Monday, January 21, 2013

"The Dime Boxes Top 100": Cards 20-16

Well, it's about that time of year again.

Around now is when I really start to get giddy about the upcoming Flagship release. Seeing those first cards of the new year on the shelves is still one of my biggest thrills as a collector.

Although I've heard conflicting "reports" on the exact release date, I'll probably be heading to my local Target this Friday to see if they've hit the market.

I'm already looking forward to the unofficial "Flagship bonanza" that usually hits the blogosphere around this time of year. Of course, I'll be here to share my initial thoughts about the set for the second straight season, whenever that time comes.

Rumor has it that I'll be indulging in a bit of a Flagship splurge once they hit the good ol' local Target.

But you didn't hear it from me.

So, to take my mind off all this Flagship business, I figured tonight would make for a perfect time to feature another "Top 100" post.

From this point on, I'll be revealing the remaining "nominees" in fragments of five.


#20 -- 2008 UD Masterpieces #32 Justin Verlander

We kick off tonight's list with a common suspect from my "Top 100".

UD Masterpieces.

Some sets try to give themselves uplifting names in order to boost sales. Bowman's Best, Donruss Elite, and Fleer Showcase are a few that come to mind.

Needless to say, nearly all of those releases were quite forgettable. They definitely didn't live up to their respective "high-class" monikers.

When I initially saw that a set called "Masterpieces" had hit the market, I didn't think it'd have a chance to live up to its label.

But, much to my surprise, it did. I think most collectors would agree with me there. Although Upper Deck would discontinue the brand after just two years, the set did indeed include a wide variety of "masterpieces" within its checklist.

In terms of pure artwork, this card of Mr. Verlander may indeed be the "elite" as far as Masterpieces goes.

Whoever created this piece really went the extra mile. 

A nice, regular horizontal pitching shot of Verlander would've definitely been a nice card. But not anything that would've sniffed my "Top 100".

In the end, the magnificent backdrop is what puts this one over the top, one that chronicles his no-hitter against the Brewers in '07.

There's so much to love about it. Between the Brewers' lineup, the play-by-play, and the string of zeroes on the scoreboard, I really wouldn't know where to start.

This is a true "masterpiece" in every sense of the word.

#19 -- 2010 Topps "Silk Collection" #S-163 Casey Kotchman /50

This proved to be one of the more esoteric cards to make my countdown.

After all, I can't imagine that Casey Kotchman would make an appearance on many other "Top 100" lists.

Next to Hoyt Wilhelm, I've probably put the most "work" into my Kotchman collection. 

Although it doesn't take anything away from it, I haven't had to look that hard for many of the 600-plus cards I own of Vladimir Guerrero. Most of them simply "found" me by way of dime boxes.

I built up my Kotchman collection through a variety of trades and purchases, scouring through people's trade or sale lists in search of one or two new cards of his for my binders. After all, guys like him don't pop up in dime boxes all that often.

However, with all the "work" I've put into it, I have to say that this is far and away the best piece from my cards of Casey Kotchman.

It was perhaps the luckiest find of my life.

A few years ago, after I was done digging through a vendor's dime boxes at a local show, I noticed a few other miscellaneous cards scattered across his table. Game-used, autographs, low-numbered cards, just stuff that wasn't quite dime box material.

Amidst all the rubble, I noticed a single, solitary "silk" card on the table. At that point, I'd never seen one of them in person.

A closer look revealed the player featured on that very silk card. Although I can't be sure of my exact reaction when I saw it, it had to have gone a little something like this.

"Holy [bleep], it's Casey Kotchman!"

The vendor could've had any of the 300-or-so "silk" cards that were released that year. But, luckily for me, the one he had was the Kotchman.

For just three bucks, I was able to take home my first (and still only) silk card that day.

The story and sheer awesomeness of this one made it a definite "Top 100" nominee.

#18 -- 1999 SI Greats of the Game #55 Ed Kranepool

This card has become kind of an "icon" during this blog's history.

Tonight has to be about the fourth or fifth time I've shown it around here. Up to this point, I'd imagine Mr. Kranepool holds the record in that department.

It just has all the makings of what I look for in a baseball card.

For one thing, it features Ed Kranepool. I've repeatedly mentioned my adoration for the more "under the radar" guys in baseball history. Guys like Kranepool and fellow Met Bud Harrelson fall into that category for me.

On top of that, it's a former dime box find of mine.

Actually, that's not entirely true.

It's actually a former 12/$1 box find of mine. To think that a card like this only cost me about eight cents still staggers me.

And, of course, it contains perhaps the quirkiest photo in cardboard history. 

Here, we see Mr. Kranepool enjoying a nice dinner at second base, the dirt complete with footprints as far as the eye can see.

We have what looks to be lobster as the main course. Couple that with a prime scoop of chocolate ice cream on the side and a nice lemon-wedged glass of beer, and we've got one hearty meal right there.

Seriously, how could I not love this card?

#17 -- 2004 Greats of the Game "Forever" #F-3 Zack Wheat /1909

I received this card as part of a trade about five years ago.

That means that I've had it in my collection for well over a thousand days.

And I can tell you that I've loved it more and more with each passing sunrise and sunset. For now, I have it at number 17 on this list.

If I were to revise this list a year from now, it could likely rank in the top ten.

It's just such a beautiful piece of cardboard. 

Because he played in an era that contained the likes of Ruth and Cobb, Zack Wheat isn't that widely known these days. So far, that has held true in the baseball card industry as well.

This is one of just seven cards I own of the Hall of Famer.

But what a card it is.

It pretty much has it all. Awesome color-appropriate borders. Rare old-time checkered Dodgers uniforms. A prominently featured Brooklyn logo.

And it's all featured on a truly striking design, to boot.

Cardboard doesn't get much better than this.

#16 -- 2007 UD Masterpieces #8 Lou Gehrig

Tonight's "Top 100" installment closes out with where we began.

On the topic of Upper Deck Masterpieces.

Even though it did a terrific job with the more recent stars of the game, I absolutely love what the set did with past greats.

A few of the slots in the checklist gave the collector a look at some of the more defining moments in baseball history.

Although it'd be hard to say for certain, one could definitely argue for Lou Gehrig's "farewell speech" as the quintessential moment of the game.

The setting is indeed a sad one. Gehrig would pass away just two years after his famous ceremony at Yankee Stadium in 1939.

Still, I can't help but feel lucky and truly honored to own such a terrific piece of cardboard. 

As shown by the onlookers both on the field and in the packed Yankee Stadium bleachers, this particular moment in baseball lore is nothing short of iconic.

Needless to say, this terrific cardboard masterpiece makes me feel like I own an actual little piece of baseball history. 

Because of that, it makes me feel closer to the game of baseball as a whole.

In the end, I guess that's why I started collecting in the first place.


night owl said...

Topps has said that the set is due out on Jan. 30th.

Backstop Cards said...

Couldn't have said it better about those UD Masterpieces.

(...Joe) said...

I still don't have a silk card! They look sooo nice, but I can never find one with a decent price. Nice find!

Dhoff said...

Love that Verlander card. And that Kranepool just creeps me out for some reason. Loving the countdown, man.

P-town Tom said...

Sheesh... sensory overload.
I learned what 'esoteric' means, about a new-to-me hall of famer (Zack Wheat), and how cool the Masterpieces cards are.

I thought we were only supposed to learn one new thing a day?

Spiegel83 said...

Zack Wheat is big time. He is an underrated Dodger legend. His name is all over the Dodger record books.