To kick things off here, I thought I'd make note of a few ballplayers who will be celebrating birthdays today.
As far as I know, three February 19th "birthday boys" own a place in my binder system to date.
Current A's outfielder and early "Card of the Year" nominee Josh Reddick turns 26 today.
Grizzled veteran and longtime hurler Miguel Batista is celebrating his 43rd birthday today.
I have to hand it to the guy.
He has played for twelve different teams during his 18-year career, last appearing with the Mets and Braves in 2012.
Age doesn't seem to be a concern for Miguel Batista. He signed a minor league deal with the Rockies this offseason.
I don't know about you, but I'm hoping he makes the big-league roster.
Lastly, fireballer Dave Stewart is celebrating his 56th birthday today.
Although he was granted a lot of terrific cards during the course of his remarkable A's-dominated career, his '82 Topps Dodger rookie still ranks as my personal favorite.
Usually, I leave it up to this guy to fill me in on all the great daily birthday info I need.
Today, though, I felt the need to specifically address the baseball-related February 19th birthdays out there.
So, why all the sudden interest in birthdays around here?
Because they happen to share a birthday with this card-collecting goofball.
Otherwise known as yours truly.
That's right, today is indeed my birthday.
My 21st birthday, in fact.
Now, I can't say I care much about being of drinking and gambling age. I've never been much for those...recreational activities.
I'll admit, though, it does feel different to be 21.
No, what you see above is not what I got for my birthday this year. That particular shot covers my "spoils" from that card show I attended back in March.
While many of my past birthday gifts have been hobby-related, I honestly wasn't expecting any cards this year.
All I asked for from my mom was a few extra bucks to spend at the big card show coming up next month.
And my dad, well...he's taking me to friggin' Las Vegas over spring break this year.
Incidentally, that big card show next month will take place on the day before I leave for Vegas. Should be a fun few days, don't you think?
Between money for a card show and a trip to Vegas, you can probably see why I wasn't expecting anything else this year. What my parents had already gotten me would've been way more than enough.
Still, they both decided to spoil me a little more.
My mom ended up getting me an awesome Ichiro Mariners jersey for the ever-growing collection in my closet. In fact, I'll probably end up wearing it to that big card show in March.
As for my dad, well, he once again came through with an amazing batch of cardboard. Anyone who read my Christmas post from a couple months ago should know how awesome my dad is about picking out cards for me.
In the end, my 21st birthday "loot" featured yet another terrific group of cardboard.
However, for the purposes of this post, I'm going to change the format a bit. Instead of simply showing off all the random goodies, I'll be counting down the top five gifts from "pop".
I figured it'd fit well with the recent "countdown" theme I've been featuring on this blog lately.
However, there were quite a few more than five cards that I wanted to show off here.
As a result, we'll start with a few "runners-up".
Runner-up #1 -- 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen Red Back Mini #25 Mel Ott
My dad knows about my obsession with anything relating to the Hall of Fame.
He was also quick to notice my recent fascination with minis as well.
While I may think Gypsy Queen is a vastly overrated set, the minis are undoubtedly beautiful. This one of Mr. Ott simply continues the trend.
A sparking add to my Hall of Fame collection, no doubt.
Runner-up #2 -- 2012 Topps A&G "World's Greatest Military Leaders" #ML-7 Napoleon
Much like my HOF collection, my dad has known about my love for historical cards for as long as I can remember.
He always seems to be on the lookout for new non-sport pieces for me.
As far as historical figures go, Napoleon is just about as big as it gets. Fittingly, A&G included him in their "World's Greatest Military Leaders" insert set from last year.
The "mini factor" of this one just adds to its awesomeness.
Runner-up #3 -- 1977 Kellogg's #39 Bobby Grich
And one from arguably the greatest 3-D set ever released, at that!
Thanks to a long-forgotten box of cards, I recently honored Bobby Grich by officially "inducting" him into my binders.
Ever since then, I've been on a desperate "hunt" to find anything and everything I can of his. In fact, one of my top goals at the big card show next month is to land a copy of his 1974 Topps issue.
Until then, though, this easily takes its place as my new favorite Bobby Grich card.
However, that begs the question...
If this amazing piece is a runner-up, then just how awesome were the other parts of my birthday loot?
Glad you asked.
Let's start with number five.
#5 -- 1972 Topps #554 Wilbur Wood IA
As I've mentioned throughout the course of my writings, knuckleballers have always had a special place in both my heart and my collection.
Obviously, Hoyt Wilhelm is the absolute "king" of knucklers in my mind.
After that, though, I'd have to say that Wilbur Wood is probably my next favorite knuckleballer.
While I certainly enjoy cards of guys like Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough, my Wilbur Wood collection has been my favorite non-Hoyt knuckler collection to build over the years.
For me, the 1972 "in-action" cards are among the best subsets in the history of this hobby. The combination of the "knuckleball factor" and those awesome '70s White Sox uniforms puts this one among the higher ranks of the "in-action" series.
#4a -- 1985 BLC America's National Pastime #48 Paul "Daffy" Dean
I'll admit it.
I have absolutely no information about this particular card. My dad stumped me.
Still, that's what makes it so cool. The more obscure, the better.
This is just my fourth card of "Daffy" Dean. Although he was a pretty good pitcher in his own regard, he was often overshadowed by his older, Hall of Fame-caliber brother.
Speaking of whom...
#4b -- 1972 TCMA The 1930's #18 Dizzy Dean
Okay, I cheated a bit.
I actually squeezed six different cards into this "Top Five" countdown.
When it comes to the Dean brothers, though, they have to be mentioned in the same breath.
I picked up my appreciation for the pair of "Gashouse Gang" hurlers from my dad. Ever since then, I've been on a constant search for their cardboard.
Obviously, there are a lot more cards of Dizzy than Daffy out there.
Even so, this may well rank among my all-time favorite pieces of my Dizzy Dean collection.
I know one thing, though.
It's definitely my new favorite "autograph" card.
#3 -- 2010 Topps "Silk Collection" #S-101 Geovany Soto /50
For the most part, these "silk" cards are a little more costly than my budget can allow.
Before today, I had only one other silk piece in my collection. And even that required a great deal of sheer luck.
Despite their rather expensive price tags, I've always secretly admired these from afar. Though they may be more on the higher-end of things, I still feel that these were a great innovation on the part of Topps.
I guess my dad felt the same way.
Unfortunately, Geovany Soto isn't much of a "name" in baseball anymore. He'll probably be the backup to A.J. Pierzynski in Texas for most of 2013.
Still, that hasn't affected my love for his cards. Despite his recent struggles, I still cherish each and every card of his in my collection.
However, I will admit that it's been nice to find stuff of his on the cheap lately.
From what he told me, this terrific silk piece of Mr. Soto only set him back a few bucks. Even one that carries the treasured "50/50" serial number.
I doubt that would've been possible a couple years ago.
All the better for me, I guess.
Even with the greatness of Wilbur Wood, the Dean brothers, and a silk Soto, the top two pieces of my dad's birthday gift to me stood in a class of their own.
#2 -- 1939 Play Ball #83 Gus Suhr
If cards could talk, what would they say?
I bet this one would have quite the story to tell us.
My dad was a little worried that the condition on this one wouldn't be up to my standards.
That's the great thing, though. I don't really have any "standards" when it comes to vintage. As long as the card is in one piece, I'll take it.
Especially when we're talking about a 74 year-old baseball card.
As cool as they are, I can't see myself ever coughing up as much cash as it'd take to get a well-conditoned Play Ball issue.
My only other authentic Play Ball card isn't in much better shape than this one. And even that one set me back three dollars.
In the end, my dad said that this one only cost him about a buck.
One dollar for a 1939 Play Ball card!
But not as amazing as...
#1 -- 1952 Topps #129 Johnny Mize
In some cases, reprints are about as close as I'll ever get to the real thing.
The chances of me owning a 1953 Topps Willie Mays or a '51 Bowman Mickey Mantle are fairly slim. The reprints are all I'll ever have. And I'm fine with that.
Until today, I thought a reprint would be the closest I'd get to owning a 1952 Topps card of Hall-of-Famer Johnny Mize.
After all, the only other two '52s in my collection set me back quite a few bucks a piece. And those were basically no-namers.
How the heck would I ever get to own a '52 of a Hall of Famer?
Well, my friends, I guess dreams do come true.
I can now proudly say that I own an authentic 1952 Topps Johnny Mize.
I'm as surprised as you.
I could probably go on for hours about this card.
But I think you can see why it's so special.
As I look back on my life, I'll always be able to point to Mr. Mize and say...
"I got that card on my 21st birthday. I remember it like it was yesterday."
Needless to say, I couldn't have asked for much more this year. I feel truly lucky to have such a great family in my life.
I guess I'll admit it.
I am one spoiled 21 year-old.