Saturday, December 31, 2011

A look back at 2011: A big year in life and cards

As 2011 winds down, I can't help but look back. It was the most challenging and eye-opening year of my life.

Luckily, my cards were always there for me to fall back on when things got out of control. So, if you'll indulge me, here's a look back at the year of 2011.

Hope everyone out there has a safe and happy new year!

January: Off on the wrong foot

1969 Topps #43 Joe Niekro
My initial college semester wouldn't go well. I'd transfer out of that absolutely horrible college (which shall remain nameless) in December 2010. Since that college couldn't get my transcripts together for whatever reason, I found myself out of luck on going to college for the 2011 spring semester. I couldn't transfer anywhere without those credits; I would've had to start all over again.

So, I set out looking for a job for the spring and summer. It seemed like it would be nice to have a whole seven or so months off of school. Or so I thought.

In late January, I hit a card show that's about a half-hour away from my house. I used up what was left of my Christmas money. I'd been looking for this '69 Joe Niekro for a while. I picked up this mis-cut copy for a quarter. A success!

February: My birthday and card season on the horizon

2011 Topps "CMG Reprints" #CMGR-1 Babe Ruth

I'd heard rumblings about 2011 Topps being in retail stores. For me, nothing beats the excitement of seeing those first cards of the new year on the shelves. To my surprise, I had a little extra money in my wallet. 

I had a job interview that day (I think it was the 12th), so I figured I'd take the five minute walk to Target to see if they had the spoils. Even more to my surprise, they did. I grabbed five or six packs and ran back to my house (okay, I didn't really run). I didn't end up getting that job.

I'd seen this CMG Babe Ruth card on the checklist. It was my #1 want of the set. I was about halfway through opening the packs when out popped the Ruth. I literally jumped for joy (yes, I actually did). Only three packs into the new card season and already a pull like this!

Luckily, my birthday nicely coincides with the first release of the 2011 card season. I only asked for one thing and, by gosh, I got it! A 2011 Topps hobby box. Not one of my finer pictures, though.

March: A different card show and Opening Day
1977 Hostess #128 Rich Gossage

Around mid-March, I was still without a job. Yet I was able to save up enough birthday money to hit the first of three card shows at the Rosemont Convention Center (it's where the National was held for anyone who went there).
This was the first show in years that I went to without my dad. He was in Vegas, after all. It definitely felt weird being alone at times, but dime boxes are a perfect antidote for that. One of the big finds of this show was the Hostess Gossage card. I'd been looking for a card of him in a Pirates uniform (even an airbrushed one) forever, and had pretty much given up looking until I stumbled across this one for a mere 50 cents.

Opening Day on March 31 would be one of the few high points of the spring and summer. 

April: The flea market opens 

1974 Topps #80 Tom Seaver
The flea market opening in April was about the last thing I had to look forward to. It was cold and rainy the first couple weeks, so I didn't go. Finally a sunny Sunday came around and my mom and I were able to go. 

I found this Seaver one of the first weeks we went. Going there each week was like going to a mini-card show 15 different times over the course of the spring and summer. The few dealers who set up every week always had something new for me to go through and always cut me a deal since I was there almost every week. No matter how bad of a week I had Monday to Saturday, I could count on finding happiness at the flea market. That took on a whole new meaning in 2011.

June: Topps Series 2, and all comes crashing down

2011 Topps "Red Diamond Exclusive" #RDT-20 Sandy Koufax

I was lucky enough to go to my first baseball game of the year with one of my friends in June, to see the White Sox take on the Mariners (I finally got to see Ichiro!). That was an especially good day because I didn't get a chance to see many of my friends during the spring and early summer; most of them were away at school. We had some time to kill before the game, so we took a trip to Target. As in February, I'd heard that these were on the brink of release. They had 'em again! I grabbed eight packs and left them at home before taking off to US Cellular Field. 

The Sox won! On the train ride back, I remembered I still had those packs to open at home. I nearly jumped for joy again when this Koufax card fell out. Wouldn't you? It's such an awesome card.

1969 Topps #630 Bobby Bonds RC

For Father's Day, I went to the flea market with my dad. I'd been eying this Bobby Bonds card for a few weeks, but I never had the extra $5 to buy it. I finally had a little extra cash and was able finally say to the guy, "Sir, I would like to buy that Bobby Bonds card. Do you accept cash (cha-ching!)?". (No, I didn't say that. I said, "Can I get that Bobby Bonds one there?") I was on top of the world.

I was on the way back home to drop the car off at the house before catching the bus. I was going to spend the day at my dad's house. I'd just made a right turn when it happened. My first car crash. A guy swerved into my lane and hit the side of my car. It wasn't a major crash; no one was hurt and there wasn't much damage. But it scared the hell out of me. It took about an hour to sort everything out with the other driver (who, of course, spoke no English).  My school-less and jobless summer had hit bottom. Baseball cards were the last thing on my mind for the rest of that day. 

July: One bright spot

I don't mean to get all philosophical on you on a simple baseball card blog, but I did come to one major life realization in July. You can't just drift through life with no job or no school like I was doing. You have to have some sort of reason for getting up in the morning. I didn't have that.

Luckily, my baseball cards gave me a little inspiration. My hopes of finding an actual job were slim; I'd applied to everywhere I could think of. Nothing. Instead, I worked on sorting my cards during the day, just to have something, anything to do.

I had my work cut out for me for a week or so in July. There's another flea market about a half-hour away from my house. My mom and I went there once before; there was nothing good. My mom had read that there was going to be a small card show there to coincide with the flea market one week in July. So naturally, I went. And it was the most fun I'd had in months. There weren't too many tables, but almost all of the dealers had dime boxes handy. I found this neat Zack Wheat reprint in a 12/$1 box. You don't often find cards of him. I came home with about 400 cards for about $40 all together. Four-hundred cards that needed to be sorted and filed. A job!

August: The National and school

2001 Stadium Club #109 Nick Johnson FS /2999  

Things began to pick up in August. School would be starting on the 22nd. I had enrolled at a community college to get my you-know-what together for a year or so. I didn't want to jump right back into the four-year college experience right away. I was excited to be going back to school.

My trip to the National was my last hurrah before school would be starting again. It was amazing. And it was good to have my dad at my side this time, barreling through the seemingly endless aisles of cards, sniffing out those dime boxes.

I found this Nick Johnson card in one of the dime boxes I came across. I'd just started collecting him and it was a nice find. I didn't even notice it was numbered until I came across it again that night after I'd dumped my 800-or-so new cards out on the floor. I'm not sure why, but I looked it up in my Beckett just for kicks. It was worth 25 bucks. A diamond in the rough. Things were looking up, all right!

School started off great. Earlier that month, I reconnected with some old friends. I made some new ones, too. My classes were fantastic and quite interesting, something I wasn't necessarily expecting from a community college.

October: The best set of the year, but no more flea market

2011 Topps Update Cognac Diamond Anniversary #300b Walter Johnson SP

I was so happy to be back at a school which I genuinely enjoyed going to. I hadn't had that
feeling since I graduated high school in the spring of 2010. 

What's more, the box of 2011 Topps Update I ordered came not too far into October. Update is always my favorite set of the year because it's the first to feature all the guys who were involved in deadline deals in their new uniforms. Aside from the Koufax I showed earlier, this Walter Johnson may be the most aesthetically pleasing card I pulled all year.

 1972 Topps #438 Maury Wills IA

Sadly, October 30th was the last day of the flea market for the year. It was a cold and blustery day, but I wasn't going to miss it for the world. This Maury Wills card was one of the finds of the day, modestly priced at a quarter. 

I was sad to see it go; it gave me something to look forward to all summer. It really meant a lot to me. I'm already looking forward to it opening again in the spring!

November: The last card show of the year

1964 Topps #230 Brooks Robinson

November marked the final card show of the year. It was the third and final Rosemont show. As always, I came home with around 800 cards. (I'm not joking.) This '64 Brooks Robinson was the cornerstone of my dad's collection when he was younger. He bought it for me at that show. 

It's now one of the highlights of my collection.

December: My trek into the blogoshere and the last great set

  2011 Topps American Pie #157 Capone's Vault

My last day of school before break was December 8th. The day before that marked my introduction into the blogging world. I'd been reading Night Owl's blog for a couple months before, and often wondered if I should start a blog. I'd always thought they were impossible to set up. 

Nope, they're quite easy to set up, as I found. I made about six posts after I got home after taking my last final on the 8th. For the first time in months, I felt good about not having to wake up at any specific time or having any homework deadlines. This was winter break!

The day I found out that American Pie was released was the same day I found out I'd gotten straight A's in school for the semester.

Not a bad day, eh?

Of course, Christmas and New Year's are always fun. Call me crazy, but I'm actually looking forward to starting a new semester of school in January.

Well, that's it. As you might've guessed, 2011 was a wild and crazy year for me. At the least, I hope you've enjoyed my blog for the first three weeks of its' existence!

A happy 2012 to all!  


Mike said...

I may be biased,but you're a great kid (ok,guy!) and I. Know 2012 will be a great year for you! Happy new year!

Play at the Plate said...

Great recap! Have a very Happy New Year!

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