Saturday, July 31, 2010

It's the weekend: live a little

I am joining trade post forces today.

I know I said I'd do less of this, but these trades are perfect for a combined trade post. There aren't a lot of cards I need to show for any of them, and yet everyone deserves their turn. Besides, it's the weekend. Time to relax the rules.

So let's smush all these trade packages together and see what we get.

Up first is a giveaway package from Grand Cards. He had lots and lots of junk wax/current cards to give away, including Dodgers.

I thought a long time about this before I took the plunge and said I wanted the cards. I have enough junk wax Dodgers to keep a fire going until the next time the Cubs win the World Series. But I went ahead and told the delivery truck that "yes, this IS the correct address."

And boy did I get a bunch of Dodger goodness. Unfortunately, I've seen just about all of it before right in my very own home. Strangely, the only cards that I did not have had a Russell Martin theme.

There is the card up top, which I actually do have, but need another one to go into my 2006 Topps Completist collection.

Then there are these items:

Ah, inserts and parallels, placed upon this earth to ensure that you will never complete another set for the rest of your life.

Even the 2007 red-letter variations had a Russell J. theme.

So I'm glad I said yes to Grand Cards. Even receiving one card that I don't have is worth throwing a party over.

As another example, here is a card I received from Ryan of "O" No!!! Another Orioles Blog. (That's three exclamation points to you, sir).

It is the 2010 short-print card of Pee Wee Reese. This sure caught my eye when I saw it on his blog.

It's a weird-looking card. It's obviously colorized as Reese appears to be fielding a ball at a newly carpeted Wrigley Field. Didn't they have any dirt on the field in the 1950s?

Ryan couldn't leave me with just this one card though. He had to see what 2010 base cards I was missing and sent me a mess of want-list needs:

Those aren't all of them, just some of my favorites. That Cardinals shot in the upper left corner may be one of the best cards of the year. Very impressive.

Jon, of RGB Cards, delivered in much the same way that Ryan did. He sent a key card that I didn't have:

It's a paralleled Nomar card from 2008 Baseball Heroes. That's "silver," I believe. Nomar is making appearances on Baseball Tonight if I can believe the one time I tuned into the program in the last month. There was Nomar talking about baseball, so I'm guessing it's true. I still think anyone with any baseball analyzing talent left on ESPN should get the hell over to the MLB Network.

Jon checked the 2010 Topps want list, too, and like Ryan, these aren't all the cards that he sent. Just some of the better ones.

I've got to send some cards in return to Jon. I think I have to wait until he gets back to Australia or something. You bloggers are so worldly.

Finally, a mere two cards from Anthony at the former Mike Pelfrey's Collectibles blog. It now has a new name!

Anthony is leaving the baseball card scene for a new collecting love. I wish him the best, and I'm glad I was able to snag a few key cards before they disappeared forever.

These two cards are about as different as cards can get.

First, a card from one of my favorite sets:

It's Danny Frisella IN ACTION. Remember when "action" was a novelty? Something to be capitalized and italicized? I miss those days.

This is what replaced IN ACTION. It's a four-swatch card of four completely unrelated ballplayers! That will make you forget about boring old "action."

Of course, I grabbed this card because Matt Kemp is on it. I don't even care about the other three. One plays on a team that sucks, one plays on an American League team -- that sucks -- and one swings at pitches that bounce 14 times before they get to home plate.

All I see is Mr. Rihanna. I hope she doesn't totally ruin your 2010, Mr. Kemp.

There's your combined trade post -- a growing rarity here at Night Owl Cards.


We'll see.

Sometimes I like to change my mind.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Card back countdown: #44 - 1995 Topps

Let's face it, there really is only so much you do with the back of a card.

Many of the card backs over the years look the same, especially when it comes to Topps. And that's because Topps found a formula that worked fairly well.

Topps would put the name up top, list the vital stats immediately underneath, list the year-by-year stats underneath that, and position the bio write-up at the the bottom. Then there would be a photo or a cartoon to tie it all together.

What gets a lot of these formulaic card backs onto this here countdown is a "hook." And in 1995, that hook was the Diamond Vision photo.

Diamond Vision, the name for Mitsubishi's large video displays in sports arenas all over the country, first came to my attention in 1980 with the Dodgers' new video display screen. The Dodgers were the first ones to have Diamond Vision and I thought it was the coolest thing to see video displays at a ballgame. Now, it's very commonplace, but at the time, it was amazing.

So, when I see the Diamond Vision displays on the back of the 1995 set, that's where my mind is.

Plus, the video mugs of the players come in handy with cards like Lenny Webster here.

Now you can see his smiling face! Also, I love the tiny action shot that goes with the video mug.

The rest of the card back is pretty standard and nothing worth mentioning. The Topps logo that is stamped underneath the stats and the bio write-up can make some of the words and numbers difficult to read.

But, overall, it's a nicely presented card back with something different that had never been done before -- even if it's a free ad for Mitsubishi.

And, of course, the 1995 set had Cyber Stats on the back, too! I didn't award any additional points in the card back evaluation for these special backs, but they were quite interesting.

Best of the set:

I think I'm going to have to go with Juan "Gone" Gonzalez.

You've got to love a mullet on a mid-1990s baseball card.

(previous card back countdown selections):

50. 1978 SSPC Yankee Yearbook
49. 1993 Score
48. 1999 Skybox Thunder
47. 2000 Upper Deck
46. 1999 Skybox Premium
45. 1953 Johnston Cookies Braves

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Letting bygones be bygones

I am not sure what to do with this card.

This card commemorates the disgusting moment in which Eric Gagne, at the height of his invincibility in 2003, gave up a game-winning home run in the eighth inning to Hank Blalock that led to the American League's 7-6 victory.

I was at work during this game. I was totally enraged and appalled at the same time. And then I had to write a happy little "A.L. wins weeeeeee!!!!" headline, even though my brain kept screaming: "Hank Who? Hank WHO? HANK WHO??????"

Not good times.

From that point, I decided I would not work when the All-Star Game was scheduled. It took a couple of years for that plan to come together, but for the last four or five years, I have been on vacation during the All-Star Game, and that works so much better.

But back to the card.

My Dodger binders are happy little places. They are filled with warm memories and awesome athletes. Even though players like Delino DeShields and Anduw Jones make appearances in the Dodger binder, I treat them as one because they all wore Dodger blue.

Still, I don't know if I can get around putting this card in my Dodger binder. It is a card that goes out of its way to recognize a Dodger FAIL. I don't like that.

There are other cards of regrettable Dodger moments in my binder: memories of the 1952 World Series, the 1975 Topps '74 World Series retrospective, etc. I am OK with those cards because at least the Dodgers were in the Series and there was some good mixed in with the terrible, terrible, evil badness.

But this card features a lone player stupidly trying to overpower a batter with his fastball because he apparently thinks he's still facing the 2003 San Diego Padres lineup. In fact, I even said at the TV screen that fateful night: "Eric, he's an All-Star. You can't try to blow the ball passs .... oh, no."

That's all I think of when I see this card.

I'll probably end up putting it in the binder anyway. I never thought I'd have to activate my defense mechanisms while looking through my Dodgers, but I guess Upper Deck's got to be that way. Always stirring up stuff that should remain hidden, buried and surrounded by boobytraps. UD just can't let bygones be bygones.

Anyway, this card was sent to me by madding at Cards on Cards. I saw it on his blog and I knew I was going to be blessed with it. Lucky me.

Fortunately, madding sent some friendlier Dodger cards as well. Time to take a lookie:

A 1985 Donruss need, featuring Bill Russell. Two things about this card:

1. Russell is featured in almost the same manner on Donruss cards for 1983, 1984 and 1985. Not the same photo session, but not terribly creative by the Donruss dudes either.

2. Is that the most frightening example of a farmer's tan that you have ever seen? Take a look at Russell's very pink face and neck, and then move your eyes to his right shoulder. See where the pink transitions to flesh color? Damn, unless that is some sort of lighting issue, that is one alarming sunburn, son.

This is Shawn Green on something called "Fleer Inscribed." I've never heard of this before, and I don't know how madding turns up sets like this. But Green's shoes really stand out.

Here is Upper Deck SP Authentic from last year, still clinging desperately to the 1990s idea that stamping a card in gold foil and numbering it makes it a legitimate parallel. It was lame then and it's way lame now.

See, that's better. Make it shiny and put a gold border around it. Now you've got a parallel. ... although gold borders are overplayed, too. So, don't do that. Never mind.

Why are we collecting these cards? Anybody?

I received a few Donruss Super Estrellas cards from madding, which is productive because now I can work on my high school Spanish.

On the back, it says that Nomo played for the Medias Rojas in 2001. Using a combination of my baseball and Spanish knowledge, I know that means he played for the Red Sox. But if you used "medias rojas" outside of a baseball card setting, I'd probably tell you that it meant "red cow."

More Super Estrallas Action! You can't see anything on this card because it's too cool for the scanner, but the script across the front says "Poder de Cuadrangular," which translated literally means "Quadrangular of Power." I think.

I'm going to guess that it says "home run power," and not even bother trying to translate the back of the card.

While we're in an international frame of mind, here is an O-Pee-Chee card to finish it out. Again, I don't know how madding finds O-Pee-Chee cards lying around. But I sure do appreciate it.

OK, I'm off to re-repress those '03 All-Star Game memories.

My latest Strasburg card

I sure do write about this guy a lot, don't I?

Hopefully, this is the last time.

While everyone is talking about Strasburg on the Million Card site or in a complete 2010 Topps set or in Topps U&H or whatever, I went the simple route and bought the Syracuse Chiefs team set for a rather inflated 10 bucks.

That's 33 cents per card. Or maybe it's 5 dollars for the Strasburg card ...

... another $2.50 for the Drew Storen card, and 9 cents each for 28 scrubs.

This Strasburg card is staying with me. Not that it's rare or anything. There were more than a few being sold at the Syracuse Chiefs' game last night. And here was the vendor's chant as he walked up and down the aisles:

"Get your scorecards and baseball cards.
Strasburg right on top."

And Strasburg is. They've got all the other cards in alphabetical order, except for Strasburg, who is conveniently out front.

That was the highlight of my pregame purchasing. Once the players took their positions, I was focused on the game -- Indianapolis Indians at Syracuse Chiefs. Yes, I likes to keep score.

It was a good thing that I was paying attention, because I witnessed the most action-packed top of the first inning that I have seen in person in my entire life. Here is my meandering play-by-play:

Jason Marquis was on a rehab start with the Washington Nationals. My first impression of him is that he is shockingly short. He's listed as being 6-foot-1. I don't believe it.

The first batter was someone by the alias of Brian Friday (I had a hard time believing anything that happened in this game). Friday -- if that is his real name -- walked.

The next batter was "whatever happened to Akinori Iwamura?" Well, he's batting second and playing third base for the Indianapolis Indians.

Or, at least he was.

Iwamura hit a high chopper between the mound and first base. Both Marquis and Syracuse first baseman Jason Botts charged after the ball. Botts grabbed it, twirled and tossed to late-arriving second baseman Chase Lambin. Since Lambin was late, he had to leap to his left for the throw. He proceeded to leap directly into Iwamura who was crossing first base. Lambin bowled over Iwamura, lost the ball, and I thought for 15 seconds that Iwamura was dead. He lay there on his back absolutely still. The only thing that made me think that he wasn't dead, and maybe just paralyzed for life, was there were only 5 people surrounding him instead of both teams. A couple minutes went by and Iwamura was sitting up. A couple more minutes went by and he was standing up. Eventually, he walked back to the dugout, but didn't return to the game. I think he must've gotten knocked out. Quite the collision.

OK, men on first and second. The next batter, Alex Presley, gets hit by the pitch. Violence everywhere. Bases are loaded. Rehab start is not going well for Mr. Marquis.

The next batter is Brandon Moss, and Moss did what any good clean-up hitter does. He hit a grand slam. Don't let his dorky running gait on this OPC card fool you. That ball was scalded to center field. Very impressive. And Marquis is hating this rehab start with a vengeance.

The next batter is Jeff Clement. Yes, the same Clement whose autographed card I pulled in A&G. If I had known I was going to see him so soon, I would have suspended my rule about 40-year-olds flagging down autographs of players half their age to get my AUTOGRAPHED card AUTOGRAPHED. That would be cool. Do people do this? I'm sure they do. Anyway, it doesn't matter, because I mailed this card to Heartbreaking Cards a mere couple of hours before I left for the game.

So Clement proceeds to line a missile OFF OF MARQUIS' FOOT. Marquis turns to face me -- or my general direction -- lets out a gasp of pain and crumples to the ground in front of the mound. More player-surrounding ensues. I don't think Marquis is dead this time, just unable to walk because his foot is shattered in 8,000 pieces. My daughter, by the way, never wants to play baseball ever, thanks to this game.

Shockingly, Marquis is helped to his feet and stays in the game.

The next batter, Jim Negrych, bunts. What a sweetheart. Marquis lurches off the mound, but the third baseman gets to it first and throws out Negrych, and justice prevails.

Marquis responds by striking out the next two batters!

Marquis started the second inning with two more strikeouts and lasted until the sixth before being taken out. A rather impressive comeback.

The Chiefs also came back in the eighth inning.

Pete Orr started a two-out rally with a triple to center field after his foul pop was dropped in a collision between the catcher and third baseman. This guy is the definition of a career minor leaguer. But he's so gosh darn likeable.

Then Lambin, after knocking Iwamura out of commission, clobbers a tying two-run home run.

We didn't see the home run, but heard the roar of what remained of the crowd as we headed back to our vehicle. It's the first time I ever left a game early, but it had been raining hard since the sixth inning (we pleasantly waited out the first rainstorm in the second and third innings) and lightning was going off everywhere. We watched two innings from the concourse until the bugs ate us alive.

We reached the parking lot and that was when I discovered my car wouldn't start. You know that car commercial when the woman hammers her steering wheel as rain comes down all around her vehicle? That was me, complete with swallowed swear words because there was a youth in the car.

Fortunately, we got the car going before the game ended and the crowd got out. I thank Indianapolis for that. They scored two runs in the ninth to stretch out the game and we were out of there.

Oh, and we got a free taco. Because the designated Taco Bell loser, or whatever they call him, struck out, which he must do if everyone in the stadium is to get a taco. You would not believe how much people in the stands want a free taco.

All in all, not a bad night. Certainly interesting.

I even got a close look at Kevin Mench and promptly evaluated whether "Shrek" has the largest head in baseball.

Verdict? Yup.

After a long journey home, I signed on to my favorite blogs, made a quick run through a few of them and discovered a new acquistion for my favorite team:

Hello, Scott Podsednik.

Can you pitch?

Or, possibly just as important, can you catch?

(Goodbye, Lucas May)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cardboard appreciation: 1991 Line Drive Jerry Manuel

(Today is "National Milk Chocolate Day." The order of those two words in the middle is important. I detest "chocolate milk." Always have since the time I was little. But "milk chocolate" is the most wonderful invention ever and much appreciated. This is the 74th in a series):

If it doesn't rain, I will be attending a minor league baseball game tonight. It's already rained twice here today, but the game is an hour away, so who knows what it will be doing down there.

The Syracuse Chiefs are facing the Indianapolis Indians, which doesn't mean much in major league terms, since those are the Triple A affiliates of the Nationals and the Pirates (I bet they pack the house for that series). But, as usual, we will be going merely for the spectacle of a relatively well-played game in my favorite kind of environment, one surrounded by baseball.

Jason Marquis is scheduled to make the start for Syracuse. He's on a rehab assignment with the Nationals. That will be pretty cool.

Other recognizable players that I hope to see are Aki Iwamura, Brandon Moss and Jonathan Van Every for Indianapolis, and Jason Botts, Ron Villone and Kevin Mench (still hanging on, apparently) for Syracuse.

And since we're now veterans of Syracuse Chiefs baseball, with one whole game in the past year under our belt, we recognize names like Justin Maxwell and Pete Orr. It'll be good to see them again.

Also, I can't help but notice that the Syracuse Chiefs baseball card set is on sale. Since Strasburg is in the set, I half expect it to be sold out, but we'll see.

As for the Jerry Manuel card up at the top, I posted it there only because he managed Indianapolis back in the day, and I always think it's cool when I dig up a minor league card of a manager that I have a card of either as a major league player or a major league manager. In Manuel's case, it's both.

Hey, look, the sun's out now!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I was debating with myself the other day, trying to figure out which player to feature next on a "Best of the '70s" post.

I eventually decided to make it difficult. I'm going with Jim Palmer.

I was never a fan of Palmer. Part of that is because the Orioles are my little brother's team, and when you're growing up it is never cool to like the team your little brother likes. The other part is the reason that I think a lot of people -- even Orioles fans -- couldn't get past:

He seemed too perfect.

First there was Palmer's incredible pitching talent. Also, from what I understand, he was quite good-looking, judging by all the women who followed him around. I can't tell you how annoying it was to be leafing through my Sports Illustrated only to come across a Jockey ad of a hairy-chested Palmer in his underwear. I couldn't turn the page fast enough.

Palmer carried around a "perfect vibe," which apparently didn't thrill his teammates or some fans. He didn't drink. He watched his health. He took vitamins.

Some would say he was neurotic or narcissitic in his habits. He would regularly take a dugout seat where he could work on his tan. He was well-spoken, even outspoken, and had high standards, which all can get you in trouble in a team environment.

That reputation for perfection carried over to his baseball cards. Palmer was blessed with some very nice cards in the 1970s. Choosing the best may be a difficult task.

So here are the 1970s Topps cards of "Cakes," a nickname as awful as one of those Jockey ads (yes, I know his nickname referred to his love of pancakes, and, no, I'm not sorry for linking to that. You link to some pretty awful stuff, too):

1970 Topps: I think this is the best example of a player's eyes matching the sky behind him. No wonder the ladies liked him.

1971 Topps: One of the few '71 cards that I still need. A typical spring training pose. Nothing too special.

1972 Topps: This looks similar to Palmer's 1970 pose, except he seems to have worked up quite the sweat. Maybe Weaver said something that ticked him off.

1973 Topps: Finally! Some action! This card provides a great example of Palmer's high-kicking wind-up. By the way, the rest of the Palmer cards are from my collection. None of the first four were.

1974 Topps: More action, which is great. But the background is so blurred out, I have no idea what's going on in the top right corner.

1975 Topps: This is a classic card. During the 1970s, a face in the shadows automatically meant a cool card. Today, it's not so cool. But that's a classic shot of a baseball matinee idol in the 1970s, right down to the goofy bird logo on his cap.

1976 Topps: This card seems to have it all. There's action, you can see Palmer's face, and he's wearing the great orange jersey that the O's wore in the '70s. Compared to the name bar at the bottom, the jersey looks almost red.

1977 Topps: We loved this card as kids. Palmer is frozen in mid-windup at a strange angle. It almost looks like he's trying to launch the ball out of the stadium. But he's still got that orange jersey. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it was from the same game as the 1976 card.

1978 Topps: This card means business. No, it doesn't have any action. But it does have the All-Star shield. And there is the Yankee Stadium "Brut" ad over Palmer's right shoulder, which seems too appropriate. That is classic Palmer right there.

1979 Topps: This might be my favorite. It's tough to decide, but it's simply a cool in-game photo. And the all-star banner really adds to the card.

Tough decision, huh? I told you he was perfect. After all, he might've been the best pitcher in the 1970s. And he sure had some great cards.

Poll is up on the sidebar. Vote away.

Trade post grief: stage 5, acceptance

I believe my anguish over trade posts has officially reached the final stage in "The Five Stages of Grief."

You don't believe me? OK, I'll map it out for you:

1. Denial: "Everything's cool. So what if I have eight trades waiting to post? I'll just combine three or four in one post and everything will be fine."

2. Anger: "People don't realize what I have to deal with here! I have so many trades to post! I HAVE to combine them! Screw them. I don't care."

3. Bargaining: "If I make the card packages that I send in return really, really wonderful, then they won't be able to complain about me combining trade posts. All right, now, how much is that rookie Pujols card going for these days ..."

4. Depression: "I just can't deal with posting these trades one post at a time. Why go on? Maybe I'll just scrap trade posts altogether. Thorzul will be happy."

5. Acceptance: OK, I'll make an attempt to post trades individually. It'll mean some trades won't show up until next February, but I'm OK with that."

And that's where I am today. Acceptance.

I am going to try to do the "one at a time" thing with trade posts. But there are a few exceptions.

Exception 1: There are some trades involve just a card or two. Unless that card is something epic, I'm not featuring it all by itself. It'll have to be paired up with another trade.

Exception 2: I reserve the right to publish an enormous, extravagant, blogger-is-getting-cranky, when-will-the-damn-thing-end, Sodom-and-Gomorrah trade post anytime I want. Because sometimes you have to live a little.

But today we're going to be a good little blogger and visit a package I received eons ago. Too much has happened since Peterson of Sign Here ... and Here sent me some goodies.

Let's review:

It's been so long since I received this Bowman Orange Brad Penny card that Penny's old girlfriend, Alyssa Milano, has tweeted 5,486,341 times in that span. In other words, one less tweet than Chris Olds.

It's been so long since I received this '07 Rafael Furcal xrefractor that I was cursing his broken-ass body for the millionth time when I scanned it. Now, he's leading the National League in batting average.

It's been so long since I received this 2010 Bowman Expectations card of John Ely that I was still cheering his every starting appearance, and trying really hard not to make comparisons to Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, like everyone else was doing. Now, he's back in Triple A, and I'm hoping his career doesn't go the way of Fidrych.

It's been so long since I received this Topps Total Hideo Nomo card that I've actually figured out how to play the game on the back of the card. ... OK, that's a lie. I have no intention of figuring out the game on the back.

It's been so long since I received this card that I've scolded myself for comparing Russell Martin to this guy ...

... about 785 times. Come on, Russell J., you can turn it around. Hit the ball in the air once in awhile.

It's been so long since I received this 2010 Bowman Retro Manny Ramirez card, that Manny was still in the lineup. OK, that's a lie, too. He was on the DL. Again.

If this is Manny's last season with the Dodgers, who is going to sign him with all the injuries he's had?

It's been so long since I received this '06 SP World Baseball Classic card of Chan Ho Park that the Yankees were still trying to convince themselves that he was worth keeping. Today I saw a report on MLB Trade Rumors that the Yankees were looking to trade Park. The best laugh I had all day. ... Watch him end up with the Dodgers.

It's been so long since I received this 2004 Upper Deck Etchings Shawn Green card that I didn't even know what set this was.

Still don't.

Finally, it's been so long since I received this 1996 Raul Mondesi SP card that I am no longer alarmed that Mondesi's eyes will not stop following me on this card.

I've accepted it.

Thanks to Peterson for these cards and many others. I'm still searching for cards to send him as he has a rather eclectic want list.

Next trade post due up in, oh, about 2024.