Thursday, November 29, 2012

Into the Sunset, Pt. 10: Tim McCarver

Collecting sure is a lot of fun.

I probably don't have to tell that to any of you, though.

I've often thought about exactly why I get so much enjoyment out of collecting these innocent pieces of cardboard.

Personally, I think a lot of it deals with the sense of control.

We decide who and what we want to collect. We don't have to answer to anyone else.

We are the guiding forces behind our own collections.

Still, I'm sure we've all run into our fair share of dilemmas over the years.

I know I have. Take my "binder inductees", for instance.

Although it might sound strange, not every player in my binders is a player I officially collect. Although I don't specifically set out to get cards of guys like Todd Helton or Craig Biggio, I feel they should be recognized in some way.

As a result, any cards of theirs that I happen to pull go into my binder.

I might not like to admit it, but most of the "steroid" guys are in my binders as well. Even though I would never actually seek to collect anything of theirs, Bonds, Sosa, Palmeiro, and A-Rod have managed to eke their way into my collection.

I'm still not quite sure why. Although I'd have no problem with the Hall of Fame barring the entire "steroid" generation of ballplayers from Cooperstown, I just can't bring myself to do the same with my binders.

Then there's the whole ballplayers-turned-announcers thing.

A lot of clubs tend to give announcing jobs to, you know, ex-ballplayers. (And not George Costanza.)

Some have worked out quite well. I love listening to Gary Matthews (or "Sarge") during Phillies games. The Mike Krukow-Duane Kuiper combo is one of my favorites as well.

Then again, some have been train wrecks. A few have lasted longer than others.

Unfortunately, living in the Chicago area, I have to hear a lot of "Hawk" Harrelson. He's far and away my least favorite announcer in the game. Let's just leave it at that for now.

I have yet to hear a single baseball fan profess to actually enjoying Tim McCarver in the booth. I don't loathe him or anything, but I'll admit he's not the greatest broadcaster in the world. (It's probably a side-effect of listening to the "Hawk" so often.)

Therein lies the question.

Should I deny access to my binders for these horrific players-turned-announcers?

In the case of Harrelson, yes. I can't help but scoff every time I come across a card of his in a vintage stack at a show. He was a fairly good player in his time, but he'll never be a part of my collection.

It's the opposite with McCarver. He's a proud "binder inductee".

I can look past his announcing transgressions when it comes to my collection.

In fact, I rate this '62 Topps rookie of his as one of my all-time greatest cardboard acquisitions.

Thanks to a few creases and a slight bit of barely-noticable water damage, I was able to nab this one for a mere 33 cents.

That's right. I found it in a 3/$1 box.

Not bad for an unquestioned "cornerstone" of my Cardinals binder.

Between that acquisition story and the terrific brick backdrop on the card itself, I rate McCarver's rookie issue as his "peak year" of cardboard.

That's a rarity.

My Tim McCarver "sunset" collection is one of the more unorthodox I've seen.


Because it bridged the gap between the "vintage" and "modern" eras of baseball cards.

I consider the "modern era" to be anything from 1981 to the present, marking the year Fleer and Donruss broke into the market.

As far as Topps goes, McCarver just missed being a part of the "modern" Topps era. They gave him his final card in 1980, showcasing him during his second stint with the Phillies.

Here's where the odd part comes into play, though.

He still managed to be a part of the "modern era".

It's the best of both worlds.

Truthfully, I wouldn't have blamed anyone had McCarver not been granted a card in 1981.

After all, his '81 season consisted of just seven plate appearances over the course of six games in Philadelphia.

Still, while Donruss and Topps completely ignored him, Fleer was generous enough to include a card of McCarver in their inaugural base set.

McCarver's age certainly shows in that shot. Although he was only 40 at the time, Fleer managed to make him look about double that.

However, any card featuring those neat "powder blues" is awesome in my book. They're why I've come to love so many 1970's and '80s Phillies cards so much.

As I mentioned, I think most of us agree that McCarver isn't a very good announcer. I'm putting that a bit more lightly than most other bloggers probably would.

Still, I'm glad that he's become a vital part of my binders. After all, he was one of the better catchers of his time. His cards certainly do a good job of showing that.

Besides, if he wasn't in my collection, I would've had to pass on that '62 Topps rookie for 33 cents.

And that just wasn't going to happen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The fallbacks

Things change quite often in this hobby.

New sets.

New designs.

New players.

New everything.

It can get a little crazy at times. Well, maybe even all the time. Wherever there are baseball cards, there's craziness.

By the time I decide whether or not I truly enjoy a set, a new one comes out. And then another one. And another.

Heck, even six months later, I'm still not sure whether I really liked Archives or not.

Even in the crazy world of collecting, though, some things never change.

No matter what shape or form they come in, some baseball cards will always be awesome.

They're my "fallbacks" whenever I feel a little overwhelmed or disappointed with the direction of the hobby at any point in time.

Take "broken bat" cards, for instance.

Those are always good for a smile, right?

I'm not sure why, but there's something universally appealing about seeing a freshly shattered piece of lumber on a baseball card.

Like all the other "fallbacks" in this post, it doesn't really matter who is featured on the front. Whether it's David Ortiz or Jermaine Dye or even Roger Clemens, my collection will always be open to anything featuring a broken bat.

They're just too terrific to ignore.

It's the same with "throwbacks".

As noted in the past, I've always had a deep appreciation for these things.

In fact, if I could change one thing about today's game, it would regard these "blasts from the past". I'd have the Brewers sport their Seattle Pilots "throwbacks" a couple times a year.

Now that would be neat.

Interestingly, the entire concept originated right here in Chicago, thanks to a White Sox-Brewers "Turn Back the Clock" contest in 1990. (It also set the stage for one of the finer "gems" of the overproduction era.)

I'm not sure what my favorite "throwbacks" are. These Royals ones would have to be near the top of the list, a nice tribute to the Negro League's Kansas City Monarchs franchise.

They certainly look great on cardboard.

Why else would I buy a card of Angel Berroa?

One of the rarer "fallbacks" in this hobby are the famous interview cards.

Again, I'm not entirely sure why these are so popular among collectors like myself.

My best guess would involve the whole "outside the lines" concept. We're getting a peek into the other aspects of what becoming a ballplayer entails, ones that don't involve delivering a 95-MPH fastball or laying down a bunt.

A handful of Fleer's earlier issues are probably my absolute favorites of this particular bunch. I've always liked that old ESPN logo, one that's displayed on the front of Jim Kaat's '83 Fleer issue. It's a bit of a "throwback" in itself.

It's hard to believe, but ESPN wasn't always the laughingstock it is today.

At least from what I've read.

Perhaps the most scarce of all are the self-dubbed "family cards".

Although I've been on the hunt for these "fallbacks" for the past few years, I've only been able find about a dozen different ones for my collection.

That rarity is part of what makes them so interesting.

I guess you could consider "National Anthem" cards to be yet another "fallback" in the hobby, but we'll just focus on the youngsters for now. I'd say the jersey on the smallest one is a tad too big.

There's something special about seeing a player like Troy Glaus on a baseball field with his kids. Like the aforementioned "interview cards", I think it's because we're getting a brief glimpse into a ballplayer's life outside of the game.

One of these "family cards" ranked high in my "Top 100" countdown. I won't tell you which one, but I'll just say that it's not the Glaus.

That's not taking anything away from it, though.

I think we can all agree that these are always fun.

Still, I think my favorite of all the "fallbacks" are also the most common.

The legendary "Hey, mister, can I get your autograph?" cards.

I have loads and loads of these in my collection as we speak. Even so, they never get old and never, ever will.

My mind finds the craziest things to ponder sometimes. One of the more common thoughts I have is, "Who signed the first-ever autograph in baseball history?"

Of course, we'll probably never know the answer to that question.

However, it's safe to say that as long as ballplayers have existed, kids have lined up to get their autographs.

Every time I go to a ballgame, I take note of which players come out to sign before the game. I've never gotten an autograph at a big-league contest, but I'm always appreciative of the guys that take time out of their pregame routine to sign for a few fans.

They get extra "points" in my book.

Any player featured signing on their baseball cards gets some "points" as well.

"Mr. Obscure" himself, Tanyon Sturtze, gets double the "points" for this one. This card is a major reason why he's become one of my favorite "obscure" players to collect.

He looks genuinely happy to sign for a hoard of eager fans.

That's all I could ever ask out of a ballplayer.

Even though it's only November, I can feel it.

The 2013 "card season" is going to be here before I know it. It was like that last year. And the year before.

While I absolutely love seeing all the new product on the shelves come February, it's a lot to take in all at once.

That's when these "fallbacks" really earn their paychecks.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What I miss the most

As we all know, the hobby hits a bit of a lull during the winter months.

Because of that, I find myself flipping through my binders quite a bit this time of year, trying to keep myself in the "swing" of things.

It's also my little way of "taking inventory" of my collection.

It's how I make sure there aren't any mistakes in the organizational process. It's how I review some of my latest additions to a particular binder. Mostly, it's how I find out just how many cards I own of a certain player.

Today was no different. As I was totaling up my 37 different cards of Joey Gathright as a Devil Ray, I began to notice the sheer variety of them.

Fleer Hot Prospects. Classic Clippings. Bazooka. Donruss Rookies.

I've never been one to repeatedly bash the whole "Topps monopoly" thing. Its had its ups and downs.

Still, how much better would Target's card aisles be if Fleer and Donruss were still in the picture?

I can't help but wonder how different our hobby would be with more choices nowadays. Even if Fleer or Upper Deck were around, I probably wouldn't drop money on a pack of Fleer Hot Prospects or Sweet Spot or something.

However, it'd be good to know that they were there, just in case I should get the itch.

Something far worse is starting to happen, though.

I'm starting to forget what it was even like to have a choice. My memories of seeing Fleer and Donruss packs on the shelves are getting a bit fuzzy.

Seeing all those different Joey Gathright cards got me thinking.

What do I really miss most from the pre-monopoly era?

There's probably a number of different answers to this question. They'd probably vary from collector to collector.

In my book, the simple sight of variety in the Wal-Mart or Target card aisles is one of the top reasons.

Aside from that, I was able to come up with a few other big ones.

I'll start with the obvious one.

Topps just hasn't been as creative since the whole monopoly thing began.

I can't think of a more appropriate example than these "Blockbusters" inserts from 2012 Topps Update, something that's already been well-chronicled in the blogosphere.

Once I saw the addition of newspaper-themed inserts, I was excited. I'd loved Topps' "Year In Review" cards from a few years back.

When I finally pulled a few from my Update box, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed. Unlike, you know, actual newspapers, every single "headline" was exactly the same.

"[Insert team] [confusingly gigantic trademark] GET [Insert player name]".

While I still like the overall design of these, they were a bit of a bust in my book.

It wouldn't have taken much to get me to enjoy them. Just a little variety would've been all.

But Topps couldn't even be bothered to do that.

In a way, I guess it perfectly sums up the last few years of this hobby as a whole.

I'll let you in on a little secret.

For the most part, the "set needs" tab on the side of this blog do not contain any actual set needs. They're mainly just player needs in disguise.

As a result, my way of "completing" a set is by getting all the base cards of all the different players I collect.

Despite my relative indifference towards actual set building, I still get quite a rush when I can knock out that last player need from a given set. In my eyes, it was a major victory when my last 2012 Update base need arrived in the mail. (Card #45, Eric Chavez. If anyone cares.)

Why is that feeling so special?

I like "chasing" cards. Plain and simple.

The inserts are basically icing on the cake for me. Whichever ones I can get are a huge plus, but it's no big deal if I have to wait a while to acquire them.

The base cards are the main source of interest for me.

With the limited number of sets on the shelves these days, that quest for the "chase" isn't as big. That feeling doesn't come around too often anymore.

Although it was a bit strenuous at the time, I do miss the days where three different gigantic base sets were on the shelves.

Between Fleer, Upper Deck, and Topps, I certainly had a lot to choose from back in 2006.

I'm only now starting to track down some of those six year-old Fleer cards. I just nabbed this long-lost interleague shot of Mr. Podsednik from a dime box a few months ago.

Again, though, I wouldn't have it any other way. It's all about the "chase".

It's one of the purest forms of enjoyment in being a collector.

Lately, I've been finding a few glaring omissions in Topps' checklists.

This afternoon's "Quarry Unlimited" post reminded me of their biggest oversight in 2012.

Given that Omar Vizquel is possibly a future-Hall of Famer, I find it unbelievable that Topps didn't grant him a single card this year.

It's not just because I want to have a new "sunset" card for my collection. It's because a guy like Vizquel should always get checklist honors over some unknown rookie, like an Erasmo Ramirez or Donovan Solano.

I always thought it was basic common sense.

It's no coincidence that I've only started noticing these "gaps" over the past few years.

There's a simple reason for that.

Whether intentionally or not, everyone's checklist seemed to supplement each other.

Although he played in Philadelphia for over a year, Topps never issued a card of Scott Eyre as a Phillie. Thankfully, Upper Deck was there to fill that void in 2009. The same goes for Richie Sexson as a Yankee.

The flip side of it has been true as well. Bowman (owned by Topps) was the only company to issue a card of Craig Counsell as a Colorado Rockie. Every other company in existence during the '90s missed out on that.

That balance is gone these days.

Sadly, Omar Vizquel may never get an official card as a Toronto Blue Jay.

I've always been an avid supporter of the "all-legend" sets over the years, as I noted in this afternoon's post.

I know some collectors don't like the mix of "throwback" and current players in today's releases. Although I've always liked the combination, I can see where those people are coming from.

It can get a bit confusing and just unsightly to have inserts of Josh Hamilton and Roger Maris together in the same set. I get it.

That's part of why the "all-legend" sets were so great.

All other collectors with the same mindset as myself could bask in the glory of a Fan Favorites-type "throwback" set. Anyone why didn't like the "legends" could simply ignore them if they wanted.

No harm, no foul.

Unfortunately, the dreaded "Topps monopoly" did away with all those.

The few slots that are allotted for "throwback" players these days go to the Mickey Mantles and Jackie Robinsons of the game.

No more Bert Campaneris cards for collectors like me.

I've been getting desperate for anything outside the "big names" lately. So desperate, in fact, that I might just put a box of the logo-less Panini Cooperstown set on my Christmas "wish list" this year.

I don't even like the design all that much. And I've never been a huge fan of cards without logos.

Design and logos aside, though, you don't see cards of Rabbit Maranville and Rube Marquard that often anymore.

Oh, and Hoyt Wilhelm, of course.

It's simply been way too long since something like this has been on the market.

Once this whole monopoly thing ends, I'm praying to see a revival with these types of sets. They're what I miss most about the hobby these days.

A return of the SP Legendary Cuts, Upper Deck Legends, Topps Fan Favorites of this hobby.

All of them. 

Especially Fan Favorites, though.

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 50: 1990 Swell Baseball Greats #11 Robin Roberts

With this post, my blog has hit yet another milestone.

I'm proud to announce that my "Gems of Junk Wax" theme has hit the half-century mark. Mr. Robin Roberts is the 50th different "gem" I've showcased.

The theme started just four days into this blog's history. With the semi-retirement of my "zero-year cards", this theme is my longest still-running series of posts.

It's hard to believe I've come this far.

For the "milestone" post, I figured I'd show one of my all-time favorite cards from the overproduction era, which is exactly what we have with the Roberts.

It's easy to get lost in all the uber-high end and parallel-ridden "legend" sets that have been issued in recent years. I absolutely love releases like Greats of the Game and Legendary Cuts, but I happen to think that the peak for "legends" came during the so-called "junk wax" era.

Vastly underrated sets like Pacific Legends and Swell Baseball Greats gave the fan everything they needed to know about the game's history.

Of course, legendary stars like Ruth and Gehrig were central parts of the checklist.

But what really made them so special was the inclusion of some lesser known players, ones that aren't as well-known to the everyday fan. I can't help but enjoy any checklist that features the Tommie Agees and Sal Bandos of the game. (Not to mention the inclusion of arguably the best "zero-year" card in existence.)

Some of my regular readers may have some idea as to why this particular Robin Roberts card is so special to me.

It's one of the prime pieces of my "unfamiliar uniform" collection.

Not to mention that, in this case, the "unfamiliar" jersey is of my beloved Cubs.

Casual baseball fans probably know the name Robin Roberts. He's a Hall of Famer, after all.

Most probably remember him as a Philadelphia Phillie. Perhaps some know about his tenure with the Orioles. Vintage collectors might recognize him due to his short-term stint as an Astro. His final Topps card pictured him in a Houston jersey. (Also one of my biggest current wants, incidentally.)

However, I'd doubt many fans remember that he was once a Chicago Cub.

He'd come to the Windy City after being released by the Astros midway through the '66 season. His stats as a Cub aren't all that impressive. In 11 games, he posted a 2-3 record and a 6.14 ERA.

Regardless of the stats, his tenure in Chicago will always be important, given that it's where he finished his career. However short it was, the words "Chicago, N.L." will forever be found on his Hall of Fame plaque.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only card of Roberts in a Cubs uniform. A true "one-card wonder".

Beckett would tell you that it's only "worth" 25 cents. Yet I paid a full three times the "book value" at a local card shop.

Of course, I don't care what Beckett thinks.

Seventy-five cents was a small price to pay for such a terrific and historic piece of cardboard.

There we go.

Gem #50 is in the books.

I can't wait to see what other "gems" are out there, waiting to be discovered. We'll have to celebrate again when I hit a hundred.

Until then, I hope you've enjoyed scavenging the "junk wax" treasures with me on this blog.

It's been a pleasure.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mondays with Hoyt, Episode 23

2004 Greats of the Game #123 Hoyt Wilhelm

Once upon a time, I was a starry-eyed kid who happened to collect baseball cards.

For the most part, the names on the front of the cards in my collection didn't matter. Sure, there were certain guys I liked better than others.

But all I wanted were cards, cards, and MORE CARDS!

It was awesome.

Unlike most other collectors, I never took an extended hiatus from the hobby. I've collected full-time for the last dozen years or so.

I did, however, take a year-long venture into the world of hockey cards back in 8th grade. Although I've always had a deep appreciation for the game, the sudden plunge into collecting hockey was fairly unprecedented.

After all, baseball has always been my "number one" sport.

I came to my senses about seven years ago. 

If baseball is indeed my favorite sport, that's what I should collect. Fairly simple logic that I still employ to this day.

Still, I quickly took notice of just how much I missed in that year.

I relied on the shelves of my local Target to update me about the goings-on in the world of baseball cards. They helped me "mature" as a collector.

The $1.49 "power packs" quickly became a favorite of mine. The first set to hit the shelves after my "grand return" was 2006 Topps. Naturally, I bought packs upon packs of the stuff.

However, Target also introduced me to some of the darker sides of the hobby as well.

Ask a collector what comes to mind when they hear the term "Target sports card aisle" and you're likely to get a common response.

"Pack searchers."

I used to love looking at the "odds" on the back of every pack I'd buy. 

Back in the day, I must have gone through about 30 or 40 packs of the '04 Greats of the Game release. The odds on the back said that relic cards were supposed to come once every 24 packs. And I really wanted one of those.

Looking back, I still rank it as one of the best "legend" sets in recent years. Hoyt's card from the checklist is a thing of beauty.

At the time, though, I was disappointed. Either I was insanely unlucky, or something fishy was going on here.

Naturally, I took to the Internet to find out. It didn't take long for me to discover the whole disgusting concept of "pack searching". 

That was the exact moment I decided to become the "low-end" collector I am today.

I promised myself that I wouldn't turn into one of those sad, sad people. 

True, I've dabbled in the whole relic/autograph thing in the past. And, yes, although I no longer have any interest obtaining them, the ones I own are still treasured pieces of my collection.

But my love for dime boxes and such has always been there in some way, shape, or form.

I love my base and insert cards of Hoyt far more than the couple "high-end" ones I own. 

So, thanks, pack searchers. You've shown me anything and everything to avoid in this hobby. I will never, ever be like you.

Unlike you, I realize that a simple "worthless" base card of Hoyt Wilhelm holds far more meaning than some piece of fabric.

Unlike you, I get to partake in all the joys and benefits that comes with being a "low-end collector". 

And it really doesn't cost that much.

That just leaves me with one simple question.

What could be better?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"The Dime Boxes Top 100": Cards 80-71

As they say, good things come in bunches.

Even after last week's insanely successful show, I was still hungry for some more card show "action".

Since I usually get a nice amount of cash from relatives and such come Christmas time, I thought I'd check Beckett's card show calendar to see when the first post-Xmas show was being held around here. (Incidentally, the "calendar" is one of Beckett's few useful tools.)

In doing so, I stumbled upon a show that I'd never seen before. One that's actually pretty close to where I live.

On top of that, it's a two-day show, which leads me to believe that it might be another "big" one. As far as I can tell, it's not of the monthly variety.

This show is a "one-time" deal.

So, of course, I can't miss it. Although my allotted cardboard budget and finances can get a little thin during the holiday season, I should be able to scrounge up enough funds to be in attendance.


A "bonus" card show?

I'm about as happy as Todd Pratt right now.

Hopefully, the dime cards will be plentiful at this show as well. Some dime box Ruths, Greenbergs, and even Pratts would be an excellent early Christmas gift to myself.

Even though the show is about three weeks away, I'm in the mood to celebrate tonight.

What better way to do so than with another installment of my "Top 100"?

If you missed my first two groupings, you can see them here and here to catch up.

Without further ado, we begin tonight's countdown with card number 80 on my list...

#80 -- 2006 Upper Deck #130 Ken Griffey Jr.

...and with two of the greatest players in baseball history.

"The Kid" has been featured on a ton of great cardboard over the years, but I have a hard time believing any of them could beat this one.

As one of the prime candidates of the "Awesome Players Hanging Out Together" collection, Griffey's 2006 UD issue features him enjoying a moment with '60s and '70s slugger Willie McCovey.

Perhaps better known as "Stretch" to Giants fans.

The two greats featured on this card walloped a combined 1,151 career homers.

McCovey is already a Hall of Famer, and Griffey will no doubt be a first-ballot inductee into Cooperstown.

With all that said, I have one last question.

How could it not make this countdown?

#79 -- 1982 Donruss #74 Carl Yastrzemski

I've already told the tale of how cool this card is.

As it turns out, the photo Donruss used for their '82 issue of "Yaz" most likely came from a ballgame in 1978.

Plus, this is the only card I have that depicts Yazstremski bunting. I'm not sure why anyone would want such a feared slugger to lay one down, but that's beside the point here.

On top of all that, I nabbed it from a member of my trading forum for a penny.

Yes, a card I bought for a single, solitary penny actually made it into my "Top 100".

A true "underdog" story.

#78 -- 2008 Topps Allen and Ginter #76 Jim Thome

In terms of the dictionary definition of the word, it takes a while for something to truly become "iconic".

However, even though this card is less than five years old, I have no problem placing the "iconic" label on it. 

In twenty years, I have a feeling that this Thome will become one of the defining images of the current generation of cardboard.

Truthfully, I may have underrated it in this countdown. Perhaps it should be even higher.

For now, though, it takes the 78th slot.

After I scanned this card in preparation for tonight's post, I couldn't help but think, "Now that is a baseball card."

It really is.

#77 -- 1989 Fleer #616 Bill Ripken "Rick Face" ERR

Of all my "Top 100" selections, this one may be the most controversial.

That is, if a blog list of 100 baseball cards can even get "controversial".

People who lived through the whole Ripken fiasco probably have a slight distaste for this one. Judging from the dozens of different variations it has, I can't say I blame them.

Some speculate that Fleer knew about the error and slipped it into the printing presses anyways. Again, from what I know about the craziness of the overproduction era, I wouldn't be surprised at all if that were true.

However, as someone who wasn't even born at the time of its release, I love this card.

I still laugh whenever I see the "F-word" scribbled onto Ripken's bat. Perhaps even more hilarious is the tame "Rick Face" label that appears in Beckett's catalog of cards.

What the heck is a "Rick Face", anyways?

I received the Ripken during my early days of online trading. I gave up a Jose Reyes rookie card to get it.

So, was it worth it?

Giving up a "hot" star rookie card to get a simple chuckle?

You bet it was.

#76 -- 2007 Upper Deck #381 Endy Chavez

Just like the Thome, I have a feeling that this one will be remembered down the road in this hobby.

Although the design can get in the way at times, 2007 Upper Deck has a ton of great, underrated photography within its checklist.

This is the second appearance the set has made in this countdown (along with David Weathers at #92), and there's still one to go.

Upper Deck managed to capture Endy Chavez's famous "snow cone" catch in Game 7 of the '06 NLCS in all its glory. 

I'm pretty much indifferent towards the Mets, but even I couldn't help but celebrate when I saw that grab live.

If this card is any indication, baseball is indeed a "game of inches".

#75 -- 2002 Ultra #146 Darryl Kile

It's hard to "rank" a card like this.

While my list does feature an array of fun or simply "cool" shots, this one stands on its own in a lot of ways.

I still consider Darryl Kile's untimely passing in 2002 as the most somber moment of my life as a baseball fan.

Even ten years later, this card still triggers a lot of emotion whenever I see it in my binders. 

On the one hand, it certainly is as "sad" as a baseball card can be. The game of baseball lost a good player on that fateful day in 2002.

More importantly, it lost a good person.

On the other hand, though, it features such a peaceful "baseball" shot, one that any fan of the game can appreciate.

As far as baseball cards go, this is the ultimate "tribute" to the legacy of Darryl Kile.

#74 -- 1994 Ted Williams "Locklear Collection" #LC-17 Honus Wagner

Here's a little "spoiler alert" for you.

This won't be the last "Locklear Collection" insert you'll see on this list.

Even though they're pretty hard to come by, I'll put these up against any other insert set in the history of baseball cards.

The sheer artwork and aesthetics are second-to-none. 

Needless to say, this card of "The Flying Dutchman" is one of the most beautiful pieces of my Hall of Fame collection.

Not to mention an integral part of my "Top 100".

#73 -- 2007 UD Masterpieces #13 Brooks Robinson

Brooks Robinson is one of the more "cardogenic" players on record.

I own over 100 different cards of his, and nearly every single one is a head-turner.

As I've come to realize in the last few years, UD Masterpieces just may feature the greatest base set of the last decade or so. 

No, it doesn't have the mammoth 990-card checklist like Topps Total, but every single Masterpieces card is...well, a masterpiece.

If you don't believe me, just take a gander at this one. 

I've always loved all the suit-and-tied fans that are featured in photos from the '60s and '70s. Plus, the superb colors on this "masterpiece" certainly make it stand out.

On top of all that, though, it perfectly exemplifies why Robinson was known as "The Human Vacuum Cleaner".

#72 -- 1996 Upper Deck "V.J. Lovero Showcase" #VL-12 Randy Johnson

My "Top 100" posts started on November 5th of this year.

I decided that any card I received after that date would be ineligible for this countdown. Having to reshape and reorganize my list from a new "inductee" would just be too much of a headache otherwise.

This card arrived on my doorstep on November 3rd, the Saturday before these posts began.

It's a good thing, too, because I really wanted this one to be a part of my "Top 100". 

It's a prominent piece of my collection, and one that allowed me to "put the band back together". (The back of the card is pretty neat as well.)

I'm still considering what a band with "The Big Unit" on the drums would sound like. 

I bet it'd attract a lot of mosh pits.

#71 -- 2000 Stadium Club Chrome #29 Greg Maddux

We close out tonight's countdown with a fairly obvious choice for my list.

Going in, I wasn't sure if cards like the "Yaz" or Chavez would make this countdown. I'd always considered them to be terrific cards, but I didn't know if they were actual "Top 100" material. 

This one was never in any danger of missing the cut.

I knew it'd be on my list the whole time.

It's easy to see why Stadium Club ditched the whole "chrome" thing pretty quickly. For the most part, it just didn't fit in with their overall look.

Even so, it certainly didn't take away from the outstanding photography that made them famous.

A star position player would be lucky to have such a great shot on the front of their baseball card. Although Greg Maddux is a "star" in every sense of the word, pitchers are rarely shown on the basepaths.

Yet, this card goes a whole lot further than showing the "Mad Dog" on the bases. It shows him in the midst of a ferocious attempt to break up a double play, toppling over a hapless, apparently long-named Pirates middle infielder in the process.

With all that, I think it's easy to see why this was a member of my "Top 100" all along.


The cards just keep on getting more awesome with each coming post.

Each one seems to top the next.

In a way, I guess that's true with any post on my blog. Or any other blogs, for that matter. 

I certainly think I've come a long ways since my first posts here. And I like to think that I get the hang of this whole blogging thing a little more every time I write.

Until next time, though, I hope you enjoyed this installment of my "Top 100". 

Hopefully, the next one will be even better.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Trading on the silver screen

Only two weeks until winter break.

Those are the words I've been repeating over and over again in my mind lately.

Although many of my fellow bloggers have a few years on me, I'm sure most of you remember how that one goes from your school days.

Still, I can't help but feel a bit sad that one of my classes is coming to a close.

Almost by accident, I found myself taking a "Literature and Film" course this semester. It's been fun to see the ways that novels and cinema can come together.

Over the past few months, the class has quickly become one of those precious few "eye-openers" we've all experienced as students.

As a result, I'm using this post as my own personal "final exam" of sorts. A way to have cinema express my thoughts on cardboard. (Warning: A couple of these clips contain swearing.)

And show a few of my favorite movie scenes, of course.

It just so happens that I have a shiny new pile of cards sitting in front of me, courtesy of Greg, author of the legendary blog "Night Owl Cards".

We've sent cards back and forth a few times now. Greg as always managed to send nice groupings of set needs, fun shots, and other miscellaneous cards my way.

This time was no exception.

As you see above, one of the cards he included made for a unique piece to my Hall of Fame collection, picturing "The Babe" himself during one of his barnstorming trips to Japan.

In his time, Ruth was a larger-than-life character here in the States. I can only imagine how "huge" he must've been in a place like Japan.

One of the more underrated baseball movies in existence makes for an easy selection here.

Even though they don't scan all that well, I've always loved 3-D cardboard.

This one is a "triple-threat", featuring the likes of Gil Hodges, Mickey Vernon, and Ted Kluszewski all on one card.

I wouldn't stare at it too long, though. You might start to get queasy.

Especially if you're chewing tobacco.

There's nothing like a good "play at the plate".

Ones featuring pitchers covering home are even more rare, as we have here with this John Thomson specimen.

Films can try all they want, but nothing can successfully duplicate the action and excitement that goes into a true "play at the plate".

It might possibly be the most gripping play in sports.

Of all the movies I've seen, I think this one does the finest job.

I guess that's why it's one of the best baseball films ever made.

As if cards featuring "The Babe in Japan", three-dimensional technology, and a "play at the plate" weren't enough, Greg also included a new "hitting pitcher" card for my collection as well.

It almost looks like Mr. Smoltz is polishing up his golf swing here. It makes sense, given his modest success on the greens.

The first three film clips I've showcased in this post are fairly obvious choices. They're all baseball movies, after all.

Yet, every time I look at Smoltz's face on this card, I can't help but think of the advice he might have given to his teammates in Atlanta.

I'm not quite sure why my mind immediately jumped to this, but it just seems fitting.

As I've found in our trades over the last few months, Greg is spot-on in picking out simple, fun cards for my collection.

Still, not every card he sent me this time around was totally "random".

He also included a few of my recent set needs as well, including this Update insert of none other than the "phenom" himself, Bryce Harper.

This card alone is a great example of the difference between trading forums and the blogosphere. I'd probably have to beg someone to send this one my way, as people seem to hoard stuff of the "hot prospects" over there.

Even then, I'd have to trade at "book value" for it. I'm not sure what the "value" is on this one, but it's probably a lot more than I'd be willing to "pay".

In the blogosphere, people slip them into trade packages without a second thought.

I couldn't be happier.

What really boggles my mind about Harper is the fact that he's nearly ten months younger than I am. And he's already the proud owner of a Rookie of the Year trophy. Not to mention an All-Star Game appearance, to boot.

Even more amazing is the fact that he still needs one of these to get into a bar.

The other "hits" that Greg sent my way knocked out a good chunk of my remaining A&G needs.

With all the wacky food and flower-themed inserts, I get the feeling that the "Highlight Sketches" series gets overlooked in the annals of A&G's history.

If this Fisk is any indication, it's like owning a little "masterpiece" every time a new one arrives on my doorstep.

A while ago, I was talking about the White Sox with someone who I felt was fairly well-versed in baseball history. Because of that, I decided to bring up the name "Carlton Fisk".

Almost immediately, the question came back.

"Who's that?"

I couldn't help but roll my eyes a bit.

Once I saw that A&G inserts were going to be a prominent feature of this trade package, I found myself hoping for one specific card.

The "What's In A Name?" Minnie Minoso insert.

Until yesterday, it was my most pressing need of 2012.

You almost never see anything of his pop up in today's hobby. Plus, he perfectly exemplifies the entire premise of this particular insert series. Before I received this card, I had no clue what Minoso's full name was.

Yet, before I knew it, there it was. Out fell the newest addition to my Minnie Minoso collection!

My prayers had been answered.

Thanks, Greg!

It's a good thing I wasn't driving when I opened this legendary trade package.

Otherwise, something like this might've happened.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Guilty pleasures

This card should give me nightmares.

Between the ominous blue background, the odd use of height/weight stats on the front, and the devilish infrared silhouette of Dave Weathers, it's easy to see why a good amount of collectors scoff at the very thought of 1995 Fleer.

I like to call it the "LSD set". There's a small part of me that believes the Fleer corporation was overrun with mind-altering drugs that year.

I can't think of another explanation.

Yet, even with all that, I've always had a deep admiration for the '95 Fleer set. It was even the basis for an entire post on this blog a while ago.

I can't explain it.

It's just a "guilty pleasure" of mine, I guess.

Still, it's far from the only one.

Although it's not as reviled as their '95 release, Fleer's 1991 design has never been given a whole lot of love in the cardboard community.

I think some of the reason for that is simply because of its link to the overproduction era. We all know how that one goes.

To some people, "junk wax" automatically equals "bad".

Because of that, a lot of "gems" from the era go unnoticed. I've showcased quite a few of those in my writings for this blog.

If it's possible for an entire set to be a "gem" in itself, I'd put 1991 Fleer into that category.

I think what drives a lot of collectors away from it are the yellow borders. They certainly stand out in a nine-pocket page, I'll tell you that.

But that's what I like about them.

They're different from the rest of the era.

And if their '91 and '95 releases are any indication, Fleer wasn't afraid to try something "different" every once in a while.

On the surface, this looks like a pretty plain card.

Yes, it features Duke Snider, which is always a plus in my view. Apart from that, though, there's not a whole lot to get excited about here.

Still, you might be surprised to learn that this one came very close to cracking my "Top 100".


This is one of just ten copies of this card in existence.

I know I'm a "low-end" guy and all, but even I can't help but enjoy the few extremely rare cards that have found their way into my collection.

I don't specifically "hunt" for them, but I can't help but stare whenever I come across low-numbered cards like this Snider in my binders.

One of the first things we talked about in my psychology class this semester was the concept of scarcity. In short, we want what we can't have.


As far as basic psychology goes, I'm a normal person.

Yeah, let's go with that.

I must admit, I'm a fan of some of the "gimmicks" in this hobby.

More specifically, I enjoy the harmless "gimmicks" in this hobby. I'm not talking about that whole 2006 Topps Alex Gordon fiasco. That thing was a train wreck.

Cards like the 2007 Topps Jeter/Mantle/Bush cards are "harmless", in my view. I understand why people might not like it, but I still rank that as one of the greatest "pulls" in my days as a collector.

It's the same with this 2008 Topps "celebration shot" of the Red Sox.

Along with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani lurking in the background.

When 2008 Topps came out, I was secretly hoping to get this one. I'd seen its inclusion spur a lot of hate in the card community, so I kept it to myself.

Luckily, I pulled one. I didn't have to bear the indignity of trying to trade for a copy.

Yes, Topps has gotten carried away with the "gimmicks" in the last couple years. And, yes, I'll admit that the Jeter and Guiliani cards may have started them down that slippery slope.

Then again, I didn't say these "guilty pleasures" were rational.

I've only recently come to grips with this last one.

It wasn't easy, I'll tell you that.

But, I finally feel comfortable enough to say it.

I actually like short-prints.

Again, I'm not talking about the crazy, high-end "cash grabs" by Topps. I could honestly care less about all those Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper variations.

No, I'm talking about your everyday SPs. The ones in A&G and Heritage and such.

I like them. I actually like them.

I think it comes back to that whole "scarcity" thing.

To my knowledge, Topps has never released exact numbers of how many SPs are printed. Maybe they're not even all that rare.

But, for the time being, I enjoy the very primal thought of having something that only few others do.

It wasn't easy to track down this Scot Shields Heritage SP for my collection of his, but it sure was a happy day when I finally did.

The other major part of it is probably because they're huge "scores" when it comes to dime boxes. A lot of the time, it's hard to tell a SP apart from a normal base card. As a result, a lot of them end up in dime bins.

Then again, I've never been much of a set builder.

As a result, I guess it's easier for someone like me to enjoy short-prints.

I'm sure a lot of the set building community probably thinks I'm crazy.

That's fine.

Should there ever come a time where I attempt to build a SP-laden set, I might change my tune.

For now, I'll just say that I'm probably one of the few collectors who actually likes short-prints and leave it at that.

I'm sure most of us have "guilty pleasures" buried deep down within ourselves. Maybe we just don't know about them yet. Or maybe we're just trying to kid ourselves into thinking differently.

That's why they call them "guilty pleasures", though.

They're not easy to admit.

Dime Box Heroes: More odds and ends

1996 SP #180 Ivan Rodriguez

In today's installment of this theme, I'll be showing off a few of my other miscellaneous dime box "finds" from Saturday's show.

I know I've already written quite a bit about my card show experience, but I think these last few will finally get it all out of my system.

In a way, the group of cards I'm about to show do a nice job of quantifying what I look for in a good dime box.

Lately, I've found myself buying more and more cards that feature players wearing throwback uniforms.

Trouble is, I'm not quite sure what kind of jersey "Pudge" Rodriguez is wearing in his '96 SP issue.

I've seen that old-English Texas logo before, but I never really thought too hard about it until this afternoon.

To my knowledge, the Rangers never wore anything like that in their pre-1996 history. A quick search confirmed that.

So, what the heck is that strange old-English Texas logo, anyways?

To tell you the truth, I'm not exactly sure. My best guess is that the Rangers introduced them as "faux-throwbacks", much like the Rays did in 2012.

If the "Pudge" is any indication, I'm always up for a good dime box mystery.

I like to think that I've picked up a good amount of knowledge about this hobby in the dozen or so years I've collected.

A lot of that can be attributed to dime boxes.

The sheer variety of the dime cards I've seen continues to keep me on my toes. They're like melting pots of cardboard.

Mind you, I'm a far, far cry away from becoming an "expert" on these things.

Dime boxes still continue to stump me. 

I don't know about you, but I had no idea that Sunkist once issued a line of baseball cards. The orange borders are quite appropriate.

I can't help but wonder what else dime boxes hold in store for me.

For a dime, I have a hard time passing up any "pitcher at the plate" cards.

However, this card of "Doc" Gooden manages to one-up a simple "hitting pitcher". It's an example of the ever-so-rare "pitcher on the basepaths" shot.

It's cards like these that have me praying that the NL never adopts the designated hitter.

With the universal DH, we'd never see these "masterpieces" again.

That would be a crying shame.

As I always say, you just never know what you'll find in dime boxes.

With this awesome 12/$1 reprint, I have now found a card of Germany Schaefer at two consecutive shows.

That's got to be some sort of record.

As usual, I managed to score a whole bunch of great additions to my myriad of player collections.

Everyone from Christy Mathewson to Vida Blue to Coco Crisp found their way into my "finds".

I even decided to take up a brand-new player collection during the course of Saturday's show as well.

Given my utter fascination with the knuckleball, I found it odd that I never got heavy into collecting Tim Wakefield. 

Because of the "unfamiliarity" factor, I'd always collected his Pirates cards. But I'd pretty much ignored everything from his Red Sox days.

Come Saturday, I figured enough was enough.

Mr. Wakefield needed to be a prominent member of my binders.

Thankfully, Saturday's dime boxes netted me a couple shiny new cards for my newest player collection.

That's all I could ever ask for.

Judging from how much I've blogged about it these last few days, I think it's easy to see just how much fun I had at last week's show.

I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

You bet I'm thankful

As a collector, I've had a lot to be thankful for in the past year.

Although it certainly had its ups and downs, I loved collecting many of the new products in 2012. I probably busted more packs this year than I had at any point in my collecting career.

I'm thankful for the fact that I've been able to attend a handful of terrific card shows. A collector can always take solace in an upcoming card show. That's for sure.

More recently, I've become thankful for finding the wonderful world of Listia.

Not long ago, I showcased a slew of great finds I'd acquired from the site. Of course, the best part is that all of them were free.

In order to keep buying free cards, I sold a former-dime box Chipper Jones refractor for nearly 700 credits. Looks like I may have stumbled upon yet another benefit to those dime bins.

I haven't been quite as active on Listia in the last month or so, but I've still managed to score a few nice additions to my collection.

Although I'm not thankful for how awfully this card scans, I can't help but appreciate the fact that I was able to pick it up for just 68 credits.

Any card of Mr. Konerko in the Dodger Blue is always welcome inside my binders.

I'm thankful that I was able to pick up a five-card lot of Sportflics cards for a paltry 51 credits.

With the Listia conversion rates, that comes out to about three cents a card in actual money.

The only reason I even placed a bid was to get that "Black Jack" McDowell. The others were icing on the cake.

I've always felt that Jacobs Field (okay, Progressive Field) provided one of the more beautiful settings in baseball.

Unfortunately, with the free shipping and all, I pretty much got what I paid for. The cards were thrown in an envelope without any protection at all.

Thanks to that, an otherwise awesome "Doc" Gooden 3-D card is now missing a corner.

Since the McDowell remained unharmed, I guess I can't complain too much.

If there are such things as shipping gods, I think they were with me on that McDowell.

I have no clue as to how it came out unscathed.

Listia, card shows, and 2012 products are all fine and good.

Still, in terms of what I have to be thankful for in this hobby, there's one thing that stands above all.

The blogosphere, of course.

In a couple weeks, this blog will be celebrating its one-year anniversary.

As far as my collection goes, it's been the most revolutionary year of my life. I now have an entirely new perspective on this hobby, one that's changed me for the better.

Between the people, the discussions, the people, the trades, the people, and the contests, it's been an absolute blast.

And did I mention the people?

One of my favorite "people" in the blogosphere recently sent me a nice little group of cards in the mail. You might know him as Robert, resident Blue Jay collector and author of the fantastic blog "$30 A Week Habit".

I've lost track of the amount of times we've traded, but it's probably quite a few.

Recently, I left a comment on one of his posts asking if he happened to have any parallels of Casey Kotchman's 2012 Topps Update card. I figured it'd be a longshot.

Lo and behold, he did have one. The Wal-Mart blue parallel.

What are the odds?

Robert also sent me a pair of '87 Minis from Topps Update.

I think the Brian LaHair saga is one of the most fascinating ones I've seen during my tenure as a baseball fan.

The guy was a 39th round pick of the Mariners back in '02. After an unspectacular stint in the bigs with Seattle in '08, he signed a minor league deal with the Cubs.

He almost came out of nowhere in 2011, hitting 38 homers in AAA and earning a cup of coffee in the Windy City.

After a fantastic first half with the Cubs in 2012, he was elected to the All-Star team. After a dreadful second half, he was designated for assignment.

A few days ago, the Cubs sold him to a Japanese team.

That's one crazy ride, I'll tell you that.

Lastly, Robert was nice enough to send me a few '73 Topps White Sox out of the goodness of his heart.

Although I already had this one, I'm always thankful for an opportunity to show a Wilbur Wood card on this blog.

His cards are and always will be awesome.

Thanks, Robert!

All in all, I'm just thankful to be a part of this hobby. I don't know what I'd do without it.

Especially now that I've found the blogosphere.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!