Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Football season never ends

I put a 40-inch NFL roundup in the newspaper last night. For you people who don't speak "column inches," that's around 1,320 words.

That's a tremendous amount of words for a sport whose season ended 23 days ago. But I've learned over the last few years that football, particularly the NFL, never ends. It shows up on the wire, on TV reports, everywhere, around the calendar. I'm trying to think of a month in which the NFL doesn't broadcast itself: June, maybe. There doesn't seem to be much NFL news in June. That's about it.

(You could probably say the same for baseball, although the baseball news is pretty slow in parts of December and January. But I'm never ready for baseball to end, so seeing offseason baseball news is never a bother).

I'm probably contributing to the ubiquitous NFL info glut by publishing a post that features mostly NFL cards. I recently received a few cards each from readers Chris and Henry. And NFL cards were a key component of each package. Why both of them even sent the 1977 Topps Reggie McKenzie card!

That's because my main NFL collecting interests right now (and probably for good) are 1970s Bills and 1977 Topps.

So let's see some cards from that sport that ended already, as well as from that sport that is just beginning!

Chris sent me a '77 leaders card, which is very much in the style of the Topps baseball leaders cards of the time. I don't have a large handle on NFL '70s sets so I don't know if this was a regular occurrence. By the way, you will see John James later in the post. That's right, a John James-centric post. You never thought you'd see the day.

Moving back a year to the '76 set (also one that I collected a bit as a kid). This is a classic design. Pure and vibrant. It means business, just as Dwight Harrison does here.

Just in case you baseball fans thought I've gone over to the dark side -- a baseball card! Really, I am 99.979% about baseball, I hope you know. The NFL thing is just a little side project to keep the '70s juices flowing.

Carlos Ruiz here (I still get a 2010 Toppstown vibe from these cards, which is not good) means I'm a Howie Kendrick away from completing the 2017 Series 1 Dodgers set. Exciting times.

What? More baseball cards?? Yes, Chris sent me two 2003 Topps "Home Team Advantage" Dodgers. I think these were hobby issue only? (IDK. I wasn't collecting then).

These foil-stamped parallel sets depress me as a team collector. I really don't want to collect these. That 1993 Topps set when there were foil-stamped parallels of Marlins and Diamondbacks, I just look at those and sigh. Really? These are the same flipping cards!

OK, moving on to some cards from Henry:

This is the second-to-last need from the 1979 portion of last year's Archives. Only Ozzie Smith remains. Plus some SSPs (stupid short-prints) if I decide to be stupid.

Have you ever got the mini parallel version of an insert before you get the actual insert? Annoying, huh? This card ends the annoying. Russell Martin 2009 OPC insert and mini parallel can room together in harmony.

I know. That's a bit of ugly. But when I decided I wanted to collect the stand-ups insert set from last year's Heritage, I knew there were quite a few players I didn't care for in it. That's the drawback of collecting modern sets.

I didn't expect to get hit with a double-shot of Giant grossness, but I made up for it a little by sending a Bumgarner card to Henry.

I still need around five cards from this set. I'll probably save up for it by not buying very much 2017 Heritage.

The rest of the cards Henry sent were 1977 Topps football. I was able to hand-select a few key cards from that set. Here are two stars of the Bills from that period.

Dave Jennings went to a college my newspaper covers, St. Lawrence University.

The rest of the cards were favorites from when I was collecting this set as a kid.

My fascination with long-haired athletes progressed from baseball to football back then.

Gee, I wonder why they called him "Golden"? The Cowboys cards from this set were pretty darn special to me. When I land the Harvey Martin, Randy White and Billy Joe Dupree cards, I'll be in '77 heaven.

Finally, we're back to John James.

I was enthralled with this card as an 11-year-old.

Didn't matter that he was a punter.

Didn't matter that he played for the Falcons.

He couldn't have been more of a superstar in my mind when I owned this card. Obviously, he had to be good! Look at that purple All-Pro bar!

I still love this card. I couldn't tell you a lick about John James.

OK, that's enough about football. We're going to have a whole page of football in tomorrow's paper, too. It never ends.

But I promise tomorrow, the blog will be nothing but baseball.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Man of the city

Have you ever come across a terrific factoid for the first time and wondered why no one else has discovered it already and then realize you've misread or misinterpreted something and that's why no one has discovered it? Because it doesn't exist, dumb-ass?

Oh, if I had baseball card for how many times that's happened.

The most recent example came a week or so ago as I was filing away some unwanted 2016 Topps into a box to hopefully never pull out again (except if someone wants them, please, please take them). I came across Caleb Cotham here.

I had no idea who Caleb Cotham is. I stopped watching the YES Network about three years ago in an effort to know much less about the Yankees. Since first coming across the card I've realized there isn't a lot to know, he was traded to the Reds after just 12 games in the Aroldis Chapman deal and then struggled with Cincinnati for 20-plus games in 2016 before becoming a free agent.

In my ignorance, I misread the name on the card as "Caleb GOTHAM," and I thought instantly what a fantastic name that was for some who was pitching in New York. How in the world had the tabloids not seized on his name and used all kinds of "Gotham" headlines? The Batman references could potentially last forever. How had I missed this?

I missed it because his name isn't "Gotham".

This was very disappointing. A missed opportunity by everyone involved. If Charlie Finley or Ted Turner owned the Yankees, Caleb's name would be "Gotham" before he put on a uniform for the first time.

But missed opportunity leads to other opportunities.

I started to wonder if any players featured in their names the nicknames of the city for which they played.

I conducted some very basic research on nicknames for cities that house major league baseball teams. It proved to be a futile exercise. Many city nicknames are not easily tied to people names, "The Motor City," "The Mile-High City," "Charm City," stuff like that.

Fortunately, many large U.S. cities have multiple nicknames, so I came up with three instances in which players shared a name with the nickname of the city for which they played.

Elmer Steele pitched for Pittsburgh, "The Steel City," in 1910-1911. Also, Bob Steele pitched for Pittsburgh in 1916-1917.

This is the only card I found for the Steeles. Elmer Steele is featured in the massive Target Dodgers team set here.

Lou Brock played almost his entire Hall of Fame career for St. Louis. One of St. Louis' common nicknames is "The Lou". So, this Lou played for The Lou for over 15 years.

That means, of course, that any baseball-playing Lou who played for St. Louis also represented the city as Brock did. I didn't have any time to look up every Lou who may have played for the Cardinals. I just know I can eliminate Lou Piniella and Lou Whitaker.

My favorite example of this player name-city nickname phenomenon, is likely very well-known, especially by fans of 1950s baseball.

On December 11, 1957, history was made when the Phillies purchased the contract of first baseman/outfielder Dave Philley. For almost three wonderful years, Philley played for "Philly"!


He was a noted pinch-hitter during the time he played for Philadelphia and my guess is headline writers went wild. Using names in headlines is considered passe these days, but in the '50s anything went.

Philley's name also worked for the team's nickname, the Phillies. There are a few more examples of players sharing a name with the nickname of the team (with a few licenses for spelling), such as the Cardinals' Jose Cardenal and the Angels' Angel Berroa.

But I didn't find any other player name-city nickname examples, striking out on some that I thought would be obvious finds, such as "Oak-town."

If you know of other examples, shout 'em out. Caleb Cotham may have missed out on a golden opportunity but that doesn't mean others didn't.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Awesome night card, pt. 270: spring has sprung

I finally found a few minutes to watch a spring training game on television today.

Spring training always coincides with the busiest time of the year for me. I'd love to do nothing but watch spring training games every day -- I'd love even more to travel to Florida or Arizona to do nothing but watch spring training games in person every day. But every year all I can do is catch a snippet here or there until the very end of March when I have just a little more time.

Anyway, I was able to watch some of the Dodgers against the Brewers today. It was delightful, seeing the old familiar faces and a few new ones. The relaxed setting, the wonderful weather, the weird Dodger caps. It's nice to reacquaint myself with April Through October again.

As I was watching, I began to think about the Dodger player that I looked forward to watching most this season.

I always enjoy watching Clayton Kershaw, and now Corey Seager, too. But the one player that I want to see more of -- to see what he can do and how he may have improved over the past offseason -- is Julio Urias.

Last year he showed how much potential he has, even if the results weren't that great, even if he didn't stay on the mound for very long. I want to see what he can do with more time and more experience.

I received the above Urias card from reader R.C. It's one of those "continuity program" chrome '87s, and it's curling way too much already.

R.C. sent another Continuity Card of another member of the Dodgers' pitching staff, Kenta Maeda.

I believe I have all of the Dodger pitchers contained in this Continuity set now.

Urias' performance will go a long way toward determining how deep the Dodgers' pitching staff is in 2017. And that's why I'm looking forward to watching him the most this season.

So how about you? Who is the one player from your favorite team that you want to see most this season?


Awesome Night Card: Julio Urias, 2017 Topps 1987 Chrome Continuity, #87-JU
Does it make the night card binder?: Well, no, it doesn't have A CARD NUMBER. (Also, it's going in the Dodger binder)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Two Steady Eddie fans

Today is Eddie Murray's 61st birthday, and for that occasion I have now trotted out this 1985 Topps card of Murray on two social media sites. It really is the greatest Eddie Murray card.

Even though I am a Dodger fan, I identify Murray with the Orioles, of course. He played for Baltimore for the first decade of his career and only a handful of years with the Dodgers. For 10 years, there was nothing but Murray Orioles cards in my collection.

Murray almost never talked to the press, which is a reason for me to dislike him. But I can't help it. I still like him. Someone who I know also likes him is Commish Bob. He just happened to showcase a bunch of Murray cards on his blog yesterday, Murray's birthday eve.

And I just happened to receive some cards from Commish Bob recently. None of them are Eddie Murray cards, but they sure are great. I'll lay the most spectacular on you first.

Those are a bunch of 1956 Topps off my want list. Not many names I know -- although I owned Frank Baumholtz's 1955 Topps card as young teenager after pulling it out of one of those baseball card bubble gum machines.

But I'm not done showing the '56s.

Lots more goodies. As usual, '56 lots like this make me want to get cracking on grabbing some of the more famous items in the set, just so I'm not scrounging for the likes of Williams and Clemente and Mays all at once at the end.

Commish Bob mentioned that some of these may be fillers until I can upgrade. But the vast majority I'll throw in the '56 binder without any thought of finding a replacement.

OK, this one I might upgrade.

I'm sure this card fools no one. It's not a '56, but one of those 2017 Topps ads. Now that I own the '56 Robinson, I shrug my shoulders every Topps produces another remake. But I must collect it.

I also received the only Dodger first-pitch entrant in 2017 Series 1. I didn't know who Keegan-Michael Key was when I first came across the First Pitch list for this year. You TV watchers know he's a comedian, from Comedy Central and Parks and Rec and a few other places. I use TV for baseball, weather and local news, these days, so another shoulder shrug from me.

Now I get to open one of the Jackie Robinson "patch" cards that are in blasters this year!

Let's see what's inside:

Altuve. This card traveled all the way from the Houston area so somebody in the Northeast could open it. So far I've opened two of these and pulled an Oriole and an Astro. I should open all of these for you, Commish.

There was one other group of cards in this package that when I saw the card on top, my heart skipped a beat.

I know this card means nothing to anyone who didn't grow up in the '70s/isn't a Dodger fan. But there is nothing that gets to the center of my collecting core than cards from the mid-'70s, particularly if they're Dodgers. Lance Rautzhan was a prospect that I rooted for back then, although he received just one solo card, in the 1979 Topps set.

This card is from the 1975 TCMA set for the Waterbury Dodgers, a Double A Eastern League team that was a Dodgers affiliate from 1973-76. It's odd that the Dodgers would have an affiliate so far east, in Connecticut.

I received 11 cards from the set. That's not the whole set, there are players like Rafael Landestoy and Glenn Burke in this set. Future manager Jim Riggleman, too.

I didn't receive any of those, but I did receive this one:

I now own a Badcock.

You can BIN one of these for $12.99 if you like. Mine came much more cheaply. What a fantastic card.

Tom Badcock toiled in the Cubs organization for the first half of the '70s, getting to Triple A, before moving over to the Dodgers for two years. He pitched for Waterbury in 1975 and 1976, then ended up in the Indians and Royals organizations but never made the majors.

I will treasure this card, like I treasure all minor league cards from the '70s (one day, when I have a lot of money to blow, I'm going to buy every 1970s minor league set ever made).

These TCMAs were the highlight of the package for me, better than any "patch" card (it's not a patch!) and even better than the '56s.

It's all about where you're coming from.

And I'm always coming from the '70s.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

1968 Topps, the untold story

Topps Heritage is scheduled to be released next week and already images of what is on the way, in the tribute to the 1968 design, are all over the internet.

Of course, the only cards that have been shown so far are cards that will be almost impossible to get. I've seen the dual signature Nolan Ryan-Johnny Bench card about a dozen times now (it's been declared the card of the year -- I don't consider a card whose access is limited to deep-pocket collectors as "card of the year"). I've also seen the signed Mike Trout card a few times. Again, this isn't anything I am looking to pull.

There also have been recently published looks at the 1968 Topps set since everyone -- god help us -- is going to see that burlap design for all of 2017.

Topps just issued its own retrospective of the set. It's worth the read, especially for collectors who don't know a lot about '60s sets. But the piece focuses on the same three items that I often see from these set reviews from hobby publications or others in the hobby:

Rookies. Errors. Stars.

The '80s just ruined us. Every write-up: "here are the hot rookies, here are the errors to look for, here are the stars you player-collectors can find." And nothing else.

I understand why Topps does this, especially with Heritage. Rookies give Topps the opportunity to flaunt parallels or inserts or autographs/relics of those players and they draw a high premium. Errors (and there are a few in '68 Topps) give Topps the opportunity for variations. And stars give Topps the opportunity to backload them into the short-print portion of the set, the final 75 cards. (I checked out the Heritage checklist yesterday and called Corey Seager being a short-print before I even opened the file).

These three items make Topps money. So that's why they're stressed. Why other publications stress rookies/errors/stars exclusively, I'm not sure, other than that maybe the vast majority of readers care about that stuff. I live in a card-blogging bubble where commons are just as treasured as the hottest rookie or biggest star, so my view is skewed. But I would think people who are about to dig into the 2017 Heritage set would want a more accurate, unvarnished look at the 1968 Topps set.

So, here is a little of that for you now.

First, the set is ugly. No offense to Hank Aguirre here -- I wouldn't fair very well if they slapped a goofy, smiling head shot of me with no hat and the wrong uniform onto a card -- but it just is.

There was a reason I ranked it 53rd all-time among all of Topps' base sets a couple years ago. And people who were actually kids in 1968 agreed. That's not to say that there aren't collectors who do like the set and try to collect it. I know a few of them right now. That's why there is chocolate and tutti frutti. But the general consensus is the burlap design is one of the least attractive designs Topps has ever produced.

You'll never see Topps mention that in its retrospective piece though.

The '68 set is filled with players with no hats.

And it's filled with players with blacked-out hats.

Will we see that in 2017 Heritage? I doubt it. And I'm OK with that. The combination of the burlap design and the blacked-out caps heightened the ugly factor. I would think Topps wants people to buy these cards.

The 1968 set is one of the most inconsistent visually because of the difference in the borders in the first series. The border for first-series cards featured much wider spacing in the pattern. The rest of the cards displayed a more old-style television feel (which is what I believe Topps was going for in '68).

The inconsistency in design is a real turn-off for my OCD. I have no plans to ever try to complete this set, but if I were, this aspect of it would create a throbbing pain over my right eye.

The '68 set is all about horned-rim glasses. I don't suppose we'll see any of those in 2017 Heritage. Every year I try to reconcile current ballplayer fashion with old-school Heritage designs. Seeing arm-sleeve tattoos with the burlap borders is going to be freaky.

The '68 set is about players milling about in the background. I hope there's some of that in 2017 Heritage.

It's about people sitting in the background, too. It's about miscut cards. And it's apparently about the flag of Austria.

'68 Topps is about holes in workout clothes.

It's about scribbles on the uniform (because kids and only kids collected these).

It's about guys in slacks half cut out of photos and a random camera lens appearing out of nowhere (at least I hope that's a camera lens).

And it's about puzzles on the back of the All-Star cards. Will there be puzzles on the back of the 2017 Heritage all-star cards? I'm going to say yes.

Who will be featured? In 1968, the players featured were Orlando Cepeda and Carl Yastrzemski, the respective MVPs from the previous year.

That would follow that the 2017 Heritage puzzles would be Mike Trout and Kris Bryant, two of Topps' darlings. So, yes, now I am 100 percent sure there will be puzzle backs in 2017 Heritage.

My bit of rambling gives you a little bit more insight into the '68 set than "these are the rookies, errors and stars, the end." For even more and better insight, find someone who collected the cards then. I was 2 years old at the time, I'm hardly an expert on those cards. But kids who opened packs in 1968 are the experts and they can give you the full picture.

Not just the picture that will make a company more money.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I freeze at Chinese restaurant buffets, too

One thing I still can't get accustomed to with modern shopping is the sheer variety all in one place. For years I operated in a world with only four channels on my television, a handful of station on the radio and a sports magazine that arrived once a week.

Much like someone who grew up during the depression (my apologies for comparing the '70s to the Great Depression), that period will be with me forever, and I'm still adjusting to the grand smorgasbord that appears before us whenever we fancy.

The best example of my inability to fully grasp this is whenever I select cards on COMC. I absolutely cannot focus. I have a variety of collecting interests, so that plays a part, but I cannot commit myself to a single shopping task and finish it. There is just too much other goodness to absorb.

I had a little bit of cash to spend recently and went straight to my favorite online card site. The first card I threw in the cart was the above Pete Rose In Action card from the 1972 Topps set. It's one of three cards that I needed to complete the set.

You'd think that while I was there, I would grab the other two cards I needed.

But you will not see the '72 base Pete Rose card on this post nor the Tim Foli In Action card.

I didn't bother to nab them.

My attention got diverted.

This card was a no-brainer. As a guy, I think we are all in agreement that Kate Upton is the most stunning Sports Illustrated supermodel to ever walk the earth (and if you disagree, I don't want to hear it, you just sound silly).

From there tastes diverge. But my favorite after Ms. Upton is without a doubt Marisa Miller.

So, I can't for the life of me understand why this card cost under a dollar. It should be at least 50 bucks. Not that I'm complaining.

But, I know what you're saying: this card, at under a dollar, couldn't have possibly gotten in the way of landing those other two 1972 Topps needs.

No, you're right, it couldn't.

Another card did.

I am on record as adoring this insert set from 2003 Topps. I wrote a post quite awhile ago stating that I was collecting this set.

I haven't gotten very far. I have maybe 15 cards from the set and many of those are tied up in my Dodger collection (guess where this one is going?).

The cards seem pretty popular in general, and they're a pain in the ass to find at a reasonable price. Sure $3 might not sound like much, but when you're trying to complete a 100-card insert set, that adds up quickly.

So, when I saw this card -- one of the greatest World Series programs ever -- at a decent price, I grabbed it.

It will probably be another year-and-a-half before I snare another one.

But, really, that card couldn't have cut into my spending on those other two '72s, could it?

No, not really.

But there's another card I landed I must mention.

I saw this card on Nachos Grande's trade bait post. I believe it was one of the framed versions of this card. I probably should have nabbed it then, but I'd rather have the base card.

I wasn't even aware there was a Marvin Harrison Masterpieces card. I interviewed Harrison many times when he played college football at Syracuse, so this card is for a future "Brush With Greatness" post, as I continue to expand outside of baseball in that series.

The card was pretty cheap for an NFL great and card series great (Masterpieces), so I don't think this card, added to the two other cards could have prevented me from getting the other two '72s I needed.

But, still, there was another one:

Of course it's a 1975 buyback card.

As my quest to get as many buybacks from the '75 set continues, I zeroed in on another one of my favorites from that set. I loved this Dave Cash card when I was a kid, it was a prized possession in my very small collection. I may have gone outside my buyback upper spending limit for this card. But it's worth it.

Cash also came with some friends.

 This brings me to at least 120 buybacks from that set (it's either 120 or 121, I need to recount). If I were to devote as much time as, say, Shoebox Legends is devoting to his buyback project, I'd be a lot farther along. But you know my issue with focus.

Truthfully, I may have been able to grab the Foli In Action card if I hadn't bought these few other cards. But I didn't have the money to get all three '72 Topps that I needed, so I decided to distribute my money to other interests and save my "I HAVE COMPLETED 1972 TOPPS" post for another time.

I actually love to see variety come out of one of those little yellow envelopes. It makes me happier than getting 100 cards from one set.

It's kind of like going to a restaurant buffet. Yeah, there is one dish there that you really, really like. But who wants 10 helpings of sesame chicken? There's so much other good stuff on the menu, too.

Still, there's always that time when you go back to the table and think "dammit, I forgot the wontons!"