Saturday, April 30, 2011

Awesome night cards, pt. 109

Yes, the Awesome Night Card series has been hijacked by the Stadium Lights insert series.

That series is the reason why I skipped the Awesome Night Card post last week. It's the reason why I'm showing two awesome night cards again this time. I just can't think of any other night cards until I get this set out of the way.

These two cards came from Adam, who runs a fledgling blog called Big Sexy Cards. I believe the blog title is a tribute to the Bulls' Kurt Thomas. Don't ask me to explain more. I don't follow basketball.

The arrival of Tulowitzki and Utley means I need just two more cards to finish off the set. The Robinson Cano card is on its way to me. After that, all I will need is the Adrian Gonzalez card.

You know what that means.

If you ever want to see any other night cards on this blog again, photoshopped Gonzalez needs to arrive in my clutches. Give up A-Gone, and none of my night cards get hurt.

And then we can all turn out the lights and see the entire set as it was intended.

EDIT: Look what came in the mail today!

Only a matter of time, Gonzalez.

(Thanks, Derek!)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Fun while it lasted

I might have given the impression that the Topps value boxes are instant gold. I had purchased two of them, and they had yielded two diamond diecut cards, a few other decent Diamond Giveaway redemptions, a 1-in-50 packs short-print, and a relic.

But then I bought box three and it was a dud. I don't want anyone thinking that I'm doing free advertising for the boys downtown, so I'm documenting the ugliness here.

First of all, almost half my inserts were dupes, including the David Price Kimball here. Secondly, the Heritage hobby packs produced a single short-print that I probably won't keep.

Then we get to the ugliness of the code cards, the portion of the box that had delivered definite value two times already.

The first code card uncover this:

Andre, forgive me, but I don't like the '87 set, it's more plentiful than dirt, and there's no way I'm ever going to be able to trade you.

The second code uncovered this:

Annnnnnnd slowly backing away from the Giveaway site.

Oh, well, this bit of a wake-up call will allow me to focus on more useful places for my card dollars -- and no I do not mean a blaster of Gypsy Queen.

But at least one good thing came out of Value Box #3.

Third time's the charm. Three boxes, and I've got all three value box refractors. I will be keeping only one.

And now I'm done.

(P.S.: If I had an unlimited budget I would not be done. But then, if I had an unlimited budget, you would be addressing me as The Sandy Koufax Super Collector and value boxes would have no meaning).

(P.P.S: I forgot that there is always a way to get rid of you 1987 junk on the Million/Diamond Giveaway site -- if you have something with which to package your junk. And I did.


All miney mine).

... oh yeah, someone sent me some cards

I'm telling you, those Topps value boxes sure are distracting. I grabbed another one and redeemed this Roy Halladay diamond cut card. I also redeemed two 1967 cards and pulled a Heritage relic of Jayson Werth. These things are absolutely addicting. I'm almost afraid to mention them for fear I'll head back and the 10 boxes I saw there last night will all be gone.

The value boxes are also keeping me from focusing on what is truly amazing about this hobby, which is finding collectors just as enthused as you are and exchanging cards with them. I hope I never forget that. The most exciting thing isn't mojo hits or busting the latest product. It's finding people who are as excited about collecting cards as you are.

One of those people is fellow Dodger fan, Spiegel. I think he might be one of the most enthusiastic collectors I have had the occasion to virtually meet. He sent me some cards recently. And by recently, I mean long ago. We didn't even have Gypsy Queen way back then. No cards of gypsies!! How on earth did we LIVE??????

So let's see what passed for a trade package way back in early April of 2011, shall we?

I'll start with one of the last Dodger insert cards that I needed from last year's Topps set. The Bison is the National League MVP this year. Of course, I'm extrapolating. But I am extrapolating correctly.

Another one of these Aficionado things. What a grotesque set this was. Look, Hollandsworth is looking longingly at his right elbow. He also wishes that he was in color, like, um, he is. Weird. I will never understand the '90s.

We've all seen this card. Many of us have also commented on the prophetic image, seeing as Offerman ended up assaulting baseball-uniformed people on more than one ocassion. And since we've all done this, I've got nothing else to say, except ... SEE? His name is all SHINY and SILVERY!

Radiance. Gah. Those '90s. Again. What was the deal?

Here is a card of Cody Ross of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Except he's not really with the Dodgers. If you look at the teeny tiny legalese-style type at the bottom, you'll note that he's really a Cincinnati Red.

But most people probably didn't see that. They didn't know until they turned the card over and ...

AHHH!!!! BLOOD!!! He's a ... RED!!! A CINCINNATI RED!!!!!

You have to read the fine print, people.

By the way, I have worse news for you.

He's now a San Francisco Giant.

And he makes videos with Brian Wilson and mascots. (yes, I know that's redundant).

And I think he likes it.

So, yeah, there's no hope for him.

Early '80s stickers!!!!!!!!!!!!

Weeeee!!!!! I don't know how this sticker avoided me for so long. I thought I had all the Dodgers from the 1981 Topps sticker set. But I refuse to make a checklist. Because they're stickers. Checklists are for cards only. Yes, I must have my arbitrary rules. No judging.

Here are some Upper Deck Timeline needs. One even has a random parallel gold stamp that I refuse to acknowledge ... anymore. The race continues over which 2008 set I will complete first: Timeline, Stadium Club or Heritage. I may start a blog charting my progress. But someone else will have to continue it because I'm sure I'll have met that Great Dodger in the Sky before any of them are complete.

Roger Cedeno is fleeing from a giant wooden wall. Hey, it was the '90s.

I'll end it with a tremendous night card. Spiegel really knows how to find them. Not only is this a beautiful card, but I saw the almost exact same image when I was in Toronto. It reminds me of the unbelievably crazy time I had in that city. I'll never forget it.

That's what cards are all about, the memories and the great times.

Thanks, Spiegel. Great trading cards with you, and everyone else. It never gets old, no matter what kind of new stuff hits the shelves.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Define the design, 11T, 63T, 83T

I'm quite certain that this card is the product of an out-of-court settlement between Topps and Michael Saunders. In exchange for Saunders dropping his suit against Topps -- lodged when Topps produced a 2010 Heritage photo that made it look as if Saunders was having his brain pulverized by levitating aliens -- Topps agreed to make Saunders look like a superhero in its 2011 set.

This card, now that I own it, could be the best card of 2011. But this isn't a "best card" post. This is a "define the design" post.

It is time to name the 2011 Topps set.

This set borrows from a few different sets. I'm thinking of 1997 Stadium Club, 1996 Topps and a couple others.  It's a super-clean design, which sometimes makes for difficult naming.

Hmmm, let's see, we have an arch and a snazzy baseball with the team logo. That's not a lot to go on.

The highlight of the design is the baseball, which Topps somehow jiggered to appear as if it is indented inside the colored circle that is wrapped around the baseball. That's some crazy designing voodoo, Topps. If Topps could have figured out a way to make the ball spin inside the circle, that would've blown away those video "card" contraptions that people are writing about on the NEW! NOW! NEXT! blogs.

But anyway, I'm looking for a name for this year's Topps set. If you have any ideas, let me know. I don't have any prize arranged if I pick your idea, although you can have all of my 2011 Topps dupes if you want them.

For those of you who aren't interested in the very latest, I thought you could name some older designs, too.

I'm looking for a name for the 1963 Topps set:

And, just to be difficult, I'm also looking for a name for the 1983 Topps set:

And the word "ripoff" can't be part of the '83 design name.

I'm leaning toward calling one of the sets the "picture in picture" set. I kind of like that.

But I'm sure you have pretty good ideas yourselves.

Some of you may not be aware that I have devoted a page to all the Define the Design names that have been determined so far. It's on the tab at the top of the blog on the far right.

Or, for those of you criminally lazy, click on the link.

Thank you kindly, as always.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The parallel meter

I received this card and most of the rest of the Dodgers from the 1993 Topps Florida Marlins commemorative factory set from Cardsplitter at The Call of Cardboard. Topps issued a Marlins set and Rockies set to recognize the first seasons of the two franchises.

The cards are the same in every way to the regular '93 set except for a stamp with a Marlins logo for the Marlins set and a Rockies logo for the Rockies set.

I hate ripping on cards that are sent to me through the sheer goodwill of others, but I can not stand parallel cards like this. These are the definition of pointless parallels.

But back in '93 that's what parallels were, mere foil stamping. I am sure collectors ate this up back then. I was on my way out of collecting in 1993 so I don't know if I thought anything about them at all.

Since then, parallels are all growed up. Some of them are so fantastic that it makes you forget that it's a fancied-up duplicate of the base card. Some of them are garbage. And it's time that someone establish the difference between the two.

I thought I'd set up a meter that demonstrates the spectrum of parallels, from the worst to the best. This is totally subjective according to my tastes, so take that under advisement.

Also, I know I've missed many, many types of parallels. Some, like Bomwan International of the late '90s or this year's Topps diamond parallels, I couldn't conveniently categorize. Some, like Chrome, Opening Day and First Edition, are basically set parallels. I ignored those. But feel free to mention any missing ones. If I have cards of those parallels, I'll update this post.

OK, on with the meter:

Level 1 - Card back parallels

Card back parallels are junk. Useless, frustrating and a cynical money grab. The Heritage back variations that you see here at least had some basis in history. But the A&G and other tobacco retro back variations need to exit ASAP. Their connection to history is tenuous at best.

Level 2 - Silver/Gold-foil lettering parallels

Perhaps this had its place in the 1990s, but in the 21st century it's the height of ridiculousness. I almost always end up throwing cards like this in the dupes box. If I'm lucky, I realize seven months later that it's a parallel. The sign of a good parallel is it smacks you in the face with its parallelness. But these gold-lettering things are way too wimpy to smack anything.

Topps Stars was an entire set based on different colored lettering. I do not like that set at all.

Level 3 - Stamped parallels

This covers the 1992 gold-stamped cards, Stadium Club First Day Issues, Postseason commemorative cards of the '90s, the Marlins/Rockies sets mentioned above, etc.

I'm sure these were fantastic back then. But, today, when I see them, I can't help but think how much money was wasted on a simple foil stamping. Part of my viewpoint comes from the fact that I wasn't collecting much then, so I totally missed the craze. But really, even those of you who got caught up in it have to admit it is pretty lame in hindsight.

Level 4 - Photographer's Proof/Press Proof parallels

Just the name "Photographer's Proof" lends an air of exclusivity. And, of course, most of these cards are numbered on the back so they are somewhat exclusive. But I never understood the connection to an actual "proof" that a photographer would make. Maybe if I understood the connection, I'd rank this higher.

Level 5 - Diecut parallels

These aren't the greatest examples. There are a lot better versions. But at least the Hudson Ticket to Stardom card demonstrates why diecut parallels are in the middle of the pack. That deckle edge thing might be the worst parallel ever.

Level 6 - Bronze bordered parallels (sent to me by Things Are Funner Here).

Why am I separating all the different bordered parallels instead of lumping them all into their own category? Because they are not created equal, as you will soon see. The bronze bordered parallels are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to border parallels. They need to put these out of their misery.

Level 7 - Foil parallels

I'm sure these were very sweet at one time, too. But now they look as cheap as anything that card companies manufacture. Very dated.

Level 8 - Walmart black and Topps throwback parallels

These two kinds of parallels are nothing alike. But they are made available -- in blasters -- in exactly the same way, so I have no choice but to pair them together. Their identifying feature is that you have to buy a blaster to get them. Unfortunately that drops them down on the meter, because I do like each of these parallels quite a bit.

Level 9 - Gold bordered parallels

This used to be the king of all parallels. Ten years ago, every set was covered in gold and silver. But, like the last days of disco, people are starting to realize that taste is important. As sad as it is to say, I think it's time for gold bordered parallels to be taken off the respirator.

Level 10 - Refractor and xrefractor parallels

I've never fully understood the refractor and xrefractor. But at some point I realized that they weren't made to be understood. They were made so people could look at the pretty colors bouncing off the card. Woaoaoaoaoahhhh!!!! I have no problem with that. Rock on, refractor!

Level 11 - Chrome parallels (sent to me by Lifetime Topps project)

Ooooh, who doesn't love chrome? Only communists. I like chrome so much that I'm willing to see it on vintage style designs of the '50s and '60s. Normally, such a combination would make me tear out my eyes with salad tongs. But it's too beauteous to ever do such a thing.

Level 12 - Mini parallels

I know, I know, you'd rank this a lot higher. People flip out over minis. It's the main reason why Allen & Ginter is still chugging along five years later. I like minis, too. They create a mild storage issue, but once you hold them in your hand, you cannot deny that the mini parallel is here to stay forever.

Level 13 - Black bordered parallels

If you ask me, everything looks better with a black border. Everything. It is the instant cure for a dull set. Black borders are so cool that Topps has convinced collectors to collect a parallel (A&G black border minis) of a parallel (A&G minis). Diabolical.

Level 14 - Colored bordered parallels

Possibly the most successful parallel of all-time. How many collectors are out there collecting Masterpieces border variations? Meanwhile, I absolutely love all chrome colored refractors. They are among the most fantastic modern day cards ever made. The Kershaw is still one of my favorite cards.

Level 15 - Color parallels (Loney sent by Thoughts and Sox)

For me, color parallels, or rainbow parallels, are the best parallels of all-time. They're even better than the color border parallels because the color covers more of the card. These kinds of parallels make me forget completely that there is a base version of the card. And if you can make a collector forget that, then you've hit the gold mine.

The Upper Deck Baseball Heroes is probably the most successful version of this parallel, just because the base card is so achingly dull, it would never succeed without parallels. But people are collecting the set to this day because of them.

So, that's the meter. Use it for good, not for evil.

Parallels really are the life blood of many a card set. Some are well-executed and some are miserable.

And it all started with some gold stamping.

(Or maybe with 1989 Donruss).

Cardboard appreciation: 1992 Pinnacle Dave Hollins

(Have you ever stood in line in the rain for the opening of a new Olive Garden? Neither have I. Yet, it happened where I live. I was dying to go up to each person and ask them why they were there. Here is to "thinking things through." This is Cardboard Appreciation. It's the 111th in a series):

As a major league baseball fan, I am done "wishing."

Here is what I mean by that:

The Dodgers have this guy in their bullpen named Jonathan Broxton. He's a big guy from Georgia. He's an ox. How can you not like the fact that an ox plays for your team? We've got an ox in our bullpen. He's gigantic and throws close to 100 and can obliterate the hitter. He's ours and not yours.

He seems like a likable guy, too. I like him anyway. And because I like him, I really want him to do well. He should do well because I like him.

But it doesn't work that way. I've known that for some time now. When I was a kid, I liked players for no reason at all. I'd attach my feelings to them and hoped they'd sense those feelings and do well on the ballfield. Usually the object of my affection was some scrappy infielder or a base stealer. Larry Bowa, Omar Moreno. Guys like that. There was no reason for me to like them. They didn't even play on my favorite team. But there was no logic to this equation. I just liked them because I liked them.

Then along came Dave Hollins. He was from Buffalo, N.Y., which was reason enough to like him. Not a lot of major leaguers came from Buffalo. He went to Orchard Park High School, which was a baseball power. I knew that from covering high school baseball in the area.

Hollins made in the majors. He played for the Phillies, one of the teams I liked. He played third base, one of my favorite positions. He was a power hitter. I liked that. Soon, he was a cornerstone of my fantasy baseball team. Hollins and Dante Bichette formed the middle of my order.

But then Hollins began to suffer a series of injuries. He learned he had diabetes. But I kept him on my team. When he came off the disabled list, I'd put him in the lineup, because I liked him. Then he'd go on the disabled list again and I'd wait for him to come back, because I liked him.

You know what happened with me and fantasy baseball. I stunk at it, I grew disillusioned, and I stopped playing. A small part of the reason was because I let my feelings -- no matter how inexplicable they were -- get in the way of running my team. I should have replaced Hollins. He would never have another season like his '92 and '93 seasons. I should have given him the ax. But I "wished" that he would do well instead.

So this is why I don't want to see Broxton in any closing situation anymore. I know he has the talent. But he doesn't appear to have the mentality for it. I may wish that his talent will overcome whatever mental issue he's having on the mound. But wishing has no place in baseball. Not if you hope to win. Dave Hollins taught me that.

Sorry, Jonathan. If I ran a fantasy team now and you were on it, you'd be done. No more wishing.

You hear that Dodgers? No more wishing. It doesn't win games.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

'56 of the month: Johnny and Eddie O'Brien

True to form, I forgot to include a '56 of the Month post for March. Apparently, I was too busy or something. Excuses, excuses.

So, I am showing two '56 cards for April. And, as an added bonus, I am going to be uncharacteristically brief, because -- here's a surprise: I have no time.

Johnny and Eddie O'Brien were identical twins who grew up as young high school hotshots in South Amboy, N.J., also the hometown area of former major league managers Jack McKeon and Tom Kelly. Colleges came calling and the O'Briens were so desperate to play together that they took offers from Seattle University, because it was about the only college that was willing to provide scholarships for both.

All the way on the other side of the country, the O'Briens became basketball stars. They played on a team that defeated the Harlem Globetrotters. That got the attention of Branch Rickey, who was general manager of the Pirates at the time. Rickey offered the brothers fat bonus contracts (the brothers were terrific baseball players at Seattle U., too), and the O'Briens were off to careers as the most famous identical twins to ever play baseball.

They had this card to thank for some of their publicity, too:

One of the most iconic baseball card ever made (no, I don't own it).

Johnny and Eddie formed the second base-shortstop combo for the woeful Pirates in the '50s. Johnny fared OK at the plate and in the field. Eddie was below average in both. After a few years together and the Pirates going nowhere, Johnny and Eddie both tried pitching. There were flashes of success, but they were each quickly out of major league careers by the end of the decade.

Both went on to notable success elsewhere. Johnny entered politics in the Seattle area and later became the operations manager at the Kingdome. Eddie worked as athletic director at his college alma mater. He is famously portrayed in Ball Four as Jim Bouton's nemesis during his stay as the Pilots' bullpen coach in 1969 (he was nicknamed "Mr. Small Stuff" by players for his emphasis of things like how to wear sunglasses, where to eat sunflower seeds, etc.). Eddie later moved to Alaska and worked in shipping.

The two combined have 16 children and 25 grandchildren. Wow!

To this day, they are one of only two pairs of identical twins to play for the same team in the same game. The other, of course, is Jose and Ozzie Canseco.

I have wondered whether being an identical twin and an elite athlete is a curse or a blessing. I have brothers. The thought of playing on the field with them for 30-plus years is ... well, I don't know what to think. Sometimes it would be cool, sometimes you'd just like to be your own person, you know?

But you can't argue with forever holding a place in baseball history. The O'Briens will have that forever.