Thursday, June 30, 2016

Finally, you have my undivided attention

Last month, I made 21 entries to this blog. That was an all-time low for me. Never in the seven-plus year history of Night Owl Cards had I been less prolific.

Today's post, on the final day of June, is No. 20 on NOC for the month. Welcome to a new all-time low.

I saw this coming a few months ago, and it doesn't have anything to do with a lack of blogging interest or cardboard malaise or anything like that. It's mostly because I have never been so busy during the life of this blog than the last two months. Multiple trips out of state for various reasons, graduations and other milestone celebrations, and year-long work planning projects coming to fruition, all conspired to keep me away from my beloved blog.

I knew they were coming. I knew I couldn't do anything about them. And I also knew that by the end of June, they would all be over.

It is the end of June. You now have my undivided attention.

Let's celebrate with a fat pack of Series 2!

Hey, wait! Come back!

Yeah, I don't like 2016 Topps, Series 1 or Series 2, any more than you do. In fact, it's a good bet I like it less than you. But new is NEW in the cardboard addiction world and I must sample. This will be my one and only Series 2 purchase. I'm actually annoyed that I couldn't find a loose pack, because I didn't even want to buy this much.

So let's see what kind of fog-covered photos are in the offing. It doesn't really matter anyway. You're just happy to have me back, aren't you?

Series 2:

#490 - Guido Knudson, Tigers

No idea. There will never be another flagship set issued for the rest of my life in which I know every player.

#457 - Nick Swisher, Braves

I don't know when Topps puts its Series selections to bed. Swisher was released by the Braves at the end of March. Really no need for a card of him.

#473 - Robbie Erlin, Padres
#456 - Gordon Beckham, Braves
#419 - Aaron Altherr, Phillies

#682 - Danny Duffy, Royals

Duffy offers up a prayer as the stadium fills with smoke.

#677 - Derek Norris, Padres

Nice shot of a Padres-Brewers game, a matchup you will never see on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.

#673 - Justin Upton, Tigers
#572 - Marcell Ozuna, Marlins

#608 - Rick Porcello, Red Sox

#392 - Jon Singleton, Astros

#412 - Mark Lowe, Tigers

#617 - Justin Smoak, Blue Jays

Smoak swinging in a field filled with smoke!

#618 - Desmond Jennings, Rays
#374 - Zach McAllister, Indians
#466 - Marco Estrada, Blue Jays
#437 - Michael Lorenzen, Reds
#528 - Byron Buxton, Twins (future stars)
#533 - Jonathan Villar, Brewers

#563 - Lance McCullers, Astros (future stars)

We've reached the future stars portion of the pack. Way too many of these things.

#660 - John Axford, Athletics
#523 - Blake Swihart, Red Sox (future stars)

#BB2-2011 - Eric Hosmer, Royals, Berger's Best
#HH1 - Stan Musial, Cardinals, Hallowed Highlights
#RS-5 - Max Scherzer, Nationals, Record Setters
#MLBD2-18 - Felix Hernandez, Mariners, MLB Debut

Bunch of inserts that don't interest me.

Plus this one:

It's one of the 10-card 65th anniversary insert series that are retail only. This is the only Dodger, so that pleases me. It also allows me to do the following:

Those are the '52 Robinson tributes that I have. There actually should be 8, but I have no idea where the 1995 Archives Robinson is. Once I find that, I will grab one of the other ones that I KNOW is out there and Warhol y'all.

#657 - Johnny Giavotella, Angels

Some great, inventive photos, but the fog-effect really hurts things.

#471 - Kolten Wong, Cardinals

Mildly disturbing.

#681 - Joe Smith, Angels
#679 - Nate Jones, White Sox

#527 - Jordy Mercer, Pirates

Not really the card I want to see if I'm a Jordy Mercer fan, but I know I'm out of touch.

#438 - Paulo Orlando, Royals

This photo is cooler than the Gatorade Joey Gallo bath from last year's Update.

#602 - Keith Hessler, Diamondbacks
#398 - Cleveland Indians team card

#377 - Scott Kazmir, Dodgers

Yay! Last card is a Dodgers base card need!

Kazmir is featuring the "Chunichi Dragons" alternate cap that the Dodgers debuted during spring training. I don't really care for it, but that's inconsequential when there's money to be made.

Anyway, that's the only Series 2 pack break you'll see here. Any non-Dodger card is available or will be distributed in upcoming trade packages (yes, very exciting, I know).

I should be hopping on those trade packages in the coming days now that I have a somewhat reasonable schedule. No guarantees though. 2016 apparently is the year in which we MUST DO THINGS.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Oh, happy checklist

I'm fairly certain I have written about checklists more than any other blogger. I'm at least in the top five (quick, someone rank the checklist bloggers and then check them off!).

I write about them more often because I come from the heyday of card checklists. The checklist has been a disposable afterthought for decades so nobody else ever thinks of them anymore.

But I think of them because cards like the one above were front and center in my collection as a kid. You couldn't help but notice all the tiny boxes and shrunken names. And, I think of them so much that a checklist has made my Nebulous 9 list at least twice.

The second time was recently with the 1982 Fleer Dodgers checklist (the Yankees are on the reverse but we're not showing that for obvious reasons).

I'm happy to say that the checklist has been removed from the Nebulous 9 because Nick from Vermont sent it to me.

Now, here is the reason why I needed that checklist:

If you're one of those bloggers from when I first started blogging, you're looking at this card and calling it beautiful. It has character. It tells a story blah, blah, blah. Fortunately, most of those bloggers have moved on from blogging and will never see this.

I am not opposed to checked checklists. I've mentioned before that I enjoy them in certain situations. This card, for example, is a hoot:

But that card is both personalized and all checked on the back. Shari knows what's up.

I just don't have a use for a front-checked checklist, unless it's something super old.

For years, I kept that 1982 Fleer checked checklist and tried to shrug it off because it was "just" a double-sided checklist. But the older I get, the more I know what I want, and I want a clean checklist on the front!

Pen marks, in general, are so permanent. I don't like writing or scribbles on my card fronts (now you know why I'm not much of an autograph collector).

So I now have a clean checklist as if it's fresh out of the pack and it makes me happy. Don't worry, I'm not going to get it graded, I'll never go that far.

Nick, who hails from that same area where I discovered that mall card show last month, scouted out my want lists and found some other cards, too.

These cards say I'm a winner. Of course I am. Someone just sent me cards!

One of the final Cyberstats Dodgers that I needed. The last remaining want will be going on the Nebulous 9 soon.

Someone needs to do a study of what position has the greatest number of cards of players looking up. ... What are you looking at me for? I have no time for that!

Bowman Chromeys.

And if you think these scan poorly ...

That's a '99 SP Prospects card of current fawned-over Cub, David Ross.

More past prospects.

And more. I can't believe these two were on my want list (but they were). Card on the left is what happens when you focus on a player's butt. Card on the right is what happens when Charlie Spikes and Len Dykstra have a child.

This card answers the question of what would happen if Devo was a muscle-bound black man with a Dodger uniform and a rocket arm.

More '90s cards. I'm out of words.

But I'll end it BIG with a Topps Big card!

This card came in a top loader with a $3 price tag. I really hope Nick didn't spend $3 on it.

I suppose you're wondering what I'll do with the '82 Fleer checked checklist now.

I don't know. I'll probably throw it in a dupes box. Hope I'm not horrifying anyone with that.

I might even throw it away. Don't burn my house down.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

'56 of the month: Roy McMillan

We begin this month's '56 of the Month post with a Panini card.

Yes, a Panini card. I can't get much farther from a 1956 Topps card than shiny, metallic Panini Prizm.

But there's always a reason on NOC. This card, and the '56 Topps card I'm about to show have something in common.

As you know, the Dodgers wear red numbers on their uniform fronts. It is one of the most famous uniform accents in the history of professional sports, as there is little red (outside of the shooting baseball in the logo) in the entire Dodgers' makeup.

But Panini's cards illustrate the front number in blue, which is quite jarring for Dodgers collectors, and I would think, faithful baseball followers. The red number is as part of the Dodgers uniform as pinstripes on a Yankees uniform.

Because it is such a fixture in Dodgers' uniform history, my guess is it is off-limits for depiction by Panini, which does not own a Major League Baseball license. Logos are off-limits and the red uniform number, I guess, is treated as a logo, too. I don't know how else you would explain the blue.

So, it's well-established: red number on the uniform front, iconic and eye-catching, blue number on the front drab, jarring and never happened.

OK, time to show the 1956 Topps card:

I'm sure you've spotted it right away.

That's a blue No. 19 on the front of the Dodger infielder.

Let's get the ID out of the way first. The Dodger infielder is Jim Gilliam. No. 19 is famous in Dodger lore as Gilliam's number is the only retired number of a player not inducted into the Hall of Fame in Dodgers history. Gilliam died the day before the Dodgers clinched the pennant in 1978, and his uniform number was retired just before Game 1 of the World Series.

But why is the number blue??????

Good question.

The Dodgers began wearing red numbers on the front of their uniforms at the start of the 1952 season. They were supposed to debut them for the 1951 World Series, but Bobby Thomson and some dirty sign-stealers interrupted that. The front uniforms were red -- as opposed to the blue uniforms on the back -- because color TV was starting to filter into the mainstream and Dodger management figured red stood out more than blue. The entire account was revealed a couple of years ago.

So, by 1955 -- supposedly when this play happened (most of the action on 56 Topps are illustrated black-and-white photos from the 1955 season) -- the red numbers on the front were firmly established. There weren't any blue numbers.

And there weren't any blue numbers before the Dodgers started red numbers. Take a look.

So, um, why the blue number on this card?

I don't know. I'm assuming there wasn't any legal issue at the time. Who ever thought to be that litigious then? Gilliam's 1955 Topps card shows him with a red front number. Yet Clem Labine's '55 Topps card shows him with a blue front number.

And how about these 1956 Topps cards?

All of them are shown wearing blue front numbers.


I'm tempted to believe that if the numbers were depicted in blue that often then maybe there were actually blue numbers at some point. Or maybe the artists just weren't up on the proper coloring and assumed that a team that wears blue would have blue numbers across the board.

Or maybe -- wouldn't this be vindication for Panini -- they actually weren't allowed legally to show red numbers.

(I'm going to go with the "artists were clueless" possibility until told otherwise).

I probably should mention something about Roy McMillan since it actually IS his card.

McMillan was the glue to the Reds' infield in the 1950s, a multi-Gold Glover who once held the record for most double plays turned in a season. After his career he served as interim manager twice, once for the Brewers in the early '70s and then once for the Mets after Yogi Berra was fired in 1975.

The first cartoon strip is interesting to me. A softball player, huh? I actually grew up playing baseball with a tennis ball in the backyard before graduating to hard ball. It was pretty jarring making the transition. I wonder if that was that way for McMillan, although the cartoon states "it's all the same to me!"

As for the last cartoon, McMillan would never be mistaken for someone to win a batting title. His average started downward in the late '50s and he ended up with a career .243 average.

Also note the reference to "Redlegs" on these '56 cards. That was leftover from the red scare of the '50s. The switch to "Redlegs" began in the 1954 Topps set and did not return to "Reds" until the 1960 set.

(Lot of talk about red and blue in this post. The 4th of July is around the corner).

Friday, June 24, 2016

I don't know what I have

Speaking of repeating myself, here is another tale of how I'm way too busy for this convoluted hobby to know what is in a set or even what I have.

Three PWE's received recently help illustrate that tale.

The first one is from P-town Tom at Waiting 'til Next Year. He sent three cards, one of which is the one you see at the top. The Fleer Sports Illustrated cover cards are probably the best card thing that ever came out in the '90s.

The second card from Tom is the pretty pointless Clayton Kershaw card from the National League all-star set, in which Topps merely reprints the same photos and plants an AL or NL logo on the front. But people like me fall for it. Fortunately, I didn't have to fall for it this time -- P-town Tom did it for me!

Here is the card that I didn't know what I had when I first saw it. But it was only for a minute -- and then I realized that Pro Debut was probably out and I was happy to have another card of the 19-year-old superstar-in-the-making.

So, now, moving on to a PWE sent by Jim at Frankendodger.

Jim's new blog is a fun follow because it's all Dodger cards. And it gives me a chance to see what cards I don't have. There is special incentive there because Jim is showing off all his dupes in the process of putting together a Frankendodger set. Perhaps he has some dupes for me!

So I've gotten in the habit of informing him when there's a card I need, and Jim has even placed my want list on his blog. Have you ever seen anything like that?

So he sent a couple of cards off that want list:

I've always wanted a card of Walter O'Malley. This one hails from the 2016 Diamond Kings set.

Now we come to the "I don't know what I have" segment of the package:

I actually do know what this is. It's a 1999 Topps Gallery card of Todd Hundley. Where the "I don't know what I have" part comes in is in that I have this card already. I commented on Frankendodger that I needed this card, and Jim faithfully sent it to me, and then I looked it up in the binder and that same card is staring me in the face.

I don't know what I have.

Jim also sent a couple night cards to help wash away the disgust of seeing a "want" transform into a "have" before my very eyes. Both of these dudes are fairly polarizing people. But the fans who dislike them most are Cubs and Yankees fans, and I don't have sympathy for either of those groups so you just may see these in the night card binder (but hopefully not the Molina).

Let's move on to the third PWE.

This one comes from Dave from Texas. He just wanted to tell me happy Father's Day and that he likes the blog. That's rather nice.

He guessed that I have the Russell already, which I do. But if I'm going to collect the '73 set someday (and I am), this comes in handy.

Here is the other card:

This is where "I don't have time for your card set shenanigans" comes into play.

I knew this card was from this year's Archives set. I also knew that Sandy Koufax is one of the SPs in the set, which are cards 301-310.

But I didn't remember exactly when the SPs began in the set, so when I turned the card over, I saw it was numbered 300 and assumed that was the SP ...





There is, of course. It's Koufax on the 1953 design. That is the short-print card.

So are you with me? This is how messed up card sets are these days. There is a 310-card set, and it contains two cards of the same player for reasons that are based on nothing except the whim of the people putting the set together. And I still haven't wrapped myself around the fact that base cards are severely short-printed.

Does Koufax know he's lending his name to this kind of lameness?

So, Gavin of Breakdown Cards had to inform me that what Dave had sent was not the SP, but a regular, ordinary Koufax. And I watched all that good feeling I felt for David trickle down the drain (just kidding, of course).

I amend what I said about this year's Archives set and how I enjoy at least the 1979 Topps tribute in the set. Forget all that. Archives is garbage and always has been garbage and it needs to die on a garbage pile of garbage.

(Yes, I'm still collecting the '79 cards, but I still don't like you, Archives).

I am a lot happier -- and I usually know what I have -- when I collect vintage.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Terrible ideas

Let's face it, Topps has come up with some interesting card ideas in the past year.

The revival of oddball issues, the daily reveal of ToppsNow cards, and now some sort of rip card that doubles as a prize-winning game, have been well-received, in general.

New ideas are never perfect and there are some aspects of this latest newness that don't appeal to me. I will never grasp digital-only cards, for example, and the chances of me pulling some contest rip card are nil because I don't like flagship this year. But Topps needs to do stuff like this, if only to quiet the endless drumbeat demands of "INNOVATION!" that you hear from '90s kids all the time.

Personally, I'd be happy with a thorough, well-crafted, 726-card base set on sturdy cardboard. Period. But the hobby, like the world, is all about "gotta do MORE NOW" these days, so I know that objective left the radar a long time ago.

Still, even with Topps and other card companies attempting to be new and different, while still staying true to their roots, they will always have their critics. You've heard the complaints. The oddball cards come with crap pizza. The ToppsNow cards are too expensive and feature too many of the same teams. And then there's this one Twitter guy (you know the one): soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer, random critical tweet of latest Topps product, soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer.

But I'm here to tell you that things could be worse. Much worse.

Here are 10 innovative card ideas that I came up with on my walk today. None of them are as desirable as purchasing a card with your breadsticks. In fact, all of them are downright awful.

Let's take a look at some terrible innovations:

1. A reprint insert set that is nothing but cards from 1991 Donruss. In fact, they are the actual 1991 Donruss cards, but with the word "reprint" scrawled on the back by some high school student.

2. A card set scented with the smells of the ballpark. Featuring 20 different smells. Sounds great, right? Well, no card company has been able to execute a new idea perfectly, so amid the "hot dog" and "green grass" smells would be cards that smell like "locker room" and "Don Zimmer."

3. Paint swatch cards featuring the chosen colors and patterns of the kitchens in players' homes.

4. Variation photos of every single card in a 700-card set. We're headed in this direction now if we haven't already done it.

5. An insert set featuring players digitally painted so they look like mimes.

6. Billboard cards. Each card is as large as a billboard and you can put it in your yard or on the back of your home. You have to figure out how to transport it first though.

7. Aerodynamic cards -- cards that can actually fly 300 feet in the air. Unfortunately, you have to fold the card for it to fly. It also doubles as the world's flimsiest drone. So each pack comes with legal issues.

8. Oddball cards issued with children's medicine. Collectors are required to be accompanied by a sick child in order to buy the medicine. The child must supply a mucus sample for the store clerk.

9. This is for the future. Cities, realizing they can get in on the licensing money previously reserved for clubs, also demand licensing agreements. Card companies without a license must issue sets without team names or city names. The cards are simply players in generic laundry with no words on the front. The only way you can find out what team or city they play for is by using the code implanted on your forehead when you bought the pack so you can enter it in an underground online forum site.

10. For the prospectors: a pack of cash. Most packs contain 10 $1 bills. But there are 5s, 10s, 20s and 50s inserted randomly. Each pack is $30, because collectors are used to paying more than cards are worth. Big box stores are forced to hire security guards for the card aisles.

See? Terrible. Things could be a lot worse.

Card companies are trying. They really are. Maybe not at the rate that we want them to, but at least there's an idea from 2016 where I can say "I like that."

Meanwhile, someone somewhere is going to like one of the terrible ideas I just floated.

So just remember where you read it first.

And save me a pack.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The perils of being a veteran baseball card blogger

First off, there aren't a lot of perils.

But I'll list a few here, most of which I've already covered.

1. You're not the new kid on the block. Readers know your deal. There are no tricks. Whatever is the latest and greatest, you're not doing that.

2. You're established, and people like to take pot-shots at the establishment. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. I usually consider the source.

3. The gnawing, nagging feeling that you've covered the topic before. Sometimes it's not a "feeling," it's a "knowing." While in the act of writing something, I am thinking, "I've done all of this before." You've just got to hope someone's reading your blog for the first time.

4. You have a lot of cards. Therefore, you get a lot of dupes. And sometimes it's obscure dupes, too.

For instance, I received a healthy stack of cards from Mike at Not Another Baseball Card Blog. Since Mike resides in Canada, a number of the cards were O-Pee-Chees. Prior to starting this blog, I owned maybe 10 OPC cards. But I own many more than that now, and so -- in a staggering development for pre-Night Owl Cards night owl -- just under 10 OPC cards were dupes.

O-Pee-Chee dupes. I still can't wrap my brain around it.

Fortunately, there were plenty of needs among the OPC, too. Here they are:

C'est bon!

I especially like the '83 Fernando. That's a Canadian card of a Mexican pitching in the U.S. (San Francisco, I believe). This card does a lot for North American relations.

There were a few other non-OPCs, too.

This card was never on my radar because it's listed as an Oakland A's card. I like it a lot because it's the closest thing to a card telling you on the front that the Dodgers got rid of Maniac Milton and received Andre Ethier in return.

I will never understand these stitched patch things. I'm tempted to take one of them apart to see what's inside.

I also don't have use for any buybacks that are not 1975 Topps buybacks. What do I do with this as someone who has completed the '74 set?

Ah, I believe these last four cards came from Thorzul in one of his "Pull The Trigger" posts.

I will dedicate these to the upgrading quest for my '72 Topps set. That Foster in particular looks spiffy.

Thorzul, by the way, is one of those bloggers who was around when I first started, and is still doing his thing. Others who have me beat and are still regulars or semi-regulars include Autographed Cards, bdj610's Topps Baseball Card Blog, Capewood's Collections, Card Buzz, Cardboard Junkie, Cards On Cards, Heartbreaking Cards of Staggering Genius (started 2 days before NOC!), I Am Joe Collector (started 11 days before NOC), Japanese Baseball Cards, Nachos Grande, Number 5 Type Collection, Orioles Card "O" the Day, Phungo, Sports Cards Uncensored, Texas Rangers Cards, The Baseball Card Blog, The Fleer Sticker Project, The Topps Archives (started the day before NOC!), The Writer's Journey, Tribe Cards and White Sox Cards.

They are proof that blogging never died and you can still stick with something you love for seven-plus years.

Also, I was just alerted to the revival of another blog that was around when I first started, Old School Breaks. John has himself a box-breaking partner now, so check it out, especially if you like '90s cards.

Check out the other ones I mentioned, too. There are some in there that inspired Night Owl Cards. There's something to be said for being a blogging veteran. Even if it means more dupes than you've ever seen in your life.