Monday, September 16, 2019

Pulled in 100 different directions


Adult life is all about demands on your time. That's all it is, scrambling from one thing to the next, forgetting important dates or tasks or interests because your brain has run out of room.

I've been dealing with it for years and complaining about it on the blog for a long time, too. But I didn't know anything until I reached 2019.

Ever since my parents' passings, I've been attempting to catch up. There's still plenty of aftermath to handle, nowadays it's all about finances. I just got a call on a financial matter because I haven't tended to something basically because I've had no time. At the moment of that call, I felt like I was being pulled in 100 different directions.

I even feel like I'm being pulled in too many directions with my collection, too. With all of my interests, I find it difficult to focus when I have a little cash. Recently I used a portion of my payment from my latest Beckett Vintage Collector article to hit up COMC. What I got back was all over the place. No direction. No real progress. Just me attempting to fulfill a few cardboard demands.

But let's go ahead and see them.


Here is proof that I'm a bit too flustered. These are the five Dodgers short-prints in Heritage this year. Yes, five.

I bought all five. I needed only three. I had the Kershaw and Maeda already but I can't retain any card acquisitions that happened in 2019. Perhaps I should have consulted my want lists but I'm apparently a little too scattered for even that. Fortunately, all the SPs came very cheaply. And the team set is done. That's the most important part.


Still working on that 2018 Heritage team set though! This is one of two Dodgers SPs that I was missing, only Hyun-Jin Ryu is left. Rich Hill may be the most fragile pitcher that I've ever known. Maybe he wasn't cut out to be a pro athlete. Perhaps he should have found a nice desk job.



These hot box purple refractors are pretty damn cheap, especially if the players are in low demand.



Inserts from 2017 Heritage. I haven't done very well chasing down current Dodger needs ever since 2016 or so.


So I made sure to get a Heritage insert from this year before another three years went by.



These three 2006 Eric Gagne cards arrived after a fit of righteous indignation on my part. I don't know why I get so fired up that Gagne cards are so cheap, like he's being sold short or something. I should be HAPPY I can get them so cheaply.



Here we've reached the portion of my order that contains cards from frustrating sets or are frustrating types.

I'm supposedly collecting the 2004 Fall Classics program set, but, man, nobody is making it easy. Too pricey for a 15-year-old insert set. I nabbed both of these for the Dodgers collection (yeah, I need two of all of those). I actually have each of these programs.



You try to let some time pass on some of the coveted parallels in hopes the price will go down a bit. But those red refractors don't cooperate. I went bottom-feeding and could basically only afford this one.



Same deal with these orange-letter parallels in Stadium Club. I adore these. But they just seem unattainable. Gonzalez's facial expression represents my opinion of all of this.


Every once in awhile there is a Ron Cey card that is not an autograph or relic that I don't own. Maybe I should discount parallels too, such as this one, but I can't do that. Welcome, Penguin!



This was the most expensive of the very fine 1980 TCMA Albuquerque Dukes cards that I was missing. I'll double-check what's left but I think it's all minor characters (get it?).



I've mentioned before that the online-only Throwback Thursday cards appeal to me somewhat. But I can't possibly get them all so I limit it to designs that I find appealing or that hark back to my childhood. Here is one that resembles the 1976 Topps All-Time All-Stars, which I was pulling as a 10-year-old.


Here is another one, Kershaw on the 1955 Bowman design. You've got to like that.



This is phenomenal. Tongue, bat flip and all on the 1976 King Kong set design. Mercy.



Of course you know I had to get this thing. It's about as far from a 1975 Topps tribute as you can get while still being one. This sort of mimics the Chicago White Sox team card from that year, except there are a lot less floating heads and there's no way there was any team logo on '75 Topps.

Throwback Thursday card backs are abysmal and Topps doesn't even bother to identify the floating heads on the front. Most are easily recognizable although Alex Wood might offer some question marks.



My latest Martina Hingis card. This is beautiful. I know nothing about 2019 Goodwin Champions but heavens, those blue-border parallels.


And since I got a Hingis I had to get her old doubles playing partner, too.



Three more for the 1976 Kellogg's completion quest! I'm now down to the final 10 to finish off this set. That's a good thing because I'm starting to get itchy about my next Kellogg's completion attempt, which will be the 1977 set -- the first Kellogg's set that my brother and I ordered off the Frosted Flakes box.

The last four items aren't even cards but I really love them a lot.





So, so cool.

There are very few collectible items that make me swoon. The short list is:

1975 Topps
1975 Topps minis
1977 Kellogg's
1977 TCMA Galasso Greats
Wacky Package stickers from the 1970s, especially anything from 1973-74.

Wacky Package stickers was the other pack-enclosed item besides 1975 Topps baseball cards that I bought that spring and summer of 1975. All four of the above stickers were ones I saw that year and I could not get enough of them.

This officially begins my quest to get more Wacky Packages from the '70s, especially from the 73-74 period.

It also means I'm pulling myself in yet another collecting direction.

But unlike those other aspects of life I can never get to, this is a lot more fun.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Homegrown


The Dodgers have been flexing their farm system prowess the last couple of years and seem to be ramping it up most recently, calling up instant successes like Alex Verdugo, Matt Beaty, Will Smith and Gavin Lux, which followed other very recent rookie success stories like Walker Buehler, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Joc Pederson.

There is nothing I like more about my favorite sports team than their ability to churn out talent. Not only does it help lead to a consistent winner, but it's my go-to argument against fans of other teams who whine about the Dodgers' big-market ways. Granted, you need money to sign and scout players and develop them, but that's just part of being a fully functioning franchise. If you can't create your own quality farm system, then, well, you deserve to be the Tigers or Padres or whatever incompetent, every year. Don't accuse my team of doing something wrong or unfair.

To me, the ability to produce your own superstars indicates there is more than just luck or physical talent or even cash involved in your success. It means there is brains behind the operation, people who can think and work and basically aren't dumb-asses.

The Dodgers -- with the exception of those horrible McCourt years -- are known for creating homegrown talent, underlined by their record number of Rookies of the Year. Here is the list as a reminder:

1947 - Jackie Robinson
1949 - Don Newcombe
1952 - Joe Black
1953 - Jim Gilliam
1960 - Frank Howard
1965 - Jim Lefebvre
1969 - Ted Sizemore
1979 - Rick Sutcliffe
1980 - Steve Howe
1981 - Fernando Valenzuela
1982 - Steve Sax
1992 - Eric Karros
1993 - Mike Piazza
1994 - Raul Mondesi
1995 - Hideo Nomo
1996 - Todd Hollandsworth
2016 - Corey Seager
2017 - Cody Bellinger

That is a source of immense pride for me, someone who has absolutely nothing to do with any of it. But I just love that about my favorite team.

I was reminded of this by a couple of Allen & Ginter envelopes that arrived from fellow collectors. The first came from Jeffrey of Cardboard Catastrophes, who sent the Gil Hodges card I just showed. Hodges hails from the days when player development was about all a team had. There was no big free agency signing to boost your team. You needed players in your system and thank goodness the Dodgers featured the father of that kind of thinking, Branch Rickey.

Hodges was signed by the Dodgers in 1943 (after turning down an offer from the Tigers, interestingly enough) and after a brief period in the minors was with the big club for an extended run of success with the Bums.

But mostly I was reminded about the Dodgers' player development by an envelope from Matt of Bubba's Bangin' Batch of Baseball Bits, a noted A&G collector if I've ever known one. This is what I saw when I pulled out the cards:


Walker Buehler. Drafted and signed by the Dodgers out of Vanderbilt in 2015, after declining a Pirates offer out of high school.


Corey Seager. Drafted and signed by the Dodgers out of high school in 2012.



Clayton Kershaw. Drafted and signed by the Dodgers out of high school in 2006 (this is a case where the Dodgers benefited from being lousy in 2005 as they had a top 10 pick and Kershaw was regarded as the top pitching talent in the draft. But still, that by itself, Brien Taylor, guarantees very little).



Cody Bellinger. Drafted and signed by the Dodgers out of high school in 2013.



And Jackie Robinson. You know his story already. But it's all Dodgers all the way.

This doesn't mean that the Dodgers don't go the free agent route or trade for players, etc. Of course they do. Now, more than ever, the Dodgers are known for trying to uncover finds that slip by other teams and that's why the Dodgers have:


Justin Turner (from the Mets)



And Max Muncy (from the A's)

Pretty good deals.

The Dodgers do make dumb deals and decisions and I can cite several of them by rote. But they're still one of the smarter teams when it comes to developing players and that will always take you far. No guarantees of winning that World Series though.

Anyway, here are a few more Dodgers minis that Matt sent:


He always gets his hands on those Ginter X cards.

Thanks to these two packages I'm down to needing just one more card to finish the team set in short-printed Tommy Lasorda (EDIT: Never mind, just pulled it!) and I'm starting to make some good progress on the Dodgers minis.

Matt also sent some non-Dodger minis I assume in an attempt to crack my frankenset binder. It is an impressive foursome that held major promise:


So, which ones are now in my A&G frankenset binder?

None.

Yup. The 2019 Feller is already there, it cracked the binder last week. The Rickey Henderson and Vlad Guerrero weren't able to unseat the the card at their spots because I already have a Guerrero and Henderson in the frankenset. Meanwhile the Kiner lost a dogfight with the Stan Musial mini -- why oh why does Topps insist on putting legends at the same numbers?? I have two cards of Nate McLouth and Carlos Gomez in the frankenset! Come on, man!

So, you Henderson and Guerrero collectors I have a mini for you if you're interested.

Friday, September 13, 2019

This one's gone to 11


Another year is complete at Night Owl Cards. This blog debuted on Sept. 13, 2008, meaning I've written a full 11 years of this charade trading card content.

I've said many times that I began this blog wanting nothing more than to babble about baseball cards. Who was out there meant a little bit but not a lot. Looking to build my collection, make contact with industry biggies and trading card heroes, becoming part of an influential community -- none of that -- was on my radar at all.

I just wanted to write. And I wanted the writing to be about cards.

Eleven years later, this blog is still a love letter to trading cards, a public cardboard diary, but it's become so much more. Even though I've been somewhat absent from my blog over the last year due to extenuating circumstances and the reader numbers aren't nearly as strong as even a year ago, I'm blessed to be where I am.

It's been a hell of a ride and in typical Night Owl Cards fashion, I thought I'd go through the 11 coolest things that have happened to me during my time writing this blog in countdown fashion. It's amazing what a few words can do.



11. Participating in Gint-a-Cuffs

A mere two months or so into writing NOC, I discovered that people ran contests on card blogs and that you could win cool stuff. That was a trip. I don't participate in that many contests anymore because what will I do with all of those cards, but it's still a fond memory.

The best of those contests was Gint-a-Cuffs, which may or may not be still alive, it went on hiatus this year and the enthusiasm for it has waned. But at its height -- I participated for the first three years -- it was exciting. Buy a box of Allen & Ginter, and not only bust open the contents but match your contents against like 30 other collectors based on a bizarre points system and you could win ANOTHER box of Allen & Ginter!

I never won, which is probably why this isn't rated higher.



10. Pulling a fancy card of Stephen Strasburg

Before I wrote a blog, I had no idea that cards existed in packs that if you pulled them you could instantly sell them for a cool $100. I slowly started to become aware and then during the height of Strasburg mania (which later became Harper mania, then Puig mania, then Bryant mania, then Judge mania, then Ohtani mania, then Acuna mania) I pulled a purple paralleled chrome card of Strasburg. I nearly drove the car off a bridge.

The aftermath was an experience and a lesson in how frenetic the frenzied portion of this hobby is. I've pulled a few other big cards since but nothing on the Strasburg level and I feel fortunate. I'm not made to live in a whirlwind.



9. Receiving personalized items from favorite baseball players

The lengths that some collectors will go to get meaningful items to me was an eye-opening experience that humbles me to this day. There's still a lot of good in the world -- don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

The first of these gifts came when Zach of Autographed Cards sent a personalized glossy photo signed "to Night Owl" from Orel Hershiser, one of my all-time favorite players. I was still trying to craft the "Night Owl brand" at the time and this was mind-boggling confirmation that it was working, almost like Orel Hershiser made an actual commercial for Night Owl Cards.

I still receive cool stuff like this periodically, the personalized birthday card from Ron Cey this year is an example.



8. Card show company

I've gone to card shows mostly alone since my return to the hobby. When I was a young teenager, I'd be forced to go to shows with my brothers and we'd usually have limited time and they'd pull you to cards you didn't want to see, I just wanted some time to myself to focus on what I wanted. So for years I was happy doing the show thing by my lonesome.

Angus of Dawg Day Cards changed all that when we connected to go to a show in Syracuse three years ago. I found out that shopping for cards with a buddy opens up all kinds of card possibilities that I never would have found by myself. My collection is better for it and who doesn't want another person you can talk to about cards?

In fact, I'm supposed to meet up with another card collector, a former blogger, before the month is out. Yup, I'm sort of counting the days.



7. Jerry Reuss

There is nothing that alerted me to the potential of this blog like when former MLB All-Star and Dodgers pitcher Jerry Reuss commented on my blog not once, but twice back in 2010.

Around that time, I began to become aware that anyone could read this blog, not just folks who collected cards. The fact that the commenter was Reuss -- someone who I admired growing up a Dodger fan -- was a source of pride for me as a blog writer for a long time.

It's still pretty cool although I've received comments from other former players, and players' relatives since that time on a fairly frequent basis.



6. Creating a product for Ultra Pro

Do blogs still have pull? I don't know. They kind of seem marginalized now. Nobody can focus on a lot of words unless it's in a podcast, apparently. But back in 2014 I campaigned so often for the return of pages for 1975 mini-sized cards that Ultra Pro actually developed and created the page! You can buy the pages at Ultra Pro right now!

Ultra Pro even sent me a free box, almost like I was a consultant. I certainly appreciated it. At the time, Topps was producing another '75-mini sized set nearly every week. That was the reason for my desperation. How was I going to house these cards??

This was my best squeaky wheel moment. My dad, who was one of those guys who wrote complaint letters to companies, would be so proud.


5. A reason for having a mailbox and email again

Before my blog started, I almost dreaded checking the mailbox.

But today -- still 11 years later -- my mailbox is one of the biggest heroes in the house, yielding envelopes filled with cards every week. I may not receive them almost every day like I once did, but they still show up regularly and that is the reason why my daily thought "oh, it's time to check the mail" still features musical notes.

Email was much the same way for a long time as it began to feature trade offers and confirmations of cards sent to me as well as regular communications with blog fans or even those connected to former players. Much as that has died down as people almost regard email as a necessary evil now. But I'm still happy to check it.



4. I have access to The Big Cards

Before blogging, I automatically crossed off certain cards of ever being attainable. I still do that to a degree but I will never say never again.

Since I started writing here, I have obtained the 1953 Bowman Pee Wee Reese card, the 1956 Topps Jackie Robinson card, the 1952 Topps Andy Pafko card and a number of other formerly "forbidden" cards.

Most of these came from other collectors who have greater access to cards like this or more money or more time to search for deals. I wish I was in that situation but I'm not. I'm just happy that people can send them to me.


3. Speaking of which ...

My collection is much, much more impressive than it was 11 years ago. Blogging has put my collection on steroids. There is no way I would be able to collect at the same rate, have access to the same cards, if I did not blog. I have completed the 1972 Topps set since I started blogging. Same with 1971. Same with the 1975 Topps minis. Same with every Topps set from the 1980s. Same with many other sets that, simply put, would have been a pain in the ass to complete if I didn't have a blog.



2. I write for a national magazine

Today I received my assignment for my fifth story that I'm writing for Beckett Vintage Collector. My fourth story should be arriving on store shelves in a few weeks, I think.

This has become such a regular gig that I finally subscribed to the magazine so I don't have to drive an hour-plus or more to try to find the thing (although my daughter this week discovered the magazine and my article at a chain grocery store that happens to be in my town, too).

Writing for a national magazine, as I've said, has long been a dream of mine. Writing about cards for one was never a thought because how the hell could that happen? And to get money for it? Well, it just seems like this was the reason Night Owl Cards was created in the first place.



1. I get to write

It all comes full circle.

The thing that interested me about blogging in the first place is still the greatest thing about blogging.

I write for a living, but I don't write stories every day. Yet, I perpetually enjoy the F out of writing. It's a need and something that must almost happen daily. If this blog ever disappears you will know it won't be because I got sick of writing -- it will probably mean I'm writing somewhere else, somewhere better, or ... um ... not here anymore.

I'm still here, while many, many, many other card blogs -- in the hundreds now -- have stopped cold, the memory of them lost to all but folks like me who were around back then. I'm still going.

That's because Night Owl Cards gives me a vehicle to express my appreciation for cards and grow my collection and connect with like-minded collectors. But most importantly, it gives me a way to get my thoughts out, and avoid giving money to a psychiatrist. This blog is full-on therapeutic. With some baseball cards mixed in.

So, after all that, I've gone to 11 with this blog and tomorrow starts year 12.

It will be more of the same, hopefully with no crises in the middle of it. I fully intend to conduct the 100 Greatest Cards of the '80s in year 12. I know I've promised that multiple times but I feel the need to get this countdown out more than ever.

Other than that, if you have the guts to read this thing, I will write it.

And maybe if you don't, I'll still probably write it.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Nobody chooses tan


I received another round of 2019 Archives '75s and Allen & Ginter minis recently -- this time from Johnny's Trading Spot. These seem like the popular elements of my collection at the moment.

I'm about halfway through in chasing down the Archives '75s, so I don't feel like I can make an overall judgment about what's in that portion of the set. But you know I'm super curious about the color combinations, so I'm going to make an evaluation anyway.


Those are the ones Johnny sent. RIP Christian Yelich's knee, and I see along with Posada, Topps is still forcing in marginal Yankee "legends" like Matsui. This is why retro sets like this will never be truly legitimate. The checklists are based on what legends Topps can land/feel will draw the most collectors.

Anyway, none of these color combos eliminated any of the remaining color combos from 1975 Topps that I haven't been able to cross off in 2019 Archives.

Again, the combos with the ones represented by '19 Archives are crossed out:

Brown-orange
Green-yellow
Pink-yellow
Tan-light blue
Yellow-green
Yellow-red
Red-yellow
Orange-yellow
Brown-tan
Red-blue
Red-orange
Green-light green
Purple-pink
Light blue-green
Blue-orange
Green-purple
Yellow-light blue
Orange-brown 

Orange-yellow is a puzzler just because it was prominent in the original 1975 set and also Topps used it regularly in its last major tribute to 1975, the 2011 Lineage minis insert set.


But I'm pretty sure Archives doesn't include the final two color combinations: tan-blue and brown-tan.

First of all, I'm willing to bet Topps doesn't know that there are both brown-tan and brown-orange combinations in '75 Topps. In 2011, Lineage lumped everything into brown-tan (or "brown-orange," depending on your take on the color).

Like so:


But for 2019 Archives, the brown-orange combo is remarkably similar to the Lineage brown-tan color, like so:


So, my guess is that there is either "brown-tan" or "brown-orange," but not both.

I have a theory on that, but first let's show the Lineage example of "tan-blue" to help back my theory:


Yeah, that is not right at all. Here is the tan-blue example from 1975:


The color for the team name isn't even right.

But I went through all of that in my nerd-out overview of 2011 Lineage's minis several years ago.

My speculation on why there's no tan-blue example in Archives or separate brown-tan and brown-orange combinations is simply that I don't think anyone understands "tan" anymore.

"Tan" is a very '70s color. It's probably not even called "tan" anymore, it probably received a more modernized color description back in the '90s but people who grew up in the '70s (me) just keep calling it tan.

"Tan" sounds unappealing now (those tans damage your skin!). Comedian Louis CK, in an amusing bit about suicide (yup), says, "nobody chooses tan, nobody picks a tan car. They give you tan." And there's your attitude about tan today.

But in the '70s, tan was everywhere. Just everywhere. You could turn in any direction at any time and tan would smack you in the face.

So, I think Topps just doesn't get it. "What, that isn't the same color?" Or can't produce it or something.

Somebody will probably prove me wrong with a link to a tan Archives card in the comments or something and that's fine because like I said, I haven't seen the whole set, but that's just the way the set is trending according to my collection.

Johnny also sent my second Archives '75 mini:


Of course, you can't tell from this that it's mini size, so:

 

There you go.

OK, enough nerding out about '75s, let's nerd out over some A&G minis.



Although not an exceptional collection, these are minis that all fit my A&G frankenset binder. I gave Johnny the numbers for empty spots in my binder and he found these for me. I already want to replace Cardinal Joe Kelly (the absolutely wrong kind of Kelly) and the Reyes goes in a slot very close to another Reyes card, but all of these are welcome and now I'm down to the following numbers to fill:

13, 18, 31, 54, 55, 70, 72, 135, 144, 151, 171, 181, 192, 241, 250, 254, 281, 300, 310, 334

Not far now.

Johnny tried to fill another spot in another frankenset binder but couldn't crack it:


For the night card binder. It's a nice one, although actually a "night falls card". But I can't unseat a card showing Roger Clemens batting.

I also received a few old-school Sabres cards:


Team card from 1973-74 Topps, a set I still say looks like it was produced seven years earlier. Check out that outfit on head coach Joe Crozier.


Sabres legend Jim Schoenfeld, if only for his mattress commercials. I didn't hardly follow hockey in the '70s so I know Schoenfeld more as a coach ("have another doughnut!"). But he was a rough-and-tumble guy.


Played eight games with a broken foot -- hey, Yelich, tape it up and LET'S GO!!

I'll round out the package rundown with some Dodgers Johnny sent me that I didn't have:


All quite appreciated.

I hope you don't mind all of the 1975-related posts lately -- and if you do, what the hell are you reading this for? I've recently received a couple more '75-themed cards and I know there's at least one other one on the way.

Speaking for myself, I'm thrilled.