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


 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!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


You ever get the feeling that you're starting to accumulate more than collect?

I do.

The fact of the matter is that not every new card I get is going to be a blockbuster '60s vintage pickup or a card I've been pining over for years. Much of what ends up in my collection are merely more bricks in the wall.

Do I enjoy these new cards? Of course. Do I appreciate them? Yes. Do I take the time and care to sort and file them accordingly? You know it.

But if a non-collector were to ask me why I needed most of said new cards, I'm not sure I'd have a better answer than Because I didn't have them already.

Take this Josh Reddick "Power Players" insert, for instance. I asked for it from Kerry of the great blog "Cards on Cards" recently, and he was nice enough to send it my way.

In essence, the front is about 95 percent similar to Reddick's standard 2014 Topps issue. The only differences are that intrusive "Power Players" logo and the lack of foil. But I still wanted it.

Because I didn't have it already.

While I only asked for the Reddick, Kerry was nice enough to add some extra spice to this package.

He knocked out a good chunk of my remaining Series 2 base needs. At this point, any help I can get to finally get these out of the way is much appreciated. Update is already out and 2015 Topps will be here before we know it. And yet I'm still chasing down Series 2.

Help me!

This is where the non-collectors would really start to think we're all just crazy accumulators.

You mean people go insane over cards because they have a different border? People spend money on this stuff?

Yup. And that's why I was ecstatic when Kerry emailed me a list of spare 2014 Topps parallels he had and basically told me to pick out whatever I wanted. They were mostly reds, but he threw in a green one of "Salty" for good measure.

Yes, I've seen the standard base issues of each of these while flipping through my various binders, but I'm still a parallel addict.

Different borders, different card, right?

Archives and Opening Day seem like a distant memory at this point.

I still need a decent chunk of each and I'm happy for any people can spare, but I've pretty much said all I need to say about them by now.

Are people sick of seeing these minis yet?

It sure seems like it. This one is yet another addition to my nearly 200-card Ryan Zimmerman collection. Or is it accumulation?

Probably a bit of both. 

Ooh, 3-D. Far out.

Look, sabermetrics and WAR and decimals and stuff! Risque, Topps. Risque.


I'm definitely running out of things to say about inserts these days.

If you're lucky, though, every once in a while you'll find a card that makes you snap out of your accumulating funk.

Kerry definitely sent me one such piece with this beauty. Rickey himself represents my first in-person look at this year's "N174" Gypsy Queen insert series. Even with just one of these in hand (at the time), it already had a strong chance to earn my "Insert Set of the Year" title.

These give off every last bit of that authentic old-time feel that Gypsy Queen usually tries and fails to accomplish. All I can say is that if GQ ever decides to go with a design like this for their base cards, I'll absolutely devour them.

I guess accumulating really isn't a bad thing. Could you imagine having that intense collecting feel over every card you own? No way.

A slow, steady approach to this hobby is the best way to go.

You'd go insane otherwise.

Friday, October 17, 2014

2014 Topps Update: A tradition ends

I have this tradition of buying a hobby box of Topps Update every year.

I've been doing it since 2007. To me, it's kind of like a grand flourish to the baseball season. Update is the last big set of the year, and a box of the stuff makes the transition to the fall and winter months just a little bit easier.

It's a tradition that about to come to an end here in 2014.

My budget didn't allow any wiggle room for a box this year. I'm not that disappointed, and I'm actually interested to see how the situation plays out. I'm thinking of buying whatever I can afford from Target and picking up all the other base cards I need off Just Commons.

Fiscally-speaking, it'll probably wind up being the better option. Breaking a box is fun and all, but is it really worth forking over the extra twenty or thirty bucks? Don't think so.

Besides, my appreciation for Topps Update is still there either way. Just like always, I was off to Target upon the first peep of its release on Tuesday. When I got there, I found Update as far as the eye could see and decided on a hanger box.

For no particular reason, I grabbed the third box off the rack.

After going through the contents, I'm considering making the whole "third pack on the shelf" thing a new tradition.

Design-wise, Update's new inserts aren't all that spectacular. The flashy "Power Players" design is meant to grab your attention, but it reeks of the unimaginative shiny-for-shiny's-sake phenomenon.

That said, I won't complain with a new card of The Legend himself, Jose Abreu.

Eddie Murray and "The Iron Man" are a couple huge names, but both of these insert designs are flat-out ugly.

Both contain copious amounts of pointless foil on the fronts. The "Fond Farewells" concept is actually a great idea, as I'm a huge fan of sunset seasons and the like.

Sadly, it sorely lacks in execution on the part of Topps.

I received exactly one parallel in my hanger box, but Topps made it count.

LaTroy Hawkins is currently 41 years young and in his second go-round with the Rockies. The veteran reliever has been ignored by Topps since 2011, so I was glad to see this gold parallel fall into my hands.

Now all I need is the base card.

Of course, the only real reason I buy Update is for the base.

For me, the set provides the first accessible cards of some of the game's brightest young stars. I don't have the time or money to track down all the Bowmans and Bowman Chromes and Bowman Chrome Drafts and Bowman Superterrifics or any of that.

I'm about as far from a prospector as you'll find, but I like to at least try and keep up with the up-and-coming rookie crop. Mookie Betts seems to have a bright future ahead of him in Boston, and Topps rewarded him with a spectacular shot for his Rookie Debut issue.

At first, I wasn't planning on adding him to my binders...

...but I took pulling his standard Update rookie card as a sign.

This guy needs to be in my collection. Besides, how could I neglect a guy named Mookie? It wouldn't be right.

Oscar Taveras looks to be another young outfielder with massive upside. Update provided me with my first look at him in cardboard form.

He'll be going into my binders as well.

It only took until mid-October, but I finally have my very first Masahiro Tanaka card(s).

As the cover boy for this year's Update, I pulled both his Season Highlights (top) and Rookie Debut (bottom) issues.

Two Mookies, a Taveras, and two Tanakas.

I'm not a big rookie guy, but I'd be lying if that didn't get me a little excited.

Another thing Update is (in)famous for is its gluttony of All-Stars.

With all the scratches, injuries, and whatever else, it seems like half the league makes it to the Midsummer Classic these days. That, in turn, waters down Update's All-Star subset.

This in-game shot of "K-Rod"...

...was followed by six straight AL All-Stars in my hanger box.

That's when it hit me.

It's not so much that there's too many All-Stars in Update. It's that there's simply too many boring ones. If every card featured a standard in-action shot (like the Rodriguez) from, you know, the actual All-Star Game, I'd probably enjoy them a lot more.

The fact that Topps gives us so many images of guys from the drawn-out Home Run Derby or just lounging around makes it highly repetitive and not very honorable at all.

And don't get me started on those God-awful warmup jerseys.

But enough about that.

Let's get to why we're here in the first place.

Because of my team-centric way of sorting, seeing guys in their new duds is a constant thrill for me. Adding that first card of someone like Chris Young to my Mets binder is a sweet feeling that's hard to put into words.

Granted, I guess this isn't the greatest example since Young was actually released by the Mets in August. He finished out the year with the Yankees.

Makes the whole Update tag seem kind of insignificant.

Young aside, Update does its job most of the time.

These are my first cards of all of these guys on their current squads.

I think my favorite of the bunch is the Dice-K. He was featured as an Indian in last year's Update, despite never actually playing a game for them. He resurfaced as a utility pitcher with the Mets late last year and throughout 2014, and that's the first card he's had with the franchise.

My first taste of what I hope is a constant stream of new uniforms in 2014 Update.

Another thing I like about Update is that it ties up some of the card season's loose strings.

Not all of them (STILL NO ANDREW MILLER?!?!), no, but enough to keep me at least relatively satisfied.

I get that guys like Jason Giambi and local hero Tom Gorzelanny aren't going to get a ton of cards. Both were featured in last year's Update, and both make their first 2014 appearances in this year's edition as well.

That's all I ask.

Even with the rookies and guys in new duds, my hanger box still had a few other surprises in store.

This Season Highlights card does a great job of commemorating King Albert's 500th homer. I think my favorite aspect of this shot, however, are the two seated Nats fans to the left of Pujols's raised hand.

The guy on the right is particularly unimpressed, casually sipping a beer while watching history unfold.

This was my far and away favorite from my first foray into Update.

Though he's the older of the two siblings, Jose Molina is constantly overshadowed by the younger Yadier. This terrific shot captures the backstop brothers in a candid moment at the Trop.

This is the kind of creativity I love to see from Topps, and there's a chance it'll pop up on my "Cards of the Year" list in a couple months.

I guess I should've known that Jose here would turn out to be a short-print. Only a couple days later did I find out that his standard Update card features your run-of-the-mill hitting shot.

I'm happy that I pulled such a captivating card, but sad that Topps felt the need to short-print the heck out of it.

All in all, this was an exceptional hanger box of Update and one that did a great job of showcasing why I continue to enjoy this product so much. Rookies, new duds, the whole nine yards.

Hobby box or no hobby box, Update is a fitting swan song for the baseball season.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Movie fantasies

I'll go out on a limb and say that Panini's Bad News Bears Golden Age series was one of the best ideas in cardboard history.

I know from my dad that the movie was an important part of a lot of childhoods in the '70s, so I'm sure Panini made a few bucks from all of today's grown-up collectors seeking nostalgia.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that it was also at least partially behind the big Major League series from this year's Topps Archives release.

As was to be expected, however, even Panini's grand Bad News Bears idea had a few gaps. Knowing that, I decided to try something new in my spare time this afternoon. I dipped my toe into the wide world of customs.

Now, please keep in mind that I'm about the least artistic person on the face of the earth. I made all of the "cards" you'll see in this post with the help of an outdated designer I found on the Topps website, and I don't think they're very pleasing, aesthetically-speaking.

I'm in constant shock and awe of people who can make customs look as good as they do. Some people build entire blogs around them, which probably takes more time and effort than I can ever imagine.

That said, here's my first foray into the world of customs.

Bad News Bears

"Famous Quotes" #FQ-1 Tanner Boyle

Come on, Panini.

How was there no Tanner in your Golden Age series?

The kid has some of the best lines in the movie.

"Off the Field" #OF-1 Ogilvie

No Ogilvie, either.

I hadn't planned to put Ogilvie in my custom checklist, but this picture was too captivating not to use on a baseball card. It's actually from the second Bad News Bears flick, Breaking Training. Pales in comparison to the first, but not a bad movie at all if you take it on its own.

I guess that last-inning walk in the first movie earned Ogilvie some street cred.

"Words of Wisdom" #WW-1 Morris Buttermaker

The biggest problem I had with Panini's checklist was the glaring omission of Buttermaker.

Maybe it's because they couldn't find a photo of him without an alcoholic beverage of some sort.

It didn't take long for me to realize how addicting customs can be when you have a little time on your hands.

I racked my brain for a few other cardboard fantasies from the silver screen.

Little Big League

#LBL-1 Billy Heywood

I'm a kid of the '90s.

Movies like Little Big League may not mean much to fans with a few years on me (or younger ones, for that matter), but I grew up with these kind of kid-centric, feel-good flicks.

I was a little young to see most of them in the theater, but I picked them up as I went along. Little Big League was one of the first. 

For anyone who hasn't seen it, it's about a kid named Billy Heywood who inherits the lackluster Minnesota Twins from his grandfather, hires himself as the manager, and leads them to glory.

Improbable, sure. 

But that's what movies are for, right?

#LBL-1b Billy Heywood SP

On the outside chance this set ever becomes a reality, you know Topps is going to short-print the heck out of it.

I'm way ahead of them. This kind of candid shot has the gimmicky feel of most SPs these days. You've got superstar Twins first baseman Lou Collins (actually actor Timothy Busfield) and All-Star Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. (really Griffey) in this photo.

"The Kid" is limited to short cameo in the movie, but anyone who's seen it knows he ends up playing a vital role in the outcome of the Twins.

#LBL-2 Billy Heywood IA

I'm channeling a little vintage Topps with this "In-Action" subset.

Rookie of the Year

#ROY-1 Henry Rowengartner

Making these customs inspired me to go back and re-watch Rookie of the Year this afternoon.

It's very similar to Little Big League, in that a grown-up role is suddenly forced upon a little kid. 

Only this time, young Henry Rowengartner (or "Rosinbagger", "Gardenhoser", and dozens of other manager mispronunciations thereof) ends up pitching for the Cubs after a freak injury turns his arm into a rocket.

Even at 22, Rookie of the Year still ranks among my favorite flicks ever. Again, I doubt many would consider it a great movie, but I do. 

As a kid of the '90s, I don't really have a choice.

#ROY-1b Henry Rowengartner SP 

The beginning of one of the best scenes in the movie gets the short-print treatment here.

This scene is supposed to be set in Dodger Stadium, but I'm pretty sure that's actually (then) Comiskey Park in the backdrop.

"In the Booth" #IN-1 Ernie and Cliff

Neither Ernie nor Cliff receive a great amount of screen time, but I'll be darned if they don't have some of the best lines of the movie.

John Candy isn't even credited.

"Memorable Moments" #MM-1 Funky Buttlovin'

A line I've referenced many times in my life, as per reader request.

"Famous Farewells" #FF-1 Chet Steadman

Chet Steadman (actually Gary Busey) turns into a mentor (and more) for young Henry during the movie.

This will go down in history as his "sunset" card.

#ROY-2 Phil "Brigma" Brickman

Daniel Stern directed Rookie of the Year and gave himself one of the funniest bit parts in any movie I've ever seen.

He plays hilariously awful pitching coach Phil "Brigma" Brickman.

Between getting hit on the head with baseballs, advising Henry to heat up ice cubes... 

 #ROY-3 Phil "Brigma" Brickman "Little Help Now" SH

...and getting stuck between doors, his scenes are downright hilarious.

I'm reminded of how much I love this movie every time I watch it.

The Sandlot

"Timeless Teams" #TT-1 The Sandlot

The Sandlot isn't just my favorite baseball movie.

It's my favorite movie ever. Has been since I was about five years old. I've seen it at least twenty or thirty times, and I highly doubt anything will ever take it off the top spot of my list.

To me, it sums up everything that is right and good about the National Pastime in 90 minutes.

"Fired Up" #FU-1 Hamilton "The Babe" Porter

Here's a play on an insert set from this year's Opening Day.

"Glove Stores" #GS-1 Scott "You're Killing Me" Smalls

Another satirical take on a current insert series, this time from Gypsy Queen.

Over the wall snags and diving grabs are fine and good, but it's a miracle that Smalls even caught that ball in the first place. I can hear his words in my head to this day.

Please catch it.

Please catch it.

"Then & Now" #TN-1 Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez

I get a little choked up every time I watch the last scene of The Sandlot.

I'll admit it.

 "Dynamic Duos" #DD-1 Wendy Peffercorn/Squints

Any kid my age who tells you they never had a crush on Wendy Peffercorn has either a) not seen The Sandlot and therefore never had a full childhood or b) is lying.

This was probably my personal favorite of the customs I made.

The most unlikely of combos.

Do I honestly ever think Topps would create a set commemorating Rookie of the Year or Little Big League? No. Hence, me having to make these customs at all.

If you ask me, though, I think it'd be a great way to rope a few more people my age into the hobby. The Sandlot is basically the Bad News Bears of my generation.

Heck, I relived my childhood about ten times over just writing this post.