Saturday, August 31, 2013

My pathetic LCS recollection

Yesterday I read It's Like Having My Own Card Shop explain the reasoning for his blog name. (He's having a contest, check it out). It was a tale of a glorious childhood in which there were five card shops within 10 minutes of his home.

He used to spend hours at the card shop. But later, as we've all experienced, life took over and the number of card shops dwindled, and now we're all online trying to recapture that local card shop experience.

Well, some of us are anyway.

I'm not, because I never had that card shop experience.

This is probably why I have had so much trouble with my current card shop in the past and with most card shops that I have encountered. But I know this is a very, very, very small sample size because quite honestly, I've never been in a situation that was described by Daniel in It's Like Having My Own Card Shop.

My childhood LCS experience was limited to one visit to one card shop.

I grew up in a small city about 3 hours from where I live now. As kids, a card shop wasn't even a thought. The corner store and the drug store in the strip mall were your outlets for baseball cards. My friends and the kids at school traded and displayed cards that they bought at Paul's Market or Rexall Drugs.

Later, when I was a little older and wiser about cards, I began to hear about a card shop in the next town over, Johnson City. My brother and I really wanted to get there, but neither of us drove and the next town over might as well have been Chicago for us.

Eventually, we convinced our dad to take a drive over there. He waited in the car while we went into the store. It was in a small, one-story nondescript building, connected to another store front that sold flowers or haircuts or, I don't know, there were baseball cards in the other store!!!!!!

We walked into the store, which was small inside, too (that means it must have been very, very small because you know how things seem bigger when you're a kid). I don't remember much except impressions.

The main overriding impression was that we weren't wanted there.

I remember the counter being very high up, it was up one level from where the customers stood. It was a long glass case, almost the entire length of the store, and we had to strain to see what was up on top of the counter -- lord knows we couldn't afford what was in the glass case.

I knew immediately that I couldn't buy anything and that packs seemed to be nonexistent (keep in mind this was probably somewhere in the late '70s, long before autographs, relics, refractors, etc.). The guy behind the counter seemed almost disgusted that we were there. This is why "comic book guy" on the Simpsons cracked me up from the instant he showed up on my TV (even though there were no comic books in the store), and why I know my experience is not unique.

My younger brother, though, was a little more daring and he asked about some card or another. It took awhile for him to get the guy's attention and when he finally did, the guy was dismissive during the entire transaction. I don't remember what my brother bought. I'm sure it was Red Sox-related.

After that, I never went into that card shop again. We would drive past it periodically and laugh about how we were treated. But there was always a little longing in those laughs. Years later, when I was going to a community college, I'd drive that way to school. I noticed that the building was painted a different color (it was purple) and the card shop wasn't there anymore.

That experience made me a little gun shy around card shops, and it's taken years to get rid of that feeling. It's a lot like being in a bar for the first time that is filled with regulars and trying to get the attention of the bartender for a drink.

During a visit to Buffalo a few years ago, I discovered there was a card shop not far from where I was. I made the drive over and it was filled with cardboard glory. Cards everywhere. Disorganized, sure. But almost everything you could want. "THIS," I thought. "Must be what people are talking about."

The owner was pretty young and extremely helpful. I got the impression that he was desperately trying to compete with Dave and Adam's Card World, which you all know and which is based in Buffalo with a number of "brick-and-mortar" stores in the area.

Unfortunately, I've never gone back. My trips to Buffalo are packed and it's hard to get away to places like that. I hope it's still there. But I doubt it is.

The card shop in my town, which I've addressed many times, is a shell of what it once was, and even that wasn't great. I always felt like an outsider when I walked in there and talked to people, and I always felt like they were trying to get me to buy something more expensive than what I wanted.

I know there are nice card shops out there. I read about them almost every day on the blogs. But basically the best time I've ever had with cards was not in a card shop. It was here.

But that's a lot of writing about a sad story and a lot of writing without any cards.

So here are a couple of items that Weston of Fantastic Catch sent me:

You guys are my card shop.

And most of you are a lot friendlier than that guy in the store in Johnson City. And comic book guy.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Celebrating a mail off with a mini-off

I broke through August austerity to mail off a select few (re: three) packages today. I really shouldn't have done it. It looks like August austerity will stretch half way into September now. But sometimes you gotta live mas, as the TV zombies say.

To celebrate, I pulled out the other half of the package that Robert sent me. It was several minis from this year's Allen & Ginter, which I really appreciate because it's been too long since I've added anything to the frankenset binder.

Just a few hours ago, I had great fun going through the binder and holding a mini-off, deciding which minis get to reside in such exclusive company and which will be destined for trades or eternal box banishment.

I'd like to relive that for you now. But before I do, I want to say that I think the minis with this year's A&G design (horizontal cards excluded) look terrific. Possibly the best-looking A&G minis ever.

OK, here we go:

First, the minis that gain entrance because there was no one blocking their path.

#59 - Joey Votto

Not a great card at all. But I'm happy to have Votto join the party.

#302 - Brandon McCarthy

McCarthy gets lucky because he's a short-print. I don't take kindly to snakes.

#349 - Jason Dufner

Another short-print, of the PGA champ.

I gladly give Dufner a place of honor, not just because of his title, but because of his lovely betrothed. I'm not the first one to say this in regard to the Dufners' recent marriage, but as a somewhat dopey-looking person myself who managed to marry well out of his league through apparent charm -- holy, smokin' smokin' daaaaaammmn!

You rock on, bud.

OK, now for a little competition.

#19 - Bobby Doerr, A&G back


#19 - Bob Knight, 2012 A&G

In a battle of the Bobbys, Doerr wins easily. First, he's a ball player and Knight is a coach. Secondly, Doerr is an old-time ballplayer who doesn't appear on a lot of modern cards. Third, I can't get myself to not see Knight choking someone in this photo. Fourth, well, I'll just say it, Knight's a jerk.

#150 - Reggie Jackson, regular back


#150 - Grady Sizemore, 2010 A&G

This is not the most flattering photo of Reggie Jackson. Speaking of dopey, Reggie looks like a Fat Albert cartoon character on this card. But I do appreciate him being featured as an Oakland A. And that is more than enough to defeat Sizemore, who could be working in construction now for all I know.

#338 - Marco Scutaro, black border


#338 - Lance Berkman, 2011 A&G

This is not a difficult choice, I don't care what you say. Scutaro is the luckiest baseball player in at least 30 years for what happened last year. Think Bucky Dent, 1978. And for selling his soul to the devil, he and the Giants are paying for it this year. I don't even see the black border (which I might add aren't as nice as I thought they would be. I'm all for the return for the solid black border -- I missed it these last couple of years -- but the art-deco design makes it look cheapish to me).

Berkman, although he's a Cardinal here, wins easily.

#98 - Darryl Strawberry


#98 - Johnny Cueto, 2010 black border

I'm going with Cueto. This one hurts a little. But just a little. I like my players from the '80s much better than I like present-day players. But if you knew how much heckling I gave Darryl back then, there's no way you'd want me to forget that. And then that whole fiasco with the Dodgers. Plus, I can find a Strawberry card in my collection in half a second. His cardboard isn't exactly rare.

Besides, I got to send mini Strawberry to Max today.

#290 - Eddie Murray, A&G back


#290 - Cat Osterman, 2009 A&G

Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, OW!!!!!! Oh, the pain of making this decision! The paiiiiiiin!!!! Arrrrrgggggghhhhhh.

Eddie? Cat? Eddie? Cat?

OK, OK, It's Cat. I'm going with Cat! CAT! ............ CAT!

Again, I have lots of Eddie cards (he played for the Dodgers, too, you know). This is my only card of the lovely Cat, a very sought-after card in 2009, by the way. I wish to goodness Murray could replace one of the stupid Yankees I have in this binder, but the frankenset never shows any mercy.

So, Eddie will probably be on its way to my good buddy Commish Bob someday when mailing is back in full force again. Scutaro is ready to head to Adam's new residence. As for Sizemore and Knight, I'll save them for mr. haverkamp.

Thanks for celebrating my mail-off with me.

I can't wait for the day when a trip to the post office is drudgery again.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

'56 of the month: Dave Pope

Welcome to the most beat-up 1956 Topps card in my collection.

It may not look all that trashy to you lovers of off-condition vintage, but it is rather out of step with the rest of my '56s, and that's interesting to me.

This is why:

I am usually something of a condition snob. I like my cards to look as reasonably presentable as possible. I will never be interested in graded cards, but I like cards that look new.

The exception to this rule is anything pre-1960s.

I have very few stipulations for allowing pre-60s cards into my collection. They can have paper loss, pin holes, pencil marks, whatever. I only draw the line at major stains, large portions of the card missing, or if I sense smells emanating from said card.

Normally, the well-loved nature of this Dave Pope card wouldn't faze me in the least. It fits the pattern of many of the cards that I own from the 1950s.

Pope, unfortunately, is a victim of the company he keeps.

In other words, he is an exception to exception.

But first a closer look at what makes this Dave Pope card so beat up:

And here is the binder page in which he resides:

It's a bit difficult to tell unless you click on the image, but the other cards on this page are a lot less worn than the Pope card. They're 60-year-old cards, so none of them are perfect, but except for some worn corners and scuffing these are as nice as you could want.

And this is the situation that Pope has gotten himself into.

The vast majority of my 1956 Topps cards came from my dad's work friend when I was a teenager. I've mentioned it before and several times subsequently. Around 75 percent of those cards -- even though they were 30 years old at the time -- were in ideal shape when I got them. Slight wear and that's it. It still boggles my mind that someone who collected cards in the '50s managed to protect those cards in such a manner while everyone else was feeding them to their bicycle or gluing them in a book. And I'm eternally grateful.

But oh, poor Mr. Pope.

Consistency is a big part of my collecting. Why do you think the wide variety of relic styles in this year's Allen & Ginter annoy me so? In the event that I achieve my very unrealistic goal of completing the 1956 Topps set, I would like it to be as consistent condition-wise as possible.

A beat-up Ted Williams card or Jackie Robinson card I can handle. I'll have to handle it. I won't have a choice.

But Pope isn't Williams or Robinson.

I feel a bit like the privileged rich kid who won't drive his dad's Ferrari because it's not the right color. But after receiving one-third of the set in tip-top shape, I've tried to find cards that match that pattern and I won't stray from it unless the name on the card is also listed on a plaque in the Hall of Fame.

So what's that mean for Pope?

An upgrade, probably. But I'm in no hurry. It's been 30 years since I first acquired the card, I can wait another 30 with barely a concern.

Rest easy, sir.

I suppose I should tell you something about him before I go.

Pope was coming off his best year in the major leagues in his first year with the Orioles, who obtained him in a mid-season trade with the Indians. In 1955, Pope enjoyed his only season with more than 100 games played. He also played in three games of the 1954 World Series when the Indians played the Giants.

Pope was known as an aggressive fielder who wasn't afraid to slam into walls. After a year in the Negro Leagues, he was signed in 1950 by Hank Greenberg, who was an Indians scout then. Pope played in the majors until 1956 and the minors until 1961. He died in 1999.

One final thing:

His signature always looked like "Davey Lopes" to me.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Must. Rip. Pack.

It has been 19 days since I bought a pack of cards or even a single card. This may not seem like a long time to some collectors. And I'll bet it definitely seems like an insignificant time to any noncollector who is now pointing and laughing at the previous sentence.

But I know there are some sympathizers out there who ... um, sympathize.

Trust me, it's not something I enjoy going through. I'll admit the first week or so is nothing. But after two weeks, you start noticing that there are no new cards around and that you haven't felt the sensation of wrappers crinkling for many, many, many,  minutes. Then comes the longing, the sense of entitlement, the whining and moaning. I'm generally just an overgrown teenager right now. It's tragic.

So when Robert of $30 a Week Habit sent me a rack pack of Allen & Ginter, I shoved aside all the other cards and packages that people had sent me long before this rack pack arrived -- screw THEM, I said in my best teenager voice -- and prepared to open it up right here on this blog.

I know you've all seen Allen & Ginter until your eyes have bled. I know Gint-a-Cuffs is still torturing someone somewhere. I don't care. I HAVEN'T RIPPED A PACK OF CARDS IN 19 DAYS!!!!!!!

Let's see what's in this baby.

#103 - Bronson Arroyo, Reds

Weee. Horizontal. Not the way to start.

#206 - Tony Perez, Reds

Ah, you catch on quick. Yes, this will be a Reds-centric pack. I'd have more respect for Topps if they put Perez in an Expos uniform.

#81 - Al Kaline, Tigers

Please, please, please tell me Kaline's hands aren't in his pants. His hands aren't in his pants. His hands aren't in his pants.

#102 - Ian Kinsler, Rangers

This is an odd little card because the white part of the bat blends in with Kinsler's uniform so that you have no idea what he's doing.

#236 - Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays

I got nothing.

#59 - Joey Votto, Reds, regular-back mini

More Reds. I like Votto and I hope he makes it into my frankenset binder. But a horizontal card is a disservice to this fine player.

ATY-DW - David Wright, Across the Years insert

Eeesh. I hate it when inserts I don't collect take the place of a short-printed base card.

#90 - Jon Lester, Red Sox

More horizontal. I don't even see them anymore.

#186 - Andy Pettitte, Yankees

I swear I looked at this card and wondered if Pettitte was still pitching. That's how much I've paid attention to the Yankees this year. It also looks like Pettitte is tired and wants to go home.

#247 - Ryan Howard, Phillies

What? Did I just get a card? I didn't see anything. Nope, I guess there wasn't a card.

#26 - Elvis Andrus, Rangers

I hope you're noticing something that I'm noticing. Besides all the crankiness about horizontal cards, I mean.

#310 - Brandon Phillips, Reds, SP

Yup. That is Red #4. One base card. One legend. One mini. One SP.

#42 - Jackie Robinson, Dodgers, regular-back mini

Joy, joy, joy! (enjoy it before it's blocked).

MM-GD - Gladiators, Martial Mastery insert

After pulling that Robinson mini, I most certainly feel as if I stepped on the neck of this particular rack pack!

Now, onto the thing you may have noticed:

Except for the Gladiators card, that was an ENTIRE ALLEN & GINTER RACK PACK OF BASEBALL PLAYERS ONLY! It's too bad gladiator had to spoil it. I was going to send it to Ripley.

Robert sent me a couple other A&G items, including this Koufax card encased in a very nifty red-bordered top loader:

I need to get some more of those color-bordered top loaders

But I'm going to save the other cards for some other time.

For now, I just thank him for quieting the pack-ripping demons for a couple of days.

At least THOSE voices in my head will be quiet.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Legend of cardboard in the making

I've decided that indeed I have another series on this blog. "Legends of Cardboard" will one day soon take up residence in the tabs up top. This is going to make for some uncomfortable and unpopular decisions in the near future as I'll have to remove something that's already up there. But I'm ready for it. Besides, my blog, my rules.

As you might recall by the first Legend of Cardboard post, I am trying to reclaim the phrase "legend of cardboard" and define it properly. A "legend of cardboard" is not that all-star you looked up to when you were a kid, leafing through your bubblegum cards. That is a "legend of the game." A true "legend of cardboard" is a player who 10-to-15 years after they stopped playing would be totally forgotten by fans if not for their very memorable pictures on baseball cards.

These pictures rise above the average photo of their cardboard peers so much so that it's obvious that they have the talent for showcasing themselves on cardboard.

The first person honored as being a Legend of Cardboard was Carlos Hernandez, 1990s backup catcher for the Dodgers (and starting catcher for one shining moment with the '98 Padres).

I'm not ready to nominate another LOC yet. But I would like to take a look at someone who has the potential for LOC-dom.

It's David Murphy, a current outfielder for the Rangers.

When I saw his 2013 Allen & Ginter card that you see above (this is a pilfered scan, I don't have this card, I'm too poor for new cards, remember?), it just added to what could be his cardboard legend.

Sure, if this image had appeared on another card other than A&G, it would have looked a lot better. We all know how horribly A&G's design works with horizontal cards. Getting the complete look at Murphy's sprawling self would have given this photo a better chance.

But if you consider Murphy's 2013 Topps base card in conjunction with the A&G card, there is potential there.

That's one of the better cards of 2013, although I don't think Murphy is entirely successful here. The ball appears to be ricocheting somewhere off stage. Still, when you're showing effort in front of a giant scoreboard -- regardless of the fact that the Diamondbacks won -- you are moving toward Legend of Cardboard status.

Now combine those two cards with my favorite card of 2009:

The foil refuses to tell you, but that is indeed David Murphy exchanging low-fives with Josh Hamilton in front of the very spacious and way-too-majestic Rangers Ballpark at Arlington (it looks like a place where they stage gladiator battles).

Now those last two are two terrific cards of someone who isn't known a whole lot outside of the AL West.

I admit I'm not familiar with Murphy outside of seeing him in the playoffs periodically. I make a conscious effort not to follow American League baseball and will jump at the chance to see the Cubs play the Padres if the other choices are AL teams. Bud Selig is working very hard to eliminate that bias in me, but until the entire major leagues is one homogenized mess and we're playing the World Series in Singapore, I will continue to have limited knowledge of AL players.

That was a tangent. But, really, how many of us are going to remember Murphy 10 years after he's retired?

So with that, and those two great pieces of cardboard -- and one decent A&G card -- I think we definitely have something in the making.

Let's take a look at a few other Murphy cards:

This is a young Red Sox Murphy, back during the days when curtains on baseball cards were acceptable. I'm so glad this was a phase.

Not a bad card, but really nothing notable, especially when there was drapery everywhere in 2007.

Ugh. 2008. I'll tell you what should make Legend of Cardboard status -- a player who actually produced a decent card in 2008 Topps. (I know there are some, but there aren't many). This is not one of Murphy's finer cardboard moments.

Coming off of the stellar 2009 Topps card, this doesn't match up. But it's actually pretty good. Murphy seems to be an animated fellow and you can't argue with dust on a card. Not a characteristic shot and that's always a plus.

Murphy's 2011 and 2012 Topps base cards are sort of similar. Both show him pursuing a ball in the outfield (in the 2011 card, he's about to catch what appears to be a soft liner). This is another plus for Murphy because fielding action shots make for great cards.

I wouldn't call either 2011 or 2012 great cards for Murphy, but I'm talking body of work here and I think he has a chance.

I'll continue to review his cards and who knows? Maybe you'll see him added to the Legend of Cardboard in a couple of years.

Or longer. You know how slow things work around here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

King Vida

Good news kiddies! I've actually packaged up some cards for people! And they're sitting on a desk behind me right this very minute!

This means, of course, that I've found enough money for packaging supplies but not enough to actually ship them. I'm hopeful Friday will change that. We shall see.

But onto the other good news: we officially have our third inductee into the Cardboard Appreciation Hall of Fame! Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!! (yeah, I know. Too loud for a Monday).

As expected, 1971 Vida Blue waltzed peaceably into the Hall with zero challenge from the ghostly '74 Dave Kingman card. The vote totals in the finale:

1. 1971 Topps Vida Blue: 42 votes
2. 1974 Topps Dave Kingman: 15 votes
(57 total votes)

Well done, Vida.

I will add Blue's card to the Hall just as soon as I have a free moment. Thanks everyone for playing and voting. We'll do another round of Hall voting once I go through the proper amount of Cardboard Appreciations.

But this doesn't mean that this is the end to polls on the sidebar. Nope. We're going to keep going with Vida and polls and determine The Best Vida Blue Card of the '70s!!!

Blue was a big part of the '70s. From his outrageous rookie season to the crazy non-trade to the Yankees, Vida was all fun during that decade. A lot better than the coked-out Vida of the 1980s.

So I'd like to record his best card of the '70s here for posterity.

Blue actually didn't have a card of his own in 1970. He shared a rookie card with Gene Tenace:

This card doesn't qualify for the tournament. Just wanted you to have a look.

Here are the cards for which you will be placing a vote:

1971: But of course. This is the Cy Young year in which he won 24 games with a 1.82 ERA. Topps, anticipating such greatness I don't know how, produced a classic card to recognize the feat. It will be difficult to beat this card, given its recent entrance into the Cardboard Appreciation Hall of Fame.

1972: This is a pretty staid card considering it's the first one after Blue's epic rookie season. But, as always, looking at Oakland A's 1970s uniforms is a hoot, and we'll see a lot of them in this post.

By the way, I wanted to show Blue's In Action card from this year (it's not eligible either, though):

It looks like he has been alerted to a leaking seagull.

1973: Probably the card that will give '71 the biggest challenge. This is another one of those weirdly great '73 Topps cards. Blue's a bit too distant for someone who is the focus of the card, but it gives you a tremendous batter's-eye view.

I don't know who choked up on the bat like that for the Twins. Did Oliva do that? Cesar Tovar, perhaps? Sorry, I wasn't watching baseball until the late '70s.

1974: I get the impression that Blue was an expressive guy in his youth. That is one of the biggest smiles you'll see on a piece of cardboard. The shadow is pretty cool, too.

1975: Another terrific card. It is one of the most majestic in the entire 1975 set. It is also possibly the most colorful card of all-time. One day I am going to do a post on that and you will all be blinded by its brilliance and I'll suddenly lose all my readers because no one can see anymore. .... OK, maybe that's not such a good idea.

As I've said before, I have loved this card ever since I saw it while walking through the Baseball Hall Of Fame. Emotionally, it is my favorite Blue card.

1976: Another card that struck a chord with us kid collectors in 1976. Today, all people can see is miles and miles of yellow. But back then Vida just looked like a god on this card. This was King Vida and we were the subjects in his kingdom.

1977: This card was and is quite deflating after the previous year. Look, even Vida is disappointed. The bright spot is his signature has never been more grand.

1978: Strange card. Blue almost lost 20 games in 1977 and Bowie Kuhn scrapped yet another deal involving Blue, this time to the Reds. Vida doesn't look happy, and apparently has written his name on his undershirt as some sort of protest. Don't even ask me about the sweat stains ... or ... um ... drool on his jersey.

1979: Tragically, the A's eventually did find a way to get rid of Blue and it had to be to the Giants. He had one decent year with San Francisco, as you can see by the All-Star banner, but that was about it. Then, depressed with his lot on a terrible black-and-orange excuse for a team, he turned to self-medication. Should've never left those A's.

This card also looked too much like the 1977 Blue card to me back in '79, albeit with a different team.

Anyway, those are your choices. The poll is back for one more go 'round (along with the bright sidebar).

Please honor Blue's selection to the Hall with your choice of the best '70s Blue.

Thanks so much.