Saturday, December 10, 2011

As good as anything else out there

When the bow is tied on the card season of 2011 -- and that day is coming soon -- there will be a lot of snark and crank and bitch about the concepts of choice and innovation and game-changing.

I'll admit, it wasn't the most exciting year for cards. But it just doesn't matter in the larger scheme of things. Sure, I'd like it to be a little more interesting. But, honestly, if I'm looking for something to blow my doors off, I'm not looking to cards first. And if you are staring at me quizzically wondering what else I would rather have blow my doors off, then, my poor, poor child, I doubt I can help you.

Cards are a pleasant little diversion for me. Yes, I have a passion for them. But they are not the best thing in my life. There are days when I prefer a wheel of cheese to cards. So, why on earth would I DEMAND that cards be all things to me -- the best of the best, the thrill of thrills, the pinnacle of my existence?

I just want cards to be cool. That's all.

And I can find "cool" anywhere. It doesn't have to come with a patch or an autograph. Last night, on my work break, I began my Christmas shopping, which consisted of buying a $5 item. That meant I could also grab one of those 100-card, "three vintage cards in every pack" rack packs.

One of the cards that fell out is the 1987 Topps Tom Foley up top. For 25 years, I have owned the Foley card with a blank back. You may consider that cool, and I sort of do, too. But these cards always seem incomplete to me, and when I have one I instantly want to own the card that has the back to it, too. Finally, I've got it. And now I know -- like everyone else did 25 years ago -- that "Tom was a lefthanded high school quarterback." Says so on the back.

To me, cards from these packs are one of the great cardboard delights of the past year. Yeah, I know they've been around for more than a year. But I focused on them a lot more this year. Throw these things in with the diamond parallels, the Lineage '75 minis, the Dee Gordon Update card, the liquorfractors, the Opening Day Stadium Lights, the look of the Heritage set, and you've got what I like best about the past year in cards.

It's nothing that will bug my eyes out. But if I want that, I'll book a flight to a beach in Southern California.

For good, honest fun, I'll open up a 100-card value pack, discard the 60-75 percent of junk wax and feature the goodies here.

Aside from Foley, the lefthanded quarterback, here are my 12 favorite cards from last night's rack pack opening:

12. Walt Weiss, 1997 Topps.

Straight from my collecting dark period, '97 Topps is one of my favorites -- the set that came immediately before five or six years of yuck from Topps. I think this Weiss card means I have about 8 non-Dodgers from this set.

11. Rey Ordonez, 1996 SP Premier Prospects

Why must it always end badly for Mets shortstops? Reyes, Ordonez, Oquendo. OK, Oquendo was never good.

10. Darin Erstad, 2003 Leaf Certified Materials

When I was researching the Albert Pujols post, I came across Erstad's 240-hit season in 2000. I have no memory of this. How could I forget 240 hits?

9. Barry Zito, 2003 Leaf

Oh, Zeet. You crazy.

There are a lot of Oakland A's in these packs. Either that or I just can't trade them away.

8. Tony La Russa/Jim Leyland, 1993 Topps managers, gold parallel

Best manager buds. But it looks like La Russa is acting as Leyland's bodyguard.

7. Moises Alou, 2002 Topps

Alou is totally photoshopped into his Cubs jersey. Every time I look at Alou's career stats, I see the TWO "injured-did not play" stat lines. No wonder he was so cranky.

6. Al Leiter, 2003 Playoff Prestige

The idea of repeating the same picture, except smaller, is a concept I will never understand. There is also a weirdly faded "Mets" stamped across Leiter's legs. Good luck with anyone seeing that.

5. Mike Greenwell, 1994 Score

Great swing, even if it looks like Greenwell proceeded to sprain his front ankle in the very next frame.

4. Bob Grich, 1977 Topps

Got this card already. But, damn, it's in fine shape. I will have to compare with my previously upgraded '77 Grich. One of these days I'm going to pull one of these cards and he'll be wearing a cap.

3. Bo Jackson, 1994 Stadium Club

I have never seen anyone blow a bubble while angry.

2. Del Unser, 1979 Topps

What is better than pulling a 1979 Topps card you don't have from a $5 rack pack?

Well, there are a lot of things better, as I mentioned before. But in the card universe?

Absolutely nothing.

1. Eddie Kasko, 1973 Topps

Except for a dented right corner, this card looks as if it was just pulled out of a pack in 1973.

My brother, the Red Sox fan, had this card as one of his "really old cards" when we were growing up. The first thing I think of when I hear about Kasko is his quote after the Red Sox missed out on the 1972 pennant. He said, "If 'ifs and buts' were candied nuts, we'd all have a hell of a Christmas."

It's a much repeated phrase with several variations, but that's the first time I heard it, and I thought it quite clever.

And that's the little bit of fun I had on my work break last night.

No, there were no relics, shiny cards, autographs, super sick patches, babes in bikinis, cheese wheels, or all-night parties.

But I really don't need that to have fun.

Give me a '73 card I can pick up in the drug store.

I'll be content.

But keep the babe and the cheese on call in case I need more than content.


  1. Damn, those are some nice cards from a repack.

    If these things would ever include 1977 O-pee-chee, then you *could* pull a Bobby Grich with a hat. OPC used a different, less creepy photo with a hat airbrushed 60's-style (plain black, no attempt at a logo)