Wednesday, June 28, 2017

This ticks all the boxes


When I was collecting cards as a youngster, every baseball card wrapper contained an offer on the side for something extra.

"It's a whole new series of colorful team pennants with official team insignia and colors. Here's a great way to decorate your room. Pick your favorite team or yearly champions! For each pennant send 40¢ plus one baseball wrapper to:"

Most of these, I ignored. I wasn't opening packs to read tiny print on the side. The only time I paid attention was when the offer involved something specific to cards: Collect all the team checklists. Check out the game card inside to win more cards. Those were worth a couple seconds of my time.

The ubiquitous Sports Card Locker, which you see in the top image at bottom right, appeared virtually every year on wrappers in the 1970s/early '80s. I probably considering sending away for that once. The personalized trading cards? No way. Nobody needs to see me on a trading card. Even when I was 10. The offer for a baseball autographed by members of your favorite team seems to blow all the other offers out of the water. But, again, I paid it no mind.

I was so oblivious to most wrapper offers that I have no recollection of many of the selections from that time.

So when mr haverkamp sent me an email asking if I had seen the ebay listing for a 1980 Topps Wax Pack Wrapper Mail Away Ron Cey Box Mint Never Folded, I had to tell him, no, I hadn't seen it, no I never knew that it existed, and, whuuuuuuuut, a Ron Cey box was offered on wrappers to every kid in America???

How did I miss that?

Yeah, I know, I was all about the cards. But, dammit, night owl, sometimes your focus is too narrow.

A week or two later, an envelope arrived from Jim and I pulled out two 1980 Topps Wax Pack Wrapper Mail Away Ron Cey Box Mint Never Foldeds.



That is too cool.

A couple of things to note about the picture. One, Topps is trying to make Cey look like a generic ball player, which, as you know, is impossible to do with Ron Cey. Two, where the heck did the second half of The Penguin's right leg go?

Since mr haverkamp thoughtfully sent me two boxes, I could safely construct one while leaving the other one Mint Never Folded.

So here is the created box:



Kind of neat and nifty and kind of simple and not very exciting, huh?

It reminds me of a pack of cigarettes for some reason. Also, the opening without any covering makes me nervous. Cards could just plop right out? Given that this was issued in 1980 and binders and pages were just starting to become a big thing, I think this new Ron Cey Collecting Box was a bit behind the times already.



There is the spine where you can write down the range of card numbers, if you write very small. I admit the box is tidy and cute. I just crammed some cards inside and it holds about 40 cards snugly before you have to worry about the inner fold dinging your cards all up.

After doing a little poking around, I figured out that you couldn't order this box off a wrapper from 1980 Topps. 1980 is the copyright on the box, but the wrapper offer appeared in 1981 Topps.


That's a selection of 1981 Topps wrapper offers and the Cey box is on the lower left.




According to the offer you received FIVE collecting boxes for a buck. I don't know if Ron Cey was on every one of them, but I'm guessing he was (as he should be).

By this time in my life as a collector, I know I was putting all of my cards in binders or shoeboxes and definitely not carrying around 40 cards in a cute little box to school. That kind of thing could get you beat up, Cey or no Cey.

But it's a pretty cool collectors item.

While I've almost always been about the cards and nothing but the cards, even as a kid refusing to read the wrapper offers, I make exceptions for The Penguin.

An item like this ticks all the boxes for my Cey collection.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Bubbling over


Baseball and bubblegum.

To me, they seem to be one and the same. They go together. That old commercial jingle got it wrong. Apple pie? Who eats apple pie at a ballpark? "Baseball, hot dogs, bubblegum and Chevrolet" is how it should read.

For at least as long as Topps and Bowman have been around, there's been gum at the ballpark. Card companies that also pedaled in gum made sure it was available to players. A player blowing a bubble was considered free advertising.

But try to catch a bubblegum bubble on the front of a baseball card prior to the 1970s. I'm almost certain it doesn't exist. A wad of tobacco chaw in a cheek is much easier to spot on cards between 1951-71. I know, I've looked. There are more tobacco chewers in the first 30 cards of the 1960 Topps set than there are gum chewers in the entire 572 cards that year (2-0 is that score).

That is completely ridiculous. Don't we call these little pieces of cardboard "bubblegum cards?" Yet, there was no bubblegum in those pictures?

The major reason for that, I believe, is that tobacco simply was the chew of choice for years and years in baseball. Baseball cards weren't packaged with gum way back when the 20th century was shiny and new. They were packaged with tobacco. Old habits die hard in baseball, even nasty, disgusting, unhealthy ones. You were almost required to chew tobacco to fit in with your teammates.

Also, gum-chewing, and especially bubble blowing, was perceived by the baseball crowd as lackadaisical, unfocused, less than serious. Bubble blowing makes a player appear carefree, relaxed. But nobody wanted players to look carefree and relaxed back in the 1950s. Or at least the managers didn't. The late Bob Lemke dug up an article about the bubble blow up that occurred when Mickey Mantle was spotted emitting a pink bubble from his mouth. The media thought it was delightful and Mantle's picture appeared in all the papers. But manager Casey Stengel was enraged. Scandalous! The Mick wasn't taking the game seriously!

Today, it's difficult to understand why that was such a big deal. Gum is much more prevalent than tobacco on MLB fields these days and players can be spotted blowing bubbles daily, before cameras and everything.


Bubblegum bubbles appear frequently on baseball cards now. Sometimes they are short-printed (a terrible idea, by the way), and sometimes they are included in the regular set.

The art of bubble blowing was even made into an insert set in last year's Topps Opening Day set.

Gum bubbles have appeared in sets regularly for the last 30 years, boosted by prominent 1990s card companies like Upper Deck and Pinnacle, and prominent baseball cards like ... well, like this:


So when did the change begin? That's what interests me. Sure, I know there was no gum on cards for ages and a lot of gum on cards in the last 25 years. But when did it start?

On the field, people credit "Big League Chew," the gum product developed in part by former pitcher Jim Bouton in the late 1970s that resembles a tobacco pouch but actually produces shredded gum. Players were weaned off tobacco and onto gum during the '70s.

On cards, most would credit the famed 1976 Topps Bazooka Bubblegum Blowing contest card:


A classic, no doubt. One of the best cards there is, for my bubblegum money.

But this is not the first appearance of a bubblegum bubble on a baseball card.

In the 1975 Topps set, Bert Blyleven is shown blowing a bubble in the dugout. It's one of my favorite cards from that entire set.

But, still, that isn't the first appearance of a bubblegum bubble on a baseball card.

What is?

Well, I will show the following card while saying I have not looked at all of the cards issued prior to the arrival of this card. There could very well be another earlier card with a player producing a bubblegum bubble. But until I get paid for unearthing stuff like this -- or until someone else does their own damn research -- this is the first official moment in which a player is shown producing a bubblegum bubble on his card:


It's Ken Reitz, on his 1974 Topps card (his first solo card, by the way).

If indeed this is the first moment of a gum bubble being born on a baseball card, I think we owe Ken Reitz a plaque or a trophy or our debt of gratitude or something -- maybe a bucket of Bazooka.

Without Mr. Reitz would we have this?


Would we have Pinnacle Griffey in '95 or Topps Bevacqua in '76? Would we have Brad Mills in 1982 Fleer or Sean Casey in 2005 Topps?

There are many collectors who compile "bubblegum blowers" mini-collections. Seeing a player blowing a gum bubble is fun. It is evidence of what we most like about the game -- it's fun.

Chewing and spitting and brown stains on your uniform pants? That's not fun.

I'm so glad we came around on that.

Let's all think of Ken Reitz the next time you see a ballplayer blow a bubblegum bubble.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

C.A.: 1993 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes Joe Black

(Damn, it's busy around here. I guess I spoke to soon when I said it was the start of the easy season. Maybe in another week I'll be able to roust up some solid posts here. But for now, it's Cardboard Appreciation time. This is the 258th in a series):


I'm a card collector, so I like to categorize things. And if I were to categorize the 1993 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes set, I would label it as "the classiest most difficult to store retro set of all-time."

How's that for a category?

The '93 All-Time Heroes set is a tribute to the famed 1912 T202 Hassan Triple Folders, one of the first sets to feature multiple big leaguers on one card. The 1993 UD set is 165 cards and features many players from the past, during a time when retro was just becoming popular with major card companies. It's also one of the few sets to trumpet a cause on the front of each card, promoting the Baseball Assistance Team, formed in 1986.

Each card is 5 1/4 inches long, which is not a nice thing to do to a group known for their OCD.

Fortunately, there are pages to accommodate these cards.

I recently received a few 1993 All-Time Heroes Dodgers from Jeffrey of Cardboard Catastrophes, and they were accompanied by one of the six-pocket pages made specifically for these cards.

The Joe Black card, I thought, completed the Dodgers team set for me. Teamsets4U.com lists eight players for the Dodgers and with Black's addition I had eight.

However, the Tommy Davis card in my collection is listed as an Oriole on Teamsets4U.


Probably because of Davis wearing an Oriole cap in the portrait photo.

But Davis is in action as a Dodger in the center photo, and, let's face it, Tommy Davis was at his most Tommy Davis as a Dodger. So, Dodger he be.

That means I'm still missing one Dodger from the set. It's the Johnny Podres card.


Here is a look at the other Dodgers in the set. Carl Erskine, Gil Hodges, Tommy John, Rick Monday, Gil Hodges and Manny Mota. (The center photo of the Monday card shows Monday as a Cub, saving the American flag from being burned by two protestors).

The other All-Time Heroes cards that Jeffrey sent are dupes, which means I'm very tempted to fold the sides in on some of those to create the booklet effect that was the key attraction of the original T202 Hassan folders.

For now, though, the extra cards are not folded.

We collectors with OCD need to move slowly.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Where are they now? Cards from 3 months ago


I received two packs of 2017 Heritage from my daughter for Father's Day. I kind of dropped a hint that we don't need no stinkin' flagship in the house no more and she wisely selected Heritage.

The packs were underwhelming. Let's face it, Heritage isn't going to be interesting again until 2020. If I was collecting the set though, they would have been pretty good packs. I pulled just four doubles.

But what I noticed the most from these two packs is how many players are no longer with the teams shown.

Out of the 18 cards in the two packs, eight players aren't playing for the team Heritage said they were playing for three months ago.

It's a tricky situation selecting teams for players, and I get the feeling it's getting trickier all the time. Somebody needs to measure the rate of transactions over the years and see exactly how much it's increased.

Here are the players out of those packs that aren't playing for the team shown:


Jhonny Peralta. Designated for assignment for the Cardinals. Just signed to a minor league deal by the Red Sox today.



Jeanmar Gomez. Just DFA'd this week by the awful, awful Phillies.



Jorge Soler. Sent down to Triple A Omaha by the Royals on June 3 after batting .164.



Leonys Martin. Has been playing for Triple A Tacoma this season.



Andre Ethier. His season that was pushed back to after the All-Star break has now been pushed back to September.


Edwin Jackson. Has been with two teams since the Padres. Pitched in the minors for the Orioles, was just signed by the Nationals on a minor league deal.

I didn't scan the doubles out of the packs, but neither Trayce Thompson (Dodgers) or Garrett Richards (Angels) are playing for their Heritage teams.

Here are the guys that are still playing with their Heritage teams (also includes doubles Jason Castro and Brandon Crawford that I didn't scan):


Even some of these guys are tentative. Musgrove has been DL'd recently and hasn't pitched great. It's only a matter of time before Ricky Nolasco disappears from the Angels starting staff.

Charlie Blackmon, of course, is the lone SP in the group because all of the superstars are stashed in the SPs these days, which is probably the big reason why Heritage packs are filled with so many iffy dudes.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Exciting, boring and overwhelming


The 2017 card season has been pretty uninspired. I'm not someone who needs a lot of bells and whistles, all I ask for is a nice design and a little creativity and thought. I haven't seen much of that so far this year.

With Topps Series 2 out now, I haven't bothered to check whether it's at any local big box store. I have no interest in adding more of the 2017 flagship design to my collection.

So, I was thrilled to find out that Peter of Baseball Every Night was holding a team break of Series 2. What a great way to get the Dodgers that I need without having to spend my cash on Marlins and Brewers and A's on that half-finished design they're throwing at us this year!

I was able to land 18 Dodgers from Series 2 in this break. I nabbed every base card except for two of them, the Kenta Maeda card, and, of course, the only Dodger card from this series that anyone is talking about, the team card that shows a collective salute to Vin Scully.

But with everything else landed, I can't complain too much. Let's see them quickly:


I'll start with six vertical cards of players who are contributing to the team right now in various stages. How about another four home runs against the Mets tonight, each with a home run trot slower the last?



Here are the vertical cards. Lots of DL guys here. Also, I am more aware that I'm looking at only three-fourths of a card when I view the vertical ones.



Parallels. Pederson keeps his eye on the ball while dodging flying golden shards.




Two kinds of inserts: Moments and Milestones. Or, "what was a card set in 2008, Alex?"

The Memorable Moments set seems very random, as in "what player's photo do we have a license for" random. I don't know enough about the Milestones to think the same thing.

So, that's what arrived my way from the break.

I do feel pretty good about wiping that many Dodgers off my list so quickly.

But you know how modern collecting goes. Without even including the variation cards and the relics, this is what's left for a Dodger fan collecting Series 2:

Base

597 - Maeda, 608 - team card

Inserts

Topps Salute: 133-Toles, 148-Lasorda, 150-Kershaw, 173-Snider, 180-Seager

Memorable Moments: 25-Robinson, 33-Robinson, 39-Valenzuela

Major League Milestones: 6-Seager

1987s: 103-Seager, 120-Kershaw, 135-Koufax, 149-Toles, 168-Piazza, 191-Valenzuela

All-Time All-Stars: 23-Piazza, 27-Kershaw

All-Star MVPs: Piazza

First Pitch: 26-Duhamel, 27-Crawford

Independence Day: 6-Seager, 16-Urias

Isn't that obnoxious?

The flagship set may not be all that inspiring but I think the thing that actually will kill my urge to team collect eventually is the sheer number of inserts.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I am Mr. Lucky 13

You may have noticed that the "Big Fun Game," is all the rage on the blogs. When one game ends, another seems to begin almost immediately.

As usual, I can barely keep up, so I enter what I can and hope for the best. If you're stashing secret BFG contests at the end of a post about the Minnesota Twins manager, I'm probably going to miss it.

Out of the string of the four recent Big Fun Games, I've been a part of two. That's just the right speed for me. The BFGs take a fair amount of attention and the BFG needs to learn that it has to get in line behind last-minute work bombshells, dog puke and the overwhelming desire for sleep, just to name a few.

Still, I entered another one recently because I landed a Carl Yastrzemski rookie in the last one. I may be overworked, but I refuse to totally ignore the words "big" and "fun".

This one was called the "The Lucky 13," organized by Stealing Home at All Trade Bait All The Time. I was particularly interested in this because I knew there would be some Dodger goodies involved.

Considering my already sizable Dodger collection, I think I walked away with the nicest prize for my needs. It didn't hurt that I was again placed near the end of the selection process. In fact, I was the 13th and final selector for the contest. Lucky 13, indeed!

I was able to steal a lot of autos and relics, with a decidedly Dodger theme.

I'm going to rank my prize in terms of tiers. Like fancy card brands do.


BRONZE TIER




The top card is a manupatch of an Atlanta Brave in a high school uniform. We are not amused. The second card is one of my least favorite relic looks. I have a couple Dodgers from this set and could they make the bat relic tinier? It's a proper comment on Padres hitting, but otherwise, yick. The third card is a double. Autograph doubles nearly break my brain. I've been raised to think they are so exclusive.

Don't worry, the items are getting better.


SILVER TIER




The top card is signed by Armando Galarraga, remember him? He was the pitcher who threw a perfect game but didn't, thanks to a bad call at first base. (That happened seven years ago, by the way. SEVEN YEARS AGO!). I like that I have a signed card of him. The second card is Robin Ventura's half-hearted attempt at his autograph. I think players give up when they see the card is made of material that hates pens. The third card is of Mr. Smiley Angel Pagan. I can accept this card because Pagan is still a Met here (and I like the look of the card). But there's not a day that goes by in which I don't laugh that Angel Pagan is now a part of a last place team.


GOLD TIER




Welcome to my first autographed card from Jeff Shaw. Shaw's signature is another one of those ones that looks like his pen exploded, but I'm happy to add him to the collection. The Jeff Kent relic means I've far exceeded the proper allotment of Jeff Kent relics (which, let's be honest, is about 1.5). The Kyle Russell certo is also my first Kyle Russell autograph. Russell was supposed to do good things for the Dodgers, but he never figured out Triple A (or even really Double A). Still, I like the card.


PLATINUM TIER




Three very fine specimens. I honestly would have stolen something else if these three weren't involved. The Dreifort is my first autographed card of the former pitching phenom. This is long overdue. I do own my share of Chad Billingsley autos, but this one is a looker, nicely designed despite the sticker. And the GQ Dee Gordon relic announces its presence from miles away thanks to the blue relic dot at the bottom. I couldn't take my eyes off of that thing.

And that's why I feel so lucky to have participated in the Lucky 13 contest. I will probably distribute some of these items to others who want them more, but a good amount of the cards will stay in my collection forever.

Oscar added one more item to the package.


It's one of those stadium periodicals that I love so much. Since I live so far away from Dodger Stadium, this will give me as much of a taste of that beautiful blue oasis better than anything.

And if you add this to the number of cards I received, it adds up to 13 items in the package.

Lucky!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Blog bat around: Why I collect these guys


I am not a player collector.

I do not own a binder, box, shelf, room, shrine or dungeon dedicated to the cards of a single player. There is an element of player-collecting that still weirds me out and that's one of the reasons I don't do it.

I also don't do it because I enjoy focusing on sets and my favorite team a lot more. Individuals are fallible. "Things" don't let you down (unless that "thing" is the Mets).

But it's true that there are certain players that I admire more than others and that I keep a running tally of how many cards I own for each of those players. It's listed on the "Dodgers I Collect" page. It's the only place where you will see these individuals separated from the other cards I own.

This page is what is allowing me to participate in the latest Blog Bat Around, which originates from the
Eamus Catuli blog. P-town Tom would like to know how my player collection(s) came about -- you know -- if I were to have player collections.

So let's take a look at them in an order of my choosing:


1. Clayton Kershaw

Number of original Kershaw cards: 514.

How did it come about: I've known that Kershaw was going to be a special pitcher for at least 10 years. I've never been the type to get in on the ground floor of a prospect, but I decided the time was right with Kershaw. I think I chose wisely. Not only was I able to obtain many early Kershaw cards that people are scrambling to buy for high prices right now, but he has been everything that we Dodger fans hoped for back in 2008. I like the Dodgers' tradition of pitching quite a bit and I'm happy that Kershaw has basically taken that tradition to a new level.

Most unusual Kershaw item in my collection:


Unfortunately, Kershaw emerged during this current period of hyper-licensing. No one can make anything of a baseball player or a baseball team without it being licensed by someone. That puts a real damper on creativity, variety and just plain oddness. This is the best I can come up with: a signed card of Kershaw on, not the national team mind you, but the junior national team. Look at wittle Kershy there in red, white and blue.




2. Hideo Nomo

Number of original Nomo cards: 475

How did it come about: I've speculated plenty of times on this blog that Hideo Nomo owns the best-looking cards, the most interesting cards of anyone to ever play the game. After all, they were interesting enough that they prompted me -- a traditional set collector -- to try to accumulate cards specific to Nomo. He is a pioneering player and his mark in history will never be erased. Those are good enough reasons for a player collection.

Most unusual Nomo item in my collection:


If I had some more time I might be able to find something more interesting. I like this little figurine mostly because I can remove his cap. But I think I wasn't able to find anything more odd because many of Nomo's cards are so "out there" that there was no need to create anything else.



3. Orel Hershiser

Number of original Hershiser cards: 277

How did it come about: You had to be there in the mid-to-late 1980s. Orel Hershiser was the most unlikely dominant pitcher since Kent Tekulve. It was such a thrill for the Dodgers to own a pitcher who was so dominant for a period, one who led my team to a World Series title, that I couldn't help but be a fan. Hershiser remains one of my favorite players of all-time.

Most unusual Hershiser item in my collection:

There are a bunch.


This.


This.


This.



But the one that blows everything else away is my 8-by-10 photo, signed by Hershiser and addressed to "Night Owl". I received this in the early days of the blog after Zach of Autographed Cards coerced Hershiser to sign the photo as you see it. Of course, now, Hershiser knows who Night Owl is. But at the time he just had to go on faith.




4. Sandy Koufax

Number of original Koufax cards: 159

How did it come about: Koufax and Jackie Robinson are the holy grail for Dodgers collectors. And I came across Sandy Koufax when I was in fourth grade, reading a book about him during "quiet time". I've always been a fan even though I never saw him pitch. Collecting his cards was a mission long before I could afford any of them.

Most unusual Koufax item in my collection:

I'm sure there are some great Koufax finds from the past, but I'm not willing to delve into that expensive world. Save for some Koufax oddball cards, I don't own much that is considered all that different. So I'll go with this:


I own not one, but two, 1966 Dodgers yearbooks. It's a landmark yearbook that commemorates the Dodgers' 1965 World Series championship.

All of the members of the 1965 team are included within with glorious black and white photos mixed among 1960s ads and fashions.

But there is one obvious favorite page in the entire yearbook. And now I have it in duplicate:


It's the Sandy Koufax page.



That is fantastic.



5. Ron Cey

Number of original Ron Cey cards: 121

How did it come about: Ron Cey was my favorite player when I was a kid, probably brought about by owning his 1974 and 1975 Topps cards and then the Dodgers making the World Series in 1977, 1978 and 1981. I was able to watch Cey play more often than if I was a fan of, say, the Texas Rangers during that time. The Dodgers actually appeared on TV periodically all the way on the East Coast and I was able to see Cey's game for myself! I liked his power. I liked his look. I liked his second-banana status. He remains my favorite player and will be forever. I may have the fewest cards of his than the other four on the list, but that's only because misguided card companies have yet to discover what I found so interesting about Cey as a 10-year-old. Get with it card companies!

Most unusual Cey item in my collection:

Cey played in the '70s, so I have lots of unusual items. Just the other day, mr haverkamp sent me an email asking if I had ever spotted the following Cey item. It's some sort of storage box for cards that Topps was selling off of its wax wrappers and Cey is on the box! I admit, I've never seen it before. I don't plan to pay $19.95 to add it to my collection, only because I have other great unusual items of The Penguin.


Such as the 45 record of Ron Cey's 1976 hit song, "Third Base Bag" (with the flip-side single, "One Game at a Time"). Tell me how many of you player collectors have a player with his own 45?


But as cool as this item is, it can't match the most unusual Cey artifact.



Nothing will ever match the Ron Cey-signed penguin lamp created by the band Fleetwood Mac to honor The Penguin.

Yeah, when I look at this particular item, it will be difficult to explain to anyone that I am not a player collector.