Thursday, May 31, 2012

Scratching the surface

It's official.

I have a new favorite 2012 card.

Featured on card number 233 in this year's Topps Archives set is none other than Oscar Gamble himself. I am ecstatic that I was able to snag a copy of this card for my collection since it's a short-print.

And we all know how aggravating those can be.

I'm fairly certain that this particular shot of Gamble is from his second stint with the Bronx Bombers, by which time his famous Afro was out of style.

No matter, though. The fact that it's a card of Oscar Gamble is enough.

Before Archives came out, the most recent card I had of Gamble was his '05 Fan Favorites issue. Seven years is way too long of a gap between Oscar Gamble cards.

That's why I'm on the prowl for a good number of Archives SPs. Guys like Ed Kranepool, Dave Kingman, and Luis Tiant have been ignored in the hobby for too long.

I know I bring this topic up a lot on the blog. Regular readers know that while greats such as Jackie Robinson and Mickey Mantle are among my favorite players to ever play the game, I'm getting sick of seeing ten different cards of them in every single product.

I could rattle off a list of dozens of players I'd like to see in future sets.

But here's a few that I came up with off the top of my head. Perhaps you've got a few of your own.

There are a total of just five Lyman Bostock cards in my collection.

Only one of those comes from after his playing days.

Tragically, Bostock was killed in a case of mistaken identity in 1978. While he only played in the bigs for four years, it was apparent that he would've gone on to have a fantastic career.

He hit .311 during his brief time in the majors.

I've already mentioned Wilbur Wood a good number of times on this blog.

It's one of my favorite names in history. It sounds so 1800's.

Like Gamble (pre-Archives), the most recent card of his also comes from a Fan Favorites set.

At times, Wood's stats are confounding. His 376 2/3 innings pitched in 1972. His 24-20 record in '73. League leader in games pitched every year from 1972 to 1975.

How could Topps ignore someone with credentials like those?

As far as hitters go, Topps represents the "live ball era" well.

Sluggers such as Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx are well-represented.

Pitchers from that era are almost non-existent, though. One of the better pitchers during that time was Carl Hubbell, who famously struck out five consecutive future-HOFers in the 1934 All-Star game. (While I wish it were real, the above Goudey card is a reprint.)

Yet he hasn't had a licensed card since 2005.

This is the biggest one for me.

I would absolutely love to see some sort of special base or insert set dedicated to turn-of-the-century baseball.

The above card comes from the staggeringly beautiful 1994 Origins of Baseball box set, one of the best "impulse buys" I ever made. (And I would've never known about it had it not been for the blogosphere.)

It's a shame that this is the only card of "Sliding Billy" Hamilton in my collection. He's still third on the all-time stolen base leaderboard a century later, with 914 career swipes.

Topps snuck guys like Frank Chance and "Wee Willie" Keeler into their recent Topps 206 offerings, but that barely scratched the surface.

Will Topps ever stray away from guys like Mantle or Gehrig? Who knows. Probably not while they've still got a stranglehold on the baseball card industry, at least.

"Big names" like Ruth or Wagner only begin to tell the tale of baseball history. There's still a whole lot more out there.

It's something I hope Topps realizes in the near future.

Zero-Year Cards, Part 33

2007 Upper Deck #550 Tanyon Sturtze (Braves)

I have to believe that this is probably a first in the blogosphere.

An entire post dedicated to Tanyon Sturtze.

While I love collecting the likes of bigger names such as Starlin Castro and Joey Votto, I get a huge kick out of collecting more obscure guys like Sturtze. (Some have even managed to put together good careers after I started collecting them.)

I've toyed around with starting another theme on the blog dedicated to my collections of guys who I "saved from obscurity". While I've put that on the back burner for now, Sturtze would be one of the first players featured.

There's a specific story attached to most of my obscure collecting focuses. Sturtze is one of the few exceptions.

I'm not exactly sure why I collect him.

It might be because I was a big fan of the Devil Rays way back when, and Sturtze was one of the mainstays in their rotation at the time. He went 11-12 in '01, which might not sound like anything special at first. But considering the Rays went 62-100 that year, that's pretty impressive. (I can't find anything good to say about his 4-18 season the following year, though.)

Perhaps the moment Sturtze is best known for is a bit of an infamous one. 

He ended up being one of the main combatants in the famous Alex Rodriguez-Jason Varitek brawl in '04, emerging from the scrap bloodied and battered.

Sturtze is one of the few players to have multiple zero-year cards, and is probably the only one whose first and last cards are both of the zero-year variety. (I'll be featuring his '93 Bowman rookie in a future "zero-year" post.)

Although he did pitch in three games for the Dodgers in 2008, this card from the previous year is his final issue. "The Grand Tanyon" didn't pitch in the majors during the '07 season. He spent the entire year in the Braves' minor league system before being released in August of that year.

This was one of my better finds from a dime binder at a local card shop I used to frequent. Even though I bought more of 2007 Upper Deck than almost any other product in my collecting career, I failed to pull the Sturtze from any of the packs I opened. 

So there it is.

Tanyon Sturtze now has his own post in the blogosphere.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It's supposed to be fun, right?

Collecting baseball cards has been a part of me for as long as I can remember.

Here and there, I've given tips for card shows, and I've given props to dime boxes whenever possible, which is almost all the time on this blog. It's just a couple aspects of the hobby I've enjoyed sharing ever since I became a blogger.

I like to think I've learned a lot since I first became interested in baseball cards.

But perhaps the biggest thing I've learned since I started collecting as a kid is that this is and always will be a hobby for me, plain and simple.

And hobbies are supposed to be fun.

Almost all fellow hobbyists I've encountered, both in-person and online (but mostly online), are great people. They love cards just as much as the rest of us, and they all have their collections to admire.

They don't take the hobby too seriously, which is really the key to getting the most enjoyment out of it.

The one downside to trading forums is that you'll occasionally run into the person who wants to argue for whatever reason, perhaps taking a page from Earl Weaver's book.

I try to ignore it the best I can, but I still can't help but roll my eyes sometimes. After all, these are pieces of cardboard we're talking about, when you get down to it.

That's another reason I've come to love the blogosphere so much. In my time here, I've never had or read a single argument on either my blog or any other blog.

We're an even-keeled bunch.

In that regard, baseball cards are a perfect fit for me.

While I love watching teams going at each other day in and day out (I literally jumped out of my seat after Darwin Barney's walk-off homer this afternoon), I found out early on that I wasn't a fan of engaging in competitive sports.

A couple specific encounters led me to this realization.

One year in Little League, I was "drafted" by the Yankees. (Much to my dad's pleasure.)

We had a good team. I still remember our record that year. 20-1. While it should've been nice winning all the time, it was my least favorite year of Little League.

Our coach took the games way too seriously. I was an average hitter (I always liked fielding more than hitting), but I don't remember ever batting higher than seventh or eighth in the order. I never got the chance to do much.

Not surprisingly, the coach's son was on the team as well. And yes, he was the kid that would yell at everyone else whenever something went wrong.

While we were great during the regular season, we were "upset" in the first playoff game. Once the shock of losing wore off, I was kind of happy that the season was over, to tell the truth.

The next year of Little League was great. I had a bunch of friends on the team and I got to hit everywhere in the order. I got to play both the infield and the outfield, even pulling off an unassisted triple play during one of my infield starts. (Shades of Troy Tulowitzki.)

As fate would have it, I ended up making the final out in the semifinal game that year, striking out looking. I still maintain that the ball was low, ump!

Because I loved playing so much that year, I was devastated. From what I'd seen, the next level up in Little League was a bit too competitive for me, so that turned out to be my final at-bat.

Some things in life need to be taken seriously. Playing baseball against 12 year-olds isn't one of them.

I had a couple people trying to get me to tryout for the basketball team during my freshman year of high school.

I refused every time.

If there's one thing I hated about high school, it was the pep rallies. I never ditched a class, but I came really close to trying to get out of going to those.

I'm just not a competitive guy.

Which is why baseball cards are a perfect fit.

You can collect anyone or anything you want, and everyone does it in a different way. We pretty much all respect each other. We even try to help out as much as possible with trades and such.

It's great.

I collect cards with cool pictures on them, like the A's celebrating another World Series victory. Someone else might collect Bryce Harper autographs. But that's fine. Just having the urge to collect is enough.

We're in this together, after all.

Cardboard Masterpieces, Pt. 10

2005 Topps #334 Ichiro Suzuki SH

It's been a while since I mentioned Ichiro on this blog.

I think it's time to change that.

If there's one player who I want to feature on a regular basis on this blog, it's Ichiro. He's easily my favorite player in the game right now. (It's a toss-up between him and Vlad, who is currently in the minors.)

Plus, I've always been a fan of "throwback" players. I never got a chance to see Rod Carew play, but I imagine he and Ichiro share a lot of similarities in the way they play the game. 

My little league career was coming to a close by the time Ichiro burst onto the scene, but I was a lot like him then. Even when I played on the school softball team in 8th grade, I rarely tried hitting the ball over the outfielders' heads. (I was pretty much the only guy on the team who didn't try to hit homers.)

I still had the same strategy during a pickup softball game I played last week. I tried hitting it deep the first couple times, but I hit it right at the left fielder both times. I picked up a couple singles down the line my next two times up.

As much as it hurts me to say it, I think Ichiro might be the last of a dying breed. Sure, there's guys that don't hit a lot of homers in today's game. But out of all the guys I've seen, Ichiro is the only one to make an art out of it. 

I always love to watch home runs, but nothing is quite like seeing a player like Ichiro at work. 

His 262 hits in '04 is a record that might stand forever. The same could be said about his 225 singles that year as well.

With the 400+ cards I own of Ichiro, it's easy to forget about a few here and there. I was browsing through my Mariners binder this afternoon when I came across this card. I'm not sure how, but I had completely forgotten about it. 

"Highlights" cards often hold the best shots of any subsets. (Take this one, for instance.) 

The best part about this particular card is the fact that the photographer managed to snap a shot during the split-second during which the "Ichiro Hit Count" at the right of the card shifted to the record-breaking 258th hit. (It's also a "claustrophobic" candidate.)

I don't know that we'll ever see another moment quite like this one again.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How it began

Ever since I started collecting, I've heard a lot of people recall the stories of their first cards.

No matter how long ago it was, the introduction to a hobby that has become so important to many of us is something to be remembered.

Trouble is, I can't. No matter how hard I try, nothing clicks.

I don't remember the first cards I ever bought.

My parents say I was about five or six when I first broke into the hobby. I don't remember much from all the way back then. I was still in tee-ball.

One of the earliest baseball card memories I have is making weekend trips to a special card shop, one that I previously mentioned on this blog.

I distinctly remember a little box full of vintage that was 80 percent off the marked price. (I was a fan of vintage from the start.)

A little sign hung above it saying that you had to be 18 or older to look through the box. I assume it was because they didn't want anyone pilfering cards. I had my dad look through it the first couple times, but the owners eventually let me do it alone after we'd been to the shop a few times.

The Ernie Banks card I mentioned in the post I previously linked to is definitely one of my earliest memories as a collector. I remember bringing it in to our parent-teacher conference in 3rd grade, as my teacher was a Cubs fan.

The above Rollie Fingers rookie has also been in my collection for a long, long time, but I doubt it was one of my first acquisitions. I don't know that I knew just how legendary a rookie card of a Hall of Famer like Fingers was as a kid.

I just liked the funny mustache that I saw in all the pictures of him.

Perhaps even older than my original "card shop finds" was the above card.

This experience is also something I've previously recounted. One of my dad's friends had recently moved in to a new home, and he found a little box of old baseball cards that was presumably left behind by the previous owner.

I couldn't have been more than seven or eight years old at the time.

Although John Goryl isn't exactly a "name" player, I've always appreciated this card. One thing that's persisted over the years is my love for the Cubs, and any old piece of Cubbie memorabilia has always been welcome in my collection.

Even with all that, I'm still at a loss for the first pieces of cardboard I ever owned. (Oddly enough, I can still remember the first Beanie Baby I ever got. The mind works in mysterious ways.)

I don't know whether I'm in the minority or majority here. It's awesome reading the tales of everyone else's "first cards", but I always find myself wishing I could remember mine.

While I deeply love all the cards currently in my collection, I'd really like to be able to trace it to those first ones.

I want to know how it all started.

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 35: 1989 Upper Deck #755 Jim Abbott RC

It's easy to throw around the term "favorite" a bit too often.

I know I've done it from time to time on the blog. "This is one of my 'favorite' cards." "He's one of my 'favorite' players."

When someone asks me what my favorite baseball card is, I'll sometimes say, "All of them."

While that's partly true, there are certainly a few that hold a special place in my collection. I've never attempted a "Top 100 baseball cards" list or anything (I don't know that I could ever pick a definitive "favorite card"), but I know some cards would at least make the countdown.

This Jim Abbott rookie is definitely somewhere in my "Top 100".

I've already featured this card in a post dedicated to Abbott's career, but it's worth showing again.

If you haven't already read the "Glory of Their Time" post I did on Abbott, I'll summarize it by saying this:

I'm a huge fan of his.

To pitch in the majors at all is hard enough. Abbott did it for over a decade, and he was born without a right hand. And he even tossed a no-hitter.

In the previous post I did on Abbott, I mentioned that his '89 UD rookie may very well be the greatest rookie card ever produced.

I've had some time to think about it since I wrote that, and I can definitively say that it is indeed the best rookie card out there, in my opinion.

Most players would be lucky to have any card half as good as this one, and this was Abbott's rookie card. 

I wasn't around in '89, but I imagine there was a good deal of hype over Abbott's arrival in the majors. He was one of the handful of players to jump straight to the majors without ever playing a game in the minor leagues, which could be part of the reason he was granted such an awesome rookie card.

As far as I know, Upper Deck is the only card company to ever utilize the double-image photography, as seen on this card. I'd like to see it make a comeback.

I have eleven different rookie cards of Abbott in my collection, but all of them combined couldn't come close to matching how much I love his initial Upper Deck issue.

This card is not only a "gem" from the six or seven-year overproduction era, it's one of the treasures of the hallowed history of baseball cards as a whole.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Mondays with Hoyt, Episode V

2002 Topps Super Teams "Super Teams Autographs" #STA-HW Hoyt Wilhelm AUTO

I can remember the exact day I was introduced to the glorious world of online trading.

As a kid, I was absolutely huge into the great MLB Showdown board game. (I still am, but not nearly as much as I was before.)

While it's hardly remembered today, "Showdown" was pretty big in the early 2000's. There were nationwide tournaments. I recall reading that the winner of one of those tourneys got season tickets to the team of their choice.

As a result, there was an entire site dedicated to it back in the day. Part of it was a forum for discussing and trading MLB Showdown cards. I made my first few dozens of online trades there.

It's quite possible that I wouldn't own this Hoyt Wilhelm autograph had it not been for those seemingly irrelevant "Showdown" forums.

A few years later, after the demise of MLB Showdown, I was back into "regular" baseball cards. I had already joined another trading forum, complete with a few hundred trades due to my hockey card days.

One of the first collections I began building after my plunge back into the baseball card universe was my Hoyt Wilhelm collection. I happened to mention it on the forum I was on at the time, even though my collection was still in its infant stages at the time. 

Part of what I said was that I'd been looking for a Wilhelm autograph, but I hadn't yet been able to find one within my price range.

In one of the biggest acts of generosity I've seen during my time in the hobby, one of the members of the forum said that he'd been able to acquire a Wilhelm auto online, and that it would be coming my way shortly.

I was amazed. Never in my life did I think I'd be able to get a Hoyt Wilhelm autograph, much less a free one.

That was the day I realized just how great the entire baseball card community was.

The card is still one of the cornerstones of my Hoyt collection. It's a beautiful on-card autograph from the one-and-done 2002 Topps Super Teams set. (A set which includes the "old-time" card stock that this year's Archives is lacking.)

Sadly, it could also quite possibly be one of the last autographs Wilhelm would ever sign, as he passed away in August of '02.

While I've been spending a lot more time in the blogosphere than online forums lately, I still cannot say enough for how much my collection has advanced due to the thousands of trades I've made over the years. The online community of collectors has been nothing but fantastic to me ever since day one, and have certainly played a role in the love for cardboard that I carry with me today.

Each time I look at this card, I appreciate the community more and more.

Dime Box Heroes: Time for something new

2002 Topps Archives #131 Tom Seaver

I love every opportunity I have to blog.

It's something that I don't ever see myself getting tired of.

That being said, Sunday nights are probably my favorite time of the week to blog. I've found that my highest amount of readership comes at that point, probably because people are winding down the weekend at that point.

And I've found that reading blogs is a great way to "wind down".

Even with all that, I didn't get a chance to blog last night. In fact, it didn't even cross my mind once yesterday. Why?

I tried something new. I went to Six Flags.

Taking the trip to Six Flags is an annual tradition amongst my group of friends. Since I didn't really get to know most of them until late last year, this was my first chance to make the journey with them.

Trouble was, I'd never ridden a roller coaster in my life before yesterday. I'm the polar opposite of a thrill seeker.

While I didn't ride any of the hair-raising rides (like the "Raging Bull"), I did go on a few of the smaller ones, which turned out to be pretty fun. 

I surprised myself when we got to the waterpark portion of the amusement park, going on a few slides that I never thought I'd try.

All in all, it was a great experience and I'm glad I went.

It's pretty easy to become complacent when it comes to baseball cards as well.

Same players, same teams, same sets. (It's one of the reasons I love digging through the little $1.49 packs they have at some Target stores. The variety of sets doesn't get much better.)

For a long time in my card-collecting life, it was the same card shows.

I was happy with attending the gigantic bi-annual show and coming back with six or seven hundred cards twice a year. For the first year or two after my re-entry into baseball cards, that was it.

I never thought to look and see if there were any other card shows in my area.

Finally, I decided to at least check one day. To my surprise, I found that there were actually a few shows a short drive away. Even more exciting was the fact that one of them fell a day after I was planning on attending one of the big bi-annual shows.

Two card shows in two days! Now that's a baseball card extravaganza. (I'm not quite sure how I managed to scrape up enough money for that, though.)

The first show was just as great as it always was. I found my usual six hundred cards and left with a huge smile on my face.

But the show I was to attend the next day was even more intriguing. As I've since found, there's always an odd sense of anticipation before setting foot in a brand new card show. If it's great, then you leave with a sense of accomplishment, proud of having a new show to add to the repertoire.

Then again, if it turns out to be a bust, coming home empty-handed usually results in a huge feeling of disappointment. 

Thankfully, the former was true in the case of the "new" card show.

At first, I was a bit disappointed after I found that the show was comprised of just two small rooms in a hotel. But those feelings were soon quashed.

The first room had a table with a couple big dime boxes of early/mid '80s singles. At the time, my collection was extremely lacking in that department, and I ended up adding over 100 cards as a result. The rest of that room was mostly packs, boxes, supplies, etc, so I moved on to the next room.

While there were only seven or eight tables, I found that every single one had a dime box for me to dig through, much to my pleasure. One even had two giant stacks of singles from the then-newly released 2010 A&G set, all for a dime a piece. I couldn't find them cheaper than 3/$1 at the show the day before. (One of the advantages of smaller shows, I've found.)

The last I looked through at the show had a stack of 2002 Topps Archives inside (often overshadowed by the legendary '01 Archives release). 

Cards I need from dime boxes are usually one here, another one there, another one there. However, I pulled about fifteen consecutive cards I needed from that stack, as well as dozens of other miscellaneous cards spread throughout the box. 

Tom Seaver was probably my favorite of the '02 Archives I found, as he's one of those players that tends to turn up in a lot of dime boxes for whatever reason. (He's a member of my "hundred club".)

After all was said and done, I found almost as many cards from those two little rooms as I did in the big bi-annual show from the day before, which is held in a giant convention hall.

It was a pleasant surprise, to say the least.

Since then, I've eagerly looked for new card shows in my area on a periodic basis. You never know when a new one will pop up. After all, that little show taught me a valuable lesson in the world of collecting.

Don't be afraid to try something new.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

2012 Topps Archives blaster (Yes, there's more)

I seem to be one of the few that enjoys 2012 Topps Archives thus far.

From what I've read, it's more a sense of disappointment than pure dislike. I can see why, but the fault cannot all be put on Topps' head. As I've recently learned, one of the conditions of the "Topps monopoly" is a limit on the number of retired players that can appear in the product.

Which means we won't be seeing another true Archives or Fan Favorites set anytime soon.

From what Topps had to work with, I think they did a fine job with Archives. I'll take it over last year's Lineage any day of the week.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I received three loose packs and a blaster as a special treat from my dad.

While I didn't pull anything as great as a neat autograph and a cool Clemente insert as I did yesterday (from the same pack, no less), I still had a blast ripping open the blaster. (No pun intended.)

We'll start with my favorite blaster pull, the above "Deckle Edge" Bob Gibson insert.

I've always felt that the '69 Deckle Edge set is underrated. I don't know that any of the originals featured action shots, but perhaps they should have after seeing how awesome the above Bob Gibson is.

Of all the pitchers I collect, few have better "in-action" cards than Bob Gibson.

The Rays and Royals weren't even around in 1954.

But that's another reason I've enjoyed Archives thus far. The above cards will be totally unique in their respective binders, as they don't have a whole lot of "throwback" cards.

The '71 set might be in my top five Topps sets of all-time.

1965 and '75 are a couple of my personal favorites, but I can't think of any others off-hand that would top the '71 set.

Because of this, Topps made an excellent choice in using 1971 as one of the designs for the base cards. (Although I would've loved to see '75 used as well.)

Sure, the trademarks get in the way a bit on these. But again, I don't know how much of that is Topps' fault. It's probably another condition of their new MLBPA agreement, as I don't remember seeing such a distracting trademark logo on any pre-2010 cards.

I'm loving the '71 Reggie Jackson. Although it's not nearly as great as the actual 1971 Topps issue of "Mr. October" (which recently became a part of my collection), the shot looks appropriate for the time period.

I've always thought the 1980 set would look better without the facsimile signatures.

They work for some sets, but in this case, they're just in the way. (I do enjoy that fact that Ike Davis decided to include his uniform number in his signature, though.)

Like the '54s I showed earlier, the Marlins weren't around in 1980 either, which personally makes any of their cards in the set a lot more interesting than the others.

On that note, I've decided to start a new mini-collection (just base, inserts, and parallels) of Mike/Giancarlo Stanton. (It's going to be a challenge for Topps to fit his "new" name onto his cards from now on.)

The guy's on my fantasy team this year, and I never realized just how much of a beast he was until recently. If there's a guy deserving of a spot in my binders, it's him.

So please feel free to drop me a line if you've got any extra Stantons lying around.

One of the few downsides of Archives is the fact that Topps used two designs from the 1980's.

Why not include something from the '60s? Probably the most interesting decade in American history (perhaps for baseball cards as well) is pretty much ignored in this set.

I would've loved to see some cards with the 1965 design. (Which means I can't wait for 2014 Topps Heritage, by the way.)

For me, 1984 is in the middle of the pack as far as 1980's Topps sets go. I like it better than '82 and '88, but it doesn't even light a torch to '81 or '83.

I don't know that any single stadium has been featured on more baseball cards than Wrigley Field. Both of the above shots were taken there. (It's among the easiest to spot with the outfield ivy and brick-wall backstop.)

It looks like Topps might've taken a page from the 1970's with the tilted photo on the Castro as well.

The tilted shots are one thing I've never been able to figure out.

I had good luck with the inserts I pulled from the blaster.

The only ones I don't like are the '67 stickers. Topps had some far better insert offerings from their earlier days that could've been used in this set. (The 1970 "Scratch-off" games, perhaps.)

Besides the '67 stickers, I love all the insert sets that Archives offers. Even though I don't have any of the actual ones in my collection, I've always enjoyed the '77 cloth stickers.

I always see a guy at the bi-annual card show that has a '77 cloth copy of the Mark Fidrych rookie card. If I'm remembering right, I think the price tag was seven or eight bucks.

I'm not sure how good of a deal that is, but perhaps I'll pick it up if it's still there this time around.

I already went into how much I love the inserts in yesterday's Archives post.

Killebrew is a guy that Topps really needs to showcase more. I have exactly one card of him from 2011.

As is the case with the '62 Killebrew, reprints are even more special when I have a copy of the actual card as well. I'm not exactly sure where I got it, but it's definitely one of my favorite cards of his.

Then again, all my "Killer" cards are my favorites.

I have had astounding luck pulling cards of "The Mick" this year. The first 2012 card from my first Topps pack of the year was a Mantle. A rack pack and blaster of Gypsy Queen netted me two different Mantle inserts.

Out of the final pack of my Archives blaster fell the 3-D Mantle, which is way better than all the Mantles I've pulled so far put together.

While I haven't put any of the Archives inserts on my needs page, I am interested in them (especially the reprints). If you have any extras that you'd like to unload, please feel free to contact me.

Finally, we have the two short-prints I pulled.

I love these because names like Bill Madlock, Dave Kingman, and Ed Kranepool don't pop up a whole lot in the card collecting universe.

Plus, for every fifty cards of Jackie Robinson or Babe Ruth, there's probably one Bill Buckner.

Thankfully, both of the SPs I pulled were ones I really wanted. (Not to mention the awesome shades that Madlock is wearing in that shot, once again taken at Wrigley Field.)

Busting open these packs was probably the most fun I've had since flagship was released in late-January. As I've mentioned before, I'm weak when it comes to old-time designs. It's one thing I'll never get sick of.

If you've read this far, I'd like to thank you for sticking through these two Archives posts. I know one of the main features on this blog is the "randomness" factor, and featuring the same thing two days in a row isn't part of what I normally do. But that should tell how much I enjoyed 2012 Archives.

Any set that pays homage to the history of baseball cards is okay in my book.

Friday, May 25, 2012

2012 Topps Archives: Three packs of fun

One of my favorite times in the blogosphere is the first week or so after a new set is released.

I know people complain about seeing the same cards twenty times, but I love hearing all the varying opinions on all the new releases. It makes me glad to be a part of the blogosphere.

After all, opinions are a part of what makes this hobby so great. So if you're sick of Archives, I apologize. But showing off new cards is one of my favorite things about blogging.

So ready or not, here comes more Archives.

I've been excited about Topps Archives as soon as I heard it was coming back. The original Archives set is probably my favorite of the 21st century.

While the name is the same, this version of Archives is totally different. The 2012 set features current players on old designs...

...but all of you probably know that already. So let's just move past all the fluff and get to the cards, shall we?

My dad was nice enough to treat me to a blaster and three loose packs of Archives this afternoon. I haven't even opened the blaster yet, but it's sitting right next to me, almost calling my name. I'm planning to play some softball for the first time in a while this afternoon, so I probably won't get to the blaster pulls until tomorrow.

But I opened the three loose packs over lunch today. My dad likes seeing the new sets about as much as I do.

The first pack netted the above cloth sticker Justin Verlander insert. I should try and pick up a real '77 cloth issue for my collection. (Does anyone actually peel the sticker?)

Lincecum is one of my dad's favorite players, so that pull was a pleasant surprise.

Out of the four designs, I'd have to say the '71s are my overall favorite. I'm not usually a fan of black-bordered cards, but those are an exception. (Which means this blog is probably my favorite set-based one out there.)

These came from the third and final pack I opened.

The second pack was so awesome that I'm saving it for last.

As usual, Topps' Hall-of-Famer selection for the base set was same old, same old. (The SPs are different, but I didn't pull any of those.)

I've got about 70 cards each of Gehrig and Robinson. About half of those are from the last five years or so. These are cool, but when is it enough?

The '84 set is just average to me.

It's nice, but nothing to get too excited over. I wish Topps had selected a design from the '60s instead of either the 1980 or '84 designs. It would've worked better, at least in my view.

The Uggla is pretty neat, though. That's probably the most colorful scoreboard I've ever seen behind him.

I found the '71 Reyes especially interesting because the Marlins weren't even around then. The blue and red color scheme was an interesting choice. (They should've used orange.)

My favorite part of this year's Archives set are the reprints.

I've already mentioned how much of a sucker I am when it comes to those. Not to mention that "Pops" is one of my favorite HOFers.

Now we move on to that awesome pack I mentioned earlier.

I really like this David Wright card. A great in-action shot of a guy who is absolutely tearing it up right now.

But the base cards weren't what made this pack so great...

I can't remember the last time I pulled an autograph from a retail pack, much less one of a guy that was actually a decent player.

I'd guess that Dave Righetti probably doesn't have a whole lot of autographs out there, which makes this one even better.

That being said, it is for trade if any Yankee/Righetti fans want it.

As if that wasn't enough...

...this slid out of the pack right after the Righetti.

Clemente is without a doubt my all-time favorite baseball player. The game would not be the same had he not come along.

The scan doesn't come even close to doing this card justice. Not only is it 3-D, but it's a fantastic action shot of Clemente as well, eagerly taking his lead off first base.

Needless to say, it was easily the best pack I've opened in a few years.

Judging from what the rest of the blogosphere has said so far, I think I'm in the minority with this set.

I like it.

I've always been fond of old-timey designs. Although the card stock isn't appropriate to the era that Topps is trying to represent, it still has a similar effect. Topps did a nice job with these. (Reading more of what the blogosphere thinks, it looks like I might be the only one who likes them.)

I'll go out on a limb and say that this will be the best non-flagship release of the year. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go bust open the blaster.

More Archives await.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

It's my choice

It's been about two years.

Two years since I sampled my final taste of Upper Deck. I'd gotten most of what I needed from the set and didn't really need to buy any more packs.

Even with the fact that they weren't able to use any of the team logos, I didn't think UD's final release was all bad. 

Around this time two years ago, I finally dealt with the fact that there was only one game left in town, and its name was Topps.

I have an up-and-down relationship with Topps. I haven't loved the products so far this year, but I haven't hated them. Last year's product was nice, but aside from flagship, nothing really got me all that excited. 

We'll have to wait and see what Topps has in store for us this year.

Originally, I thought just the one company wouldn't be all bad. I figured I'd save a lot of money, since I usually like to buy a pack or two of most new products. Plus, Upper Deck hadn't done anything spectacular in their last couple years anyways.

I don't mind Topps being the only company left, but I do find myself wishing for a little competition.

It's basic business. If companies have to compete, then each one will try and better the other one, usually resulting in a higher quality product. We may be sick of Topps' apparent fascination with gold this year, but people are buying it. Which gives Topps no incentive to stop.

I've found that I do miss having a choice, even if I have to spend an extra couple bucks here and there.

I'd like to go back to the 1981 version of the baseball card universe.

I don't know what the feeling on Topps was before '81 came along. Was there any thought as to having another set to choose from? Or were kids then satisfied with what Topps was doing?

Other companies finally got the chance to produce cards in 1981. Fleer and Donruss famously jumped into the ring that year, albeit with sets that were rushed into production. 

The above Ozzie Smith was card #1 in the first Donruss set ever released, a fitting choice if you ask me. (And thus Wrigley Field was the first stadium shown in a Donruss set as well.)

It must have been quite a shock to anyone collecting cards then. After years and years of nothing but Topps, kids all of a sudden had three different sets to choose from. It must have been great.

But I'm beginning to forget what that feels like.

I miss going into a Target or Wal-Mart or wherever and browsing through the seemingly innumerable different products on the shelves. Sure, not all the sets were good. But they were there if I ever needed them. 

It made my dollar feel a whole lot stronger. "Maybe I'll try some Fleer this time. Or perhaps some Upper Deck. I could just stick to good ol' Topps, though."

I miss having a choice.

Cardboard Masterpieces, Pt. 9

2010 Topps #339 Jose Reyes

The beginning of this post is a telling of a recent uplifting story from my school experience this semester. I always enjoy when bloggers give a little insight into their lives outside of baseball cards. Nothing too personal, of course, but something to show us who they are outside of their blog.

I hadn't done anything like this for a while, but I'd like to now. It will eventually tie in with the absolutely awesome card shown above. Enjoy!

I was the recipient of some good news the other day.

For the second straight semester, I achieved what a lot of students could only hope for. Something that seemed impossible to me a couple months ago.

Straight A's.

It seemed impossible because I had to take a math class this semester. Math is far and away my worst subject. Unlike a couple other classes I've taken at college, this one was no cakewalk.

The class started with 35 students. By the time finals came around, it was down to 13. Almost two-thirds of the kids had dropped it. I didn't do so hot on the first exam or two, but I stuck with it. 

I had worked my way back up to a "B" when mid-term grades were released. I felt lucky to have that, because while I did the homework and showed up every day, the exams still proved to be a challenge.

Before I knew it, it was finals week. I had the "A" pretty much locked up in all my other classes. I went in to the math one simply hoping to do well enough to maintain my "B".

The day before the final, our teacher had told us that he intentionally chose more difficult questions for our exams. I was a bit confused and angry at the same time. I had one question.


I found out the answer to that question when it was time to take the final. While our other exams had taken me almost two hours to finish, I was done with this one in a half-hour. It was then I realized why my teacher had intentionally made our exams more difficult.

While I hadn't done too great on the tests, I did actually learn from them. The questions on our final might not have seemed so easy to other students, whose teachers had allowed them to coast through the semester without much preparation for what lay ahead. 

I turned in my final and thought maybe, just maybe, that test could bump me up to an "A". I didn't mind a "B", but getting an "A" in something like math would be a huge boost.

A few nights ago, I logged on to my student account to see if my final grades had been posted yet. They had. And under the "Final Grades" column stood four A's, and nothing else. I had done it.

The anticipation that had led up to that moment was not unlike what both Jose Reyes and the Marlins' third baseman (I can't make out who it is) are going through at the time of this photo. (Thank you for sticking through the non-baseball card part of this post.)

From what I can tell, there was a close play at third. There are close plays in every baseball game. And every time that happens, the final judgment lays with one person.

The umpire.

Reyes is about to get some good news. He's safe. A deep sense of relief comes every time you see the ump make that familiar "safe" call. I've only experienced it in Little League, but I'm sure it translates to all levels of baseball.

My "A" was the equivalent to the "safe" sign. There's nothing wrong with a "B", but they're not my goals as a student. 

I had "snuck in under the tag", as they say. My final exam turned out to be the grade that boosted me up into "A" territory.

As for the card itself, I'd rank it among the best of the last five years or so. I've mentioned before that third base is criminally underused when it comes to baseball cards, yet a lot of the ones I've seen are spectacular.

Speaking of which, if Topps wants to make me happy, they'll do two things.

a) They'll include my favorite Cub, Tony Campana, in one of their upcoming sets.
b) They'll use this picture. (I saw that live.)

But even though Reyes successfully made it to third base, his job isn't done. He still needs to score.

My job isn't done yet either. I've got another challenge waiting for me next semester.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"The Greatest Thing in the Hobby" (Part 2)

Last night, I revealed the first part of my attempt to crown "the greatest thing in the hobby".

It's one of the few positive results of Beckett's entry into the world of baseball cards, as I found it in one of their magazines from a few years ago. After revealing the 32 original individual aspects of the hobby (with a few changes of my own where needed), I narrowed the field down to 16.

Tonight, I will go through the "Sweet 16", "Elite Eight", "Final Four", to eventually advance to a "championship", which will finally crown a winner.

Here is my Sweet 16, in case you missed last night's post:

#2 "Trading" vs. #3 "Pulling Key Card of Favorite Player/Team"
#6 "Legible Autos" vs. #7 "On-Card Autos"
#10 "Bargain Bins" vs. #11 "Your Hobby Room"
#13 "An Understanding Wife/Girlfriend" vs. #16 "The National"

#2 "Mail Days" vs. #4 "Buying Cards Online"
#6 "Bustin' Wax" vs. #7 "Rookie Cards"
#9 "Vintage" vs. #12 "In-Person Autos"
#14 "Your Local Card Dealer/Shop" vs. #15 "Shows"

It gets a lot harder from here on out. Some of the ones from last night were easy choices.

I hope no one picked graded cards over an understanding wife/girlfriend (from yesterday's "matchup").

At the end of this post, I will have crowned "the greatest thing in the hobby". Here we go!

To kick off the Sweet 16, we've got #2 "Trading" vs. #3 "Pulling Key Card of Favorite Player/Team".

It's an easy choice from my perspective.

About a month after I started this blog, I put out a plea for a new player collection I was starting of Ryan Dempster.

I started out with five Dempster cards. Thanks to trading (especially with members of the blogosphere), I'm up to 58 different Dempster issues as we speak.

While pulling a card of a guy or team you like is exciting, it's a lot less efficient. I think I've pulled exactly one Dempster card from a pack since I decided to start collecting him.

Trading moves on to the "Elite Eight".

Next, we have #6 "Legible Autos" vs. #7 "On-Card Autos".

Legible autos only moved on because it faced "pack wars" in the first round. I've never participated in a pack war, so non-chickenscratch autos won by default.

While my fascination with autos is far less than what it used to be, I still love on-card signatures. Imagine this fantastic Vida Blue auto with one of those unsightly stickers on it. (It's one of the few auto/game used cards with an awesome action shot as well.)

I'll take on-card autos in this matchup.

Next up is a tough one. #10 "Bargain Bins" vs. #11 "Your Hobby Room".

If my hobby room was matched up with almost anything else in this region, it would've prevailed.

But I can't eliminate the bargain bins. They're just too much of a part of me. Cards of John Kruk when he was still under 200 pounds are impossible to turn down.

Bargain bins move on.

For the final matchup in the first region, we have #13 "An Understanding Wife/Girlfriend" vs. #16 "The National".

When I first did this bracket about four or five years ago, I picked the National.

Not any more.

I don't know that it would be much fun having a wife or girlfriend who doesn't at least tolerate this hobby that all of us are a part of. I'm still looking for one.

The National is easily the best card show I've ever attended, but a wife or girlfriend that understands the excitement of a show like that would be even better.

The understanding wife or girlfriend advances to the "Sweet 16".

Now on to the first matchup of the second region, #2 "Mail Days" vs. #4 "Buying Cards Online".

These are a bit similar, but I give the edge to mail days. Completing a trade with another fellow hobbyist is a much better feeling than buying a card off a random seller online, at least in my view.

One of my "geeky" pleasures is going downstairs to check the mail each day, even if I'm not really expecting anything. The look on Eric Byrnes's face is much like my look of anticipation once I open the mail box.

For that reason, mail days advance.

Next, we've got #6 "Bustin' Wax" vs. #7 "Rookie Cards".

Although it's not a regular occurrence in my baseball card life, "bustin' wax" is one of my favorite things about the hobby.

As I've mentioned before, it's become a ritual of mine to buy a box of Topps Update each year. The day it finally arrives in the mail one of my favorites as a collector.

I love rookie cards, but they can't compare with tearing the seal off a brand-new box of baseball cards.

"Bustin' wax" moves on.

Next up is the easiest choice of the Sweet 16, #9 "Vintage" vs. #12 "In-Person Autos".

IP autos are great, but they don't even come close to the awesomeness of a 53 year-old piece of cardboard.

Vintage advances without much of a fight.

Now for the final matchup of the Sweet 16, #14 "Your Local Card Dealer/Shop" vs. #15 "Shows".

I love brick-and-mortar card shops, but shows have a special aura. Moving from table to table in search of that next big "gem" is one of the best things about baseball cards. The moment when you finally find it, like the above card of "The Duke", is one worthy of celebration.

Plus, even with the best shops, you kind of know what to expect after a while. The opposite is true with card shows.

While I hate to see card shops eliminated, I have to give shows the edge here.

So before we start with the next round, here's my "Elite Eight":

#2 "Trading" vs. #7 "On-Card Autos"
#10 "Bargain Boxes" vs. #13 "An Understanding Wife/Girlfriend"

#2 "Mail Days" vs. #6 "Bustin' Wax"
#9 "Vintage" vs. #15 "Shows"

The first matchup of the Elite Eight is #2 "Trading" vs. #7 "On-Card Autos".

I love on-card autos, but they faced a couple weak contestants in the first two rounds (1-of-1's and legible autos).

My collection would be nowhere near what it is today without the invention of online trading, within the blogosphere. My 2012 Topps needs were knocked out quicker than ever before, thanks in large part to my fellow bloggers.

Trading easily moves on to the "Final Four".

Next, we have #10 "Bargain Boxes" vs. #13 "An Understanding Wife/Girlfriend".

This is probably the toughest matchup so far.

On the one hand, an understanding wife or girlfriend would be awesome. A woman that understands the consistent purchasing of what is just basically pieces of cardboard (if you're a fan of simplicity) is something to be treasured.

On the other hand, I've loved the dime boxes ever since I first entered the hobby as a kid. Something has always drawn me to them. The stories behind each card make them all special in their own way.

Graig Nettles as a Minnesota Twin? "It's got to be a result of those dime boxes", you may think.

It was.

I've got to give the slight nod to bargain bins in this situation. It might change as I get older, but bargain bins have been with me since the beginning, pretty much.

Not that I don't want an understanding wife or girlfriend. Because I really do.

The next matchup is #2 "Mail Days" vs. #6 "Bustin' Wax".

I love ripping open a box, but that's a feeling that only comes around a couple times a year.

I'd say I receive baseball card-related mail about 100 times a year, perhaps more. And whether it's a small envelope or a packed bubble mailer, it elicits the same response once I see it poking out of the mailbox. It's a feeling similar to the Brad Lidge is showing on that card. (Maybe not that intense.)

Mail days once again advance.

The final matchup of the "Elite Eight" is #9 "Vintage" vs. #15 "Shows".

If vintage was paired with almost any other contestant in this bracket, it would easily move on to the Final Four.

I own quite a few vintage cards, a whole lot more than I could have ever dreamed of. I owe about 95 percent of those to card shows. I don't trade for a ton of vintage, and almost all you see at card shops, flea markets, garage sales, etc. are quite overpriced.

Card shows are the one place where I can instantly add 600 new cards to my collection within a few hours, with stuff from about every era imaginable. Even cards of Ozzie Guillen as a Devil Ray.

While it pains me to say it, vintage has been eliminated.

Shows advance to the Final Four, which looks as follows:

#2 "Trading" vs. #10 "Bargain Bins"
#2 "Mail Days" vs. #15 "Shows"

This is going to be tough.

For the first spot in the championship matchup, we have #2 "Trading" vs. #10 "Bargain Bins".

Tough, tough, tough.

I've added so much to my collection via both means, and I don't know that I'd still even have a collection to admire without either of them.

But I have to give the nod to bargain bins. They're just so great.

Each one holds a surprise. I may not find hundreds and hundreds of cards from each one, but they're all special in their own way.

I only came away with ten cards from a dime box I dug through a couple years ago. But one of those cards was the above '72 Topps Denny McLain, a great addition and quite possibly my favorite card from the 1972 set. It's Denny McLain, and it might well be a night card. Plus, that's an airbrushed Senators hat he's wearing.

Bargain bins occupy the first spot in the championship.

For the second spot in the championship, it's #2 "Mail Days" vs. #15 "Shows".

Again, I love mail days. It's always a pleasant surprise to see a brand new bubble mailer, waiting to be opened.

But that feeling doesn't even compare to the one I get when I step foot into a card show. It's a feeling of excitement, happiness, anticipation, and mystery, all in one.

Perhaps I'll find that card that I've always wanted. Perhaps I'll find that card to complete my Bobby Bonds "team set". One of my personal goals of a collector getting at least one card of certain player on every team he suited up for. Bonds played for eight teams during the course of his career, and until last year, I had a card of him on every single one except the hometown White Sox. (I'd like to see a Matt Stairs "set" one day.)

But then, in a fifty-cent bin of all places, I finally found it. The coveted card I needed to complete the Bonds "set".

It wouldn't have been possible without the good ol' card show.

And so we have the championship matchup. #10 "Bargain Bins" vs. #15 "Shows".

They both fought their way here, but only one can emerge victorious.

Now, to crown "The Greatest Thing in the Hobby"...

Without shows, there wouldn't be many bargain bins.

I've found some great cards from various discount boxes from other means before, but even all of those combined wouldn't even touch the staggering amount of greatness I've found from card show bargain bins.

I said that a flea market is like walking through aisles of American history.

Well, a card show is like walking through my favorite part of history.


At some shows, you'll find everything from tobacco issues to last week's new releases. It's all there. There's names from Cap Anson to Carlos Ruiz. Teams from the Boston Red Stockings to the Washington Nationals.

Every part of baseball history is covered. And if you're lucky, you can take some of it home with you. When you buy a baseball card, you're not just getting a piece of cardboard.

You're getting a piece of history.

And there's no better place to find these "pieces of history" than at a card show.

They are indeed "The Greatest Thing in the Hobby" to me.

But that asks the question that was really the purpose of this whole concept, a chance to see just how similar or different we all are as collectors.

Are they yours?

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 34: 1994 Topps #20 Bryan Harvey

Greatness can be found in the most unexpected places.

A few nights ago, I decided to grab a random box of cards from my closet and browse through them, simply for kicks.

I've got tons and tons of overproduction era cards spread across my room, from all sports. I don't think I could bring myself to throw them out just yet, although I am in some need of a "cleansing", if you will.

Even with all the tired poses and no-namers like Jeff Calhoun or Francisco Melendez, a few gems manage to shine through the rubble.

Like this one.

It grabbed my attention the minute I saw it. Although I'd never heard of Bryan Harvey before, I should note that he was a two-time All-Star, also finishing eighth in the 1993 NL Cy Young Award voting after posting a 1.70 ERA with 45 saves that season. (Which probably explains why he received such an awesome card the following year.)

The first thing that peaked my curiosity was the fact that the card is horizontal, something you don't often see from the overproduction era, sadly enough.

But the picture itself is what makes this card a "gem". Few baseball cards have captivated me as much as this one.

I'm still not sure what the heck was going on when Topps snapped this shot.

It looks like they were going for "vapor trail" shot by having Harvey wave his hand around in a circle. Which would probably rank up there as one of the most awkward photo sessions in history, if true.

"Just wave your arm around for a minute. Keep going. Keep going...STOP! Now, smile!" (Hopefully they got it in one take.)

Or maybe this card is haunted by the proverbial "baseball gods". The terrified look on Harvey's face leads me to believe that.

Plus, where exactly was the setting for this photo shoot? The alarmingly dark room looks like something out of an Edgar Allan Poe novel.

While it may be eerie, this card is certainly different. And my readers probably know how much of a "different" fan I am when it comes to cardboard.

Let's just hope there's not a curse or anything attached to this card.