Sunday, March 29, 2015

The dime box frankenset, Page 57: Numbers 505-513

As expected, last week's frankenset voting wasn't much of a contest.

Win -- 1985 Topps #497 Gary Pettis (22 votes)

Place -- 1995 Score #502 Geronimo Berroa (6 votes)

Show -- 1993 Upper Deck #500 Brent Gates CL (5 votes)

Gary Pettis and his Topps switcheroo took the crown by a landslide. His 22 votes were over half of the 41 total tallies we saw last week. He's only the second frankenset nominee to crack the 20-vote barrier.

The Pettis is one of my favorite cards in the entire frankenset, so I knew where my tally was going from day one. Although I will note that the Geronimo Berroa and his Oakland Oaks throwback would've gotten the nod from me on almost any other page.

Call it bad luck, I guess.

I don't know if there is a runaway favorite in this week's page, which should make the voting all the more exciting.

Let's meet the nine newest frankenset hopefuls.

1975 Topps #505 Chris Speier

The action shots in 1975 Topps don't often get the credit they deserve. 

1992 Score #506 Darren Daulton

This play at the plate feels very cramped to me. 

1992 Stadium Club #507 Jay Bell

One of the most expertly-cropped double dips you'll ever find. 

1993 Stadium Club #508 John Valentin

Double dipping with Stadium Club once again, this time from the 1993 edition. 

1988 Fleer #509 Tim Belcher

You need to wait until you get on base to wear that warmup jacket, Mr. Belcher.

1989 Fleer #510 Jerry Reuss

You can't hide it under your jersey either, Jerry.

1994 Topps #511 Devon White

That's the same look I get whenever I find a bunch of PWEs in the mail. 

1995 Collector's Choice #512 Pat Kelly

Turning two with Collector's Choice. 

1992 Upper Deck #513 Mike Morgan

This week's page closes with a pitcher who somehow found his way to second base.

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Franchise Flashbacks, all in one

Even though I wasn't all that excited by this year's Opening Day checklist, the Franchise Flashback inserts were a huge hit with me.

An all-throwback concept couple with a groovy design was enough for me to label it as the Insert Set of the Year. I stand by that statement, mainly because these Franchise Flashbacks got me to do something I've never done before. I went and bought the entire 20-card set on Ebay for a tick under seven bucks, shipped, which I thought was a heck of a steal. (That's 35 cents per.)

Because of how much I love them, I wanted to give each and every insert a share of the spotlight on this blog. I just wasn't sure how to do it. In the end, I decided that these are the types of cards that speak for themselves, ones that don't need a whole lot of commentary.

So, here tonight, for your viewing pleasure, I am ecstatic to present 2015 Opening Day's "Franchise Flashbacks" insert set in its entirety, starting with Mr. Freeman above.

Player: Freedie Freeman

Throwback Uniform: 1914 Boston Braves

Player: Anthony Rizzo

Throwback Uniform: 1914 Chicago Chi-Feds (Federal League)

Player: Adrian Beltre

Throwback Uniform: Early 1900s Fort Wayne Black Panthers (Negro Leagues)

Player: Alex Gordon

Throwback Uniform: Kansas City Monarchs (Negro Leagues -- no year given)

Player: Nick Castellanos

Throwback Uniform: Detroit Stars (Negro Leagues -- no year given)

Player: Julio Teheran

Throwback Uniform: Atlanta Black Crackers (Negro Leagues -- no year given)

Players: Gregor Blanco and Tim Lincecum

Throwback Uniform: 1946 San Francisco Sea Lions (Negro Leagues)

Player: Jose Altuve

Throwback Uniform: 1949-50 Houston Eagles (Negro Leagues)

Player: Manny Machado

Throwback Uniform: 1954 Baltimore Orioles

Player: Starlin Castro

Throwback Uniform: 1964 Chicago Cubs

Player: Chase Utley

Throwback Uniform: 1964 Philadelphia Phillies

Player: Craig Kimbrel

Throwback Uniform: 1974 Atlanta Braves

Player: George Springer

Throwback Uniform: 1979 Houston Astros

Player: Robinson Cano

Throwback Uniform: 1979 Seattle Mariners

Player: Danny Santana

Throwback Uniform: 1970s-80s Minnesota Twins

Players: Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy

Throwback Uniform: 1978-93 Milwaukee Brewers

Players: Jered Weaver and Mike Trout

Throwback Uniform: 1970s-80s California Angels


Favorite Card: Tim Lincecum, for the pillow over the stomach and the very Woody Allen-esque disguise.

Favorite Throwback Uniform: Chi-Feds all the way! (Close runners-up include the '64 Cubs and the Fort Worth Black Panthers duds. And I'd be remiss without mentioning the Technicolor Astros uniforms.)

Favorite Aspect of the Set (besides the uniforms themselves): Most cards have precise info on the back regarding the specific details of the throwbacks in question, which helped with obscure squads like the Houston Eagles and San Francisco Sea Lions.

What I Could Do Without: I don't know that repetition of a few teams' throwbacks (Giants/Sea Lions, Brewers, Angels) was necessary, but this is a pretty air-tight insert set otherwise.

Best Non-Lincecum Photo Choice: Gregor Blanco, because dugout shots are all but extinct in today's hobby.

Best Old-Time Team Name: Atlanta Black Crackers, no doubt.

Is It Still the Insert Set of the Year? You bet!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Working the arbitrary magic

We have a bright new face here in the blogosphere, and he's becoming quite the prolific trader.

A lot of you are probably already acquainted with Brian of the terrific blog "Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary." Between his terrific blogging content and his recent group trade event, he's one of the up-and-coming stars of the blogosphere.

I'm actually kicking myself for not getting in on his group trade. It looked like a ton of fun from what I've been reading, although I did manage to get a piece of the action. (But more on that later.)

It appears as though Brian and I have already set up a kind of back-and-forth deal where we arbitrarily send each other cards from time to time. He recently put this beautiful '54 Bowman Larry Doby on the trade block, and I can't believe nobody claimed it before I did.

I caught a break there, because losing out on a card this great would've been disheartening.

The Doby was actually the second swap between Brian and I.

Our first came a little while before that, and it didn't take me long to discover how great of a trader Brian is. This '94 Topps Doc Gooden was a Dime Box Dozen need at the time, and I think you can see why. It's a pitcher on the basepaths at Wrigley.

Right up my alley.

Our first trade actually originated with this trio.

I've said this before, but I don't often like to ask for cards from people. I don't know why. Maybe it's that introverted part of me that's afraid of disrupting things.

But, doggone it, if you're going to put up '54 Bowman Larry Dobys...

...and '78 OPCs up for trade, then you really leave me no choice.

I have to claim them. This is a reflex.

My introverted personality has no say in the matter.

Brian didn't stop there.

He was nice enough to throw in a few recent insert needs on top of Doc and the trio of OPCs.

Excuse me while I shield my eyes from those ugly All-Star uniforms.

An added bonus was an unopened pack of 1987 Topps.

I heeded the advice of Brian (and probably my dentist) by not eating the cracked pink stick of gum that came with the wax wrapper.

With the gum out of the way, I dug into the seventeen two-by-three pieces of woodgrain heaven.

And it made me wish that packs these days still came with seventeen cards.

I would never buy an unopened box of '87 Topps or anything, but busting a pack of any relatively aged product here and there is always good for a hoot. I think I like getting a glimpse of the old ads more than anything else.

See? I could've won a trip to Spring Training in 1988!

I was only twenty-eight years late.

Brian's latest envelope actually just hit my doorstep last afternoon.

This Ichiro was one of the first to fall out, and, to be honest, I'd completely forgot I'd claimed it from Brian. (Yes, another claim. I'm heartless.)

That probably has to do with the fact that Panini's Donruss revival is so very, very, very, very, very forgettable. Which is because 2015 Donruss is so very, very, very, very, very ugly. So why even claim it in the first place?

Two reasons. One, Ichiro doesn't have a contract with Topps, so it's either Panini or nothing. Two, this is Ichiro's first card with the Miami Baseball Club, otherwise known as the Marlins. So, yes, Ichiro is now in my Marlins binder. Ichiro. Marlins.

Doesn't sound right.

Once again, Brian threw in a few bonus cards to go along with the logo-less Ichiro.

I enjoyed both of these very much, although the Matthews troubled me a bit. It exposed the fact that I somehow don't own his standard '86 Topps base card.

I'll rectify that ASAP.

Brian did it again with the Dime Box Dozens.

I'm fairly certain that this card was my longest tenured DBD need before Brian came along. In an attempt to honor the famous '54 Topps card of the O'Brien twins (which I was lucky enough to pick up last year), this Heritage issue couples the Mauer brothers on one piece of cardboard.

Unlike the O'Briens, the Mauers are Twins in team only. Jake (whose real name is actually David...go figure) is five years older than Joe, but the elder Mauer never made it above Double-A in five years in the Minnesota organization.

And I think all of you know Joe by now.

Though Brian obviously has a knack for putting together spectacular batches of cards, our third trade was by far the best.

No, it wasn't because of Ryno, although holograms are always cool.

No, it wasn't because of these two Cubbies, either.

Although the shape of that Brett Jackson is tripping me out.

Just like always, Hoyt stole the show.

This was one of the cards Brian pulled as part of his group trade event. My jaw dropped. A Hoyt Wilhelm AUTOGRAPH?! This was where I began kicking myself for not getting in on the action. I missed my chance at Hoyt. I figured my jaw would have to stay dropped.

But, by sheer luck, Hoyt went unclaimed in the break. Brian actually wound up contacting me about the Wilhelm autograph, and we worked out yet another swap. I sent him a few of my Twins relic cards, which, since I've slowly been phasing out a large portion of my memorabilia collection, was fine with me.

A couple days later, and...ta-da. Hoyt was mine. It's the third autograph of his in my collection. I'm not much of an autograph seeker anymore, but I'll fully admit my love for this card. I especially enjoy the fact that it features an on-card signature, which is significant because Wilhelm passed away in 2002, the very year this Fleer Greats set hit the shelves.

Let's see. Vintage Larry Dobys, OPCs, packs of 1987 Topps, and Hoyt autographs?

I don't think I'm being subjective in saying that Brian is a new legend in Dime Boxedonia.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Second guessing myself

Some of you may remember the All-Time Topps Countdown I was holding on this blog a couple months ago.

I must say that I had a ton of fun both creating and posting the list, and even more fun getting feedback from all you wonderful readers out there. It was a project I'd been sitting on for a while. I just wish it didn't take the passing of an icon like Sy Berger to get me off my butt to do it.

Like every other list, however, my Topps countdown came with a fair helping of second guessing. I went back through my list last week and started to reconsider some of my rankings. Overall, I still stand by the majority of my choices, but, after careful consideration, a few did stand out.

I found a fair number of Topps sets that, if I were to compile the list today, would either be ranked a bit higher or lower than I originally had them.

Let's start with the overrated.

DOWN 1 -- 2006 Topps (Original Ranking: #40)

As I harped on over and over again during my countdown, I tried to be as objective as possible with my rankings.

But I still think nostalgia got in the way of a few selections. Namely, 2006 Topps. At #40, it wasn't exactly a top competitor, but, looking back, I don't think it even deserved to be that high.

Now, don't get me wrong. Nostalgia, childhood/adolescent memories, etc. aren't a bad thing with baseball cards. Quite the contrary, actually. But, as is the case with 2006 Topps, it can blind a person to the faults of what is simply an unimpressive sets.

Looking at it now, I see that 2006 Topps has almost everything I dislike in a baseball card design. Silver foil on black nameplates. Boring photography. It just doesn't have a very inspired feel to it.

I'd probably put it in the low 40s if I had to revisit my rankings.

DOWN 2 -- 1989 Topps (Original ranking: #34)

I think the ribbon bug bit me with '89 Topps.

Inserting ribbons into a baseball card design is bound to earn a few brownie points in my book. I can't explain why, but they always seem to look good to me.

The ribbons in '89 Topps are fine and dandy, but the set doesn't have a lot going apart from that. The photography might be the worst of any Topps set out there. (Isn't that right, Mr. Carpenter?)

I do like 1989 Topps, but I'd probably move it down a few slots.

It's a lower 30s set, at best.

DOWN 3 -- 1952 Topps (Original ranking: #18)

Baseball cards are the stuff of legend.

I think that legend may have swayed me a bit in my ranking of '52 Topps. I don't think I'm out of line by saying that it's the most well-known of all the Topps designs. To a lot of people, this is the ideal baseball card. it? Is it, really? Maybe it's just me, but I feel that the legend of '52 Topps surpasses the actual design of the cards themselves most of the time. It's a terrific set, sure. But I really don't think I enjoy it more than, say, 1954 Topps, which came in at #26 on my countdown.

In hindsight, I don't think '52 Topps is a Top 20 set for me.

But, hey...

UP 1 -- 1984 Topps (Original ranking: #46)

...second guessing can have its upsides as well.

I think I regret how I treated 1984 Topps more than any other set in my countdown. I actually had it behind 2014 Topps (#44), which just ain't right. I'll be the first to admit my oversight.

I put too much placement on that fact that 1984 Topps is basically a subpar ripoff of '83 Topps. Is it plagiarism? Probably. But that doesn't mean it can't be a good set. And, despite what I originally thought, I do think 1984 Topps is indeed a good set.

I'm not saying it's one of my favorites or anything, but I think it'd be in mid-30s territory if I redid the rankings.

It's lightyears ahead of 2014 Topps, that's for sure.

UP 2 -- 1994 Topps (Original ranking: #36)

I like to think the voices of the masses didn't have an effect on my rankings, but maybe that's more of me thinking in the ideal rather than the real.

See, I've always liked 1994 Topps. A lot. But I seem to be one of the few. You won't get much more than crickets when if you mention '94 Topps around collecting circles. The hobby was in a massive free fall at the time, and the set just so happened to be released the same year as the infamous player's strike.

More than perhaps anything else in the Topps catalog, I think 1994 Topps suffers from "Wrong Place, Wrong Time" syndrome. Not a lot of people were paying attention in '94, which means that this set is overlooked most of the time.

The photography is solid, and the design is nice and simple. I especially enjoy the home plate-esque borders.

I think 1994 Topps could sneak into the Top 30 (or perhaps even Top 25) if I had to do it all over again.

UP 3 -- 1953 Topps (Original ranking: #30)

I don't know what happened here.

If I had to guess, I think the sets surrounding 1953 Topps suppressed it a bit. I mean, you have the legendary-ish '52 Topps design, and then a bunch of other personal favorites spread throughout the rest of the 1950s. Maybe I didn't give '53 Topps its fair due.

Sure, if you look at it in comparison with the rest of the '50s Topps sets, maybe it comes up a bit short. But I think '53 Topps is a good deal better than other modern releases like 2013 Topps (which came in at #28 on my original countdown).

A quick look at any of the cards in this set will show you the incredible amount of care that went into each meticulously hand-drawn painting. That has to count for something.

I think 1953 Topps could easily be a Top 20 set.

We're only a little more than a month removed from my final post in the Topps Countdown series, and already I'm overcome with second guessing. I can only imagine how much things'll change a whole year from now.

Check back in March 2016 for even more second guessing from yours truly.