A couple of weeks into starting a blog for the first time, I received a comment from someone I didn't know.
It said something to the effect of (I can't find the comment now): "Finally! Another Dodger collector! Let's trade!"
I didn't know what to make of it. I hadn't traded with anyone through the blog yet and the concept of trading without being able to see the other person was weird to me, plus a little unnerving. Besides, my reasons for writing the blog were based almost solely on expressing my love for cards. I didn't want to get much more involved than that.
Two weeks after I started my blog, that commenter started his. He called it "garvey cey russell lopes" and I discovered exactly how serious he was about his commitment to the Dodgers, particularly to the Dodgers that I grew up with as well. My reservations melted away.
Jim and I were the first Dodger card bloggers that I knew. When I started, there were fans of the Braves, Mets, Indians, White Sox and Yankees. Fans of Phillies, Cubs and Red Sox. Fans of Padres, for goodness sake. But no Dodgers. I didn't think much of it at the time, but when Jim started his blog, a fellowship was born. He knew which team to root for and why. This was the fall of 2008 and the Dodgers were in the playoffs, so I needed the help, especially with so many Cubs and Phillies bloggers.
Before long, other Dodger collectors joined in and there seemed to be too many Bleeding Blue Bloggers for some, but I never thought of it that way. The Dodgers are popular for a reason, just like the Marlins aren't. Collectors are going to follow suit.
Aside from collecting Dodgers, Jim and I aren't the same kind of collectors. He collects a lot more "type" cards than I do -- I never had the patience for that. He also has more Dodger card connections than I do, since I live in a barren outpost far from Lala Land. So I always got the feeling his Dodger collection was more advanced than mine -- and it probably is.
This was emphasized from the first time he sent me cards. It was a big ol' box and it was my introduction to things like multiple cards of Adrian Beltre in the same box. What a weird, wonderful world this would be! Jim's card box wasn't the first that I received, but it was one of the first. And it started a relationship of card trading that has lasted as long as any other. I can think of only one other blogger with whom I have been trading with for almost seven full years.
The trading will continue -- thank goodness -- but gcrl's blog has ended. We were an exclusive club of two, and now I'm a club of one.
A matter of days after Jim posted his goodbye, a package from him arrived in the mail, with a variety of card greatness that only he could supply. We'll see it now as a tribute to all those years of Jim and I blogging and trading, in full allegiance to the greatest team ever to take the field.
Jim is one of those collectors who I don't believe took a break from collecting when everyone else did. I get the feeling he was going full-tilt through the '90s and '00s when I was looking the other way. So there were lots of cards like Topps Stars in the package.
Weird shiny numbered items like this (that's Koyie Hill, by the way).
Every last item shown is from the period when I didn't really know whether trading cards still existed.
Let's get to some present-day stuff. Jim found a bunch of recent Dodgers from sets that I have been neglecting, like last year's Chrome.
So glad I have so many 2014 cards of Onelki Garcia, vaunted rookie card man, who ended up being waived. Nice choice, Topps.
More neglected sets. Here are some 2014 Allen and Ginter needs. If you're looking for me to have completed 2015 A&G by now, you're on the wrong blog.
A 2014 red parallel. I used to chase these a lot more vigorously.
And, yes, I'm even neglecting 2015 Topps Dodgers. Jim helped me there, too.
You may remember that Jim had completed the atomic refractor Dodger set from 2011 Chrome. I was content to have my Atomic Kershaw, but, of course, my Dodger collecting cohort knew I couldn't turn down another player from the set.
Here is really the only "type" set that I collect. I thought Night Cards were pretty original until I reached the blogosphere and met multiple collectors of double play cards.
Jim found a whole bunch for me.
I have a healthy respect for the first SP set, just because it's not all that easy to find. All three of these are new. I think I like the '95 SP set a little better, but '93 isn't bad.
I remember Jim saying once that he wasn't much of a fan of the 1975 Topps set. Naturally, I was aghast. It's obvious, by my countdown, that I think it's one of the top 12 sets ever made by Topps. And if you think it's only the 12th best, then you have just started reading this blog today. But I'm glad to see that Jim allowed '75-esque cards into his collection. Here is a Brett Rookie of the Week card, much uglier than the original.
Jim got on board with my 1975 buyback quest, too. Here are three more and I'm down to needing 632.
A bunch of 1983 Fleer Dodgers stickers? How could Jim know I'm so deficient in '83 Fleer stickers? Because he was part of the club.
The best part about trading with the gcrl blog is I knew I'd be getting exactly what I wanted in return. When it came to collecting Dodgers, Jim and I operate with the same mission: we want all the Dodgers. We want to complete every team set from every year and every parallel possible. We want all the Dodger oddballs, inserts and one-offs.
Pulling the above cards out of the box is pure joy because I know over the last seven years he's built up his Dodger collection just like I have mine. And he's got lots of blue goodies to share.
After showing all of that, here are some of my favorites out of the box:
1955 Bowman card of prospect Walt Moryn. Seeing 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers with names you don't recognize is disconcerting. You think there is a mistake. Everyone on the '50s Dodgers should be well-known, right?
1964 Topps Giant Frank Howard. A 6-foot-7 giant on Topps Giant. It's as if Howard shouldn't appear on a card of mere 2 1/2-by-3 1/2 dimensions.
Custom Alyssa Milano card. I recognize the design from the old Goose Joak days. Jim was one of the best custom card creators in the business. And only another Dodger fan could know how much I need my own card of Dodger fan Alyssa.
1970 Fleer World Series card of the '47 World Series. I don't know how "impossible" Gionfriddo's catch was, but the best part of the '47 World Series is how all of the most famous moments were created by Dodgers. Who cares who won the Series?
1954 Bowman Clem Labine. Jim is doing a lot better in his chase of '50s Dodgers than I am. I think '54 Bowman might be a good place to start attacking.
Finally, another homemade card of Jim's. As '70s Dodgers fans, we both remember Andy Messersmith's rightful return to the Dodgers for the 1979 season. After barnstorming the league for three years, he returned to pitch in 11 games for L.A. If he hadn't been released by the Dodgers at the end of August that year, he may have been able to hang on and get a card in the 1980 set.
But this Messersmith card is the next best thing. The '79-style card is also a night card, which is a nice touch.
Jim even threw in a completed crossword puzzle (so I wouldn't be tempted to complete it myself) of Ron Cey from Baseball Digest. Those crosswords were a staple of '70s Baseball Digests.
I won't be able to read anymore of Jim's Dodger-centric posts and nod my head in agreement. That club is closed.
But thank goodness the trading club is still open. Who else is going to send me this stuff?
(P.S.: Now it can be told: I always thought his blog should have been "clgr").