Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why I never say the word 'awesome' except for on this blog

I don't know if this comes across in my blog writing -- probably not -- but I am a pretty reserved person in real life.

My wife says it is one of the first things that she noticed about me. She says I would never get too excited or too down about anything. "Low-key," I think is what she said.

I had never noticed this about me before, but when she said that, I began to become more aware of it. And then others started to say the same thing. So, I figured, well, I guess that's who I am -- low-key, regular guy Night Owl.

That doesn't mean I don't get excited about things or don't have opinions. Anyone who reads this blog knows that. But in real life, you will rarely see me respond in an over-the-top way, and you certainly won't hear anyone tell me to "calm down." And, by no means, will you ever, ever hear me say the word, "awesome."

I don't think I have said the word "awesome" since I was in high school. "Awesome" was one of the major exclamations during my high school existence. I did go to high school in the early 1980s, after all. And I said the word a lot back then. But things happen, people grow up, and the thrill is gone.

But you may have noticed something: I write the word "awesome" all the time on this blog. All the time. I don't know how many times I've written the word here, but it's got to be in the hundreds (there is a regular feature called "awesome night card," you know). And the reason I use it here, I think, is that baseball cards take me back to that time when I was a teenager using that word. Plus, I find baseball cards so interesting it's about the only thing that makes me utter a word of approval instinctively. It's certainly not forced. "Awesome" just seems like the perfect word.

It's definitely the perfect word for a card package I received recently. Wax Heaven reader Joe contacted me and said he had some Dodger cards sitting in boxes, basically collecting dust. He said he busts hundreds of boxes a year and he wanted to see the cards go to someone who would appreciate them.

By the way, isn't that something to aspire to? To be a collector who busts hundreds of boxes each year? Man, what a life that must be. That's who I want to be when I grow up. and get some ambition and, uh, a better job that pays more.

So, Joe sent me some Dodgers cards that are basically out of my league, but much appreciated. One of my favorites is the 2008 Red Hot Rookies Clayton Kershaw at the top of the post. I've wanted that card for awhile now. It truly is awesome.

But Joe also sent some high-end Dodgers. The first three are the first Topps Sterling cards I've ever held in my hands.

Awesome, eh? The photos are very refractory. And the finish on the card is something that I won't describe because I'll just muck it up. Stucco-like or something. Again, I probably just screwed that up.

You'll also notice each card is numbered, and that Jackie Robinson is not wearing a Giant uniform!

I don't know if the cards are worth the price people spend on them, but they certainly are pretty cool.
Here is the first of six Topps Triple Threads cards that Joe sent. This is the Jackie pose that Topps used to doctor Mr. Robinson into a Giants uniform for the purposes of the National card collecting show. Shameless.

And here is what I am assuming is the Johnny Podres "base" card (if a numbered card can be considered a base card) and its rarer "gold" or "brown" parallel card.

And here's Brad Penny. My brother brought up the point last week that Penny could evolve or has already evolved into the next David Wells. He's pitching for the Red Sox, sort of hefty, kind of cranky, and has a loud mouth. I can see it.

And here's a 2007 Triple Threads card of another former Dodger pitcher, Derek Lowe. They call this card "emerald." Why can't anything be "green"?

Yeah, I showed this one big for a reason. This is my first in-person look at one these relic/auto cards with the super-tiny photo.

Philosophically, I am opposed to cards like this just because it's too busy and the photo is way too small. But seeing it up close, I can see why people melt when they see something like this. It really is awesome in any way you want to use the word. A numbered, two kinds-of-reliced, sticker-autographed card of Russell Martin? Count me in. And I'll have a pizza with everything on it, too.

My fear when I first saw the card was the red part was going to consist of red velvet, which gives me the same feeling that others get when someone runs their nails along a chalkboard. Fortunately, it's not red velvet.

Lastly, we have about the only card featured here that you could pull out of a repack box. And I love it just as much as the others. A 2005 Donruss Champions card of Tommy John? Who doesn't love that? Yeah, this is as awesome as all the others.

I know Joe doesn't want me to thank him. He says it's simply a gesture from one collector to another. But I have to say thanks again.

And, in case you weren't keeping track, I said the word "awesome" four times when referring to these cards.

That means I like them. I really, really like them.

This just isn't right

So, I was wandering through the blogs this afternoon as is my custom. It's a happy little time, devoid of worries or aggravations. It is a time when the sun always shines, purple bunnies hop through the meadow behind my backyard, and beautiful music emanates from a perfect blue sky.

And then I saw THIS ...

WHA??? JACKIE? IN A GIANTS UNIFORM?????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



It is my understanding that this monstrosity is one of the cards created for release at the National this summer. Apparently, according to the newsletter released today, they "wondered, what would Jackie have looked like in a Giants uniform and the 2009 National (Topps) VIP card of Jackie Robinson answers that question."

Well, isn't that lovely. Harmless musing. Mere wondering. How delightful.

Should I know about any other horrifying non-existent scenarios that you are scheming to bring to reality under the guise of mere wondering? Plan on burning every little kid's stuffed animals? Littering the highway with thumb tacks? Harnessing the power of the sun for evil? Shooting the purple bunnies hopping through the meadow?

Because if you're putting Jackie in a Giants uniform, WHICH HE NEVER WORE, then there is no stopping you from foisting other horrors on to the collecting public.

The story goes that Jackie Robinson refused to go to the Giants after he was traded to the team in 1956. I choose to believe that. But even if it's not true, he was never a Giant. And, for the record, I have NEVER wondered what he would have looked like in a Giant uniform. But thanks to The National, I'm forced to consider the possibility.

My eyes. My poor, poor eyes.

Might as well do what I would have done when I was a boy:

There. I feel somewhat better. I'm sorry they did this to you Jackie. Please forgive them.

Patch worthy?

I've been thinking about this for some time. In fact, I've been thinking about it so long, that I've lost all perspective on whether it's a good idea or just plain morbid.

It has to do with patch cards. I've mentioned a couple of times that I don't understand the fascination with them at all. I especially don't understand manufactured patches, which don't have any connection to an actual patch worn on baseball uniform.

But one thing that might be intriguing would be related to patches that were used to commemorate a ballplayer or other baseball figure who had recently died. The No. 21 worn here by Rennie Stennett to honor the late, great Roberto Clemente. The No. 19 worn by the Dodgers throughout the 1978 postseason. The No. 10 worn by the Yankees after Phil Rizzuto's death a couple years ago.

Is it too callous for me to suggest that it would be a good idea to later feature patch cards of the deceased player, in which the card consisted of pieces of those commemorative patches? I think it would be a fitting tribute to present a well-designed card of, say, Roberto Clemente, with part of the No. 21 patch as a key element in the card.

I have no idea how card companies would go about acquiring patches like these, but I think it'd be worth the effort. It'd be more worthwhile then creating a manufactured patch that doesn't have anything to do with anything. Perhaps they would have to wait a year or two because marketing anything too close to a player's death would be perceived as profiting off that person's passing (some eBay sellers are asking right now, "What? Is there something wrong with that?").

Maybe this has been done already. I don't know. I'm just trying to find meaning in patch cards, because right now, for me, their meaning is non-existent.

Monday, June 29, 2009

What a triple relic will get ya

You may remember I pulled this card from a pack of Upper Deck SPx from the hobby shop a couple weeks ago. I immediately put it on the blogging block because I knew someone would be interested in it and give me something nifty in exchange.

That someone turned out to be Ben of Cardboard Icons, who is a noted Red Sox fan and a familiar trade partner. I dropped his card in the mail on Saturday, but I have already received the cards he sent me. And we're going to have a look.

Now, keep in mind not all of these cards were sent in exchange for the relic. A bunch were Dodgers that Ben had set aside already. And I sent him some other Red Sox besides the relic (I actually need to send him a few more). The two cards that sold me on the trade are featured first, then others will follow.

Ben sent an autographed card of Brett Butler. I can't think of a more appropriate card of Butler to get autographed than this '92 Topps. He was a bunting machine.

And here is an autographed Bowman rookie card of Andre Ethier. Andre must have gotten finger cramps autographing it because that first name in blue doesn't much resemble the facsimile auto in black. I don't know if it's his actual first card. I'm going to say no. But I'm not telling my brain that.

Ben didn't stop there, though, sending this nice card of, uh, Zach Kindred. ...

... What? That's not Zach Kindred? It's Tim Hamulack? Well, look at his signature, it looks like it could be Zach Kindred to me. You'd think a guy like Hamulack, who is an on-the-fringe major leaguer, would want people to know who he was when he signed his name. But he also probably had to sign 742 stickers. So there's that.

OK, onto the random Dodgers that I received.
A Legends of the Game insert from Series I, I believe. Most of my '09 Topps collecting has been at Target, so I missed out on many of the Wal-Mart LOG cards. I'm having a hard time keeping up with which LOG cards are at which store. Not enough hours in the day.

I received a healthy bushel of 1998 Score Dodgers. I stand by an earlier statement in which I implied '98 Score features the thinnest card stock of all-time. If someone would put one in their mouth, I'm pretty sure it would melt (Disclaimer: do not do this, unless you really, really like the taste of 1998 Score cards).

Next up are a bunch of vintage Dodgers. I will refrain from commenting until the end:

OK, here are the comments:
  • 1. Almost all of these cards are for my team binders, as I either have the entire set or most of the set.
  • 2. The Ron Cey card is one of my favorites. He looks like he's either going to mortally wound the pitcher or that he really hates his bat and is trying to choke it. Also, the bat is so yellow that it looks like a wiffle bat. And, this is one of the very few Cey cards in which he's not wearing a hat.
  • 3. The 1970 Fred Norman card is the first 1970 Topps card I ever owned. Guess which one was the second one I owned? Yup, Ted Sizemore. I don't know how you bloggers do things like this. It's like you bugged my bedroom when I was 11 years old. And that's downright creepy.
  • 4. I have received this 1967 Phil Regan cards in trades twice. In fact, I just traded one of them away. If I hadn't, I'd have three cards of Regan. Having "triples" of a 1967 card blows my mind.
After all of that vintage, you're probably ready for a more modern card.
Here it is. One of the few Topps dark variation Dodgers I still needed from Series I (only Blake, Ramirez and Park left). Very happy to have Mr. Billingsley's variation card. Chad needs a nickname, by the way. And don't tell me they call him "Bills." That's not a nickname.

Many thanks for the cards, Ben. Enjoy the triple-swatch-fest card.

Cardboard appreciation: 1991 Line Drive Grady Hall

(Another check of the holiday insights calendar reveals that today is "Camera Day." Wow, where would baseball cards be without cameras? There's a piece of technology worth appreciating. It's time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 37th in a series):

During my first installment of card collecting, I rarely saw minor league cards in person. The only place I could view them were in mail-order catalogs. Teams would give team sets away at the park. But I didn't live anywhere near a professional ballpark.

In fact, the first minor league cards I ever saw in person was the 1989 team set of the now-defunct Niagara Falls Rapids, a Class A franchise of the Detroit Tigers. I covered that team and actually appeared in that team set. I blogged about it here.

So, when I read that there would be a minor league set issued nationally, by some company called "Line Drive," I was intrigued. It was 1991, and I would make weekly trips to the only drug store in the tiny college town of Potsdam, N.Y., to buy cards. They had Topps and Fleer and Donruss. Score and Upper Deck. And then, about midway through the collecting season, I was pleasantly surprised to find Line Drive.

I bought those cards as regularly as I would buy from any of the other companies. It was cool seeing minor league prospects. This was long before Bowman became "Home of the Rookie Card," or the arrival of Tri-Star, or even before Upper Deck would issue its minor league sets. So it was very much a novelty.

Even today, it's cool to see Mike Mussina or Kenny Lofton in their minor league uniforms in the Line Drive set (they issued both Triple A and Double A sets). But probably my favorite card of the ones that I have is the Grady Hall card.

Hall was a first-round draft choice of the Chicago White Sox in 1986. He is shown pitching for the White Sox's Triple A team at the time, the Vancouver Canadians. Hall never made it to the major leagues.

But I don't care about all that. What I care about is the great photo. Hall is in some sort of exaggerated throwing pose with ball propelled from his fingers but still in view. The Vancouver uniform at the time was fantastic. It looks like a traveling fast-pitch team's get-up. Plus, Hall looks like he's wearing a trucker cap.

The clincher, of course, is the grin on Hall's face. If you ever thought that this was a pitch in an actual game, Hall's smile just gave it away.

Oh, and did I mention that Hall is a lefty? That's always a bonus with me.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Random answers from random contest done randomly

For all nine of you who participated, here are the random results for the random contest held here a few days ago.

I get the impression that people aren't fans of multiple choice questions. Or questions in which they can't possibly determine the correct answer. Or maybe it's that 50 random cards of 2009 product just isn't enough incentive to pretend you're in school again, filling in tiny circles with a No. 2 pencil.

That's OK. Someone is going home with free cards and that's really all I wanted -- that, and to amuse myself in some off-the-wall fashion. Mission accomplished.

So, here are the totally random answers. And by random, I do me random. I won't list the questions 1 through 10 as I did in the previous post. I'm mixing them up. I'm showing the cards upside down, too. Why? Well, I wanted to feature the answers upside down as they often do in magazine or newspaper quizzes. But I couldn't figure out how to do that. Plus it would require turning your laptop upside down and considerable eye strain. So I just flipped the card scans.

I know it makes no sense. Don't get uppity. This blog is for me, not for you. Well, it's for you a little bit, but mostly for me. Anyway, here are the results. Winner revealed at the end:

3. Why is Eric Karros signing while wearing his batting gloves.

Answer: b. "You don't know where these things fans ask him to sign have been." I don't blame him. If I saw some of those fans coming at me, I'd do the same thing.

8. Why is this card cool?
Answer: d. "It shows the best Robinson ever." This is a reference to beardy's poll in which he seems to think there are some Robinsons on the Orioles who have had their numbers retired by Major League Baseball for all eternity. But there is only one Jackie.
1. What is Wilton Guerrero signing on this baseball?
Answer: c. "I am not Vladimir, stop calling me that." Easy one. Maybe he never signed that. But I'm sure he said it.

10. Upper Deck claims this is an authentic piece of bat used by Davey Lopes. What is it really?
Answer: a. "An authentic piece of stick they found on a sidewalk somewhere." You know it happens. That is why I am not on a mission to collect relic cards. I'll gladly take them, but I'm not going to invest too much time into something that I don't 100 percent know to be true.

6. Why does this card make me happy?
Answer: c. "This makes everything right after the horrid decision to pitch a year for the Giants." Ah, you need to know Night Owl to get this one right. I was devastated by Orel's temporary loss of sanity.

5. What is this card?
Answer: c. "Really, I want to know what the heck this card is (5 extra cards if you can tell me what this card is and you win this contest)." I'm not 100 percent certain I know what card this is even after some helpful answers. So I'll be withholding the 5 extra cards.

4. Why is Raul Mondesi in such an awkward sliding pose?
Answer: d. "This question bores me." And this answer bores me. So onward.

2. What is the only color that is not featured on the front of this baseball card?
Answer: d. "The yellow background is really freaking me out." Seriously. It's like something from a Rob Zombie video.

7. What will I do with the stickers from this Mike Piazza card?
Answer: a. "Nothing, they will stay there as is their constitutional right." A very adult answer for a very childish hobby. Yet I apologize for nothing.

9. What is in the bag on the shelf behind Hershiser?
Answer: b. "Pasta recipes for Lasorda." In order to survive on the Dodgers during the Lasorda era, you had to stay on his good side. Also, for those who are curious, it does say on the back that Hershiser's favorite movie is "The Sound of Music."

OK, those are the answers. Time to find out who the winner is.

First, those of you who stayed in the spirit of the contest by throwing out nonsensical answers to my nonsensical questions, good for you. But you were all over the board. Tunguska went with all Cs. Only one point for him. Captain Canuck went with alternate Cs and Ds, and very nearly pulled it off with five correct answers.

Some of you gave multiple answers for questions and I rewarded that with a 1/2 point or 1/4 point. So after adding up all the totals the winner is:

Beardy! He came up with 7 1/4 points! Well done. Selecting multiple answers for a few questions helped him pile up the points, but even if I discounted those answers, he still would have won with 6. The next closest was 5 1/2.

I'm not sure if I should be sending Beardy even more cards. He's apparently having the time of his life at a ballgame right now while I sit home alone with a dog who wants to go on like his fifth walk today. And I've sent him a bunch of cards already. And then he goes out and gets the cards that I send him before mine can even arrive at his door. It's an embarrassment of riches for the bearded one. But, seriously, he won fair and square.

So, Beardy, enjoy your totally random cards. You'll probably be receiving them in, oh, October.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What's going on back there?

Like I said yesterday, I bought a couple of jumbo packs of Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee to satisfy my curiosity. I had already decided I wouldn't collect the set, although it's one that is supposedly in my wheelhouse, since it's old school/retro/imitation vintage. It just didn't interest me enough to fully commit.

After seeing the cards in person, I know I made the right choice, mostly because of one factor that I'll get to in a minute. But before I do that, I'll mention all that I like about the set, because, really, it is much better than a bunch of stuff that's out there right now:

1. The cardboard stock. Always a plus. They should jettison the super-glossy, index-card flimstrosity that they're printing cards on now and go with the thicker board forever.

2. The old-school, bright-color look. A lot of folks are saying these cards remind them of 1976 Topps, because of the two bars of different colors across the bottom of the player cards. I can see that a little. What I think they really look like are all of those odd-ball cards of the late 1980s. Especially some of the subset cards like the league leader cards.

There's an odd-ball '80s card for comparison. I think that card would fit in perfectly with this year's OPC set.

3. The team cards. The stadium shots are a great touch. Team photo day has been done to death. This is much better.

4. Some of the photos are cool. Look at how they shot Cliff Floyd. I know he's a pretty big guy to begin with, but they made him look absolutely giant. I wish there was a person standing on the sidewalk behind him for comparison.

As for the amount of inserts and whether or not this set is truly a set-collector's set, a bunch of people have covered that already. I'll just say, I'm a set collector. I'm not collecting it. So that's my take.

But now we get to the part of OPC that turns me off. You can see it on the Chase Utley card up at the top and the Alex Rios card here. You know what it is don't you? If you don't know, cover your ears because here it comes:


Why hasn't anyone anyone mentioned how many studio shots are in OPC yet? Out of the 48 cards I received, 46 were players and 21 of those player cards were shot in a studio setting. That's almost half! Ahhhhh!!!!!! I just wanna buy monkeycards!

Why do this? And I don't understand why this doesn't bother anyone else. Is it because it's been going on since Stadium Club in the early '90s? To me, calling a ballplayer off the field, out of his element, and taking his photo inside, in front of a backdrop, doesn't convey baseball at all.
Look at Dioner Navarro in his baggy uniform here. What is that behind him? A curtain? I don't ever want to think about curtains when I'm thinking about baseball. Studio shots are for Hollywood types. Movie stars. Baseball players should appear on a ballfield. Behind them, I want to see sun and sky and grass and dirt and fans and stands and coaches spitting, not ...

... VERTICAL BLINDS? Are those blinds behind Freddy? Geez. I know some people complain about too many spring training photos in sets. Personally, I don't have any problem with that. If this is the alternative, take every single player's photo outside during spring training with a palm tree in the background of every last one. It was good enough in the '70s and '80s. I mean part of the fun of looking at a baseball card is determining what's going on in the background.

I suppose some people like this. I suppose it's the continued Hollywoodization of professional athletes (I can't take watching the NBA just because games are turned into Hollywood movie premieres). Give me a country ballplayer on a ballfield, pretending to throw a pitch and smiling for the camera. I know they make millions of dollars, but don't give them another reason to get an inflated ego.

Studio shots are fine if you're going to make a separate insert set/subset to lend special emphasis to the set. But for the base set, mixing the action shots with posed shots in a baseball setting is perfect. No tinkering necessary.

So that pretty much ruins the old-school factor for me with OPC. Although there is one thing with the set that reminds me of my childhood.
They stuck the Dodgers with pink again. Thanks a lot, OPC.