Friday, November 30, 2012

Despite what you see here, I'm still mad at Topps

A few weeks ago, Topps announced the release of a product that kind of set me off. The $100, online-only, limited-edition, god-help-us-if-this-is-the-wave-of-the-future Heritage High Numbers set threw me into full rant rage, and I basically swore off collecting current Topps product for 2013.

Then I turned around and obtained the Dodgers from that dirty set. Rod from Padrographs grabbed a box of Heritage High Numbers and sold off cards from it in a team break. It cost me under 5 dollars to get the Dodgers, plus a few other cards that are already coming in handy.

You may wonder why I'd buy cards from a set that annoys me so.

Well, that's easy. First, I'm a Dodger collector. I see a Dodger card, I want it. It's kind of like when a dog hears bacon sizzling. There's no thinking involved. Get bacon. What's to explain?

Second, the set was already purchased by someone else. In my ideal world, no one would buy any of the sets, and Topps would head crawling home with its cynical business model tail between its legs. But I have no control over that, and I wholeheartedly back collectors buying whatever they want.

Third, I threw down a few less-than-cost bucks for cards I would've found eventually because of that whole dog-bacon thing.

So don't think that just because you see these cards here, that I'll be trying to complete 2013 Heritage or any other Topps set next year. Nope. Still mad at ya, Topps.

Can't say the cards I got are softening me up much either:

There's a fine collection of contributors, eh? Every time I think about a Juan Uribe card costing anyone $1, I consider how much I'd go into debt starting up my own card company.

But aside from the whole less-than-stellar group of players there is the greater question of presentation.

The images are just brutal. What's with all the space above the heads of Capuano, Jansen and Lilly? It looks like someone jerked the camera (not crazy about the cement wall backdrop behind Capuano either).

And then there's the card stock, which I think is a significant gesture of apathy on Topps' part. Heritage is almost completely about the cardboard. The stock used with Heritage is and always has been terrific. It evokes memories of true cardboard cards gone by, and really is THE reason that a lot of people collect Heritage.

But the stock with these cards is thinner and slicker, bordering on what Archives was printed on earlier this year.

That ain't good. For a buck a card? One hundred dollars a set?

If you're going to sell something for that price, there has to be a bigger selling point than "limited availability" or an autograph of Garrett Jones. Quality is important.

Isn't that obvious? Why am I even mentioning it?

At any rate, staring at these cards, just reinforced what I said before. No modern cards for me in 2013, outside of trying out a random pack or two.

Here are a few more cards that Rod sent:

Just some samplings from 2012.

You know, the last year that I tried to complete a modern Topps set.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

C.A.: 1995 Topps Cyberstats Tom Candiotti

("Don't bother me. It's Thursday." I think I'll make that my outgoing message on my voice mail. So. Much. Crap. But I figured out a way to squeeze in a Cardboard Appreciation! This is the 166th in a series):

I have heard some collectors complain about Topps' Cyberstats series from 1995. One even said it was "awful."

That threw me because I always thought they were cool. Sure, all the stats are fake. Not real at all. And I'm someone that likes reality. But mathematically projecting someone's stats is good, clean fun. We all like to see what "might have happened."

I think it was particularly important during this time. A lot of people were mad at baseball in 1995. The strike had just wiped out the last third of the season and the World Series. Frank Thomas, Matt Williams and the Montreal Expos got screwed. (Often forgotten is that the Dodgers could've made the playoffs for the first time in six seasons that year). Everyone was disgusted.

A lot of people quit collecting baseball cards. For a long time. I was one of those people, although not really because of the work stoppage.

So, Topps decided to have a little fun. On both its Cyberstats parallels and Stadium Club Virtual Reality parallels, it extrapolated a player's season to give fans some "closure" with some fake final stats. The stats didn't replace the actual stats. You could still get a player's base card with the real live stats. This was something extra. Something fun. And with what was going on in baseball then, who couldn't use a little fun?

I like the parallels a lot.

With this Candiotti one, I'm down to needing two more of the Dodgers. These are all that are left:

#48 - Ismael Valdez
#239 - Omar Daal

See what you can do.

The Candiotti card came from Charlie at Lifetime Topps. He sent me a boatload of needs off my want list, including a whole bunch of parallels like the Candiotti card.

Some other parallels from 1995.

Personally, I would've made the base set silver and the parallel set blue, instead of what SP actually did that year. But we all know how important silver and gold was to card companies in the 1990s.

Parallels from the year before.

Electric Diamond!!!

And just to show you that parallels will never die, here are three of the many, many parallels from 2012 product.

And one more from this year's Goodwin. My first card of the man that owned the Dodgers during the early 20th century.

I've seen horrible versions of these black border cards coming out of boxes chipped everywhere. This one is actually chip free.

But Lifetime Topps didn't just stick to parallels.

He practically cleaned out my wants in the 2005 SPx team set. I had never seen a card from this set until this package arrived.

An early Russell Martin card. Martin is currently shopping his services, hoping no one will notice his continuing decline and that he won't be hitting in a bandbox ballpark next season.

It's been a long time since I've received a Orel Hershiser card that I've needed. Keep them coming.

Here are two of Hershiser's '94 SP friends.

And, finally, the face of the current Dodgers ownership that is going to buy and sell everything in MLB about 90 times over when it's all said and done.

Isn't it grand?

And while I'm on the Dodgers' greatness. Happy 85th birthday, Vin.


I don't suppose I have any chance of getting this card:

But I will settle for this one:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The best Dodger cards ever made countdown: 40-31

In my line of work, "context" is important. I'm not merely referring to sports figures who try to pass blame by claiming "I was taken out of context." I'm referring to "news value." Whether something is "news" or not has a lot to do with "context." When, what, where, why, who, etc., etc. You know the drill.

But a lot of people do not. I don't know how many times I've had to explain to someone why we did a certain story or why we didn't do a certain story. It all has to do with "context," and often the response I get back is a blank look or silence on the other end of the line.

This countdown has a lot to do with context as far as the cards I've picked. It's not merely the way the card looks. Although that does have a lot to do with it, if I was doing this countdown based solely on "look," there would be much different cards. It'd either be a countdown of all MOJO MAD HITZZZZZZZ or a bunch of cards from 1956.

But it's not that way. I've mentioned several times the reason for picking the card had to do with what was going on that the time, or where the player was at during that time. Sometimes that is what makes a card great.

And sometimes, it's just because the Card Looks Awesome.

You see? I can go either way.

As you'll see in this latest edition of the countdown.

Time for cards 40 through 31. Plus a little context:

40. Dave Lopes, 1976 Topps

Lots of reasons to place this card where I did. First, it is an iconic mustache card. I can't even think of what else would qualify as an iconic mustache card because I'm looking at this card and all I see is mustache. I am lost in mustache, in a totally heterosexual way. It's quite possible Lopes is actually smiling in this card (though I doubt it), but you'd never know. Throw in the fact that Lopes was coming off a tremendous, record-breaking season, and that Topps made him the last card in the set (something of a place of honor), and Davey is at No. 40.

39. Bob Welch, 1979 Topps

I have already made the case for this possibly being the greatest rookie card of all-time. That pretty much sums up why it's on this countdown. But the short version is: Game 2. World Series. Reggie Jackson. Two on. Two out. Ninth Inning. Whiiiffffffffffffffff. And five months later Welch's first baseball card appeared in packs.

38. Don Newcombe, 1956 Topps

I'm losing a bit of objectivity here because this card was probably the first BIG card I ever landed. But Newcombe isn't too shabby all by himself. Right at this time, he was at his absolute peak. In 1955, he went 20-5, led the league in WHIP (although no one knew it at the time) and finished seventh in MVP voting. In 1956, he went 27-7, led the league in WHIP again, and finished first in the Cy Young AND MVP voting.

That's context. You received mad props if you pulled this card in 1956. But no one said that then either. Or now, for that matter.

37. Ralph Branca, 1951 Bowman

More context. The most famous thing Branca ever did was give up a home run to Bobby Thomson in a playoff game. It was once the most famous postseason home run ever hit (as the years go by, it seems like the most famous postseason HR is getting to be Kirk Gibson). That happened in 1951, when this card came out. Oh, and 1951 Bowman happens to LOOK fantastic. So there's that, too.

36. Clayton Kershaw, 2009 Topps Allen & Ginter

The runner-up for my Card of the Year in '09, a lot of people wanted this card No. 1. I can appreciate that, although this particular pose has been used a lot, going back at least to the early '90s. But the angle that the photo was taken, the cropping, and the positioning of the ball, seems to make it extra special. I think. Or maybe it's just because Kershaw is my favorite current player.

35. Steve Garvey, 1972 Topps

More personal bias coming in -- sorry. This is the first big purchase I ever made at a card show. In fact, it was at my first card show. After I made that purchase, the card just kept going up in price, because it is a 1972 Topps high number and because it was the 1980s and every card went bananas. Having this card was a big point of pride for me -- probably the first moment in which I thought "I have an expensive card that other people want." It's also Garvey's second-year card, which means a little something.

34. Kirk Gibson, 2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces

Speaking of Gibby, here he is! One of the most classic celebration moments frozen in time on a baseball card. You can't beat that. Gibson has been featured on cards trotting around the bases before and since this card came out. But Masterpieces did it with a style that makes it stand out over all others. Or almost all others. Stay tuned.

33. Fernando Valenzuela, 1981 Topps Traded

So, there was this guy named Fernando who pitched five shutouts in the first two months of his rookie year. People went absolutely ballistic over him throughout the world. But there weren't hardly any cards of him. There was a three-player thing that Topps put out with him sharing space with some guys named Perconte and Scioscia. That was pretty good, but not good enough. Then Topps announced that they were going to produce a "Traded Set." And that set would have a card of Valenzuela. Unfortunately, you could only get the set via mail order and that prevented me from obtaining the card for like 25 years. And that's about how long I longed for the card before FINALLY landing it. It's a beauty.

32. Fernand(o) Valenzuela, 1981 Fleer

OK, which way you wanna go here? Fleer managed to produce the only solo card of Valenzuela in 1981. That's a point for Fleer. But the name is screwed up. That's a point taken from Fleer.

In the end, it's just too important that someone made a solo card of Valenzuela that came out during his amazing 1981 season. And that is worthy of honoring, despite the typo. Plus the photo really captures Valenzuela's quiet, somewhat confused look, which he wore just about the entire 1981 season.

31. Carl Furillo, 1957 Topps

I'm one of those collectors who isn't crazy about the 1957 set. Dull design. Lots of dark, drab photos. But, damn, for its time? They had to be fascinating to collectors. Full-color photos. For every player. For the first time. The Brooklyn Dodgers cards in this set look particularly great, just because they're the BROOKLYN DODGERS. And they played in EBBETS FIELD, which is where a lot of the Dodger photos in this set were taken. Add the fact that it's Carl Furillo and that he's carrying THREE BATS, and you've got card No. 31.

And that's another 10 cards down.

A little context there. But some cool-looking cards, too.

And 100 percent Dodgers.

Which is the best part.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A mini miracle

It's no secret that my ultimate goal in collecting -- as of 7:52 p.m., Nov. 27, 2012 -- is to complete the 1975 Topps mini set, the set that reminds me of the pinnacle of my childhood more than any other set in existence.

There is no doubt in my mind that I will eventually complete that goal. And when it happens, it will be a true miracle in a cardboard sense, just because I'm the type of collector who prefers less challenging tasks.

In the meantime, I am content with mini miracles such as this one: on Saturday I completed the 2011 Topps Lineage '75 minis tribute parallel set.

Yup. I did something I never thought I'd ever do. I polished off a 200-card parallel/insert set.

I realize that the Lineage minis are not 1975 Topps. You don't have to tell a guy who bought '75 minis at the corner grocery store in 1975 that. Lineage minis have those horrible card backs. The team font is all wrong. The "Topps Lineage" watermark is annoying. And they spell out "2nd Base" so it reads "Second Baseman." I know all that.

But the set was still interesting enough and unique enough that it captured my interest enough to actually consider completing it. It took just over a year to do so, which really isn't close to how long I thought it would take.

A few weeks ago, I was down to needing five cards to finish the set. Then the Cal Ripken card you see here popped up on Listia. I won the card and I took that as a sign.

It was time to get the four remaining cards.

In my recent COMC binge, I found all four. Here they are (thank goodness there was no super short-print mini. That would have killed the whole project for me).

I now have all 200 cards in a nice, tidy stack. I thought about displaying them all here for you to prove that I had them all. But since there are NO PAGES FOR THESE SIZE CARDS (or none that I've found yet), trying to scan all those mini-sized cards was too much of a pain.

But that doesn't mean I didn't go through some effort for you. We must pay proper tribute.

The best way to do that for me -- the color geek -- is the separate the cards into their respective colors and do a breakdown. You can expect the usual trashing on Topps for not using some of the original '75 designs or for bollocksing up some of the color combos. You know. The fun stuff.

So here is the breakdown. Enjoy.


Total cards: 31
Most distinguishing feature: more cards of this color combo than any other in the set.
Most disturbing card with this color combo: The Sandy Koufax card in which he's wearing a jersey that says "Los Angeles" but his cap says "B" as in Brooklyn.
Noted players on this combo in the '75 set: Tony Perez, Carl Yastrzemski, John "Blue Moon" Odom.
Favorite card in this color-combo:

Carlton Fisk

Love a '70s crowd in the background.

Other nice cards with this color combo: Ty Cobb, Bert Blyleven, Ichiro Suzuki, Stephen Strasburg, Willie McCovey.
Dodgers in this color combo: Sandy Koufax.
Least favorite card with this color combo: Andruw Jones.


Total cards: 22
Most distinguishing feature: As the "day baseball design (blue sky/green grass)," you feel right at the ballpark -- although that red sun is a little alarming.
Most disturbing card with this color-combo: Dan Haren with a wide-open field behind him and not a soul in sight. Nothing about the background looks real.
Noted players with this combo in the '75 set: Willie McCovey, Garry Maddox, Don Sutton, Willie Horton.
Favorite card in this color-combo:

Bob Gibson

Gibby almost always wins.

Other nice cards with this color-combo: Frank Robinson, Yovani Gallardo, Adrian Beltre.
Dodgers in this color combo: Jackie Robinson.
Least favorite card with this color combo: Mark Teixeira.


Total cards: 21
Most distinguishing feature: Lots of retired players in this combo. Tris Speaker, Ozzie Smith, Al Kaline, Cy Young, John Smoltz, White Ford.
Most disturbing card with this color combo: Seeing a '75-style card that says "SPIDERS" across the top is just weird.
Noted players with this combo in the '75 set: Steve Stone, Jorge Orta.
Favorite card in this color-combo:

Tris Speaker

It's nice to see Topps break out of its '50s rut with some of its old-timey players.

Other nice cards with this color-combo: Thurman Munson, Al Kaline.
Dodgers in this color combo: None
Least favorite card with this color combo: (tie) Alex Rodriguez/Brandon Belt.


Total cards: 20
Most distinguishing feature: Probably my least favorite color-combo both here and in '75 Topps.
Most disturbing card in this color-combo: The Roy Campanella has never been my favorite. The old-style, washed-out colorization doesn't work.
Noted players with this combo in the '75 set: Tom Seaver, Bucky Dent, Bake McBride, Ron Santo, Ed Kranepool, Willie Davis
Favorite card in this this color combo:

Ryne Sandberg

Only because of Lenny Harris sliding in.

Other nice cards with this color combo: Nolan Ryan, Dustin Pedroia, Monte Irvin.
Dodgers in this combo: Campanella.
Least favorite card in this combo: Willie McCovey.


Total cards: 18 (actually, 19, as you'll see later).
Most distinguishing feature: Mike Schmidt features the green-yellow combo just like he did in the 1975 set. There aren't a lot of those matches -- if any (I haven't looked).
Most disturbing feature: More freaky colorization with Walter Johnson. Looks like a painting.
Noted players with this combo in the '75 set: Claudell Washington, Billy Williams, Sal Bando, Mike Schmidt, Bobby Bonds.
Favorite card in this combo:

Tony Perez

Always loved this picture. There is really something special about color photos of '60s players.

Other nice cards with this color-combo: Albert Belle, Joe Morgan (as an Astro)
Dodgers in this combo: None
Least favorite card in this combo: Miguel Montero. Squeezing "Diamondbacks" into this font is just wrong (something to think about with 2013 Heritage).


Total cards: 18
Most distinguishing feature: The tan color is not quite right -- if Topps was going for the color used in '75. It looks so orange that in a previous post I confused it as an "orange-blue" combination, which Topps didn't use in 1975.
Most disturbing feature: Add the above to the fact that the tan-blue combination in the 1975 set used RED team names instead of yellow, and I'm totally confused now.
Noted players with this combo in the '75 set: Randy Jones, Mickey Rivers, Rick Reuschel.
Favorite card in this combo: 

Andre Dawson

He honest-to-goodness looks like he's going to kill someone in this photo.

Other nice cards with this color combo: Johnny Bench, Carlos Santana.
Dodgers in this combo: None.
Least favorite card in this combo: Ryan Braun.


Total cards: 16
Most distinguishing feature: I have the urge to break into the My Little Pony theme song every time I see this color combination.
Most disturbing feature: Me singing "My Little Pony."
Notable players with this combo in the '75 set: Ron LeFlore, Frank Robinson, Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro, Ted Simmons, Dave Winfield, Thurman Munson.
Favorite card in this color-combo:

Adam Jones

Just a nice night-time shot of Jones settling under a fly ball.

Other nice cards in this combo: Duke Snider, Jason Heyward, Adrian Gonzalez.
Dodgers in this combo: Snider.
Least favorite card in this combo: Honus Wagner. Another still-life.


Total cards: 14
Most distinguishing feature: The combination I find the most garish in the 1975 set.
Most disturbing feature: How bored I am of Mickey Mantle cards, even in '75 mini form.
Notable players with this combo in the '75 set: Cecil Cooper, Hal McRae, George Brett, David Clyde.
Favorite card in this combo:

Andre Ethier

My Dodger bias is showing.

Other nice cards in this combo: Prince Fielder, Babe Ruth.
Least favorite card in this combo: Mickey Mantle.


Total cards: 14
Most distinguishing feature: Probably the loudest and most memorable color combination from the 1975 set.
Most disturbing feature: That there aren't more pink-yellow cards in this set.
Notable players with this combo in the '75 set: Lou Brock, Vida Blue, Sparky Lyle, Oscar Gamble, Graig Nettles, George Foster, Tug McGraw.
Favorite card in this combo:

Jim Palmer

Lot of good ones in this combo, but have to go with the spectacular wind-up.

Other nice cards with this combo: Hank Aaron, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols.
Dodgers in this combo: Chad Billingsley.
Least favorite card in this combo: Madison Bumgarner.


Total cards: 14
Most distinguishing feature: This was one of my favorite combinations back in '75 just because it seems to be the bizarro version of the combination used with the all-star cards in 1975. Everything is the same, except with red borders on top and yellow borders on the bottom. Oh, and no giant star.
Most disturbing feature: Look at all that acreage above "Diamondbacks" on Upton's card. That's awful.
Notable players with this combo in the '75 set: Bob Gibson, Frank Tanana, Rick Burleson.
Favorite card in this combo:

Eddie Murray

It pains me not to choose Kemp, but I gravitated toward Murray as soon as I saw it.

Other nice cards with this combo: Matt Kemp, Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench.
Dodgers in this combo: Kemp.
Least favorite card in this combo: Matt Cain.


Total cards: 9
Most distinguishing feature: This combination did not exist in 1975 Topps.
Most disturbing feature: What was Topps trying to do here? The orange used is the same color that's used with the "tan" combinations, so I suppose it could be considered "yellow-tan," but that combination didn't exist in '75 Topps either. What could have worked is if the orange was actually red because "yellow-red" was a combination in 1975 Topps.

Tsk, tsk, Topps.

Notable players with this combination in '75 Topps: NONE.
Favorite card in this combo:

Clayton Kershaw

But of course.

Other nice cards in this combo: Stan Musial, Shin-Soo Choo.
Least favorite card in this combo: Roy Halladay. Nothing against the guy, it's just so boring.


Total cards: 2.
Most distinguishing feature: There are only two cards. Considering the orange-brown combination was used as often as any other in the 1975 set -- 55 times -- it's very weird that there are only two cards in this set with that combo.
Most disturbing feature: See above.
Notable players with this combo in '75 set: Boog Powell, Mike Marshall, Jim Palmer, Tony Oliva, Vada Pinson, Ken Griffey, Bill Buckner, Robin Yount, Dave Kingman, Bill Madlock, Tommy John.
Favorite card in this combo: With just two to choose from, I'll say "pass."
Other nice cards in this combo: You're looking at them.
Dodgers in this combo: None.
Least favorite card in this combo: Pass.


The final two cards don't fit with any of the combinations.

Evan Longoria would have gone with the rest of the green-yellow bordered cards, but his team name is yellow instead of red.

Andre Dawson would have gone with the rest of the tan-blue cards except that he is featuring the proper red letters that went with the tan-blue combo in the 1975 set, and featuring a dark blue bottom border that was not featured in the 1975 set nor any of the Lineage '75 minis.

Dawson will not be defined!

So there you go. That's the breakdown of the whole set.

My next mission with these cards is to somehow somewhere find a place that has pages to fit these cards (P.S.: The pages the fit late '40s/early '50s Bowman and '80s stickers do not fit the '75 mini cards). As I mentioned before, they DID exist at one time. I have the printed advertisement as proof.

But this set deserves a binder, and a binder it will have.

As will my complete set of 1975 Topps minis, when I get there.

By the way, I didn't forget them in my COMC purchase.

I'm coming for you next, original 1975 minis.

Oh yeah, one other thing: