Monday, May 21, 2018

Thanks, Mookie! (A card show report)

I went to a card show yesterday, and I have Mookie Betts to thank for that.

Please allow me to explain: remember when I said that the rookie card craze finally hit Dime Boxedonia in the form of a Bryce Harper rookie I found in my doubles box? Well it hit again, this time much more fruitfully, thanks to, yes, Mookie Betts himself.

Last week, after catching wind of the crazy prices Mookie rookies were commanding, I sold three different 2014 Update Mookie Betts parallels I'd been sitting on for a while. Although I collect Mookie, the decision was a no-brainer...because I sold them for over $200 combined. Even more staggering is the fact that I paid exactly 60 cents for the trio at a card show a couple years ago. (Better yet, I still own the base versions of both rookies.)

With more than $200 of house money in my pocket, I naturally did what any sane collector would do: I made a spur-of-the-moment visit to the local card show.

I did buy a few Mookies -- it was the least I could do for the guy, and besides, I still collect him -- but the money I got for those '14 Update parallels (with an ample amount of cash still left over) went a long way in providing the awesomely random experience I so much enjoy.

Among the highlights: unexpectedly bumping into Jeff during a dime box dig, spending the day in the company of fellow card collectors (even despite the handful of Card Prospector Bros who attend this show), and easily fulfilling the only specific goal I had in mind yesterday -- knocking out a good chunk of my 2017-18 needs.

I checked off a good 75 percent of my remaining 2018 GQ/Donruss base wants, got almost all the Diamond Kings singles I needed without having to buy a single pack, and sampled my first of last year's Chrome Negative Refractors (which I still can't decide if I like or not).

I always enjoy attending card shows immediately after I decide to start new player collections because almost everything I see of said players is new to me, as these four dime box gets of New Binder Inductees were.

But the thrill of finding new cards of guys I've long since collection never wears off (especially the Ichiro, a tough Turkey Red SP from the dime box).

Mini-collection hits, which reminds me: I decided to go the spreadsheet route for now in regards to the cataloging crisis I documented on the blog last week.

One of these minis is not like the other...and is a lot more awesome than the others -- it's that Campy of course, even though I have absolutely no clue what exactly it is.

Few things in life get me more giddy than finding Fan Favorites at card shows.

Your regular helping of dime box shiny.

As I've said on the blog before, this particular show is my favorite in terms of the overall balance of good cards, fun environment, and just plain fine people.

Case in point: a vendor who I see regularly at this show beckoned to me during my dig through his dime boxes, said Hey, you can have this if you want, and proceeded to hand me this GQ Glassworks Corey Seager box-topper.

All I can say is this thing looks absolutely stunning in person, but even more stunning is the fact that the guy just simply gave it to me out of the kindness of his heart (and he didn't even know I collect Corey Seager!).

I can't say I'm strongly either pro- or anti-SP, but I'm really Pro-Finding-Short-Prints-in-Dime-and-Quarter-Boxes, because talk about a thrill.

These proved to be the most expensive modern cards I purchased yesterday, but they were well worth the cash (besides, it was all on Mookie anyways, remember?).

While it's not the '85 Fleer currently sitting on my "Keep Dreaming" wants, the '85 Donruss Puckett rookie was still a coveted card for me, and I bit at the $5 price tag on it (though I basically got it free with something else I bought from the same guy). The '88 Score Traded Grace, meanwhile, has been a surprisingly elusive overproduction-era card (the last one I needed to own every Grace RC) and an overall thorn in my side for the last few years.

A mere two dollars put that longtime need to rest.

An observation: I'm astounded by the number of card show vendors who leave their tables unattended for long periods of time.

I guess that speaks to the communal feeling of the overall clientele at this card show, but still, if I set up at a show, I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving my stuff out like that. But in this case it actually worked to both mine and the vendor's advantage. I found over 300 dime cards at the very first table of the day, but I stood around for a good 10-15 minutes waiting for the vendor to come back so I could pay for everything.

With nothing else to fill the time, I started absentmindedly picking through the guy's quarter boxes...and instantly found two cards I've been wanting for ages: a nifty minor league Mark Grace (the first of its kind in my 400+-card Grace collection) and a minor league Jeff Bagwell, the latter a treasured semi-zero year card(!) given he never played for the Red Sox.

Vendor of the Day honors, however, might well have to go to a guy I'd never seen at this show before: his selection was so great that I made two separate trips to his table, in fact (once by myself, once with Jeff).

His cheap boxes were a quarter each or 100/$20 -- I had absolutely no problem getting to that threshold, helped in large part by the brick of Topps Tiffany singles I found (which just about quadruples the number of Tiffany cards I'd owned prior to this show).

The guy had a good half-dozen cheap boxes display, and every single one of them was Oddballs Galore.

Better yet, he had some of my very favorite oddballs ever with stuff like Baseball Card Magazine (aka Heritage before Heritage) and SI for Kids singles (and yes, I'm counting that Scottie Pippen as a baseball card, and you can't stop me).

Also among the 100/$20 goodies were oddballs of yesteryear as well, including St. Louis Brown floating heads and that Don Larsen, courtesy of SkinBracer aftershave (wow!).

All I'll say about these (from that same vendor) is TCMA RULES!

This show isn't really vintage-heavy, but depending on when you go and what vendors set up on any given day, you might fall into pockets of of older stuff.

Apparently I picked a good afternoon to go (thanks again, Mookie!), because there was quite a bit of vintage on display -- including this '76 Robin Yount off my "Keep Dreaming" list, which I believe now means that I own all Yount's Topps cards.

These two and the '76 Yount came from a $5 each or 3/$10 box, and I didn't even notice the 3/$10 part until the vendor told me to pick out another one when I was about to hand him just the Yount and '68 Carlton seen above.

Good thing he did, because I somehow missed the '70 Seaver sitting in that very same box the first time around -- not bad for free!

Another vintage guy had a few pages of '51 Topps Red Backs which were $3 each or 2/$5 (combo deals were apparently in vogue yesterday).

The Valo is superb, but it turns out I had the Kiner already (my memory isn't what it used to be) -- still, that one's actually an upgrade over the copy I'd already owned, believe it or not.

More random vintage gets, including a pair of Nu-Scoops singles, a set which my brain is subconsciously trying to get me to build (dammit, brain, I'm not a set-builder!).

Another reason I enjoy smaller shows like this one is that vendors are more apt to cut deals -- that '71 Alomar (a high-number short-print, aka the Vintage Kiss of Death) was originally priced at $4 but the vendor basically gave it to me for a buck.

As if those 100/$20 boxes weren't good enough, that same vendor also had a whole helluva a lot of vintage on display as well, including an absolutely loaded $2 box which I have to thank for this terrific quartet.

The same guy also had some dollar binders/boxes out, much of them lined with vintage and even some of the oddball variety, like these two Post stars.

Somehow these ended up in the dollar box as well(!!!).

The guy's table was basically organized by price -- everything at the far end of the table was a dollar, then went up incrementally from there up to around $15-20 being the most expensive if I remember right (the 100/$20 boxes were separate from the rest of his stuff).

Only one of the cards I bought from him cost more than two dollars, but it was a doozy -- this '66 Jim Palmer from the $10 box takes care of another big "Keep Dreaming" want, along with granting me the rare thrill of adding a HOF rookie to my collection.

Finally comes what was my most expensive purchase of the day and yet another "Keep Dreaming" want -- I shelled out a whopping $12 for this '62 Topps Curt Flood, a dreaded vintage high-number (#590).

It came from a vendor who I always see at this show, and whose inventory mostly consists of higher-grade vintage far out of my price range. But in the end, I decided to bite the bullet and pay a bit more than I'd usually do for this one (though I got the aforementioned Puckett rookie as basically a throw-in to the deal), which completes my 1958-71 run of Flood's Topps cards and is in rather fine shape, though I don't usually care about that kind of thing.

I'm still having trouble believing that three cards paid for an entire afternoon at yesterday's card show -- while I try to grapple with the insanity of that, please join me in thanking Mookie Betts for a wonderful day at the card show, won't you?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Short Term Stops: The All-Zero Year Team

Here's a post I've been looking forward to writing for a while: The Short Term Stops All-Zero Year Team!

I've talked about zero-year cards since the early days of this blog. And for those of you who haven't been around that long and/or might need a refresher on what the heck this zero-year thing is, it's really quite simple: a zero-year card is a card of a player featured on a team he never actually played for.

For the purposes of this post, I've decided to omit all "novelty" zero-year stints from this roster -- while they're cool and noteworthy, the likes of Michael Jordan and Ricky Williams and Eleanor Engle (among others) won't appear here since they never actually played a big-league game with any franchise.

So without further ado, here it they are: The Zero-Year All-Stars, legends of the uniforms they never wore.


1986 JD McCarthy #21 Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts (Signed by Yankees, 1962 -- released, 1962)

One reason I love zero-year cards so much is that they're cardboard antithesis of the old saying -- they're proof that if a tree falls in the forest, it does indeed make a sound.

As is the case with Robin Roberts's non-tenure with the 1962 Yankees. Many baseball fans thought Roberts was done after a woeful season with the Phillies the year prior which saw him post a 1-10 record to go along with a 5.85 ERA. Hoping the future HOFer had something left in the tank, the Yankees purchased Roberts from the Phils following the '61 campaign.

Roberts did indeed have a few good years left in him -- but the Yankees would never find that out: they released him in May of '62 before he ever play in the Bronx, which, of course, makes this bizarre oddball of Roberts in the Yankee pinstripes a coveted zero-year card.

1992 Bowman #11 Trevor Hoffman RC

Trevor Hoffman (Drafted by Reds, 1989 -- selected in expansion draft, 1993)

Trevor Hoffman is going to be a Hall of Fame closer one day, but oddly enough, his career began as a shortstop with a team for whom he would never play.

The Reds took Hoffman -- then an infielder -- in the 1989 MLB Draft before converting him to a pitcher after a couple Mendoza Line seasons in the minors. In a shrewd move, the Marlins would pluck him from the Reds in the 1993 Expansion Draft before Hoffman ever got to Cincinnati (though the Marlins would, in turn, deal him to the Padres after just half a season in Florida).

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more chaotic beginning to a Hall of Fame career.

2008 Upper Deck #630 Mark Prior

Mark Prior (Signed by Padres, 2008 -- released, 2009)

Mark Prior's an interesting figure in my baseball life -- I long loathed him for never living up to his long-term promise as a Cub, but the sight of him in any other uniform kinda disturbs me.

Prior tried valiantly to come back from a series of arm injuries sustained during his Cub years: he spent time in the Padres, Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox, and Reds systems without ever making it back to the bigs, finally hanging up his cleats for good in 2013. This 2008 Upper Deck card is the only one to document any of those non-stints, however.

I didn't know until recently that Prior is now the Dodgers' bullpen coach -- but no, he doesn't look right in that uniform either.


1993 Mother's Cookies #23 Mike Scioscia

Mike Scioscia (Signed by Padres, 1993 -- released, 1993)

Like the aforementioned Robin Roberts, this Mother's Cookies gem (which I recently grabbed off COMC) is an extremely rare example of a zero-year oddball.

In what must've seemed close to blasphemy at the time, Mike Scioscia signed with the Padres in 1993 after having spent his entire career with the Dodgers up to that point. Unfortunately, Scioscia tore his rotator cuff in spring training that year and never did suit up for the Padres.

He'd retire after an aborted stint with the Rangers the following spring (I don't think any zero-year cards of that one exist), and while time will tell if Scioscia is better known as a player or manager in the years to come, I doubt anyone'll remember him as a Padre.

First Base

2010 Bowman Prospects #BP101 Anthony Rizzo RC

Anthony Rizzo (Drafted by Red Sox, 2007 -- traded, 2010) 

I've already talked about it quite a bit before on the blog, but Anthony Rizzo is one of my favorite guys to collect, partly because he does indeed have a zero-year card to his name.

Drafted by the Red Sox in 2007, Rizzo would never actually play for the franchise -- he was shipped to the Padres three seasons later in the blockbuster swap that sent Adrian Gonzalez back to Boston.

The Padres, of course, would deal him to the hometown Cubs a little more than a year after that, and we Chicagoans are eternally grateful for that.

Second Base

2005 Topps #626 Roberto Alomar

Roberto Alomar (Signed by Devil Rays, 2005 -- retired, 2005)

Here's an odd one: Roberto Alomar as a Devil Ray?

The fact that this card exists at all is puzzling: it was part of Topps Series 2 checklist in 2005, issued well after Robbie had retired following a failed shot with the Devil Rays in spring training that year.

All I know is that, as a zero-year fanatic, I'm glad it exists, even if I don't really know why it exists.


2000 Topps Traded #T46 Michael Young RC

Michael Young (Drafted by Blue Jays, 1997 -- traded, 2000)

Michael Young may go down as one of the most underrated players of my baseball youth, and his zero-year rookie card has long been a treasure in my collection.

In a deal that I'm sure the Blue Jays would like to have back, Young was traded to the Rangers for Esteban Loaiza in 2000. Loaiza was little more than mediocre with the Jays, while Young would go on to make seven All-Star teams and win a batting title in 13 seasons as a Ranger.

Further proof that zero-year stints are, in hindsight, often tinged with regret.

Third Base

2008 Topps Update #UH126 Morgan Ensberg

Morgan Ensberg (Signed by Indians, 2008 -- released, 2008)

Here's one of those fickle Guys I Collect For No Apparent Reason: Morgan Ensberg.

I honestly don't know why I collect Ensberg, but I do -- this is one of over 100 cards of his I own, and easily the most interesting, as Ensberg never did actually play for the '08 Indians: Cleveland signed him after he'd been released by the Yankees in midseason, and he'd toil in the minors for the Indians for the remainder of the year without being recalled.

Maybe one day I'll remember why I decided to start collecting Morgan Ensberg, but in the meantime, I'm content to sit back and enjoy this fascinating zero-year sunset card.


1994 Topps Archives #251 Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente (Signed by Dodgers, 1954 -- selected in Rule 5 Draft, 1954)

This has to be the greatest zero-year card ever -- I mean, it has to be, given that it's a zero-year of my all-time favorite ballplayer.

It sometimes gets lost to history that Roberto Clemente technically wasn't a career Pirate. He was actually signed by the Dodgers in 1954 and taken by the Pirates in that year's Rule 5 Draft after attempts by the Dodgers to hide him in their minor league system proved futile. The rest, as they say, is history.

While Topps never actually issued a card of Roberto Clemente in 1954, Topps created an excellent Cards That Never Were series devoted to lost '54 subjects in their '94 Topps Archives set, highlighted by this brilliant Clemente -- a man who, in addition to countless other accolades, is, for me, the Zero-Year King. 

1990 Pacific Legends #99 Lou Piniella

Lou Piniella (Selected by Pilots in expansion draft, 1968 -- traded, 1969)

And here's what is probably my second-favorite zero-year card -- Sweet Lou himself, a zero-year Seattle Pilot! 

After cups of coffee with the Orioles (1964) and Indians (1968), Piniella was selected by the doomed Pilots in the '68 expansion draft. After somehow not making the club out of spring training, Lou was dealt to the Royals (a fellow expansion team) just prior to the start of the '69 season, where he'd earn AL Rookie of the Year honors that same season.

Given the brevity and overall obscurity of it, I can't believe a card of Lou with the Pilots exists, but I thank the cardboard gods that it does every day.

1970 Topps #360 Curt Flood

Curt Flood (Traded to Phillies, 1969 -- traded following protest over reserve clause, 1970 

Quite the star-studded outfield here: after Clemente and Sweet Lou comes the most historic zero-year card ever printed.

After being dealt to the Phillies following the 1969 season, Curt Flood famously sat out the following year in protest of baseball's garish reserve clause, eventually taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court. Though Flood would lose the trial and retire after a short stop with the Senators in 1971, his martyrdom would pave the way for free agency just a half-decade later.

Sometimes lost to history is the fact that Flood received a zero-year card out of the deal in 1970 Topps, a hallowed piece of vintage history I'm forever proud to own.

Designated Hitter

2012 Topps #393 Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez (Signed by A's, 2012 -- released, 2012)

I remember pulling this card from a pack of 2012 Topps and praying that I'd one day be able to add it to my zero-year collection.

My wishes came true: after some hemming and hawing on whether or not to bring him up, Manny was released by the A's in June of 2012 after spending a couple months in the minors. Despite brief trials in Rangers and Cubs minor league systems, he'd never play another big league game.

And so the cardboard career of Manny Ramirez came to an end with a magnificent zero-year card.

And so, also, comes the end of this theme. This is the last Short Term Stops post I'd had planned, and while I may bring it back in regards to current Short Term Stop happenings now and then (Bartolo Colon as a Twin, etc.), I just don't think there's any more rosters left to create. So, for now, I bid my beloved Short Term Stops adieu.

As usual, thanks for tuning in -- I hope you had as much fun reading them as I had writing them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Cataloging crisis (again)

So here's some unfortunate news: as far as cataloging my card collection is concerned, I'm pretty much back to square one right now.

A few years ago, I wrote about my excitement over discovering a site called Zistle, which allowed me to comfortably and efficiently document all my various collecting projects (mainly my mini-collections). But once again, the internet proved the whole we-can-never-have-nice-things aphorism true: as people who use(d) Zistle know, the site was bought out by Beckett and basically left to die amid copyright issues.

For lack of a better term, this sucks ass. Like many, many others, I put a lot of time, effort, and enjoyment into getting my collection together via Zistle. Not to mention that it damn well came in handy: while I pride myself on having a fairly good memory in relation to my cards, Zistle helped me fix my brain's missteps by showing me my collection(s) right then and there with nothing more than a few clicks.

Recently I was reminded of how much I missed Zistle by my buddy Jeff of "2x3 Heroes" fame, who, a couple months ago, was flying through the airport and stopped by the bookstore to chat and drop off a few cards he had for me.

While it's a cool card and I was happy Jeff had an extra copy to spare, I was about 98 percent sure I had the 2008 Upper Deck X Paulie at the top of this post already.

When I got home later that night, I discovered I was wrong, and that I actually needed the aforementioned Konerko, though I hardly faulted myself: Konerko's 2009 Upper Deck X card (which I indeed already had) features almost the exact same image with the same throwback jersey on an eerily similar design (sometimes I think card companies do these kinds of things to us as some kind of sick game).

Had Zistle still been its usual lively self, none of this confusion and shock would've been necessary.

True, Zistle isn't technically dead: I could still go on there right now and add these two new throwbacks from Jeff to my collection page if I so desired.

But it hardly seems worth it at this point, seeing as how it appears inevitable that Zistle will be gutted and/or shut down sometime soon. That, and new sets aren't being uploaded, which means that anything added to my mini-collections from late 2017 and forward was, is, and forever will be painfully absent from my collection pages.

As far as I'm concerned, to continue using Zistle at this point would only lead to wasted time and eventual despair.

So comes the inevitable question: what now?

Zistle was the first time I'd ever undertaken the massive task of cataloging my collection (even if only a portion of it). And while I enjoy giving myself card projects to complete, I don't know that I have it in me to do it all over again, at least not with the same level of time and commitment I put toward Zistle.

And even if I did, how would I do it? I've experimented with the Trading Card Database a bit, but I don't find the site very navigable or friendly with what I have in mind for my own cataloging means.

I guess only time will tell.

I'll probably tinker with a few things in the coming days/weeks/months, especially now that I have a bit more extra time on my hands. I'm leaning towards just opening some sort of spreadsheet and see where that takes me (although you can count the number of times I've actually used a spreadsheet in my life on one hand).

For now, I'll have to rely on my own memory and shake my fist at the tyrant known as Beckett whenever I acquire new items for my various collections, including everything you've seen in this post from Jeff (especially Stadium Club base/parallels/whatnot, because wow is Stadium Club packed with mini-collection stuff).

All I can say is: RIP, Zistle -- I'll always have you to thank for getting me off my lazy, disorganized butt and showing me that, against all odds, cataloging my collection could actually be fun.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Oh hi Mark

For better or worse, I've blogged long enough to have seen a number of blogs come and go.

Sadly, some of those defunct blogs were ones I read regularly and ones which were run by blogging buddies of mine. The first of said blogs that come to mind is the dormant "Clubhouse Kaz," run by the immortal Mark, a longtime ally of Dime Boxedonia.

While his blog has been in a deep slumber, Mark has still been active within the blogging community, and I've been able to keep in touch with him via Twitter (one of the few things Twitter has going for it).

Case in point: Mark recently sent me a surprise mailer of cards (at just about the exact same time I'd sent him a surprise package, oddly enough) that contained a fantastic mix of cardboard, as is par for the course from Mark.

In addition to the excellent Al Kaline at the top of this post (anything from Topps Retired Signature gives me goosebumps) came these two -- a rare pitcher-in-a-rundown shot and a new Rizzo for the archives, which is always appreciated even from the ugliest brands.

A couple terrific insert randoms here with a '77 cloth sticker tribute and a man who was (I think) the nation's first Sox-fan POTUS.

Parallel mini-collection hits, and further proof that the A's really need to go back to those unis full-time.

Shooter and Addy (a new sitcom coming to ABC in this fall!).

Mark always manages to include at least one thing in every trade package that elicits an audible COOL! from me when I first set eyes on it.

This was the COOL! card this time around: a nifty League Leader single from 2000 UD Victory Japan, which goes well with the kind of unspoken pact I've had with myself to collect any and all Japanese cards I can get my hands on. I know Kaz Matsui well from his brief time in the US, but Takuro Ishii is a new name to me (apparently he was a perennial .300 hitter who had a 24-year career in Japan).

While his blog might not be around these days, Mark himself is still a trading aficionado, and I can't say enough about how thankful I am to still know he's there in the periphery of this great blogosphere.