Saturday, March 30, 2013

The cap makes the ballplayer


We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
Cause your friends don't dance
And if they don't dance
Well they're no friends of mine


I say, we can go where we want to
A place where they'll never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind


We can go where we want to
The night is young and so am I
And we can dress real neat
From our hands to our feet
And surprise 'em with a victory cry


I say, we can act if we want to
If we don't, nobody will
And you can act real rude
And totally removed
And I can act like an imbecile


I say, we can dance, we can dance
Everything is out of control
We can dance, we can dance
We're doing it from wall to wall
We can dance, we can dance
Everybody look at your hands
We can dance, we can dance
Everybody's taking the chance


Safety dance
We'll safety dance
Yes, the safety dance

-- "Safety Dance," Men Without Hats


(Someone with a complete or nearly complete 2013 Heritage set will have to crunch the numbers for me.

My theory is that there are more cards of hatless ballplayers in this year's Heritage than there was in the original 1964 set. But all I have to go on is the fact that out of 114 Heritage cards I own so far, 14 feature hatless players. That's just over 12 percent.

In the 1964 set, 35 of the 587 cards in the set featured an individual card of a hatless player -- yes, I counted. That is just shy of 6 percent.

If it turns out the percentages end up the same or that there are fewer capless players in this year's Heritage set then, oh well, at least we relived the '80s for 5 minutes. That's not a bad thing).


Friday, March 29, 2013

Not gonna fight it no more


It's official. I'm a Mike Piazza collector.

I never thought of myself as a Piazza collector. I don't really player-collect, per se. And Mike always had so many enthusiastic card fans that there was no way I could consider myself one of them. Not that it's a competition, of course.

Even as my Piazza collection grew and grew and grew, I resisted saying that "I collect Piazza." The phrase sounds weird anyway, like I'm going to pull up to his home with a dump truck, lower the dumper thing, roll Mike into the back and haul him off to the collection. (I'd never do that, Mike. Please don't sweat it).

If I collected anything player-wise, it was Cey or Kershaw or Koufax or Hershiser or Nomo. Yup, definitely, Nomo, because that's the player that appeared on the most cards in my collection.

However, as I lamented before, the number of Nomos isn't that far off from the number of Piazzas I have. They're dangerously, dangerously close, for someone who isn't a Piazza collector.

Then it happened.

Cards on Cards sent me nine Mike Piazza cards I didn't have. Totally out of the blue.

And now he's gone and done it.

I now have more Mike Piazza cards than I have cards of any other player.

Don't ask me the total, because I'm almost positive that it is wrong.

I just know that it's more than anything else. Mike's smiling face. Showing up more often than anything else in the house (gosh, that's another disturbing image).

Let's see some of those disturb ... er, lovely cards.


Here is Mike as a Star. A Topps Star.


Here is Mike on Pacific. Which automatically means he speaks Spanish.


This is Mike coming up Aces. Or Fours.


Mike as a Special FX gold highlight fancy boy.


Mike as a Gamer, which always gives me flashbacks to my high school baseball coach during tryouts when he'd proclaim someone a "gamer," which meant "good gosh that kid has no talent but he ran hard anyway."


A Finest Mike with a ball rising behind him. This reminds me of the Peanuts comic in which everything Charlie Brown sees is a baseball, including a baseball rising in the sky like the sun.



And this is the best Mike of all. This is what I missed by not collecting in the '90s. Apparently Sports Illustrated was handing out Best Hair ribbons. On the back, SI calls Piazza a "hair crazy player." I am now embarrassed for everyone who collected in 1998.

Add all those cards up and you come up with a number in the high 300s, almost 400. It's a number true Piazza collectors would spit upon, but it's still more cards than I have of any single player.

Which means, I guess, that I accumulate Piazza cards very well. Whether it's actively or passively.

I'm OK with this. I'm not going to fight it like I once did. Besides, I expect Kershaw to surpass everyone in two or three years anyway.

Does this mean you can see Piazza added to the "Players I Collect" page?

Nah.

Too many cards to type.

The new Fritsch catalog is here! The new Fritsch catalog is here!


(Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement of Larry Fritsch Cards. This is merely another tired nostalgia piece from night owl).

The Larry Fritsch Cards catalog arrived in the mail the other day.

It shows up maybe a couple of times a year. But this time it filled me with such joy and nostalgia that I had to announce it on Twitter.

What I received back in return were a couple of nods from doddering folk like me, a couple of "huh?"s, and mostly silence. Twitter isn't the right place for something like this.

So, I'll do it here.

The Larry Fritsch Cards catalog, for the entire 1980s and into the early 1990s, WAS my internet for cards. This is how I obtained cards that were not the latest and greatest at the local store. Not that Fritsch Cards didn't have the latest and greatest, too. It's just that it had everything, at least to my way of thinking then.

Before online shopping, before Amazon and ebay, poor ancient folks like me would run to mail-order catalogs for cards. There were several places to find them, but for me, Fritsch was the easiest place to find them.

Fritsch cards is where I bought my '75 George Brett rookie. It's where I grabbed my first few 1972 Dodgers. But I would only order a few cards at a time. It's all I could afford. Fritsch was always too expensive for my tastes.


As glorious as it would be to pop open a sealed vending box of 1971 Topps, there ain't no way I can throw down $18,000 to do it. And I can't buy a 1972 Series #3 Topps football set, even at the special price of $1,245.

So instead, I would plop down $5.95 for a 1987 Surf Book of the Dodgers and be happy with that. I've gotten my money's worth. I consult that Surf book often.


It sure is tempting to revisit the ritual of opening a cello pack of 1975 Topps as I did back when I was a 9-year-old. But $120 for 18 cards of joy sounds pretty obscene.


Even without being able to afford much, the catalog has always been fun to look through. Who knew Upper Deck made a Ted Williams Play Ball tribute set in 1993 (edit: 2003)? And what are 1964 Auravision Records? (I think that Nolan Ryan sixth no-hitter ticket ad has been in there since the day after Ryan's sixth no-hitter).


Obtainable Dream Page? That would be this one.

No, not the Barry Bonds set. I'm talking about the desire of every late 1970s collector. Burger King and Coca-Cola sets. Unopened packs! I read every word on pages like this.


There is plenty of the very newest, too. I don't think I've seen that Kershaw Archives card advertised before.  The back advertises 2013 Allen & Ginter. Special for $95 a box. Not bad.


But this is what I utilized the most often in the 1980s and even into the early '90s. When I was first trying to complete Dodgers sets from the late '60s and early '70s, I'd order them with this form. I'd write down the cards I wanted with my choice of condition and mail it off. Fritsch would send it back signifying whether they had each card (in most cases they did) and the cost. Then you sent in your payment for the ones you wanted.

It seems clunky by today's online standards and is definitely a lot more expensive. But there was a certain charm to it and I looked forward to getting the mail twice. Once when the form came back and then again when the package showed up.


Each catalog is separated by sport and there is also a section for supplies. In the past I have ordered sheets and binders. This is the place where I once saw '75 mini pages. It's rather amusing that they have been temporarily out of stock of the most common page type for at least the last 6 catalogs.


Even by today's standards, this catalog does pretty well with variety. Mars Attacks Sketch Cards? They're here. Just about every reprint set? They're here.


There are plenty of nonsports sets. In fact, there is one here that I ordered way back when.


Yup. What teenage boy didn't love the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders when they were at their absolute most famous.

Five-by-Seven glossies of all the cheerleaders? Sign me up!

I totally remember the cards of both girls you see pictured here in their super-80s makeup. But I have no idea what happened to this set. It's hard for me to believe I got rid of it willingly.


I found myself leafing through this catalog wishing I could find something cheap so I could order something for old-times sake.

And I did find a commemorative set that I haven't seen anywhere else that is very cheap. I think I will actually order from Fritsch Cards for the first time in ... geez, it's got to be at least a dozen years or more.

And I'll wait by the door and my heart will skip when I see the return package.

So, that, kids, is what a mail-order catalog is like.

Stop looking at me with your pathetic face.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pre-emptive bloggage


I have a list of bloggers that deserve card packages from me sitting on my card desk. It is 15 names long. It is 15 names long because I can't fit 20 on there.

This list also doesn't include any "I trade with this person all the time so I guess it's time to send him some cards" packages. I can't wait for the day when I get to that point. Nope, all of the folks on the list have sent me something days, weeks, months ago and in my current "I can get 4 packages out a week" frame of mind, I am way behind.

Meanwhile, March is still tossing lit firecrackers at me as I juggle card packages while peddling a unicycle.

Evil, evil month.

I have no way of stopping March. And I have no way of stopping cards from coming to my house (we all have our problems, don't we?)

But I do have a way of preventing the "INCOMING" stack from spilling over and forming a giant pile of cardboard in the living room, the combustible materials intermingling too close to the heating vent until it ignites a spark, and burning down the house while I'm off frolicking (re: working).

Let's see some cards shall we?

But I won't call it a trade post. I will call it "pre-emptive bloggage." It sounds much more efficient.


First a couple of cards from yet another Jaybarkerfan's Junk PWE bomb. This pinkish Piece of History parallel is of perennial "is he with the team or isn't he" relief pitcher Scott Elbert.


Here is another parallel of another Dodger almost-reliever. D.J. Houlton eventually gave up to play baseball in Japan. Or San Diego. Somewhere less exciting than the Dodgers anyway.


Moving on now to a Twitter trade with Robert. But we're still dealing in parallels. That's how they get the advanced collectors hooked you know.

These are two minis from last year's Topps. I'm really sick of looking at last year's design. The minis aren't too exciting either. But I need them. You understand.


This is better. Better design. More color. Both of these folks were talked about a lot during the offseason by people who like to talk a lot during the offseason. The basic themes? Will Chad Billingsley pitch well after bypassing surgery? Will Andre Ethier be traded? This is why I try to ignore the offseason talk.


Two more parallels. Both of the gold variety. Of different varieties of Ellises. In both cases, I prefer the one on the right.


I just threw this card in there because you probably grew sick of the parallels.

I nabbed it cheaply off of ebay a week ago.


Here is something very random and cool that came from Steve at The Card Chop. These are stamps from a 1955 Dodgers Golden Press Stamp Book. Someone cut out the stamps stuck on the page and turned them into mini cards.

The book goes for a pretty penny, so I guess gimmicky cut-out stamps are the way to go.


OK, back to modern-day gimmicks.

It seems that Jeff at 2 By 3 Heroes has become a Kershaw magnet. This is very good for me because I happen to collect Kershaw cards.

He recently sent me this terrific Walmart blue Heritage parallel of Clayton (I'm glad Topps got that fixed after saddling the Dodgers with the Target reds last year).

The PWE that Jeff is so fond of sending out also came with another Kershaw:


This is the SP parallel of the 2011 Gypsy Queen Kershaw mini. I had basically put this card out of my mind because there are certain cards that I can't have and it's best not to think of them.

But now I have it. (I just sent Jeff some cards, but I think I'll have to send some more).

Just for comparison sake, here's the regular GQ mini:


Pretty cool that I now have both.

So there you are, some pre-emptive bloggage action.

This helped only slightly.

It still doesn't put much of a dent in the incoming cards and it certainly doesn't help me get the outgoing cards out the door. But at least it shows that I'm trying to do something, right?

I promise that when this godforsaken month is finished, I'll try harder.

Green vs. blue throwdown


OK, I finally got my hand on some of those blue parallels in Opening Day that everyone and their dentist is endorsing as the parallels of the year.

I wanted to compare them to the emerald parallels in the base set that I love so much and see if they really are inferior like everyone is saying.

Yes, everyone.

Here, look:

I think they might have the emerald Flagship parallels beat.

And here:

i like these better than the emerald parallels from series one.

And here:

The blue parallels are just like the Emerald parallels, only they are blue.  Therefore, they are miles better than the green ones. 

And here:

The Blue looks Waaaaaaaaay better than the Greens.


And now look at the people who prefer the emerald parallels:


Right.

But press on, I must, because I just don't think the blue parallels are as terrific as everyone is saying. They're very nice. That's true. Still better than those gold sparkle things last year, without a doubt. But I love my emerald sparklies.


Why here is one now. It's a beauty. Brian from 30-Year-Old Cardboard sent it to me.

Here is a breakdown on what I like about the green parallels:

1. They're green. This was totally unexpected. If someone told me that they expected Topps to come up with a parallel that was green in 2013 Topps, I would look at them with the same expression as if they told me they picked Florida Gulf Coast to make the final 16 of the NCAAs. And then I'd punch them in the ear.

2. It turns every baseball scene into a baseball scene in the Emerald City. I'm all for a parallel that reminds me of the Wizard of Oz.

3. This is the big one: the green parallel theme is continued throughout the entire card. The border color is the same as the background color in the photo. Emerald throughout the whole damn card. Consistency is important to me.

4. The green is very, very shiny. This is also key.

OK, now, let's see an Opening Day blue parallel:


Fine card. I will admit this whole exercise is a little bit like saying, where would you rather be, the Emerald City or the Ice Blue Palace?

But anyway, here is a breakdown on what I like about the blue parallels:

1. The border is blue. That is awesome. No border is better than a shiny blue border. Nothing. I believe I'm on record about that at least a half dozen times on this blog.

2. The player name is not printed in foil. Just like every-day borders, names are easier to read on sparkly borders when not stamped in foil.

3. The blue parallels are serial numbered. For what a card serial-numbered to 2013 is worth.

And that's it.

That's all I like about the blue parallels.

Here is what I don't like as much about the blue parallels as the green parallels:

1. That blasted Opening Day logo and the date stamped above it. Yes, I know this is a requirement for Opening Day, but it's annoying as hell on parallel cards. It detracts from the entire card. And foil-stamping the date? It's OD, peoples!

2. The blue border is not as shiny as the emerald borders. Normally I like dark blue and understated ... when I'm talking about shirts. But these are shiny cards made for people who like their cards shiny. I WANT SHINY. I'm looking at both cards sitting under a light right now. The emerald card is screaming SHINY and the blue one is merely murmuring "shiny," and very unsure of itself. In fact, if I look at the card from a certain angle, I can't even tell that the border is shiny at all. Sad face.

3. Opening Day compensated for fact No. 2 by making the photo background to the Opening Day blue parallels shinier than the borders. But I noticed something when seeing the blue parallels on blogs that I hoped wasn't true on the actual cards -- but it is. The shiny in the background isn't the same color as the border. In fact, it's not any color at all. It's just a wash of water-colored, blurred-out shiny. I like consistency. If Opening Day had continued the blue shiny theme through the background of the photo, like the emerald cards do, then, yup, the blue parallels have the green parallels beat in a knockout.

But this Monet-painting blurred-out shiny? That's a little too late '90s for me.

Maybe that's why some collectors who grew up in that era like them better.

I realize that the way that Opening Day blue parallels are presented gives more separation between the border and the photo than the green parallels. In other words, the border frames the photo better. That's probably why people like them better, too.

But I'll take the greens over the blues anyway.

Also, Opening Day didn't do itself any favors by sending me this card:


Get this waste of cardboard out of my face before I roll it in hamburger and feed it to my dog who is appropriately named Dodger.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It was time to go a long time ago


During my budget spiel at work today, when I recount the top sports events of the day, I mentioned that Tim McCarver announced that he was retiring from broadcasting at the end of this season.

My boss, who isn't a baseball fan but likes sports, said immediately, "I can't stand that guy."

It took me off guard. It shouldn't have. But it did. This is how thoroughly McCarver has rubbed people the wrong way. That someone who wasn't even a baseball fan could recognize how annoying McCarver is on the air.

Then I read the story on the wire. McCarver said that it was time to go, that he wanted to leave while he could still do the job and was happy with his work.

OK. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Especially when you're critiquing your own work.

But I know that I speak for countless people when I say that, good gosh, Tim, it was time to go a long time ago. Even my boss could see it.

And this is coming from a person who actually liked McCarver once upon a time, who liked his announcing.

There are a lot of people who only know McCarver's work from his days on a national stage, only know him stating the obvious, stating the stupid, stating the incorrect, pairing with Joe Buck to provide the most painful announcing experience since the days of Merle Harmon and Ron Luciano (yeah, I know you don't remember that combo, but it was bad).

But there was a time, when McCarver broadcast Mets games on WOR in the 1980s, when -- and I hesitate to say this knowing how much people dislike the man -- he was delightful.

Yup.

His broadcasts were interesting. You learned things. You enjoyed baseball when he was talking. You liked him. You liked the game. It was fun.

I didn't feel any of that when McCarver was at Fox. I'm not sure how that happened. Did McCarver get too big-time? Did he get too old? Did Fox get to him? I haven't been able to figure it out. All I know is that when he talks during games now, all I can hear is "You're a real man, Deion."

I'm also not sure why other people can't see or hear that. There are some people who still like McCarver's broadcasting. When he announced his departure today, people came out and said how great a broadcaster he is and how much they learned from him. And then there are the people who elected him to win the Hall of Fame Ford Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting. What was that all about?

Is this just something you say and do when someone has worked for so long in the public eye? Do they mean all of that? And if so, can someone explain it to me?

My only regret about McCarver's announcement is that he didn't announce it at the end of a season. Now, we've got a farewell tour to live through. I have no doubt that Fox will make it as excruciating as possible. Buck will say a bunch of stuff he thinks is funny and cute and McCarver will be all "aw shuckins" and -- that's it, I'm not watching a single Fox baseball broadcast this year.

Happy trails to you, Tim. You should've left awhile ago. Like around 1989. When everyone else thought you could still do the job and were happy with your work.

C.A.: 1977 Topps Oakland A's

(Today is "National Joe Day." Once again, I did not make this up, but someone did. And it's an excellent excuse for all you "Joe Collectors" out there to celebrate your love for cards. Which is what I try to do every week with Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 177th in a series):


The Oakland A's team cards of the 1970s have always fascinated me.

They're difficult to obtain, which never seemed right. A team card? With a checklist on the back? Why are people holding onto those?

But sure enough, when I was looking at a dwindling list of wants for 1976 Topps and 1974 Topps and 1978 Topps, the A's checklist was one of the last ones standing in all three cases.

Make that four cases.

This A's checklist from Steve of The Card Chop was one of the final five cards I needed in my bid to complete the 1977 Topps set. I'm telling ya, that pesky A's checklist is always so gosh-durn elusive.

I think the reason for that is because the A's teams of the '70s are one of the most colorful in history. Not only with their play on the field and bickering off the field, but in the way they dressed in public. Green and gold may look commonplace and even nostalgic to us in good old 2013, but it was absolutely revolutionary in the '70s.

Here, take a look. This is how the A's presented themselves on the 1971 team card:


Bright, gleaming whites with green accents. Fashionable yet relatively tame.

Then a mere three years later, we have this:


The Swingin' A's, all mustachioed and in your face. Isn't that fun? Isn't that Dick Williams glaring at you from dead center? Isn't that Reggie Jackson all giddy and self-aware in the lower left? Isn't that Bert Campaneris  barely humoring Reggie over his right shoulder?


The A's were at their World Championship best at this point, winning title after title. Unfortunately, the 1975 team card is out-of-focus and too far away. It's difficult to make who is who, although I think Reggie is fourth from the left in the middle row.


By 1976, the team began to fray. Alvin Dark was let go as manager and Topps didn't know who the manager would be at the time the set went to press (it would be Chuck Tanner) and just left out the picture inset. Dick Green and Catfish Hunter were gone. But I can still see Reggie. Fourth from the left in the second row.


This is where you see the demise of the A's, on the 1977 card. Oakland finished second in 1976, but after the departure of Hunter, Charlie Finley started selling off the team, attempting to ship Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox and Vida Blue to the Yankees. I believe -- but I'm not sure -- that Fingers is fourth from the left in the top row and Blue third from the left in the middle row. I can't tell you if Reggie is that guy at the bottom right. Could be. Could be that he had already departed for Baltimore and then the Yankees.


Ground zero for the A's. The 1977 squad, shown on the '78 team card, finished dead last. The previous offseason, Joe Rudi left for the Angels. Sal Bando for the Brewers. Fingers and Gene Tenace for the Padres. Bert Campaneris for the Rangers. Poor Bobby Winkles, who I believe is the guy standing off to the right in the white cap, had the job of managing the folks who were left.


But through it all, the players going in and out, the managers going in and out (there's Jack McKeon AGAIN), the team going up and down, the A's remained remarkably consistent in one thing.

In their team photo it was always gold jersey, then green jersey, gold jersey, then green jersey. And the white-jerseyed coaches in the middle.

The A's may have gone from back-to-back-to-back World Series titles early the decade to seventh-sixth-seventh at the close of the decade, but dammit they were going to have the most garishly regimented team photo in all of the major leagues.

And that's why I think the A's team cards are always the last ones I need to finish a 1970s set.

Steve also sent me another 1977 card that I needed.


Yeah, Pete Rose.

But he gets enough attention.

I wanted to talk about the A's today.