Saturday, December 31, 2011

Should auld acquaintance be forgot ...


Sheesh. It's these guys again. Haven't they learned from last year? You don't go around bashing heads with baseball bats on New Year's Eve. It's just uncool.

But before you have to return your tux, I thought I'd regale you with a tale of the past year, Night Owl style. I don't know if it was as interesting as 2010, but it sure had its moments. Fortunately, it had its share of baseball cards, too. Which is the reason we're all doing what we're doing.

So, pour your favorite beverage, grab yourself some disgusting food (pickled herring? Really?), and let me bore you with some ancient news from a whole year ago.

Hey, it could be worse. I could be predicting what will happen in 2012.


JANUARY

While berating myself on the way back to the car after purchasing Bowman Platinum at Wal-Mart at 2 in the morning, the spectre of the most horrifying-looking ballplayer in the major leagues appeared from behind a row of shopping carts. I immediately passed out in the parking lot. When I awoke, a team of legless ballplayers appeared and I passed out again. The only thing that could keep me from reliving those terrible images was counting up my trifectas, dividing Stadium Club photographs into thirds and determining which Dodgers had been perfect 10s. But not, too perfect. That's reserved for Bo. ...  Derek, I mean.



FEBRUARY

Something about the Duke's passing causes me to get all melancholy on the reading audience. I wonder why things have to change so quickly. I wonder why nobody can be satisfied with anything. I wonder what happened to simpler times. To top it off, I refuse to try to complete 2011 Topps. But then someone has to go and spoil all the misery and send me one incredible card package. With -- get this -- uncut sheets!



MARCH

I learn that Topps has been reading my diary when I crack a pack of Opening Day and a glow-in-the-dark night card falls out. I repay Topps by finally agreeing to collect 2011 A&G, a decision I'm almost regretting to this day. I run through a list of old-time ballplayers that I never want to see in modern sets again, and Topps responds by fighting dirty and burying me in new cards of Sandy Koufax. And, just because I have nothing to do in March, I decide to figure out how many Dodgers cards I have. In summation: it's a lot. And I have no life.



APRIL

Diamond Diecut Fever hits the blog and I land a Babe-o-licious item almost immediately. Babe turns into a much preferable Jackie, which I store in my super-secret, sorry-if-my-cards-offend-you, rolltop desk. Freshly organized, I am free to wonder whether I should boot Alyssa from my blog, why Topps caved to Tim Raines' demand to call him "Rock," and what makes those Sonics that I never see so gosh darn thirst-quenching?



MAY

Diecut Fever is still raging as I manage to land a bunch of Brooklyn Bums from the '50s for a snazzy diecut. Then at the end of the month, someone sends me a Jackie card with what may or may not be Robinson's never-disclosed wooden leg (those write-ups on the back are so vague). As if that wasn't enough, a new disease called Bryce Harper Spazz-mania envelopes everyone. Well, everyone except cranky-pusses like me. But the best news of the month is I figure out that my Harmon Killebrew autograph is real. Thanks, Killer!



JUNE

Good gosh, what a cranky month. My excuse was I found out the file cabinet was sold. I don't know what was up everyone else's butt. Could've been the joke trades on the diamond giveaway site. Could've been the infiltrators on your baseball cards. Or maybe it was the football card found in a pack of baseball cards. Makes me grrrrrrr just thinking about it.



JULY

Ooooooooooooooooohhh!!!!! I pull my wife's most favorite card ever. A dealer ignores me and I blow the cash meant for him at Target. My parents give me a gift of buttons and I'm happy about it. And I quit Twitter because people are really nasty in 140 characters or less.



AUGUST

I am introduced to the 2011 set I come closest to falling in love with -- unfortunately it is an insert set contained in the middle of a set that "has a great personality." The disappointment deepens when I find out my favorite player was a (*gag* *wretch**weeeeeze**hurl*) Will Clark fan. Then I determine that Topps included two cards of Jason Hammel in its base set and absolutely nothing in my world makes sense anymore.



SEPTEMBER

I don't know what it is about September that always makes me post pictures of buxom babes, but I'm blaming the Chrome. Mmmmmmm, sweet, sweet, soft, supple, chrooooommme. ... But enough of that. There was serious journalism this month, like, um, well, for instance ... is this the worst Sandy Koufax card ever? Are blasters for suckers? Why are diamond giveaway traders so stupid/mean? But mostly, is this the best damn pack opening of all-time? The answer to the last question is, "of course. Don't be an idiot."



OCTOBER

Somone sends me the above card. Do I even need to go on? OK, I will. I set a personal record for shortest time spent at a card show. For my reward I get dragged through a girlie store. I finish up one blog and spend my new-found freedom by finding shockingly similar photos of the same players in back-to-back sets (I'm such a nerd). Oh, and I change my blog header. Perhaps you heard. It was in all the papers.

Lastly: it's Topps, Bowman, Fleer, Donruss, Score, Upper Deck, Pacific, Pinnacle ... in THAT ORDER.



NOVEMBER

The Astros, an American League team? Someone find Selig a rest home. I can't do it myself. I'm too busy compiling the all-fish team, determining the Allen & Ginter Babe of the Year, and trying to figure out why Topps painted a "B" on the cap of Sandy Koufax, even though his uniform says "Los Angeles." By the way, where's my Pulitzer Prize?



DECEMBER

Some helpful tips: It's worth landing a mini card of the real MVP only if you know the back way through Wal-Mart. Never store wrapped baseball cards under a Christmas tree with a known four-legged enemy of cardboard in the house. Never look at 1989 Bowman cards on a Monday morning. And finally, if you think you're pretty good at card blogging, here's a reality check.


Well, I guess that was an active enough year. Considering everything else that was going on in my life of chaos.

I hope your 2011 had at least as much cheer as all that other stuff. It's all in how you look at it I guess.

 I'll be looking at it through the beverage of my choice tonight. Hope you are, too.

Thanks for reading in the last year. Thanks for reading in the next.


Happy New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

C.A.: 2011 Topps Update Rene Tosoni

(I just read a lighthearted column in the paper about how this week is "the week that nothing happens." Speak for yourself, missy. The show goes on where I am, only with less people because of vacations, and more basketball scores to take over the phone. It should be the week that nothing happens. But it's not. ... Anyway, let's appreciate some cardboard. This is the 130th in a series):


Not a lot of time again today, so let's see if I can squeeze in some half-brained thoughts before I get interrupted.

This is the card to which I was referring in the previous post. It is about as obvious an advertisement for a product that I have ever seen on a baseball card. Advertisements on cards are a lot more common than they were 10, 20, 30 years ago. That's mostly because advertisements at ballparks are much, much, much more common than they once were. And, I think it's also because Topps now has little problem with showing ads on its cards. Although it's not like it has any choice.

But I've written about that all before. The aspect that I wanted to address is how ads featured in cards have become "cool." They've become cards that collectors think are the best in the set. They draw our focus (like any good advertisement or logo should) and we instantly consider them desirable cards. Colorful cards. Awesome card.

I'm one of those collectors. I have no idea who Rene Tosoni is. And I don't have any time to do any research to figure it out. But he is instantly memorable to me now because his card features the official beer of major league baseball. Look at all that red and gold and bubbles! Who wouldn't like that card? Other than a Budweiser competitor, I mean?

It didn't used to be this way. Companies like Topps would go out of their way to avoid advertisements in their photos. Movies and other media not related to advertising would do the same. Later, during the '80s, it became fun to point out the product placement in movies, because it was a new phenomenon.

It's not new anymore. One look at an auto race will tell you that.

I still don't know whether Topps is getting any kind of cash for showing ads in the background of its cards. I'd tend to think they were.

And if that's the case ...


Exactly how much did they get for this photo?


(Project '62, if you're still around, I've still got this card for you).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The best cards of 2011


Not a single Allen & Ginter card made it onto the list of the best cards of the past year. That's not too much of a surprise since many of the cards in A&G -- especially of the baseball players -- look the same.

But when A&G zaps us with a revolving door card or a Pluto card, that is when it is at its best and ends up on the countdown. Unfortunately, the closest 2011 A&G came to inanimate objects on cardboard is the chair propping up Kristi Yamaguchi. Red chair is just not going to cut it for the best of the year.

So, it's all ballplayers this time around. I just know that breaks some of your hearts.

Like past "best ofs," I have eliminated any parallel or hit cards for consideration, since the countdown is meant to recognize the photo itself, not the gimmick. However, as usual, the first five cards in the countdown mention some specific trend of 2011 that I liked.

So, let's get to it:


20. Topps Diamond Giveaway diecut cards: I had a lot of early luck redeeming these things and put away the Dodger versions pretty quickly before being stonewalled by the Koufax hoarders. These cards are super-fancy and a great way to make the giveaway site all the more appealing. I still think they look like Christmas tree ornaments though.


19. Topps diamond parallels: A parallel that looked so great that collectors instantly vowed to complete a whole set of the cards. I don't know if any ever managed to finish it off, but Topps found itself a moneymaker here. Unfortunately, it verged on overkill by the end of the year.


18. Topps Gypsy Queen framed paper parallels: The next three entries are just repeats of the last Blog Bat Around. So I'll keep them brief. These framed paper cards illustrate how great GQ could have looked without the backside of dried-out, faded, wallpaper from the '50s surrounding each image.


17. Topps Opening Day Stadium Lights inserts: My kind of insert: subject that I love, easy 10-card set to complete, glow-in-the-dark gimmick. Only complaint is that there are two Yankees in a 10-card set. Can we all agree that no one but no one needs another card of A-Rod?


16. Topps Lineage '75 mini inserts: Once I get out from under my holiday/company/no-I-don't-get-a- vacation-to-handle-the-previous-two-things-I-just-mentioned chaos I plan to finish off the other half of this set. It will be one of the craziest /smartest things I've ever done.


15. Zack Greinke, Topps Update: Here we begin the official countdown. I really like this card a lot and don't know why it didn't get much mention. Maybe because the shadow on Greinke's face kills the mood a little bit (especially when you see the card in person). Still a great shot.


14. Henry Blanco, Topps Update: As many have noted, there are some terrific photos in Update. In fact, all-around the pictures in Topps' base set are as good/if not better than they've ever been. Remember how nice the photos were in '09? I think they're consistently better two years later.


13. Trevor Cahill/San Diego Padres, Topps: OK, I cheated a little bit with these as it's recognizing uniforms rather than the actual photo. But I love these old-school '70s uniform tributes when they appear on cards. I can't help it! I love the ugly, gaudy '70s! We need more plaid!


12. Heath Bell, All-Star, Topps Update: "Moment in time" cards are great. Capturing a baseball moment that was one of the most talked about of the season -- Heath Bell running in from the bullpen and sliding into the mound at the All-Star Game -- is even better. I used to not like Bell much. But after this I'm a fan. The guy has some kid in him, for sure.


11. Chicago White Sox, Topps: Maybe not the most exciting card, but the boys are having fun. It's at night, you can see the lights, you can see the scoreboard. Awesome, awesome night card.


10. Adam Wainwright, Topps Heritage: Heritage has a similar problem to A&G. Nothing to distinguish itself from card to card. But I still like this photo a lot. It's bright, sunny and screams baseball. So what if Wainwright still has the ball in his hand? That didn't stop the photographers in the '60s, did it?


9. Jason Donald, Topps: The newspaper editor in me is cheering at this photo. Maybe not the most unbelievable shot, but photographers know that it is not easy in baseball to get an action shot with both teams in the shot. Plays at second sometimes get too routine. Plays at the plate don't happen all the time. Rundown plays are just good fun to watch and to see on a baseball card.


8. John McDonald, Topps Update: That's right, I just followed Jason Donald with John McDonald. And I get the two confused ALL THE TIME.

You're going to see a lot of leaping in the next few photos. There is just something pleasing about the action on this shot. And it has nothing to do with the "Jake From State Farm" advertisement in the background.


7. Seth Smith, Topps: Another card that I think should have received more attention. What a story this one tells! Smith seems to think he was out because he appears to be in the process of beginning a protest to the umpire, who is no doubt yelling, "I'm SAYING you're SAFE!" Meanwhile, the catcher needs a medic.


6. Casey Blake, Topps: This card takes a plunge from when I ranked Series 1 cards last March. It doesn't mean I like it any less. I've just grown fascinated with some other cards. Besides, I already know that Blake is SAFE, SAFE, SAFE! So let's move on.


5. Oakland Athletics, Topps: This is one of the greatest dugout shots I have seen ever. Just fantastic. One of these days I'll go through the trouble of identifying the A's. You know how much difficulty I have with that team.


4. Eric Young Jr., Topps: Another repeat entrant. Young has made the best of the year two years running. That's what happens when you can float.


3. Roy Campanella, Topps Gypsy Queen: The only non-insert GQ card on the list. Campy's foul-pop catch and the delightful '50s crowd in the background overcomes that blindingly dull border. Also, Campy, unlike some of his GQ brethren, doesn't look zombified.


2. Michael Saunders, Topps: Once upon a time, it used to be difficult to photograph an outfielder leaping to catch a ball at the wall. I'm guessing it's still difficult, even though it appears on cards a lot more. But to capture Saunders at the apex of his leap as he's snagging the ball, with the Mariners logo in the background, well, that's impressive. ... Of course, Saunders could have dropped the ball and three runs scored. But we don't have to know that.


1. Dee Gordon, Topps Update: Best, best, best!!!! Your protests are futile!!!!

Countdown complete.

So, as you can see, it was all about Topps and its base set this past year. What choice did we have? Not much else out there.

But, really, some of the images were great. I didn't even finish off the set or the Update set, so I probably even missed a few. (Some, like the Ramon Hernandez broken bat and the Twins dude with the Budweiser ad, missed the cut).

That doesn't mean I'm redoing the list though.

Do your own list.

I do indeed have no energy left, therefore you must look at the next cards I'm going to order through the Diamond Giveaway that I said I was finished with just a mere few days ago ... so there


Card #1:


I am now CONTRACTUALLY OBLIGATED to complete the always-planned-but-much-procrastinated trifecta of Best Glasses In The History Of Baseball Cards posts. (Post 1, Post 2). Once I received this card, I fully expect it to win the third and final countdown. If it doesn't, it means I have either gone on an online frenzy to find other freakishly bespectacled ballplayers, or I particularly hate the Braves on that specific day.

Card #2:


Look! Curt Motton is wearing a cap with a refrigerator magnet "M" taped to it!

What?

That's an airbrush job?

Well, OK.

But I liked it better when I thought he was wearing a refrigerator magnet on his cap.


Card #3:

...

...

There is no card number 3. I'm sick of paying shipping.

But now you know why I must order these two cards.

And THEN I'll be done.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

1985 Topps, hear me roar


Not much time today. But I wanted to let people who are interested know that I have begun updating some of the tabs on the 1985 Topps blog. It will give you a little bit of an idea of what I'm going for on the blog, besides cards. Hopefully, I can keep it going.

I still don't plan to post any card entries there until some point in January. I haven't even scanned the first card yet.

But for those who might be unfamiliar with the '85 Topps set -- and that seems incredibly unlikely -- here is a look at the back of a typical card:


As far as the look of the card back, it's not too exciting. Christmas colors. A red-on-green format that is difficult to read. Out-of-date trivia question.

The best part of the card back is that some of the write-ups give you some personal insight into the ballplayer, which was a departure from many of the Topps card backs that immediately preceded the '85 set.

Back then, whenever I read something like "the former Christine Cairns," I automatically thought that Christine Cairns was some famous celebrity that I should know. Turns out it was just a fancy way to say a woman named Christine Cairns married Dan Petry, baseball player. And now she's on a baseball card for all eternity.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know I'm still thinking about the '85 blog. And the '71 blog, too, although I haven't done anything further with that. The '71 blog won't be as involved as the '85 blog anyway.

And, for you Tigers fans who have been suffering horrible flashbacks of Petry's subpar 1984 World Series performance ever since that card of his flashed on your screen, here are some other Tigers:

foil refractor
lineograph 21/99

Interested in trading for some or all of them? Tigers fans willing to trade for the majority (as opposed to 1 or 2) will get first consideration. I'm looking for something similar but with a Dodger theme -- or set needs (still got a lot of those Lineage '75 minis to go, you know).

OK, back to horrible work. If I have any energy left, I'll put up a non-Tiger post in the middle of the night sometime.