Friday, May 17, 2019

A victim of advertising


I like to think I'm smart enough not to fall victim to the world of advertising.

But every so often a situation comes up and shows me that I'm just as prone as everyone else. Case in point: you may have heard that a snack brand called Utz is putting baseball cards in their products this year. Now, I don't know about you, but I'd never heard of Utz before all this. Though the Utz stuff at my Target didn't have cards inside, I decided to sample a bag of their Sour Cream & Onion chips a couple months ago.

And I liked them so much that I now buy Utz, and only Utz, whenever I get a craving for potato chips...congrats Utz, you win.




I was just at my local Target yesterday and they still didn't have any of the baseball-card bags of Utz: thankfully, though, I seem to have an Utz source here in the blogosphere with immortal reader and longtime friend of the blog Mark Hoyle.

He sent me a PWE right around the time I first heard of the whole Utz promotion with not one, but two Cubs Utzes with Contreras and Quintana here -- and I didn't have to spend a single cent!




In a tale of good timing, I received two more Cubs Utzes from Mark in the mail yesterday, just as I was starting to prepare this post.

I'm not sure how large the Utz checklist is, but I certainly wasn't expecting a relatively obscure dude like David Bote to be included (though I'm sure glad he is!).




Mark also sent me this enormous jewel that I'm way overdue in acknowledging -- a 1970 Topps Poster of none other than Ron Santo!

I'm not usually a fan of oversized pieces, but I think we can all agree and say this is unequivocally fantastic.




I often wonder how susceptible I am towards advertising (what little there is these days, at least) with baseball cards.

I always tell myself that I don't have to run to Target whenever there's a new set out, that whatever I need will be available for loose change soon enough. But more often than not, I end up scouring the card aisles at Target -- the reason I was there checking the Utz bags at all yesterday was to see if Big League came in (it did!).

Even sets I'm so-so about, like A&G, typically produce a Target run -- these 2018 A&Gs sent to me by my buddy Robert of "$30 A Week Habit" fame and were much needed since I didn't pull them from any of the overpriced packs of A&G I opened last year.




A&G's baseball-themed inserts are fun to receive even if they do typically feature the same handful of guys over and over again.




I don't know if my chase for A&G's non-baseball insert sets can be called "set building," in that I'm currently getting them at a rate of about one or two a year.

These two excellent "Indigenous Heroes" from Robert doubled the number of these I'd previously owned (only 21 more to go!).




In my head, I fancy myself collecting (and living life, I guess) in a very anti-advertisement way -- when the Baseball Card Mafia says: go high end, buy 874 mega boxes of Bowman, and get everything slabbed, I say: give me base cards, give me $3 rack packs of Opening Day, give me the off-center, the creased, the loved.

It's a rare treat to receive killer vintage in the mail, but that's exactly what we have here with this '59 All-Star Luis Aparicio I unexpectedly received from the perennially insane blog legend known as JBF a whole back. It's in better shape than about 98 percent of the other '50s Topps I own. I have so much battered vintage that receiving a good-conditioned one seems like an oddity. I'm proud of that. When the industry says Chase Mantle, I say Give Me Aparicio!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a sudden craving for the bag of Utz sitting in my cabinet right now.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Into the Sunset: The NL Central Team


It should come as no surprise that the NL Central is my favorite division in baseball.

This is obviously due to my lifelong Cubs fandom, but I've probably watched the other teams in their division more than any other (besides the White Sox) due to the sheer amount of times they play the Cubs. It's a competitive division with real rivalries. And while it's blasphemous to some to say, I actually consider myself a fan of the other NL Central squads...just not when they're facing the Cubs.

And as immortal as this evening's roster turned out to be, it's hard not to be a fan of the NL Central's Sunset Team, I would think.



Pitchers

1975 Topps #150 Bob Gibson

Bob Gibson (Years Active: 1959-1975) -- 1975 Cardinals, 22 games, 3-10, 5.04 ERA (sunset season)

It's a bit jarring when heroes of one decade wind up closing things out in a completely different era.

When I think of Bob Gibson, I think of him striking out the world and making all those classic '60s Topps designs look even better. I sure don't think of him as someone who made it into the colorful '75 Topps checklist, but that's where you'll find his sunset card. It wasn't a glorious exit for Bob -- his 3-10 record and 5.04 ERA were easily his worst marks since his cupacoffee rookie days in the late '50s.

Like so many other sunset inductees, the otherworldly Bob Gibson was rendered a mere mortal in his final years.



1984 Donruss #189 Fergie Jenkins

Fergie Jenkins (1965-1983) -- 1983 Cubs, 33 games, 6-9, 4.30 ERA

Fergie Jenkins was lucky enough to receive a few true sunset cards (with career stats on the back!), and even luckier was the fact that they came in 1984, perhaps the best all-around year for cardboard in my book.

I'm particularly fond of Fergie's finale from '84 Donruss. Though his sunset numbers don't wow you, I've always liked that he came back to Chicago for the final couple years of his career.

Fergie just never looked right in any other uniform -- he's always a Cub to me.



1986 Fleer #486 Rollie Fingers

Rollie Fingers (1968-1985) -- 1985 Brewers, 47 games, 1-6, 5.04 ERA

Rollie's numbers may have suffered in his sunset season, but that trademark 'stache sure didn't.



Catcher

1984 Fleer #462 Johnny Bench

Johnny Bench (1967-1983) -- 1983 Reds, 110 games, .255 AVG, 12 HR, 54 RBI

Here's a fine example of another reason I love sunset cards: weird positions!

Johnny Bench is a catcher on this roster because he's Johnny Bench, dammit. Yet, on one of my all-time favorite sunset cards, '84 Fleer listed him at First Base/Third Base. It's actually a fair designation: Bench only caught five of the 110 games he played in his '83 swan song (as opposed to 42 games at third base and 32 at first).

I've tried not to include a ton of Short Term Stops on these sunset rosters, but thanks to dudes like Johnny Bench playing first and third base, that doesn't mean the weirdness has to end!



First Base

1983 Donruss #610 Willie Stargell

Willie Stargell (1962-1982) -- 1982 Pirates, 74 games, .233 AVG, 3 HR, 17 RBI

Only now am I starting to realize just how many legends said goodbye to the game in the early '80s.

Many of them, like Bench and Willie Stargell here, were one-team heroes as well. Stargell played his entire 21-year-career with the Pirates, winding it up in '82 and receiving true sunset cards from Donruss and Fleer (but not Topps, oddly) in '83. Though he's showing a gut in this Fleer shot, I've always liked the card, even if the final-season numbers on the back aren't really Pops-like.

It's a good reminder that baseball's greats often aren't the larger-than-life ballplayers we remember them to be in their sunset years -- most of them usually have visible bellies by the end of it all.



Second Base

1998 Pacific #256 Ryne Sandberg

Ryne Sandberg (1981-1997) -- 1997 Cubs, 135 games, .264 AVG, 12 HR, 64 RBI

I only recently started collecting Ryne Sandberg for some reason, so my sunset collection of him isn't complete.

I do, however, have this fine Pacific finale of Ryno -- I find it strange that Pacific, of all brands, gave Sandberg a true sunset card, but Topps didn't. Oh well. Though not technically a career Cub (he appeared in 13 games as a rookie with the Phillies in '81), I usually consider him to be one by default. You could also argue that he has two different sunset years, as he retired from baseball in 1995, only to be lured back for a couple final seasons in 1996 & '97.

Ryno's (official) sunset season didn't light the world on fire, but it was far from the squeak a lot of former legends put up in their final years.



Shortstop

1971 Topps #525 Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks (1953-1971) -- 1971 Cubs, 39 games, .193 AVG, 3 HR, 6 RBI

He never lost that trademark smile.



Third Base

2015 Topps Update #US344 Aramis Ramirez

Aramis Ramirez (1998-2015) -- 2015 Brewers & Pirates, 137 games, .246 AVG, 17 HR, 75 RBI

Aramis Ramirez is the only non-HOFer on this roster, which should give you an idea of how stacked it is (and how hard it was to put together).

But that's not selling Ramirez short -- he's definitely in the Hall of Very Good, and he's one of those guys who I think people forget (or never realized) how good he was. Despite only making three All-Star Games in 18 seasons, he wound up hitting 386 career homers and regularly posted slash lines hovering around the .300/.400/.500 mark. He was the anchor of the great Cubs squads of the mid-2000s.

And I spent pretty much my whole life watching him: between the Pirates, Cubs, Brewers, and Pirates (again), Ramirez spent his entire career in the NL Central.



Outfield

1963 Topps #250 Stan Musial

Stan Musial (1941-1963) -- 1963 Cardinals, 124 games, .255 AVG, 12 HR, 58 RBI

My sunset collection got a whole lot better when Dad got me this '63 Musial as a birthday gift a couple years ago -- formerly a longtime dream card of mine.

Musial is kinda like the Bob Gibsons of the sunset universe, in that his finale seems way out of place for the era in which he's best remembered. I mean, Musial began his career when Topps was barely a glimmer in anyone's eye, and the guy fought in WWII -- but his career reached all the way into 1963, which seems like centuries removed from his glory days.

Maybe that's why his sunset card speaks to me so much.



1973 Topps #50 Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente (1955-1972) -- 1972 Pirates, 102 games, .312 AVG, 10 HR, 60 RBI

I've said it before but I'll say it again: Roberto Clemente is my all-time favorite baseball player, and this is my all-time favorite baseball card.



1994 Stadium Club #1 Robin Yount

Robin Yount (1974-1993) -- 1993 Brewers, 127 games, .258 AVG, 8 HR, 51 RBI

With Musial and Clemente before him, Robin Yount rounds out this mighty fine outfield of single-team legends.

Unlike the weird designations on the farewells of guys like Bench and Banks, Yount is the rare guy who could pretty easily occupy either of two positions on this roster -- he was a superb shortstop and outfielder in his day, but he's an outfielder in my binders because I own more cards of him that list him as such.

Plus I couldn't resist the opportunity to have a Musial-Clemente-Yount outfield.



Designated Hitter(?)

1976 Topps #550 Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron (1954-1976) -- 1976 Brewers, 85 games, .229 AVG, 10 HR, 35 RBI

Obviously, any other NL squad wouldn't have a DH on its roster.

But the NL Central is a bit different because the Brewers were in the AL up until 1998. Since they moved to the Senior Circuit right around the time I started watching baseball, I've always considered them to be strictly an NL team, but people of the generation before me understandably seem to think differently.

And so we have a DH on this roster, and what a DH it is: Hank Aaron (in)famously wound up his career as a Brewer, posting very non-Aaronian numbers during his final two seasons in Milwaukee, though that didn't stop him from earning a prime spot on this prestigious club.

That's it for this sunset squad -- as always, thanks for tuning in!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 56: Numbers 496-504


Frankenset Page #40 WINNER -- 1964 Topps #353 Wally Moon (13 votes)

'Twas a bit of a beatdown last week, unsurprisingly.

Wally Moon's Unibrow crushed the competition last week, collecting 13 of the 30 total votes en route to an easy victory. I suppose I've tried to avoid putting too many Moon cards in the frankenset, but fact is basically all of his cards are eligible thanks to that magnificent unibrow. Just so happened that '64 Topps gave us one of our greatest glimpses of it.

And thus the Unibrow earns its rightful place in the Second Gallery of Frankenset Champions.




Much thanks to everyone who voted on the last page considering I went the whole week without posting anything else on the blog (my bad).

I'll do my best to change that, but here's a new page in the meantime -- as per the Random Number Generator, Page 56 (#s 496-504) is up for grabs this week.



1991 Topps #496 Marty Barrett

Turning two on one of my very favorite Topps designs.



1994 Collector's Choice #497 Jay Bell

A cameo from The Wizard on this kinda violent double dip.



1998 Fleer Tradition #498 Gregg Olson

Slide, Olson, slide! 



2017 Topps #499 Danny Valencia

I can't help but hear "Y-M-C-A" whenever I look at this card. 



1994 Score #500 Chris Turner

Hero number play at the plate! 



1996 Fleer #501 Kevin Jordan

Double dipping on a relatively forgotten Fleer design. 



1989 Fleer #502 Steve Lyons

What a psycho. 



2002 Upper Deck #503 Tom Shearn

One hand, three balls (hehehehe). 



1993 Upper Deck #504 Brent Gates

The fourth double dip of the page, which I think might be some kind of record.

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 40: Numbers 352-360


Frankenset Page #4 WINNER -- 1973 Topps #32 Fred Norman (10 votes)

Last week's page featured a bunch of great cards, but my personal favorite won the page.

The mustard uniforms, weird action shot, and empty seats were enough to give Fred Norman the crown, taking 10 of the 33 total votes for the victory. Brian Daubach (8 votes) and Derrick May (7 votes) were the next closest, but Norman pretty much led from start to finish.

We've only covered about 40 pages from the Second Frankenset thus far, but the Norman is already the sixth card from '73 Topps in the Gallery of Frankenset Champions -- which I guess isn't so surprising given the photographic excellence of '73 Topps.




Nothing from '73 Topps this time around, but we do have another solid page of nine up on the ballot tonight.

As per the Random Number Generator, we'll be taking a look at Page 40 (#s 352-360) from the frankenset this week -- let's see who we're dealing with.



1994 Stadium Club #352 Rod Correia

One can only hope Kevin Seitzer didn't get beaned on this double dip. 



 1964 Topps #353 Wally Moon

The Unibrow strikes again!



1992 Upper Deck #354 Ryan Bowen

Hitchin' a ride.



1974 Topps #355 Dave Nelson

Serenity in the on-deck circle.



1993 Select #356 Sean Lowe

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...a dude with a 4.95 career ERA. 



1996 Upper Deck #357 Brett Butler

Signing for the Dodger faithful.



1993 Upper Deck #358 Jimmy Key

Pregame sights and sounds. 



2014 Topps #359 Sean Rodriguez

A rare moment of greatness from 2014 Topps.



1980 Topps #360 Darrell Porter

Long live Darrell Porter (and his awesome specs)!

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Eh


I might as well give the plot line away right now: this post is the story of how I got a box of 1970 OPC for the price of a blaster.

A while back, I received an email from a blog reader named Wes W. (no, not that Wes) who's been insanely generous with me in the past. Apparently he stumbled upon a large lot of '70s cards at an estate sale in his neck of the woods.

Only later did he check the backs...




...and discover that he'd just purchased a lot of several hundred 1970 OPCs!

For whatever reason, Wes thought of me (sometimes it helps to be "The Guy Who Collects Weird Stuff" around the blogs) and offered me everything he didn't need for $20, mainly to cover the price of shipping. Hmm, a blaster of Gypsy Queen or a box of vintage OPC?

OPC, PLEASE.




A few short days later, the box was on my doorstep -- and whoa was it a lot of fun to go through.

I've said this many times before, but it bears repeating: I LOVE OPC. But ones of the vintage variety aren't always easy to come across. I think I owned a whopping three 1970 OPCs before this -- I ended up keeping at least ten or twenty times that from Wes's find alone.

And when I profit, the rest of you do as well: some of my recent trade buddies might've noticed a few OPCs in packages I've sent out lately, and yes, this is where those came from.




At this point in my collecting life, I own most of the basic '70s Topps cards of dudes I collect -- I really only need a handful of bigger names and/or high numbers now.

But coming into this box these allowed me to relive the joy of getting those vintage commons I've had for years all over again, only this time in OPC form.




A couple of the set's more memorable cards of the OPC variety.




Even the "inserts" have French on the back!

(Also, I'm just now learning that the French word for "game" is partie, and I think that's awesome.)




OPC Senators!




OPC PILOTS!

I didn't even put it together when Wes emailed me that this lot was likely to have a large amount of Pilots in there. I'm down to the last four or five cards in my once-laughable quest of owning all the 1969-70 Topps Pilots. But never once did I think to go after the OPCs.

These brought my Pilots collection up to 129 different cards, which I think is a good number for a franchise that lasted all of a single season.




Ah, but there were some HOFers in this OPC blaster too, lest you think it was all commons and fan favorites.




And let's not forget the OPC version of the most historic zero-year card ever made!




I have a hard time explaining why I love OPCs so much other than by saying: BECAUSE IT'S OPC!

They're the same as the standard Topps cards except they were made in Canada and have French on the back. Non-collectors might say "So what?" And they'd be partially right: it doesn't explain my enjoyment because I've never been to Canada and I have zero desire to learn French. But there's something about the lighter backs, that PRINTED IN CANADA copyright, and phrases like Curt est un artiste accompli! that make OPCs a rare goldmine of fun.

So, in short, if any of you stumble upon more '70s OPC at an estate sale this summer, well...you know where to find me.