Sunday, October 31, 2010

Freaks and geeks

As a kid, certain cards freaked me out. I don't think there's anything abnormal about that. The world is a scary place when you're little. If you have a vibrant imagination, like I did, just about anything can become frightening.

So, yes, I thought there were monsters under the bed and ghouls in the closet. The next door neighbor seemed suspicious, the dog down the street didn't act quite right, and what the hell was THAT on TV last night? I saw a snippet of the Exorcist when I was very young, and I think it ruined me for life.

Everything and anything was an opportunity to be spooked. This here 1975 Topps Ken Sanders card was the first card that creeped me out. Something about the photo didn't look quite right. The guy looked like a man, but also looked like a woman. He seemed like an uglier, more menacing version of Nurse Ratched, if that's even possible. I never saw "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" when I was young, so I don't know where I got that comparison, but that's what I thought. And it spooked me.

From that point, for the next few years, there were other cards that spooked me. Most were of the vaguely unsettling variety. They didn't make me want to cut the cards into a million pieces and sprinkle them in a graveyard at midnight, but I wasn't crazy about the idea of adding them to my collection.

In 1976, those cards were these:

I'm not sure if I can explain why certain cards gave me the willies. Part of it had to do with the unknown. I didn't know who these players were. Another part had to do with their poor statistics. If they're that bad at being baseball players are they REALLY baseball players? And it helped to have a face like Duffy Dyer.

I couldn't find a card that spooked me in the 1977 set, although I'm sure there's one out there. But in 1978, these frightening folks walked up my doorstep:

There are all kinds of comparisons to Lurch and Frankenstein that can be made here. Don't think I didn't notice as a youngster.

By '79, I was outgrowing the little kid freak-out thing, but one card got to me:

I think it's the eyes seeming to go in two different direction.

As frightening as some of those cards were to me, I'm lucky that I didn't grow up in the 1960s. There are many more ugly, crew-cut, capless mugs in that decade to keep kids up at night for weeks after Halloween.

Today, cards don't frighten me. Adults are bothered more by concepts than actual items you can see, touch and hold.

There is one card that shakes me up, though. You've seen it before and it's bothered me for five or six years now:

I'm sorry, Mr. Sheppard. I know you have recently passed, and I hear you were a really nice man, but this card Freaks. Me. Out.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Card back countdown: #26 - 1966 Topps

Sandy looks so sad on the 1966 Topps set.

I don't blame him, really. After Topps reached its 1960s peak with the '65 set, the following year was quite a drop-off in terms of design. A single name/position strip across the bottom, another strip for the team positioned diagonally along the left corner. That's all Topps was going to give you. It doesn't offer much.

The card back is a little better. Here is the back of Koufax's final solo card in all of its miscut glory:

Look at those lovely mid-1960s earned-run averages.

I know what you're saying: MORE PINK!

I guess you're right. But I always thought of the '66 card backgrounds as being red. (yes, I've just opened myself up for another round of "is it red" or "is it pink" comments).

That card back looks a little more red. Or if you want to get technical, in an aquatic sort of way, we can call it "salmon-colored."

But that DEFINITELY looks pink. Apparently Topps had color-tinting issues in the '60s.

But the reason I always liked the '66 card backs is because of the red-and-black (or pink-and-black) combination. The vital statistics area, with the name in bold red (or pink) on the back background, looks very cool. In terms of 1960s Topps backs, it's probably the most bad-ass cool card back of the decade. Red and black seems to have that effect.

But it's not necessarily the best '60s card back, as you'll soon see in the countdown.

The 1966 card back wins points for producing a cartoon with just about all of the player cards in the set. I could have missed a player or two, but it seems like in 1965 no one in baseball had been around for more than 15 years (careers were shorter then), so Topps didn't have to run a ton of stats that forced out the cartoon.

The cartoons are a little inconsistent for me. Some are quite awesome, like this one. But many others are rather mundane.

Some drawings just don't make sense with the write-up.

As far as overall "look" of the card back, this is probably my second-favorite of the '60s. It may not have some of the elements of some of the other '60s card backs that I'll show later, but it's definitely got the cool factor down.

Best of the set:

The front of the '66 set bores me, so I just have Dodgers in my collection. No best of the set for this post.

(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
44. 1995 Topps
43. 1997 Fleer
42. 1992 Pinnacle
41. 1989 Bowman
40. 1977 Kellogg's
39. 2004 Topps
38. 2004 Topps Total
37. 1992 Topps
36. 1992 Donruss
35. 2008 Upper Deck Documentary
34. 1963 Fleer
33. 1955 Bowman
32. 2006 Topps
31. 1961 Topps
30. 1955 Topps
29. 1967 Topps
28. 1970 Topps

27. 1969 Topps

Friday, October 29, 2010

Seasons greetings

When I first heard about the Topps Chrome value packs, containing three orange refractors apiece and only available via retail, I thought it was a good idea.

The price was a bit steep to be considered a "value," but it was a lot easier justifying throwing a 10 dollar bill at cards instead of a 20. So I've boughten a small amount.

The thing that I thought was unusual is something that probably only I would notice -- why the color orange?

I had grown accustomed to gorgeous blue refractors, and the less pleasing but no less pleasant purple refractors, or red, or black.

But orange? It seemed like an odd color choice. Sure, Bowman had used orange refractors before and Topps and Bowman are the same thing. But, to me, orange was the exclusive domain of Bowman.

Bowman always seemed a bit clueless about color. It would combine orange with red in a puke-inducing display, or produce the ugliest shade of blue I've ever seen, and trot it out for the masses.

But Topps? They were too good for a slightly weird color like orange.

Oh, I know orange goes well with the Orioles.

And it goes well with the Astros.

It definitely works with the Mets.

And the Giants defile the color on a regular basis.

But for the most part, I think collectors would rather have blue or black refractors. They look awesome in a stack together. Orange? Not so much.

But then something struck me. What month did Topps Chrome come out?

It came out in October.

What color do you see all the time in October?

That's right, you see the color orange all the time in October. Pumpkins and leaves and candy corns.

"What if," I thought, "Topps had planned this all along?"

What if they color-coordinated their refractors with the holiday? Orange refractors for Halloween.

And, what if Topps had a plan to do this for every holiday, you know like how M&M's rolls out the red and green M&Ms for Christmas?

Topps could issue exclusive red and green refractors for December. It could either issue them as part of a Bowman Chrome value pack, or produce new Topps Chrome value packs to boost stagnant sales two months after they first hit shelves.

Why not? It's possible. Then, in February, Topps could issue pink refractors for Valentine's Day and pair them up with the new 2011 product.

During the spring, they could go with Easter color refractors, pink and purple and yellow.

And during July, they could come out with patriotic red-and-blue refractors.

Do you think I'm on to something?

I kind of doubt that this is in the actual planning, and I don't know how feasible it is. But if it works for M&M's and other candy products, maybe it'll work for Topps.

And if they decide to do it, I should get some of the credit.

I won't even ask for cash in return (OK, maybe I will).

Instead, here's the deal:

You can use my idea free of charge and all I ask for in exchange ...

... are a whole bunch of orange DODGER refractors.

You will notice that none of the refractors that I have shown are Dodgers. Because in chrome I can pull all the Yankees and Angels I could ever want (no more Torii Hunter cards, PLEASE), but I have a stupifying inability to pull Dodgers.

So, if you see any refractors here that you want, they're up for trade in exchange for a Dodger refractor. Preferably orange or another color, but I'll take an xrefractor, too.

The Matusz card is currently in a potential transaction, so that's the only one off the table right now.

And Topps?

Call me. This idea is gold, baby. Gold.

Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

He can trade with you, too 2

The results are in for Roy White's best 1970s card. It was a fairly close race between the 1971, 1978 and 1976 entries. Two cool action shots and a photo of a guy with a lot of hair.

But in the end, the 1971 card received the most votes (8-to-6-to-5) and will now reside in the "best of the '70s section" of the sidebar. I thank those who voted. I realize White isn't as well-known as some of the other guys, but he means just as much to me as some of the stars from that decade.

Now, it's fitting that I'm showing a Roy White card because I'm getting ready to reveal the other half of the contents from the package from Jerry.

The first half were all cards from my wants -- either Dodgers or set needs.

The second half was this ...

... and this ...

... and this ...

... and this ...

That's right. He sent me 50 Don Mattingly cards.

Jerry likes to live dangerously -- sending a Yankee hater Yankee cards.

But that's not telling the whole story. Jerry did see this post. And I did say in that post that I was trying to move past Don Mattingly's Yankee-ness and embrace his Dodger-ness as L.A.'s new manager. I also said I was trying to hold on to the few Mattinglys that I had, and wouldn't mind obtaining a few more.

Well, chalk up another wish granted through this here blog. I've got me a lot more Mattinglys.

The last time Donny Baseball was on this blog, I counted down the favorite Mattinglys that I had in my collection. I think I'll do that again, only among the Mattingly cards that Jerry sent. But I'll keep it to a Super 7.

7. 1994 Leaf: Mattingly getting brushed back by the Brewers. Judging by the background, absolutely no one was outraged by this.

6. 1995 Pinnacle: Mattingly responded to that chin music by hitting one out against Detroit. Or maybe it was foul. Hard to tell.

5. 1994 Fleer: No doubt about this one. Mattingly definitely has himself a hit. By the way, everything looks better on 1994 Fleer.

4. 1995 Collector's Choice SE: Donny Baseball is sticking his tongue out at the baseball. Seems immature to me, but you'll never accuse ballplayers of being too stuffy.

3. 1989 Fleer For the Record: You can't go wrong with a Bazooka-like design. It makes even a static shot by Mattingly look interesting.

2. 1994 Collector's Choice team checklist: Judging by the program a fan is holding out, Mattingly is signing at an Angels game. Apparently, in front of a stadium filled with 126 fans.

1. 1993 Upper Deck Then & Now hologram: Weeeeee! This is the card that I mourned trading away on the previous post. It's back in my hot little hands again. It's really an awesome-looking card.

So, how about that? I end up with a stack of Yankees, and I don't mind at all!

Jerry helped me in a lot of collecting areas, and I'll be happy to pass along the email addresses of those who said they'd like to trade with him. I'll probably pass along a few more addresses, too, from some of you folks maybe too shy to speak up.

I think you'll see it will be worth it. He not only helped me knock off some wants, but he also helped me add another state to my trade map:

Alabama is the latest state on the list to include a resident with whom I've traded. Thirty-seven down and 13 to go.

He can trade with you, too

No, not Manny. I'm talking about Jerry.

He's a guy I "met" when my blog was linked on the Uni Watch blog. One of the benefits of linkage from a big-time blog is that card collectors who have a more well-rounded life than those of us who just read blogs about cards will find you.

Jerry had never seen my blog until the Uni Watch mention. But fortunately, he liked what he saw and we arranged a deal. What I received blew me away. He found cards from just about every area of my collecting interests. I'm under the impression that he has lots of cards.

He's also looking for other folks to trade with -- and I've agreed to pass on some email addresses if you don't mind (if you do, please contact me). Like I said, he's got a bunch of cards and he likes the way us bloggers do business. No fuss, no Beckett. Just some "whatcha want, whatcha got" transacting.

I'm going to break the cards that I received from Jerry into two posts because the ones I'll show in the other post don't fit in with these.

These are more in line with my traditional interests, as you'll see:

For example, three more cards to get me closer to finishing the '71 set. I now need just 50 more cards to complete this set.

That reminds me that I'm in the midst of a failed experiment on the Million Card Giveaway site. In an attempt to acquire one of the 1971 cards that I need, I have put up one of my MCG portfolio cards -- a 1970 Darrel Chaney -- up for trade in 41 separate proposed transactions. I am offering the Chaney card for 41 different 1971 needs.

Now, some of these are trades that no one would ever make, like Chaney for Bob Gibson or Roberto Clemente. But others are ones that someone might make, like Chaney for the only checklist card I need.

So what has happened?


All 41 cards are just sitting there. Not one of the 41 owners of those cards are even paying attention to the trades. I was looking forward to seeing which trade offers got turned down first and no one is even turning down anything.

This is so disappointing. I am really bummed about this. Where are these people who will bow to my every whim and fancy?

OK, that was officially a tangent. Back to some more cards.

The last card needed to complete the 1983 Donruss Dodger set.

A bunch of mid-1990s Roger Cedenos. That's not even all of them. This guy had far too many cards.

Two 2008 Heritage needs. Wow! It's been over a year since I obtained any '08 Heritage card needs. There is hope for this set yet. Pathetic, desperate, needy hope.

More hope. This is the final black back that I needed to complete the parallel set.

Yes I know. I most certainly AM ashamed of collecting a complete set of back parallels. It looks ridiculously goofy in the binder. I was young and foolish in 2008. I know better now.

One of the last three cards I need to finish off the 1981 Topps set. If I ever stop being lazy, I'll find the other two cards and I will have completed my eighth 1980s Topps flagship set. 1982 will be next.

Out of these three guys, Karim Garcia was the designated star. Yet he is the only one of the three who did not play in the majors in 2010.

Jerry sent a lot more than these cards from the '84 Donruss set, but I picked out a few favorites. You still can't convince me that '84 Donruss is not the best Donruss set. Not after looking at Willie McGee.

Just a 2006 Heritage team card for the hell of it.

And here are possibly my favorite cards in the package. Jerry sent a few 1977 Topps cards. I am just starting on my quest to collect the '77 set, one of the last sets of my childhood that is not complete. So I am absolutely loving getting cards of this set now. Lots of flashbacks.

Also, the 1975 Mota at the top of the post is the second-to-last card from that set that I need for my team set. Davey Lopes is all that's out there.

OK, that's it for now. It was quite a lousy day on Wednesday. On many fronts. The Giants' win was only a small part of it. And I'm very exhausted. That's why I'm showing some cards I received. It's an excellent pick-me-up.

Later, I'll show you what else Jerry sent me. If you know me, and I think you do, you'll be very surprised by these cards.