Saturday, March 31, 2012

Celebrating the end of March madness with mini madness

I don't think I've ever been so relieved to see a month disappear. I always celebrate the end of March with a little party because it's annually the most taxing month of the year. But this month took even more out of me.

Had I known what the third month of the year would be like, I would have stayed in college forever. College students seem to be the only people who have fun during March. Maybe I can go back and get a professor to remove a few of my credits.

Anyway, since I know March is going to be like this every year, I plan for it. That includes planning the end-of-the-month celebration.

This year's end-of-this-god-forsaken-month celebration is highlighted by a special purchase I made a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of beautiful, glorious, what-took-you-so-long March 31st.

Yup, I got myself a bunch of minis.

Mostly Topps Lineage minis to be exact. I've decided that I better attack this set as quickly as I can before people forget about these cards and I can't find them anymore.

So I swooped in and grabbed 26 off my want list.

Wooooooo! Minnnnniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiissssssssssss!!!!! 

There's a nice, healthy stack right now! I think I like the Gallardo card best, although the red-yellow color border always got me in 1975.

Weeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!! Ya! Ya! Ya! Even more minis!!!!

 Of course, the Gibson card is very cool, but Martinez is honored with getting a pink-and-yellow border. You might notice that the Martinez photo and the Kurt Suzuki photo  were taken in the same location from the same spot.

Here we go!!!! More, more, MORE minnnnniiiiiisssssssss!!!!!!!

 The B.J. Upton is a fun little card. I think I like that one best in this group.

With all of these minis, I've whittled the want list down to a mere 56 cards left in the 200-card set.

OK, that's a lot, but I'm almost three-quarters of the way done!

I also added a trio of the original minis.

OOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhh!!!!!! FUN!!!!!!!

All three of these cards have immediate connections to that first year of collecting in 1975. And those are the best kinds of minis.

I have a long way to go on both mini fronts, but that's OK.

There is a card show on the horizon and with my intention of not buying much 2012 product until at least A&G (I will be sitting out the Gypsy Queen hype once again), I should be able to put together another celebratory group of minis sometime soon.

In fact, if I think hard enough, I can find a reason to celebrate the end of EVERY month.

Any excuse to buy more baseball cards, right?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Attention: I am still trading!

During my health funk, I mentioned that I didn't care about trading. It was all a part of being generally ill. You know what it's like being sick. You don't feel like doing anything, even the things you love the most.

But I'm afraid I might have scared off a few people. "Night Owl is done with trading!" "Night Owl is retired!" "Have you heard? Night Owl doesn't want your 1991 Donruss anymore!"

Well, that is entirely untrue. Except the part about not wanting '91 Donruss. That's always true.

No, I may have a problem with pretending that people are breathlessly referring to me by my made-up nickname, but I don't have a problem trading.

Sure, it's been crazy as hell around here. Sure, it's still freakin' March. Sure, I've got a new lifestyle that requires I take more time to work out and eat properly and certain old people stuff like that.

But I still trade. At my own, methodical, pokey, you'll-get-it-when-you-get-it pace.

Want proof?

OK, how long has it been since I did a large trade post?

Too long, right?

All right, you know what's coming.

But no sighing. I'm trying to prove that I still want to trade. This will help restore your confidence in me.

I'll make the first trade quick and easy to digest. Your colon won't feel a thing.

These are the rest of the cards sent to me by Shoebox Legends. The non-Kemps, if you will.

This year's Heritage is proving very difficult for a team collector, specifically a Dodger team collector. Not only are there those fool 4-player rookie cards in which a number of players are reproduced three, four and five times (still can't get over that), but there are THREE Dodger high number short-prints this year.

Most displeased.

Nothing Heritage-y about this card. This is the real deal from Stealing Home at All Trade Bait, All The Time.

I can enjoy a vintage card celebrating a Dodger World Series victory all day. If it wasn't March, that is. No time to enjoy ANYTHING in March.

Many of the other cards from Stealing Home were '90s Dodgers, which is a smart move on his part. I was absent from collecting most of the decade, and there are SO MANY cards from the '90s. There is a good chance that some of them stick.

These stuck. Can't believe how many Karim Garcia cards there are.

Going the '90s parallel route is another nice tactic. Need a boatload of these.

There are some more.

And more.

And more. These are the first gold-bordered Collector's Choice cards I've ever seen. Are people really holding on for dear life with these?

When I updated my want list a few months ago and added the Topps Shoebox set, I thought it sounded charming and wondered why nobody had ever mentioned it on the blogs. It had this All-Time Fan Favorites sound to me.

Well, this is why. Apparently Topps reproduced the image of a past card (something it likes to do way too much) and stamped a gold circle on it that said "Shoe Box."

Another dream dashed.

Can't get enough of these things.

We've reached the painted portion of Stealing Home's offerings. Kaz Ishii looks really annoyed that he's being illustrated.

This can't be a painting. If it is then why in the world are we letting Dick Perez paint ballplayers?

This is why I like trading with fellow Dodger collectors, especially with ones on the West Coast. First, they know exactly what I want. Secondly, they know how to get it. There are ex-Dodgers signing things everywhere in L.A. Good ol' Oscar told Yeager to sign one for me!

No trade is complete without some miiiiiiinnnnnnnnniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!

Three more off the want list! Very exciting.

This card is from 100 Years and Counting. This was an innocent-looking Opening Day trade, but then 100 Years got a look at my want lists.

First, he finished off my Dodger Kimball mini wants.

Then he wrapped up my 1994 Studio Dodger set (Piazza wins the neatness contest between the two).

Then he got my 1993 Donruss Dodger wants down to a single card (I'm not proud I still need '93 Donruss).

And he added a mini want!!!

Everyone, if you are not checking the want lists like 100 Years, you are totally missing out.

But that's not all!

John added a Ted Lilly card from Lilly's first stop with the Dodgers.

And an awesome, sparkly of Jerry Sands.

And this terrific card of Pee Wee forcing out some guy with very weird, ugly socks. What a card!

That Pee Wee card puts me in mind of Pee Wee's double-play partner. This 1977 TCMA Renata Galasso Greats card came from the same person who sent me a previous one. Max of Starting Nine picked up some of these cool cards that mean so much to me.

This Jackie pose is actually not the same pose that appeared in the Topps Lineage set last year. I'd compare the two, but I'm running out of time here.

So, I'll bring this post to a close.

Believe it or not -- even though I may have scared some potential traders off -- this isn't the end of all the packages I've received lately. I've got a bunch more to show.

And I've got a bunch more to send, too. (Although the Cubs fans may have to wait a little longer. I've been deluged with Cubs card requests).

See? Same old Night Owl. Same old trades. Same old trade posts that a lot of you ignore for some weird reason.

Business is still open!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Awesome night card, pt. 139

Here is a little secret about me that you didn't know:

I want to write a book. But I don't know how to go about it.

"Yeah, so?" you're saying. "You and about a million other people."

Fair enough. But I know that I have the stuff to be an "author." I can write. I write professionally. I have ideas periodically. I've won awards. My stories have appeared in public on the blog, in print and elsewhere for the last 25 years. I have the tools.

Here's what's holding me up:

1. I know nothing about the publishing side of things. To me, the publishing world is a strange, foreboding and exclusive place. How do I get published? How do I find a publisher? It's all so nebulous. Getting published in a newspaper? I know how to do that inside and out. But a book? I'm absolutely lost.

I know there is self-publishing and all that, but I'm looking for your traditional, mainstream, distribute to the masses, published book.

2. I need a blasted idea.

This haunts me even more than the first problem. I mean I come up with ideas all the time for stories in the newspaper. That's what writers do if they want to continue to have a job. Find an idea. And another one. And another one.

But nothing I think of seems good enough for book form.

The reason this card is here is I always thought that this particular play would be a great idea for a book. Perhaps it's already been written. I don't know.

The moment when Sid Bream slid home safely past Mike LaValliere's tag on Francisco Cabrera's hit in the decisive game of the 1992 NLCS turned the fortunes of two sports teams for the next 20 years.

The Braves, last-to-first darlings the year before, clinched their status as a perennial contender, a dynasty-light team that may not have won abundant World Series, but proved to be dominant for a stretch unheard of in major league baseball.

The Pirates never made the playoffs again, lost their big star slugger, and hold the longest streak of consecutive losing seasons -- 19 -- dating all the way back to that play at the plate on Oct. 14, 1992.

Wouldn't that make a great book? Examining both teams -- the before and after?

I'm sure this same topic has been discussion for many a roundtable, talk show and blog post. I can't believe there isn't a book out there on the topic.

But even if there is, it's no matter. I'm not really interested in writing it myself. All that tracking down of past players and executives, managers and fans. The interviews, the research. Hell, I do all that in my regular job.

But I probably have to get over that feeling of laziness if I ever want to write a book.

Otherwise, I just have to hope that I can take the Best of Night Owl Cards to some publisher's desk and have them say, "where you've been all my life? You're published!"

But any other time that's happened, I've woken up.


Night Card Binder candidate: Sid Bream, 1995 Collector's Choice, Best of the '90s, #55
Does it make the binder?: Nope. It has to contend with Manny in a Dodger uniform (2010 Topps). That's a losing battle no matter how historic the moment.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When loose subscription cards were annoying

This was the end of the line for me and Baseball Cards magazine. It would be the last issue I would have delivered to my home and one of the last issues I would ever read (those later issues from the late '80s and then the Beckett spawn are completely foreign to me).

I would move off to college two months after the date on the front here. My interest in baseball cards was waning. The period between 1986-88 is a dark one in my collecting journey even as it was one of the best times of my life (what does that say about baseball cards?)

In fact, I'm not even sure how closely I looked at this particular issue. So let's look at it closely now, shall we?

I apologize in advance for some of the crooked scans. My scanner doesn't like working with anything that has any degree of thickness.

Ah, the Q&A section. Once again, this is where collectors wrote in, mostly in hopes of getting rich quick off of the error that they spotted in 1982 Fleer. The question "was this corrected?" pops up over and over.

My favorite questions in this issue are the one in which someone asks if the fact that there's no Reds emblem on George Foster's 1979 Topps card is a printing error, and the one in which a guy spots an error on the back of the 1970 Topps Lee May card and thinks he is the first one to discover it (that's right, it's been sitting undetected for 15 years waiting for you, buddy).

But there were a few informative answers in there, too, brought about by the questions of poor, unfortunate collectors who didn't have the internet yet.

For example, this is an error that I had heard about in the distant past but had never bothered to dig out the cards and examine them until I read about it in the Q&A today.

Jim C. Wright is on the left. Jim L. Wright is on the right. Different guys. But you'll notice that they each feature the same signature. That would be Jim C.'s signature on Jim L.'s card. I wonder if Jim L. refuses to sign that card now?

There was an interview with Whitey Ford in this issue, but I skipped that because I don't care. That's right, I don't care. I don't need to hear another story about how crazy Billy Martin was.

No, instead I am more fascinated by old advertisements. Old ads and TV commercials are great fun. This ad  touted some sort of baseball game, in which you used things that looked like tickets, called "Pursue the Pennant." Weird name. But the ad was so proud of the game that "makes all other Baseball board games obselete."

I like how baseball cards are featured, but no baseball cards are included with the game. The end of the ad says, "It is not necessary to purchase baseball cards to play Pursue The Pennant, their only purpose is to improve the attractiveness of the game."

Excuse me sir, this is 1985. We all know that baseball cards' only purpose is to make us rich.

This issue ran retrospectives of Topps' 1955, 1965 and 1970 sets (I don't know why 1960 was left out). I enjoy the year-by-year series in BCM, as long as they are certain to talk about the cards from that year. A couple of them are just ramblings about what happened that year in baseball.

Fortunately, these articles do a better job. I will have to re-read all of them, but especially 1955 because as a 1956 lover, I tend to turn my nose up at '55. But I shouldn't. Look at that wrapper! That alone makes '55 cool.

This is cool, too. This is a breakdown of how many cards were issued for each team for competing Topps and Bowman in 1955. As you can see, Bowman came out way ahead. And if you were a fan of the Tigers, White Sox, Indians or Phillies, you must have felt robbed by what Topps had to offer.

OK, this was the big drawing point of this issue. WIN $350 ROSE ROOKIE CARD!!!!!

We all know this is the Ken McMullen rookie card, but I humored them and filled out an entry form for the card. Each entrant was required to guess the day that Rose would get his record-breaking 4,192nd hit. I was way too optimistic about Rose's chances. I guessed August 4 and he didn't get it until September 11.

It's no matter, because as you can see, I never sent it in!

That's how much my interest in cards dropped off in '85. I was enthused enough to fill out the form, probably around April or May when the issue came out. And then a few short weeks later, I couldn't be bothered to send it.

This issue also came with what they called "repli-cards" (I always wanted to be the "replicard" when we played dinosaurs as a kid). There was a reproduction of Rose's 1965 Topps card and the Steve Carlton '65 rookie card. I know I traded the Rose card. I might have traded Carlton, too, as I can't find it.

The Talkin' Baseball article this time was with the late, great Dan Quisenberry. In the article, Quiz has kind of a cavalier attitude about cards that I found upsetting when I read these. These are the most important things in the world, dude!

Just to humor myself, here is my favorite card of Quisenberry:


Also tremendous.

Here is a story about the complete Dale Murphy checklist for all you Murphy enthusiasts out there. Of course, this checklist is now hopelessly out of date.

But here is a sampling, just because I know it will interest at least one of the 46 Braves bloggers.

I have conveniently skipped over the price guide again. We've all seen it before.

Instead, it's on to an article called "Card Wars," which is something similar to what I'm doing here on the blog. Determining the best set for each year.

At the time, this was just a battle between the Big 3. And the author examines only 1981-84. In his final analysis, he grades Donruss first, Topps second and Fleer third.

I don't understand his fondness for Donruss. In fact, in the article, he raves about this set:

OK, whatever. Go play with your tinker toys now. I still think if you told 500 people "design a baseball card," 425 would come up a bat and ball design.

I do enjoy some of his descriptions of the card sets from this period. He says 1982 Fleer had "no more than a small handful of cards (with) photos that weren't so blurry they looked like they ... had been taken by a 6-year-old with an Instamatic or by Aunt Maudie with the shakes," and " ... feeling that variations help sell cards, they came up with some more, not to mention some of the most inane and ludicrous multiple-player cards known to mankind ..."

And finally this indictment of 1982 Topps:

"The now famous (or maybe it's infamous) hockey stick design on the front, coupled with an almost unreadable back done in dark blue on dark green, makes this set one of the all-time losers."

Harsh. But funny.

Here is the story about 1970 Topps. I like the story because it mentions how unappreciated and "drab" the 1970 set is, but that it paved the way for the other sets of the '70s, incorporating some things like large set size (the 1970 set was the largest one Topps had put out at the time) that would become standard.

Most issues featured a "What's New" section with the various cards that had come out since the last issue. These are now-familiar items of the mid-1980s (although I was late to the party with many of these given my semi-hiatus at the time).

The article also mentions the giant 3-D cards that I didn't know about for decades until getting the Fernando Valenzuela one.

The "What's New" article is very similar to what blogging is today. Unless you're one of the blogs that deals solely in vintage. And there's nothing wrong with that at all.

1965 Topps. Third set in this issue's card trilogy. Of 1955, 1970 and 1965, this is my favorite, and why I am skipping right over 2013 Heritage and getting ready for 2014.

Finally, we come to the back of the magazine, which always listed the upcoming card shows. There are four pages of them in this issue.

Like I said before, I would look at these in hopes that there would be a show somewhere close to me. But there never was. Lots of stuff for people in NYC and New Jersey and Long Island, but nothing near me.

However, this Clayton, N.Y., dateline jumped out at me. I didn't know where Clayton was at the time, but today it's an annual stop on my card show list. The Thousand Islands Stamp, Coin, Postcard and Collectibles Show is still going strong and will be as long as rich people vacation in the Thousand Islands.

I'll be there again this July. For a recap, here is the best card I bought at each show for the last 3 years:

2009: 2004 Donruss Playoff Honors Hideo Nomo jersey card.

2010: 1951 Bowman Don Newcombe.

2011: 1954 Topps Gil Hodges.

Not a bad little show.

So that's the end of the last issue of my three-year long subscription to Baseball Cards magazine.

But it's not the end of these posts. I'm not going in chronological order, so I know there are at least a couple other issues that I haven't featured.

My scanner isn't happy about that. But he doesn't have a say.