Friday, November 21, 2014

Prep work: November edition

Tonight is Card Show Eve for me.

I'll be waking up bright and early tomorrow morning in preparation for the big tri-annual show. My dad and I missed the last one back in June. It's the first one of these shows we've missed in a good five years.

Thanks to a few Ebay sales, I managed to scrape up enough money to hit tomorrow's gathering.

I used to go to shows with absolutely no plan in mind. While that's still mostly true now, I like to try and set at least a few goals for myself. One of the reasons I'm able to pinpoint specific hopes at every show is because the thing is so darn huge.

How big? Think National without all the sponsored stuff. Tables as far as the eye can see, and...

Hey, why don't I just show you this time? With my dad's help, I'm planning on snapping some photos tomorrow.

I'm hoping they'll help bring the show to life for readers of this blog.

As for the actual cards, well, I have a few things in mind.

Knocking out some current needs is always a must when it comes to shows. I still need a decent chunk of 2014 A&G, Archives, etc., and I'm sure I'll find a dealer or two unloading some on the cheap. The fact that this show is held so late in the year should help my chances.

A&G is a distant memory to a lot of people come November.

It seems like forever since I picked up a pre-1957 Topps card.

While they don't often come cheap, I can usually find a few in the discount bins. I'm going to make it a point to pick up at least one of these oversized beauties tomorrow.

Creased or not.

I've had pretty good luck finding '70s oddballs at the last couple of these shows.

Of course, I'm hoping my good fortune will continue tomorrow. The amount of Hostess and Kellogg's cards I still need is staggering. If I see these in the cheapies, you know I'm going to pounce.

How people can let these go for loose change is still a mystery.

I'm planning on embarking on a new oddball quest tomorrow.

Pre-1978ish OPCs have been almost impossible to come by at these shows. Now that I think of it, I don't think I've ever actually found one. Maybe I'm just not looking hard enough.

I'll be searching far and wide for OPC tomorrow. If the price is right, I'd love to give some of them a loving home.

The backs on those '71s are worth the price tag alone.

What originally began as kind of a tongue-in-cheek declaration has actually begun to gain some steam.

When I said I'd be trying to get EVERY AUTHENTIC PILOTS CARD EVER MADE a couple years ago, I never thought I'd have an actual shot at it. The more and more I find, though, the more and more realistic the goal seems to get.

Pulling all my 1969-70 Pilots cards in preparation for this post floored me. I haven't actually done the research, but I have to believe I'm getting close to what I thought was an impossible mission.

With any hope, I'll get even closer tomorrow.

I've found that hunting for specific cards at shows is a lot of fun.

I'm making Wilbur Wood the main focus of tomorrow's gathering. I've been trying to finish his Topps Set for a while now. I still need both his '65 and '68 issues. They're both high-numbers, so I doubt they'll come cheap, unfortunately.

I was also shocked to discover that I didn't yet own a copy of his common '78 Topps card. The Wood's '65 and '68 issues might be a longshot, but I'll bet there'll a couple dozen of '78s hiding in a show as big as this one.

I'll be darned if I don't walk away with one of them tomorrow.

As always, however, I'll mostly let the discount gods take me where they please.

Whether it be player collection hits, cheap vintage, goofy dime box finds, or whatever else, I'll take it as it comes. Oh, and don't think I've forgotten about my blogger buddies out there. I'll be doing some discount hunting for all of you tomorrow as well.

I'm already counting down the hours until I wake up tomorrow. As my dad says, it's always a fun time at the card show.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Short Term Stops: The All-(Devil) Rays Team

I think the Tampa Bay Rays might be the most sympathetic team in baseball.

Sure, they might've been a laughingstock at first. The team never won more than 70 games in any of their first ten seasons. And that's not even mentioning the horrific uniforms the Devil Rays wore during that time span.

But after what seemed like an innocent name change, the newly-christened Rays became perennial pennant contenders at the drop of a hat. They've won over 90 games in five of the past seven and made it to the World Series in 2008, a turnaround that was predicted by no one.

No matter what kind of team the Rays field, however, nothing can change their absolute pit of a stadium in Tampa. They've been last in attendance in each of the past three seasons despite the squad's successes. (And 29th in 2011.)

If baseball is serious about moving a team back to Montreal, the Rays should be the number one candidate. I'll say it until I'm blue in the face.

But enough about that. Let's get to why we're here tonight. With only 17 years of existence under their belt, the (Devil) Rays don't have as much history as a lot of my past "Short Term Stops" rosters.

Even so, I think they still managed to put a pretty good team on the field.


2001 Topps #543 Juan Guzman

"Short Term Stops" (Devil) Rays Accolades:

Juan Guzman (2000 Devil Rays, 1 game, sunset season)

We begin with the exceptionally rare one-game wonder.

Juan Guzman jumped around a bit after a bunch of solid years in Toronto, eventually hooking up with the floundering Devil Rays in 2000.

He gave up eight earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings in what would prove to be his only game in Tampa and the last appearance of his career. Not surprisingly, Guzman took the loss in that contest, wrapping up his Devil Rays tenure with a staggering 43.20 ERA.


2005 Absolute Memorabilia #89 Hideo Nomo 

(Devil) Rays Accolades:

Hideo Nomo (2005 Devil Rays, 19 games)

Lots of once-great stars eventually found themselves in Tampa once their glory days were over.

Among them were Wade Boggs, Fred McGriff, and Jose Canseco, to name a few. You can add Hideo Nomo to that list. I bet most fans don't even remember him being in the bigs past around 2000 or so.

After a three-year stint with the Dodgers, Nomo wound up in Tampa in 2005. He posted a 5-8 record with an awful 7.24 ERA during his forgettable tenure with the Devil Rays. An ERA like that makes you wonder how he lasted 19 games with the club.

Had it not been for a three-game comeback with the 2008 Royals which exactly zero people remember, it might've gone down as Nomo's grand farewell.

2014 Topps Heritage #71 Heath Bell

Rays Accolades:

Heath Bell (2014 Rays, 13 games)

It pains me to say it, but this might go down as Heath Bell's sunset card.

The Rays released the fun-loving reliever in May of 2014 after only a little over a month with the club. Considering the 7.27 ERA he put up in his 13 games in Tampa, it wasn't much of a shock.

Bell spent time in both the Oriole and Yankee systems for the remainder of the year, but never made it back to the bigs. 

I'm holding out hope for a grand comeback in 2015, but it's admittedly a longshot.

Honorable Mentions:

Jason Isringhausen (2009 Rays, 9 games)
Chad Bradford (2008-09 Rays, 41 games, sunset season in '09)
Rafael Soriano (2010 Rays, 64 games)


2010 Upper Deck "Season Biography" #SB-152 Gregg Zaun

Rays Accolades:

Gregg Zaun (2010 Rays, 34 games, half-year stint)

This is, as far as I know, the only card of Gregg Zaun as a Ray.

No wacky parallels, no gimmicky SPs, nothing. This is it. While I love the high-five-tastic shot, it's a little sad that Zaun didn't even get his face on what would turn out to be his last baseball card.

Not the best way to go out.

First Base

2012 Gypsy Queen #199 Casey Kotchman

Rays Accolades:

Casey Kotchman (2011 Rays, 146 games)

For those who don't know, Casey Kotchman is the subject of one of my largest player collections.

He, Marlon Byrd, and Hoyt Wilhelm were the "Big Three" when I first started getting back into baseball cards around 2005 or so. Kotchman was fairly obscure then, and he was pretty much a no-namer by the time he signed with the Rays in 2011.

Then, much to everyone's surprise, he came out of nowhere to hit .306 in 146 games that season, good for eighth in baseball and worthy of a spot in the high-class Gypsy Queen checklist the following year.

After a woeful 2012 with the Indians and a short six-game stint with the 2013 Marlins, it looks like Kotchman might sadly be done for good.

Still, he'll always have a spot in my top tier of player collections.

Honorable Mentions:

Tino Martinez (2004 Devil Rays, 138 games)
Robert Fick (2004 Devil Rays, 76 games, half-year stint)

Second Base

2013 Topps #479 Kelly Johnson

Rays Accolades:

Kelly Johnson (2013 Rays, 118 games)

Kelly Johnson has the odd distinction of having played for all five teams in the AL East.

After a little over a year with the Blue Jays, he wound up in Tampa in 2013. Johnson suited up for the Orioles, Yankees, and Red Sox this past season, rounding out his trek through the AL East.

An impressive feat, yes, but not exactly an honorable one.


2001 Fleer Triple Crown #246 Ozzie Guillen

(Devil) Rays Accolades:

Ozzie Guillen (2000 Devil Rays, 63 games, sunset season)

Mr. Guillen is probably the king of this "Short Term Stops" roster.

After a long and distinguished tenure with the hometown White Sox (and short stints with the Orioles and Braves), Ozzie found himself in Tampa, a city that was fast becoming a home for washed-up stars.

He hit .243 in 63 games with the Devil Rays before calling it quits. This is one of those odd stints that will never look right to me.

I can deny it all I want, but the truth is in the few cards I have of him as a Devil Ray.

Third Base

2006 Upper Deck #826 Sean Burroughs

(Devil) Rays Accolades:

Sean Burroughs (2006 Devil Rays, 8 games)

Sean Burroughs is kind of like the poor man's Josh Hamilton.

Like Hamilton, Burroughs was a one-time top prospect who flamed out and eventually battled with substance abuse. He never lived up to his full potential with the Padres and looked to be done after a brief eight-game stint with the 2006 Devil Rays.

After four full years out of baseball, however, Burroughs made it back to the bigs with the 2011 Diamondbacks. He's still playing in the Independent League at 34 years of age, a testament to his love of the game.

It's stories like these that make baseball the most magical sport on Earth.

Honorable Mention:

Geoff Blum (2004 Devil Rays, 112 games)


2003 Bowman Heritage Rainbow #185 Matt Diaz

(Devil) Rays Accolades:

Matt Diaz (2003-04 Devil Rays, 14 games)

Matt Diaz had a few solid years as a pinch-hitting extraordinare for the Braves.

His career actually started in Tampa Bay back in 2003. I don't have a whole lot to say about him aside from the fact that this card is one of the most fascinating pieces of my collection. 

As far as I can tell, Diaz never played a single inning at catcher in his professional career. And yet Bowman felt the need to use a shot of him wearing a catcher's mask for this particular card.

What gives?

2005 Topps Total #537 Josh Phelps

(Devil) Rays Accolades:

Josh Phelps (2005 Devil Rays, 47 games)

I can't tell you exactly why I collect Josh Phelps.

He put up a couple good years with the Blue Jays, but was mainly a bench player by the time he wound up with the Devil Rays in 2005. Still, Topps Total had a way of making bench guys look heroic. 

It's one of the many reasons I miss the brand so much.

2011 Topps Heritage #20 Johnny Damon

Rays Accolades:

Johnny Damon (2011 Rays, 150 games)

I'm already starting to forget that Johnny Damon was ever a Ray.

Though he hit just .261 during his lone season in Tampa, he did club a healthy 16 home runs. 

I don't know about you but I always find it fascinating to see cards of relatively new squads like the Rays or Marlins in sets like Topps Heritage. 

Teams that weren't a glimmer in anyone's eye in 1962. 

Honorable Mention:

Eric Hinske (2008 Rays, 133 games)

Designated Hitter

2011 Bowman #90 Manny Ramirez

Rays Accolades:

Manny Ramirez (2011 Rays, 5 games, sunset season)

Well, we've come to the elephant in the room on this roster.

As you might remember, Manny was on the verge of receiving a 100-game suspension just five games into his Rays career for a second violation of MLB's drug policy. It wasn't the game's greatest moment.

Rather than face the ban, Ramirez simply decided to hang 'em up. It sent his tenure in Tampa (and his career, for that matter) to a screeching halt. Manny finished with exactly one hit in 17 at-bats as a Ray.

He served as a player-coach for the Cubs' Triple-A squad last year. From what I hear, Manny may have a future in the dugout. But I think it's safe to say that his big-league playing career is pretty much over.

It ended in Tampa, of all places.

Honorable Mentions:

Cliff Floyd (2008 Rays, 80 games)
Pat Burrell (2009 Rays, 24 games, half-year stint)

That's it for this edition of "Short Term Stops".

Tune in next time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The oddball machine

I cringe at all the time I wasted not caring about oddballs.

Up until a couple years ago, oddballs were never a vital part of my collection. If I happened to find one of a guy I collected, great. If not, I completely ignored it. 

I'd continue to pick up cards from boring "mainstream" sets like Bowman or whatever other abomination was on the shelves, but God forbid I actually splurge on an oddball. 

I honestly don't know what I was thinking.

I'm fully on the oddball wagon these days, and a lot of that is thanks to the blogosphere. What started as a self-proclaimed oddball "kick" has turned into a permanent part of my collection. People continue to drop awesome oddities on my doorstep, many of which I never knew existed.

Tony of the terrific blog "Off Hiatus Baseball Cards" is quickly cementing himself as one of the blogosphere's oddball legends. We've traded a few times now, and he's never ceased to surprise me with his selection of oddities.

When he decides to crank up the oddball machine, you never know what might come out.

The packages I've received from Tony have led me to question what an oddball even is in the first place.

I think most of us can agree that a disc-shaped card from Holsum Bread (or any food-themed issue, for that matter) belongs to the world of oddballs.

But can a standard Flagship insert be classified under the file of oddities? I used to think not, but I'm starting to have second thoughts.

Much of Topps's Walmart-exlusive series from 2007 honors past oddball designs. This Dice-K (remember him?) pays tribute to some kind of old Japanese set. (The backs don't go into much detail, sadly.)

While it may come from a big box store, this is certainly an oddball to me.

Retired legends make for a classic sub-genre of oddballs.

The Speaker comes from the Galasso Glossy Greats sets of the '80s. I'm not sure many people know about them, but the ones that do can't get enough. Including myself.

They're basically the cult favorites of the oddball world.

I tend to link most minis into the oddball genre.

The sheer fact that they're smaller than a so-called standard baseball card instantly separates them from the pack. While definitely cool, these Fleer minis from Tony brought back a little of my binder OCD.

Exceptionally small minis like the Topps Micro and Cracker Jack releases from the '90s are simply too tiny for a nine-pocket page. More current minis from sets like A&G, on the other hand, are big enough to be binder-worthy for me.

Size-wise, these Fleer minis fall right in the middle. They look strange in a nine-pocket page, but, then again, I'd feel even more strange leaving them out.

Into the binders they go.

I honestly had no idea that 2014 Topps Mini was even out until Tony sent this package my way.

While we might not consider them as such now, I have a feeling that we'll be calling these things oddballs a lot more often in about five years or so.

You might call Kellogg's the king of oddballs.

Few oddball sets have managed to even come close to matching the 3-D mystique of these things. Even in 1983, the brand's dying year, Kellogg's was still churning out high-quality baseball cards.

While everything else from Tony's oddball machine was fantastic, this Brett was by far my favorite of the bunch.

Kellogg's always manages to steal the show.

But the story doesn't end there.

I received yet another package from Tony late last week. And, once again, this batch featured a healthy dosage of oddities.

Tony recently posted a few trade bait cards on his blog. While I always worry about butting in ahead of player and/or team collectors on those types of "COME AND GET IT!" trade bait posts, I couldn't help but pounce on a few of the cards Tony put up for grabs.

Aside from showing off Eck's awesomely awful helmet hair, the fact that this one comes from the '81 Coca-Cola set made it a must-have for me.

The other two cards I claimed came from the wonderful TCMA brand.

This particular checklist honors the 1960s. Ron Santo and Norm Cash were a couple of the premier players from the decade.

I'm still holding out for that dime box full of TCMAs one day.

Once again, though, Tony had to go and surprise me.

While the Eck, Santo, and Cash were the only three cards I claimed, I found a couple other miscellaneous goodies waiting for me.

This particular oddity blew my mind. What you see here is apparently an unused membership card for the Hank Aaron Booster Club. I'm not sure how Tony managed to get his hands on something so obscure. I doubt this piece is listed in any kind of baseball card guide.

I don't know if oddball is even a strong enough word to describe it.

This particular mailer from Tony had a bit of a bulge to it.

The minute I opened it, a small square box fell out. Once again, Tony's oddball machine completely baffled me.

I don't know about you, but I had no idea Topps produced anything like this. As the front indicates, each of these 1992 "Triple Headers" boxes came with a special team ball containing three "superstars". (Gum not included.)

When I popped the box open...

...this is what greeted me.

An Expos team ball featuring Ivan Calderon...

...Denny Martinez...

...and Delino DeShields.

These things are extremely light and have a very Christmas ornament-like feel to them. It's prominently sitting on a shelf in my man, bedroom as we speak.

From minis to Kellogg's to team balls, I think this entire post can be summed up in two words.

Oddballs rule.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The dime box frankenset, Page 38: Numbers 334-342

Upset alert!

Win -- 2008 Upper Deck #326 Justin Maxwell (13 votes)

Place -- 2011 Topps Update #US-329 Dee Gordon (10 votes)

Show -- 2013 Topps #330 Ryan Raburn (3 votes)

As far as I'm concerned, last week's frankenset page featured the biggest surprise we've seen thus far. I thought Dee Gordon and Ryan Raburn would battle it out to the finish.

In the end, I was just one of three people to vote for Raburn, and Gordon ended up being overtaken by the underdog Justin Maxwell. Maxwell received 13 of the 31 total votes and pretty much led the way the entire week. He's also the fourth straight horizontal champ we've seen.

It's good to know that people appreciate the sheer oddity of what is a wild and crazy baseball card.

We're now fully into the "Series 2" portion (numbers 331 and up) of this frankenset.

Let's meet our next nine nominees.

2013 Topps #334 Derek Norris

A celebration shot made even more fascinating by the curious case of the little man.

1996 Score #335 "Jeff" Greenwell

Excuse me, Score, but who is Jeff Greenwell?

I think you mean Mike Greenwell.

1998 Collector's Choice #336 Jaime Navarro

A baseball card of a guy signing baseball cards. 

1999 Topps #337 John Burkett

AL pitcher at the plate!

1996 Upper Deck #338 Pat Rapp

A more common shot of a NL pitcher taking his hacks.

2014 Topps #339 Cody Ross

A botched play at the plate that's sure to upset Dodger fans. 

1998 Ultra Gold Medallion #340G Desi Relaford

An odd angle for a bunting pose, isn't it? 

1992 Upper Deck #341 Glenn Braggs

Yet another play at the plate appearance from Kirt Manwaring, this time as a cameo to baserunner Glenn Braggs.

1995 Topps #342 Scott Servais

We close with a psychedelic take on the whole multiple-exposure concept by Topps.

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!