Monday, August 31, 2009

Cardboard appreciation: Hideo Nomo

(Last day of August. For me that means the official start of the busy season. Yuck. Wasn't it just June? At least the postseason is around the corner. Time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 46th in a series):

On the occasion of my 600th post, I thought I'd carry out on my threat. Sort of.

I have theorized, in a half-serious way, that Hideo Nomo has the best baseball cards of anyone to have played the sport. Something about the period in which he played, his popularity, his pitching motion, made for great cards. He is one of my favorite Dodgers to collect.

Today is Nomo's birthday. So I am going to show a bunch of Nomo cards. My threat was to show all of them, but I don't have the patience for that, and I don't think Blogger does either. So, instead, I am going to show one for every year Nomo has walked the earth, plus another one to commemorate his birth.

Cardboard Appreciation is 42 cards strong this time. Happy 41st birthday, Hideo!

1968 - Hideo Nomo is born in Minatu-ku, a ward of Osaka, Japan.

1969 - Max Yasgur opens up his dairy farm to the Woodstock Music & Art fair. Hideo Nomo turns 1.

1970 - Paul McCartney announces his departure from the Beatles. Hideo Nomo turns 2.

1971 - D.B. Cooper hijacks a Boeing 727, receives $200,000 in ransom money, parachutes from the plane and is never heard from again. Hideo Nomo turns 3.

1972 - Burglars break into Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. Hideo Nomo turns 4.

1973 - "The Darkside of the Moon," by Pink Floyd, is released. Hideo Nomo turns 5.

1974 - Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth's 39-year-old record for career home runs with No. 715 against Al Downing in Atlanta. Hideo Nomo turns 6.

1975 - Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa goes missing. Hideo Nomo turns 7.

1976 - The Toronto Blue Jays are formed. Hideo Nomo turns 8.

1977 - Snow falls in Miami for the only time in history. Hideo Nomo turns 9.

1978 - Light-hitting Bucky @#&$*! Dent gets lucky. Hideo Nomo turns 10.

1979 - A nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania partially melts down. Hideo Nomo turns 11.

1980 - The U.S. hockey team shocks the USSR with an upset victory in Lake Placid. A co-worker was there. Hideo Nomo turns 12.

1981 - The Dodgers beat the Yankees in the World Series. My favorite player, Ron Cey, is named co-MVP. Hideo Nomo turns 13.

1982 - The compact disc player is released (yeah, I still have one). Hideo Nomo turns 14.

1983 - George Brett flips out when his home run is disallowed because of too much pine tar on his bat. Hideo Nomo turns 15.

1984 - Bernhard Goetz shoots four African-American youths during an attempted robbery on a subway in New York. Hideo Nomo turns 16.

1985 - The term "flux capacitor" enters the English language. Hideo Nomo turns 17.

1986 - Geraldo Rivera opens Al Capone's vault on national TV and finds a bottle of moonshine. Hideo Nomo turns 18.

1987 - Baby Jessica McClure gets trapped in a well. Hideo Nomo turns 19.

1988 - Kirk Gibson propels the Dodgers to an upset of the big, bad Athletics. Hideo Nomo turns 20.

1989 - "Seinfeld" premieres. Hideo Nomo turns 21.

1990 - The first McDonald's in Moscow opens. Hideo Nomo turns 22.

1991 - Freddy Mercury dies. Hideo Nomo turns 23.

1992 - Johnny Carson retires from "The Tonight Show." Hideo Nomo turns 24.

1993 - Some nut case stabs Monica Seles at a tennis tournament. Hideo Nomo turns 25.

1994 - The World Series is canceled. Hideo Nomo turns 26.

1995 - Hideo Nomo becomes the first Japanese-born player to relocate to the U.S. and play Major League Baseball. He turns 27.

1996 - Kerri Strug wins an Olympic gold medal on a bum ankle. Hideo Nomo turns 28.

1997 - The first baseball team to feature teal as their primary color wins a World Series. Hideo Nomo turns 29.

1998 - Former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura is elected governor of Minnesota. Hideo Nomo turns 30.

1999 - SpongeBob SquarePants debuts. Hideo Nomo turns 31.

2000 - Elian Gonzalez returns to Cuba with his father, ending a super long custody battle. Hideo Nomo turns 32.

2001 - Barry Bonds breaks the single-season home run record. Insert contrary statement here. Hideo Nomo turns 33.

2002 - United Airlines files for bankruptcy. Hideo Nomo turns 34.

2003 - The first American bombs fall on Baghdad. Hideo Nomo turns 35.

2004 - The Red Sox win their first World Series since 1918. Hideo Nomo turns 36.

2005 - Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans. Hideo Nomo turns 37.

2006 - Pluto gets demoted. Hideo Nomo turns 38.

2007 - Marion Jones surrenders her Olympic medals. Hideo Nomo turns 39.

2008 - Hideo Nomo retires. He turns 40.

2009 - The "King of Pop" dies. Hideo Nomo turns 41.

Aren't those some great cards? The "King of Cards" perhaps? I think so.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Beginning of the rainbow?

One of the things that I have noticed since my return to the hobby is how often I keep stumbling across cards that are new and different.

When I say "new and different," I mean new and different to me. Everyone is coming at this hobby from a different perspective. While I know all about cards from the '70s and early '80s, others know all about cards from the '90s or the insane number of sets during the early 2000s.

A lot of bloggers know quite a bit about cards from the late 1980s. They were kids then and that's when they first started collecting cards. I didn't collect a lot of cards in the late 1980s. My collecting was very sporadic, and even when I did collect a bunch, in 1989, it was Topps and only Topps. So there is a lot I don't know from that time period. But I still get curious.

For example, my interest in 1989 Donruss had been non-existent. Only several months ago did I find out that there were several other Donruss sets in '89, like Rookies and Pop-Ups and Super DKs.

Plus there was the 12-card Grand Slammers set, a set that featured every player to hit a grand slam the previous year. I've received a couple Grand-Slammers in trades, because two Dodgers -- Mike Marshall and Franklin Stubbs -- hit grand slams in 1988.

So, the other day while desperately attempting to updating my team binders with all the Dodgers I have received recently, I came across the Mike Marshall Grand Slammer.

I had forgotten it was there. So that meant the other Mike Marshall Grand Slammer I was about to add was a duplicate. But wait ...

This Marshall has a different-colored border. (Yeah, yeah, I can hear all you late '80s experts now: "Of course it does).

My first reaction was the reaction that everyone had during the 1980s when a card appeared to be different in some way -- it's an error card! How much is it worth? (I actually didn't think "how much is it worth? But we did in the '80s).

But then I went to my old price guide from the early '90s that lists sets like this, and there was the Grand Slammers set. In the description it says: "Each card in the set can be found with five different colored border combinations, but no color combination of borders appears to be scarcer than the other."

In other words, this was a rainbow set. Now, I thought rainbow sets began in the 1990s sometime, when I wasn't collecting. I never heard of collecting different-colored variations of a base card until I came across Baseball Heroes a couple years ago. And there are a whole bunch of sets out there now that try to sucker you into getting every different pretty color of a single card. I admit it's tempting, but I've never been able to justify spending the money it takes to chase stuff like that.

My question, I guess, is: "Did Donruss Grand Slammers spawn the rainbow trend?" Or was there some other earlier set out there?

Sorry if someone has addressed this before. I get busy and stuff.

The worst card of 2009, contestant #10

I've reached a road block in my selection of the worst cards of 2009.

The problem is that I must obtain the card before I can feature it as a candidate. Because part of the ridiculousness of these cards is being forced to pull them from the pack.

But I haven't pulled this card from a pack yet:

Seriously, how can I even go on with the Worst Card Candidates if this card isn't going to be included in them? I can't. Unless a kind reader would send the card to me. Then, I'd be happy to continue with the wild and wacky of 2009.

What's that? You want me to continue anyway even without the Young card?

No, I couldn't do that. Didn't you just hear ...

Oh, all right. Here we go. Contestant #10, Francisco Cordero. But I'm not feeling good about this.

OPC photographer: All right Mr. Cordero, if you'll step over here, we'll have this done in a matter of seconds.
Cordero: Aren't we going to do this outside?
OPC photographer: No. We've got a bunch of you lined up for studio shots. Stand over here.
Cordero: What, in front of this screen?
OPC photographer: Right.
Cordero: Don't you want me to get a ball and glove?
OPC photographer: Nope.
Cordero: Oh, I get it. I'm going to pose with a bat. That's cool.
OPC photographer: No, Mr. Cordero, no bat. Look into the camera.
Cordero: You've got props! You're going to have me pose with wacky props! I want a cowboy hat. Let me pose in a cowboy hat.
OPC photographer: No, really. I just want you to stand over there and look at the camera. We're going old school this year. It's an old-school set.
Cordero: Old school? But photos on old cards were taken outside.
OPC photographer: No, we're not going outside. We're doing this inside. Old school.
Cordero: (exasperated) Yeah, I know, man. Old school. I'm saying old school cards had pictures of players posing outside.
OPC photographer: Really, I'm just the photographer. Can we just get this over with?
Cordero: (*sigh*) So, you want me to look tough or maybe smile or something? I can sneer. Want me to sneer?
OPC photographer: No.
Cordero: Are you at least going to shoot it super close-up? Different visual image? Change the background from this stale, gray color?
OPC photographer: No. Old school.
Cordero: Stop saying old school!!! Damn.
OPC photographer: Please, Mr. Cordero, no emotion! We want you to look bored.
Cordero: Bored?
OPC photographer: Yes, bored. Think of something really boring.
Cordero: Hmmm, boring, boring.

(Cordero's face goes blank).

OPC photographer: Perfect! (*click*)
OPC photographer: So what'd you think about?
Cordero: Preseason football.
OPC photographer: Ah, excellent choice.

(I need that Michael Young card!)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A set-builder's favorites

I have already mentioned that I am a set collector above all. Player collecting is not something I think I'll ever understand. Team collecting is something that grows more and more interesting by the day, and it may one day supersede set collecting for me.

But for now, like it's always been, I am a set-builder.

That said, I've never figured out exactly what my five favorite sets are of all-time. I've always known my absolute favorite -- 1975 Topps. But the rest just kind of hovered around in my brain under the general heading of "I LOVE these cards!"

It took a card package from reader Randall to pin down my absolute top 5. He sent me card wants from two great sets -- 1993 Upper Deck and 1971 Topps. That caused me to stop and figure out which sets ruled above all. And this is what I came up with -- in no particular order, except that 1975 Topps is the undisputed king:

1956 Topps
1971 Topps
1975 Topps
1983 Topps
1993 Upper Deck

That's the list. And the funny thing is, I knew these were my absolute favorites all along. Because I've written posts about each one of them here and here and here and here and here.

For some reason, it's nice knowning what my five favorites are. Just in case. You never know when you'll be walking down the street and someone will stick a microphone and camera in your face and ask you for your five favorite baseball card sets of all-time. You have to be ready. Always. Because people get on TV for all kinds of inane reasons these days. Come to think of it, people get on baseball cards for all kinds of inane reasons these days.

Anyway, Randall sent some favorites. And I'm going to show some of my favorites from the favorites. First I'll show some of the Upper Deck. Randall cut my want list for '93 UD in half. And then he sent another package of UD after that. So there isn't a lot left. And I don't even have any of the cards in a binder yet. Still sitting in two towering stacks on my desk.
Lenny Dykstra was a living, breathing Pig-Pen, wasn't he? He doesn't appear to be anywhere near any dirt, yet a giant cloud of mess is following him.

This card would have gone right near the top of my Mask list. Great card. Pudge always had one of those faces that is so memorable that it gets the attention of people who never watch baseball. You know who they are.

They'll walk by the TV and say, "Oooh, he looks mean." Or if John Kruk is talking on Baseball Tonight, they'll say, "He's too fat."

All valid points. Obvious, sure. But valid.
What a great photo this is. The best part is the photographer getting the umpire's gesture in the shot. I bet Morandini got thrown out of the game.

This photo just reminds me of how Roberto Alomar used to slide into first base all the time. I heard he claimed that it would trick the umpire into calling him safe, since umps go on sound for bang-bang plays at first. And if there was no sound of a foot hitting the bag, it would confuse the ump. Seems like a lot of trouble for an action that appears to slow you down more than running through the bag.

I have no idea what Joe Carter's gesture means. Upper Deck really needs captions with some of its cards.

Awesome. What a great card. I especially love that a headless umpire is making the call.

Is this the reason that Mitch Williams gave up that home run to the Blue Jays' Joe Carter in 1993? Upper Deck jinxed him by showing Williams wearing a tuque? And then Carter blasted the Series-winning home run in Canada, the land of tuques? I think that's what it was.

Randall wanted to make sure I showed the Dennis Cook card. But not the front, the back ...

Cook really needs to play the psycho is some horror film. He always had some interesting faces on his baseball cards. But this is out there even for him. David of Tribe Cards just posted this one. It's a favorite of Indians' fans.

Now we're going way back to 1971, when I was watching Sesame Street and baseball wasn't even a thought in my head. But as I got older, Don Money was one of my favorites, strictly because of his name. These days, I can appreciate that name even more.

Beltin' Melton was before my time. He was one of those players that I heard about just as I was getting into baseball. By the time I actually saw him play, he was a disappointment with the Angels. But his baseball cards were full of praise!

I now have two cards of Gary Ross. He's got the same expression on each card. It looks like he has no idea why you would want to take his picture and is completely unsure of whether he is even posing correctly.

Here is another one. Jose seems to be asking, "You want me to pull the bat back like this? Really?"

And then there's Sal Bando, who just seems to know what to do. Calm and collected. Even if he's wearing some green-and-gold leprechaun get-up.

This card may explain the Indians' problems during the 1970s. None of these guys turned out to be stars. Mingori had modest success with the Royals. Was Topps giving the Indians a false sense of security? "Don't worry about a thing Cleveland, these guys are going to be stars."

I think this card is my absolute favorite of the bunch that Randall sent. None of these players amounted to anything in terms of the major leagues. But the whole look of the card is so cool. The bright colors on the black background and the old-school photos, you can't beat that with any modern day set.

All I did was send Randall a few random 1970 Topps cards, with a promise that I'd be on the lookout for '71s for him to help complete his set, and he blessed me with all these great cards and many I didn't show. Plus, he helped me figure out what my favorite sets of all-time were.

Once again, blogging is a great thing.