one of the all-time greatest names in Major League Baseball. His name was the title for a song in the late 1960s. I'd link to a video of a guy singing the song, but he makes a bunch of weird faces during it, and I don't want to put you through that.

This is a reprint of a Goudey card. I have no idea when the reprint was issued, which screws up my filing system, since my Dodgers are filed by year. If anyone knows when these Dover reprints were issued, I'd appreciate it.

This card eliminates a bunch of needless searching for me. I've wanted an upgrade of Crawford for years because mine features scribbling on the back. But every time I go to a card show I get distracted and never come home with one. Problem solved.

I'll end with some deckle edge goodness from 1969. Al Ferrara's base 1969 Topps card features him with the Padres. He was an expansion draft guy. But he's obviously wearing a Dodger uniform on this card (with his cap blacked out). And since there's no reference to him being on the Padres anywhere (the backs are basically blank), he's officially still a Dodger! Yay! In the binder he goes.

Sorry, Orel. You won't be going in the binder wearing that Giants uniform. Off to the cardboard box with you.

Success

The ballgame turned out to be a lot of fun (was there any doubt?). Beautiful weather. Decent crowd. No parking issues. About the only thing that went wrong was me looking at the wrong roster for the two teams when I wrote the previous post.

There were quite a few players I recognized at the game: Daryle Ward (the hecklers' main target), Wilson Betemit, Norris Hopper, Elijah Dukes (hit by a pitch twice), Pete Orr, Saul Rivera and Jorge Sosa (throwing smoke). And Mike Morse was the big hero, hitting a two-run triple in the seventh inning for the game-winning hit as Syracuse rallied to win 5-3.

But the biggest news was in the stands, in Section 105, Row 4, seats 5 and 6. Right behind the visitors' dugout. That's where my daughter and I sat.

You see, it was quite the entertaining game. Not only was there a comeback win and a two-run triple, but there was also a home run, runners tagged out at the plate in the respective sixth and eighth innings, Charlotte manager Chris Chambliss being thrown out of the game right in front of us while arguing one of the play-at-the-plate calls, Syracuse center fielder Justin Maxwell being thrown out for arguing strikes, and three artful, rally-killing double plays.

But the best highlight of the game: It was the bottom of the seventh inning. The first Syracuse batter doubled. The next batter bunted him over to third, but the pitcher threw wildly to first and the first runner scored. The next batter also sacrificed. Then Maxwell came up and laid down another bunt down the third base line.

The ball hugged the line for quite awhile, and it looked like Maxwell had a hit. But at the last second it rolled foul. The crowd groaned. Then, my daughter, who allegedly does not enjoy the sport, turned to me, and this is what she said:

"I like this basebally stuff. It's fun."

Success.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Awesome night card, pt. 44

I'm headed out to the old ballpark tonight. It's been awhile.

I've mentioned before that I don't live close to a major league park. In fact, I don't live close to any ballpark that features professional baseball.

In the past, that wouldn't stop me. I'd hop in a car and head to any number of parks within driving distance. But ever since my daughter became old enough to care about where she was going, that practice has stopped. I've mentioned before that my daughter isn't interested in baseball. She jokes around with me about how worthless it is, saying swimming or Hannah Montana or Boogie Superstar (if you have a daughter and a Wii, you know what I'm talking about) is vastly more important. And I won't force her to go to games if she's not interested.

But now -- maybe it's her age, or I've finally worn her down -- she's looking forward to a ballgame. And I'm not going to stand around waiting for her to change her mind.

So, we'll be at Alliance Bank Stadium watching the Syracuse Chiefs take on the Charlotte Knights. Those are the Triple A teams of the Nationals and the White Sox. Among the recognizable ex-major leaguers on the rosters are: Corey Patterson, Ryan Langerhans, Norris Hopper, Wilson Betemit, Pete Orr, and Gregor Blanco.

It'll be nice to watch a game without having to cover it or rush to the locker room afterward for interviews. And it'll be nice to watch a game with my daughter, even if I half expect her to ask to be dropped off at the mall on the way there.

Anyway, this week's night card is Aaron Boone, chosen for this occasion. He's playing for Cincinnati's minor league affiliate, the Billings Mustangs, on the 1995 Upper Deck prospects card. Little did he know at that moment what kind of career he had ahead of him. I've read he's recuperating quite nicely from his heart operation. That's very good to hear.

Oh, and you may have heard that the Dodgers acquired reliever George Sherrill for a couple of prospects (including Josh Bell -- I guess my autographed card of him is expendable now). I can live with that. Will I be able to live with anything else the Dodgers may do in the next 24 hours? That's the question isn't it?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Completion ... after a word from our sponsors

I completed my 2009 Topps base set today, thanks to a card from Jim and two cards from Chris. They also sent several other fine cards that I'll show some other time.

I'm also going to delay showing those final three '09 cards until the end of the post, so that I can focus on one notable aspect of this year's Topps cards. The large space for photos and the plentiful action shots means there are a number of cards with advertisements noticeable in the background. The Waldimir Balentien card here is an obvious example.

Once upon a time, this would only happen occasionally with spring training photos. Spring training and minor league facilities have been filled with billboard advertising for ages. And if a Coke ad found its way into the card photo, you were amused, because you never saw that in major league parks. In the big leagues, the outfield walls were barren. All of the walls in the stadium were barren. Well, except for that "no pepper allowed" sign.

Of course, that's all changed. I think the Yankees and Mets built new parks solely so they could squeeze advertisers into every inch of their new real estate. You cannot help but see an ad everywhere you turn.

And so it is with cards. Let's have a look:

Here is Corey Hart advertising a nice, tall glass of OJ. There are too many juicing references I could make here, but that's not fair to Corey, so I'll stop.

Coke and a smile? More like "Coke and a staredown."

Even with all the ads, it seems Topps went out of its way to make sure the advertising was cut off, or blurred out, or just made so it was difficult to see. But some advertisers' logos are too recognizable. Here, Brad Penny pitches in front of the 84 Lumber sign. Penny looks like he could build a few houses after his career is over.

Sometimes, you just need a letter -- and half of two other letters -- to figure out the advertiser. "I can name that logo in one and two-thirds letters." Do you think Billy Butler ate a "pizza, pizza" from Little Caesar's after this blast?

W.B. Mason is everywhere on cards this year. And if you watch a game at Yankee Stadium, either in person or on TV, you can't avoid the office supply business. I wonder how many times Michael Kay has uttered "W.B. Mason" during his play-calling career?

W.B. Mason is a Northeast-based company. Meanwhile, I am unfamiliar with a lot of companies in the western U.S. I should know what this company is, given the amount of space Topps devotes to the advertisement, but I have no idea.

I could swear this is the Dairy Queen logo behind Ian Snell's hand. But I think the "logo" is on someone's shirt. I haven't heard of people wearing Dairy Queen T-shirts, so I'm going to guess it's something else.

The advertiser that is featured on more Topps cards this year than any other is New Era. If you look at all the cards that feature the ad, you can read only the partial web address on them. This is probably the card that features the address the most prominently. Only the "c" in "cap" is missing behind Joey Votto's head.
Here is Oliver Perez, brought to you by Delta Dental Insurance. How are those teeth, Oliver? Better than your pitching, I hope.

Small-time businesses that advertise on billboards at spring training sites must dance a jig when they find themselves displayed on a baseball card. I can't make out the three advertisers behind Adam Kennedy, but I know one of them almost got very lucky by having its entire phone number featured on a card. Its very own business card, in the form of a baseball card!

Can't forget out about The Mick. I wonder if the Cash Sullivan Cross Insurance Agency still exists?

But Jason Bay is my personal favorite. Topps is advertising everyone's favorite online garage sale! Get it? "e-Bay?" Yeah, I'm probably the last one to figure that out. But humor me. I think it's cool.

OK, onto the business at hand, the last three cards I needed to complete the set:
The first two -- Chris Carpenter and Brendan Ryan -- played a huge part in the Cardinals' win over the Dodgers on Monday on ESPN. Not loving either of these two guys right now.

If you watched the game on TV, you know that ESPN positioned Orel Hershiser down one baseline and Steve Phillips down another. They broadcasted the entire game from their respective positions. I hate gimmicks like that. It lent absolutely nothing. If the broadcasters are bored doing games the regular way, find someone else. Because doing goofy stuff like that isn't helping me any.
Oh, and here's Jose Lopez. Needed this card, too. But he's as Mariner. So I have nothing to say about him, except, my 2009 Topps set is complete!

Thanks to Jim, Chris and everyone else who helped me complete the set in a matter of 5 1/2 months. That's pretty good for me.

What I got at the 'National'

Yes, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Hey, Night Owl, bird brain, the National isn't until this weekend. How can you get stuff at the National when it hasn't happened yet?"

And I have one word to say to you all-knowing, always-correct, perfect people out there: relax. I'm going somewhere with this. Settle. And enjoy the ride.

The truth is, I won't be going to the National, otherwise known as "As Close to Paradise as You Can Get While Still Standing in Cleveland." I'd love to see all the wonderful cards on display during the biggest collectibles show on earth, but I just can't. Something about having to work and being broke and the usual drawbacks to adulthood.

Fortunately, I've already had my "National." It arrived in a big box from Joe. You remember Joe, don't you? Well, he wasn't finished sending cards. He sent a ton more and, honestly, the selection was almost as good as what you'd find at the National Sports Collectors Convention.

So, let's see what I got at the National. It's quite impressive:

First, a bunch of 2008 Triple Threads, those oddly-textured, numbered cards with the pink backgrounds. Kind of weird, but Joe's got a bunch of them, and who am I to say no? Just for the record, I like the top row a lot better than the bottom row.

You're going to see a lot of Hideo Nomo in this post. But none of the cards will feature Nomo's head as prominently as this one does.

See? Here's Nomo again, during the early days of chrome. Even the odd look of chrome then (way back in 1996) isn't enough to keep Nomo from the righteous task of signing for fans.

And here's a whole bunch more Dodgers from the '96 Topps Chrome set. You see, Joe didn't send just a player or two from sets. He sent a large chunk from a bunch of them.

See? That's a bunch of 2004 Fleer Tradition that I received. Sometimes you get sick of lining up things nice and neat on the scanner (my scanner is actually near ground level, so the lining up process is a major pain). Throwing them nilly-willy is such a relief.

Back to some single cards. This is The Captain, "Pee Wee," on a numbered Legendary Cuts card. It's typically fancy.

This card sends my brain into overload. You mean to tell me this is a Retro set, but you put a "Futurama" heading on it? So you're going back in time and forward in time at the same time? No wonder Beltre's wearing a towel on his head. You blew his mind.

Joe didn't send me this card. I want to display it just to demonstrate the confusion I feel on almost a daily basis collecting modern cards. This is a Ring of Honor card from 2008 celebrating the 1955 champions.
And here's the card Joe sent. It's a 2009 Ring of Honor card celebrating the 1955 champions. Basically the same, except for slight color changes and the Brooklyn cap logo in the bottom left corner. My question is: what? Why? OK, that's two questions.

More Nomo! Yay! The card on the left is some sort of card game. I received several of these cards.

Now, we get into a bunch of 2006 Bowman Heritage. This is prospect Jamie Hoffman, who was called up to the majors earlier this season.

And here is a whole mess more from the team set. It makes me want to add 2006 Bowman Heritage to my want list (just the Dodgers of course). I'll get to it someday.

But I'm not stopping with regular, base Bowman Heritage. Here are a bunch of shiny variation cards (shininess on a set that pays tribute to 1949 Bowman is very, very, VERY odd).

And, of course, we have the minis (but not exactly scanned mini. My mini-mizer is on the blink). I really like the Clayton Kershaw mini, and Joe must have known, because he sent me three of them.

And, of course, practically the whole team set of minis. I think I have some of these already, but that's cool. They sure look nice all lined up.

The 2004 Cracker Jack cards are some of my favorites. I thought I'd show Lima Time nice and big, just to remember that great playoff performance of his.


And there's the mini Lima, with his larger teammates. 2004 wasn't that long ago, but all these guys are long gone from the Dodgers.

I'll stay with the modern retro sets with a peek at Rafael Furcal on 2006 Turkey Red. What odd poses they used back in the day.

And here are a few more. The 2006 Turkey Red cards are so dark. I think that's why TR didn't appeal to me because everything was somber. Topps made the adjustment with the insert set this year, and it looks so much better.

You may think Joe only deals in modern cards. Well, that's not necessarily true. He sent this 1978 Topps card of the NLCS from 1977. I appreciate it because my copy of the card was knocked around by a 12-year-old (namely, me).

And Joe threw in just about the rest of the team set, just to be safe. I may need a few of these for upgrading purposes.

Remember when the 1992 Leaf black variations were so hard to find? Yeah, I don't remember that either. I never found any Leaf in my neighborhood.

One of the Dodgers' future stars. Now that it's close to the trading deadline, guys like this are mentioned in all those speculative stories (that rarely end up being right).

These two will always be paired together when talk turns to the Dodgers and steroids. Too bad.

You thought I was done with Nomo? NEVER!

Here are some little Fleer doubleheader cards, that I know pay tribute to some past set, but I only vaguely recall what it is.

The little gimmick to these is you've got a card of Victor Alvarez here. But then you open it up ...

And it's a card of David Ross. So Alvarez was actually using Ross' legs in the earlier card. Kind of odd.

And for no particular reason, other than to get this post done with, I'll end it with an autographed card of James McDonald. Me likey.

So, that is what I got at my own little "National." To those National attendees, I'd like to see you do any better. And don't tell me you're going to get that stupid "Jackie Robinson as a Giant" card. Because I don't talk to people like that.

Joe, many thanks again. I've got my act together (sort of), and a package will be on its way to you.

There's only one word for a package like this: Awesome.