Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Card room mega upgrade

Nearly six years ago, I showed off what qualified as my "card room."

It was tucked inside a makeshift room between a bathroom and a linen closet. My guess is at some point, someone who lived in our house before us cut down on the size of the bathroom to make some sort of mini den. I'm sorry they did that because the bathroom doesn't have a window and ventilation is always an issue.

But it did allow a place for me to store most of my collection. It wasn't big enough though. I had to distribute other binders and cards and hobby-related stuff in a couple of different areas, on a separate card desk and down in the basement. And I was desperate for more space as the last bit of area in the "card room" had been filled and I could stack no more.

Still, what you see above is basically the way it's been all the way into 2019. Four rows of binders stacked on a desk six binders deep. More binders stacked on a small file cabinet. More rows of binders stacked on the floor in two different places. More cards in boxes on the floor under the desk and a big box of Dodgers duplicates under there, too.

The only thing that kept me going was the long-held promise of a larger, bonafide card room, targeted for this summer.

Well, guess what the highlight of my vacation was!

I have an entire room -- I mean one, legitimate full-fledged room -- for cards. A real card room!

This has been so exciting that I spent the final three or four days of my vacation putting together the card room. I didn't plan on doing that but I just found myself there.

I'm sure you have questions and I'm all too eager to answer.

This is the only real complete corner of the card room so far. The shelves of binders feature, for the most part, completed sets. There are a couple of binders with half-finished sets, but if they're in a binder, the plan is to finish them at some point. The binders on the very top are smaller completed sets (2015 Stadium Club), a couple of frankenset binders (A&G minis and night cards), the whopping ode to 2015 Topps (flagship and update) and various other items -- Hostess panels, boxes that are targetted for binders (2013 Panini Hometown Heroes), etc.

Immediately to the right of the main shelf is a stack of random binders and boxes. Most of it is my binders of complete Allen & Ginter sets, as well as a binder of "cool sets" that I am nowhere near completing (think 2004 Finest). Alongside those binders that you can't see is a display box of all my early '90s Score cards.

The book shelf features some of my Dodgers binders and boxes of uncompleted sets from all of the major card companies. They may or may not show up in binder form someday (for example, 1985 Fleer). No rush on that. My Kellogg's 3-D Dodgers are in one box (all in top loaders). The top of the book shelf showcases a lot of the display items that many people have sent me that I never had room to put out. Finally, they can breathe free. At far right on the top is my stack of 1976 Kellogg's cards. Only 13 more to go!

A couple other points before moving on in the tour.

The binders on the shelf on the right are upright. Some may freak out over that -- "don't store your cards upright, they'll warp!!" And for years I stacked my binders because of that. However, if you run a blog, searching for cards with binders stacked horizontally might make you never want to blog again. I don't know how I didn't shut the blog down trying to find cards I needed in this format. It is terrible for getting to your cards.

I am totally willing to risk the chance of warping for the ability to get to my cards much more easily. I've got the binders wedged in there pretty tightly and none of the binders are overstuffed, so I don't think I need to worry.

Secondly, people have already asked me how I selected the display cards in the spine of each binder. I always get this question. There is virtually no thought process. I simply selected a card from the year that is contained in the binder and make sure it's not a card I will need in the future -- i.e. a dupe of a "common" from a team that rarely comes up in trades. Chances are, you're going to damage the card in some way getting it into the spine, so the more dispensable, the better.

OK, moving on.

That is a weirdly cropped photo of my card desk and surrounding area (loved ones blacked out because they didn't ask to be displayed on the internet).

The top features the wonderful Ron Cey-Fleetwood Mac penguin lamp, along with the Ron Cey birthday card engineered by Rod of Padrographs.

The main contents of the desk are almost the same as always. Top left compartment are Dodgers intended for binders. Middle is miscellaneous, fliers for future card shows, card research stuff, etc. Same with the spot on the right.

Just below, as always, incoming card packages are on the left (right now it also features Dodgers from my almost-completed, semi-annual Dodger binder sort). Outgoing packages are on the right and almost always a disaster. The middle part is new. I've moved all my current-year cards to the card desk. This will prevent me from buying too much more of 2019 product because there's not much room.

That center area used to contain various "real life" items that I needed to keep tabs on. School tuition stuff, doctors reminders, bill stuff, too. All of that has been jettisoned to the former card room. Same with the contents in the drawers. They now house more boxes of cards (early Donruss and throw-away Bowman, mostly) and various storage items (pages, top loaders, etc.)

Down below is safety storage for my '75 Topps and '75 Topps mini binders as well as '71 and '72 Topps. I stupidly cropped that out.

The wall items feature one of those nifty card display frames that Target used to sell. It contains cards from those first packs of '75 Topps I bought when I was 9. I need to find like three more of those displays because I want all of those first packs on display.

At middle is a signed display from Duke Snider that my brother gifted me quite awhile ago. At right is a cross-stitched item from my mom. Love you, mom.

Now, the incomplete portions of the room:

The shelving was moved from the small card room to the larger one. Some of the items are the same (one day I'm going to confirm whether those signatures of Aaron and Musial are real). Additions include a signed ball from Bob Feller (given to me by my dad) and various personal items.

The wall hanging commemorates the 1988 World Champions. Below is a display shelf. It includes the signed picture "to Nite Owl" from Orel Hershiser, as well as bobbles, etc. Inside are the Beckett Vintage magazines that contain my stories (another one is about to hit store shelves!) and an original price guide from 1979.

I am going to need another binder shelf like the other one I showed to add all of my Dodgers binders. It will probably go in this area. Hope to get that in the next couple of weeks.

Because this is what I've got sitting on the card room floor right now. So much stuff that needs to go somewhere.

Most of it is Dodger related -- Dodger binders and boxes and boxes and boxes of Dodger dupes. Dodger fans, do you want a bunch of Dodger cards???????? Send me an email! I have LOTS. And it's not all 1990 Donruss either.

In the top photo, along the wall are boxes of Topps cards (mostly 1990s through early 2000s), binders of non-baseball (football, music, etc.), another safety container of relic cards and other notables (with a stack of '82 Fleer on top), and that giant box of Dodgers photographs that reader Alan sent me.

In the photo below, you see some of those Dodgers photos that I plan to display on the walls in some form. You also see many, many Dodgers dupes and an open box of Dodgers dupes at the top right.

Above that are various magazines and team yearbooks and programs that I will probably display as is (my wife, who has helped immensely with this card room task, changed the curtains to make them more suitable for a card room, this used to be the baby's room way back).

The stuff from the basement is still not up in the card room yet. And I'm going to need a separate display table and a chair. So the room is probably a month or so away from being finished. But I'm pretty happy with how quickly it came together.

This has been a goal for years and years and I know not everyone has the ability to display their collection like this. Believe me, I drooled over others' blog posts featuring their card rooms and areas. Some I will never match.

But finally, I don't have to think "WHERE AM I GOING TO PUT THIS?" anymore.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The silver lining

All right, it's fairly obvious at this point that I'm not going to be able to tackle It's Like Having My Own Card Shop's anniversary contest in proper fashion. For weeks I've been staring at the possible writing exercises and coming up with nothing.

Most of the prompts, to be honest, I don't feel like writing. I don't care how nice the prizes are, I will not write something I do not feel.

One exercise seemed promising -- your most embarrassing moment involving baseball cards -- just because I have no issues airing my embarrassing moments while I know others do. But I already wrote about an embarrassing moment quite awhile ago and I can't think of anything that tops that.

Finally, I did settle on something. It has to do with the prompt to post a video of myself sharing my collection with someone who didn't know I collected. Except, there's not a chance in hell I would video myself sharing my collection with someone else.

But what I did do recently was share my collection with someone else. It's not on video. Sorry. I'm sure I'm disqualified. But I like the story too much so I'm writing it anyway and entering it in the contest. Let the controversy ensue if I'm chosen the winner.

So, here's the story:

As you know, I've been through a lot the last several months, particularly the last two or three. Both of my parents passed away, a month apart, from terrible diseases and it's been a struggle running my own life while all of that was happening.

However, I refused to -- and continue to refuse to -- dwell.

Time and again, people I knew, whether relatives or friends or friends of my parents, talked about how awful the situation was, stressed what a terrible burden me and my brothers were handling, and discussed the unfairness of it all.

I didn't have a lot to say when the conversation took that turn. I still don't. Yes, I know it was as difficult a situation as I've ever encountered. However, I have always preferred looking for the good side of bad situations. It's just the way I am. I may seem hypercritical sometimes, but overall, I prefer looking for silver linings. I am basically a positive guy.

To me, continuing to bemoan my fate, whether in conversation or even in my own head, is useless. It doesn't accomplish anything and it's so the opposite of what I want to talk about that when the topic comes up, I can barely form words that show the person I am listening.

I made my peace with my parents' predicaments months ago -- my mother last summer when it looked like no matter what she had, it would not end well, and my dad last April when I saw him using a walker out of the blue and all of the puzzle pieces clicked together.

Those were the "oh, woe is me" moments and they didn't last long. I brushed myself off and knew without a doubt we were still so much luckier than many, many people.

And, yes, that's me clinging to a silver lining.

It's just what I do.

Throughout the ordeal, I made contact with many family members and folks I barely knew by name. I've gotten to be friends with some of them and I've reconnected with family members long forgotten. I just talked yesterday to my house-bound aunt, now 89 years old, and have made regular phone conversations with her a habit. I'm so glad we have that now.

That is a silver lining. There are so many.

And now, the baseball card part.

Among the many family members who have wandered in an out of our year-long trial are my daughter and my nieces and nephew. Those poor kids have gotten a front-row glimpse of how brutal life can be. One of those kids is my brother's son. He's 12.

A couple of years ago, I found out that he and his sister collected baseball cards. I gave them a few packs of cards one time during a visit.

During a more recent visit to my parents' house, for their grandfather's funeral, I was working through various affairs, financial issues mostly, and I decided I needed a break. I wandered down to the basement where my nephew was sleeping during his stay. I asked him if he still collected baseball cards.

He said yes.

"Hot damn," I said to myself. "Would you like some?" I said out loud.

He shyly said yes.

I asked him what kind of cards he collected. I already knew he liked the Orioles. My brother is a lifelong Orioles fan and now he's foisted that unfortunate rooting choice on his kids. (In the early stages of Baltimore's terrible season, when he and I were sitting in my mother's hospital room, I couldn't resist asking him how he was handling Chris Davis' terrible start).

But he surprised me by saying he also followed the Mets and Cardinals. "That's interesting," I said to myself again. "I suppose when your favorite team is so bad, you have to pick alternatives."

So eventually I went home and when I finally got to the stage when I could send out card packages again, I put some together for several collectors -- and one nice fat box of cards for my nephew.

Up to that point, I don't think he knew I collected. I had never discussed my hobby in front of him. But I broke the ice here. I told him I wouldn't overwhelm him with cards. I said I have a lot and he doesn't need to be a pack rat like me. But I tried to give him a nice selection geared toward his interests. I added a bunch of Orioles, both modern and from my brother's and my childhoods, and even a couple vintage items. I found some Mets and added those, same with the Cardinals. I also tried to accumulate the stars of the day, no matter what team, because I know kids like to follow the modern guys. I also sent him a couple of those Fleer box sets from the '80s because he might think those guys were SO OLD.

I then sent off all the packages, including his. A few weeks later, I received an envelope in the mail in my nephew's 12-year-old handwriting. In it was a thank you note. He said he and his dad would determine which cards would fit in the collection.

I was delighted.

But there was something else in the envelope.

These cards appeared along with the Clayton Kershaw Hometown Heroes card at the top of the post.

My nephew had sent me Dodgers!

This had now become a trade package!

I didn't expect this at all. Firstly, I have all these cards already, he didn't have to do that. But mostly, I didn't know he knew about the trade ritual.

It's funny to see the Kershaw card come back to me. I had thrown it in as part of the collection of modern-day stars. I suppose a kid who follows the Mets and Cardinals isn't interested in any Dodger cards. Perhaps that's why all the Dodgers that came out of the Fleer box sets returned to my house, too. He had to get them out of his collection!

But that doesn't matter. My nephew -- if he didn't know already -- now knows I like the Dodgers and Dodger cards.

Perhaps he is only a year or two away from scrapping the baseball card habit. You know how the teenage years can be. I admit it seems strange to me already for a kid of this age -- in this age -- to even be interested in cardboard cards. Why isn't he immersed in video games 24-7?

But there's something very comforting about someone in the family who collects -- and who sends cards through the mail.

It's likely none of this would have happened if I didn't go through what I've gone through the last few months. I probably wouldn't have even thought to share my collection like that.

There are silver linings everywhere if you look for them. Sometimes they even include baseball cards.

Sunday, July 28, 2019


We bloggers often characterize folks who comment or trade but don't have a card blog of their own as "readers."

It's an odd description. The bloggers who comment and trade are readers, too. At least I assume they're reading my stuff.

But how else am I going to describe the non-blogger? I can't say "non-blogger Art sent me some cards." That sounds weird. And a little accusatory. I can't say, "this dude who I don't know contacted me and wanted to trade me some cards." That's true, but it's also awkward.

"Reader" is a little catch-all phrase and it also makes me feel good. This person is reading my stuff even though he doesn't have a blog of his own, even though he is not invested in the online card community. He just wants to read my stuff!

If you have a successful blog, you need these kind of "readers." They give your blog the stamp of approval. I am fortunate enough to see quite a few "readers" in my comments, folks who I never see in the comments of any other card blog. And that's how you know a blog has made a connection beyond this little card blogging community.

Every once in awhile one of those readers contacts me and wants to get a trade going. That's what happened recently. "Reader" Mike, who you may have spotted in the comments as "Mike the History Teacher," said he was interested in trading again and would I be interested?

Yes, certainly.

I've almost gotten to the stage where I have caught up on all the card transactions that I owe going back to April. There are still some folks waiting for me to get back into gear, but I felt in good enough form to take on a trade with someone new.

I'm in the middle of gathering cards for Mike (almost done!), so let's see what I needed from the big box of stuff he sent to me.

I'm starting with my favorites from the box. Too often I save my favorites for last. That's unfair to my favorites. All four of these are O-Pee-Chee Dodgers. I didn't have three of them and the one I did have (Monday) was in hurting shape. So glad for the upgrade.

All needed Dodgers from the 1990s parallel brigade. While going through what I needed, I discovered I don't have a card of Greg Hansell's regular 1995 Upper Deck minors card in my binder, even though I've seen that card many times. That means it's sitting in the dupes somewhere and I haven't gotten up the courage to tackle that giant dupes box. It's kinda scary.

All Dodger needs from early this century or late last century. Mike sent a LOT of cards from this period and I was surprised to find out that I had many of them already. I think I've finally surmounted the giant mountain that is late '90s/early '00s cards! Of course, there's that much larger mountain that is nothing but parallels and inserts lurking behind.

Baseball Aces need. I may be able to play a card game with all the Dodgers I've accumulated.

Two more of my favorites from the box just because I was stupified that I didn't already have either of these. I guess this will never stop happening will it?

Mike did manage to send me cards from an early '00s set that I have never seen before -- 2003 Fleer Patchworks. Don't know how it's avoided me for all these years.

Mike likes his oddball cards. Can you tell? I really get a kick out of those Michigan State cards of Gibson and Garvey.

This card had me stumped because I hadn't seen any of this year's Topps stickers yet. Turns out it's the back of this sticker ...

... which will never see the light of day because -- come on -- Chris Taylor is on the other side.

Mike added a few randoms, which I always appreciate. I don't know why I scanned that Sportflics card.

He also ventured into some other sports. I'm still trying to limit my Sabres and Bills collections to cards from when I covered them (1988-1990), the Bills' Super Bowl years (1990-94), the Sabres' red-and-black years, or -- of course -- vintage. I'll dabble in modern packs from time to time, too.

There you go. The top two Bills cards on the left are my very first 1961 Topps football cards.

Here are some lovely ladies, mostly from the world of wrestling. I am impressed that I know most of the names with my pro wrestling knowledge being zero.

Here's a card of potential jail resident, Lori Loughlin. The attorney "experts" aren't saying good things about her escaping jail time. Meanwhile, card dealers are taking advantage. This card, the only one one there, is listed on COMC for 10 bucks.


This is pretty cool, too. It's from some Canadian set from 1962.

I'm appreciative of everyone who reads my blog and those folks without blogs who interact give me a good idea that this blog is a success even a decade after first starting it.

As always, thanks for reading. All of you.

Friday, July 26, 2019

While you were summering

Topps publicly unveiled the design for 2020 flagship yesterday, while I was in the middle of a four-hour car trip.

Needless to say, it was a surprise. I didn't expect Topps to do anything like that this early. The last five years or more, Topps has revealed the next flagship design in the middle of August. This still seems terribly early to someone who as a kid opening packs didn't know what the design looked like until he opened his first pack, but at least it fell around the same time and I could prepare in my usually inefficient manner.

But July?

Topps knows nobody pays attention to anything in July, right? July was created so you didn't have to notice anything. Except lakes, you can notice lakes in July. And trees. And frogs. And you can notice baseball but nothing that has to do with marketing or release dates or added value. Just fun baseball stuff that takes very limited brain power.

But, no, Topps is determined to wake you up in the middle of July because it needs to be NOTICED. Every business is fighting for its life out there and they're going to annoy who they need to annoy to stay relevant. LOOK AT ME! I AM RELEASING A PICTURE OF SOMETHING YOU CAN'T EVEN BUY FOR SEVEN MONTHS! Please don't forget me!

And, so dutifully -- one day late, mind you -- I am noticing.

Here is what I notice:

I'm not going to buy much of that.

Some of this is because Topps refuses to return to its roots and put damn borders around its card edges. None of this is because the writing is sideways. Sideways writing is a well-worn tradition in baseball cards. Look at 2005 Topps. Look at 1999 Topps. Hell, look at half the sets released in 1999. Look at half the sets released in the late 1990s! Sideways writing everywhere.

Everyone lived. They titled their heads up to watch Big Mac or Sammy slam a home run, then tilted their heads to the side to read their baseball cards. It's not a big thing.

My general issue is the numbing similarity of the design to other recent designs. You graphics people may have noticed that Topps is committed, fully and completely, to the slash. The slashiness of its graphics first appeared around 2014 and was rather noticeable in some of its 2015 inserts. Then in 2016, nobody could avoid the slash.

Clink! It arrived like knife sliding against chrome until it locked into place. On every card. Angular slashiness.

The angular graphic lines continued in 2017, both in flagship and in just about every insert.

Diagonal lines, boys, that's what it's all about. Triangles. Parallelograms. Lines that make a sound, cutting across your vision.

In 2018, more of the same. The player name and team name trail off to the right until it falls to pieces, leaving a diagonal slash at the end of the bar.

I think this is why 2019 flagship appealed to me immediately. There is no obvious slashing in the design. However that doesn't mean the slashes have stopped. They are all over the Topps Now cards this year.

 So the slash marks have never been that far away the last five years or so.

And with 2020, pointy edges and northwest-to-southeast patterns are back in a major way. Just about every graphic element is at an angle (pay no attention to the graphic squib in the bottom right corner, that's me cropping out the card overlap in Topps' image).

As usual, I try to find a past design that resembles the newest design and Bowman jumped immediately to mind. It looks a lot like modern Bowman, which does not appeal to me at all. But which Bowman set?

Turns out it is a very slashy set from the start of the slashy craze:

Similarities, yes? Slash marks and angular boxes. Sideways writing. Team logo in the bottom corner. 2020 Topps flagship looks like 2016 Bowman.

That's kinda gross.

There is some hope, I guess. The vertical cards (because we're going to do this half horizontal/half vertical thing forever) seem to provide more breathing room and could produce some nice photos -- provided that the pictures are sharper than they are in 2019 flagship.

The vertical nature of the 2020 design gives me some bad flashbacks to 2007 Upper Deck:

When the cards left you claustrophobic.

The 2020 design is really a continuation of the designs from the last four years. It doesn't break any new ground and while it's not off-putting at all, it does make me feel sad for the design when folks do their "designs of the 2020s" retrospective. 2020 is going to look terribly dated. And I still won't be trying to complete a post-2015 flagship set.

So, those are my initial 2020 design ramblings. I thought I would be doing this in August. But Topps wanted to be needed.

I hope they don't keep pushing up the date when they release the next year's design. At this rate, it will be showing off the following year's design before the current year's set appears on shelves.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

'56 of the month: Andy Seminick

I've written a handful of posts about Frank Smith, a former major leaguer from where I live who was a relief pitcher for the Reds and Cardinals during the 1950s.

I had the thrill of writing some stories about Smith, long after his playing career had ended, both before and after his death. It is still one of my greatest honors as a writer to have written Smith's "sports section obituary" after he died in 2005.

I got to know Smith a little bit between 2002-05 and that made me want to know some of the other people that spent time with him during the majors. Smith mentioned that some of his best friends in baseball while he played were Ken Boyer and Harvey Haddix with the Cardinals. But probably his best friend of all was Andy Seminick with the Reds.

That makes sense because Seminick was a catcher and caught Smith when the two played together from 1952-54.

When Smith mentioned Seminick when I wrote that first story, I had never heard of him. I figured he was one of those '50s players lost to time, never a star who never played for those big '50s teams, the Yankees, Dodgers or Giants.

But Seminick did play for one of those big '50s teams, he was the catcher for the 1950 Whiz Kids, the Philadelphia Phillies team that made it all the way to the World Series.

I dug deeper and was fascinated by what I found.

Seminick came from a very poor background, growing up during the Depression. His family were immigrants from Russia. Dad worked for a coal-mining company, when he could find work. If he couldn't, he'd work on farms as a hired hand type. Andy, meanwhile, worked in the coal mines as a youngster, for two years.

Seminick always played behind the plate, but he wasn't always good at it. He led the National League in errors three times during the 1940s. Philadelphia fans noticed and booed him relentlessly. It became so bad that some female fans felt sorry for him and started a fan club for Seminick. It became one of the most popular fan clubs for Phillies players, particularly when Seminick was named to the All-Star team in 1949 and helped Philadelphia to the pennant the following year.

Seminick took no flack on the field and there was a famous dust-up, which involved the police, with the New York Giants. Seminick took out the Giants' catcher and second baseman on the base paths after the Giants' Eddie Stanky refused to stop distracting Seminick when he was batting. Giants manager Leo Durocher commented that the Giants would have had to play with minor leaguers if umpires hadn't eventually ejected Seminick because they were running out of healthy guys.

Off the field, Seminick liked to have a good time and that's why his friendship with Smith is a natural, because Smith liked to have a good time, too. Seminick liked to joke around with teammates, in the locker room and in the hotels.

Seminick played through a great many injuries during his career and became known for his toughness just because he refused to sit out despite his injuries.

Seminick died in 2004, one year before Smith did.

One other interesting thing I found: Seminick delivered a game-winning base hit off of his future pal, Smith, on Aug. 1, 1950.

Now I know a little more about Andy Seminick (and you do, too).

Seems only fair after writing so much about one of his best friends.

(P.S.: Many thanks to the Society for American Baseball Research for yet another one of their very detailed biographies).

(P.P.S.: Stay tuned for the next '56 of the Month post. It will be a doozy).