Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mini-Collecting: Making Progress

I know I haven't been posting quite as often, but that's because I've discovered something wonderful. It's called baseball. Apparently it's a game played by these dudes in the little pictures I've been blathering about all of this time. And I'm told that it can be a particularly exciting spectator sport around this time of the year. Indeed, if the Reds-Pirates series last weekend is any indication, that rumor appears to be justified.

But, fear not, I haven't stopped Playing With My Cards. I'm still, veeeeerrrrry slowwwwwwly, sorting said cards into alphabetical order. I'm working with the "H" people right now, those being the first crowd to get sorted since the birth of my four baby mini-collections. Still busting cards on Card Night weekends, too. So the collections are growing.

A parent isn't supposed to have a favorite among children. And I don't. But when it comes to mini-collections, I clearly lavish the majority of my attention on a favorite: Getting a Grip. And I've added some sweet cardboard to that group in recent days.

1991 Score Bob Welch Split-Finger OAK #568

A repack delivered a welcome reminder of the existence of this awesome card from '91 Score. It's one of those rare cards that is about a grip, giving it exalted status among its brethren. The Dodgers connection only adds to its sweetness.

1992 Fleer Nolan Ryan Pro Visions TEX #710
1992 Upper Deck Charlie Hough CHW #418

Here are a couple of grips responsible for two very different outcomes. Ryan has fast become the poster child for interesting grip cards, this being the second to reach the collection in cartoon form. Then we go from the missile to the butterfly. Always welcome here is Rough Tough Charlie Hough and his dancing knuckler.

1996 Upper Deck Sterling Hitchcock SEA #463
2004 Topps Sterling Hitchcock SDP #425

Here a couple of grip cards serve as bookends to the career of Sterling Hitchcock, a winning pitcher until he went 0-3 to end his career in '04 and finish two games under .500.

1987 Topps Charles Hudson PHI #191
1987 Topps Tom Hume PHI #719

The photographer Topps sent into Phillies camp to get shots for the '87 set certainly knew what I would like, giving me two of the less-common "Rubbing Up the Ball" variations for this collection.

1994 Upper Deck Minors Jason Schmidt Durham Bulls #67

This card serves to mitigate two very serious flaws attached to Jason Schmidt's career: that he pitched well for the Giants, and that he pitched poorly (and rarely) for the Dodgers. Tough to beat this card, though.

1993 Topps Stadium Club Orel Hershiser LAD #544

Fortunately, we have the Bulldog to show the way. That's the grip of a confident veteran, just chillin' and waiting for another team to come into his house for a bit of humiliation.

I haven't been neglecting the other collections. It's just that I love Getting a Grip. I haven't been able to add anything to "42" since the collection page went up. But Turtlenecks and Doughnuts have been trickling in at a steady pace.

1989 Donruss Tony Pena STL #163
1991 Donruss Kirk Gibson LAD #445

Nothing quite robs a big-league player of his dignity like Donruss cards of this era. But they kinda work for the goofy mini-collections. If you've got a hankerin', check them out in their full glory via the Mini-Collections links on the sidebar.

In the meantime, if you find yourself near a television (or better yet, a big-league ballpark) check out this baseball thing. It's actually pretty nifty.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Feeding the Habit: Taking a Hit (or Two)

It's been a while since the last edition of Feeding the Habit. But, rest assured, the habit has not been going hungry. Nor have I lost my enthusiasm for Card Nights filled with random pack-busting goodness. But after a while I came to realize that, just maybe, you don't all want to see every little piece of junk wax that still (perhaps inexplicably) excites me.

This last weekend was a little different, though. In addition to the usual fun and quantity, there was the unusual element of quality. I'm not one of those collectors who's all about "hits," by any stretch. But that definitely doesn't mean I don't enjoy them when they come. We'll get to some "serious" cardboard before this post is over, but for now, let's play...

First, some repack goodness.

2001 Topps Archives Orel Hershiser LAD #425
2004 Donruss Throwback Threads Mariano Rivera NYY #141

Reprints of cards that are only a year old crack me up. "Hey, remember this card... from last year?" Ah, the nostalgia. Of course, when it's the Bulldog, you can print the same card every year and I'll happily add it to the collection. I also got an Archives copy of a '73 Blyleven, which satisfied the vintage reminiscence jones. (Proofreader's note: Do you capitalize "jones" in this context? I am ignorant of the origins of the term "jonesing." If only there were an Internet or something to help me out. But I ain't got no time for learnin' right now, I'm playin'.) Anyway, also dig the dynasty-era Mo. Don't see many of those in dollar repacks.

Moving on to what I believe is essentially the end of the vintage from the Random Guy Box. (Don't know what I'm talking about? That's what the archives are for. And shame on you for not hanging on my every word.)  I was expecting the crap condition...

1971 Topps Ron Santo CHC #220
1971 Topps Red Schoendienst MG STL #239

But was not expecting Hall of Famers. These are two of the most beloved and respected baseball people from the baseball-crazy Midwest. I also found a second copy of the '71 Hoyt Wilhelm in the box, just as ratty in condition as the first, but welcome nonetheless. I'm no snob when it comes to sweet cardboard.

Popped open a couple of packs of '07 Upper Deck from the discount bin. Not UD's finest effort, but...

2007 Upper Deck Albert Pujols STL #443
2007 Upper Deck Greg Maddux SDP #356
2007 Upper Deck Nomar Garciaparra Team Checklist LAD #492

Nothing to complain about here. I'm all about the pitchers, but I've never really cared for Verlander. I prefer my players with a touch of humility. (Maybe he's picked up a bit of that quality this season.) So that friggin' sweet looking card of The Machine in his Cardinals glory taking him deep works for me. Did anyone notice the word "Padres" on the Maddux card? Me neither, this is a Dodgers card, even if my OCD requires me to identify it "properly" above. Then there's Nomar. Not the best of times for the Dodgers, but not the worst of times, either. And I'm glad Nomar spent some time in Dodger Blue.

There was a serious Yankees tilt to my weekend.

2012 Topps Opening Day Mickey Mantle NYY #7
2012 Topps Opening Day Derek Jeter NYY #90

A couple of packs of '12 Opening Day yielded these two fine Topps redundancies, and I also got Mariano, Mark Teixeira, and Brett Gardner.

The Captain showed up back-to-back in a Gypsy Queen pack from a discounted '12 blaster I was happy to pick up. Somehow he manages to change from his road uniform into pinstripes by the time he reaches the bag. That's the power of Derek Jeter.

2012 Topps Gypsy Queen Sliding Stars Derek Jeter NYY #SS-DJ
2012 Topps Gypsy Queen Mini Derek Jeter NYY #100
2012 Topps Gypsy Queen Hallmark Heroes Roberto Clemente PIT #HH-RC

Clemente brought up the rear in a very satisfying pack o' cardboard treats.

A lot of 2010 Topps is showing up for me lately in both repacks and boxes of discount packs. I was happy to nab a couple of inserts that I not only didn't have, but that I'd somehow managed to avoid having ever seen.

2010 Topps Vintage Legends Willie McCovey SDP #VLC-48
2010 Topps Vintage Legends Eddie Murray BAL #VLC-37

Neither quite does the job of replicating the original designs. I guess fonts are more difficult to duplicate than I would have thought. But that's okay, cuz they're great cards anyway. Would have liked a better view of Stretch's face, but the rare Padres uni is a nice respite from the usual Friggin' Giants duds. The Murray card is simply bad-ass. This guy couldn't look bad on a card if he tried. (Let's just pretend that the back of his '92 Upper Deck Mets card never happened.)

Okay, from flippant fun we move on to serious fun. Warning: I'm gonna show 2013 cards. I'm probably the only blogger out there who cares to be warned about such a thing, so the warning is probably pointless. But there it is, anyway.

I finally got around to opening my patch card from a Topps series two blaster I picked up when they first came out.

2013 Topps Manufactured Silk Patch Jackie Robinson BRO #MCP-3

Best-case scenario. The scan makes it look weak, but it's actually pretty nice. Gimmicky, I know. But having different textures to enjoy on a baseball card is fun. When are they gonna get around to cards with different scents. We can't be ignoring any of the senses. And cards have frankly stunk since gum is no longer around to sweeten them. Am I the only one who wants a Darryl Strawberry card that smells like strawberries, and a Chet Lemon card that smells like lemons? Just keep Rusty Kuntz out of that set, please...

Moving on...

I really like this year's Panini Cooperstown set. The placement of the HOF logo was a sneaky way to help with the team logo coverup mess. I think it's a surprisingly effective solution.

2013 Panini Cooperstown Green Crystal Casey Stengel MG NYY #62

I really enjoyed pulling this card of the Ol' Perfessor in all of his wrinkly glory. And green is my favorite color for sparkly/shiny card borders. My smile was only slightly diminished when I saw over at Night Owl's blog that I could have pulled a Vin Scully instead.

Speaking of my Dodgers, though...


2013 Panini Pinnacle Yasiel Puig LAD #193

My first Puig. I'm excited, but I'm probably one of the few (non-Asian) people who's more excited about our other international rookie import, Hyun-Jin Ryu. But this is a sweet card of the "Wild Horse," as Vin Scully has been calling him. One of the better looking cards I've seen from this set. (Though I'm not sure why they didn't keep his uniform number red.)

Those are cool cards. But I promised "hits." Let's talk about autographs for a second. I like 'em. I don't go crazy for them, but I certainly enjoy getting them when they pop out of a pack. I like them a lot more than a small swatch from some jock's crotch. (You never know exactly where those relics come from, you know.) And they almost make you feel like three or four bucks for a pack of four or five cards is an acceptable situation.

2013 Panini Pinnacle Rookie Autographs Henry M. Rodriguez CIN #HR

Yay! An autograph. Dude's a utility infielder. He's played in 18 games for the Reds over the past two seasons. He also has a Cubs pitcher of the same name to deal with (hence, the middle initial). Still, cool to get an autograph. Technically, that's a hit, even if it doesn't deliver much of a buzz.

The year-old discount card craze had me pick up a good deal of '12 Heritage, which is a set I like about 750% more than '13 Heritage. But since I wasn't thrilled with last year's Topps flagship, I wasn't in full collector mode the way I had/have been in 2010, 2011 and this year. So I'm playing catch-up with this set. Actually, waiting a year is probably always the way to go, since prices reflect our fascination with/need for what's new. Ain't gonna happen though.

I digress. Back to the hits. Ain't this one pretty?

2012 Topps Heritage Redemption Card Ernie Banks/Starlin Castro CHC #RODA-BC

Well, it will be when I get it. This is my first redemption card. It's no Koufax/Kershaw, but it's a pretty sweet pairing nonetheless. Can't wait to get the card. I guess the first step would be to redeem this. Not sure why I haven't done that yet, four days after busting it out of it's pack. I guess I'm a bit stunned. Never got anything quite like this before. Which makes all the more improbable the fact that, on the same night, I pulled this...

2013 Topps Allen & Ginter Mini Framed Autographs Will Myers TBR #AGA-WM

The probable 2013 AL Rookie of the Year. Not bad. I don't have a rookie fetish. And hitters lack the esteem that I bestow upon pitchers. But I can't ignore the fact that this is one of the bigger catches in this year's much-ballyhooed "chase." I guess I'm a serious collector now. (Not.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I Was There: 2001 World Series, Game Five, Déjà Vu All Over Again!

This is Part V of a series (and a contest) that was introduced here.

2001 World Series Game #5, Arizona Diamondbacks @ New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium, 11/1/2001: Déjà Vu All Over Again

I was watching Game 4 of the '01 World Series in the living room of my Brooklyn apartment when Joe Buck and Co. made a big deal of the clock striking midnight and the calendar turning to November. The events of 9/11 had pushed the schedule back by about a week, giving us post-Halloween baseball for the first time. The D-Backs had brought in their closer, Byung-Hyun Kim, to protect a 2-0 lead in the ninth. But with two outs and Paul O'Neill on base, Tino Martinez had hit a dramatic game-tying home run. Now Derek Jeter was being proclaimed "Mr. November," following his walk-off homer in the tenth. I was excited to know that I'd be going to Game 5 later that day, but also a little disappointed that I hadn't been at this historic contest instead. I mean, it couldn't happen again, right?

I'd been out of work for a while, as I was one of the 8.7 billion people who had been working at an internet startup around the turn of the century. Before that particular bubble burst, however, I had been working with a great group of people at the ill-fated Acurion in the SoHo area. One of those people was a programmer named Tony, who was not a baseball fan, but had somehow found himself in possession of two tickets for Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. Remembering that I was a baseball nut, he chose to invite me along, rather than take his wife with him. Great guy. If you're out there somewhere, Tony, thanks again!

We were still just about six weeks removed from 9/11, and the World Series is a seriously high-profile event. We'd gone through that anthrax thing in recent weeks, as well. So it still wasn't the most comfortable feeling being what felt like a potential target. But the added adrenaline served to up the ante for what was already about as exciting as it gets, a World Series game at Yankee Stadium. This is still the one and only World Series game that I've had the chance to attend. And it certainly didn't disappoint.

You know the story, so I won't go into a blow-by-blow account. Just finding myself sitting there with the same situation that had presented itself the night before was surreal enough. Tony and I were both sure that there wouldn't be the same kind of payoff, though. Jorge Posada had doubled to start the ninth with the Yanks down 2-0, but he was still standing at second with two outs.

We were seated in the left-centerfield bleachers. The ball sailed in our general direction off the bat of Scott Brosius. We were able to watch its flight, and at the same time see Brosius thrust his hand into the air as Byung-Hyun Kim dropped into an astonished and dejected squat on the mound. It was truly unbelieveable. That crowd went utterly and completely nuts. The world's insanity was pushed aside entirely in favor of pure joy and wonder over a kid's game. That's the kind of power baseball has.

The rest of the game played out a little differently from the previous night's. It took the Yanks until the twelfth inning to complete their second miracle comeback in a row. This time it was once and future Yankee hero Alfonso Soriano driving in the winning run. The team of destiny, America's team (at least for a few weeks), would be heading to Arizona in the driver's seat, up 3-2 in the series. There was no stopping them, right?

Well, that part of the story doesn't have a happy ending, although it did have the virtue of being as improbable as the rest of the series. The 2001 Fall Classic was the perfect cure for what ailed us.

As for the Surreal Seven contest, this game was the gimme. I had already talked about it briefly on this blog in a Feeding the Habit post that included a nice card of the embattled D-Backs closer from Korea. Strangely, one of my most reliable regular readers, Nick (get a life!), didn't come up with this one. But Al and Bo hit the mark.
SURREAL SEVEN STANDINGS Correct Guesses Difficulty Points
Al Kawamoto 2 5
Bo @ Baseball Cards Come to Life! 1 1
Nick @ Dime Boxes 0 0
Marcus @ All the Way to the Backstop 0 0

The mysterious Al Kawamoto, hockey fan, maintains his lead in the Surreal Seven standings with two games to go. It's an exciting race, with Bo picking up a victory to keep pace at one guess behind. Can Nick or Marcus mount a comeback and set up a tiebreaker scenario using difficulty points? Is there time for Bo to leap ahead of Al in the standings, or does Al all but insure victory by correctly guessing game number six? Stay tuned for all of the excitement of a pennant race (or at least a game of checkers).

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Smart A$$

1991 Upper Deck Pat Combs PHI #537

Pat Combs keeps his hair neat. Pat combs.

1991 Line Drive AAA Mike Erb Edmonton Trappers #154

That's a suspicious amount of Green you've got there, Mike Erb...

1992 Fleer Ultra Albert Belle CLE #47

Never comfortable with the concept of team, Albert Belle is caught swatting at a pesky Indians logo.

1994 Panini Stickers Ozzie Guillen (Joey Cora?) CHW #47

Years of working alongside Joey Cora had apparently rubbed off on Ozzie Guillen.

Seriously, that's Joey Cora in this picture, right? I can't find any reference online to this error (after untold seconds of searching, that is).

That's all I've got.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Early Bird's Night Owl Haul: Pack #12

What's this? Find out here.

Been a while, and there's lots o' fun in this "pack," so let's play...

1977 Topps Barry Foote MON #612
1977 Topps Gary Carter MON #295

Can't go wrong with "The Kid," and the Night Owl hooked me up with both his '76 and '77. Gotta love those Dodgers. (What, am I the only person in the world who considers Gary Carter a Dodger?)

1977 Topps Big League Brothers: George & Ken Brett #631

I dig this card because my Cousin Craig (he of "Craig's Gifts") played against both brothers when they were at El Segundo High School in Southern California and my cousin was at Palos Verdes. The closest I came to such a brush with greatness was playing little league with a guy who's family was tight with Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager (as much as such a story from a 12-year-old boy can be believed).

1977 Topps Joe Cardenal CHC #610

Oscar Gamble gets all the love for his gravitationally-endowed '70s afro, and rightly so. But don't sleep on Jose Cardenal. He gets bonus points here for the cub on his shoulder, which, with a little imagination, can be seen as a hairy echo of the man in the uniform. I have a question. How did these guys keep their caps on? Did they use hairpins? And what kind of nightmare hat-head did they sport when they tipped their caps? I really missed out by not closely observing the game until the dawn of the '80s.

1977 Topps Johnny Bench CIN #70

This is the card that set me down the path toward becoming the pleased and privileged possessor of the Night Owl's stash of '70s Topps fun. That's because it's the first card he showed when he offered 'em up, most appropriately in a post titled Random Thoughts Presented Randomly. I'm telling you, Power of the Random, man. Don't underestimate it! I'm not often quick on the draw, but I sure picked the right time to be on the ball in this case.

1977 Topps Lee May BAL #380
1977 Topps Rusty Staub DET #545

I wish I had seen Le Grand Orange play before his nickname became an all-too-accurate description of his, let's say, atypical body type for a professional athlete. From card-back cartoons, we know that Rusty was a gourmet cook. Maybe he still is. I was actually kinda surprised to see that he's still alive. I don't remember seeing him in any capacity since his retirement. I hope that's simply because he's enjoyed his post-baseball life out of the spotlight. He seemed like a nice enough guy.

1977 Topps Garry Maddox PHI #520

Massive maroon overload and another fabulous afro, courtesy of the Secretary of Defense. I could have sworn that he was also known as "Daddy Longlegs" as well, though I can't seem to find any reference to that with a lazy, cursory internet search. Maybe I'm thinking of someone else?

1977 Topps Bob Boone PHI #545
1977 Topps Ray Fosse CLE #267

Great card for a number of reasons, to wit:  1) Fosse was excellent catcher with an unforgettable history (he's the guy knocked silly by Pete Rose at the plate to end the 1970 All-Star Game, in the off chance that you weren't aware);  2) Gotta dig the monochrome pink uniform. I always see these referred to as red, but to my eyes there's no question that they're pink. Is it just me?;  3) It's a card of a catcher donning the proverbial "tools of ignorance." And it appears that he's really getting ready for some kind of action, unless his acting skills are such that he's elevated a standard pose to something unusually realistic.

This edition's cartoon comes from the back of Barry Foote.

Can't go wrong with a Dodger-themed cartoon. And the Dodgers' first of two Mike Marshalls certainly was impressive for his endurance. For those of you who don't know much about Dr. Marshall and his expertise in Kinesiology as applied to pitching, he's certainly worth a moment's investigation. Though, to my knowledge, his arm never grew to quite the proportions indicated above...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Playing With My Dodgers: Jim Golden

Right-hander Jim Golden made his major league debut in the Golden State of California with a start at Dodger Stadium against the Cubs on September 30, 1960. He didn't fare particularly well, allowing five runs in seven innings. In fairness, he was facing a lineup featuring four future Hall-of-Famers (Ashburn, Banks, Williams and Santo). And his performance was sufficient to eke out a 7-5 win, with the help of some guy named Drysdale who came in for a two-inning save (though nobody was foolish enough to name it as such at the time).

Perhaps his biggest claim to fame is the fact that he was twice traded for Hall of Famers. It's not as impressive as it sounds, of course. The Dodgers sent away a second baseman named George Anderson to get Golden, Rip Repulski and Gene Snyder from Philadelphia. Anderson played in only one major league season. He went into the Hall as a manager. He's better known as "Sparky." Golden was taken from the Dodgers by the Houston Colt 45's in the 1961 expansion draft, and they later dealt him for a 36-year-old Nellie Fox.

1961 Topps Jim Golden LAD #298

It should be obvious, if you've been paying any attention around here lately, why this card is showing up now. Gotta be one of the all-time great Getting a Grip cards. But there's a second reason, as well. (This is called a segue.) You're seeing the first of around fifty '61 Topps cards that I recently picked up, which I'll be showing in the days to come, cuz that's what you do when you have a card blog.

Doughnuts: A Mini-Collection Guide

I'm getting hungry. It must be time for the fourth and final Mini-Collection Guide. Mmmmmm... Doughnuts!

1989 Topps Luis Salazar DET #553

You know what they are. Bonus points if the player looks like he's gazing longingly at said doughnut, like Luis Salazar, here.

As per standard operating procedure, let's take a quick look at what is not a doughnut, for the purposes of this collection. The idea behind the doughnut (invented by Yankees catcher Elston Howard) is to allow the batter to swing something heavier while warming up, which (it was thought) has the effect of speeding up the bat when it's time to step into the batter's box. This idea has been achieved in different ways throughout baseball history, including long before Howard's yummy invention.

1990 Swell Baseball Greats Babe Ruth NYY #10

NO Doughnuts Here

The Babe must have eaten them already. Swinging multiple bats was the typical approach of ballplayers of yore, as much to show their virility, no doubt, as to achieve any useful effect. But without doughnuts on the bat, you don't get into this collection, even if you're Babe Friggin' Ruth.

2010 Topps Jason Kendall MIL #248
2005 Topps Total Team Checklists Jim Thome PHI #TTC21

NO Doughnuts Here
NO Doughnuts Here

The "sweet spot" (bad pun intended) for for doughnuts is likely to be from about the mid-'60s to the mid-'90s. Modern times have seen all kinds of crazy gadgets butt in on the doughnut's action. These things being used by Kendall and Thome are not doughnuts. They're more like the last few bits of gyro meat left on the spit. Yummy in your own way, but not doughnuts, so no mini-collection for you!

1994 Upper Deck Collector's Choice Damon Berryhill BOS #602

NO Doughnuts Here

Doughnuts, Damon. Not pancakes. Kinda ghetto, isn't that? This is the big leagues, son. Get the clubhouse boy to make a trip to Sports Authority, or something. Come on. (And tuck in your pocket. Jeeze.)

1992 Upper Deck Hal Morris CIN #121

Good lord, what is this mess that Hal Morris has going? Who does he think he is, a modern Babe Ruth? We've got a bat wrapped in a red plastic/rubber substance, some sort of piston or something (I'm not mechanically inclined), and... wait... a good ol' wood bat with a doughnut! So Hal makes the collection, after all. Jeeze, he didn't really have to try so hard.

1991 Topps Traded Wax Willie Wilson OAK #129T
1993 Topps Willie Wilson OAK #318

I'm a repeat doughnut offender. Apparently so is Willie Wilson. How come I don't have his physique!?

1992 Score Pinnacle Tony Gwynn/Willie Davis The Idols #591

Finally, we see Tony Gwynn swinging and missing, which has stunned him so much that he's daydreaming in sepia about the '70s. Wrong timeframe, Tony. Fortunately, Gwynn (who ended up looking like another big fan of the doughnut by the end of his career) has the good sense to conjure up something worthy of this mini-collection. Serious bonus points for a Dodgers all-time great.

As with the others, this entire collection can be found on the sidebar (or by being lazy and clicking... here). I've set these up so that players are in alphabetical order within each section of the mini-collections (except for the finite 42 Grandfathers). This will make it easier to check to see if I already have a card in the collection that you are thinking about sending my way. I'm just starting to find these things within my own collection, though, so you'll see these things filling out pretty quickly. One rule of thumb: if it's from a Topps base set, any year from 1980 onward, there's a 99.9% chance that I have it already.

Oh, and I'll be waiting for the hero who delivers the holy grail: real doughnuts appearing on a baseball card.

Okay, time to make the doughnuts... or at least find 'em.