Thursday, January 17, 2019

The lifespan of a blogger

When I think of my blogging life, I often recall the evolution map that was in every science textbook I had during my grammar school years.

You know the one: the crawling chimp growing and growing into a bipedal human over the course of millions of years (perhaps not the greatest analogy, but I think you get the gist). Almost all of us, I would imagine, started out as anonymous blog readers at one point. I sure did: I'd pinpoint my beginnings as a blogger right around the summer of 2010. I read for a long time without ever commenting or otherwise making my presence known in any way, and it'd be about a year before I made the crazy decision to launch a blog of my own.

Thankfully, some readers take a little more initiative in their blog prowls, like Chris B. who turned out to be my Secret Santa thanks to the festivities held by Jon this year.

I'm (obviously) a bit late in posting Chris's Secret Santa goodies, but that's no knock against them -- it provided a pleasant mix of a lot of things I collect.

I'm still a bit baffled by this National Treasure coin of new binder inductee Khris Davis: I have no recollection of this brand and they're among the thickest cards I've ever handled, though I'm definitely partial to the gold-etched 'fro on the front.

Me, I can't imagine my life without a blog of my own -- but I do often wonder about the mindsets of people like Chris who appear simply content to read and observe us bloggers from afar.

And I stress observing, because readers do it well: these two Cubs were much appreciated, though I'd suggest not looking at that Rizzo for too long because it might make your computer overheat and spontaneously combust.

More various set needs from Chris, which are excellent since so few Christmas gifts allow me to cross off numbers on my want lists.

Over time, at least in my case, reading dissolves into the weird urge to start a blog of one's own -- and then you have people like Gavin of "Baseball Card Breakdown" fame who have been going strong for years now.

I can't tell you what the straw that broke the camel's back was in terms of the moment I decided to create my blog. It wasn't some grand revelation. I suppose I was just sitting around reading one night and thought: Hey, I have some stuff I'd like to say about my baseball cards. I had a blog set up about an hour later, and a first post not long after that.

And thus I took the next step on the evolution map, going from reader to blogger.

Gavin has pretty much been the Custom King of the Blogs from the moment he started his own blog, which I think was evident in the PWE I recently received from him.

As much as I enjoy the A&G Darvish insert above, these two customs blow it out of the water -- especially that Beltre which depicts possibly the most glorious ejection in baseball history.

Gavin also filled in some of the gaps left in last year's Sandlot Archives inserts with these excellent customs, including two different variations of The Great Bambino, The Colossus of Clout, The King of Crash, all those other silly names.

But Gavin saved the big wallop for last: a real Calbee Sadaharu Oh card!

This looks to be from the same set as the Oh I received from Dad a few Christmases ago, and it's nice to have one that's not graded (and not to mention one that's a dual mini-collection hit!). I thought it might've been a custom at first because never in my wildest dreams did I imagine anyone would ever send me something like this.

I still don't quite believe it -- but then again so much of my blogging life seems like a fantasy sometimes.

And as luck would have it, I received another custom-filled PWE from Gavin just yesterday, which arrived just in time for me to sneak it into this post!

Among the goods were these two brilliant cardboard fantasies -- a minor league Satch and a card of Willie McCovey's brief and heretofore undocumented stint with the A's at the tail end of the '76 season.

Gavin also whipped up a couple more movie-themed customs, including one of Art LaFleur's other major baseball film role as Chick Gandil in Field of Dreams, which (unpopular opinion alert) I actually don't think is that great of a movie.

And yes, Gavin filled yet another gap left in Topps's Sandlot inserts by featuring Older Benny (played by Pablo Vitar, the real-life older brother of Mike Vitar, who played Benny) on the '72 design, but I have to say...

...I dig the back a bit more than the front because Gavin came up with a complete bio and "stats" for Benny the Jet(!), who looks to be a potential MVP candidate there with the Dodgers.

I could say so much more, but for now, I say this: these are the types of things that make me so glad I decided to become a blogger on that fateful night seven long years ago.

Then comes a somewhat unfortunate but sometimes necessary period of the life of a blogger -- the exodus.

I've seen more blogs come and go than I can count during my years here. Some departures have pained me more than others, but perhaps none more so than the extended break (as I choose to view it) of Mark's "This Way to the Clubhouse..." blog. I myself stepped away from the blogs a few years ago, and even though I wasn't too happy with the decision, I can honestly say that it was probably best for the long-term health of my blogging life.

I'm hoping it's the same for Mark, but in the meantime, it's good to know that he's still dropping surprise PWEs on me, especially ones packed with mini-collection hits.

Mark and I have been trading for a long time, and I've long noticed his uncanny ability to find new Darryl Kile cards for my collection.

That minor league Kile comes from 1989 and predates my next oldest Kile card by a whole two years -- but let's not ignore that glorious Senior League Madlock by any means, though.

Blue parallels seem to work especially well for Cubs cards, and I don't think I have to tell you why.

In the grand scheme of things, I guess my blogging lifespan hasn't been as linear as that standard evolution map. I've gone from reader to blogger to ghost to reader (again) to blogger (again) during my years here.

But when I look back on those formative years of blogging, and all the transitions within, I see nothing but happiness.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 28: Numbers 244-252

Frankenset Page #5 WINNER -- 1973 Topps #38 Mike Epstein (6 votes + tie-breaking vote)

Well it finally happened: for the first time since I revived these frankenset posts, we have ourselves a tie.

The votes were well spread out among last week's page -- every card received at least one vote and the top five favorites were separated by just two votes a piece -- but Epstein and Barton came out deadlocked on top with six tallies each (of 34 total). But there ain't no ties in baseball, and the same goes for my frankenset. 

So the tie-breaker goes as follows: I ask the first five people who care to comment on this post to leave their choice between Epstein and Barton, and whichever card receives three of those five tie-breaking tallies wins the page -- I'll update this post once we have a winner.

EDIT: Epstein wins!

After you've decided on your choice for last week's dead heat, come on back and vote on your favorite from this week's featured frankenset page -- hopefully the choice is a bit easier this time around.

As decreed by the Random Number Generator, we'll be taking a look at Page 29 (#s 244-252) this week, so let's meet the nominees.

1971 Topps #244 Bob Tillman

Serenity by the bat rack. 

2018 Topps Update #US245 Jose Pirela

A fine double dip from last year's Update.

1993 SP #246 Brian Harper

Do you have ten-pound balls? 

1992 Stadium Club #247 Kip Gross

A Renaissance painting. 

2012 Topps Update #US248 Felix Doubront

A generic pitching shot turned masterful by the Green Monster. 

1983 Fleer #249 Aurelio Rodriguez

This card makes me so happy. 

1991 Upper Deck #250 Mark Portugal

Pitcher at the plate! 

1993 Upper Deck #251 Dan Gladden

The Tigers don't get enough credit for their throwback jerseys -- these are superb. 

2001 Upper Deck #252 Pete Harnisch

One of the last multiple-exposure shots on record, and still one of my favorites.

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

Happy voting!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Spending other people's money at the hotel card show

Ever since I started getting allowance as a young lad, I like to think I've become somewhat adept at saving and rationing money over the years.

That is, with one notable exception: I almost never save holiday cash from relatives. Very little of it, if any, makes it into my bank account. Every Christmas, part of my brain tells me I should really be socking that money away. But every Christmas, I end up earmarking it as found money and treating myself to some frivolity I'm rarely able to afford at other times of the year.

You've probably already guessed what that "frivolity" translated to here at the dawn of the new year: hotel card show!

Yup, it took all of about a week to attend my first show of 2019: a couple weekends ago, Dad and I made the half-hour drive to the hotel where the smaller monthly hotel show is held, and not a single cent I spent came out of my own pocket.

It didn't take long for that Christmas money to start bringing in the goods: in addition to all these stellar 2018 needs (including the Bradys & my first card of Andrew McCutchen as a Yankee!) I finally, finally nabbed the 2018 GQ Javier Baez at the top of this post, a card which sat on my Dime Box Dozen list for the majority of the past year.

The Baez is a) a Cub I collect, b) a mini-collection hit, and c) a card I managed to pull a parallel of without having the base version -- add all that up and wow do you have a real thorn in my backside...until now anyways.

But the Baez was far from the only mini-collection hit waiting for me at the hotel -- in fact, almost all of my themes received at least one new card from the discount boxes last weekend, even the scarcer "Broken Bats" and "Tribute to 42" shots.

I feel like I say this every time I attend one of these hotel gatherings, but it bears repeating: both in terms of my personality and preferred vibe, smaller card shows suit me much better the larger, more glamorous convention hall types.

There were maybe a dozen vendors at this hotel show last weekend, as well as a good amount of customers but not so many as to make the place feel crowded. Many of the sellers recognize my dad and I by now and some even shave a few bucks off the final price for us. It's just a wonderfully communal space. Hobbies can be fun in solitude but only become truly fulfilling when shared with others.

Perhaps best of all, almost everybody there has something I want to buy -- the dime boxes in particular were in full form this time around (bless those vendors' hearts!) and many of my main player collection dudes were well represented.

Dime box shiny has become a staple of my card show posts simply because I love the way they scan.

The dime boxes at this show skew mostly towards recent products, but there's still enough all-over-the-place randomness to keep me satisfied (up to and including Yellow Submarine-era Fabs).

A few other dime box randoms, including a minor league Bumgarner and a Scherzer that caught my eye (pun intended, sorry).

A couple other nifty dime finds here: I'd somehow never been able to track down one of those cool "Clear Vision" inserts before last weekend (probably the only good thing that came out of Panini's Pinnacle revival).

Also, I didn't know this year's Heritage had a Reggie-centric insert set, and that one in particular is fascinating because I've never seen an action shot of him as a Kansas City A, nor any photo at all showing the unfamiliar #31 he wore in his cupacoffee debut in '67.

And now for something completely different: Nolan Ryan in a suit and tie (a former Dime Box Dozen need!) and Ted Williams in his leatherhead days.

One of the regular vendors at this show usually has a couple huge dime boxes filled with exclusively retired players, which I don't think I need to explain how awesome that is.

Needless to say, his table is always a primo stop of mine for that very reason, and his selection never disappoints -- these are just four of the hundred-plus cards I pulled from those dime bins.

Should buybacks be considered vintage?

If so, these were by far the oldest cards I found at this largely vintage-dry show -- I'm not a buyback collector by any means, but semi-new Jose Cardenals and Pilots stuff are easy buys for loose change.

Here's a few of the day's "high-end" pickups: the Matty and Greenberg came out of a 3/$1 box, while the Carew and Banks were actually my most expensive single-card purchases at a buck a piece.

Oddballs rule the world.

Here's some of the most intriguing cards I found all day: Taco Bell oddballs!

If you watched the World Series at all, you probably saw one of the eight thousand commercials for Taco Bell's "Steal a Taco" promotion in which everyone in the history of the universe won a free taco if some dude stole a base. But did you know you could get cards with your taco? I sure didn't: apparently they were only given away at Taco Bells in the host cities of last year's Fall Classic, that is, LA and Boston.

So that means these cards -- which document the chosen speedsters who've won mediocre tacos for America over the years -- traveled from one coast or the other and wound up in a 20-cent box in the Midwest within a few months -- call it fast-food destiny.

This show isn't usually too heavy on the oddballs, which made the scores I found last weekend all the more exciting.

Dig these: a complete set of oversized '87 Smokey the Bear oddballs which kinda creep me out because there's a real-live human being inside that bear costume but who cares because the whole set cost me just two dollars!

One of the hobby's more consistent thrills over the years has been documenting current players on classic designs.

But best I can tell, that trend all started with the advent of these free Baseball Cards Magazine inserts in the late '80s and early '90s, which, a few decades later, provided me with what I can honestly say is one of my personal favorite card show finds of all-time.

That, my friends, is a spread of 46 different three-card Baseball Cards Magazine panels. The vendor I bought them from barely had anything for sale, just these and a few other small items. Eyes wide, I started sifting through them, seeing which ones I might need and which ones I might not before a loud voice in my brain screamed WHY DON'T YOU JUST SEE HOW MUCH HE WANTS FOR ALL OF THEM?! 

So I asked, and then came the reply: gimme ten bucks for the stack.


These hit so many different things I love to see in my baseball cards. Firstly, I love oddballs, of course. Then there's the fact that I enjoy new guys on old designs, and these were truly pioneers in that regard. Then comes my uncanny and unexplainable love for cards that were cut out of larger objects (box bottoms, Hostess panels, etc.). And better yet: I WAS THE ONE WHO GOT TO CUT THEM OUT! 

I mean, I get weirdly excited when I find one of these cards in a dime box. And there I was spending better part of an hour sitting in my room that night, joyously cutting out 46 whole panels of 'em. That's 138 different ones in all, which, divided by the ten bucks I paid for the lot, amounts to about seven cents per(!!!).

Above are just nine of the many, many cards that made up this hotel-show find for the ages.

And here's where I remind both my readers and myself that nothing I just showed in this post -- as well as the hundreds of other finds that didn't make the cut -- was paid for out of my own pocket.

After all, what fun is being a responsible adult if you can't enjoy the frivolities in life?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 5: Numbers 37-45

Frankenset Page #50 WINNER -- 1994 Stadium Club #448 Erik Pappas (13 votes)

For my money, this is the biggest upset I've seen since the restart of these frankenset posts.

I thought the '71 Topps Art Shamsky would cruise to an easy win with everyone else long in the rearview mirror, as is the case with most classic vintage that pops up in my frankenset. But it wasn't to be: Erik Pappas jumped out to an early lead and never let go, taking the victory with 13 of the 38 total tallies, leaving Shamsky (10 votes) and the also-surprising Curt Leskanic (7 votes) in the dust.

That's why I'm such a fan of these frankenset posts, and the people who vote on them: you never know when they're gonna surprise you.

Could another upset be on the horizon this week?

Perhaps: the Random Number Generator spit out #5 (the lowest-numbered page yet!), so we'll be taking a look at that page (#s 37-45) here today -- let's meet the nominees.

1995 Upper Deck #37 Pat Hentgen

An impossibly rare post-DH/pre-interleague pitcher at the plate sighting. 

1973 Topps #38 Mike Epstein


1995 Upper Deck Minors #39 Matt Brunson

Minor league double dip! 

1972 Topps #40 Bob Barton

There's no way that cop in the background was an accident. 

2016 Topps #41 Josh Harrison


1972 Topps #42 Tommy Davis

A little more "action" here than on the aforementioned Bob Barton card, I think. 

1999 Stadium Club #43 Rico Brogna

I get a distinct "Pigpen" from Peanuts vibe whenever I look at this card. 

2010 Upper Deck #44 Augie Ojeda

A card so nice Upper Deck apparently forgot they weren't allowed to use logos in 2010. 

1986 Fleer #45 Darrell Porter

Color-coordinated glasses are the best glasses.

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

Happy voting!