Sunday, May 30, 2010

The dark side of '71s


A little while ago, I received another package from mr. haverkamp from The Bench. All of the cards were from my want list, including some 1971 Topps, for which I am ever grateful.

The three cards he sent brings me one card short of 700 for the set, meaning I am just 53 cards away from completion or at 93 percent for those of you who work in percentiles.

One of the cards he sent was card No. 1 in the set, the Orioles' team card. Topps was in the habit of featuring the team that won the previous World Series on card No. 1. It was a nice little tradition even if it did last only three years (you probably can pin the blame on Hank Aaron for the end of that run).

Getting card No. 1 in any vintage set is a big deal and somewhat of an undertaking. That's because the first card in those sets often features a higher price tag than a similar card (say another team card) that is not card No. 1. If you've never heard this before, go dig up a price guide (I know you've got one somewhere) and turn to any set from the 1950s to mid-1970s and look at the suggested dealers' rip-off price next to card No. 1. I'll wait.

See what I mean? The '71 Orioles card "books" for 20 bucks near mint. Most other team cards in the set are around 4 dollars. The Astros and Brewers cards also feature a $20 price tag but they are high-numbered short prints. The Orioles card is plenty plentiful.

The reason that the first card in these vintage sets goes for more than a comparable card in the set is because of a "theory" that goes like this:

"Collectors from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s were clueless, dirty, urchin children who used their cards in a variety of careless, messy, disgusting ways but yet had the presence of mind and advanced organizational skills to sequence their cards by the number on the back, so that the card listed at No. 1 was always exposed to rubber bands, the elements and whatever else the world had in mind."

OK, maybe there were some orderly kids back then. But I know I was far too scatter-brained as a kid to put my cards in order by the card number on the back. And so were my friends. We would put them in order by team or by color or by players that we liked, or even by batting average, during days of low sugar consumption. But the number on the back? What was that? My appreciation for that seemingly random number didn't come until much, much later, when I began to gain some knowledge about the hobby of collecting.

So, although there might a shred of truth in it, I basically call bullshit on the theory. It's just a way for some dealers to artificially jack up the price on certain vintage cards.

All right, that wasn't even what I was going to write about here, and I think I just stole a potential blog rant from dayf. But he can do the same subject better anyway.

What I had meant to focus on was an even more sinister side of 1971s.

If you collect the set, then you have probably heard people talk about how some shady sellers doctor their 1971 cards to hide the chipping that often drives collectors of the set crazy.

I have heard about this practice for years. Sellers, I'm told, would use a simple black magic marker to color in the chipped borders and corners. I had never noticed this in any of the '71s I had bought, but I had been curious for years as to how "markered" '71s would look.

For a long time I didn't have the guts to try it myself. And by "try it" I don't mean "try to sell an altered card," I mean "try it" on one of my own cards to see how it looks.

But the cards from mr. haverkamp inspired me. I dug out one of my 1971 doubles:


Ed Herrmann was up for the task. Those back-up catchers will do anything.

I carefully -- but not expertly -- colored in the edges and borders with a Sharpie. I didn't spend a lot of time on it, so I'm sure it would look even snazzier in the hands of a hoodwinker, but here is what I produced:


I think you can tell that it's not in perfect shape, but to someone who didn't know any better, it looks in a lot better shape than the original Herrmann card.

OK, remember, for years I had read the cautionary tales about altered '71s. I always figured I would know a card with Sharpie marks if I saw one.

But here is the scary thing. Even on the card that I defaced my own self, I couldn't notice the artificial black of the marker. Unless I tilted the card in the light, then I could tell.

Now, I don't know about you other '71 collectors, but I'm not tilting every damn '71 card that I pick up at a card show before I buy it. And that does make me wonder how many '71s I have in my collection that might have been colored black. And how many of those ebay '71s, which you can't pick up and review, have the white chipping marks covered with marker?

Fortunately, I have enough '71 cards that I acquired from the older brother of my friend in 1978 that there's no chance of those being altered by anything but us kids scraping them on the wood of the front porch. But it does make you think. Especially when I'm in an upgrading frame of mind.

Anyway, to lighten the mood again, here are the other two definitely-not altered '71 cards from mr. haverkamp:


A nice card of Knucksie. I rather liked those old Braves uniforms.


He also sent a Greg Luzinski rookie card (and Scott Reid's rookie card, too).


On the non-1971 front, he sent the last three 1980 Topps Dodgers I needed for my team binder.



And six more 1976 Topps needs that gets my want list down to a mere five cards in that set. Don't let the Cosgrove card scare you as it did me for half my childhood.

Thanks again. You all have been most generous with your 1971 cards, and I still owe a few of you my card gratitude. But don't worry. I assure you I am working on it. If I spent a little less time markering up '71 cards, maybe I could get some work done.

Awesome night card, pt. 86


I admit that I have favorites when it comes to baseball. I don't mean just a favorite player or team. I mean a favorite type of player.

I favor pitchers. And I don't try to hide it. I like pitchers more than hitters. I relate to pitchers more than hitters. I think pitchers are smarter than hitters. Generally speaking.

The players that I hold in the most awe, regardless of era, are pitchers. Among my favorite players of all-time are Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux. The 1978 season by Ron Guidry, the 1971 season by Vida Blue, the 1988 season by Orel Hershiser inspire more appreciation in me than the greatest home run performances of all-time.

When I go to the ballpark, I want to see 1-0 masterpieces. Leave the 14-13 trainwrecks to the ADD crowd, the rubberneckers who can only pay attention when it's FAST and LOUD. Give me Don Drysdale against Juan Marichal in 1966 when the average runs per game was something like 2.7 per team.

So, yes, I freakin' love what Roy Halladay brings to the game. A low-key master who will pitch as many innings as it takes and is so good that managers will suspend their knee-jerk reaction to yank any starter who might venture into the sixth inning. Halladay dares you to take him out.

Halladay is so good that he has legions of collectors. I can't keep Halladay cards in stock. And considering he spent the vast majority of his career in Toronto, not exactly the center of major league baseball, that is flat-out amazing. That's how good he is.

Halladay's perfect game on Saturday night against the Marlins was the third no-hitter this year, and a lot of people believe it won't be the last.

That is my hope, too. Remember 1990? There were seven no-hitters that year (one was a combined no-hitter by the Angels' Mark Langston and Mike Witt). The number was so remarkable that Score featured a subset in its 1991 set that included a card for every no-hitter. I loved that subset.

Here were the no-hitters that year:

April 11: Mark Langston/Mike Witt
June 2: Randy Johnson
June 11: Nolan Ryan
June 29: Dave Stewart
June 29: Fernando Valenzuela
Aug. 15: Terry Mulholland
Sept. 2: Dave Stieb

What an ass-kicking group of pitchers that year. Four in one month and two on the same day!

In fact, if you remember the Score subset, there were actually TWO MORE no-hitters that year, pitched by Andy Hawkins and Melido Perez. Hawkins lost his no-hitter after giving up 4 runs in the eighth inning, and Perez's was a shortened six-plus inning affair. MLB no longer recognizes them as no-hitters.

The following year, 1991, there were five one-man no-hitters, two three-man no-hitters and one four-man no-hitter. Here they are:

May 1: Nolan Ryan
May 23: Tommy Greene
July 13: Bob Milacki/Mike Flanagan/Mark Williamson/Gregg Olson
July 28: Dennis Martinez
Aug. 11: Wilson Alvarez
Aug. 26: Bret Saberhagen
Sept. 11: Kent Mercker/Mark Wohlers/Alejandro Pena

Aside from those two years, the only year there were more than 6 one-man no-hitters was 1884 when there were eight.

So are we going to get eight no-hitters this year?

I doubt it. But I certainly wouldn't think it was a bad thing. 

Chicks may dig the long ball. But I ain't a chick.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Major delayed reaction


I have a new way to gauge exactly when everyone is sick of a baseball card product. Here it is: when the product first hits the shelves in my backwater town, that's when those cards are officially the pet rock of the industry.

Hell, National Chicle was two baseball card releases ago!!! I counted the number of blogs that I follow that have already featured these cards. I could have missed a couple but I counted 24.

Woo-hoo! We're No. 25!!!!!!

But a quarter is worth more than a penny, you know. That's my spin and I'm sticking to it.

So, yeah, Chicle finally hit extreme northern New York on Friday. Given a choice between loose packs and one of two available blasters, I chose the blaster. I'm not going to collect this set, but I like it enough that I want to see what it's all about in person. And a blaster will help me do that.

The only problem is I am unable to say anything new about these cards. Everyone has said it all. Some people like them, some people hate them, some could go either way. That's basically the reaction that you get from people every time they enter an art gallery. So, I believe Chicle has done its job.

My reaction is this: If A&G didn't exist, I might consider completing this set. It's unique enough that it keeps my interest. But it's too inconsistent for me to invest everything I have into it. I don't know if I could stare at a binder full of the set when some of the paintings disturb me.

So, we'll file this under the title where most sets fall: "Give me all your Dodgers and forget the rest." I know that's rather a mean thing to say. It's kind of like saying you'll see a girl only if she wears one certain outfit all the time. But that's us collectors. We're a weird bunch.

Anyway, even though I have nothing new to say, I feel obligated to show the contents.

So let us proceed.

Eight packs. Six cards in a pack:

PACK 1

#156 - Luke Scott, Orioles

#131 - David Price, Rays
#85 - Justin Verlander, Tigers
#120 - Tommy Hanson, Braves

#139 - Yadier Molina, Cardinals

#114 - Felix Hernandez, Mariners

Pack 1 Notes: Luke Scott was the first card I pulled in both 2010 Topps Series 1 and Chicle. Under my "Rules of my 10-Year-Old Self" that would require me to adopt Scott as a favorite player. But as an adult I have no time to learn about middling Orioles. ...The Hanson card is a National Chicle back, 1:4 packs. I refuse to show it. I am officially pissed at variation backs. They are DEAD TO ME. ... Meanwhile, the Molina card is awesome. Might be my favorite one of the blaster.

PACK 2

#86 - Adam Jones, Orioles
#41 - Carlos Pena, Rays


#65 - Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

#260 - Drew Stubbs, Reds
#29 - Hunter Pence, Astros

#229 - Lou Gehrig, Yankees

Pack 2 Notes: Very pleased about pulling the Clayton Kershaw card. But even though I usually like Brian Kong's artwork, the Kershaw is only so-so. It looks like his cap is disintegrating. The perspective on the glove seems off. ... The Drew Stubbs card is a Bazooka Joe back. 1:8 packs. No, you don't get to see that damn eye-patched kid. ... The Gehrig card is fantastic. Makes me wonder how a whole set done like that would look. Probably kick-ass.

PACK 3


#16 - James Loney, Dodgers

#191 - Chase Utley, Phillies
#105 - Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks


#276 - Babe Ruth, Braves

#98 - Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
#153 - Alex Gordon, Royals

Pack 3 Notes: Chipper Ruth!!!! As you all know, that card is part of the "Retired Stars Revisited" short-print set. Ruth wearing an Atlanta Brave uniform. Topps is obsessed with doing stuff like this and it's really getting boring. Another thing: Stop putting Ryne Sandberg in a Phillies uniform. I swear there are now more cards of Sandberg as Phillie than as a Cub. ... The Loney card is unfortunate. It looks like the painter caught him in mid-jumping jack.

PACK 4


#146 - Scott Feldman, Rangers

#101 - Torii Hunter, Angels
#61 - Gordon Beckham, White Sox
#100 - Adam Dunn, Nationals

#213 - Paul Molitor, Brewers

#268 - Luis Durango, Padres
Checklist

Pack 4 Notes: I don't know Rangers pitchers enough to know if that's a decent likeness of Feldman, but I really like the card -- uh, wait, his legs look too short for his body. This stuff happens all the time with this set. First I like the painting then I don't know what to think. ... The Molly card, meanwhile, is nice.

PACK 5


#21 - J.A. Happ, Phillies

#186 - Alfonso Soriano, Cubs
#155 - Vernon Wells, Blue Jays
#273 - Juan Francisco, Reds
#198 - Michael Saunders, Mariners


#168 - Jake Peavy, White Sox

Pack 5 Notes: The Happ card is disturbing. I can't fully express why, but it vaguely freaks me out. ... The Saunders card, which I didn't show, is a painting of that ridiculous pose that Topps used for him in Heritage. He looks like he's been hypnotized by aliens. He should sue. ... The Francisco card is a National Chicle back. ... I really like the Peavy card -- if I don't focus on his right hand.

PACK 6

#136 - Julio Borbon, Rangers


#106 - Todd Helton, Rockies

#66 - Johan Santana, Mets


#215 - Orlando Cepeda, Giants

#128 - Michael Bowden, Red Sox
#48 - Jason Kubel, Twins

Pack 6 Notes: Concerning the Todd Helton card: I have landed a trade with a Rockies fan. I am very pleased. Unfortunately, the trade package was sealed before I opened this pack. And I'm not opening the trade package back up now. ... Pulling old-time Giants seriously annoys me. Really. Even Mays. Peeved.

PACK 7

#26 - Rick Porcello, Tigers
#171 - Mike Cameron, Red Sox
#270 - Adam Moore, Mariners


#312 - Tyler Flowers, White Sox

#13 - Dan Uggla, Marlins


#238 - Johnny Mize, Cardinals

Pack 7 Notes: The Flowers-as-Frank Thomas short-print card is proof that Topps is both full of itself AND appears to be supplying mind-altering substances during creative staff meetings. Flowers is a CATCHER. In what dimension would this ever make sense? ... The Mize card, meanwhile? More of that.

PACK 8

#51 - Joey Votto, Reds
#81 - Hideki Matsui, Angels
#246 - Willie McCovey, Giants

#200 - Chipper Jones, Braves
#263 - Eric Young Jr., Rockies


#38 - Russell Martin, Dodgers

Checklist

Pack 8 Notes: All of artist Mike Kupka's paintings (McCovey, Soriano, Scott, Porcello, etc.) seem to have the same background. It doesn't do it for me. ... Martin continues his trend of great cards.

So, as you can see, I'm seriously schizoid on this set. Even down to the individual CARD, I both like it and dislike it. I'm sure all of the artists love that because they're all about the viewer taking different opinions away from their paintings. Or at least that's what I was taught in the college art classes I slept/panicked through.

The set is slightly above OK. I know some will think I'm being too harsh and others not harsh enough.

But really, do you care? You've made your decision on this set. You've seen the cards for three weeks already.

OK, I'll be over here playing with my pet rock.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Jackie was never a Giant and he never PITCHED!


I just saw this card image on Ernest's Blue Heaven site. It's from 2010 Topps Series 2. It's one of those cards from the Vintage Legends Collection, an insert series. You know, Cy Young on a 1987 Topps card, Campanella on a 1979 Topps, etc., etc.

Some of these are annoying, some I have no problem with at all. Kind of fun. Kind of unnecessary. Whatever.

But take a good look at the design on this card. It's the 1976 Topps design. Why it was used with a Jackie Robinson card, I don't even think Topps could tell you.

The Dodgers cards from 1976 used red and blue colors for the bars at the bottom. You might think I'm going to complain about Topps choosing pink again for the Dodgers (incidentally, pink and orange was used with the Indians and Astros in 1976). Nope, I've railed my last rail on that.

Instead, take a look at the position logo. Note that it says "outfielder," which is where Robinson played quite often during the later stages of his career.

Now look at the little position guy. If you know anything about '76 Topps, you know that is the drawing for a PITCHER.

(*facepalm*) Robinson never pitched in the majors, as far as I know.

Here is a helpful comparison:


A 1976 Topps Dodger outfielder. Note the little outfield guy chasing down a liner.


A 1976 Topps Dodger pitcher. Note the little pitcher guy doing some weird underhanded toss thing.

Don't you know your own cards, Topps?

Robinson never pitched. And he was never a Giant.

At least Topps got the fact that he was right-handed correct.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My week at work


MONDAY:




TUESDAY:




WEDNESDAY:



THURSDAY:





FRIDAY:


Guess which day I have off?




(And if you don't guess Friday, I'm sending Geronimo after you).

Every card collector has to grow up


I am relieved to report that the 1976 Topps Carl Yastrzemski left the other '70s Yazzes in his dust during the just completed poll.

Twenty-two votes went to what will now be known as the best Carl Yastrzemski card of the 1970s. Forty-five total votes were cast, which is a respectable number. I guess. For a non-chick poll, anyway.

Far, far behind in second place was the 1973 Yaz.


I don't fully understand the interest in this Yaz. But the 1973 card brought in seven votes.


The 1975 Yaz finished third with four votes.

Meanwhile, the '76 Yastrzemski has taken its place on the sidebar with the other "Best of" selections. As always, thanks for voting.

Now, I've mentioned how much certain Yaz cards mean to me, like the '76 and '78 cards. (The 1980 card is very cool, too. I agree). But there's another Yaz card that marked a key moment in my development as a card collector.


It is the 1982 Donruss card. I pulled this card when I was 16 years old. Sixteen-year-olds grew up a lot more slowly than they do now. So I hope you won't snicker too loudly when I say that this card was my first indication that card companies may not always use a current photo on their cards.

This is common knowledge to us savvy collectors. We can cite numerous examples from the 1960s all the way to present day Topps and Upper Deck. And, oh, do we hate it. But for the first eight years of my collecting life, I thought all of the photos were as current as Casey Kasem's Top 40. Why would anyone use an OLD photo?

But that Yaz, he tipped me off. He pulled me aside and said:

"Son, I have something to tell you. Sit down.

This may hard for you to hear, but I haven't worn a red batting helmet in four years. I wear nothing but blue helmets and caps now.

Also, I haven't worn a pullover jersey in four years either. We wear button-down jerseys. They're a lot more comfortable. We've worn them since 1979. And see those stripes on my socks? We stopped doing that in 1978.

I'm afraid, son, what you've got on your '82 Donruss card is at least a four-year-old photo of me."

I didn't want to believe it. But when I turned to my '82 Donruss Dave Stapleton for reassurance, he just spoke the words that I didn't want to hear:


"It's true, Night Owl. Carl is right. He's the captain, you know. Listen to him.  ... Oh, and McNamara should have put me in as a defensive replacement for Buckner."

The thing is I missed the red helmets. When I first became familiar with baseball, in 1975, the Red Sox wore red helmets. It made sense. Red Sox, red helmets. I didn't even realize that it was a completely new thing that probably threw off a ton of Boston fans.

When Boston went back to blue in 1979, I was disappointed. When I saw the '82 Donruss Yaz card, I was thrilled to see the red helmet again. An old friend returned. But I knew that something wasn't right.

From that point on, I looked at card photos suspiciously. And sure enough, I found many other examples of photos that were not on the up-and-up. I may have already known about airbrushing by then, but I really began to look for it after that.

The 1982 Donruss Yaz is to blame. Or maybe it gets the credit. A card collector found his cynical side that day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

State of the (trade) union


The debut of the trade map worked pretty well. I ended up completing a trade with someone from Virginia finally, and I filled in another state.

Now, if I can find someone from the Rocky Mountains (come on Helton fans!), I will consider this map a REAL success.

Ryan, from "O" No!!! Another Orioles Blog, responded to the map call, which is kind of fitting, because when I found out what team he collected, I might have said, "'O' No!!! Another Orioles Collector." Obviously, Ryan has a sense of humor considering his blog name, so I thought I'd humor him and try to dig up some Orioles.

Amazingly, my mom was right. I WAS surprised by what I could find when I look for things. I actually turned up some Orioles for Ryan. And I didn't grumble nearly as much about it as when I was a kid.

Days and days have gone by since I received his corresponding cards in the trade. It's about time I feature a few items here. At the very least it's a reminder that: Hey, you, from Mississippi, if you trade cards with me, your cards could be featured here!!!!

If that isn't incentive, I don't know what is.

Here are the cards:


I'm featuring my favorite one first. Back in the days when people read magazines, I thought it would be a great idea to put sports magazine covers on baseball cards. Then, along came Fleer in the late 1990s and STOLE my idea. They were so sneaky that they did it during a period when I wasn't collecting cards. So it took me 10 YEARS to figure out that they took my idea, and then, you know, the statute of limitations on the rights of a collector's unspoken plans had expired. Bummer.

But I thought of it first, Fleer.

It's a great card. Of the New Mr. October. That's right, Reggie. Your reign is over.


If you collected just cards that featured Raul Mondesi gritting his teeth, I think you could become pretty successful at that. Possibly even fill a shoebox.


Penny went on the DL after hitting a grand slam. That really sounds like something a Dodger would do. He must still have some Dodgerness in him.


Ryan sent a lot of Bowman Dodgers that I didn't have. This is from 2000, the last time Bowman did not use a black border on its cards. They used TV sets for the Chrome and something completely different for the regular set.


A gold parallel Nomo from 2003 Bowman, which may or may not be known as the red-border tombstone set eventually.


This is what prevents me from buying a box of Bowman, or a blaster, or even a rack pack. It's a 1999 array of Dodger never-did-muches. Only Prokopec and Crosby made a slight dent. So much of Bowman is a pure waste of cardboard.


I remember ripping Geovany Soto for his marijuana suspension issues. Oops.


This is the face that I wore all night at work last night. Yeah, it was pleasant.



On to happier subjects. McGriff in a Dodger uniform! What could be happier?


Yes,  I'm still collecting these things. No, I don't know why. Other than I Must. Fill. Holes. In. Pages.


Last card. Just showing it because I like the photo. Although if it's a batted ball, Young appears to be out.

Thanks for filling in another state on the map, Ryan. I don't think I'll ever get to fill the whole thing, but if I had to guess, I think Colorado might be the last one left. They're always so slow there.

(Yes, that was another desperate cast of the net for a Rockies fan).