Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Random All the Way (Oh What Fun!)

Yesterday we looked at the Dodger-intensive portion of a recent trade package that I received from Marcus of All the Way to the Backstop. But he didn't stop at citizens of Chavez Ravine. Marcus also knows of my love for the Random, and he managed to indulge my cravings for the unpredictable with aplomb.

Marus sent me some fat heads. Not Fatheads. Fat heads...

1992 Topps Stadium Club Tony Gwynn SDP #825
1993 Upper Deck Kirby Puckett Community Heroes MIN #34

...of Hall of Fame players and loveable guys on a couple of sweet cards. Cranially concentrated cardboard.

Next, Marus hit me with some aesthetically pleasing Chromified samples from 2012 Topps.

2012 Topps Chrome Tommy Hanson ATL #33
2012 Topps Chrome Desmond Jennings TBR #43

I digs me some pitchers, and Marcus throws two angles of the sidewinder Todd Frohwirth my way.

1993 Donruss Todd Frohwirth BAL #513
1993 Fleer Ultra Todd Frohwirth BAL #494

Better than submariners, though, are knuckleballers. And Marus fed me a steady diet of butterfly whisperers, including a handful of Tom Candiotti cards in Dodger Blue, among other greats, including the always-welcome Rough Tough Charlie Hough (a '91 Fleer calling card for Marcus' side-gig, Yellow Cardboard).

1991 Fleer Charlie Hough TEX #288
1996 Fleer Ultra Tom Candiotti LAD #493
1994 Pinnacle Tim Wakefield PIT #448

The Wakefield was just one of a handful of '94 Pinnacle gems in the package.

1994 Pinnacle Alex Diaz MIL #416
1994 Pinnacle Pat Meares MIN #304

Although I don't see a ball in the glove of Alex Diaz, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he's making a fine play. At the opposite end of that spectrum, we have Pat Meares...

Marcus didn't ignore my mini-collecting habit, contributing three Getting a Grip gems.

1994 Pinnacle Jon Ratliff CHC #437
2012 Topps Archives Brad Peacock OAK #192
1996 Score LaTroy Hawkins MIN #224

Ratliff displaces Ben Howard as the most extreme closeup in the collection. And you've gotta dig LaTroy Hawkins...

1996 Score LaTroy Hawkins MIN #224
1994 Score Rookie/Traded Darren Oliver TEX #RT113

...as well as Darren Oliver, junk wax rookie pitchers who were both active in 2013! Hawkins is particularly amazing, being a right-hander (lefties are more adept at reaching baseball senior citizenship). Not only that, but LaTroy became the Mets closer last year, and signed to play in his 20th big-league season with Colorado in 2014.

I'm actually a huge fan of this '94 Score Rookie/Traded set. It's one of those card designs that I think I should hate, but actually love. And Marcus sure didn't skimp on quality with these things...

1994 Score Rookie/Traded Bo Jackson CAL #RT3
1994 Score Rookie/Traded Manny Ramirez CLE #RT72

Bo knows the MLB 125th Anniversary patch and a pretty sweet Angels logo from before they went Disney. Although he's not doing anything odd, one has to assume Manny is still being Manny.

These two posts show just the tip of the snowcone. Marcus sent a package chock-full o' Random nuggets. And he ties a bow on the Random by coming full circle with the invocation of a sense of place. I started out in the last post by showing you the beautiful Dodger Stadium card that he sent me. That represented my childhood in sunny Southern California. I'll close with a card representing my time as a young adult in New York.

2012 Topps Heritage News Flashbacks Penn Station #NF-PS

Marcus tells me that he was actually born in Oregon, the place where I now find myself raising kids and enjoying my midlife crisis. It's a small, Random, cardboard-filled world. Thanks for bringing a little more of what it has to offer my way, Marcus. And if I have the pleasure of another trade opportunity with you, I promise to do you the courtesy of sending your cards to your address. Gotta prove this rookie can make adjustments...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Radical Rewards for a Raw Rookie

My rookie year as a baseball card blogger has been... inconsistent, to say the least. I'll blather about myself and my "season" as the year nears completion. (Or maybe I won't. Inconsistent, remember?) Right now I want to face the music and come clean publicly about my biggest rookie gaff to date.

2009 O-Pee-Chee Black Dodger Stadium Team Checklist LAD #512

The great cards that I'm going to be showing in this post (and in another to follow) come from Marcus, Padres fan and the proprietor of two fantastic blogs: All the Way to the Backstop, and Yellow Cardboard, which glories in Fleer's 1991 canary-colored effort. He sent these my way a little over a month ago, at about the same time that I received the package from Michael, of Nomo's Sushi Platter, which I showed off last week.

Being the raw rookie that I am, it took me about three weeks to sift through my woefully unsorted collection to find enough remotely useful cards to send to each of them. But I finally managed to accomplish that feat, and get to the post office to complete the task. I had flat-rate envelopes addressed and ready to go, but the postal worker informed me that it would be less expensive to simply address the bubble mailers and send them that way. So she took the packages for just a moment to put on the postage and handed them back to me to address. Naturally, I kept a close eye on the packages so I wouldn't mix them up.


A couple of days later, I got an email from Michael informing me that he'd received the cards... the cards for Marcus. So I had to let Marcus know that he was getting the wrong cards as well, and ask each to forward the packages to their proper destinations, something that was beyond this rookie blogger's meager capabilities. Both of them were incredibly understanding and helped me to feel a little less useless. Hopefully, they'll both enjoy the cards that I sent, when they finally arrive at the proper location.

One thing I know for sure: I certainly dug what came my way...

2013 Topps Update Yasiel Puig LAD #US250
2013 Topps Opening Day Matt Kemp LAD #100

This is the first Puig that anyone has ever sent my way. Back in June, it would have been impossible to imagine a person doing such a thing. It seemed like every other listing on ebay was for an exorbitantly-priced piece of Puig cardboard. People were seeking them out like water in a desert and hoarding them like gold... in... a silver mine... or something? A few months later, here's a Puig sitting nonchalantly in the middle of a trade package from Marcus, like... bread in a bakery...

(Now I'm just using my rookie status as an excuse for incoherent writing.)

Marcus didn't stop there with this year's greatest hits.

2013 Topps WBC Adrian Gonzalez Mexico #WBC-7
2013 Panini Pinnacle Zack Greinke LAD #128

A-Gon, a Dodger on a WBC card. A double Playing With My Cards whammy. Then there's this great piece of Zack on black from Panini's resurrection of the Pinnacle brand.

2013 Topps Heritage All-Star Vets: Matt Kemp/Clayton Kershaw LAD #81
2013 Topps Heritage Then and Now: Sandy Koufax/Clayton Kershaw LAD #TN-KK

It didn't stop there. Almost as surprising as receiving a Puig was receiving multiple Kershaws, including one with Koufax. Being Dodger collector #764 in the blog world, I understandably don't usually get the kream of the krop, so it was nice to feel just a hint of Night Owlism for a moment.

2009 Upper Deck Clayton Kershaw Team Checklist LAD #984
2011 Topps 60 Years of Topps Mike Piazza LAD #60YOT-43

Clayton is about to get a well-deserved multi-gazillion-dollar-lifetime-and-a-half contract, and then lead the the Dodgers to back-to-back-to-back-to-back-etc. championships. (Or something approaching such Bluegasmic heights.) Mike Piazza wasn't given that chance. Sweet insert. You can't go wrong sending inserts to this budget-minded collector.

2002 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Adrian Beltre LAD #64
1994 Score Rookie/Traded Gold Rush Chan Ho Park LAD #RT136

I love both of these cards. You see grass green being used as a design element sometimes, but blue sky is pretty rare. I think it works great here. In fact, I may be showing this prematurely. I'm not sure that it hasn't replaced my intended Beltre card for the PWMD set. Dig the Chan Ho, too. It looks like a weird green in the scan, but it's shiny gold, like those Topps all-star stickers from the early '80s. It may not be as high tech as an atomic megasuperfractor, but it's pretty sweet, nonetheless.

1992 Classic Best Billy Ashley San Antonio Missions #243
1992 Topps Gold Winner Chris Gwynn LAD #604

Billy Ashley makes for a really interesting player collection. You'll find that about 90% of his cards are of the minor league or "future star" variety. Not only did stardom prove elusive, but so did competence. In retrospect, being a designated hitter at the AA level probably should have been a warning sign. Meanwhile, it's good to see that Chris Gwynn's sweat-producing effort paid off with a victory and a gold star.

Marcus didn't limit his benevolence to Dodger goodies, but I'll save the more Random half of the package for the next post. I'll wrap up part one with these beauties...

1984 Topps Milton Bradley Championship Baseball Steve Sax LAD
1984 Topps Milton Bradley Championship Baseball Pedro Guerrero LAD

...which lead me to yet another confession. (Jeeze, having a blog is like ongoing psychotherapy.) I already had these. Three of them, in fact, along with all of the other cards in the set. That's because... shame... I busted into the Championship Baseball games on the shelf of my local Kay-Bee toy store when I was a kid to extricate the cards. The temptation was simply too much to handle. It's not the kind of thing that I did much of as a kid. Not my finest moment. I am suitably ashamed. (But I'm still glad to have the cards...)

If I'd known more generous-hearted people like Marcus to look up to as a role model when I was a kid, perhaps I would have avoided this criminal moment (along with my Sutton-snatching incident of 1980). But better late than never. Thanks again, Marcus.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Early Bird's Night Owl Haul: Pack #15

What's this? Find out here.

More soft-cornered '77 Topps delicacies from the seemingly endless reservoir of the Night Owl's kiddie cards. Let's play...

1977 Topps Willie Crawford SFG #652

Here we see a Friggin' Giants uniform drawn onto longtime Dodger Willie Crawford. What a sad state of affairs.

1977 Topps Ken Singleton BAL #445

Appreciated in his time, Ken Singleton would be absolutely glorified today by the Sabermetrically inclined. Switch hitter, power, and lots and lots of walks.

Blah, blah, blah. I'm not really into words today, so let's go with pictures.

1977 Topps Bob Grich CAL #521

Rather than airbrush a new cap onto Bobby... I'm sorry, Bob Grich, Topps chose to let his Mauer-grade hair do the talking for him.  Did they make the right choice?

Yup. Don't get me (and Photoshop) started on the mustache...

1977 Topps Steve Renko CHC #586
1977 Topps Randy Moffitt SFG #464
1977 Topps Bill Greif MON #112

Ah hah! Now I know why Bill Greif looks aggrieved. He went overboard with the eyebrow shaving. Eschewing the fine baseball tradition of sporting a unibrow (see: Wally Moon), Greif went to town with his disposable Bic. Of course, he should have stopped after the first pass. But it was just a little longer on the right... one more pass... longer on the left... one more pass... you get the idea. Maybe he should have just left well enough alone...

Then again, maybe not.

1977 Topps Al Oliver PIT #130

How long did it take for Al Oliver to finally settle on one of those bats in the background...?

Apparently, sixteen years later, he still hasn't made up his mind. More bats for Al, please!

1977 Topps Leading Firemen: Bill Campbell/Rawly Eastwick #8
1977 Topps Elliott Maddox NYY #332
1977 Topps Eric Soderholm CHW #273

I'm not gonna mess with this one. How can you improve on a dark blue track suit for a baseball uniform? Topps already did the work for me.

Speaking of work, here's the cartoon from the back of Al Oliver's card, featuring one of only ten players to win as many as three MVP Awards.

That's all I've got...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Playing With My Dodgers: Ramon Martinez

It would be an understatement to say that I was spoiled by my first decade as a baseball fan and a Dodger fan. In the 1980s (ages 10-19 for yours truly) the Dodgers never went more than two years without making the playoffs, and they won two world championships. As the calendar turned to the 90s, I had no idea how lucky I'd been, or just how long I would have to wait for another championship (until 2014, it turns out).

At the dawn of my second decade as a Dodger "tenth man," I had every reason to believe that success was a given for my team. Pitching had been the cornerstone of that success, behind veterans like Jerry Reuss and Burt Hooton, a young Bob Welch, and the arrival of Fernando Valenzuela followed by Orel Hershiser. By 1990, the vets had retired, Welch had moved on to the run-support utopia of Oakland, and Tommy Lasorda had managed to keep running Fernando and the Bulldog out there until their arms had all but fallen off. But the Dodger farm system kept churning out aces, and lanky Dominican righthander Ramon Martinez was next in line.

Ramon lived up to the billing early, finishing second in the NL Cy Young voting at the age of 22 in 1990, going 20-6 in his first full season in the Dodger rotation. In June he became the only Dodger not named Koufax to strike out 18 batters in a game, and he would pitch a scoreless inning in his only All-Star Game appearance. But all of the early innings would predictably take their toll on his arm, and despite several more solid seasons, he would never again achieve the heights of 1990.

Today, of course, Ramon is probably best known as the brother of the great Pedro Martinez. But for a few years, Dodger fans knew Pedro as the great ace Ramon's little brother. Los hermanos would reunite for a couple of seasons in Boston. After an unsuccessful attempt to keep his career going in Pittsburgh, Ramon would retire in 2001 at the age of just 33, with a lifetime 135-88 record and over 1,400 strikeouts.

1996 Topps Stadium Club Ramon Martinez LAD #140

This card shows Ramon in all of his lanky glory, coming right at the batter. The card's design gives the illusion that Martinez just let loose with the Stadium Club logo. A great addition to the PWMD set. This is one of the many gems sent to me in a recent trade package from Michael of Nomo's Sushi Platter. I'm happy to say that I just managed to finally get a package in the mail to him. Thanks again, Michael. Hope I managed to send you at least half of the fun you sent my way.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fun and Philanthropy: A Win-Win Situation

I'm not proud to say that I am generally one of those people who is full of well-wishes and good intentions, but who rarely puts forth the time and effort to do much good beyond my own family. Fortunately for all of us, there are people like Chris of View from the Skybox who don't just think happy thoughts, they take action.

When Chris contacted me about his plan to host a charity group break, with the proceeds going to ChildFund International's Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, I jumped on board. My wife and five children were all born in the Philippines, and they have many friends and family members who still live there. Fortunately, as far as we have been able to determine, all are safe and healthy. Of course, far too many weren't so lucky.

Chris somehow managed to whip up an incredible opportunity for the motley lot of us card bloggers to help with the relief effort, and to enjoy the benefits of some fabulous little cardboard at the same time. The price is more than reasonable, and the return can't help but be great in one way or another. The break includes several boxes of great stuff released over the past five years (including this year's online exclusive Topps Mini!). As of this posting, every team (other than my Dodgers, of course) is still available. Act fast! I urge anyone who's interested to hop on over to View from the Skybox for further details, and to sign up to join in the fun and philanthropy.

UPDATE: My wife, Cathy, bought in for her Yankees, too!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Fine Dining Experience

I'm a fast-food kinda guy. My digestive system can no longer handle a steady diet of hot dogs and double cheeseburgers, like in the old days. But I'm still not much of a fancy eater. Chicken sandwiches, pasta, tacos, Chinese take-out... tasty, quick and easy is my style.

That corresponds nicely with the Dodger Buffet I showed last time from the trade package sent to me by Michael at Nomo's Sushi Platter.

I do like to splurge on occasion, though. Treat my stomach to something a little better. When that time comes, my favorite go-to food is... Sushi!

This third, and final, look at what Michael sent me represents the fine dining portion of the package. Mini-collection hits were the coffee and bagel to get me going. The Dodger buffet was a satisfying lunch. This is Thanksgiving dinner. (Yes, there's actually a very good chance that my family will be dining out on sushi that night.)

2013 Topps Chasing History Holofoil Gold Hanley Ramirez LAD #CH-46

These are sure perdy, with all their gold and glimmer. And Hanley's stock surged in my estimation this season. Nice to see him mature away from Miami. I really hope he can find a way to stay on the field more in 2014.

By the way... is it just me? I can't help wondering, where was the indignation over Hanley being drilled in the ribs in his first at bat of the NLCS. If Zack Greinke had delivered a crippling blow to Yadier Molina in his first AB, you can be sure there would have been no end to the whining and whaling from St. Louis fans about dirty pool. I'm not saying it was intentional, or that I reacted as though it were. I'm just really surprised that the baseball world as a whole seemed to shrug its shoulders about it, in a way that wouldn't have been the case if the bruised ribs had been Yadi's.

2013 Topps Chasing History Matt Kemp LAD #CH-22
2010 Topps Finest Matt Kemp LAD #12

Oh sure, just silver and no holo-glimmer? Come on, Michael, what kind of junk are you trying to pass off on me? Kidding aside, the main course consisted of some gourmet Kemp. The above is now my only Topps Finest card newer than the late 1990s. I've haven't ever seen a pack of these things since then, and I probably couldn't afford to buy 'em if I did.

2010 Upper Deck UD Game Jersey Matt Kemp LAD #UDGJ-MK

Ho hum. A relic card of one of the game's superstars, thrown into the package like it's no big whoop. Nice.

2013 Panini USA Baseball Champions Legends Certified Die-Cuts Red Ty Griffin USA #3 (143/299)
2013 Panini USA Baseball Champions Highlights Nomar Garciaparra USA #11

There was a good pack's worth of USA Baseball, which also included Ken Griffey, Frank Thomas and Ozzie Smith. These things are sweet. And Nomar was a Dodger. You can't claim him anymore, "Red Sox Nation." You cast him out. We'll take him, if only for winning the famous four-homer-ninth game for us.

Tons and tons of great stuff from Michael already. But here's what really blew me away...

2013 Topps Tribute WBC Yovani Gallardo Mexico #81

2013 Topps Tribute WBC Joe Mauer USA #20

2013 Topps Tribute WBC Jose Reyes Dominican Republic #30

Holy crap. Next to the Dodgers, international baseball is really what turns me on. I dig any WBC-related cards. These things are simply too high-end for me to have acquired through anything short of charity. The scans don't do them justice. They're beautiful.

I don't know how else to express my gratitude to Michael than to say thank you. Thank you very much. And I hope whatever I'm able to dig up to send you (this weekend, I promise!) brings you at least some of the enjoyment that you were able to deliver my way.