Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The last day of March is practically a holiday, so ...

Yes, good people, it's time for a trade post.

Don't look at me that way. I've just made it through the most debilitating month of the year -- made even more debilitating this time around by circumstances you don't want me to document. Trust me, you don't.

The end results is March ate half of the days off that I usually get during a regular, non-hostile month, turned my general mood from happy-go-lucky to WHAT-THE-F***-ARE-YOU-LOOKING-AT, and I'm quite sure knocked a couple of Marchs off my life, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

So with April and baseball right around the corner, I am spunky and ready to go.

Besides, I just got this email the other day:

"Thank you for your order

1960-BB-TS1-265-NA Rip Repulski 1 03/29/10 SHIPPED
1968-BB-TS1-277-NA Jerry Buchek 1 03/29/10 SHIPPED
1972-BB-TS1-532-NA Fred Kendall RC 1 03/29/10 SHIPPED"

My Million Card Giveaway items be shipped!!!

(EDIT: My Million Card Giveaway items BE HERE!!!!!)


OK, I've stopped spinning around. Waiting for dizziness to go away ...

Still waiting ...

Waiting some more ...

All right. Back to normal.

I haven't had a ton of cards coming in lately. That's mostly due to the fact that during the month of March I couldn't coordinate placing found cards into padded envelope. But I've rectified that a bit -- and there's more rectification to come in the next day or so, but especially the next month or so. Meanwhile, there are some items that others have been so nice to send. March was kinder to them.

BA Benny found some items to spare in his big buffet of cards and sent a few my way.

I'm starting things off with a couple of Billy Ashleys, which isn't putting my best foot forward, but I try not to discriminate when it comes to Dodgers. Over-hyped prospects are people, too.

Oh, lordy. Why do I have to be reminded that J.D. Drew wore a Dodger uniform? Does anybody like this guy? Has anyone seen him smile? I mean while he's actually on the baseball field?

These 2004 reprint thingies come from the nebulous world of the early 2000s when cards weren't in my field of vision. I'm guessing it's a 50th anniversary of the '55 Brooklyn Dodgers thing. Yankees fans can't have all the insert fun, you know.

Steve Sax Diamond King. One of the last '87 Donruss cards I'll ever need. The Dick Perez thing completely baffles me. Sax is wearing a mis-shapen cap and the action figure down below is some sort of faceless zombie. Weird.

Yes. A Mickey Mantle card that I'm happy to get.

This card came from madding, the same person that sent me that 1989 Topps cello pack (which, by the way I have opened , and will share the contents of the kick-ass fantasy team later).

He was confused as to why I wanted a Mantle card. I don't blame him. Normally, modern day Mantle cards are kindling to me. However, 2006 is the year in which I had to get in touch with my inner completist, so I am trying to accumulate every last wretch-inducing Mantle/Bonds HR history card.

Mr. Mantle HR #8 means I need just 15 more of these things. Ugh.

I also received these 2K6 promo cards, which are very key because I believe these weren't inserted into packs, but into the video game, which I did not purchase. Four more to go on this really pointless insert set.

Cards on Cards recently went on a 1996 Pinnacle spree and I have been one of the beneficiaries. I happen to think this is one of the most ostentatious sets of all-time (there's a word no one uses anymore). But I enjoy it for comic value. Besides, who doesn't enjoy seeing Mike Blowers in a Dodger uniform?

The Mondesi photo is a nice shot, even if it looks like rather distant. I still don't understand the gold foil mountain thing. Why?

Here is the Hard Ball Heroes Mondesi card. The back says that Mondesi "dares runners to take liberties against him." I'm not sure I know what that means. It sounds like the runners are doing something illegal.

A Hideo Nomo Hardball Heroes card. I'm required to show this because it was a Nomo card that I didn't have.

Here is a Mike Piazza card from the "300 series." More gold on this card than around the neck of a swarthy Studio 54 executive.

You'll note that the card number of the back matches Piazza's batting average. Isn't that cute?

I also received a couple 2010 Opening Day Dodgers. I don't have a lot of pleasant things to say about OD, but it does give you a preview of what cards of players in Series 2 of the base set will look like, such as Chad Billingsley, who's got the blue glove going. Good for him.

Continuing with the Opening Day theme, here is a Clayton Kershaw Opening Day card from Brian at Play at the Plate.

People who send me Kershaw cards I don't have receive ... uh, well, they receive, um, cards. Like everyone else. But they also have my eternal gratitude.

Another Opening Day card of Jim Thome, who has more Dodger cards than he should rightly enjoy for a guy who had played of 22 games with L.A. But back in the day, we would have gotten one card of Thome as a Dodger. And he would have been airbrushed into his uniform. So that's progress.

This card is one of those Topps Attax/Opening Day hybrids. I suppose you can use this card in an actual game of Topps Attax. I don't plan to find out.

Brian also sent several 2009 Chrome cards from my want list. They arrived on the same day that I discovered half-price Chrome at the local drugstore.

I'll show just a couple more.

The Nate McLouth card is like the Crede card. Different photo than the base set. We need more of that.

Hmmm. This picture looks familiar. But it's not the same as the Opening Day Hudson photo. I'm not sure whose ghostly apparition looms to Hudson's left. Juan Castro maybe?

One final card. It's more gold, this time from 2000 Fleer Ultra. I don't know why they called this parallel set "gold medallion." Gold medallions are enomorously tacky. But I guess it was the '90s. The disco era for baseball cards (post upcoming).

All right, that's it for now. Many thanks to all three wonderful collectors.

I've saved one recent package for another post. You'll see why when I post it.

But meanwhile, I need to check out my Giveaway cards. I hope to show those in the wee hours tonight. I've got to work one last day of March, you know.

Good riddance, you miserable month. At least you knew how to go out in style.

The card set that won't die

I received this flashback rack pack from madding the other day.

You can't see the price tag, but it says $1.29. Thirty-nine cards for a buck twenty nine in 1989. That's 3 cents a card! That's awesome.

I'm pretty sure madding sent this to me because Orel Hershiser is peaking through the brightly colored writing. It couldn't have been because he thought I needed some 1989 Topps cards. Because we all know nobody needs '89 Topps cards.

As much as the thought of '89 Topps takes me back to a golden, carefree year in my life, the actual cards fail to elicit a response from me. I am numb to them because of repeated trips to a single Buffalo drugstore that caused me to accumulate countless duplicates of Scott Bailes, Moose Stubing and Dave LaPoint. The cards are like the lyrics to a Don Henley song. They have lost their meaning.

I sold a monstrous box of 1989 doubles in a garage sale several years ago. Yet I am still accumulating Stewart Cliburn cards. The set will not die.

So that raises the question: what do I do with this particular rack pack?

I could keep it unopened forever in hopes that 1989 Topps becomes valuable again, or, more likely, that it becomes barter for food as I roam a barren, post-nuclear holocaust planet.

But I had another thought.

You know how everyone is signing up for dayf's 2010 Heritage fantasy team league?

I could do something similar with this pack of 39 cards.

OK, you see obvious flaws. I do, too. But stay with me.

First I should explain why I didn't jump into the Heritage fantasy pool. It's easy really. I don't like this year's Heritage. Therefore, buying a blaster of it is counterproductive. Also, I suck at fantasy baseball and it ruins my appreciation for the sport. I've said all of this many times before.

However, I actually COULD form a fantasy team out of these 39 cards. I know it's not as many cards as there are in a blaster. But I'll open it up and see what I get. Maybe I'll need to form a mutant team. Ken Dayley might have to play the outfield. But I'll form a team, dammit.

Now for the obvious question: how the hell do I run a fantasy team of retired players?

I haven't gotten that thought out yet. I was thinking of using similarity scores and finding a present-day player that compared to each 1989 player, respectively. That would involve calculating similarity scores, which would be a project of epic proportions -- unless there is an easy way of plugging in a 1989 player and coming up with a current player that matches him. I don't know if that's even possible.

Maybe I'll just find a current player that I think resembles the '89 guy. I like that. Who needs research anyway?

If I could do that, then I could have my own baseball card-fantasy team that I could track without any of the aggravation/angst of being involved in an actual league. No commitment. No attachment. No responsibility. I am a rock. I am an island. I like that, too.

But unless dayf posts updates of every participant's team on his blog, I won't be able to see how my team stacks up. If he just communicates with members via email I'm SOL, because, you know, I'm not in the Heritage blaster league.

So, I may not be able to pull it all together. That means I may just end up creating a team from this pack and just ending it there.

But that's what we all did when we were kids anyway. Fantasy team? What was that? You lined up your cards on the bedroom floor, then picked them all back up when mom called you to dinner.

So if that's all this ends up being, that's fine. It'll be good for a post.

See, madding? I'm really trying here.

More on this ... eventually.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Brush with greatness: Joel Skinner

Interviewing managers is rarely a fun activity. On the good side, managers know that dealing with the press is a necessary evil of their job. So they make themselves available and try to be cordial -- or as cordial as their personality allows themselves to be.

On the bad side, managers are not as enjoyable to interview as players. For one, unless they are Ozzie Guillen, there is the whole self-censorship thing. A manager has a team and a whole organization to consider, so he is eternally worried about throwing someone under the bus. And that leads to some very boring, "say nothing" quotes. Another problem is the attitude you get from managers. You can get attitude from players, too, but the manager's attitude is almost always along the same irritating line: "Here comes this guy with the stupid questions who doesn't know as much about baseball as me and I've got to deal with him."

This is more apparent when a writer is dealing with a minor league team in which he's the only guy covering the team.

That brings me to Joel Skinner.

You might think I'm going to rip on Joel Skinner. I'm not.

Skinner did carry the "here comes the reporter" vibe with him, but unlike other managers, he kept it well-hidden. He wasn't overly forthcoming or bag of laughs -- he certainly wasn't the excitable type -- but he did his job with the media and remained friendly through it all.

Skinner, who has been in the Indians organization since 1989, was the manager of the Class A Watertown Indians when I talked to him. I wasn't the beat writer, but I covered a few games. Skinner gave me information that I needed during those times in a rather reserved way. He was quiet. A thinking man's player. But on the good side, there were no lectures, no temper tantrums and no endless cliches.

Perhaps it was because it was his first year of managing. He had just retired as a player the year before. Maybe he was still feeling his way around.

But the Indians won the New York-Penn League title that year and Skinner was named the league's manager of the year. He rose through the minor league ranks, winning manager awards all the way through. Eventually, he got to the majors, worked on the Indians coaching staff and was even interim manager for the Indians after Charlie Manuel's departure.

Skinner has returned to his minor league managing roots for this season, moving from Indians third base coach to Double A Akron, where he was manager 12 years ago.

Until I met Skinner, I knew him as the son of former major leaguer Bob Skinner, and as a poor-hitting catcher for those lousy Yankees teams of the late 1980s. Now, when I think of Skinner, I think of a guy who did his job with the media, without making it seem like it was agony.

Cardboard appreciation: 1969 Topps World Series subset

(Yes, I've done some blog remodeling. Glad you noticed. More on that later. But right now it's time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 58th in a series):

In celebration of a new look, I've decided to feature my favorite subset of all-time.

It is the 1968 World Series subset in 1969 Topps. And according to me, it is without flaw. Let us count the ways:

1. A newspaper format. Cards that use newspaper themes kick significant ass.

2. Photos that actually appear to be from the World Series game in question. We all know that Topps sometimes has problems in this area.

3. A great newspaper layout. As someone who has produced thousands of sports newspaper covers, that is a simple, striking layout.

4. Topps follows the headline rules! No split modifiers, no ending top lines in prepositions. The editor is smiling. (Wait -- not smiling anymore. What's with the random semi-colon at the end of the second line?)

5. OK, back to collecting: there is a card for EVERY game in the World Series. I want to see this every year. How depressing when there is only one World Series card, or no World Series card.

6. That neat little score listed in the top right corner. That's another newspaper trick. Get the important information above the fold! (OK, there's a headline violation here).

7. A memorable World Series. The Tigers come back from a 3-1 deficit to win!

8. A set I acquired when I was a youngster. Well, most of it anyway. Game 2 and the "Tigers celebrate" cards were picked up at a card show and a pawn shop, respectively, several years ago.

9. Boxscores on the back! Woo-hoo!

Nine great reasons add up to a subset that I will always appreciate.

OK, now a brief explanation of the changes:

I've been doing this for 18 months. More than 900 posts and almost 100,000 page views. It's time for a new look. As much as I liked the "night owl" theme of the other template, I started to feel limited by the template. It felt crowded. I have more room with this template and can feature cards in a larger size if I choose.

Also, the orange background started to bother me, especially when I looked at the blog on my phone. I know it's supposed to represent a night-light glow, but when I saw it on my cell, it just looked like someone puked on my phone. Yes, that's right, orange puke.

You can see I needed a change. If only for my sanity.

So, I decided, why not combine the night owl theme with a little bit of a newspaper feel for the ol' scribe? It sort of works. I'm no expert on how these templates work, so I may tinker with it more, but it'll do for now.

Please join me for the next 18 months. I'll try to keep you entertained. I may not win an Upper Deck blog award (BAAHAAAAHHAAAHHAAAA -- gasp, gasp -- BAAHAAAAHHAAAHHAAA!). But I'll do my best.

Monday, March 29, 2010


I hope there really wasn't a question over whether I would cut out those Baseball Cards Magazine reprint cards.

Cardboard must be 2 1/2-by-3 1/2. It is its destiny.

As you can see, I didn't do the greatest razor blade job on the Rose "repli-card." But I'm long past the day when I'd try to pass this off as the real thing. ... Not that I ever tried to do that or anything.

There is the back of the freed Rose card. In case you're wondering, the giant REPRINT replaced a cartoon mentioning Rose's '63 Rookie of the Year award.

The edges on the Steve Carlton-Fritz Ackley reprint aren't quite right either. But there's room for further trimming when I'm feeling particularly invincible.

Did the Cardinals really wear blue caps with white lettering? No red at all? That seems wrong. Although I'm aware it is an airbrush job.

You can see the back deletes any reference to Fritz Ackley. Poor Fritz. His appearance in the 1965 set was his last. He actually did all of his major league pitching -- five games for the White Sox in 1963 and 1964 -- before this card came out.

So much for the "rookie star."

Anyway, it took me only 25 years but I've officially added those reprints to my collection. That's terrible that I waited so long.

I think I just wanted to hang onto that blue speckled cardboard on the back. Look, I've still got the remnants.

I'll figure out something to do with that. Just give me another 25 years.

(Note: I had another post planned for today, but blogger has gone beserk with images all freaking day, and I had this in the cue -- I did the trimming last night. Thanks for screwing my schedule blogger).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The 900-pound post in the room

I don't have anything in particular to say for this post. Yet, "something" compels me to write anyway.

In situations such as these, I often go to my folder of scans and pull out those neglected cards that were either part of a half-written post that never saw the light of day, or an idea that never realized its potential.

For example, there is this card of George "Shot Gun" Shuba from the '74 TCMA '52 Dodgers set. The intended post likely had to do with his nickname and how great it would be to be featured on a card with only "Shot Gun" under your photo. That is an achievement if I ever saw one.

Like almost any card blogger, I would imagine, I had ideas of writing a post about players with the same name. This is Pedro A. Martinez, who pitched for the Padres, Astros, Mets and Reds.

I periodically wonder if he ever gets mail intended for the much more well-known Pedro J. Martinez. Perhaps he's received a few letters that end with " ... and I loved how you pushed down old man Zimmer during that brawl." I'm sure Pedro A. could have fun with those kinds of letters.

Or how about the "Big Unit" Randy Johnson?

Do you suppose this Randy Johnson:

Or this Randy Johnson:

... ever got a call from some memorabilia company representative mistaking one of the early '80s Johnsons for the Hall of Famer-to-be? Has the ex-Twin or ex-Brave ever signed an autograph request "Big Unit"? You never know. There could be confusion. They all have mustaches, you know.

I had intended to write about the pitchers that always seemed to give the Dodgers problems. Dennis Martinez was one of them. I had planned to look up whether my perceptions were correct. But I've never gotten around to it.

But I did just make a special case for Martinez and look up his stats against the Dodgers. Including the perfect game he threw against them, he held the Dodgers to a .234 batting average in 22 games. But among teams that he faced at least 10 times, the Dodgers still fared better than the Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals and Blue Jays did against El Presidente.

I've mentioned the defunct Baseball Cards magazine a few times (no I didn't win the Steve Sax jersey). I still enjoy going through the issues that I have and there remain some post ideas in those 25-year-old magazines.

I accumulated quite a few cards that the magazine created and have sent several to other bloggers. But I came across a couple of cards that I scanned a year or so ago but never mentioned.

These came in one of the last BCMs I ever bought. Apparently, back before people called these things "reprints," they were called "repli-cards." I like "reprints" better.

I have no idea why I never cut out these cards. Here is what the back looks like:

I guess I should cut them out. What do you think? It'd be shame to throw away that blue-speckled cardboard.

OK, so, that's a brief wandering through my scans folder. I'm a bit relieved that I can now recycle some of these items that have been clogging up space for no particular reason.

I'm also a bit relieved to say that this is the end of my 900th post. That was the "something" that compelled me to write. But you knew that already didn't you?

Sorry I didn't have anything special for you. But I do plan on some blog changes real soon. It's sort of in preparation for another milestone on the way. I hope I'll  have things more together for that one. But no guarantees.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I love dusty chrome

This is not a post professing my love for an alt-rock chick named "Dusty," although if I ever create a comic book series, the heroine will be named "Dusty Chrome."

No, this about my long-delayed discovery of cards at a drug store.

Many, many, many months ago, I read about bloggers finding 2009 Topps Chrome for sale at Rite Aid. It made me positively giddy. First, you don't find cards at drug stores very often anymore. Secondly, there  actually is a Rite Aid in my outpost hell. Two of them in fact.

However, I've reached the point in my life where my brain resists absorbing new information. It's a fun side effect of turning 40. I've rejected a great many new-fangled items that I have stumbled across in the last couple of years, just because my brain has turned its nose up at them.

So months went by and I never even entered either Rite Aid store. Neither of them are conveniently located. One is way on the other side of town. The other has a parking lot layout conceived by monkeys.

But the other day, I happened to be at the other-side-of-town Rite Aid. Staring back at me at the checkout line was a box of 2009 Topps Chrome. I grabbed two packs. They were covered in dust. After getting them home, one of the cards pulled was the Barry Zito xrefractor. I have the Zito xrefractor already. How on earth do I pull doubles of an xrefractor? Very disappointing.

However, when buying those two packs, I discovered something else. They were half price.

This was news that my brain WOULD absorb. But I had to act fast. I was back at the store the next day before my brain had time to decide that it would rather retain the lyrics to Quiet Riot songs instead. I grabbed a handful of dusty packs, leaving two forlorn packs for the next time I find myself lost on the wrong side of town.

I didn't get anything great. But the cards were HALF-PRICE (unlike at stingy Target), and it's one of many sets I'm attempting to collect.

Here are the cards that I needed:

Another stinking Giant.

A Giant that I will accept because it's one of the few Chrome cards that features a different shot than the 2009 base set.

Kenji Johjima, who decided the major leagues wasn't for him.

The man who spawned a thousand broadcaster cliches. I plan to be absent in about 2020, during his Hall of Fame induction speech.

Last year's "in" rookie. Now replaced by Jason Heyward.

A WBC guy who was actually signed by a major league team, the Twins. I feel better about these WBC cards when I know that.

Here are the refractors that I pulled. They're all tradeable, although I still need the Lester card for the base set, so the refractor may be a filler until I can find it.

I pulled three xrefractors:

Of course, one was Todd Helton. I'm quite sure a chip has been implanted in my body that serves as a Todd Helton parallel homing device. I'm sick of seeing this guy and all of his Rockies cronies.

You probably can't tell that this is an xrefractor. The dark scoreboard affects the shininess. But I always liked this card, so it's nice to have the xrfractor version.

The last one is another guy who follows me around. The xrefractor combined with an old-time baseball image of Mantle is a bit disorienting, but I suppose it's a nice card.

So, that takes care of my dose of shiny for today. As luck would have it, I also received a package from Play at the Plate today that includes some more '09 Chrome wants. So I actually overloaded on the shiny this weekend.

To balance things out, I suppose I should reveal the results of the "Best George Scott '70s" poll.

In third place with five votes each are the 1971 and 1977 Scotts.

In second place with six votes is the Franken-photo of Scott plastered onto the background of another stadium on his 1973 card.

And in first place by a long shot, with 13 votes, is the 1970 Scott, which would be my vote as well.

I'm a little disappointed that the 1976 card didn't make it into the top three, but even that card is not as good as the 1970 card.

Thanks for voting.

Also, if anyone is still collecting the 2009 Chrome set, I have lots of dupes. But don't worry. I've cleared off the dust.