Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Stuff about 2019 Topps

Every August Topps reveals its flagship design for the following year's product.

Of course, back before the internet, nobody knew what the design would be until the first packs were opened. It'd be nice if that's the way designs were revealed today. But this is reality and companies must "create buzz" every day in order to survive, so I understand why August and why six months before the cards actually show up.

And Topps has been doing this for several years now so everyone should be used to it.

I think I like the design quite a bit. In general, other collectors seem to agree, although opinions have been all over the board per usual. This design has the potential to be one of my favorites of the last 10 years. It's already the best Topps has done since 2015 and probably will surpass 2015 just because it's a cleaner design.

I know that the cards that Topps showed today are mock-ups and there is the potential for design changes down the road. I also know that images are brighter than they appear on actual cards. That said, I like the design because it is bright, bold and colorful.

This is the No. 1 way to get me to pay attention and enjoy your card set. Make the design bright and preferably quirky. I think 2019 Topps has done this.

There are going to be OCD people -- there have been plenty on Twitter already -- who don't like the "reverse name" treatment. It doesn't bother me at all. If I could get used to what Topps did with player names in 2005 Topps than this is nothing.

Here are some other thoughts about 2019 Topps:

1. Anytime there's a long, curved border, people mention 1982 Topps. But it's been used on many other sets.

I don't think this design looks like '82 Topps all that much. But maybe I need a vertical card to make a determination.

Nope. Maybe if you flip it so the color border starts on the left side like '82 Topps did. But I think this design stands on its own. And the colored swoosh nicely provides a foundation for the wording.

2. I don't mind the mosaic effect.

In a non-parallel world, there would be no need for the mosaic. But since Topps has gone without borders, it's forced itself to find ways to continue to make parallels, and mostly failed miserably. 2016 and 2017 Topps were a disaster. Ugly cards made ugly because Topps needed parallels. The 2018 set is better and treats parallels better as far as design, but I'm still not crazy about it.

The mosaic pleases me more. The part that travels over the photo is subdued and set off to the side so I barely notice it. And it continues the theme on the right side, where -- heavens -- is that an actual border????

3. Love that font.

I wish I had more knowledge of fonts than I actually do. My daughter is studying graphic design and I am hoping her knowledge will rub off on me so I can describe font differences. But I love the font used with 2019 Topps. It's fun. It's readable. It's almost kind of whimsical. Outside of the colored border, it makes the whole card. The wording on 2018 Topps is a bit small -- and you've got that waterfall traveling over the first part of the name -- so this treatment eliminates that problem. It's bold. I like it.

4. Please let the cards be at least almost as bright as they are in the mock-up.

Back in 2012, Topps released its mock-up for 2013 Topps with a Prince Fielder card and the brightness of the colored border jumped out at me. I loved it.

When the cards showed up the following winter, they weren't as bright. That was a little disappointing, but I obviously should have known that back-lit computer images are a LIE. I still like 2013 Topps and I still like it because it's colorful and fun. I think 2019 Topps has even greater potential.

5. I'm starting to feel sorry for 2016 and 2017.

The 2018 set was an improvement -- I actually don't mind going through those cards. The 2019 image is even better. If this pattern continues, the 2016-17 era will be the worst in Topps flagship history, if it isn't already.

I think the 1996-2002 period for Topps is the worst going away and perhaps you need to string a few subpar years together to match that era. But I don't like looking at my 2017 flagship cards and I almost recoil in horror when I see my 2016 cards.

6. Back to the design -- I like the horizontal cards better than the vertical ones.

In general, that's always the case. But this time, I think I like the horizontal cards (or the "landscape cards" if you're one of the cool people) because there is more room for the design to shine. I know that opens up more unused white space, but I'm OK with that. Years of newspaper design and teaching that white space can be your friend has helped me adjust. Besides, I wish that colored border could go on forever.

7. This is why Topps releases these images in August.

I already can't wait to open some 2019 packs!

Monday, August 13, 2018


I went to the Syracuse Chiefs game yesterday. It was a "for old-time's-sake" type of game as my daughter came along and it's the last game she will go to before moving out and heading off for college.

We've gone together to several Chiefs games over the last 10 years and for all 10 of those years, they have been the Triple A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

Next year, the Chiefs -- if they will even be called that -- will be the Mets' Triple A affiliate. The Mets bought the Syracuse franchise last year and announced it will play its Triple A home games in Syracuse next season. What happens after that is anyone's guess.

I welcome the Mets connection. Although I'm not a Mets fan, there are some teams that have character and a history and are easy to follow. The Mets are one of those teams. Most of the teams that have been around for at least 50 or 60 years are one of those teams. The Nationals are not one of those teams.

Although I like watching minor league baseball, it's not easy for me to get excited over a Nationals farm team. I feel no allegiance. I root for them very casually, meaning if I see a really good play I'll clap.

I tried to find a bond with the team when I first started going there with my family. In 2010, I even went to the souvenir shop and overpaid for the team set.

That was the year of Strasburg fever. I took this card and placed it in a top loader, separate from the other cards in the team set.

Two years later, Harper fever took over the land and again I overpaid for the team set at the souvenir shop.

But this time instead of separating Harper from his Chiefs teammates, I just kept him in the team bag with all the others. Although, mind you, he's on the top where I can find him.

Since then, we've gone to a few other Chiefs games and I haven't bothered to check for the team sets. Yesterday I briefly considered looking for the cards thinking that Juan Soto might be part of the set, but then I remembered he jumped past Triple A on his way to Washington.

But mostly the reason why I didn't bother with the cards is I simply don't care. The Nationals and their farm team sit way down the list in terms of interest. The only guys I recognized in yesterday's lineup were Victor Robles, Tuffy Gosewisch and reliever Tim Collins (I recognized even fewer players for the Chiefs' opponent Sunday, Gwinnett, although former Dodgers pitching prospect Andres Santiago started -- and got shelled. He is a hoot to watch hit, though).

In fact, the connection to the Nationals I'm sure has kept me from traveling the hour-plus to go to Chiefs games. I'm sure the Chiefs' administration is aware of their parent club's lack of appeal in Upstate New York. But it could be worse. They could be an affiliate of the Rays or the Marlins.

It doesn't help that Syracuse is a pretty weird city when it comes to rooting interests (well, it's weird in general but that's my problem). It's not a baseball town. It's a college town, which means it revels in stuff that means zero to me -- like college football and lacrosse and basketball. And the baseball stadium, which is pretty nice and much more my style than sitting in the stifling Carrier Dome, is sparsely attended.

When the Mets take over, I think they'll draw more fans because it's the Mets. I hope they continue to draw because I want a Triple A team to be around for when my daughter comes home from college. We can go to a Syracuse game and she can see what it's like when the stadium has more than 2,000 people in it.

You do build allegiance to a minor league team by putting in the work. They're not on the national news every day, they're not part of the city's DNA (there is a reason why I converted to being a Bills fan once I moved to Buffalo). If you want that connection, you have to keep going to the games, maybe get to know the players and care.

But for guys like me, who live far away with a full-time job and limited cash (even without the team set, it was still $120 for a family of three to enjoy the typical ballgame experience), we need something more than a connection to the Nationals to form an allegiance. The Mets offer some promise, even if their big league team isn't as good as Washington's.

Maybe next year I'll even buy one of those overpriced team sets. (Tim Tebow's presence will probably hike the price to $20).

My daughter is hoping the Mets affiliate won't have mascots. She's never liked them. (When she was little she used to hide behind me when the Chiefs' dual mascots ventured near).

I haven't told her about Mr. Met.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Piece by piece

There is one blogger that sort of likes the same things I like when it comes to cards. He's much more of a player-collector and an autograph selector than I am, but we both have the same nose for older, oddball cards.

Fuji swooped in and nabbed the 1970s/80s Renata Galasso Glossy Greats just before I was going to say "MINE!" during the recent contest draft on The Collector's card blog. And just before that, he announced that he had completed the 1975-77 Kellogg's 3-D sets in one, fell, swoop, throwing me into a jealous rage (OK, more like a jealous funk).

Fuji is now trying to land the 1978, 1979 and 1980 Kellogg's 3-D sets -- three items that I am also targeting -- and I'm sure he will get them all before I do.

Fuji landed himself quite a deal at a card show for those 75-77 Kellogg's cards and I'd certainly jump at it if any dealer in my part of the country was that generous, but aside from deals for full sets landing in my lap, I'm just not going to complete my sets all at once.

I'm not like that. I need to collect piece by piece.

I know, I know. It's not efficient. It takes too long. It costs too much money in the long run.

But that's how I operate.

Collecting -- the very word -- to me is like hunting. It's the chase. It's unearthing stuff here and lucking into stuff there. It's why I will always open packs. Always. To me, that is collecting.

You can hunt for stuff when you're looking for a complete set, too, getting the right online deal. But I likely won't ever do that. My sense of accomplishment would not be nearly as strong as if I tracked down individual cards or a few lots at a time, or in constant trading with blog mates.

So, I accumulate cards from sets, piece-by-piece, assuming I'm going to live to be 210 because that's how long it will take me to complete the sets I want doing so in such a manner. But I don't care. It's about the journey, is what those advice people say anyway.

Recently, I received the 1970 Kellogg's Sam McDowell card from Henry at Cardboard Greats. He offered up several cards that he didn't need and I lunged at that one because, duh, I'm trying to complete all the Kellogg's sets of the 1970s! It doesn't matter that I have like 6 cards from this set. I neeeeeded that one.

So, the pattern continues, assembling piece-by-piece, inch-by-inch, minute-unit-of-measure-by-minute-unit-of-measure.

Here's another single card from a set I am collecting that I selected from Henry. It's the Yankees team checklist from 1973 Topps. Get a load of those pre-Bronx Zoo names.

Thanks to this card I now need just 80 cards to complete the set instead of 81. That might not seem like that large of a drop, but this is not a race. I'll get the whole set eventually. On my own time. In my own way. Whether the entire thing pops up on ebay or not.

Henry sent a few other Dodgers needs, too. The 2017 Stadium Club Maeda is a chrome parallel -- I didn't know they were doing that last year. The Darvish "patch" is related to the Players Weekend uniforms, but what Darvish is wearing (and what the Dodgers wore that weekend) doesn't look anything like a Dodgers uniform, so some of the thrill is gone.

Speaking of Fuji, he sent two cards out of the kindness of his heart that aren't from any sets I'm collecting, but are related to a sport that I love quite a bit.

Canada's Genie Bouchard is a favorite and she shines through on this Goodwin Champions mini even though I don't care for the Goodwin art (I like her A&G card this year better).

And this is a Goudey relic card of American tennis player Taylor Fritz.

The scan of this card turned the florescent yellow swatch into a white swatch, which is very weird. Here is what it looks like in actuality:

I'm not sure what the swatch is, the back is typically vague, calling it "Taylor Fritz event-used tennis memorabilia." The color makes me think it's a tennis ball -- which would be dumb -- but it looks and feels more like fabric, so I guess I'll stay up nights guessing.

Of course, there is no right way and no wrong way to complete your sets. Do it however you like and you certainly don't need me to even say that. I'm just saying what I do. Through habit developed from the time I was a child and because I never have enough cash around to land an entire set, this is how I complete my cardboard.

Piece by piece.

It may not be "optimal," as they say in the business world. But, man, the rush upon completion is like nothing else.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Looking at the legends

Allen and Ginter's obsession with putting "legends" into its base set didn't just begin in 2012 with a noticeable uptick in Hall of Famers. Players like Nolan Ryan and Roberto Clemente were in the first A&G set in 2006.

But retired players' presence in A&G (and just about every other set Topps makes) has been quite obvious over the last six years. It's so obvious that I'm growing sick of the same players popping up over and over again. And it's not just restricted to Mays, Mantle and Maris -- who I identified as overkill subjects seven whole years ago. Did you know Paul O'Neill -- Paul O'Neill! -- has been in Allen & Ginter three of the last six years??

This year, after pulling another card of Sandberg, another card of Ryan, another card of Maddux, I did a little digging.

How often have retired players appeared in A&G since 2012? And which ones? Do any new players show up at all?

Here is what I found:

2012 - 31 legends

The year that Hall of Famers (and a few other retired guys) burst through the A&G door and refused to leave. When they showed up in the 2012 set, I noticed right away. And it was kind of interesting. You just didn't see baseball legends much in A&G.

2012 legends: Bench, Mantle, Berra, Jackie Robinson, Kaline, Reggie Jackson, Brooks Robinson, Musial, Koufax, Yastrzemski, Palmer, Brett, Seaver, Mattingly, Ruth, DiMaggio, Gehrig, Cobb, Gwynn, Mays, Griffey Jr., Maris, Aaron, Rickey Henderson, Schmidt, Kerry Wood, Clemente, Bob Gibson, Ripken Jr., Frank Robinson, Nolan Ryan.

Hall of Famers aplenty. And performers of great feats (Maris). And ... Kerry Wood.

2013 - 72 legends

Allen and Ginter went great guns with the legends in 2013. Lots of typing ahead for me.

2013 legends: Ruth, Cobb, Gary Carter, Koufax, Doerr, Smoltz, Feller, Banks, Paul O'Neill, Blyleven, Robin Roberts, Early Wynn, Bench, Jackie Robinson, Mays, Jenkins, Ford, Aaron, Gehrig, Frank Robinson, McCovey, Kaline, Clemente, Ted Williams, Spahn, Griffey Jr., Gwynn, Strawberry, Bob Gibson, Musial, Ripken Jr., Sandberg, Schoendienst, Schmidt, Killebrew, Vida Blue, Reggie Jackson, Brooks Robinson, Enos Slaughter, Mattingly, Carew, Joe Morgan, Boggs, Buckner, Marichal, Phil Niekro, Tony Perez, Jim Bunning, Rice, Stargell, Dawson, Frank Thomas, Catfish Hunter, Brock, Billy Williams, Snider, Gooden, Kiner, Seaver, Will Clark, Mazeroski, Murray, Palmer, Fisk, Newhouser, Brett, Yount, Berra, Rickey Henderson, John Kruk, Ozzie Smith, Ryan.

Plenty of variety here and I wasn't tired of my A&G legends yet. How can I be upset at an A&G card of Vida Blue? Or Jim Bunning? Or Hal Newhouser? Sure, a card of Paul O'Neill is a bit odd, but John Kruk was there, too.

2014 - 93 legends

You thought 2013 had a lot of retired players? How about nearly one-third of the set?! That's what 2014 Allen & Ginter has. Some of the new guys this year are Gary Sheffield, Rafael Palmeiro, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and Orlando Cepeda. Oh, and there's Paul O'Neill again. And another head-scratching Yankee: Orlando Hernandez.

2014 legends: Maris, Mattingly, Feller, Sheffield, Matt Williams, Sandberg, Ruth, Palmeiro, Posada, DiMaggio, Jenkins, Brooks Robinson, Sutton, Gehrig, Cobb, Garciaparra, Orlando Hernandez, Koufax, Newhouser, Bo Jackson, Buckner, McGriff, Clemens, Vizquel, Boggs, Kiner, Morgan, Carew, Ripken Jr., Musial, Jackie Robinson, Randy Johnson, Banks, Mays, Brock, Sparky Anderson, Ryan, Frank Robinson, Seaver, Biggio, Stargell, Maddux, Aaron, Ted Williams, Reggie Jackson, Mathews, McGwire, Canseco, Schmidt, Berra, Fisk, Brett, Lasorda, Kell, Molitor, Dale Murphy, Palmer, Glavine, Murray, Paul O'Neill, Rice, Yount, McCovey, Kaline, Bench, Gwynn, Pedro Martinez, Bob Gibson, Cepeda, Ivan Rodriguez, Ozzie Smith, Clemente, Spahn, Gooden, Billy Williams, Rickey Henderson, Marichal, Snider, Piazza, Raines, Steve Carlton, Ford, Will Clark, Dawson, Manny Ramirez, Mussina, Juan Gonzalez, Griffey Jr., Killebrew, Strawberry, Eckersley, Phil Niekro, Smoltz

Phew! I like cards of retired players but that just takes up too much of the set. No wonder Topps didn't have room for revolving doors anymore.

Also, you'll note lots of Hall of Very Good Yankees: O'Neill, El Duque, Posada, Mussina. Some of the most anti-A&G collectors I know are Yankee fans. Yet the set is packed with them.

2015 - NONE

That's right. There are no retired MLB players in 2015 Allen & Ginter. I don't know how I missed that when it came out and I don't know why they vanished for this year and this year only. Was there friction between Topps and the retired players association? Did Topps look at the 93 legends in 2014 and think, "whoooooa, that's waaaay too much overkill even for us!"

It's rather strange that they all vanished for one year. But at least my fingers get a rest.

2016 - 28 legends

The legends make a gentle return to A&G with a few new faces like Rollie Fingers and Roberto Alomar. And Paul O'Neill is back. You'd think if O'Neill was included three times, they'd put him in a Reds uniform for at least one of the cards.

2016 legends: Glavine, Fingers, Rice, Roberto Alomar, Piazza, Clemens, Yount, Brooks Robinson, Luis Gonzalez, Mattingly, Sandberg, Yastrzemski, Eckersley, Fisk, Bob Gibson, Gary Carter, Canseco, Ozzie Smith, Garciaparra, Frank Thomas, Molitor, Paul O'Neill, Cepeda, Dawson, Rickey Henderson, Pettitte, Clemente, Steve Carlton

I noticed more emphasis on more recent Hall of Famers and players with this bunch. Save for Brooks Robinson, Yaz, Gibson, Clemente and Carlton, this is a newer crowd.

2017 - 49 legends

This is the third-most legends since 2012. New retired players here include Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, Dave Winfield, Johnny Damon and ... uh, Bobby Abreu. I'm all for random retired players showing up, but how about somebody who didn't retire like 3 years ago? I like my Phillies legends to be players like Garry Maddox.

2017 legends: Ruth, Jeter, Smoltz, Griffey Jr., Johnny Damon, Vizquel, Rickey Henderson, Dawson, Ryan, Larkin, Yastrzemski, Ripken Jr., Maddux, Carew, Bobby Abreu, Winfield, Cobb, Honus Wagner, Pedro martinez, Ted Williams, Reggie Jackson, Ozzie Smith, Bo Jackson, Frank Thomas, Piazza, Brooks Robinson, Banks, Canseco, McGwire, Mattingly, Brooks Robinson, Chipper Jones, Sandberg, Aaron, Clemens, Brett, Gehrig, Maris, Randy Johnson, Clemente, Bench, Raines, Ford, McCovey, Killebrew, Gary Carter, Spahn, Stargell, Bagwell.

There is quite a bit of repetition with those players but that's nothing compared with 2018.

2018 - 49 legends

The same number for the second straight year. Get ready for names I've typed before.

2018 legends: Jeter, Ruth, Dawson, Jackie Robinson, Aaron, Ripken Jr., Ozzie Smith, Mariano Rivera, Larkin, Brett, Piazza, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Clemente, Wagner, Randy Johnson, Thome, Smoltz, Ryan, Maddux, Bench, Banks, Mattingly, Bob Gibson, Chipper Jones, Ted Williams, Koufax, McGwire, Sandberg, Bagwell, Winfield, Gehrig, Maris, Clemens, Brooks Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Canseco, McCovey, Frank Thomas, Boggs, Cobb, Bo Jackson, Hideki Matsui, Will Clark, Eckersley, Strawberry, Pettitte, Rickey Henderson, Gooden

The only new players in that crew are: Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz, Jim Thome and Hideki Matsui. And they are all fairly recent retirees so you can find them in A&G when they were playing, too.

I didn't go through these lists with a fine-toothed comb so I'm probably missing people somewhere, but that's not the point of this exercise. For me, I wanted to prove I was seeing the same retired players over and over.

It's just getting a little mind-numbing pulling the retired players out of Allen & Ginter. If they threw in people like Ted Simmons or Dave Stieb or Gary Matthews or Mike Greenwell I'd be a lot more excited than pulling another Nolan Ryan card again.

But I know this has to do with the MLB license and all that garbage legal stuff. I miss the days when card companies could print whatever subject they wanted.

By the way, even with all the repetition, there are just four retired players who have appeared in Allen and Ginter in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and it's not Ruth, Reggie Jackson or Nolan Ryan.

These are the four:

Roberto Clemente
Rickey Henderson
Don Mattingly
Brooks Robinson

Strangely, Henderson's 2018 A&G card is the first time he's appeared as a Yankee. All the other ones have been him as an Oakland Athletic.

But none of Mattingly's cards shows him as a Miami Marlins manager.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Maximum capacity

I don't know about you but I don't know where my next binder is going to go.

I have reached the point of maximum capacity. It hasn't stopped me from obtaining more cards, but I am thinking about my situation more than ever and how I am going to deal with this.

The fact is: I need that next binder. The cards keep coming. But where will it go? I can't start another row. I can't stack any higher. I have no desire or ability or time to build more shelving. An expanded card room has been promised, but who knows when that will happen. Not soon enough.

I simply like too much stuff for my own good.

While variety is good for this blog -- I'm convinced I've been blogging so long because the variety of topics continues to feed this blog while so many others have died out -- it's not good for storage. I delight in receiving a well-rounded package and then the next thought is: "where am I going to put all this?"

My collection continues to be a real-life hobby illustration of the phrase "his eyes are bigger than his stomach." And I think my collection needs some Tums. Or a stomach-pumping.

Anyway, I recently received some cards from reader and collector Joey. He also sent some cards to Nick at Dime Boxes. There was plenty of variety in this package, which helps underline my predicament. Here are all the things I have decided I like, to the detriment of my living quarters:

Common, ordinary Dodgers. They are the main culprit in my bursting-at-the-seams situation. I just finished updating all my Dodger binders. And there are more cards to add that must wait for the next update. But before the next update, I'll need another binder, and somebody tell me where I'm going to put that. Hang it from a string from the ceiling?

Inserts. Is it my imagination or are there more inserts than ever per flagship set? I need to count them up someday and post the results.

Parallels. My weakness. Well ... the border parallels, like Bellinger, Gonzalez and Gypsy Queen Buehler are my weakness. All the other parallels I can take or leave. Although if it's in my house, then I'm obviously taking.

Parallels of inserts. OK, this is what I'm blaming if the walls burst and the roof falls in on me. There is zero need for these. I refuse to seek them out and am annoyed every time I discover one. But, yeah, I need a binder for them.

"Hits". I'm in a little better shape, space-wise, with these. The storage area for relics is outgrowing its container, but the autograph binder has plenty of room. This is because I don't pursue hits much. Perhaps I should apply similar restraint to other parts of my collection.

Like sets. I have completed/am completing sooo many sets. In the process of letting Joey know what I collected, I mentioned recent Allen & Ginter sets. I don't have want lists up for 2015-18 A&G, mostly because I don't have a place to put those sets when I've already completed 2008-14 A&G.

So Joey sent some 2016 A&G my way, which I really appreciate, but I'm not finding a binder for it. At least not yet. I need to build a few shelves in the garage.

Joey sent a few Fleer cards from the '80s because -- yup -- I'm collecting those. These are actually from the 1985 Update set.

Check out the cutting on these 1982 Fleer cards. 1982 Fleer didn't have enough problems? It couldn't cut straight either?

So, yeah, my willingness to accept every Dodger card -- including glorified dupes like these -- is not helping matters.

And then there are cards like this that I simply must collect. I don't care if the only place to put my oddballs is in the refrigerator. I'm collecting those cards.

So, that's the current state of the collection in night owl's nest. If I don't act soon, my own collection will crowd me out.

It might be time for the world's greatest -- and saddest -- garage sale.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Match the song title: Version 2.0

One year ago at this time, I rekindled a love affair with a band that is my favorite from the 1990s.

I don't know how it all got started again but in August of 2017 I found myself lost in Garbage, a band that drew my ear from the first moment I heard Shirley growl "I'm only happy when it raaiins." I had lost track of them somewhere in 2005 (I do remember vaguely hearing their hit "Why Do You Love Me") and was surprised to learn that they had reformed, had released two other albums since and had continued to tour.

From there I took the sonic plunge into everything Shirley, Butch, Duke and Stephen had made since the turn of the century. It was remarkable stuff. I now own just about everything off of "Not Your Kind of People," released off their own label in 2012, and some of the music from "Strange Little Birds," released in 2016 and not as friendly to my ear.

But Garbage made their name during the heyday of alternative music, in the mid-to-late 1990s. Twenty years ago this year, they released "Version 2.0" -- an album title meant to poke fun at the fact all four of them could be caught staring at computer screens at any moment (how little they knew then). I bought that CD immediately (as I had done for their debut album) and let the distorted guitars, electronic beats and Shirley Manson's languid snarl wash over me.

I've always thought that male bands fronted by a female singer is the best combination, from Blondie to Missing Persons to Metric. It just works.

Twenty years ago this month I was listening to one of my favorite songs of that year -- "I Think I'm Paranoid" -- as it played on my TV screen (yeah, MTV was still doing the video thing then).

So let's enjoy the melodic, industrial romp that is Version 2.0, Match the Song Title style, in which I try to match a card with the title of each track.

And one more thing: there is a reason I'm focusing on this album other than a couple of anniversaries. Answer at the end of the post.

Here is the song list.

Let the beats go harder.

Match the Song Title: "Version 2.0, Garbage"

Track 1: Temptation Waits

There is no card temptation I regret answering more than Topps Chrome. It is most definitely a wolf that likes to wear sheep's clothing. I gave in to the temptation yesterday, and although I was rewarded with my fair share of Dodgers, I learned the lesson of regret when I opened the pink parallels.

Always with this guy. Such a useless card every time. Hey, me: don't ever buy this stuff again.

Track 2: I Think I'm Paranoid

The most paranoia I have with this blog is that I am going to write a post that I haven't written before -- and that I will not know that I've written about it already. This actually happened just recently (so it's not paranoia!). It was the post I made about coach cards in 1982 Donruss. I had already written that post five years ago. I got so upset when I discovered this that I promptly deleted the old post. The more recent post was better anyway. So there.

Track 3: When I Grow Up

"When I grow up, I'll be stable ..."

That's the thought. But I am as grown up as you can get, yet I still like stickers, I like cartoons on my cards, I like colorful designs and minis. Hell, I still like baseball cards.

Track 4: Medication

Shirley Manson, who is from Scotland, endured a lonely existence during the creation of Version 2.0. She spent long hours in the studio, then went home alone in what was still basically a foreign land. After a scary encounter with the medical system in the U.S., she wrote "Medication".

I picked this card because I was watching the Mets game last night and Ed Kranepool was a guest in the broadcast booth. I thought he was just showing up to chat but the appearance turned into a commercial for Kranepool and his need for a kidney for a transplant operation. I don't blame anyone on an organ waiting list for doing what it takes, but that might have been the saddest half-inning of baseball I've watched all year.

Track 5: Special

A sleeper hit for Garbage, which is staggering when you hear the song (and see the video). The line "I thought we were special ..." makes my mind go to players like Piazza and Griffey Jr. and many others who stay with a team long enough and perform well enough that fans are convinced they'll be there forever ... and then they end up with other teams.

Track 6: Hammering in My Head

Shirley has never been more sexy or sultry than on this song. So how do I steer this toward baseball?

Go with me:

Hank Aaron is The Hammer. Al Downing gave up The Hammer's record 715th home run. Downing probably had the "Hammer" in his head for a little while afterward.

Track 7: Push It

If you watch interviews with Garbage's members, you'll find out how proud they still are of the video for "Push It." It certainly gets your attention, but it's about as creepy of a pop video that I've ever seen. I still can't watch it at 2 in the morning.

Anyway, Darvish is here because of the great crescendo in that song -- "this is the noise that keeps me awake". What would have happened if Yu Darvish hadn't tipped his pitches in Game 7? What would have happened if Darvish figured out he was tipping his pitches? What would have happened if someone on the Dodgers knew he was tipping his pitches and told him? What would have happened if we FIGURED ALL THIS OUT BEFORE GAME 7????????

The noise that still keeps me awake.

Track 8: The Trick Is To Keep Breathing

Most of the songs on this album, all written by Shirley, are introspective. This one is not. It's about a friend of hers in a bad relationship. There are many parallels though for sports. When Corey Seager made the final out in Game 7 of the World Series, the Dodgers had to get up and try again in 2018. The trick is to keep breathing.

Track 9: Dumb

It is not PC to label people who are unable to speak as "dumb" anymore. So, I'm sorry. But William Hoy was known as Dummy for the good part of a century because he could not speak. That's where the mind went.

Track 10: Sleep Together

This title makes me think of those "strange bedfellows" cards created by O-Pee-Chee. This one is particularly disturbing. I don't like that it's in my Dodgers binder. I don't like it one bit.

Track 11: Wicked Ways

A little over 10 years ago, Topps thought it would be a good idea to make a card for every home run hit by a player who is known for hitting a lot of home runs. That way they could sucker some poor saps into collecting essentially the same card 550 times. This seemed particularly evil to me. I'm glad those are days are over, although card companies are still doing some wicked stuff.

Track 12: You Look So Fine

Here is the point of the post.

Around the time that my infatuation with Garbage and Shirley began again, I started thinking about how I needed some mementos from the band. But collecting rock memorabilia is very expensive and I quickly readjusted my dream to maybe getting a card of them.

But how?

My mind turned toward Gavin of Baseball Card Breakdown. He could do something like that and had for me before. So that was in the back of my head for months and months.

Then I wrote those posts about the 1991 Pro Set MusiCards and Gavin fell into my web. He volunteered to do a custom card for any singer or band anyone wanted. That was my cue. And he sent me the above card, which contains just about my favorite image of Manson performing.

You can see that by the positioning of the Super Stars logo in the bottom right that it's a riff on the U.K. version of the set.

The back is further proof, as the U.K. backs featured plain, white backgrounds while the U.S. backs had yellow-spotted backgrounds.

This is probably in the top 3 of favorite custom cards that I own if not No. 1. Garbage is in the lucky 10 bands of my life that have made the greatest impact. That's not easy to do for someone who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s.

Shirley Manson started her music career as a keyboard player and backup singer in "Goodbye Mr. MacKenzie," a Scottish rock group. She's said she never had any aspirations to be a lead singer or rock star then. Through a series of events, Manson found herself head of a short-lived group called "Angelfish" and then fronting one of '90s alternative rock's most notable bands. But she's no diva. She's said she's odd-looking, that her sexiness is a trick of makeup and camera work.

I don't agree, but as someone with more Scot blood than anything else, I understand her thinking, her self-loathing, her bluntness and her saying whatever is on her mind.

If you ask me, she looks so fine. And so does this card.

All right, that's where the needle comes off the record.

Garbage sometimes gets panned for being a slick, computer-driven band. "Cyberpop," they called it then. But they showed on "Bleed Like Me," (the 2005 album that led to their breakup), that they can flat-out rock, too. Their Version 2.0 album contains tributes to the Beach Boys, the Pretenders and others. (And when Shirley combines "You Look So Fine" with Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" in concerts, it is awesome).

And they still like rocking 23 years later so something's gone right.

Monday, August 6, 2018


I am not someone who is interested in another man's pants. Call it a fear, call it a phobia, call it a completely rational thought, but I would rather not get close enough to touch another man's pants.

When I drive past yard sales and I see clothing for sale, and some of that clothing is pants, I often wonder who in the world would buy that. I'm certainly not buying what once was worn and then wearing it. And I'd like to mention that this isn't restricted to dude pants either. I'm certainly not wearing some gal's yellow-flower-patterned pants either.

I'm also not crazy about second-hand stores. My mom would take me to them when I was a kid. We would actually cross the state border to get deals on second-hand clothes. She probably bought me some second-hand pants. I probably wore them, wondering all day where they had been. I probably didn't have a good time those days. I was the first-born for a reason: no hand-me-downs. And this latest trend about going to thrift stores and finding old clothes to wear? Yeah, I don't get that.

I always figured this particular hang-up of mine was a common precaution. Like smelling milk before drinking it. You never know. People put a lot of faith in soap and washing machines, but who knows where those pants have been and how firmly it is ingrained into those pants.

But apparently I'm one of the only ones who thinks about it.

My "healthy fear" of other people's used laundry is still there with relic cards. Although I've long since cast aside my reservations over jersey cards, the knowledge that the swatch came from another guy's pants has always creeped me out a bit. I don't throw the cards out or anything. But mostly I pretend that the cloth came from a shoulder or an elbow. I personally think pants relic cards should contain a warning. Something like: CAUTION: FABRIC FROM THE NETHER REGIONS.

So into my bizarre/logical world of cleanliness drops the above card from Baseball Card Breakdown.

It is a homemade relic card. Gavin actually bought a pair of baseball pants worn by former player Brian Giles and then cut it up to make relic cards. But before he cut it up, he wore them. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that used pants are for sale online, but that's my issue. And now somebody with my hang-up is dealing with a swatch from pants that have now been worn by TWO people. This is me sitting down and taking a moment.

But I will press on. I don't think about how many bugs and vermin are crawling around between the walls of my home, right? I can ignore this, too.

You just don't get a chance to own a card of Brian Giles wearing a Dodgers uniform. He signed with them in 2010, then retired a month later without ever playing a game for L.A.

But my connection to Giles goes beyond that. He spent his second season in pro ball playing for the Watertown Indians in Watertown, N.Y. It was 1990, my first year at my new job in a new place. And I went to a game in Watertown and saw Giles play.

So I'll put aside my anxiety about another dude's pants for Giles ...

... even though my brain wants to replace that "Aww Yeah!" with an "Ohhhh NO!!!"

But it's OK. I'm handling it. This is me handling it.

Let's move onto some other cards Gavin sent.

Not the most exciting cards here (if the ballpark music isn't chanting "Na, na, na, na, na" when Will Smith comes to the plate, it's not doing its job). But I did need both of them.

Now we are talking.

Hideo Nomo has always made the best cards and these three are proof. These get me very close to reaching 500 Nomo cards. None of them are pants cards. ... I don't think.

Meanwhile, my anxiety about owning a pants relic card has eased up a bit. I'll put the Giles card with my pants cards of Delwyn Young and Duke Snider (yes, an actual pant bit from the Duke of Flatbush) and probably some others that I have forced out of my brain.

Coming up tomorrow: Gavin sent another custom card that is little more my speed. In fact, I am all about her pants.