Sunday, February 17, 2019

Kindergarten cards


As a young, music-loving teenager, I turned to the radio like every teenager of my era. Music television was still a year or two away during my first couple years of adolescence and the radio was all we had.

For music, it was FM only, of course. Where I lived, we had three choices for popular music:

WAAL, "The Whale," played rock. The Doors, Styx, AC/DC and newer groups like The Fixx and Zebra. The first time I ever heard U2 was on WAAL. The Whale still exists and it's still playing the same music. Only now it's called "Classic Rock".

WMRV played "middle of the road" music. Most of the pop music on the charts at the time, that wasn't too rockin', aired on WMRV. Hall and Oates, Stevie Wonder, Sheena Easton. This was the station that played in the orthodontist office. It was also my first regular listening station, until I got tired of Kenny Rogers and Kool and the Gang.

WWWE, "Three W E," was the best station. It played a combination of the previously mentioned stations and it was the most teenage-friendly. I heard the Talking Heads, Blondie and Thomas Dolby on WWWE. They weren't afraid of pop, rock or new wave. It was my favorite station. Unfortunately, the reception wasn't great sometimes.

To me, those three radio stations contained everything music could be. A vast array of genres and sounds. My music world was actually pretty tiny in retrospect, considering the availability of all possibilities of music today. But I look upon it fondly and am happy I grew up at that time.

It bothers me when I read or hear younger people -- some maybe only 10 or 15 years younger than me -- take jabs at this era. I am a child of the '70s. I must defend it.

I loathe the term "yacht rock". Hate it. I know this is terribly defensive of me, but that's the way I feel. Some people my age have embraced the term and have used it as an opportunity to share why they like the music lumped into that category. However, I tend to think of it as a phrase developed by snarky younger people who don't understand the music time period from which they are hand-selecting songs as "yacht rocky" and are looking at it from their current musical perspective.

Yes, lots of music was "softer" at the time. It was the west coast sound, and a term I prefer much more than "yacht rock" (If Christopher Cross never wrote "Sailing" would that term even exist?). But to stereotype music from this period annoys me. I don't think Fleetwood Mac and Steely Dan -- two bands that are often lumped into "yacht rock" -- are alike at all, but people are letting their knowledge about music from the last 20 years, harder-edged music that tends to be more cutting or angry, color their opinions about past music. Sorry we were having a good time in the '70s, folks. Sorry we weren't miserable all the time.

Even though I'd never say music from the '70s is the best ever made. I appreciate it for what it is and the atmosphere in which it was made. I know about '70s music A LOT. (My recent post using the lyrics from a John Paul Young song shows that. Few people knew the song and I knew that would happen). And I can appreciate the sappiness from Randy VanWarmer just as much as "London Calling". To me, every year of the '70s is unique from a music perspective.

And I would say the same thing about '70s baseball cards (and you thought I'd never get here).

Younger people who didn't experience the '70s like to lump the '70s cards together as "those '70s cards, those weirdly bright cards of players just standing around, from just Topps and no other card company." There is so much more to them than that.

I recently received some 1970 Topps cards from Bo of Baseball Cards Come to Life! It's a set I'm slowly collecting -- although I need to get '73 Topps out of the way before I seriously consider '70.


I call these "kindergarten cards" because the '70 Topps set came out when I was in kindergarten. This Roy White card was the first non-Dodger card from the set I ever owned. Having known White only with an Afro and often a mustache, this was a strange and mysterious card.

But it speaks to the time. In 1970, players had short hair and big glasses. They looked much different in 1970 than they did in 1979 and that's why you can't lump the years together. Nobody in 1970 knew what disco or punk rock was.


In 1970, Bob Moose was alive and pitching. By the end of the decade he was no longer with us. See? Not the same. That's a whole 10 years we are talking about there. So many changes over the span of 10 years.



To me, 1970 Topps is distinctive from all of the other Topps sets from that decade because -- well, duh, the gray borders -- but also because it's not really a '70s set at all.

It features photos taken in 1969. The design is as minimalist and simple as Topps design from the second half of the 1960s. The bright blue-and-yellow backs fit perfectly into the '60s. It is a '60s set masquerading as a '70s set.


Here, look, people were still writing on their cards with the 1970 set. That's definitely a trait from the '60s (and earlier). The 1970s, not so much as collectors slowly became aware of the value of their cards during the course of the '70s.



Each 1970s Topps set is distinctive. There is almost no way to mix them up. And I like that I can associate a different grade in school with each set:

1970: kindergarten
1971's black borders: that's first grade
1972's psychedelic tombstones: that's second grade
1973's silhouettes and awkward action: third grade
1974's pennant flags: fourth grade
1975's two-tone color extravaganza: fifth grade (and collecting on the playground)
1976's little position guy: sixth grade
1977's bold team names and flags: seventh grade
1978's script names and classy design: eighth grade
1979's banners: ninth grade


I didn't know what a baseball card was in 1970. Wouldn't have any idea what it was for another couple of years. But by the end of the decade, I was deeply entrenched. I had started going to card shows. I knew about cards you could find in cereal boxes and with snack food. I was a totally different person.



I mean, come on, Tommy John was a White Sox and then a Dodger and then a Yankee during the decade. Three distinctive teams and periods!



Sparky a Red Sox pitcher? Wasn't he a Yankee? Yeah, both of those happened in the same decade.



I guess what I'm saying is that every art form -- whether it's music or baseball cards or whatever -- has its own nuances and characteristics and labeling them -- especially in a snide manner -- is a dangerous game.

Sure, there are similarities. If I listen closely, I can tell that "Minute by Minute" by the Doobie Brothers has something in common with "Lotta Love" by Nicolette Larson or "Biggest Part of Me" by Ambrosia. And, yes, some of the music from the '70s and early '80s ("yacht rock" has to paint-brush the early '80s, too), is cringe-inducing. When songs like "Key Largo" started playing on WMRV, I turned the station off. Immediately.

But to dismiss them as songs that only preppy sweater-wearers would play as they partied on their boat is a disservice to the music of the time. Every musical time period has their shared characteristics. I can see them in the late '90s and I can see them in music today. Some of it I don't like at all. But I don't like dismissive labels that marginalize art. Even if people claim they're doing it in a loving manner.


Every era of music or cards has its good moments and bad moments, but within those moments are characteristics that make each individual, whether it's a musician or writer or a baseball card, unique. "Yacht rock" connects the dots between Boz Scaggs and Robert Palmer. But honestly, I was happier when I hadn't made that connection and had enjoyed their stuff on their own merits.

The way I do with baseball cards.

(P.S.: I've been known to label some periods of '90s cards. I'll try to stop doing that).

Friday, February 15, 2019

Entering the parallel universe


Today is Ron Cey's 71st birthday, and as habit around here, I try to write a post about my favorite player on his birthday.

I also try to obtain a new card of Cey on his birthday. But that's getting difficult.

I've mentioned before that I own most of Cey's cards already and it's not like they're making new ones. So most of what I'm lacking are cards that don't interest me a lot anyway.

For instance, there are a few relics of Cey out there that I don't have. But relics ... meh. They just can't get me to throw that card into my cart. Also, there are some autograph cards of Cey, but how many Cey autographs can I own? I have nearly two dozen already.

There also are a few weirdly shaped oddballs. If I'm in the right mood, I'll acquire one of those. But that urge doesn't come along often.

That leaves parallels.

There are still a fair amount of Cey parallels that I haven't obtained. For example, there is the black&white version of the above Archives Snapshots card from 2017 that I don't own yet.

Around about 2005, Cey started to re-emerge into products and there are a couple parallels there that I don't have.

Then there is the matter of this:



I could pursue all of these parallels although they are all essentially the same card. I have a few of them already so I guess that's a reason to go after the rest.

But as you can see, I'm not all that excited about landing these Cey parallels.

No, there is really only one Cey parallel that I care about. It is parallels of this card:


It is my all-time favorite card. It is the first Cey card that I ever saw.

But I do have most parallels of this card already.

I have the much-treasured mini parallel of this card. I also have the O-Pee-Chee version, two copies in fact.

No, there is really only one other parallel of this card that I still want.

And I ordered it up today.

As you know, I am attempting to complete a 1975 Topps buyback set. I have 40 percent of the set in buyback version, but I know there will come a time when I'll run out of cards to find. There are cards of stars and rookies and such that just don't seem to be out there.

And then there is the Cey buyback. Who knows if a buyback of the '75 Cey was made?

Well, I was strolling through COMC today, just perusing Ron Cey cards for the very sake of this post when I came face-to-face with this:


Holy smokes, that's a 1975 Ron Cey buyback.

I couldn't get that card into my cart fast enough. And then I couldn't hit the ship button fast enough.

So now that card is on its way to me.


What a card to get for The Penguin's birthday!

This, no joke, was the highlight of my day.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

0-0


Love is in the air, everywhere I look around
Love is in the air, every sight and every sound
And I don't know if I'm being foolish
Don't know if I'm being wise
But it's something that I must believe in
And it's there when I look in your eyes


Love is in the air, in the whisper of the trees
Love is in the air, in the thunder of the seas
And I don't know if I'm just dreaming
Don't know if I feel safe
But it's something that I must believe in
And it's there when you call out my name



Love is in the air!
Love is in the air!
Oh, oh, oh, oh


Love is in the air, in the rising of the sun
Love is in the air, when the day is nearly done
And I don't know if you're illusion
Don't know if I see truth
But you're something that I must believe in
And you're there when I reach out for you


Love is in the air, everywhere I look around
Love is in the air, every sight and every sound
And I don't know if I'm being foolish
Don't know if I'm being wise
But it's something that I must believe in
And it's there when I look in your eyes



Love is in the air!
Love is in the air!
Oh, oh, oh, oh


Oh, love is in the air
Love is in the air
Love's in the air
Love's in the air
Love is in the air


Happy Valentine's Day. (Yes! I did just link you to a cheesy '70s song from John Paul Young. And, yes! That IS a Rafael Nadal towel all the way from the Australian Open).

The first and last cards arrived from Bo of Baseball Cards Come To Life by way of Wes. More cards from Bo -- and more reflections on my era -- coming up.

Love, all.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Not hot


Oh, Fairfield, you got me again.

I knew you would get me. I knew it before I even bought the box. I knew it as soon as I saw a series of "Hot Corner Boxes" hanging neatly from a peg from the card supply in the back of Target.

These were new. And so tidy. The boxes are simple, small and to the point. One hobby pack. Two hits. Four total packs. What's not to like?

OK, so there was no sign of a price anywhere. That's not to like. Nothing on the box. No tags on the hooks like with the other display items. "Take a gamble," the box was saying. All of the other packs on the wall were saying the same thing, but this one was screaming to me. "I'm new! I'm simple! I'm Fairfield!"

So I took one. Knowing Fairfield had gotten me.

I walked to the checkout and scanned my items. I scanned the Hot Corner Box. It rang up $14.95.

Yikes. I should take this back right now.

But I didn't. Two hits, you know. And a hobby pack.

I arrived home and opened the box. The two hits fell out of the box unprotected, along with the four packs.



OK, basically what I expect of "hits" from a Fairfield product. The Adam Dunn card is not bad.

Meanwhile, the Robbie Beckett card is not bad in the most wonderfully awful way possible. Beckett has that very 1990s story of a No. 1 draft pick (by the Padres) who could throw 100 mph but couldn't figure out where it was going. He toiled in the minors for awhile before the Marlins took a chance on him (that's where we find him with this card). Then he went to the Rockies, where he made his MLB debut. He pitched in just seven games total PROBABLY BECAUSE HE HAD TO SIGN EIGHT THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY SIGNATURE ROOKIES CARDS.

I know that certainly would kill my interest in a major league career.

All right, let's see the packs. That's the reason why I actually bought the thing (I have to have a reason, don't I?)


This is not too bad, although the fact that the hobby pack is 2008 Bowman Chrome is quite disappointing. I can't even make back my money if I pull a Joba Chamberlain card.

I opened them in order of interest.

2017 Topps Series 2 was first. The cards of most interest to me:


And the most unfortunate card of the pack:


This really underlines the terribleness of the 2017 design. You can't see one-third of the play.

2018 Topps Series 2 came next.


Just two interesting cards. T'was a dull pack all around.



The most unfortunate card is of Travis Wood because I can tell he's photoshopped into a Tigers uniform, which isn't even really that difficult a task since he's wearing a Padres uniform and those two teams practically wear the same colors.

Let's go with the 2018 Stadium Club pack next. All 5 cards of it.


Mike Trout is the most interesting card just because people seem to find him most interesting. I'm not one of those people. Also, this was probably the dullest Stadium Club pack I've ever opened. Matt Chapman. Jimmie Sherfy. This guy?:


Some Yankee fan is probably thinking this is a most charming card and it's not because it's Brett Gardner, and, oh, I need to burn all my Brett Gardner cards immediately.

I ended this pack-opening session with the Bowman pack against my best instincts. But since I threw all my instincts out the window when I bough the box I figured I'd continue the theme. There were no instincts left.


Most interesting card.


Most unfortunate card. For all the Brett Gardner reasons plus many more. There were FOUR CARDS in this pack and one has to be this guy?

The two "first Bowman cards" weren't any better.


Dodger fans, remember Carlos Monasterios?

Yeah, you don't need to tell me I shouldn't have bought this. I knew that before I even bought it. It's probably not a waste of money though as I like the Peter Gammons card a lot and I know I can trade that Adam Dunn card somewhere. And it will prevent me from buying anything Fairfield for a number of months.


Not hot.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Blog bat around: one of a kind


This card arrived in the first mailing I ever received from Wes, the nationally renowned card provider for many card-loving bloggers. It's impressive in its own right but merely hinted at what was to come.

Bloggers are paying their respects to Wes of Area 40 (and formerly of Jaybarkerfan's Junk) as he's departing from the hobby scene for the most part. I thought I'd offer my thoughts, too. Wes' ability to buy boxes upon boxes upon boxes is impressive but his generosity is even more so and really the lesson for us cardboarders.

The first mailing from Wes arrived in January 2012 after Night Owl Cards was declared "blog of the year." Wes used to hold a contest on his old blog allowing people to vote for the card blog of the year. I won four years running, although I think Wes held the contest for only three years.

Wes then sent out cards to the winner. The first prize package was impressive enough with the shiny Archives Jackie and a hard-to-reach Kershaw Lineage foil:


The following year I was declared Blog of the Year on Jaybarker Fan's Junk once again and another card package arrived in the mail.

It's difficult to recall what came in that package mostly because while I received that package, Wes was also bombing me with random PWEs that contained stuff like this:


Yes, a relic of my favorite Dodger from the 1980s.

In my experience, Wes is the king of relic card sends. He's sent me a bunch of Dodger relics over the years and I managed to scrape up most of what he's sent:


I am fairly certain that Wes has contributed at least one-fifth, if not one-fourth of all the Dodger relic cards that I own.

But even with that, his relic-card sending can't match his serial-numbered card sending.


Once he sent me a package that contained 19 different serial-numbered Dodger cards. But that was nothing.

In the spring of 2014, I received a monster package of cards from him, containing every kind of night owl want and desire. Among that vast quantity of cards that took me two days to go through and even longer to absorb were 80 serial-numbered cards.

80!

I scanned all of them for a super-long post that seemed insane to compose but isn't nearly as insane as sending them all to one lonely Dodger collector in a remote outpost.

That same year I was voted Blog of the Year for a third straight year and Wes sent me a package for a third straight year.


That was my favorite card from THAT Wes package.

Later that year, Wes announced he was closing up shop on his blog and he took that occasion to send out several "farewell packages." Wes wasn't gone for long but he didn't take back the cards he sent.

Here are a couple cool ones from that package:


In 2016, Wes formed a "Supertraders" group of bloggers and I was included, even though I don't buy nearly the number of cards that other collectors do and therefore don't have the inventory. That didn't matter to Wes. He sent me a package.


Nifty cards came out of it.

Then he sent me another one.


More nifty cards.

The nice element of Wes' card packages is, sure, they can feature "hits," but there are other cool cards contained within, too, some that I value much more than hits. Here is an example of some of those:


And yet, those very same packages contain some crazy stuff as well.

During Christmas of 2016 I received what would be my penultimate card package from Wes. I had the dumb luck of landing Wes as my Secret Santa. There is no better person in the world to have as your Secret Santa.

That was the package that yielded 19 serial-numbered cards.


I also got a chromed-up Adrian Beltre Bowman rookie card.

And, gee golly, this thing:


The heaviest "trading card" I own.

Because you never know what you would find in a card package from Wes.


You.


Just.


Never.



Know.

And with that, I thought I'd show my top 5 favorite cards I've received from Wes. Yes, that's right, I still haven't shown any of those yet.


FIVE


There are some things that are amusing, obnoxious and impressive all at the same time. The Momentous Material cards from Topps is one of those things. I snicker inside every time I see this card: the title, the expanse of cloth. But it is a very well-designed card of one of my favorite recent Dodgers, numbered to a paltry amount. It's wonderful in the most in-your-face way possible.


FOUR


When I was in fifth grade, I knew this kid who thought the members of Kiss were gods. There were a lot of kids like that, there was nothing more popular than Kiss in 1976. But this kid was a little bit from the wrong side of the tracks and I got the feeling he didn't have a lot in his life. He really, really liked Kiss, like he might've thought they would jet down from space and take him away from his lot in life. I wonder what I could have gotten from him for this card. He liked the Oakland A's and New York Jets, too. I bet I could get every Reggie Jackson and Joe Namath card he owned for this.


THREE


Al Oliver played 35 games for the Dodgers. That's it. Out of 18 seasons in the major leagues, he played 35 games for L.A. in 1985. Yet, somehow, Donruss is making me believe that it secured a piece of cloth from a uniform that Oliver wore for one of those 35 games. OK, I'll believe you. Because believing that makes this one of the greatest relic cards I own.


TWO


I have shown this "card" many times just because it fascinates me so. Long before they were inserting dirt into cards and issuing 45 different parallels of a single card, they placed images of cards on porcelain. You could put your frosty mug on this card and the coffee table would not be harmed.


ONE


Wes has not sent too many autographed cards to me, but the ones he sent made me sit up and take notice. Kirby Higbe is not a name you hear a lot in the game, even though he was a key pitcher for the Dodgers in the '40s. He's a bit of a nefarious character in the chronicles of baseball but that makes this all the more cool. I am no fan of cut signatures, but if they are presented correctly, I will let my bias go. And I am letting it go for this card. Wes sent this to me for Christmas of 2015. It was a happy Christmas.

Those are probably my five favorites, although those could change with every new day of the calendar.

I'm fortunate enough that there are other collectors besides Wes who have bestowed me with tremendous and mind-blowing card packages. From stuff that appeared to come straight from the vintage vault, to people purging their collections onto me, to people sending entire filled binders in the mail.

Wes is not unique in what he sent or even in the volume sent.

He IS one-of-a-kind in how often he's done it and for how many different collectors.

Thanks bud. Enjoy your step back from the hobby and stepping into the rest of your life. It's been fun.