Thursday, January 31, 2019

The one person not afraid to send me this card

This card has sat on my Nebulous 9 list for far too long. It was easily the most available card on that list for a long period of time and for months and months and months it was the last card I needed to complete the 2017 World Series subset from 2018 Heritage.

I finally received the card from Henry at Cardboard Greats. He's the one guy with the guts to send me this card, apparently.

I actually don't know why the other cards from this subset arrived so readily (some I pulled, some came via card packages) but this one did not. The only thing I have to go on is it shows the one Astro to do the most damage to the Dodgers in that World Series, hitting a game-winning home run in extra innings of a game that the Dodgers could easily have one.

But that was nothing exceptional in that series. It was a crazy back-and-forth series, full of tension, excitement and crushing lows. And this wasn't even the one late-night, walk-off Astros victory, it happened again in that bizarre, still inexplicable Game 5 as well. Yet, I've owned the Game 5 card since last summer.

But nobody need think that I wouldn't want an Astros card connected to the World Series loss by my favorite team. I've wanted this complete subset since I knew that it would appear in 2018 Heritage, before I even knew what teams would be in the World Series. It's a tribute to the 1969 Topps World Series subset, which is my favorite World Series subset of all-time, possibly my favorite subset of all-time. I want all of those cards!

Astros win? Still want them. Dodgers win? Yes, definitely. I'm about the whole story. Set collector. Sports journalist. Both sides of the story. The complete picture. The glory and the pain. Prologue to epilogue. The entirety.

So, finally, I have the entirety. Here it is:

Topps did a fairly decent job of replicating the look of the 1969 World Series subset. It changed a few things, and, of course, it had to squeeze in those stupid trademark symbols. But overall, a good look.

Here is the 1969 set, showcasing the 1968 World Series:

The obvious differences: "The Sporting News" has been changed to "The Topps News". The subheads are all in caps instead of up-and-down format. The red stars are missing from the final card in the 2018 Heritage set.

Now, let's compare each game side-by-side. Isn't it a good thing that each Series went seven games?

Game 1. Conveniently a dominant pitching performance in each game. Probably my favorite card from each subset, too.

Game 2. Each card features a key home run. Those copyright symbols sure do look goofy when you compare the cards side-by-side though. But I LOVE the Tiger headline.

Game 3. I like the '69 set so much I don't mind the crease.

Game 4. More mashing in each game. Topps has been a little loose with the headline rules the last two 2018 cards. In Game 3 it violates the "you never end a line with a preposition" rule and in Game 4 it splits the modifier (5-run) with the word it's modifying (Ninth).

Game 5. Ugh. This game. I like the Kaline shot much better.

Game 6. This game is often considered pivotal in 7-game World Series, dramatic even. Sadly, that wasn't the case in 2017.

Topps also violates another headline rule in the 2018 card with that "and" hanging off the first line.

Game 7. What I call "the Yu Darvish game". I felt sick just about entire game.

The recap. The '69 Tigers card looks more fun to me, and that's not just because the Dodgers lost Game 7.

We can't forget the backs in this comparison series.

Here is a comparison of the Game 1 back. As you can see, each subset began with card No. 162, a Heritage tradition, matching up card numbers between the two sets.

It's interesting that Topps goes with the team nickname in the 2018 subset instead of the city name, probably one of those dumb MLB licensing rules. And get a load of all that copyright information in the 2018 card, causing the boxscore type to be scaled back.

Those are the backs for the World Series summary cards. Now that's difficult to read. Zoom in with the magnifier and it's interesting that even in a famous "pitching year" like 1968, the team batting averages for both teams are far better than the ones in 2017.

I've been waiting to do this comparison for some time. I got it done, it just took a little longer.

Henry sent some other Dodgers goodies that had absolutely no Astros on them:

When Heritage comes out this season, there will be another World Series subset involving the Dodgers to collect. Even though the 1970 Topps WS subset isn't nearly as interesting to me as the 1969 one, yes, I will still want all of the cards, even though the Dodgers won just one game.

Send me those cards. I can take it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Maybe Topps should change its flagship release date

There are no card pictures with this post because I did not get any cards today.

It's release day for 2019 Topps flagship, a notable day on the calendar for any collector, no matter how cynical. If you're going to get any cards, this is the day to do it -- at least that's what some people say.

"Release day" around here doesn't mean the same thing it does in a great big city like Topps' hometown of NYC. The chances of flagship showing up at the few choice stores around here on the first day of release are less than 50 percent. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't.

However, I don't know whether my stores have the cards or not. I didn't bother to check.

The main reason? There was a blizzard warning.

There is no way I'm traveling a few miles down the road, even if it is the most traveled road in the county, to get to a Target or Walmart to look for cards in the middle of a blizzard.

So far, I haven't seen any blizzard. But the wind is fierce. And the roads are questionable. And there's blowing and drifting, a scary scenario to anyone who lives somewhere where "blowing and drifting" is uttered frequently. 2019 flagship can wait.

And it may have to wait until the next day and maybe the day after that. Who knows when the roads are back to normal?

I'm not the only one dealing with weather issues right now. It's frigid all across the upper Midwest, crazy, record, below-zero temps, and it's going to be single-digits to below zero in a lot of places in the Northeast. And it's not just the north either. The forecast for many places in the south has been snow and ice and slippery conditions.

I've heard the phrase "polar vortex" more times than I want to in the last couple of days. But this is what that looks like:

That's a lot of the country swathed in purple.

That's a lot of people staying the hell inside.

And into this Topps drops its release date.

This isn't the first time I've dealt with weather when Topps released its debut for the year. I've come up against all kinds of frigid issues. Sometimes I've braved it for cards, other times I haven't. But I've had to deal with the aggravation regularly because for at least as long as I've been running this blog, Topps has released its flagship set in late January or early February.

The weather where I live is absolute crap in late January and early February. I can think of several epic snow storms or other winter-related weather events and a shocking number have occurred right around the Super Bowl. (There is one Super Bowl I worked in which I had to put out the entire Super Bowl sports section by myself because no one else could get out of their house to come to work). Winter is probably at its worst at this very point in the season.

Maybe Topps should think about releasing flagship another time?

I know this probably isn't a realistic question. Topps has a business model to consider, money to make, it picks the time that is most profitable for them. But how profitable is flagship today when a number of collectors have to shovel two feet of snow out of their driveway or bundle in seven layers just to buy some cards?

Yes, half the country had no problem venturing to a store today. But that's not the whole country is it?

Back when I was collecting as a kid, I remember cards not being available for purchase until March. That's when you went out to the store to get cards. It's March! Time to get the new cards! And we didn't have to bundle up to do it.

Granted, that was long ago and Topps had one brand then and not 26 or however much it is. And Topps just needs to make sure the cases are delivered to dealers and not worry about us collecting peons. But speaking from my little tiny owl standpoint, I'd gladly wait until later in February or even March to buy the latest in flagship if it meant being able to see out the windshield in front of me.

Also, here's a thought: if the release date was later, we wouldn't have to pull cards of Paul Goldschmidt as a Diamondback or Billy Hamilton being a Red. Because Topps could get them with their current teams -- long before Series 2, or freaking Update in the freaking fall.

So, that's a little rant -- with no cards -- about wanting a change that will probably never happen ever.

But that's OK. Series 1 of 2019 flagship will still be on the shelves when it's 85 degrees and I don't care anymore. And that thought makes me sit back, inside, all warm and toasty with my hot chocolate, and appreciate that I don't have any 2019 flagship right this very moment.

You can wait 2019 flagship. Even on release date.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


This card appeared in my most recent 1985 Topps blog post. It's Joe Orsulak's rookie card.

It is now missing.

I don't know what the heck I did with it but I can't find it anywhere. And now there's a temporary hole in my complete 1985 Topps AND Traded set (there are only a dozen sets in my collection that can claim the "AND Traded" part).

Fortunately I am pretty busy these next few days because I need to keep busy or that little bit of sadness from losing this card will well up inside me and ... well, seeing a veteran card collector cry in the corner is never pretty.

The Orsulak card could be anywhere. I did a lot of card things yesterday, immediately after posting the Orsulak card. He could be in the middle of any number of stacks. There is a stack in front of my desk computer of cards to be cataloged. I most often put the latest '85 Topps card to be blogged on top of that stack. But, maybe it's somewhere in the middle of the stack.

I scanned and combed through a whole bunch of 1982 Fleer cards yesterday. Maybe Orsulak got caught up in all those cards somewhere. I'm continuing to file my 2018 cards, and Orsulak could be in any number of those stacks.

Worst of all, I put together a few trade envelopes and mailed them out yesterday. Could I have shipped Orsulak off in one of those packages?

If Collector's Crack, Baseball Cards Come to Life!, Hoarding Cardboard, Remember the Astrodome or Community Gum find a 1985 Orsulak card inexplicably mixed in with their cards, now you know why. And please send it back!

I like to consider myself somewhat organized in my hobby. But I am forever leaving a card or two throughout rooms in the house. I'll forget and put a card on a shelf in the bathroom and find it there several hours later. Or it's on a bench in the bedroom or on the bed rest in the spare room or on the bannister.

But I always find them. Orsulak? I've got no idea.

The freaky thing is Orsulak has been an elusive card in the past for me. Orsulak's 1986 Topps card was the last one I needed to complete the '86 set. That was long ago during the early month of this blog and I made a bit of a stink about it and ended up with four 1986 Orsulaks.

I somewhat expect that to happen this time with the 1985 Traded Orsulak. Or everyone will avoid being such an enabler and let me tear apart the house looking for one stupid card.

I tell you one thing -- I am NOT ordering up another Orsulak Traded card. It may be four years before I come across the lost Orsulak card -- and it may kill me -- but I can't be buying another card that I know is around somewhere.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Trimming 182 cards off your want list in one day

It's one of the pure joys of being a set collector.

Sometimes -- and it doesn't happen often -- someone will send you a whole bunch of cards that are all from a set you are building. Then you spend the entire day surrounded by cards from that set. Every card with the same theme. It's glorious.

Set-collecting goes back longer than player-collecting so the chances are greater of inheriting a whole bunch of set needs all at once. People back in the day always grouped their cards in sets so there are just stashes of sets lying around. All you have to do is say you're collecting 1990 Donruss and there will be a line of people, toting boxes emanating a strange red light, at your door.

This probably won't be the case years from now as player collectors have taken a greater piece of the pie. In the future, collectors will be desperate to off-load their several thousand Albert Pujols cards on someone, and we'll be avoiding them like they said, "Hey I have some extra 1991 Fleer!"

But, for now, this set collector is benefiting from the set-collecting buyer's market.

Awhile ago, Adam from ARPSmith's Sports Obsession landed a whole bunch of sets and he seems to have quite a bit available still, because recently he sent a huge number of 1982 Fleer needs that I originally recorded as knocking 182 cards off my want list. One-hundred-and-eighty-two cards crossed off in one day. That's not easy to do outside of going to a card show.

Here is most of what he sent me:

How about that? That's obliterating a want list.

My favorite part of 1982 Fleer is the color-coding in the design. Each team is framed in one of its main colors. The set feels right because of that, the team and design in harmony. And I think it's the reason I can overlook the many issues with 1982 Fleer's photography, cropping, photo choices, errors on the back, etc. I've said this many times, but good design solves a lot of problems. At least in my eyes.

While going through the cards, there were a few in less than ideal condition. So it wasn't quite 182 cards off the want list. More like a still-impressive 165.

But Adam also sent three of the last few needs in my 1981 Fleer quest:

Really just two more cards to go for 1981, although I need to double-check my binder.

As I enjoyed the 1982 Fleers design wash over me as I scanned and sorted, I pulled a few cards aside because another thing that 1982 Fleer did well -- heck, that Fleer did well, period -- was show you what baseball was like in the 1980s.

Today's baseball cards do a terrible job of showing you what baseball is like. The zoomed-in pictures leave us up to our imaginations. Baseball cards are no longer chronicling the era, they're just showcasing the player. I think maybe Stadium Club still gives you a glimpse of what the game is like, but it's not anything like what Fleer did.

These are all glimpses of the game back in 1981. It also gives a more accurate portrayal of what baseball is all about. This is baseball at rest. Yes, there is a time for baseball in motion. But there is much more rest than motion. Today's cards don't want you to know that, but it's still true.

This is why I am collecting cards from this period and why I collect sets.

They give the Whole Picture of what baseball is like for whatever particular year it happens to be. There are no sound bites, or highlight reels or top 10s. 1982 Fleer tells the whole story.

Well-executed or not, I have all the respect in the world for 1982 Fleer.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

'56 of the month: Willie Miranda

To have an inexplicable attachment to a baseball card seems like such a part of childhood. It's not adult behavior.

We adults know exactly why we like a card or a player. We can recite the reasons for anyone who asks: I like how he plays the game. He's on my favorite team. He plays my favorite position. He signed an autograph for me. He doesn't beat his wife or take drugs. He ascribes to my political affiliations/beliefs (this is a new development that is weird to me).

Back when I was a kid I'd like a card for absolutely no reason, or at least not a reason that I can grasp as an adult. I would have no idea who the player was. That player could play for any team. The player could be shown in action or merely staring into space. Who knows why I liked that card! If only I could get into 9-year-old night owl's brain.

But I'm long past being 9 years old. And still there is this card here to which I have an inexplicable attachment, that I like for absolutely no reason according to my very adult mind.

I don't know who Willie Miranda was. It seems he was a popular infielder known for his defensive skills who became the first Cuban player to play for the Yankees since World War I. But that's all stuff I just looked up so I wouldn't appear a complete idiot in front of other adults.

The fact is, I like this card for two reasons:

1. His name is Willie Miranda

2. He's hopping on his card

That's it. That's why I like it. Doesn't that seem like reasons a kid would come up with?

I've liked this card so much for so long that when I have looked through binders of '56 Topps at card shows and I came across this card and saw a price I couldn't afford, I would think, "well, of course, because it's Willie Miranda." And I'd assume that this Miranda guy had an interesting '50s story that made his card valuable that I just didn't know.

But, no, Miranda's lifetime batting average was .221. He wasn't a star. The only reason I couldn't afford the card is for the same reason I can't afford any '56 Topps card: they tend to be pricey no matter who is featured.

The hopping part is interesting. I'm not sure what Miranda is doing to make him appear as if someone just lit a fire under him. Probably leaping to cover second base or preparing to dive for a ball.

"Guillermo Miranda" was called "Willie" on his baseball cards through 1957 and then in 1958 and 1959, he became "Willy," which is how his parents spelled his name (that's according to a very detailed SABR biography).

The middle cartoon is a bit too kind. Yes, Miranda's batting average went up every year between 1952-55. But don't look at his average after that. That lifetime batting average of .245 shown on the card plummets by the time he wrapped up his career in 1959. But Miranda's glove will always be the first thing fans mention about him. Some consider him the best fielder they ever saw.

Miranda is remembered for his time with the Yankees because that's always the way it is. The Yankees and their fans have to make the most noise about their player.

But Miranda played just two seasons for New York. He played for the Orioles for five. And I associate him totally with the O's because of this card.

I remember when this card came out of the brown grocery bag of 1950s cards that my dad brought home from work back in the early 1980s. I noticed its appeal immediately. But because my brothers and I had agreed that any Dodgers would go to me, any Red Sox would go to one brother and any Orioles to the other brother, I knew I would never get that Miranda card.

That was disappointing. Because his name was Willie Miranda. And he was hopping.

Sometimes that's enough to like a card. Even as an adult.

Friday, January 25, 2019

In and out of my collecting comfort zone

As I continue to assess what I really enjoy collecting, I find myself in a sort of collecting limbo.

I'll go back to my traditional collecting desires, my many Dodgers cards and Dodgers binders, and that feels quite comfortable to me still. And then I'll dive into some of my more recent interests -- the '70s NFL cards and the Sabres cards and the music cards -- and those seem wonderful in a much more unfamiliar but exciting way.

I'm a little out of my comfort zone when it's not all baseball, all-Dodger baseball all the time. I'm not nearly the expert that I am in the baseball arena.

But that's OK. The hobby is anything I want it to be. I can test the limits of my comfort if I want. And that's exactly what I did recently, although it wasn't my choice at the beginning.

But first, let's see some cards that I am completely comfortable with because I have been collecting them for the life of this blog and earlier:

These, and the Broxton gold parallel at the top of the post, are cards I hand-selected from Nachos Grande's series of trade bait posts.

Each card feels like home. The Broxton reminds me of how gold parallels should look -- with BORDERS. The Bellinger and Kershaw are wild-and-crazy Panini cards that appeal to me because the craziness distracts from the no-logo thing. The Alex Verdugo autograph is my first Verdugo autograph (if you can call that squiggle an autograph). And the Puig relic is my first one of him and my way of saying goodbye to the Wild Horse.

Those are all cards that I would have collected 10 years ago.

This card, however, is not something I would have collected 10 years ago.

It's also something I requested from Nachos Grande and it is just a little bit out of my comfort zone.

It's not a Dodger card. It's not part of a 660-card set. It's an insert. And a diecut one at that.

However, it may be one of the greatest diecut insert series of all-time. And that is why I'm venturing out of my comfort zone and attempting to complete the full 3,000 Club Fleer insert set even though there's not a single Dodger in the group.

This makes two of the 3,000 Clubs that I own. I'll get to a want list someday.

All right, now we're venturing a little farther out of the zone.

Many folks know that Wes of Area 40 put on a big bash giveaway to mark his departure from the hobby. Many, many boxes of many, many different cards were opened and much of the contents were distributed to clamoring collectors just desperate for a few scraps from Wes' card bounty.

My objective in getting in on this generous giveaway was maybe to find some Dodgers that I needed. The stuff Wes opens is so fancy, so you never know what I could land. I waited until the designated time for when you could claim teams.

Well, Wes posted his "claim your team" post at 7 p.m. on a certain day in November.

At 7 p.m. exactly, the first team was claimed: none other than the Dodgers. Not by me.

OK, then. Time to regroup. What other teams do I like?

I like the Sabres. I'll pick the Sa ...

7:10 p.m.: the Sabres are claimed. Not by me.

Geez. OK. What else is there?

I guess I could claim the Bills. They're my third choice but I'll ...

7:17 p.m.: the Bills are claimed. Not by me.

By the time I got to Wes' post, it was 8 p.m. Sorry, I have a job and a family and I don't set alarms for blog posts, but all of my teams had been scooped up in a matter of 17 minutes.

Time to venture out of my comfort zone ...

I thought a nonsport slot would be fun. I have a growing attachment to music cards, and maybe there would be some cards of a TV show I liked (although they NEVER make cards of TV shows I like anymore). But it made me a bit uncomfortable because there are lots of nonsports cards I. Don't. Like. At. All.

Just to be safe, I also asked for any Detroit Red Wings items. My objective was maybe to land a Jimmy Howard card -- he's from where I live, although I've never talked to him. I didn't get a Howard card. Instead I landed an autograph of 17-year NHL player Mike Sillinger, who played for about 145 NHL teams in his career. But the card I received is actually from his first year in the NHL, so that's kind of cool.

I don't know what "Super Break Certified" means (did Wes put that on there?). But I'm kind of afraid to break it out of the seal.

This was a perk of the nonsport slot. It slipped my mind that Benchwarmer cards would be involved in the nonsports category. They're always very nice to look at. Autographs seem a bit unnecessary since I don't know who these wonderful-looking gals are, but I enjoy the effort here.

OK, this is where it gets uncomfortable. I've never watched an episode of The Sopranos in my life. Me and gangster movies/shows do not get along. I don't understand the appeal of that lifestyle or why a thousand movies have been made about it. So, no, I don't know who Joe Gannascoli is. But that's what happens out of your comfort zone. Win some, lose some.

This is me winning. It's a relic of famed actor and dancer Ginger Rogers. It is my mission to have a card of every notable July 16er that has a card. She's one of the more famous people born on my birthday. I think by birthday rites, I should own a "celebrity-worn" piece of material of hers.

Of course, the No. 1 objective in this area would be to own a card of fellow July 16er Phoebe Cates containing a swatch of the bathing suit she wore in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. If I somehow land this, I will show it on the final day of this blog.

Lastly, the best of the cards Wes sent my way. It's a relic card of Kiss singer Paul Stanley. I know for a fact that memorabilia of musicians go for insane prices, much more insane than baseball players. So this is a card I will treasure. Kiss was a weird, wonderful part of my childhood and I can't wait to display it.

And that's what venturing out of your comfort zone will do.

I could stick to collecting Dodgers and baseball and nothing else. But I wouldn't have a card that features a segment of Paul Stanley's vest either.

Even in a hobby, you've got to take chances.