Sunday, June 29, 2014

Even


Today the Dodgers beat the Cardinals to catch the Giants.

That might be my favorite sentence ever.

In the latest example of you can't predict ball, the Dodgers won 3 of 4 from the Cardinals and are now tied with the Giants for first place in the NL West after San Francisco once held a 9-plus game lead.

Oh, and Andre Ethier, who I think is hitting in Rob Deer territory -- minus the home runs -- delivered a three-run blast in today's game.

I'm so elated all I can do is show these cards.

They are from Chris at View From The Skybox, who I wish the best of luck in his job search.

The Triple Threads Captain Clutch card is actually from last year, not 2009 when Ethier really was a clutch hitter. The card back reports that he's had 12 walk-off hits in his career. I'd be stunned if any of them happened since people admitted to watching "Glee".


Clayton Kershaw exhibited his usual domination that will prevent me from ever acquiring another autographed card of his. In the last month, Kershaw has struck out 61 and walked four. There's a no-hitter in there somewhere, too.

Chris realized that Prizm isn't my favorite set, but this one looks pretty good, and as Chris said:

"A Kershaw is a Kershaw."

And my reply is:

"Gimme."


Hanley didn't have anything to do with today's victory -- hurt again. But this parallel of my favorite card from 2013 Topps has me considering the rainbow chase, which I always say I'm going to do, but never do.

Only all the difficult parallels to go!

Yay!

With half the season left, there's plenty of time for a disaster -- or a 25-game lead! -- but I'm just going to walk around tonight with an immense smile on my face and laugh at anything in orange. Oh, and the bubble machine that the Dodgers switch on after celebratory moments is a huge hoot. I love it and I hope they use it forever.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Awesome night card, pt. 218


I don't miss Upper Deck.

There, I said it.

I just don't. Maybe it's because I grew up on Topps, long before Upper Deck came to be. Maybe it's because I'm not all that interested in modern cards anymore (I passed up the card aisle again today) and "competition" isn't as urgent a need to me as it once was. Whatever the reason, I don't miss them.

But that doesn't mean I don't suffer, along with every other card collector, because Upper Deck isn't making MLB-approved cards anymore. Upper Deck's innovation and especially its photography is missing from today's cards.

And then there are other things that went by the wayside when Upper Deck's agreement with MLB died in 2010.

One of the most notable was the fact that Orioles catcher Matt Wieters didn't appear on baseball cards anymore.

As you know, the currently disabled Wieters signed an exclusive deal with Razor back in 2008. I wrote about that once before. Upper Deck paid Razor to receive permission to put Wieters on their cards in 2009. Then when Upper Deck lost its deal with MLB, future cards of Wieters disappeared. He still apparently hasn't signed a deal with Topps, and either Topps doesn't care about pursuing him or what they're offering isn't to Wieters' liking.

But I think Wieters is on Topps' mind.

Because I sat in disbelief this morning when I saw this:


That is a 5x7 "card" in the style of 1955 Topps that Topps is issuing in five-card wax packs per team (I don't think all of the teams are represented).

When The Five Tool Collector displayed his pack on his blog today I couldn't believe the sight of Wieters. At last! Topps and Wieters and Scott Boras have come to their senses and we can look forward to seeing cards of Wieters in future Topps products!

But not so fast.

After I babbled some on Twitter, Ryan Cracknell informed me that these 5x7 "cards" are actually "prints." They're called prints right on the wax wrapper. The prints are blank-backed and there are larger versions of them that are being sold by Topps online (just as the 5x7 prints are being sold online) with the purpose -- I guess -- of collectors framing them and hanging them on their wall.

But the 5x7 prints have the look and feel of cards. They're printed on Heritage stock. So, that leads me to believe that a lot of collectors are going to consider them cards.

And that this will be Wieters' first "card" for Topps -- short-printed to /99.

Using the term "print" seems like a legal dance that Topps is doing to get around not signing him to a trading card deal.

Whatever. Seems like a card to me. A short-printed card. Sold only online.

Upper Deck, where are you?

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Night Card Binder candidate: Vladimir Guerrero, 2008 Upper Deck team checklist, #351
Does it make the binder?: Yes. I was concerned because this fantastic card is also #351. But I'll need that one for my future attempt to collect the 1976 SSPC set.

Friday, June 27, 2014

My mission to avoid buying Bowman is progressing very well


As you know, I'm not a Bowman guy. I don't buy a lot of Bowman. But each year, for the last few years, I've tried to sample a couple of packs at least, just to see what I am missing.

After a few go rounds of that, I decided that I'm not missing anything. It's still a pack of cards in which I've never heard of half of the players, and on the other half, I don't care because Bowman's designs never do anything for me.

Last year, I cut my ridiculous habit of buying cards that bore me to one pack.

This year, I'm trying to cut it to none.

I'm doing an excellent job at it. I haven't looked at Bowman even once when I've been in the card aisle. And I don't think I'll look at it again ... ever. Well, at least in years when the "it" rookie of the year isn't a Dodger.

The stupid part of all of this is that I still want Dodger Bowman cards. Because I have a sickness. A disease. It really needs a name. Something like, "Teamcollectoritisophiliatoma".

Others see this disease written on my face -- or at least written on my blog -- and because either they have the same disease or, even worse, they enjoy buying Bowman, they're sending Bowman Dodgers to me.

So, even though I haven't even noticed a pack of Bowman this year -- couldn't even tell you who's on the wrapper -- I have this:


That's a whole bunch of 2014 Bowman Dodgers. I even recognize most of them.

These are all from reader Dave, who sent me a whopping package that I'm sectioning out bit by bit here (I'm saving the best for a special day -- a borderline historic Night Owl Collecting Moment kind of day).

But Dave isn't the only one to send me 2014 Bowman Dodgers recently.


Those are a few more from Robert of $30 A Day Habit. Two of these guys are probably never going to show up in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform. The guy on the right may never again, either.


That's an insert of prospect Joc Pederson. I asked for this card in particular. The Dodger whiners on Twitter love this guy and can't wait for Crawford or Ethier or Kemp or all of them to disappear so Pederson can take over. But, of course, if that happens, in five years they'll be squawking about Pederson. Every prospect isn't Ted Williams, fellas.



Robert also sent some Gypsy Queen minis from a couple years back. That's the old fifth starter Ted Lilly.



And, look! A family of Dukes!

I have both of the Snider minis already (regular and red GQ back), so back to the orphanage they go!

(Wow, that took an ugly turn. Actually, I'll be happy to send them to a loving home, just give me a shout).


And, yes, I'm still accepting relic cards ... of Jeff Kent.

And I thought I had a problem with Bowman.


These Bowman cards came from Max from Starting Nine. Yes, you just saw them with the bunch Dave sent. What can I say? Things happen.

The good side is that there are so many current sets that I'm not collecting that people have their choice of wants to fill:



Two Archives cards from Max. Wonder if they're posing with the same bat?



Max also went back in time for this '86 Leaf card.


I also received this awesome thing.

I don't know exactly what it is other than it is the fantastically named "AuthenTicket" and that it is from SilverStar, which also made the ghostly hologram card of Strawberry the same year.

The write-up on the AuthenTicket is wonderful, too. Strawberry "authored" "majestic moon shots". I need to do a blog post on crazy write-ups on cards someday. Or at least start writing like that.

After all of that Bowman, I have no idea how close I am to completing the 2014 Dodgers list. It'd help if I actually looked up a checklist for some sets this year.

But I'm getting increasingly lazy in updating want lists with current sets. In fact, I think I might be suffering from a disease in that area, too.

I think that's called "Idontcareaboutyourlame2014setsitis".

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Them's the rules


So, the United States has advanced to the World Cup's "knock-out round" -- if that's what it is really called -- despite winning one of its three opening matches.

I'm not going to pretend to understand a lot about soccer. I'm not a fan, even during this time when I could use it as an excuse to flout my nationalism, or at least drink beer. I don't get the flopping, biting and head-butting; I'm mystified by "injury time" (please don't enlighten me); and a game with ties turns me off instantly.

Soccer isn't the only game with puzzling quirks. Football, I think, has so many rules and ever-changing ones that it is king in its ability to confuse the non-fan and regular watcher alike (I will complain about the pass interference penalty until I can't complain no more).

But before I climb any higher on my "baseball is the greatest game" horse, let's face reality. Even baseball has its odd little rules or idiosyncrasies that puzzle non-fans. You may not see them right away -- hell, I don't see them right away -- but they're there.

All you have to do is watch baseball with a non-fan, and they'll jump right out at the both of you.


"Why is the manager dressed like all of his players?"

This one gets brought up a lot. And then people are automatically amused by the image of Gregg Popovich in a basketball uniform. But I like this baseball quirk. It is a visual symbol that the manager is part of his team. He's not above his players, ranting and barking at them in his suit while standing behind a bench. He is one with them, in belted trousers and soft fabric cap, applauding and encouraging players. And if he takes one aside and scolds him quietly, you can barely tell if it's the manager or another player doing it. Try getting away with that if you're wearing a suit -- or a giant, colored sweatshirt that says "JETS" across it.


"Why is there a guy who bats for a pitcher in one league but the pitcher bats in the other league?"

The designated hitter has been around for more than 40 years. We baseball fans are so accustomed to the AL/NL divide that we barely notice it. But facts are facts: it's downright weird that one league uses an extra player to replace the pitcher at the plate and the other league doesn't. Shouldn't the teams all be playing the same game? Personally, I prefer the non-DH game and if a decision is going to be made to restore harmony in Major League Baseball, then I would say "ditch the DH." But that's never going to happen, for mostly monetary reasons. So, I'm OK with the weird imbalance. It's quirky. I like quirky. More people should like quirky.


"Please explain the infield fly rule to me."

(Yes, I posted this card because I'm amused that a DH is shown catching a pop fly).

Sometimes a non-fan will start feeling good about what they know about baseball. They have the basics down. Three strikes and you're out, nine innings per game, you stand up and stretch after 6 1/2 innings. They're beginning to have a good idea about what's happening. And then the infield fly rule happens. A batter will pop the ball up in the infield with runners on base and before the ball lands in the fielder's glove, the announcer or umpire will say that the batter's out. "How could this be?" the non-fan says. "They didn't catch the ball yet. You're not out until the fielder catches the ball."

But who has time to explain the infield fly rule?

In this scenario I recommend saying simply, "Them's the rules." Why mess up their budding enjoyment of the game?


"Why is everybody spitting all the time?"

Ah, another common complaint. Baseball may have acquired a well-deserved reputation as "The Spitting Sport," but actually you kind of have to make a concerted effort to catch players spitting these days. Unlike George Brett's day, when you threw a plug in your cheek and let it sit there for a good 24 hours, tobacco is not as prevalent as it once was, and with good reason. The recent news of Tony Gywnn's demise being caused by a chewing tobacco habit has raised calls to ban tobacco once and for all. But I don't think that would stop the spitting. Not unless it's proven that sunflower seeds cause cancer.


"How come if you foul off a pitch with two strikes, you're not out?"

This is one of those rules that seems ridiculously arbitrary. Two foul balls and you're penalized. A third foul ball? We'll pretend that never happened. I can't explain why this is to the non-fan or anyone else. The only time it makes sense is when someone like Alex Cora fouls his way to an 18-pitch at bat and becomes a legend. And that's when you can turn to the non-fan and say, "THAT'S WHY. That's why you can't strike out on a foul ball! IN YOUR FACE!" (It helps that Cora hit a home run on pitch No. 18).


"Explain 'the unwritten rules' to me."

OK, not even the most veteran of veteran baseball fans can give a good reason for a lot of baseball's unwritten rules. "Don't mention a no-hitter when it's being pitched", "Don't steal when you're well ahead", "If one of your players gets knocked down, knock down one of their players." These, and lots of others cause otherwise rational people (at least I think they're rational) to lose their shit. Some of it, frankly, is because fans never played the game to the degree that major league players have and they don't understand the culture. Every sport has "a code" when you reach the highest professional level. But at the same time, some of the rules are silly and just look stupid, especially to people who aren't fans. Football fans who enjoyed every last touchdown dance are shaking their heads every time someone else's head explodes because Yasiel Puig flipped a bat.


"Why did they take that pitcher out if he's doing so well?"

So what do you do here? Explain to the non-fan the concept of agents and coddling pitchers and relief pitchers needing to get paid, too? Explain Tony La Russa and pitch counts and managers deathly afraid that a pitcher might acquire a career-ending injury if they throw one more pitch? Honestly, when I think about it, taking someone out of the game who is doing so well and doesn't appears to be wearing down in the least is possibly the dumbest part of the modern baseball game to me. YOU JUST TOOK OUT YOUR BEST PLAYER! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?

But, I don't think I'd want to weigh down the non-fan with all of that.

So, I'd just shrug my shoulders and say:

"Them's the rules"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I wish this was a night card but it's not, and other night card pickiness


If you missed last night's post because of the problems with Blogger's reading list, you might want to wander down there for some quirkiness. I also added to the post at the end, by recording the total number of "balls in flight" for several sets. And I hope to add others.

OK, now ... this card.

I've received this particular card in well-meaning packages a few times now. I like it a lot. Who doesn't love a bank of illuminated lights? And the "thank you" on the jersey sleeve, well that could work for a variety of posts, and it just leaves a warm glow all over everything when you see it.

But it's not a night card.

You can see blue sky in the background. And clouds.

This is a dusk card. I don't collect dusk cards. I've gotta draw the line somewhere.

So are there other lines drawn in my random and arbitrary rules for night cards?

I'm glad you asked because I've been getting my share of cards lately that hover on the outer fringes of the night card kingdom in hopes of being let in the castle.

And I'm pulling up the drawbridge on them.


Somebody sent me this card recently. And by "somebody," I mean that's as far as I can narrow it down. They didn't leave a name on the return address label and the note said only this:


Yep. The lights are on. Nope, it doesn't count.

Sometimes I do think I should start a collection of Awesome Illuminated Lights cards. Then I remember what I have to go through to find cards for posts lately -- binder transferring, endless searching -- and the lights go out on that idea.

Fortunately, unnamed person from Dallas, Texas, found my want list and sent these key cards.


That's a bunch of 1996 Fleer needs along with one of those gold parallel Bowman cards from earlier this century that silly me has on his want list.




And this card completes the 1994 Select Dodger set for me. Please send me an email unnamed person so I can thank you and maybe send some cards. Sorry, night owl gets a little foggy and he's buried in cards.


OK, nobody in their right mind would consider this a night card. But it was sent to me by Jeff of 2-by-3 Heroes with an accompanying note that says "Dig all those night cards."

He's referring to the card back.


There's your nightness.

But that isn't good enough for the night card rules. I can't be displaying my night cards with the backs out.


So this one doesn't count either.

However, Jeff did say "all," which implies "a bunch."

So here's a bunch more:


Those are all certified night cards. There are few beauties there, too.


He also sent this 2013 Panini Prizm card that claims to show him in a Dodgers uniform.That looks much too much like a Royals uniform -- but we'll never know because of the glorious lack of logos.

Meanwhile, I also just received another big stack of night cards from my buddy Dave (wait until I show off that package hopefully next week, it's way too awesome). All of these are from this year's Bowman.


And that brings me to a change in my night card policy.

I used to save all the night cards I received to showcase on Awesome Night Card posts before throwing them in the night card binder.

But I'm getting backed up. There are so many night cards waiting to be featured on this blog and there's no way I'll get to them all. So I'm going to start putting them in the binder whether they've been showcased here or not.

Yes, I know your world has been turned upside down by this decision.

Please pull yourself together.

And know that I will happily take your night cards, even if you're not exactly sure what a night card is.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The history of flight


We take cards like this for granted.

No, I don't mean the fact that baseball teams wear purple these days, or that grown men are named Jordan. I'm referring to the ball.

It's nothing now to see a ball in mid-air on a baseball card. You can spread all your 2014 cards on the ground, throw a rock at them, and the chances are good it will land on a picture of a ball in flight.

But it wasn't always that way.

I know. Because when I first collected cards, seeing a ball in the air on my picture cards was an event.

Oh, we didn't know why that particular card was so cool, but it was the underlying reason. THE BALL WAS IN MID-AIR!

That got me curious. Exactly when did cards with balls in flight actually start happening? And when did it become so commonplace that nobody cared anymore?

Well, balls in flight actually go back farther than I thought, and they probably go even farther back than I can show. I'm suspecting back to cards from the '30s or '20s or even tobacco issues.

But the earliest ones I found in my collection were on a set that you could probably predict.


It's 1956 Topps, of course.

Now, I don't really count this one because it's painted. And even though it was likely painted from an actual photograph, I want to see a photographed ball in flight to give the card credit.


I didn't have to look long. That's a photograph and there is "Pete" firing to first as the ball magically floats in mid-air.

This is just one of the many reasons that 1956 Topps is miles above just about every other set. But I wasn't done yet. I wanted to see whether '56 was a rarity.

And it was. For a time.

For the next 15 years, the only balls in flight you would see were on special cards like this:


Or on World Series cards like this:


Or this:


That is predictable as well. The only action on cards from the 1960s was found on World Series cards.

For a return to balls in mid-air on an actual player's card, I turned to another milestone action set.


1971 Topps featured a handful of players hurling spheres through the air.



Nobody realized the groundbreaking feat of this card because of the dog staring between Short's legs and Pete Rose lurking in the distance.


And then something truly unusual. It's not someone throwing a ball (although the unseen pitcher actually did throw it). It's someone preparing to swing at the ball in flight. Once again, there are so many reasons to love 1971 Topps.

For a couple of years, Topps humored us with a few more balls in flight.


This is probably the highlight of the 1972 Topps set in terms of ball trajectory. The 1973 Topps set has a handful of notables, too, like the Luis Alvarado parking lot card and the Terry Crowley card in which he's barreling down on Thurman Munson.

But after that brief golden era, the ball disappeared, or at least was confined to a player's hand or glove.

The 1974 and 1975 sets feature no balls in flight. Sadly, this corresponded with my arrival on the collecting scene.

In the 1976 set, I could find but a single card featuring a ball in motion.


I never saw this card as a kid. I undoubtedly would have killed for it if I did.

The pattern continued for a few more years.


A single ball in flight in the 1977 Topps set.


A single ball in flight in the 1978 Topps set (at least I think that's a ball, it looks like he's throwing the rosin bag toward the plate).


A whopping two balls in flight in the entire 1979 Topps set.

The tragedy of this is that I never saw those two '79 cards when I was collecting in '79, nor did I see the '77 Hughes card. And the '78 Flanagan card doesn't really look like a ball so I probably had no idea what I was seeing.


No, it took the arrival of Fleer in 1981 for me to discover balls in flight. It was this card, and later the '81 Topps Bruce Sutter all-star card that peaked my interest in catching balls in mid-air.

In fact, I think Fleer and Donruss probably got Topps' butt in gear in this area, too. In 1982, Topps resurrected the "In Action" set, and although there are only three balls in flight in that set (and just Tom Seaver in the "In Action" series), it paved the way for 1983.


There are possibly more balls in motion in the 1983 Topps set than any set prior. And they showed up in new and different way. It wasn't merely a pitcher throwing. It was a third baseman fielding, a first baseman almost catching, a catcher bunting, and a first baseman throwing.

Collectors everywhere now knew that balls could move -- on baseball cards.

Through the rest of the decade there are other fine examples. Playful Fleer items like this:


Then Score and Upper Deck arrived on the scene and action -- and balls in flight -- were no big deal. They were everywhere.

Look:


Topps was so blase about the floating baseball that they hid it behind the team logo.



OK, they featured it in front of the logo, too.

With the appearance of Stadium Club and other photographic-heavy sets, there were balls flying all over the place (that's a Rachel Green reference, "Friends" fans).

Today, you can't shuffle through a pack of cards without seeing a ball in flight.


I pulled those out of my limited stack of 2014 Topps without even trying.

I feel somewhat cheated as a child, collecting in the '70s. Kids -- or whoever is collecting baseball cards now -- have it pretty good.

They've got balls in flight on their cards.

But at least I had cards made from real cardboard.

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I am adding the rundown of "balls in flight" cards for the period that I researched. Perhaps I'll add to it later:

1971 Topps - TBA
1974 Topps - none
1975 Topps - none
1976 Topps - 1
1977 Topps - 1
1978 Topps - 1
1979 Topps - 2
1980 Topps - 2
1981 Topps - 1
1982 Topps - 3
1983 Topps - TBA