Sunday, September 30, 2012

How I spent my Sunday afternoon

Sunday afternoons are different for everyone.

For some, it's simply about kicking back and enjoying the last day of the weekend. For others, it's all about watching football.

For college students, it's the prime time to do all your homework. (In most cases, it's homework that's due the next day.)

While I can certainly relate to all of those, one thing and one thing only comes to mind whenever I think of Sunday afternoons.

The flea market.

I've been making the trek to the local flea market for the last three summers. I get some exercise, I get to bask in the glorious summer sun, and I usually get to enjoy a nice meal afterwards, since there's a mini-mall with about every food place imaginable next door. (This time, I was treated to a delicious double steakburger from Steak 'n' Shake, courtesy of my dad.)

But, most of all, I get to dig through baseball cards.

What more could I ask for?

This afternoon marked the fifth time I'd attended the flea market this summer. I got shut out the first weekend, but the last three trips proved to be more than successful. (You can read about them here, here, and here.)

This time was no different. As you'll soon see, it netted me perhaps my all-time greatest flea market find.

More on that later, though.

The first cardboard sighting of the day came from just the second aisle, in the form of a quarter box.

It was a mixed bag of sorts. The box held some vintage, some newer issues, and even had a few oddballs as well.

It's hard to provide a precise definition of what an "oddball" actually is, but I tend to classify any sticker cards in the "oddball" section of my collection.

My eyes lit up when I first saw this neat Kent Tekulve "Star Sticker" insert. He's always been one of my favorites, but it's tough to find anything of his these days.

Between his dark shades, his odd sidearm delivery, and his quirky personality, Tekulve wasn't exactly a portrait of normalcy during his career.

In a way, that's what makes this particular card so great.

It's an oddball within an "oddball".

While we're on the topic of "oddballs", here's a couple more of my quarter box finds.

Although it's a bit thick to put into my binders, the Berra will definitely make for a nice display piece in my collection.

It folds out into a little five-page book, chronicling his career.

Plus, I'm a fan of anything that shows him in a Mets uniform.

Regular readers of mine should know how big of a fan I am of Charles Conlon.

His photography comprised the basis of arguably the greatest set ever produced. To put it simply, Conlon's photos are things of beauty.

These two are no exception.

I have a hard time passing on any Honus Wagner card for a quarter, much less one with the mark of Charles Conlon.

When it comes to old-time baseball, I'm usually pretty good with faces. However, I had to flip to the back of the card on the right to find out who it was.

Turns out that the player in the pinstripes is none other than Leo Durocher, a great baseball mind who would go on to become one of the greatest managers the game has ever seen.

Because of his tremendous success as a skipper, some tend to forget that he enjoyed a 17-year big league career as a player, one during which he'd earn two All-Star appearances.

In fact, that's my first card of "Leo the Lip" that pictures him during his playing days.

A true diamond in the rough.

The quarter box seemed to get better and better as I got deeper into it.

If I ever write a sequel to my "cardogenic" post, I'll be sure to include Johnny Bench. He's never had a bad baseball card.

Awesome cards like that one are the norm for Mr. Bench.

A lot of the quarter box was comprised of Yankees cards. Although I found a few new Ron Guidrys and Bobby Murcers for my collection, I'd have to rate that Reggie (numbered out of 1,500 copies) as the greatest pinstripe find of all.

Serial-numbered cards are a tough draw when it comes to quarter boxes, especially ones of legends like "Mr. October".

I've come to appreciate 1982 Fleer more and more over the years.

As odd as it might seem, I think I might actually like Fleer's '82 offering better than Topps' "hockey stick" design from that year.

Fleer certainly outdid Topps in honoring "Fernandomania", capturing a shot of Venezuela's trademark pre-pitch peek at the sky.

If someone gave me a baseball time machine, one of my first stops would be a night at Dodger Stadium, at the height of "Fernandomania".

I can't imagine what that must've been like.

Here, we have one of my last "gets" from the quarter box.

Even though I was only six years old at the time, I do remember watching Kerry Wood's 20 strikeout performance. A few of my friends and I caught the last three or four K's on the TV at our daycare.

This card provides the answer to a good piece of baseball trivia.

Who caught Wood's 20-strikeout game?

Answer: Sandy Martinez, basically a career backup catcher who spent just two years with the Cubbies.

All in all, I nabbed a total of 26 cards from this particular quarter box.

As I've found over the last couple summers, most flea market card vendors always knock a couple bucks off the final price, as the guy only charged me five bucks for the lot.

Thank you, sir.

You gave them a good home.

As we got further into the many aisles of the flea market, my dad and I finally found the regular vendors, the ones who first opened my eyes as to how great Sunday afternoons could be.

Ever since I first started attending on a regular basis, I've made an effort to buy something from them each week.

I pretty much unearthed all the cards I needed from one of the vendors the last time I was there. Since he hadn't gotten any new cards in since then, my "finds" from his 12/$1 boxes weren't quite as plentiful this time around.

While most of my purchases from this vendor were cards for fellow bloggers, I did manage to find a few for myself.

For about eight cents, I'll take a "masterpiece" like that Martinez any day of the week.

Most of the "keepers" I purchased were simply ones I found interesting or funny, even if I didn't necessarily collect the players featured on them.

Judging from how much I love knuckleballers, I'm surprised that I haven't committed to starting a Tim Wakefield collection.

I might have to change that in the future.

His '09 Topps Update issue is a great little nugget. At 42 years of age, Wakefield became the oldest player to make his All-Star debut in baseball history.

The final total from this table: 25 cards, two bucks.

Even with all that, there was still a lot in store on this Sunday afternoon.

Thankfully, the other of the two regular flea market vendors has new cardboard for me to dig through every week.

This time, though, I came away a little disappointed.

Usually, he has a couple big dime boxes on display. They've been my most consistent source for dime cardboard over the years, and likely played a big role in determining the name of this blog.

As soon as he saw me walk up to his table, he noted that someone came up earlier and bought every single dime card he had.

Looks like I have a little competition.

On the bright side, he informed me that he was due to get a couple new dime boxes in by next week. I'm already gearing up for my next flea market excursion as a result.

On the even brighter side, he still had his usual great quarter, fifty-cent, and dollar boxes on display.

We'll start with the quarter box.

Even though I don't collect cards of Cal Ripken, I've found myself picking up more and more of his items within the last year.

Most of his mid-'90s issues are absolute masterpieces, given that he was likely the most iconic player in all of sports at the time.

I've always been a sucker for these neat double-image photos, one of my favorite recent hobby innovations.

The fact that it's a card of the "Iron Man" himself is simply a bonus.

This has to be one of the oddest action shots on record.

There's hands and feet coming from almost every angle. It's hard to tell what's actually taking place here.

I can't even decide whether I love or hate this one.

It's one confusing piece of cardboard.

Behold, my first-ever Topps Marquee card.

I figured I'd add one to my collection sooner or later, but I though I'd have to shell out a lot more than a quarter for anything related to this set.

It's pure coincidence that George Sisler is easily one of my favorite figures from early baseball history. Plus, this is a rare shot from his brief days with the Boston Braves.

Not a bad find for some loose change.

I'm happy to report that my new Andrew McCutchen collection is progressing well.

I recently topped the twenty-card mark with a couple recent additions.

However, I think it's safe to say that this will be my favorite McCutchen card for a long, long time. I can't see what could top it.

Speaking of Pirate outfielders and Wrigley Field ivy...'s another one.

I have to be a little more choosy when it comes to fifty-cent boxes. I can't just pick out cards all willy-nilly, as I do with dime and occasionally quarter boxes.

However, there was no doubt in my mind that this one was worth the fifty-cent price tag.

My all-time favorite player in my all-time favorite stadium.

It doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle are usually dollar box material.

Anything you can find cheaper than that is a steal, which is what we have here with these fifty-cent box gems.

Not bad for a couple quarters each, I'd say.

If I can find them cheap enough, I'll buy anything related to 1955 Bowman.

When I saw this one in the fifty-cent bin, I couldn't help myself. I had to take it home with me, even though I have no idea who John Phillips is.

I'm pretty much powerless when it comes to discounted '50s cards.

My dad remembered this card from his childhood days.

That's the makings of a great card, as far as my collection goes.

Into the purchase pile it went, another stellar fifty-cent find.

Interestingly, this turned out to be the most expensive purchase from the table, setting me back a whole dollar.

I passed on this card the last time I saw it in the guy's vintage bin. I'd been kicking myself ever since. A former Brady Bunch guest star featured on the '71 Topps design is the makings of a card I need to have.

After all was said and done, I was ready to buy a nice stack of cards, ones that should've set me back about ten bucks.

The guy only charged me half-price, enabling me to take home my "loot" for a mere five dollars.

I can't say enough for the vendors at my local flea market.

I thought those "scores" would be the highlight of the day.

They weren't.

A few aisles down, I came across a new card vendor, one I'd never seen before this afternoon.

When I walked up to his bin of cardboard, the prices on each toploader deterred me a bit. I kept seeing things like "$5" and "$10" marked on the back.

Thankfully, the vendor notified me that anything in the bin was just a dollar a piece.

Seeing that it was mostly vintage, I started digging.

This in-action "Yaz" got me thinking that perhaps this dollar bin would be something special.

Something that I'd remember for years to come.

My suspicions were correct.

I still can't believe what this dollar bin held.

Look! Real, actual Brooks Robinsons! Both of these have been on my "Most Wanted" list for a long time.

To have both of them fall into my hands for just a buck a piece is amazing.

To top it all off, most of them were in pretty nice shape, something I can't say about 95 percent of the other discount vintage bins I've dug through over the years.

I've wanted a copy of Carlton's 1973 Topps card for a while. I always assumed that I'd have to settle for a beat-up copy in a dollar box someday.

Well, I was half right, anyways.

Sometimes, it's good to be proven wrong.

One dollar each.

I guess dreams do come true.

Here, we have two of the fiercest competitors to ever take the field.

I very nearly put the Rose back. My conscience got the better of me this time, though.

I didn't want to relive Wes Parker all over again.

Before this afternoon, I'd never even seen a copy of Rose's '84 Donruss issue, my personal favorite release from their long history. Coupled with a terrific action shot, I made sure that the Rose came home with me.

Thankfully, it's sitting peacefully in my collection as we speak.

No regrets necessary.

As I finished digging through the bin, I was at a loss for words.

I couldn't believe what my "haul" had become. Vintage pieces of "Yaz", "The Human Vacuum Cleaner", and "Stretch" for just a buck a piece.

All told, I found eleven cards from the dollar bin. (You've just seen every single one.)

Amazingly, it got even better.

When I first walked up to his table, the vendor also let me know that anything from his other bin of cards was half-off the marked price.

Those types of deals have their ups and downs. Usually, the dealer marks it fairly high, so you think you're getting a "deal". (As was the case with almost every vinyl record my dad looked at throughout the course of the afternoon.)

I don't devote much time to these types of "discount" bins. They don't often hold nearly as many "deals" as the vendors would like you to believe.

However, this one was different. The marked prices were fairly reasonable. At half-off, I managed to fit a couple into my dwindling budget.

This well-loved card of Bob Gibson set me back two bucks. Still, the price was more than fair, since it's a high-number and all. Most of us know how aggravating those can be sometimes.

For the day, I set my spending limit at thirty bucks. I'd been saving for a few weeks, so I had a bit of leeway there.

As I was all set to take the Gibson and my other dollar bin finds home with me, something else caught my eye from the half-off box.

I saw a card I never thought I could dream of owning marked at an awfully reasonable price. I contemplated whether I wanted to blow the rest of my budget on it.

I didn't have to think for long, though.

Before this afternoon, I figured a reprint would be the closest I'd ever get to owning this piece of cardboard history.

Once again, I was wrong.

At seven bucks, it was far and away my most expensive purchase of the day.

I'd seen this card many times before at card shows, mostly carrying price tags of at least twenty bucks or so.

It's hard to put into words how excited I was to add this card to my collection for such a great price.

A player as iconic as "Yaz" on my all-time favorite Topps design?

That's the makings of one truly epic piece of cardboard, one that takes its place among the greatest acquisitions of my collecting lifetime.

Judging by this week's finds, there's absolutely no doubt about it.

A trip to the flea market is indeed the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cardboard Masterpieces, Pt. 20

2011 Topps #451 Livan Hernandez

In the blogosphere, the range of topics widely varies from blog to blog.

That's one of the main reasons I'm such a fan of it. I never know what I'll be reading on a day-to-day basis.

However, every once in a while, something comes along that brings that topic diversity to a temporary halt.

For the last few weeks, that little something has been a place called Listia.

I'm not sure who started the whole Lisita craze. The first I'd heard of it came from a post on Adam's blog, "Thoughts and Sox".

Ever since then, it's been rapidly growing in popularity. Lots of bloggers have already made the plunge into Listia's cardboard depths.

As a result, I figured I'd at least give it a shot. If the rest of the blogosphere loves it, than it's worth a look.

For anyone who is not familiar with how Listia works, members use credits instead of actual money to sell items. If you sell something, you can use the credits to "purchase" something else. 

They give you 500 credits just for signing up. 

Once I officially became a Listia member, I set out to see what kind of cardboard was available. 

After a couple weeks of searching and a few failed bids, I finally won my first-ever Listia auction.

For 150 credits, I purchased a card I'd had my eye on for a long time, a copy of Livan Hernandez's 2011 Topps issue. 

Actually, I didn't "purchase" anything at all. This "masterpiece" was absolutely free, thanks to Listia.

With this one in my collection, I can now say that I own a Nationals "throwback" card, a major feat given my love for that sort of thing

After finally being able to see it in person, I'd rate it as one of the best cards of 2011.

To date, it's my only Listia "win". I've been outbid on a few items since.

I may very well start selling some of my unwanted cards on Listia in the future. There's probably a lot more great cardboard to be had, but it's going to take more than 500 credits to get.

There's been a lot of talk about the possibility of Listia competing with Ebay as the best source of online cardboard.

For me, it's pretty simple.

As far as single cards go, Listia is much, much better than Ebay. I can't remember the last time I bought a card off Ebay, mostly because I'm not too keen on paying three bucks' shipping for one single card.

If I bought this "masterpiece" off Ebay, it probably would've set me back at least a couple dollars after shipping and everything.

Between the "welcome" bonus credits and the free shipping, it cost me absolutely nothing on Listia. Nada. Zilch.

As they say, the best things in life are free.

If that's true, then I'd plan on Listia being around for a long, long time.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The "All-Nick" squad

Every once in a while, I like to do a little "digging" through the blogosphere.

Specifically, I enjoy browsing through the great material that came to light before I discovered the wonderful world of card blogs last summer.

It's my little way of "catching up" on what I missed, although I doubt I could ever get fully caught up on everything.

During my "dig", I stumbled across a nearly three year-old post of Night Owl's, one that he says was a "rip-off" post.

Tonight, I'll be ripping off a "rip-off post".

The basis for it was brilliant, one that I can't believe I'd never previously thought about.

Sharing a first name with someone is a great thing. One of my best friends is also named Nick, oddly enough. I can't tell you how many times we both turned and looked when someone called out our name.

Sadly, the name hasn't been as abundant in the annals of baseball history. There are no "Nicks" in the Hall of Fame...yet.

After doing a little research, I found that six players named Nick currently reside in my binders. Not enough for an actual "squad", which was a bit disappointing.

Ironically, the first player that slipped into my mind is one that's not exactly well-known.

He should be, though.

Stat-wise, he doesn't exactly stand out. Bierbrodt pitched in the bigs for three years with the D'Backs, Devil Rays, Indians, and Rangers, going 6-9 with a 6.66 ERA in that span.

Still, the fact that he made it that far is pretty amazing. He returned the majors less than a year after getting shot three times in 2002 during his tenure with the Devil Rays.

It is indeed a "lost baseball story", one that deserves to be recognized within my collection.

The next member of the "All-Nick" squad is a bit of a throwback.

Although he pitched in the bigs for five decades, he's probably better known for his off-the-field accomplishments rather than his on-field ones.

He and Al Schacht (also known as "The Clown Prince of Baseball") were the stars of a comedy duo that would entertain fans across ballfields for years, even taking their act to vaudeville at one point.

Some people are just born to do comedy.

Judging from that shot, Nick Altrock was one of those people.

Now, let's move on to the more current "Nicks" in the game of baseball.

Unfortunately, Nick Johnson is probably the most injury-plagued player I've seen during my time as a baseball fan.

Judging from his .399 career on-base percentage, Johnson has always had the talent to be a star in the majors.

Although he was once a highly-touted prospect in the Yankees' system, he's topped the 100-game mark just four times during his 10-year big league career.

He's currently filling a bench role for the (hopefully) playoff-bound Orioles.

Speaking of the O's...

Johnson isn't the only "Nick" in Baltimore.

For a long time, Nick Markakis was one of the most well-kept secrets in the game of baseball. Since the O's haven't gotten much attention in recent years, Markakis and his .295 career average flew under a lot of people's radar.

With the Orioles' 2012 resurgence, Markakis found himself at the center of all the instant hype that surrounded Baltimore.

Unfortunately, he broke his thumb earlier this month and was forced to miss the rest of the regular season.

I'm starting to think that having the name Nick is a bit unlucky for aspiring baseball stars.

I've always been a fan of the "little guys".

It's one of the reasons baseball is the best sport on Earth. You don't have to be a gargantuan human being to make it to the big leagues.

Judging from his 5'9", 190-pound frame, Nick Punto is a good representation of that fact.

He's been a valuable utility guy throughout his career, given that he can play second, third, or shortstop.

Dodger fans are currently getting to know Punto a little better, as he was a forgotten piece of last month's monster Red Sox-Dodgers trade. (I should note that he's hit .345 in Los Angeles thus far in 2012.)

A prime member of the "All-Nick" squad.

Even with the likes of Altrock and Punto, my favorite "Nick" is none other than Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher.

Aside from a 20-game stint with the A's in 2004, Swisher has never failed to hit more than 20 homers in any of his big league seasons.

I had the privilege to see him play on a daily basis when he came to the hometown White Sox in 2008.

Ever since then, he's been one of my favorites, for one simple reason.

He genuinely loves the game of baseball.

If someone asked me to describe Swisher, all I'd have to do is show them this card. It's certainly one of Topps' best efforts in recent years.

Needless to say, it's fantastic to be able to say that I share a first name with Mr. Swisher.

That goes for all of the "Nicks" that have ever played the game of baseball.

It's an honor.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


For some reason, I have a fascination with making lists.

I have stacks of miscellaneous notebooks spread across my room, some of which contain rankings of a wide range of topics.

Whether it's my "Top 10 Favorite TV Shows", my "Top 25 Favorite Movies", or my "Top 20 Favorite Bands", they're all in there.

It's something that's translated to my card collection as well.

More specifically, my love for creating lists has come in handy as a blogger.

I'm already in the beginning stages of composing the "Top 100", which will likely become the most epic specimen in my long list-making history.

I've found that lists can be a good tool for blogging.

If I find myself out of post ideas, making a new list is always a possible option.

Other times, like tonight, I just don't feel like writing a long, detailed post, one where I deeply analyze and delve into certain pieces of cardboard.

On that note, I figured it was time I made another list, one I've been thinking about for the last few days.

Last month, I ranked Topps' flagship sets "through the decades". Not surprisingly, the '70s came out on top. A decade that produced such an awesome card of "The Cobra" kind of has to win.

These days, however, there's more to the hobby than the simple flagship release, though. Whether you like it or not, the emphasis has been shifting towards the other, newer "spin-off" sets.

Between Series 1, Series 2, and Update, flagship has always been my favorite release of the year.

Still, I'm happy to have grown up in an era of collecting where the Topps has branched out, going past the previous "one set per year" time period.

Perhaps my feelings would be different if I actually grew up during the 1970's, but I enjoy the fact that there's a variety of sets to choose from whenever I walk through the card aisle at Target.

Admittedly, some are better than others. Some "spin-offs" crash horribly. (Need I remind you of Ticket to Stardom?)

Then again, some have proven to be works of art.

That's what I'll be chronicling in tonight's list.

Without further ado, here's my five favorite "spin-off" sets in Topps history.

Oddly, the fifth spot in this list proved to be the most difficult task.

Cracker Jack was a contender. Turkey Red was right there as well. I very nearly chose American Pie in the end. (The original 2001-02 release.)

After a good deal of thought, however, I had to give the number five slot to Topps Heritage.

It's proved to be the most consistent "spin-off" set in history, as it's been going strong since 2001.

While the aura of it has certainly diminished in recent years, I'm still a sucker for cards that feature current players on old Topps designs.

That's the entire theme of Heritage.

It really hasn't changed much.

Topps has been going with the same size base set, same number of SPs, and same insert sets for a few years now. In most cases, change is something I look for in today's hobby.

Not with Heritage, though. I love the fact that Topps has stayed consistent with Heritage. It especially stands out in an era which emphasizes then thousand different insert and parallel sets.

I hope Heritage never changes.

It's perfect the way it is.

There was never really much doubt about my top four on this list.

It was just a matter of what order I'd put them in.

Although I believe it peaked a few years ago, Allen and Ginter still checks in at number four here.

I distinctly remember the huge buzz that A&G caused when it was first released back in '06. It was everywhere.

Even though its been around for seven years, that "buzz" has never really died down. There's something about it that everyone enjoys, myself included.

A&G is becoming a lot like Heritage, as far as consistency goes. With all the numerous "one and done" sets that have come and gone within the past decade, A&G has become a stable source of passion for most collectors.

It's as close to a "mainstream" set as I've seen. Sure, it has its dissenters. Every set does.

By and large, though, A&G has always been wildly popular.

Although I came very close to ranking it second, Fan Favorites occupies the number three spot on this list.

The fact that the checklist included a card of the often-forgotten Tito Fuentes should tell you everything you need to know about this set.

Sure, the "big names" like Yastrzemski, Banks, and Carew all make their appearances.

However, what makes the set for me is the inclusion of the lesser-known guys, the "fan favorites". Guys like Ed Kranepool and

Even better than that, they did so by recreating old Topps designs, something I've never been able to resist.

What could be better?

Topps Total is one of the more frequent topics I've discussed on this blog.

I've already gone pretty far in-depth as to why I love it so much. In fact, if I could pick any one set to revive, Topps Total would most definitely be my choice.

This is the only time journeyman Ross Gload appeared in a Rockies uniform on a baseball card, largely thanks to the Total-esque 900-card checklist.

It's the little things like that which make Total one of the best releases on record.

Still, it doesn't take the honor of my all-time favorite "spin-off".

That award goes to...

Topps Archives.

I'm a fan of what Topps did with it this year, but it doesn't even hold a torch to the original 2001-02 Archives releases.

The '02 version is a terrific set, but '01 was far and away the best of the best, mostly featuring rookie and "sunset" reprints of many players in Topps history.

As you might guess, any set that honors "sunset" cards is an instant favorite in my book.

Like Fan Favorites, the "bigger names" are only a small part of the checklist.

I love Archives because it accurately chronicled the beginnings and the somewhat-forgotten final years of many once-great players, such as the unfamiliar sight of Mickey Lolich in a Padres uniform.

Archives will always be my all-time favorite "spin-off" set.

Even though they may not be my favorites, I encourage Topps to keep trying with sets like Lineage or Gypsy Queen.

All great sets had to start somewhere.

You never know when the next great "spin-off" will come.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sorting it out

Most bloggers are active in the trading market.

Some trade more frequently than others, but almost all of the blogs I read include trade posts from time to time.

Mine is no different.

Personally, I love trade posts. Whether reading or writing them, I'm always up for more.

It doesn't matter whether it's a gigantic trade that involves hundreds of different pieces or a smaller swap that consists of a few base cards.

Still, the posts themselves only tell half of the story.

They don't show all the sorting and organizing that needs to be done after the fact.

Some of my favorite posts to write involve how I store my collection. This one will be another along those lines.

The other half of yesterday's great mailday came courtesy of Jim, better known in the blogosphere as "gcrl", and author of the terrific blog "Garvey Cey Russell Lopes".

I'll use the cards he sent me as a "backstage pass" of sorts, a gaze into what happens once the trade post is finished. Party on, Garth.

One of the great things about the blogosphere is that we look out for each other. I can tell you what a lot of other fellow bloggers collect, and I specifically look for those things when I hit card shows or flea markets and the like.

Jim commented on my "flipping out" post from a few weeks back, notifying me of a few other reverse negatives that had flown under my radar. He even sent me one of them.

Had he not specifically pointed out the "flip" on the penny sleeve, I probably wouldn't have noticed anything out of the ordinary.

Because of this, I'll be keeping the Horton in the sleeve, something that's extremely rare when it comes to my collection.

There's just one problem...

Guys like Horton and Pete Harnisch aren't in my binders.

To solve the problem of these miscellaneous "cool" cards that don't seem to fit anywhere else in my collection, I've devised a plan.

For now, they're sitting in an unorganized stack on my desk, although I'm sure my case of "collector's OCD" will force me to sort them in some way down the road.

In the future, though, I might devote an entire binder to these types of cards.

Boring old stacks of cards are for 1990 Donruss.

An awesome card like this shouldn't have to go through that.

Getting a "cool" card of a guy that's already in my binders makes things a whole lot easier.

My love for cards featuring "pitchers at the plate" is something that I've mentioned a good deal on this blog already.

Jim managed to do that one better with this card of "Moose" taking his hacks.

It's a prime example of the ever-so-rare American League "pitcher at the plate". And it's a horizontal one, at that.

With this, Mussina is the first multiple AL "pitcher at the plate" representative in my collection. (Here's the other.)

Not counting Babe Ruth, of course.

I do have a special binder for all my memorabilia cards, but it's easily the least frequented out of all.

Still, an autograph of a guy I collect is always welcome, especially when it comes out of the blue.

My memorabilia binder is separated between the newer and older guys. Mr. Ensberg obviously belongs to the former.

Within those sections, each is split into an autograph and game-used section, sorted by the number of cards I own of each player.

As it stands, Marlon Byrd and Casey Kotchman are tied for the "lead", as I own 13 different autograph cards of each.

This Ensberg is a special treat because it's my first autograph of his.

It'll take its place near the end of the autograph section between my lone signatures of Micah Owings and Justin Duchscherer.

While it might not exactly be "low-end", it's still a treasure.

The inserts are where a good deal of the "work" comes from when I sort any new acquisitions.

All of my inserts, parallels, short-prints, and rookie cards go into a text document on my computer, one that currently stands at 460 pages, double-spaced.

It really is amazing, considering there were probably only a dozen pages when I first decided to commence with the task.

Why do I do it? I don't have a good answer for that at the moment. It's more habit than anything else.

Chalk it up as another aspect of my "collector's OCD".

Once I gathered up all my new cards, I was forced to separate these two Olerud cards. After all, the "Black Gold" issue is an insert. And inserts go into my document.

Not to worry, though.

They eventually get reunited in the end.

Just like in the movies.

Once I'm done typing up the inserts and such, I bring all the cards back together again, like one happy family.

The sorting doesn't end there, though.

Since my binders are grouped by team, any new cards I acquire must be sorted accordingly before I can file them away.

After a big mailday, flea market, or card show, cards of the Angels, Cubs, and Yankees are usually the most abundant.

A lot of the time, teams like the Royals draw the short end of the stick.

However, one of the biggest highlights from the cards Jim sent was this 1980 Topps George Brett, one of the last "iconic" issues from the Topps-dominated era of collecting.

Once I was done organizing everything, it the Brett was easily one of the cards that stood out most.

The Royals finally got their day in the sun.

That's about it.

After all that, they sit on a table in the living room. Once I get some free time, I file them away in each of my binders.

Maybe my method of sorting just seems a lot more complex in my head.

I was able to sort and file all of my new pickups yesterday, mostly during last night's rain-shortened Cubs-Rockies contest.

These two "tribute" cards now sit peacefully in their rightful spots within my binders.

Upper Deck finally gave the notoriously "uncardogenic" Mike Schmidt a break with that awesome card, one that I was unaware of until Jim sent it my way.

Thanks, UD.

That's all I ever wanted.

Sorting my collection is a never-ending cycle.

New cards come in, I organize them, I file them away. Then, more cards come in. The process keeps repeating itself, over and over.

It's been that way for as long as I can remember.

What drives my love for doing these seemingly mundane tasks?

That's easy.

It's being able to make my collection a little better, bit by bit.

The moment I added the Mussina to my binders, I loved my collection a little more than I did before. Once the Brett was in the binders, a little more than that.

When the time came to file away this Trumbo card, I loved it a whole lot more. Between the "celebration" shot and the neat Angels throwbacks, this is the greatest card I've seen in a long, long time.

You might just see it in the "Top 100" when the time comes. That's how awesome it is.

Like I said, sorting and organizing my collection is a never-ending cycle.

That's what makes it so great, though.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Respecting the tools of ignorance

Some of my best memories can be traced back to my Little League days.

I'd almost run to the field every time we had a game. Those fateful nights when we got to play under the lights were awesome.

Plus, I got to goof off with my friends in the dugout when it was our team's turn to hit.

And, after the game, we'd all run down to the concession stand with our free hot dog vouchers.

I loved every single minute of it.

Well, almost.

Most of the Little League managers let us play wherever we wanted. I mostly roamed the outfield, but I played a decent amount of second base as well. I even got to pitch a handful of times.

However, if I had to pick a single low point of my "career", it would probably be that one time I had to don the catching gear.

Most of the teams I played on had at least one kid who really wanted to catch, for some reason.

That kid must've not shown up on that fateful day, because I got stuck with the catching duties during one of my earlier days of Little League. (It was the year I played the Orioles, for what it's worth.)

The mask was a challenge in itself. I could barely stand up straight because the one we had was quite heavy. We didn't have those cool hockey-style masks like the one Mr. Alomar wore.

I learned a lot during that one inning.

Mainly, I learned that I never wanted to catch again.

But, perhaps more importantly, I gained a whole lot of respect for the people that devote their lives to putting on that catcher's gear each day.

It's not an easy job.

You want proof?

Let's just take a look at a few of my favorite catcher cards.

Even though I've been watching baseball for as long as I can remember, I'm still fascinated by the amount of errant pitches catchers are forced to block.

If you watch closely, they're successful most of the time. A good catcher usually saves at least two or three potential wild pitches during the course of a game.

Some, like the one Brad Ausmus is about to save, just make you shake your head in amazement. "How do they do that?"

One of the first pitches I received during my lone inning as a catcher got by me.

Thankfully, no one was on base at the time.

Brad Ausmus I was not.

Putting on the "tools of ignorance" was hard enough.

Buckling all those straps on the shin guards seemed like rocket science at the time, given that I'd never done it before.

Once I got into my crouch, I prayed no one would hit a slow roller in front of the plate. I didn't want to have to whip the helmet off and chase after it. I didn't want to be Benito Santiago.

Most of all, I was really hoping that there wouldn't be a foul pop. Taking the mask off, whipping it away, and keeping your eye on the ball at the same time is a daunting task, even for a lot of big-league catchers.

Luckily, no one did.

I got off easy.

This was what I feared the most.

Some crazy maniac running me down at the plate.

From what I remember, we weren't supposed to crash into the catcher in Little League. That's what our coaches said, anyways.

I saw it happen a few times, though. A couple of my friends tried to play it off like they didn't mean to do it.

But they did.

After all, kids are bound to crash into each other at some point during a Little League game.

Nothing's going to stop them.

Looking back, that inning I caught was a fairly easy one. I can't recall if it was a 1-2-3 frame, but I never had to do anything special.

The pitcher threw it, and I caught it.

There's only one reason I'd want to go back and do that inning over again.

I would've really loved to have had a meeting on the mound. Those of you who have seen Freaks and Geeks should know why.


I don't know why, it just is.

Especially when you're in Little League.

Catching is likely the most important position in the game of baseball as a whole.

Heck, it's probably the most important position in all of sports.

I'm not sure where or when I first acquired this card of Carlton Fisk "In Action". (I'm guessing that it already had the creases when I bought it.)

All I know is that it's been one of the centerpieces of my collection since day one.

I've acquired thousands and thousands of new cards since this Fisk card found its way into my collection a long, long time ago.

However, one thing has always stayed the same.

On average, catchers seem to have the best cards.

This might be the greatest of them all.

Not only does it picture Roy Campanella and Billy Martin, but it features one of the greatest action shots in the history of baseball.

It always takes me a while to look through the catchers' section of my binders, mainly because I find myself having stop and look at every other card in there.

Catchers make up a huge part of the overall greatness of this hobby. That's the way it should be, though.

With a job as tough as theirs, catchers definitely deserve the recognition.

No question about it.