Saturday, November 30, 2013

The return: an ode to baseball cards

I'm back, baseball cards
I've missed you these last four days
Four days without viewing a single one of you
In person or online
I missed my baseball cards

It amazes me how empty life is without you
Simple pieces of cardboard with pictures
Silly, really
There is longing and craving
Over disposable items
Because I miss my baseball cards

Life went on
While you were so many miles away
The conversation turned
To more mundane matters
But I missed my baseball cards

The turkey wasn't as tasty as I remembered
Although stuffing hit the spot
Marshmallowed-sweet potatoes were controversial
Pie for breakfast wonderful
But I missed my baseball cards

I busied myself with diversions
Day-glo bowling balls and a free piece of pizza
My niece's fingernails painted to resemble Pac-Man characters
Mocking pre-Black Friday shoppers
But I still missed my baseball cards

The high school reunion almost did the trick
My collecting buddy in school hadn't bought cards since 1989
But still has 300,000 he wants to sell
Did I know someone who wanted to buy them?
How I miss my baseball cards

It was interesting catching up
Finding out a good friend nearly died last year
Exchanging child-raising nightmare stories with the hottest girl in class
Hearing that a former teacher killed himself in jail
Fascinating, but not as fascinating as baseball cards

I discovered how much football I can watch
The maximum is two games and two quarters
Then I returned for the Steelers-Ravens finale
To see the final minute last 30 minutes
I miss baseball and baseball cards

I could have spent so much time with my cards
But instead I drove through a white-out
Walked willingly through a scary part of town
And ate at a delicious Italian restaurant
Sometimes the choices we make don't include cards

I wonder if this is what life will become
Will I be like my friend who stopped collecting 25 years ago?
Will I be like my brother who now considers cards a fool's hobby?
These four days are like a test, of a future existence
But I don't want to find out because I miss my cards

Thanks for the cards, Max, this one is tiffany I can tell
I'm back among them now
Complaining about dirt on the scanner
And a backlog of blog posts to read
But I'm actually happy. Because I have my cards

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

If you can't join 'em, count 'em

One of the great disappointments in my life is the inability to grow a respectable mustache.

This is both my fault and the fault of my ... um ... surroundings. I actually grew a mustache and wore it for about a year-and-a-half around 12 years ago. It was your average, full, well-maintained 'stache. But the problem was I have blond hair and those yellow mustaches never really work out right. It was a Frank Viola mustache.

You know the kind. He has a mustache. You know it's there. But part of you isn't quite sure. Is that really a mustache? Your eyes get all squinty trying to determine what he has on his upper lip. That's the way it was for me. Close up? Oh, yeah, that's a mustache. At a distance? Can't tell without ma glasses.

The solution for us fair-haired folk who want their facial hair to stand out is to grow a fu-manchu or a righteous mustache-beard ensemble. But that's where the "surroundings" come into play. I'm pretty certain that my mother would disown me if I came to town with a beard. With the mustache, she was already giving me looks like I was going to snatch her purse.

So after several months of trying to look bad-ass, I shaved it off. It wasn't working.

That's especially disappointing in a month like this. It's Movember, you know. It's cool to have a mustache at this time of year, and growing one raises awareness for all kinds of great causes. But I'm on the sidelines again unable to do my part through facial hair growth.

But there is one thing I can do.

I can figure out the most mustachiast baseball card set of all-time.

We all have our talents.

My objective here is to figure out which set featured the greatest percentage of "mustache cards," meaning cards that showed someone wearing a mustache.

I confined this to just the base sets that I have completed (or in the case of 1979 Topps, have come within 3 cards of completing).

Also, after attempting and failing miserably to include modern-day completed sets, I confined my search to just sets from the 1970s and 1980s. I counted 36 mustache cards out of 660 in 2010 Topps, but I know there are more players than that with mustaches in the set. With the frequency of action shots in sets over the last 20-plus years, it's too difficult to get an accurate read.

Besides, we all know that the '70s and '80s were the prime periods for mustaches. Back then, they didn't need to take a month out of the year to grow a mustache. Every damn month was Movember.

So let's see the Movemberiest sets of all-time, going in reverse order, of course.

5. 1980 Topps, 43.9 percent (319 mustache cards out of 726)

1980 beat out 1979 Topps for fifth place by a mere two-tenths of a percent. Or, more appropriately, by a whisker.

4. 1986 Topps, 44.3 percent (351-792)

There was a big jump in mustache cards from 1985 to 1986. I'm not sure why, although I'm blaming the subsets in 1985 Topps -- too many fresh-faced Olympians.

3. 1981 Topps, 45.6 percent (331-726)

What I wouldn't give to be able to wear a mustache like that.

2. 1984 Topps, 51.6 percent (409-792)

More than 50 percent of the set features people with mustaches! That is impressive. But still not the best.

1. 1983 Topps, 53.2 percent (421-792)

It is no coincidence that '83 Topps features the most mustaches. It is also the same year that Magnum P.I. was the fourth highest rated television program in the country.

But these rankings surprised me slightly. When I first started tallying up mustaches, I began with the late 1970s sets. I figured that with the advent of the Swingin' A's in the mid-1970s, the trend would blossom in the late '70s. But I guess I overestimated the eagerness of ballplayers to pick up on a fad.

The only other thing I wished I could do is compare how one of the 1982 sets ranked on the list. I'll have to reconfigure when I complete '82 Topps (or '82 Fleer) someday. If I'm not too lazy, I'll research it online and update it earlier.

But for now, 1983 Topps is your Movember representative as the set with the most mustache awareness.

Perhaps that is incentive for some of you to get your health checked out and help in the cause for early cancer-detection.

But if not. At least you know exactly when mustaches were king.

All year long.

(P.S.: 1971 Topps has a whopping three cards out of 752 with a mustache)

Monday, November 25, 2013

All new ...

Every card blogger's favorite game show has returned! It's the all new ...

Thank you! Thank you! You're too kind! No, no, no, you're too, too kind! Ha, ha! Great audience! Great audience!


Yes, we're back! We are back! Night Owl here with another edition of "What's The Best Card In The Package," Extreme Edition! Ha, ha. That's right! Extreme Edition!

You thought that our fine little show went away forever. Oh no, we are back at least one more time in new and improved form! It's the Extreme Edition of What's The Best Card In the Package! Can I say that a few more times?? Extreme! Extreme! Extreme! Ha, ha! Yes. We are "All New" as they say in TV land!

If you have been with Night Owl and his trusty helper Jim over there, you know that on this show we determine the best card to come out of one particular card package. The package is usually bursting with goodness, but we must make a decision on which card is the absolute BEST! The best card is so good that if it were walking down the street, you would whistle at it! Ha, ha! Not that I've ever done that to anybody! No siree! This game show host Night Owl is a straight shooter. Ha, ha! Stop giving me weird looks, Jim. It's just a finger, I'm not really trying to shoot you! Ha, ha!

Now, in past shows we've shown ONE card at a time and then they face off against each other! But with the Extreme Edition, it could be one card facing another card, or it could be one card facing a DOZEN cards! Isn't that wild! It's INSANE! It's EXTREME!!!! Ha, ha! The ratings are going through the ceiling on this one! Ha, ha! They better! Have you seen the price of cigarettes?! Ha, ha!

All right, all right! Let's get this show started! All these cards came from David K. We all know what great cards he sends, right?

So, say it with me, "WHAT'S THE BEST CARD IN THE PACKAGE!"


Ha, ha! I love saying that!

Jim, the first card!

Well, well, well! We're starting this show off right! It's a 1961 Post card of the Duke! You can't get any better than that! Ignore those 1960 numbers. Look at that Lifeline! WOW!

All right, all right, let's see who Duke is going to face here on EXTREME WTBCITP!!!!!

Hey, HEY! It's a whole pile of night cards!!!!

WOW, that is EXTREME!!!!! It's extreme, isn't it Jim???? Jim, pay attention. Stop looking at your phone. Real life is over here. Ha, ha!

All right, all right, let's see who wins this EXTREME matchup!!!!!


Wow, I never saw that coming!!!!! One card beats like 50 cards!!!! That's crazy! That's EXTREEEME!!!!!!!

I love this all new game!!!!! The host is buying this! He's eating it up with a spork! Ha, ha!!!

OK, Jim, let's see another card ... or should I say CARDS! Ha, ha!!

Ooooooooooooooooh!!!! It's a trio of high-numbered 1972 Topps! Those are some special cards!!!

It's going to take a lot to eliminate those!

Let's see the '72 highs opponent. Come on, Jim, chop, chop over there! Let's go!

Wow, awesome!!!! It's '75 Hostess Sparky against '76 Hostess Amos!!!!!

That's great! Great! Yankees vs. Royals! Like the old days! The old running around days! Am I right? Am I right? A blonde on each arm, right, Jim! Yeah, ha! ha!

This is a tough one! An EXTREME one, you might say! Which is it gonna be?

Let's see!

It's the '72s!!!! All right!!! Oddballs are great and quirky, but those '72 highs are pricey. Beer isn't paying for itself! Ha! Ha! Stop rolling your eyes over there Jim!! The toughs in my neighborhood and I are friends now! Watch your step! Ha, ha!

OK, next matchup! Let's go!

Well! That's pretty cool! Four '67s in super-fine shape! Love the '67 set. Just terrific!

OK, what's going to face this group here???

One card? One lousy '67 against four '67s? Sure, it's Rusty, but come on now. Bigger is better, right? Am I right, America? Ha, ha!

All right, but we have to play the game, you know. So here we go! Who wins??

Rusty????? Oh, wow!!!! I forgot there were two Giants in that group of four cards!!! That's instant death right there!! Ha, ha!

This game is so extreme! Sooo extreme!!! Ha, ha!!

What do we have now, Jim?

It's a '72 card of the great Roberto Clemente from Game 4 of the '71 World Series. That was also the first night game in World Series history! David K. wonders if that makes this a night card! I don't really know because I don't know if that's really a photo from that particular game! I think I tried to figure it out once, but a coughing fit stopped me! Ha, ha! Those damn unfiltereds!!! Ha, ha!

I probably should show the reverse of this card before we move on to its opponent. TURN THAT CARD OVER, JIM!!!

Stop your grumbling! I don't care if it's difficult to turn the card over! It's in your contract!

Series Mondailes de 1971????? It's O-Pee-Chee!!!!! All right! That's fun stuff. Fun stuff.

OK, let's see the next card!

Wow, now that is EXTREME! A 1965 Topps Tall Boy of the Bills' Stew Barber! Look at all that pink!!!! Kind of reminds me of that date one time in ... ah, never mind. You don't need to hear that!! Ha, ha! Jim certainly doesn't! He's heard it a few times already! Ha, ha!

OK, let's see the winner!!!!

ROBERTO!!!! Canadian Roberto beats football any day!!!! Pink or not!!! We may be EXTREME, but we're old-school baseball through and through, right??? Ha, ha!!!!!!

Gosh, I'm starting to sweat here! I forgot how difficult this was!!! Ha, ha!


Look at THAT!!!!! Minis everywhere!!!!!!! And every single one makes the frankenset binder!!!! That's right! I said frankenset!!! Jim thinks I'm speaking gibberish again!!!!

Lot of Pirates in there, too! Hope, Dave K. isn't unloading his collection!

OK, let's see who these minis will face on the EXTREME EDITION!!!!

WOW. It's the original minis!


Ha, ha!

Yes, yes, your studio host just ran around the entire stage like a 6-year-old.

I promise I'm completely sober here!!!! Just a few pills with breakfast this morning. Ha, ha!

Jim, take your head out of your hands over there and show us a winner!

YES! It's the '75 minis! They always win!

It's going to difficult to beat these on this show! But we keep pressing on!

Next matchup!

IMPRESSIVE!!! That's a '51 Bowman card of Dan Bankhead! I've always wanted a Dan Bankhead card! He was the first modern day black pitcher in major league baseball, you know.

That's right, I know my history, too! I'm not just your drinking partner, Jim!

Oh, who am I kidding, I don't drink with you! I drink alone! Ha, ha!


Wow, more classic Bowman!!!!

Looks like someone took the phrase TV dinner literally on the Billy Loes card! Ha, ha!!!!

OK, who wins this extreme matchup!!!!

Dan is the winner!!! All right! One beats two here on EXTREME WTBCITP!!!!!!!!!

I think we have another matchup here!!!! That's right, it's the game that never ends!!! Don't you remember?? I lose five pounds every show!!

LOOK AT THAT! It's nine short-prints from 2008 Heritage! The set I may never complete!! That's terrific! There's actually a 10th card that I didn't show because I'm OCD!!! That's right! You didn't think your host would confine his compulsions to smoking, drinking and running around, did you???

Ha, ha! Your host is EXTREME, too!!!

Let's see who these SPs are facing!!!!

Woah!!!!!!!! This is ... this is ...

Let me check my notes here.

This is a 1936 R314 Goudey Wide Pen card of Dan Taylor.

Wow! I didn't even know something like this existed!!! That is super sweet. And, yes, EXTREME!!!!!

So who is going to win this one???

Yep! We're going with Dan here! It's the only thing in this studio that's older than me!!!! Ha, ha!!!!

Last matchup of the first round coming up right now!!!!!

Show 'em a card or cards, Jim!!

WELL!!!!! That's a fine group of '56s for the collection right there!!!!! We've got extreme, studio audience! EXTREME!

Who dares to battle these '56 cards?

Wow. I'm speechless! That's a '58 Topps card of Stan the Man, right there! Stan the Man!

How are we going to pick a winner out of this one????

Well this is why we get paid the big bucks, right?

Let's see who advances!

It's the 56s!!!!

Sorry, Stan. But I think you're going to get traded for some groovy Dodger at some point!!!!

All right, that was the first round!

Yep, we're just through the first round! This is why I don't do this show anymore!!!! We can't have the studio audience sitting for this long!!! They're going to start throwing things at me! Ha, ha! Especially that old lady over there! Ha, ha!

OK, we'll be back with the exciting EXTREME second round, right after this commercial break!!!



That leprechaun was extreme, let me tell you!!!! I see him in my dreams! Ha, ha!!!

OK, it's time for the next round, where things REALLY get extreme!! I mean, EX-WIFE EXTREME, if you know what I mean. And I definitely know what I mean!!!! Ha, ha!!!!!

Let's see what we have, Jim!!!!!

The Duke!!!! Great card! GREAT card!!

But is it EXTREME??!!!

Bring on the opponent!!!!!

Ah, yes!! The 1972s!!!! Great year!!!! Tough set!

Who wins?

Show the winner, Jim!!!!!

Duke wins again!!!!! Great stuff!! We love ya, Duke! Ha, ha!!!

Next card, Jim!!!!! Keep 'em coming!

Rusty!!! Good ol' extreme Rusty!!! Loves to cook!!!! And I love to eat!!! Ha, ha!!!!

Let's see who we've cooked up for Chef Rusty!!!!!!

O-Pee-Chee Roberto!!!! It's a rare one-card vs. one-card showdown this time!! Just like the old days!!!

Love it!

But who gets to move on??

Yep, it's OPC Roberto!!! With that big butt in the foreground!! Reminds me of my ex-wife again! Ha, ha!! Love that card.

Wow, I'm dripping wet here. Jim, you gotta a towel or something over there?

Oh, right, no time for that. Gotta see the next card!!!! Work, work, work! Ha, ha!

It's the fine group of '75 minis. Ooooh, these are terrific. I don't know if they can beat.

Who dares to be extreme enough to challenge these '75 minis????

Oooooh, it's '51 Bankhead. This is going to be tough.

Who's it going to be. Whooo? Whoooo? Ha, ha! I sound like an owl! Wait a minute, I AM an owl! Ha, ha! Existential! Extreme! Ha, ha!

Wow! It's an upset!!!!! The '75 minniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis beaten by a single card!!!!! That's the power of Mr. Bankhead!!!

Great stuff!!!!

OK, we have one more matchup in the second round!!!

Here we go!

Ah, yes, Dan Taylor, the, let's see here ... gotta check my notes again ...

The 1936 R314 Goudey Wide Pen!!!! Ha, ha! That's right! It's coming back to me now!!!

Let's see who Mr. Wide Pen will face here!!!

The '56s!!!!! Oh, this is so extreme!!!! Old-school extreme!!!!!!!!

I wouldn't want to be the guy who has to choose the winner here!!!!!

Wait a minute, I DO have to choose the winner! Ha, ha!

Let's get on with the dirty deed!!!!

It's the '56 cards!!!!

Love the '56 set! Hate having to consult my notes every time I see a card!!!!!

And that's the end of the second round!!!! Wasn't that great! Wasn't that EXTREME?

We're coming back with the semifinals, right after THIS!!!!!

Pete Rose and Don Knotts!!! Wild!!!!

OK, speaking of wild, we're here at the semifinals! And there are still 10 people left in the audience!!!!!!

Better than the last time we did this!!!!

I guess that's the power of extreme!

OK, let's see the first semifinal matchup!


Duke is still powering through!!!! Food cards are the best!!!!

And against Duke we have ...

O-Pee-Chee Roberto!!!!

And our winner!!!

It's the Duke of Flatbush on to the semifinals!!!!!!

Semifinal number 2!!!!

It's the '51 Bowman Bankhead! Love this card more and more!!!

Who's it going to face????

It's the '56 Topps cards!!! Six of them!!!!!

Are they extreme enough to beat Dan Bankhead?????


And our championship will be between two Dodgers!! As it should be!!!!!

OK, I'm exhausted here. And I've got change my suit. And get a beer.

We'll be back after these messages.

All right!!! Welcome back!!!! I think I once swallowed a few of those Lite Brite bulbs!!!!! Ha, ha!!!!!

We are back with the finals of EXTREME WTBCITP. And in true extreme fashion, we have ... wait a minute, only TWO cards. It's one card against another card!!!!

That's not extreme at all. This is just like the championship from the old game!! I thought we were going to be Extreme!! Jim, call up my manager, I want off this show ....

Ha, ha. Oops. You didn't hear any of that, studio audience!

No, we have a terrific championship here. One card against one card. Mano-card-a-mano-card, if you will! Ha, ha!

Let's see the EXTREME championship matchup!!!!

It's '61 Post Duke against ...

'51 Bowman Dan

And the winner is ...

Wait a minute. I have to show another commercial!!!!

Ha, ha!!!!

Now that's the best commercial ever!!!!

I once tried to jump 30 cars! But I was on foot!!! Spent a couple of happy weeks in the hospital!!

Good times!!!! Ha, ha.

But enough about me!! Let's see who wins this matchup!!!

Jim, show 'em the winner!!!

Congratulations, 1951 Bowman Dan Bankhead! You are the winner of the EXTREME EDITION of What's The Best Card In The Package!!!!!

Thanks everyone for watching!

I'm never doing this again!

Extreme or not!!!!!!

Good night!