Saturday, July 20, 2019

C.A.: 2008 Topps Allen & Ginter World's Greatest Victories, Man Walks on the Moon

(Today is National Ice Cream Soda Day. As a kid, my folks would take me to Parkside Candy, a Buffalo institution, to get several flavors of industrial-sized lollipops. Then, one day, my dad introduced me to ice cream soda at Parkside. I was spoiled instantly. No ice cream soda I've had since has tasted as good as that one at Parkside's. And now, Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 283rd in a series):

In case you haven't heard, today is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing and man walking on the surface of the moon.

I had just turned 4 when this epic, audacious moment took place on U.S. televisions everywhere. I assume my folks were watching but I have no idea. I have no memories of the moon landing.

However, the after-effects of that day followed me throughout my childhood. Astronauts loomed as the country's biggest heroes, larger than life, and bigger than even Joe Namath or Hank Aaron. Kids brought space-themes lunch boxes to school and we often took breaks in class to view the latest NASA venture into space.

My friend's mother bought Pillsbury's space food sticks -- modeled after the high-energy snacks the astronauts ate -- and to this day I remember them as a childhood, culinary masterpiece, on par with Bottle Caps and Milkshake candy bars. In reality, space food sticks were probably no better than a primitive energy bar but I yearned for another taste through the rest of my childhood.

As the '70s progressed, space food sticks faded from the market and so did the public's fascination with space travel.

The space program doesn't feature the star power it did when I was a kid. And there's plenty of stupid stuff out there like moon-landing conspiracy theories.

But fortunately, Topps has done an adequate job of remembering the moon landing in its cards. In 2008, the Eagle Lunar model's historic feat was commemorated in Allen & Ginter's World's Greatest Victories insert set, still one of my favorite A&G inserts (although not the greatest look).

Topps also paid tribute to the moon landing in two different sets last year, Allen & Ginter and Heritage.

The triumphant moment is recognized on the back of the first card in the Magnificent Moons insert set in last year's A&G.

Unfortunately, the tribute falls flat:

July 11???????

Considering that Apollo didn't launch from Florida until July 16, 1969, I think Armstrong walking on the moon five days prior was probably impossible.

Is this another case of A&G's quality continuing to slide?

In 2008, A&G got it right:

Fortunately, Heritage last year also produced a moon-landing card as part of its annual News Flashbacks set. I don't have that card, but here's an image of it:

And here's the back:

July 20!


Although I don't remember anything about the initial moon landing, the thrill and the pride over the U.S. space program is something that I totally associate with childhood, just like the Bicentennial and Grand Funk Railroad. Astronauts were brazen cowboys and we loved it.

Tonight at some point, I'm going to rewatch the "Mad Men" episode that takes place during the moon landing. It really gets across how awe-inspiring that moment was.

The things humans can do sometimes.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Move on, haters

I was watching a video the other day of one of those box breakers who opens cases of every new product.

I don't do this a lot but when there's a new set out and I'm eager to see the cards, the video comes in handy when the cards aren't on store shelves near me.

Such was the case with this year's Allen & Ginter. The dude was opening a box of it and I thought I'd see what kind of interesting oddities waited for me.

What I got along with the cards was the usual "hate" from people who don't like, or don't get, Allen & Ginter. Perhaps "hate" is a bit strong of a word, although I've definitely seen it in regards to A&G, but the guy on the video emphasized four or five times on the video that "he was a baseball guy only."

Good. Great for you. There are eight other sets on store shelves at the moment I am writing this that are "baseball only." This one isn't. You want everything to go your way?

I understand that not every set is for everyone, but as an A&G fan, why do I have to hear someone call the non-sports cards in A&G "weirdo cards"? Why do I have to see the person opening them glide right over the non-sports cards with a dismissive "I don't know who this is" -- not even turning over the back of the card to, I don't know, maybe learn something? Why do I have to get all that attitude coming off the people who don't like the set? It sounds ignorant. And I hear it every single year.

I enjoy A&G every year because I never know what I'm going to find in it. It may not be as exciting as it was 10 years ago, but it's still better than pulling cards of Jose Abreu and Justin Bour in every set I open. Yes, I absolutely want to pull a card of an egg, because where else do you get to do that? Where else do you get that kind of whimsy?

Baseball is far and away my favorite sport but I can do without the "baseball-only" condescension. If you don't like it, don't buy it. Hide your eyes when people show it off or you walk into the card aisle. In short, move on.

Like with this post.

I found a single blaster of Allen & Ginter in Walmart today. The A&G section had been picked over pretty well, but there was one blaster shoved in the back. My day brightened from that point as the first purchase of A&G can often do.

That is your pack for 2019.

And here are the contents of the blaster:


#134 - Derek Jeter, Yankees

#233 - Cole Hamels, Cubs

#99 - Chris Sale, Red Sox

#GG-47 - Honus Wagner, Pirates, Ginter Greats insert

#141 - Miles Mikolas, Cardinals

That's the end of that pack. I was shorted a mini. I shook the open pack hoping a mini would drop out but all the pack wanted to give me was five cards. Not a good look, A&G.


#26 - Justin Verlander, Astros

#122 - Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Rangers

#375 - Pat Neshek, Phillies

#IE-10 - Achilles' Armor, Incredible Equipment insert

#CC-12 - English Springer Spaniel, Collectible Canines mini insert

#240 - Dee Gordon, Mariners

All right, the number I typed for the Pat Neshek card is not a typo. The short-print cards this year run from No. 351-400. That doesn't mean the set is 400 cards (I don't think). Apparently A&G has skipped Nos. 301-350. I have no idea why.

Although I'm a fan of A&G, stuff like this is annoying. You can't mess with the card numbering system. I've got a frankenset of A&G minis and anything I pull in the 351-400 range will not work in the frankenset (I absolutely am not expanding it to 400 cards).


#3 - Babe Ruth, Yankees

#298 - Ian Happ, Cubs

#38 - Lorenzo Cain, Brewers

#163 - Loretta Claiborne, Special Olympics athlete mini

#MS-11 - Clydesdale, Mares & Stallions insert

#55 - Evan Longoria, Giants

I wanted to learn a little bit more about Special Olympian Loretta Claiborne, but when I turned the card over ...

... it was an A&G back.

So I went to the friendly internet for information. It turns out Claiborne is a giant in the Special Olympics game and has had a movie made about her among many other notable achievements. But let's move on to the next card because who cares about an inspiring story when it's not baseball, right baseball-only guy?


#225 - Chris Drury, Blue Jays

#138 - Gary Carter, Expos (corner ding -- NOT COOL -- on one of the best cards out of the blaster)

#363 - Austin Meadows, Rays

#BSS-15 - Mike Trout, Angels, Baseball Star Signs insert

#393 - Alex Rodriguez, Mariners, mini insert

#156 - Vincent Stio, 10-year-old umpiring fan

Let's discuss this year's A&G design.

In short, it's fine. Nothing that thrills me but not poor either. I like how the subject fills the space on the card. I also like the old-time baseball stadium/field backdrops. There's an Olin Mills template feel to them, but it's a good look for the cards.


#6 - Luis Gonzalez, Diamondbacks

#237 - Carlos Santana, Indians

#GG-33 - Cal Ripken Jr., Orioles, Ginter Greats insert

#LOB8 - Ban Gioc-Detian Falls, Look Out Below mini insert

#254 - Charlie Morton, Rays

#66 - Roger Clemens, Blue Jays

I let out a groan when I pulled the Luis Gonzalez card. Please stop putting this guy in sets! Same with Roy Oswalt and Orlando Hernandez and any of the so-called "legends" who have barely retired. Players should be retired for 20 years before they return to cards as "legends." Fill their spot with a current player or  -- here's an idea -- some of the historical figures that used to be on display in Allen & Ginter back in the good old days.


#110 - Salvador Perez, Royals

#28 - Jose Altuve, Astros

#352 - Robin Yount, Brewers

#37 - Josh Hader, Brewers, black-border mini

#MS-1 - Arabian Horse, Mares & Stallions insert

#167 - Mayumi Seto, artist

Seto is the artist who draws the Topps Living Set cards, as well as some stuff for Topps Gallery and other sets. I haven't bought any Living Set cards and I'm not much for most art cards, but her work is impressive.


#209 - Ryan O'Hearn, Royals

#32 - Sandy Koufax, Dodgers (wooooooooooooooooooooo!!!)

#280 - Bryce Harper, Phillies, mini

#128 - Roger Maris, Yankees

#HOF-14 - Space Shuttle Discovery, History of Flight insert

#265 - Troy Tulowitzki, Yankees

This was the pack of the box. The Koufax, pulling the space shuttle card on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.


#103 - Johnny Bench, Reds

#227 - Touki Toussaint, Braves

#388 - Casey Stengel, Yankees

#75 - Brooks Robinson, Orioles, A&G-back mini

#BSS-29 - Kris Bryant, Cubs, Baseball Star Signs insert

#72 - Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

OK, that was a pretty run-of-the-mill Allen & Ginter blaster. No egg, no Emily Jaenson, no Tyler Kepner or Mike Oz, and just one Dodger.

But that's all I will complain about after a box opening that annually rates as one of the most intriguing of the year.

There is stuff to complain about with Allen & Ginter: it's not as exciting as it once was, it's erased much of the history from the base set (except for old players) and replaced it with no-name comedians, it's scaled back on the non-human cards. It's a fact that it's not as interesting for me to collect as it once I was. I completed seven straight years of Allen & Ginter from 2008-14. I haven't completed any A&G set since.

But to complain every year about how it looks the same (there's only so much you can do to the design of A&G without losing the foundation of the set, which is paying tribute to a 100-year-old set) or how there's non-baseball players in the set (no duh!) is much more monotonous than anything that appears in A&G.

Years ago, I used to complain about Gypsy Queen every year. I didn't like it. It looked terrible. Then, I stopped buying it, and then I stopped writing about it. Because I realized, this set isn't for me. It will never change because I'm complaining about it. Why put myself through it?

Same with Allen & Ginter. It's never going to change. People like it too much.

So move on.