Saturday, September 30, 2017

The wrapper was the best part

I did indeed get my butt back to the card aisle. I went out this afternoon for the sole purpose of buying a few current cards for the first time in weeks.

Target was my choice, and honestly, the selection hasn't improved much since I was there last. Outside of the 2017 flagship, which will be there at this time next year (witness: 2016 flagship still rotting on the shelves), my 2017 baseball choices were: Bunt, Allen & Ginter, Stadium Club and Heritage High Numbers.

Hardly enthused by any of them, and distracted by the people in line next to the card aisle -- I hate it when they open the register next to the card aisle -- my hands instinctively grabbed the newest item and the most attractive one to my eyes: the Heritage High Numbers rack pack.

I have purchased cards based on what was listed on the wrapper countless times. I've purchased cards based on who appeared on the wrapper at least a few times. But I think this was the first time that I have bought cards based on what the wrapper looked like.

It looks outstanding. And if Topps gave the wrapper a black background to attract buyers, then I'm testament that it is working. I nabbed it because of the wrapper.

It certainly wasn't because of what was inside. Let's go through these quickly:

#572 - Addison Reed, Mets
#594 - Michael Saunders, Phillies
#666 - Kyle Freeland, Rockies

Freeland receive the devil number this year, which is appropriate given my thoughts about the Rockies right about now.

#664 - Edwin Encarnacion, Indians
#662 - Martin Maldonado, Angels
#547 - Dan Straily, Marlins

This has been brought up repeatedly by myself and others: I'm fairly certain many of the backgrounds in Heritage (regular version and high numbers) are fake "Olin Mills" type backdrops. I don't know if this has been confirmed, but if it is, I don't like this product period and will be sorry I ever bought any Heritage cards this year.

#606 - Ian Kennedy, Royals
#651 - Jeff Hoffman, Rockies
#554 - Brandon Kintzler, Twins

Kintzler isn't even a Twin anymore and Hoffman is in every pack of every 2017 product. He is the Henry Owens of 2017.

#560 - Stephen Cardullo, Rockies
#RP-16 Tyler Glasnow, Pirates, Rookie Performers insert
#514 - Andrew Cashner, Rangers

This purchase was rampant with Rockies, which reminds me of 2010 when all I pulled was Rockies. Not a good feeling then, not a good feeling now.

#691 - Jose Osuna, Pirates
#672 - Hansel Robles, Mets
#690 - Anthony Alford, Blue Jays

Nothing but suspicious blazing blue sky.

#509 - Mike Montgomery, Cubs
#598 - Branson Arroyo, Reds
#534 - Brandon Phillips, Braves

Fake sky?

#607 - Mark Canha, Athletics
#526 - Josh Smoker, Mets

Bleh. Not a single Dodger. Not a single short-print. This is why I haven't been to the card aisle in weeks.

The wrapper was easily the best part of this pack.

Fortunately, I did buy a rack pack of Stadium Club, too, and pulled a Clayton Kershaw insert.

That made up for the annoying kid who kept darting from his mother in the checkout line to repeatedly dodge in front of me and try to sneak a blaster of wrestling cards into their cart, only to be repeatedly rejected by his mother.

See you in several more weeks, Target.

Friday, September 29, 2017

I need to get my butt back to a card aisle

This week I've been the poor sap filling in for someone on vacation.

You never hear about the poor sap. You always hear about the people on vacation.

"I'm on vacation!" they scream on the social media forum of their choice. And everyone responds with a like or a heart or a hashtag and they all feel good that someone out there has beaten this oppressive system that we've constructed for ourselves if only for a brief period of time.

Except for the poor sap. There are no likes or hashtags from them. He or she simply plods forward, in real life, bearing more of the burden than normal, if only for a brief period of time.

Fortunately, the vacationer returns today and things can revert back to normal (until I go on vacation). It's just in time, too, because yesterday I was so drained that I actually thought "I really need to get my butt back to a card aisle."

It's been awhile.

Under normal circumstances this year, I wouldn't consider heading to the card aisle even after a few weeks away. The product available has been sporadic since March, regardless of the big box store. Meanwhile, this time of year produces sets that don't appeal to me much.

Still, when you're at your work desk, staring at the computer or wall, sneaking a look at the blogs on your phone, even those Heritage High Numbers on that '68 design look mighty good. I believe five or six bloggers have opened that stuff with mediocre enthusiasm, but just about all of them -- all non-Dodger fans I might add -- have been able to say, "at least I got a Cody Bellinger."

All right, that's it. I'm getting to the card aisle.

I have a rare Saturday-Sunday off. You can bet I'll be braving the weekend crowd (I loathe weekend department store crowds) to see what stupid stuff I can show you on my blog in the future.

In the meantime ...

I have cards from others to show!

Nick of the njwv blog sent me a couple of Stadium Club Corey Seagers recently. He's a Giants fan, so he doesn't appreciate Corey Seagers. That's a lot of screwed-up there, but I'm not complaining. All the Seagers for me!

One of the Seagers was at the top of the post.

This Beam Team Seager was the other one.

No offense, especially to Nick, but these Beam Team inserts are looking worse every year. I fully expect stained glass windows when I hear "Beam Team" and I do realize that's not always what they've been. But nothing about this card to me says "beaming".

Nick also sent this "fantasy" baseball card that drew my eye right away because it was completely new to me.

The Baseball Card Engagement Book sounds like a lot of fun. I wouldn't mind owning a copy.

The next group of cards I'm showing are from Fred from way up north in Canada.

Fred took a peek at my half-done want list and determined that I needed the above 2002 T206 Dodgers. I believed him and I still do, even though 2002 is a great big muddle in terms of cards I need.

The typical 2002 T206 pose seems to require a great deal of squinting.

The other cards were off my 1984 Fleer want list. These are so much fun to get. The Dave Von Ohlen card is classic Fleer.

Another strangely Fleer Fleer card, featuring those who threw no-hitters in 1983. Fleer decided to make this a horizontal card but keep the Fleer logo where it was, so that it is sideways. This could have easily been a vertical card with a bit of cropping.

The Mike Warren no-hitter was pitched against the White Sox 34 years ago today.

Finally, let's see some cards from Chris of Nachos Grande.

I pounced on this "soft red" parallel of Rich Hill from this year's Archives set. "Soft red" sounds like a lipstick color to me. I worked at CVS just out of college and among my monotonous jobs was stocking makeup stuff (which was a lot better than stocking tobacco stuff at 9 in the morning. I started to get woozy). I'd pull out the lipsticks and wonder whose job it was to come up with lipstick colors and how much it paid.

Now I wonder whose job it is to come up with baseball card parallel colors and how much it pays.

Chris added some turn of the century Pacific. He's about the only blogger I know who gets into turn of the century Pacific enough to bust boxes of it, which probably explains why my Pacific wants are so huge (or at least were before the want list disappeared).

The above cards are all needs, so go Pacific!

I hope you each enjoy your weekend. For once I will be joining you in your two days of freedom.

Stay away from Target and Walmart though.

At least until after I'm gone. I'll alert you.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

G.O.A.T., the '70s, 90-81

Let's face it: the people who remember the 1970s exactly as they were are getting up there in age.

For people like me, someone who was a kid during the '70s, the decade can do no wrong. Ten years of scouting for candy, building forts and playing ball in the backyard? Give me one good reason why the decade sucked. And you're going to have try harder than Anne Murray's "You Needed Me".

But for those who were very adult in the '70s, I have a feeling they associate the decade with more ... uh ... adult things. Jobs and news and gas lines and Nixon. It probably wasn't a party raising a kid among all that brown and olive green.

My folks would likely never understand an ode to the '70s, just as I couldn't relate to a tribute to the '00s.

So I realize this countdown is somewhat of a niche exercise. It isn't necessarily for those who were in their 30s during the 1970s. It's not for people who were born in 1990 either. It's for people who knew baseball cards with all their heart in the 1970s.

Every other collector can come along for the ride, of course. Because cards are cards! And maybe you can learn a few things.

So get ready. Borrow your older brother or sister's Thick as a Brick album, brush up on your Mr. Woodman impersonation and dig out a jar of Fluff.

It's' the greatest '70s cards, numbers 90-81:


John Odom, In Action, 1972 Topps, #558

One thing that amazes me about major league pitchers, having never pitched beyond Little League, is how they're able to get power on a pitch from the set position.

Having grown up in an age of wind-ups, some stunningly intricate, I just naturally assumed you needed to do all that in order to propel a pitch 90 miles an hour. Look at John Odom. Do you think he would do that if he didn't have to?

Then again, it's John Odom. Maybe he would.

This is one of the best balancing acts I've seen captured on a baseball card. Not only is Odom down to one leg, he's down to the toes on one leg. Odom's nickname was "Blue Moon" and that's because you see a photo like this on a baseball card once in a blue moon.

This picture captures the finale of Odom's pitching motion. Odom veered wildly off to the left with each pitch with his head barely off the ground and his right arm even closer.

Something like that (from the 1972 ALCS).

For me, that was why the 1972 In Action subset existed, to capture moments like that.


Chicago White Sox team card, 1977 Topps, #418

I covered this card earlier this year. But, that's OK. There will be plenty of repetition in this countdown. I've been rehashing a 40-year-old decade for 10 years now!

Fans of the '70s know that the 1976 White Sox wore shorts for three games in August of that season. A little something for the ladies, I guess, because I have no idea why this would be a good idea otherwise. Bare legs and spikes? How much are you paying me?

To prepare for those three games competing al fresco, the White Sox took a team picture with every player apparently wearing shorts.

The players seem delighted about it. And I know I'm delighted witnessing Brian Downing and Chet Lemon in black-collared blouses and shorts. Long live the '70s!


Harmon Killebrew, 1976 SSPC, #168

If you are fortunate enough to own the 1976 SSPC set and properly page them in order by card number, you can find Harmon Killebrew situated between two Kansas City Royals legends -- George Brett and John Mayberry.

Killebrew is a legend. But he ain't no Kansas City Royal legend.

It is jarring to see Killebrew in Royals powder blue. Granted, it's not as shocking as it could be considering the Twins -- the team that bestowed legend status on Killebrew -- were also wearing powder blue uniforms at the time. But, come on, man, the Royals were only seven years old at the time! Killebrew with a seven-year-old team? At least when the Senators became the Twins, Killebrew merely moved cities, not join a whole new franchise.

Killebrew played 106 games for the Royals in 1975. He batted .199. And he retired. There is no other card of Killebrew in Royal blue as far as I know.

Probably for the best, because this card is Killer.


David Clyde, 1974 Topps, #133

David Clyde is mostly forgotten among today's baseball followers. Or he is a cautionary tale in how not to manage your young pitchers.

But in the mid-1970s, Clyde was The Phenom. An 18-year-old only 20 days out of high school pitched in a major league game against the Minnesota Twins on June 27, 1973.

Clyde, who once struck out 25 batters in a high school game, pitched on front of a packed house at Arlington Stadium. He threw five innings, striking out eight, walking seven and allowing a single hit, a two-run home run to Mike Adams in the second inning.

Clyde remained with the Rangers for the rest of the season, appearing in 18 games and posting a 5.03 ERA. A publicity ploy by Rangers owner Bob Short, Clyde would never achieve what was expected of him and toiled through mediocrity and injuries the rest of his career.

I remember the excitement around Clyde. This rookie card, released today, would have broken records on ebay. Clyde was Fidrych and Strasburg before they existed.

You can see that hope in Clyde's 18-year-old face as he stands in -- holy crap is he really there at age 18? -- in Yankee Stadium.


Dave Winfield, 1979 Topps, #30

What would you say are the most cited uniforms of the 1970s?

Here is a brief ranking off the top of my head:

1. Houston Astros (tequila sunrise)
2. San Diego Padres (brown and gold cornucopia)
3. Pittsburgh Pirates (pillbox hats and a dozen uniform combos)
4. Oakland A's (green and gold)
5. Cleveland Indians (blood clots)

Your ranking may vary. But I'll bet the top three are on it. And I'd be willing to wager that none are talked about more than Houston and San Diego.

The Padres' McDonald's weirdness lasts for the entire decade (and into the '80s). You'll see it again later in the countdown. But for me, the uniforms that define the times exactly are the Padres' 1978 uniforms as worn very distinctly by Dave Winfield right yere.

Look at that knowing stare. He knows he's good and he knows the uniform is odd. Gold on brown. Bubble letters. Good gosh I can hear Chic in the background just looking at it. You can't see it, but there's a bubble number on there as well, just below the "e".

The Padres wore these bubble-letter uniforms in '78 in three different combos, the brown you see here, the white, and, lordy no, a golden goose of a uniform with yellow tops and bottoms.


1970 World Series Game 5, 1971 Topps, #331

The 1970 World Series gave Brooks Robinson a national audience.

While most in Baltimore already knew about Robinson's fielding prowess, others discovered him during the show he put on against the Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati sent ball after ball toward third base and Robinson consumed just about every one.

Game 5 was the finale of the Series. Without viewing the entire game on youtube, I'm assuming that this play did not happen in Game 5. It's more likely Robinson's grab of Johnny Bench's liner in Game 3. (Someone older than 5 at the time can correct me).

But, regardless, this card is a charming view of Robinson's fielding exploits through early '70s photography. The image is taken from so far away that Robinson appears to be crawling through the desert. The Human Vacuum Cleaner is parched! Get him some water!


Frank Duffy, 1973 Topps, #376

Congratulations to Frank Duffy, having his name attached to this card. Because the real star is that unknown Baltimore Oriole.

The player with a face full of dust and his butt on full display has just broken up a double play. All Duffy can do is leap out of the way.

It is a terrific leap as Duffy keeps his eye on his attacker. It's not a leap you see often on baseball cards.

The crop, meanwhile, arrives straight from 1973. You could use the blackness in the left corner to ponder the meaningless of it all.


Joe Rudi, 1971 Topps, #407

This is for a future study, and probably for someone with more time on their hands than me:

Did the four-year period between 1971-74 contain more Topps action photos that rarely appeared again than any other period in history? I'm going to say yes.

This is a common baseball play. The pitcher is about to deliver. The runner takes his lead off first base. The first baseman moves to cover the hole off of first base. You'd think this would appear on a baseball card again, and it probably has. But nothing is springing to mind.

I don't know who the runner is -- I've guessed Curt Blefary before. But I do know that Rudi looks resplendent in Oakland gold with kelly green trim. This is Rudi at the fringe of greatness. His career really took off in 1971 and he'd be a key part of the A's three straight World Series titles from 1972-74.


Tito Fuentes, 1976 Topps, #8

I could go on for an entire post about Tito Fuentes and so could a lot of other people.

His cards only got better as he progressed through the '70s and there are several memorable items that would probably appear if I took leave of my senses and expanded this countdown to 200 cards.

Tito's head band appears on three other Fuentes cards. An orange one is strapped around his cap in 1974. A gold one sits under his hat in 1976. And a white one, with the word "Tito" on it, rests around his Tigers hat in 1978.

The best remains the '76 version. When I was a kid, I thought Fuentes owned a special hat with his name on it. I wondered why he had one and no one else did. Today I only wonder why Fuentes was putting his name on his hand bands. Head bands were like paper clips in the 1970s. Lose one, get another.

Whatever, it's a wonderful card that spices up the typical spring training batting pose. Fuentes would never be able to get away with covering up a major league logo today. But that's why I'm doing a countdown of '70s cards.


Willie Davis, 1973 Topps, #35

More unique action from the early part of the decade.

We want this to be a brushback pitch, because they're cool and awesome and hockey fights and all that good stuff. They also don't show up on baseball cards hardly at all.

This definitely looks like a brushback pitch (or a pitch that got away). Davis has ducked out of the way and lost his helmet, steadying himself with his bat. The catcher, Tim McCarver, is standing and looking to his right. He has either grabbed the ball high or the ball has sailed to the backstop.

But the crowd ... I'm baffled by the crowd. No one is standing. No one looks outraged. Sure, I know, it's Los Angeles. Let the laid back jokes begin. But wouldn't someone at least be pointing to what just happened? Are we much more reactive than we were then?

Or is this not a brushback pitch at all?

We may never know.

That completes the second installment. I hope you enjoyed! I also hope you don't have a toothache after eating that whole jar of Fluff.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Before the strike there was the trade

I came upon a realization, which may have been long overdue, when I viewed this Ron Cey portion of a 1983 Topps Foldout sent to me by Mark Hoyle:

Perhaps my gradual separation from the hobby during the mid-1980s didn't have to do with starting college and moving away. Perhaps it was a subconscious response to the Dodgers trading Ron Cey to the Cubs after the 1982 season.

Although I put my best face on it -- Greg Brock and Mike Marshall are going to be stars! -- the loss of my all-time favorite player caused a great deal of pain. Cey, who had created long-awaited stability at the Dodgers' third base position, had been L.A.'s third baseman and No. 3-through-5 in the order for as long as I had been a baseball fan. I thought his contributions and playing a key part in the Dodgers' World Series title in 1981 would have kept him with the team forever.

Trading him away made me angry. Trading him for two players I had never heard of -- Vance Lovelace and Dan Cataline, who would achieve little in the major leagues -- made me embarrassed. This was a World Series MVP! All of those 228 home runs came with the Dodgers, bub!

So, while I told myself that I was getting too old for cards and didn't have time for them, it may have been something more. I collected in 1983, but not as enthusiastically. The Dodgers made the postseason in 1983, but I don't remember much about it, and recall only mild disappointment when they lost to the Phillies in the NLCS.

It just didn't matter. Ron Cey was a Cub. An airbrushed Cub. The world had stopped making sense.

In 1984 and 1985, I purchased the Topps set at the start of the year and barely looked through it -- trying to avoid Ron Cey Cubs cards, no doubt. In 1986 and 1987, I bought a smattering of packs. Cey cards just didn't matter anymore. No cards really mattered.

Campus activities surrounded me. Clubs, bars, girls, odd jobs. I was too busy. Or perhaps it was that Cey trade all along.

I will likely never lose my Dodger fandom. But I believe it was tested more than it ever had been with the trade.

The reverse side of the Cey photo contains Reggie Jackson, in full "I Must Kill The Queen" mode.

I never came across the 1983 Foldouts that year ( likely because of my diminished collecting brought on by the Ron Cey trade).

I'm sure I would have been puzzled by them. A series a pictures strung together with photos on both sides. That didn't really jibe with my concept of cards: photo on the front, stats on the back.

And folding the pictures so they were all connected? I like what Mark Hoyle did with them. He split them up and then divided the now oversized cards to those who collected specific teams.

This Foldout section is now a Pedro Guerrero card.

With a sneering Pete Rose on the back.

This Jerry Reuss "card" ...

Features the cover panel to one of the five Foldout "sets".

This was a test issue for Topps and the five separate sets featured Pitching Leaders, Home Run Leaders, Batting Leaders, Relief Aces and Stolen Base Leaders. Each Foldout contained 17 pictures.

This cover panel, also sent to me by Mark, kicks off the Home Run Leaders panel.

The reverse contains Darrell Evans. So now Mark is sending me Giants. Lovely.

Since this set is now on my radar, I automatically wonder what other Dodgers are featured. A quick scan indicates that there is only a Rick Monday Foldout to obtain.

This is a pretty odd set, I'm not sure why it was considered in the first place. But maybe it's just seeing Ron Cey as a Cub clouding my judgment.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, I returned to collecting full-time just as Cey's career ended. I would continue with my second stage of collecting until 1994.

I've always blamed my second departure from the hobby on two things, the strike and just too many sets being issued.

And now I'll blame my first departure on two things: college and the Dodgers bleeping trading Ron Cey.

Monday, September 25, 2017

What are we going to do without Bob Lemke?

Every so often -- more often than my card-collecting ego would like -- I receive some cards in the mail from a fellow blogger and out spills a card that baffles me.

It's usually a card from the 1990s. Because I still don't have a grasp on that decade.

But I have an answer for my confusion. I haul out the 2009 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards (or sometimes pop in the CD, but I admit I remain attached to actual books) and find my answer 99 times out of a 100.

Thank goodness the late, great Bob Lemke helped create this invaluable research publication beginning in 1988 (and my late, great mother-in-law purchased the 18th edition for me back in 2010). I would be much less knowledgeable about cards if I didn't own this publication.

I'm sure the series will continue without Lemke -- he had stepped down as editor after 2006 anyway -- but you know how things get when the passion behind a project disappears. You wonder how long that enthusiasm will continue with others in charge.

Besides, have you seen the crazy amount of cards being issued these days? How is all that going to be documented in a reasonable-sized volume? When we're chronicling Topps Now 23 in 2030 -- which has ballooned to 110 cards issued every day -- how is any collector in the future going to figure out what the heck they are holding?

I don't envy those future collectors. I barely keep up as it is.

Anyway, the card that made me pull out the Standard Catalog again arrived from Charlie of Lifetime Topps Project. He sent some cards that he said he had pulled for me about a year ago -- probably after consulting my since-disappeared want list -- and just about all of them came straight from the '90s.

This was the stumper.

I recognized the card as containing the 1995 Topps design. But knowing the familiar squatting stance of the '95 Piazza, this was not that card. The darkened background resembled the "Spectralight" parallels from that year, which also baffled me.

Turning the card over helped clear things up a little. I totally missed the "Pre-Production Sample" line where the 1994 stats should be, but I did see the "PP2" card number.

Having been previously stumped by pre-production '90s cards earlier, I guessed that it was indeed a pre-production. But I definitely needed to go to the Standard Catalog to confirm.

The Catalog did back up my suspicion. Topps issued a set of nine pre-production cards in 1994 Topps factory sets. A 10th card was a Spectralight parallel of one of the nine cards. This Piazza is the Spectralight parallel.

Bob Lemke comes through again.

The other '90s cards in the package didn't throw me as much as that Piazza card.

Although having never opened a pack of 1994 Upper Deck Fun Pack, I was not aware that each pack contained a team scratch-off card ... until I looked it up in the Standard Catalog.

Where the Standard Catalog comes up short is in the team-issue area. There actually are plenty of team-issue sets documented in The Catalog, but I haven't been able to find Dodgers Police sets mentioned.

The Police sets themselves don't cooperate as there are never date copyrights on these things. So I have to guess at the year by seeing which players and team members are included in the set.

I've narrowed this one down to 1995. Charlie sent the whole set.

Just about everything else in the package I can rattle off:

1995 Upper Deck Special Edition insert set needs. They scan like mud.

A 1995 Pinnacle Museum Collection parallel.

A 1995 Fleer Ultra gold medallion parallel with the medallion stamp placed almost as poorly as some of those current Topps buyback stamps.

More stamped parallels, this time from 1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes.

And, of course, the famous signature parallels of the '90s.

What a world we created for ourselves back then.

There actually were a couple of regular, old base cards that I needed.

A couple of the Upper Deck Fun Pack cards. These have been weirdly elusive.

But then back to the parallels with a "rainbow foil" Stadium Club parallel from 1994.

And -- shocker -- one of the few non-1990s cards in the entire package. This is from the 2010 Dodgers team set.

It is my hope that the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards will continue to reign supreme in the collecting world, even with all the Topps Now insanity and the constant parallels.

But whoever is running that show in the future, my hat is off to you.