Friday, May 31, 2019

A foundation of this blog


I was going through some posts on my blog from May of 2010 the other day when the total number of posts written that month caught my eye.

I wrote 44 posts that month. This is not a surprise to me. I know I used to post to Night Owl Cards twice a day as often as I could and averaged 40 posts a month. But when my old habits hit me out of the blue like that, I am stunned. What kind of cyborg was I?

This May, I will have written 16 posts. This is post 16. That is one more than my record low for posts in a month, which happened twice last year.

Some may think I have gotten too "big" for this blog. Life is far busier due to my family health issues. Also there's the matter of writing for Beckett magazine. "Perhaps Mr. Big Shot Night Owl doesn't have the need for this particular writing exercise anymore? Perhaps he can't be bothered with those blog basics: trading, updating want lists, boasting about card acquisitions, etc?"

Well, maybe. But I'm going to try like hell to avoid letting that happen.

My blog has never been solely a trading vehicle or a card-displaying vehicle. I started this blog to write about my appreciation of cards, baseball and a little about life. Writing is the foundation of this blog, not cards or any other subject.

But there definitely are other foundation basics and when I deal with those on this blog, it feels like coming home. One of those is showcasing cards with blog trading buddies.

Even though my want lists are in disarray -- because really who has the time -- I keep old standbys like the Nebulous 9 going on the off-chance that somebody knows that night owl still trades cards.

Recently, P-Town Tom from Waiting 'Til Next Year took a wack at the Nebulous 9, taking five whole cards off of it, including ones that had been on there for the second-longest and third-longest period of time.

The most important cards that I received were from 1981 Fleer. The Mike Schmidt card at the top had lived at the Nebulous 9 for far too long. It was thought to be one of the final two cards I needed to complete the 1981 Fleer set. That was until I discovered there were a couple of other '81 Fleer wants that I had missed.

P-Town Tom took care of those, too:


So it's official now -- I've double-checked and everything -- I need just the one Rickey Henderson card to complete the '81 Fleer set. It's card #574. It gets confusing because there's another Henderson card in the set (#351) that looks almost identical to the other Henderson card. Trust me, 1981 Fleer was so weird when it came out because of things like this.

Another long-lasting member of the Nebulous 9 has finally moved out, too.


1992 Bowman is very pesky. I've vowed to finally finish off the Dodgers in that set several different times but can't get myself to commit to it. I wanted to cross off Eric Davis first as it was the last remaining "significant" Dodger that I needed from that set.

The other Nebulous 9 need erased from the list with Tom's mailing completes another team set, as weird as it is.


Yes, that's Jackie Robinson in the 2017 Topps Fire set. The Dodgers Fire cards are finally complete.

There may be very little time for the blog now that I'm an All Grown-Up Night Owl doing Very Big and Important Things. But I will be updating that Nebulous 9 list. And I will be getting out trade packages when the time allows.

Because that stuff is at the foundation of my blog.

Writing may be the No. 1 reason why I'm still doing this, but let's face it, you still need pretty pictures to get anyone to actually read it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Happy little moment


I've spent the last few days driving back and forth from the hospital where my dad is. He has a host of health issues, many of which were ignored for years, that basically came to the surface once my mom had passed. The news isn't good and, really, after all that's gone on, I've accepted that.

I don't want to dwell on that here though.

Even though just about every holiday since Labor Day has come and gone with very little meaning or ritual, I did find a small amount of joy yesterday on Memorial Day (of all days, right?). After leaving the hospital, I took a trip to the main shopping drag in the Southern Tier to hit the Barnes & Noble.

I was looking for the June/July issue of Beckett Vintage Collector, which contains my article on the 1975 Topps mini set. I didn't expect to find it because I've had more success finding the magazine at the B&N's in Syracuse. But after some pained scanning of the large magazine display, I suddenly saw it, a young Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan looking back at me, as the cover story is on the 1969 Mets.

I eagerly grabbed three copies and then excitedly texted the loved ones.

It is SO COOL.

My first story in the magazine was cool as well, because it was the first and on one of my favorite sets, the '76 SSPC "Pure Card" set. But while that was "Pure Fun," as the article title said, this article is something else all together.

The '75 Topps mini set, as you know, is my all-time favorite set. To be able to write about it, get paid for it, and then see it displayed on magazine racks around the country is the greatest honor. How am I so privileged?

The story layout sums up my feelings for the set as well. It's a super colorful design, because '75 was a super colorful set. I love the treatment of the type and all the appropriate colors. It's just gorgeous. It also features my cards.

I took a personal approach to the article, just because it's the only way I could write about the set that appeared during my very first year of collecting. I didn't expect it to turn out very well. But apparently Beckett liked it as Mike Payne, the editorial director, has told me that it's also appearing in the July issue of Beckett's baseball magazine.

This is the kind of stuff I wish I could tell my mom and dad. They no doubt wouldn't be able to fully appreciate it, only that their son was so excited. But that's why you tell mom and dad.

But I'm not dwelling on that either. I want to focus instead on how pleased I was yesterday.

No matter what's going on in life, this hobby can lift you up.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Almost always on my side


There are baseball players throughout one person's career as a fan who always seem to be fighting for the right side.

No matter how many times they switch teams (well, maybe this isn't the case if a player has worn 7 different MLB uniforms), they seem to land on the side of good. Unfortunately for Bill Buckner, I haven't exactly rooted for teams who are both "good" and "successful."

Buckner, who died yesterday at age 69, came up with my favorite team, the Dodgers. He was a second-round draft pick of L.A. and played with them for eight years. I've stressed this on my blog: Buckner was a Dodger for as long as he was a member of any other team. Yet his time with L.A. -- when he was young, vibrant, talented and exciting -- seems to be forgotten.


Buckner was a poster boy for 1970s virility, all chest hair and stache and bushy brows. That '77 Topps card came with its own sound effect when I pulled it as an 11-year-old.



So many of Buckner's Dodger cards have meaning to me. His '75 card was one of those coveted items that I viewed for the first time in the Baseball Hall of Fame.



Buckner's first solo cards -- sans mustache and long hair but still with the brows and aiming to knock that baseball player off the trophy -- was also one of the first '72 Topps cards in my collection, owned long before I ever aimed to complete the '72 set.

In 1976, Buckner was traded to the Cubs because he had lost his wheels and the Dodgers didn't have a spot at first base for him.  Rick Monday was OK but I've often wondered how good the Dodgers could have been if Buckner remained with L.A.

I've never been a Cubs fan, but many consider that franchise another one from "the good side," and Buckner played for them, too.

Eight years later, Buckner came to Boston in the Dennis Eckersley deal. I know no one remembers this but there was a time when the Red Sox were as lovable and downtrodden as any other baseball team. They truly seemed cursed and nothing was more of a certainty than when the ball went through Buckner's legs in 1986. Even us nonbelievers blurted out: "Damn it, they ARE cursed." And the bad side -- this time the New York Mets -- had won again.

Buckner played for some great teams and was a great talent, but he never played for a World Series winner. I always thought he suffered too much for that one error and suffered in other ways, too, as injuries ate away at his true talent.

He seemed the perfect player for such star-crossed franchises as the Dodgers, Cubs and Red Sox, teams who for decades were known for being losers. Things have changed for all three.


It's a relief that in recent years, Buckner was able to receive closure and forgive all those who made life hell after 1986.

But for me, in a way, Buckner's career ended with that trade to the Cubs, one of the first trades I ever knew in which a known member of my favorite team was shipped away.


Bill Buckner will always be remembered by me as a member of the boys in blue, a member of the good guys, where the road is difficult and not all that successful but somehow that just made me like him all the more.

RIP.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

It's the wood that makes it good


This month is quickly becoming the most unpleasant month of my life. If I was an alcoholic, I'd be in so much trouble right now.

But I'm not. Which means I do stuff like buy a bunch of baseball cards instead. Binge busting replaces binge drinking.

Life definitely owed me something yesterday. It owes me for the whole month, heck, the whole year, and about all I could do to get at least some payback is charge down the street after work and see if the Target had some of that 2019 Big League Baseball.

I haven't bought any current cards since sampling a pack of Opening Day in March. I wasn't missing them much either. But this Big League looked like a little more fun, even more fun than last year's product, which I liked well enough.

My appreciation for this year's Big League comes naturally from the design. I've read some bag on this year's design. I don't get it. I find it more appealing than last year, which was a bit too bland. This year's design makes you take notice, and there's nothing wrong with that.

For starters, the borders feature a wood theme, a tried-and-true staple of baseball card design. Even though everyone has beaten the 1987 Topps horse beyond recognition, you can still make a wood-themed set that doesn't look stale. These wood borders work and they also help make the colored parallels a little more interesting than last year's.


The second design element I enjoy is how the photo frame is tilted. That messes with the OCD crowd but I think it makes things much more interesting. It gives the impression of pictures randomly stacked, see how the photo bleeds into the "photo" underneath it? That's cool. The tilt reminds me of the old 1982 Kmart set.

Also, the photo edges are cropped, which I kind of enjoy, too. Let's have a set that adjusts our idea of how a picture should be presented.

So, anyway, I bought three blasters of this stuff. They were $8.99 instead of the usual $9.99 for some reason. I think that's about 17 cents a card. Not too bad.

I'm going to show the highlights of what I received by going pack-by-pack and displaying the "best" card of each pack, plus any inserts. Of course, all Dodgers will be displayed, too.

BOX 1


It's the Ohtani box. Make sure you cut along the edges!

Pack 1

Dodger card:


It's your front-runner for NL MVP. That's right, Yelich. This card is much better than yours.

Best card in the pack other than that one:


Alex Bregman says that Bellinger card is OK.



Inserts. One goldie per pack and I like them A LOT better than the ones from last year's set, even if it's a Giant.



Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: This is how old I am. Alex's grandfather wasn't a scout who signed Ted Williams as a player. He was dealing with Ted Williams while I was on this planet.

Pack 2

Best card in the pack:


Bat flip!



Inserts: This set is crawling with Ohtani cards. I think I pulled 47 of them.



Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: I need to know more about the giraffe story.


Pack 3

Dodger card:


Outstanding.

I'm a bit partial to the Max Muncy card in this set (sadly, I didn't pull it), but this is just beautiful.

Best card in the pack other than that one:


Don't know who he is but I go with catcher gear when all else fails.



Inserts: The Blast-Off cards are nifty-looking.



Favorite "Did You know" factoid: I'm not opposed to eating insects, but I'm also on the side of folks who say there's plenty of good stuff to eat before you start frying bugs.

Pack 4

Best card in the pack:


The Padres did quite well in the boxes I bought.



Inserts: The nickname cards are back.



Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: Hosmer apparently was once an alternative music radio station programmer. I'd pick almost 100 bands ahead of the RHCP, maybe 500.

Pack 5

Best card in the pack:


Felix is here by default. It wasn't an exciting pack.



Inserts


Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: I suppose there are lots of interesting vehicles in D.C. I can't envision doing the same thing where I live. It would be pick up truck after pick up truck.

DA BLUES:


Four blues per blaster and I have the blues after these four. Three of the four teams here I wish never existed.


BOX 2


It's the Juan Soto box. Cut here!

Pack 1

Best card in the pack:


This pack was full of dupes (yeah, already).



Inserts: I am not feeling the caricature cards this year, I think they were better last year.

Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: Nothing. Too many references to diet, losing weight and charity drives. I think the teams' PR guys got ahold of these cards.

Pack 2

Best card in the pack:


Love the base-running shots.



Inserts. I will be pulling Salvador Perez cards for the rest of my life.



Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: Sheffield is an egghead.


Pack 3

Dodger card:


Ferris did very well last night.

Best card in the pack other than that one:


Only because it's a "player-in-his-new-uniform" card.



Inserts


Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: The title of this post is a Seinfeld reference, so you know I'd squeeze this one in here.

Pack 4

Best card in the pack:


More Padres



Inserts


Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: I'm a little disappointed Kate Upton isn't mentioned but the knowledge that Verlander drove around in a purple Ford Taurus as a teenager does explain some things.

Pack 5

Dodger card:


I like that card.

Best card in the pack other than that one:


That's an awesome shot.



Inserts. I don't know about some of these nicknames.



Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: I admire Brock Holt for admitting this all the while being completely horrified that he's admitting this.

DA BLUES:


Another painful selection, Moncada card aside. I would like you to note that a Giants card is the only one I pulled in both gold-border and blue-border form. Only I am capable of doing this and I wish someone would take my special powers away.

BOX 3


The Mike Trout box. Of course, who else would it be?

Pack 1

Dodger card:


Last Dodger card I would pull. I am sad.

Best card in the pack other than that one:


How about an entire set of just players running.



Inserts: I want so badly for Mitch Garver to beat out that Sanchez dude for a starting spot in the All-Star Game. It will never happen BECAUSE OF BULLIES but that is my fantasy.


Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: Assistant head groundskeeper sounds a little bit like "assistant to the traveling secretary."

Pack 2

Best card in the pack:


There are so, so many action shots in card sets these days that photos like these really stand out. I mean really stand out. And they look so classy and clean and my god, what happened to baseball cards????



Inserts


Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: I had to look up what "The Blacklist" was, even though I've heard of it. Turns out it's a crime thriller series. And that's why I've never seen it.

Pack 3

Best card in the pack:


This guy again. I don't know why I picked it. Guess I'm getting bored.



Inserts.


Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: It's always those evil cows.


Pack 4

Best card in the pack:


It's a tie! There are more "run-of-the-mill" shots in Big League than you probably have been led to believe, but that's only because people can't help but show the really good ones.



Inserts


Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: I was tempted to go with Francisco Lindor's, which was that he liked math class the best only because it's the only room in the school that had an air conditioner, but I must admire young players who respect the movie classics. Long live the '80s!

Pack 5

Best card in the pack:


Go, man, go!



Inserts



Favorite "Did You Know" factoid: That is quite the spectrum of music performers covered there.

DA BLUES:


These are the best of the Blues from those three boxes. Still no Dodger, though, which seems like a waste of perfectly good blue-border parallels.

If I was of the mind of trying to complete a modern set (which hasn't been my mind-set since 2015), I think Big League would be the one I'd try to collect. It's not nearly perfect. Like last year, the cards are so thin, you could serve smoked ham on them. Even the design has a couple drawbacks. (I don't know what the ticket theme is trying to accomplish).

But what do you expect for a low-end set? I'm a low-end collector. I know that. And I like goofy stuff like tilted photo frames and wavy pennant flags and yet another wood-themed set.

It's not a bad little set. Especially if it can get me through some tough times.