Friday, October 24, 2014

The garage sale gods strike again


I used to think garage sales were all baby clothes and self-help books.

Maybe most of them are. Yet, for whatever reason, I'm lucky enough to live in one of the only halfway decent garage sale pockets in the nation.

Some of you may remember the impressive pit of cardboard I stumbled upon in some guy's garage a few weeks ago. This morning, my mom discovered that the very same seller was advertising yet another sale on Craigslist this weekend.

It was almost a reflex to hop in the car and take the ten minute drive over to the guy's house. Some of the best days for new baseball cards are the days when you're not expecting to find any at all.

The guy remembered me from the last time around and I was glad to see that he had some new cardboard available. Still, a good chunk was the same stuff I'd picked through a few weeks ago.

The deal wasn't as staggering as the last time, but, then again, I doubt anything could be. I ended up with around 60 cards for 12 bucks, about 20 cents per.

The guy had a friend lurking around who claimed that this 2014 Donruss Yasiel Puig was going for something like five bucks on Ebay. I basically paid two dollars for this card alone, only to arrive home and find that what the guy was saying was complete BS.

It's still a nice addition to my growing Puig collection and I'm glad to have it, but I always feel a little queasy when I overpay for a card.




That aside, my latest garage sale dig was a blast.

As I noted the last time, the guy who I bought all these from is a more high-end collector. He was quick to show me his latest mojo hits, namely a Kobe Bryant autograph and some kind of Larry Bird/Magic Johnson thingamajig.

He even had a '65 Topps Roberto Clemente lying around as if to torture me. If I were to make an ultimate top-ten want list, that one would be on it. Unfortunately, the $60 price tag didn't match up with the three five-dollar bills in my wallet.

Maybe next time.

It's funny to observe the reactions of high-enders when they see the type of cards I buy. These are pretty much your run-of-the-mill base and low-end inserts. The guy tossed them aside like he was allergic when he was totaling everything up.

More for me.




I found myself wondering just how much Donruss this guy bought as I was digging through his cards.

The bulk of my purchase the last time around was mostly Donruss, and he had a whole bunch of new ones out this afternoon. Like most people I've heard from, the guy thought this set was a massive disappointment.

Aside from the colorful "No-Nos" series, I wouldn't say I particularly like any of these insert designs. But they're hard to pass up at bargain-basement prices.

I get the feeling I'll be finding tons more of these in discount bins soon enough.




This one was in a little box of randoms the guy had strewn across his table.

I'm making a more concerted effort to collect Hideo Nomo, so I couldn't let it go. Numbered out of 999 copies, it's from one of those early 2000's Leaf Limited sets. Which, as I found, don't scan very well.

I think it was priced at a buck.




Great shots of double plays and pitchers covering first from 2006 Topps.

These high-end people don't know what they're missing.




I don't know if Gold Label gets enough credit.

I have a hard time finding these things anywhere. Topps brought the brand back this year, but, of course, they made it into some impossible-to-find insert series. I still haven't seen one in-person.

Me, I'll just bask in the glory of Gold Label's heyday.

Back when people were drooling over Jack Cust and Sean Burroughs.




I think the reason my stack cost a little more this time around was because I bought more of the guy's penny-sleeve-and-toploader cards.

From what I've seen, that's basically a red flag to most high-end collectors that says THIS CARD IS WORTH SOMETHING!!! (And yet I still find unsleeved Bryce Harper rookies in dime boxes.)

Not a lot of them were priced, but I'm betting they contributed to the bulk of the twelve-dollar total.

I've been on the fence as to whether or not I actually collect Bo Jackson lately, but I guess I'm finally taking the plunge.

Buying this nifty '89 mini finally convinced me that, yes, I collect Bo Jackson now.




My eyes are trained to scope out even the most well-hidden baseball cards.

I found this one innocently tucked next to a couple piles of football and basketball singles. I don't know that a lot of other people would've even noticed it, but I did.

A life of discount bin hunting will do that to you.




Unlike the previous Donruss inserts I featured, these were in sleeves and toploaders and priced at a buck a piece.

Those "Hall Worthy" inserts are actually pretty darn ugly, but I only have one other card of Tim Hudson as a Giant.

Into the pile it went.




I had to rub my eyes to make sure I was seeing this right.

Is that actually a NICE card from Prizm?

Guess the brand isn't a total waste. It came out kind of bluish in the scan, but this is one of the purple parallels, numbered to just 99 copies. I plopped down a buck for this one of Freddie Freeman, one of my newest player collection inductees.

Up to this point, I don't know that I exactly got much of a bang for my twelve bucks. I needed every single card I've shown thus far, and some of them are rather nice. But for twelve bucks? I don't know. A decent deal, but not eye-popping...

Any inhibitions I had were put to rest by the last card I bought this afternoon.




My eyes lit up when they saw Jackie here.

The guy told me he'd bought a mini-box of Stadium Club and wasn't a fan. After that, I was secretly hoping that he'd have a few singles mixed in with his selection. And he did.

Most of the others were priced higher than I was willing to pay, but I think I forked over two bucks for this one. Coincidentally, this was this first card I saw while trying to get a glimpse of the (then) new Stadium Club release a few weeks ago.

Love at first sight.

As I was driving home, I racked my brain to try and figure out what I did to get on the good side of the garage sale gods. Nothing came to mind as I admired Jackie at the stoplight.

Your guess is as good as mine.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The 1995 Fleer award show


When I first started this blog, I didn't have the slightest inkling that my love for 1995 Fleer would become anything more than a passing thought.

I wrote about it one evening a couple years ago, back when I was still getting my blogging feet wet. The post turned out to get a lot of views and comments and was one of the most well-received write-ups I'd done up to that point. (Still is, actually.)

These days, I enjoy waxing poetic about 1995 Fleer just for the reactions I get. It's basically either "EW, 1995 FLEER!!! GET IT AWAY!!!!!!!! ASPIRIN!!!!!" or "YAY, 1995 FLEER!!!! BEST SET EVER!!!!!!"

There really isn't a lot of middle ground.

Anyone who read my post about the unopened '95 Fleer pack I received from the Junior Junkie probably saw the fun I had opening it. I know my dad did, at least.

Unbeknownst to me, and without any kind of nudge, my dad went searching for an unopened box of 1995 Fleer on Ebay a few weeks ago. Box, as in 36 packs. As in 12 cards per. As in 436 total cards from 1995 Fleer.

And, doggone it, my dad found one. He surprised me with it before our trip to the flea market a couple weeks ago, saying it cost about 14 bucks and change, shipped. That's well under 50 cents per pack. I knew it was the real deal once I saw Raul Mondesi on the cover.

Only a '90s set would have anything like that.




What I found inside was pure bliss.

I hadn't opened a box of baseball cards in over a year before this, and I honestly couldn't think of a better set to break the drought.

I wanted to keep the fun going for as long as possible, so I actually broke from my usual box-busting ways and resisted opening all the packs in one sitting. I was able to make the 36 packs last for a little over a day before temptation got the better of me. The final 10 packs or so were opened all at once.

With the amount of writing I've done on '95 Fleer in the past, I was left wondering what else I could say about the wacky set. That's about when I came up with the idea of an "award show" dedicated to anything and everything 1995 Fleer. Applause from some, jeers from others.

If you'll indulge me, I'll be running through a list of random, quirky, and (hopefully) funny categories all devoted to '95 Fleer, the most demented set ever released.

Roll out the neon red carpet.




Most psychedelic design -- NL EAST

We begin with the hallmark of this set.

If you're not familiar with 1995 Fleer, each division received its own wacky design within the checklist. All the AL Central cards have the same template, as do the NL Central, and so on.

The craziest of the six designs, if you ask me, comes from the NL East. They're the perfect example of why I've come to call 1995 Fleer "The LSD Set".

The sheer amount of blue on this particular card has me worried that Roberto Kelly is drowning.




Most tame design -- AL EAST

This is what qualifies as tame for 1995 Fleer.

A card like this would stick out like a sore thumb in any other set, yet it's about the closest you'll see to normalcy in this post. The fact that "Donnie Baseball" here is a reverse-negative makes this specific card even kookier.

Mattingly, of course, was a lefty, and you can clearly see the flipped Yankee logo on his jersey.




Best uniform/design combo -- SEATTLE MARINERS

Something about that very '90s shade of teal works perfectly with this blobbish design.




Defunct '90s uniforms I'd most like to forget -- MILWAUKEE BREWERS

God, those things were horrendous.

Milwaukee's current jerseys aren't exactly a treat, but I'd take them a hundred times out of a hundred over these pajama bottoms.




Best use of irony -- 1995 FLEER WRAPPERS

I came very close to not catching this at all, but take a deep look at the words underneath the MLB logos on the back of this wrapper.

Do cards, not drugs.

Part of me hopes that the people at Fleer recognized the irony.




Biggest lesson learned about 1995 Fleer boxes -- YOUR COLLATION SUCKS, FLEER

Seeing as how 1995 Fleer is a 600-card set, I probably shouldn't have gotten many doubles (if any) in my 426-card box.

Not so. The only real downside to this awesome box was the crappy collation. I received doubles and triples of a healthy amount of cards.

I pulled this Mike Piazza/Pudge Rodriguez (on the flip side) insert, I repeat, insert four different times. These come one per pack, and I received the same one in four of them.

Fail.




Best action shot -- Ruben Sierra

With such a crazy design, it's easy to pass up the actual photos themselves in this checklist.

Truth be told, there aren't a lot of memorable ones. It's not an image-based checklist, which is fine for something of this nature.

But I'm a big fan of anything that features a leg kick like that.




Best Eck-Face -- ECK

Who else?




Best specs -- CHUCK McELROY, CHRIS SABO, BOB HAMELIN (tie)

I couldn't decide, so the award goes to all three.




Whitest kicks -- JEFF BAGWELL

Because that's what this LSD technology does to shoes.




Best back -- BRENT MAYNE

Again, given the insane fronts, the backs aren't necessarily a major point of concern.

But I felt they deserved a mention nonetheless. The backs are important parts of baseball cards, people.

I couldn't find many stand-out flip sides, so I gave the award to Brent Mayne purely for the shades.




Most obscure namesake for current MLB star -- JOSE BAUTISTA

You might know Jose Bautista as the perennial All-Star outfielder with the Blue Jays.

What might interest you, however, is the fact that there was a different guy named Jose Bautista (a pitcher) in the bigs a couple decades ago. This Jose Bautista posted a mediocre 4.62 ERA in nine big league seasons, ending his career with the Cardinals in 1997.

The more you know.




Most obscure relative of former MLB star -- TERRY McGRIFF

Did anyone else know Fred McGriff had a cousin who played in the majors?

I sure didn't.




Best sunsets -- GOOSE GOSSAGE, DAVE HENDERSON (tie)

Both Gossage and Henderson closed out their career in fairly unfamiliar uniforms.

"Goose" made 36 appearances for the 1994 Mariners, while Henderson played in 56 games for the '94 Royals. Both were out of baseball by the time the 1995 season finally came around.

These wacky designs certainly sent Gossage and Henderson out with a bang.




Cards most likely to give me nightmares -- KEN HILL, BOBBY MUNOZ (tie)

Fleer managed to make Bobby Munoz look a tad too devilish for my liking.

I wasn't sure what freaked me out so much about the Hill at first, but it hit me after about the third or fourth look. Those glowing eyes remind me of the famous Zoltar machine from one of my favorite movies, a scene that always used to scare me when I was younger for some reason.

Still scares me a bit now, to be honest.




The inserts in 1995 Fleer are actually pretty normal, all things considered.

Nice, normal pictures. No LSD-inspired designs. Solid work. A lot of the fun from this box came from seeing what inserts I'd pull with each passing pack.

While these are definitely neat...




Best inserts -- PRO-VISIONS

...these fit the 1995 Fleer mold way better than any of the others.

The "Pro-Visions" series is weird, wild, and spectacular.

Rocket ships flying off the barrel of Jeff Bagwell's bat. Cy Young Awards materializing out of a sea next to Greg Maddux. Manny Ramirez brandishing a tornado. Mike Mussina throwing literal fireballs. It's all there.

It's interesting to note that Fleer designed a similar insert series the year prior.

In hindsight, maybe that was a hint of what was to come in 1995 Fleer.




Best card of the box -- DEREK JETER "MAJOR LEAGUE PROSPECTS" INSERT

As great as everything else was, this ended up being the big WOW pull of the box.

It's among the first of the thousands of Jeter cards that would be produced during his illustrious career, for one thing. But what struck me most about this particular insert is the sheer awkwardness of seeing a #24 stitched across The Captain's back.

That famous #2 has pretty much become ingrained in my memory. Imagine how different things would've been had Jeter stuck with #24.

Makes you think.

Well, that about does it for this award show. Sorry, no lavish after-parties or anything like that. I'm sure there's some food in your refrigerator you can heat up or something. Maybe a tall glass of water to go along with the aspirin some of you are taking right now.

In the end, all I can do is honor the man who made this whole award show possible. My dad.

This box was an absolute blast to open, and it's all thanks to him.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Covering the Bases, Pt. 17: Top 10 Royals cards


In a couple hours, that field will host its first World Series contest in 29 years.

At this point in the season, I'd say a good 98 percent of baseball fans have become bandwagoners. I'm guilty of it. It's rare that I have any sort of real attachment to a team in the Fall Classic these days.

Although they've already knocked both my favorite (A's) and second-favorite (Angels) non-hometown teams out of the playoffs, I'm hitching my wagon to the Royals for this year's Series.

Unlike what seems like the majority of the baseball population, I don't have a vitriolic hatred for the Giants. Still, I'm all for cinderella stories, and the Royals are exactly that. So, although I'm always wrong come prediction time, I'm taking the Royals in 7.

In order to commemorate what I hope will be an exciting Fall Classic, I got it in my head the other day to borrow (okay, steal) another blogger's idea and put a little twist on it.

I wasn't around during the Royals' powerhouse era in the '70s and '80s. Frankly, I only know them as bottom dwellers, and that certainly doesn't seem like an appropriate theme for what is now a World Series-bound squad.

Instead, I went digging through my Kansas City binder today and picked out the ten best Royals cards ever made.

Please keep in mind that this list was based on absolutely no sane formula of any kind.




#10 -- 1982 Fleer #422 Dan Quisenberry

I first discovered this card on Night Owl's blog, which is appropriate since he was the inspiration for this very list.

Everything that is pure and good about early Fleer is summed up in this single, muscle-stretching shot.




#9 -- 1987 Topps #170 Bo Jackson RC

Behold, the champion of my first-ever "Gems of Junk Wax" tournament!

I can't say I was expecting it to win at the time, but I can certainly see why people think Bo is so special. The famous wood-grain borders and rainbow "Future Stars" banner make this the most memorable of Jackson's rookie cards, for my money.

Again, I wasn't around in 1987, but I can only imagine the waves this card created.




#8 -- 1971 Topps #118 Cookie Rojas

Aside from '56, 1971 was the first Topps set to make great use out of action shots.

If you've been collecting for any amount of time, I'm guessing there's a good chance you've seen this card by now. This "double dip" shot of Cookie Rojas is one of the first of its kind, and definitely one of the best to come out of '71 Topps.

One can only wonder whether the action shot would've ever become a thing without cards like this one.




#7 -- 2010 Topps "The Cards Your Mom Threw Out" #CMT-55 Alex Gordon

The back of this reprint kicks off with one of the best sentences in the history of baseball cards.

If your mom threw out this card, the first question is "How did you get it in the first place?"

Those who were in the hobby back in 2006 probably remembers the insanity that surrounded this rookie of then-prospect Alex Gordon.

Due to the new rookie card restrictions at the time, card companies weren't allowed to print anything of any player who wasn't on a team's 40-man roster. Gordon wasn't at the time, yet this card somehow slipped through the presses.

Topps soon tried to correct their mistake, but a few found their way into packs. That, of course, resulted in the card going for insane amounts of money. Some sold for thousands of dollars a piece.

To some, the whole thing may have seemed like an outright fiasco. And that it was. As it happens, however, the Gordon craziness was going on right when I was starting to get back into baseball cards. That will forever make it special in my eyes.

All in all, I'm glad that Alex Gordon eventually turned into a pretty darn good ballplayer.

To many, though, he'll always be That Guy With That One Card.



 

#6 -- 1981 Topps #473 Jose Cardenal

This is Jose Cardenal's only card as a Kansas City Royal.

I'm about as big of a Cardenal fan as you'll find, so that alone makes this one special piece of my collection.

If nothing else, though, it's proof that he kept the 'fro alive in the '80s.




#5 -- 1993 Donruss #261 Brent Mayne

It's one thing to get a shot a guy arguing with an umpire.

This is far beyond that. Something or someone upset Brent Mayne so much that he had to be physically restrained by one of the men in blue. And, better yet, Donruss thought it would be a good idea to print it on a baseball card.

Genius in every sense of the word.

Oh, and I wouldn't piss off Brent Mayne if I were you.




#4 -- 1984 Fleer #638 "The Pine Tar Incident" (George Brett/Gaylord Perry)

I probably don't have to tell you about The Pine Tar Game.

Though it eventually went down as one of the most famous (or infamous?) moments in baseball history, only Fleer had the gall to actually commemorate it with a baseball card.

That's pure mischief on the faces of those two Royal rascals there. A great goofy shot to honor what is undoubtedly one of baseball's goofiest moments.

It should be noted that Gaylord Perry is included here because he tried to hide Brett's bat from American League officials who tried to confiscate it. This is one of three cards Perry has in the '84 Fleer checklist, and, with the exception of this, the only ones to ever feature him as a Royal.

Not a bad way to go out.

Speaking of which...




#3 -- 1994 Topps #180 George Brett

...here's arguably the most well-made "sunset" card in history.

Topps sent George Brett out with an absolute bang in 1994. This is one of the cards that inspired me to branch outside the world of simple player collections and dig deeper into the photographical aspect of the hobby.

Though I've discovered a lot of great cardboard masterpieces since, I'm not sure anything tops this one.

I could stare at it for hours on end and still get lost in its pure beauty.




#2 -- 1976 SSPC #168 Harmon Killebrew

Between Brett and Killebrew, I'd argue that the Royals might actually have the two greatest "sunset" cards ever made.

The Brett, of course, is a favorite because of the image Topps used on it. If we're talking photography, this one isn't all that exciting.

No, what makes this one special is the fact that this is Harmon Killebrew's only card as a Royal. Topps passed on including "The Killer" in their '76 checklist, but the upstart SSPC was right on the ball.

Killebrew's .191 average in Kansas City makes his time as a Royal easy to forget, but I can't tell you how much I thank SSPC for commemorating it nonetheless.

It's the lone true "sunset" card for a man who deserved one.





#1a -- 1975 Topps #228 George Brett RC (dry)
#1b -- 1975 Topps #228 George Brett RC (washer-used)

This is the Royals card, as far as I'm concerned.

A '75 Topps rookie of George Brett, far and away the greatest player Kansas City has ever seen. 

While I eventually got my hands on a standard, well-conditioned copy of it, the "washer-used" Brett is the one that first won my heart. I found it in a 50-cent bin about a month before I started this very blog. 

It's probably popped up in my writings more than any other single card in my collection. It was even the basis for one of the first of what I hope will be a good-sized catalog of fiction writings I compose during my lifetime.

I've spent hours and hours appreciating the beauty of the downtrodden George Brett, and there's little doubt in my mind that he's one of the centerpieces of my collection.

It took a lot longer to create this list than I'd originally thought. I had a good-sized stack of a few dozen Royals when I started preparing, and it was insanely difficult to narrow down into a mere ten. (Okay, eleven.)

Guess that goes to show you.

Never underestimate the Kansas City Royals.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The dime box frankenset, Page 34: Numbers 298-306


Last week's frankenset voting was closer than I expected.

Win -- 1993 Upper Deck #294 Casey Candaele (7 votes)

Place -- 1994 Collector's Choice #290 Turk Wendell (6 votes)

Show -- 2012 Topps #295 Jayson Werth (4 votes)

The 26 total tallies were a bit of a drop from prior weeks, eight of the nine cards featured managed to get at least one vote. The classic Casey Candaele eked out a slim victory over the quirky Turk Wendell.

For the second straight week, I ended up voting for a card that didn't even come in the top three. I gave the singing Dwight Smith the nod (one of only two people to do so), but deep down I had a feeling the Candaele would win.

Maybe I'll finally agree with the masses this week.




Let's see if we can give those vote totals a slight bump with today's terrific page of frankenset nominees.

Here we go.



1996 Upper Deck #298 Jaime Navarro

Pitcher at the plate! 



1996 Stadium Club #299 Fernando Vina

Fernando Vina with the crushing forearm shiv.



1993 Upper Deck #300 Kyle Abbott

A rare cardboard cameo from the ball bucket.



1996 Collector's Choice #301 Mark Leiter

Another pitcher at the plate, this time with a more familiar bunting pose. 



1973 Topps #302 Terry Crowley

A very vintage play at the plate, complete with a bonus Thurman Munson appearance. 



1996 Upper Deck #303 Darren Lewis

O say, can you see... 



1994 Pinnacle #304 Pat Meares

Derp. 



 2013 Topps Update #US-305 Dylan Axelrod

A South Side throwback.



2014 Topps #206 Garrett Richards

Another sweet throwback from one of 2014's breakout pitchers closes out this week's page.

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!