Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The enigma of oddballs

I'm not ashamed to admit it.

I am an absolute oddball fanatic. If I happen to find an oddball in a dime box, it's mine. To me, it doesn't really matter who happens to be featured or when the card is from.

Before I joined the blogosphere, I merely dabbled in the land of oddballs. I'd pick 'em up here and there, but they were never a real point of emphasis for me.

My post-blogger life has been just the opposite. I'm crazy for oddballs these days.

I threw around a few different frankenset ideas before landing on the basis of my "cool cards" checklist. One of those potential thoughts (which isn't quite off the table yet) was revolving an entire frankenset around the world of oddballs.

That's when I ran into a dilemma.

What the heck is an oddball, anyways?

I'd probably recognize one if I saw it, but I can't say I'm able to come up with a good definition on the spot. They proved to be a point of confusion in writing an earlier "terminology" post.

Tonight, though, I'm going to do my absolute best to try and come up with a steadfast definition of the term "oddball".

To start, I think most of us can agree that any card issued by a food or drink company probably checks in under the oddball theme.

Whether it be Drake's Coffee Cakes (insert Seinfeld quote here), Coca-Cola...

...or Hostess, anything marketed by sugary foods or beverages make for good oddballs.

Now that Twinkies are officially back on the supermarket shelves, I wish they'd bring back the three-card back panels, as they did in the '70s.

Hostess was the basis for my all-time favorite oddball brand in history. And it's not even all that close.

After storing them in binders over the past few years, it's obvious that these sweet pieces are quite smaller than most of the standard 2 1/2-by-3 1/2 inch cards.

Due to their diminutive sizes, these Hostess oddballs seem...well, odd stored next to other regular-sized cardboard. Which begs the question...

Should all minis be constituted as oddballs?

It's certainly something to think about.

To me, Hostess and Kellogg's minis from back in the day are indeed oddballs. As are other smaller sets like Topps Micro and Panini Stickers.

Still, though, I've never placed minis from checklists like Topps 205 or A&G under the oddball realm. However, I'm sure other people do.

So, then, are all minis oddballs?


Maybe not, though.

There isn't really one right answer.

Let's move onto the topic of gaming cards.

Issues like the above "Gonzo" from Donruss's short-lived "Top of the Order" card game should surely considered oddballs.


Anything revolving around some sort of gaming concept, like MLB Showdown and UD Flyball, is an oddball.

It's certainly a logical argument.

Then again...

A couple of Topps Total's later designs had a card game listed on the back.

No, I never actually learned how to play it. But the game certainly makes for a pivotal part of this set's design.

You can see the dilemma here.

If Topps Total involved some sort of game with their checklists, should they be considered oddballs?

To me, Topps total is a lot of things. Awesome, revolutionary, and highly affordable, to name a few.


I'm not so sure.

One of the other defining characteristics of quite a few oddballs is the striking lack of logos.

From what I understand, companies that reach an agreement with the MLBPA but not the MLB can indeed produce cards. They just can't include any type of team-centric logos.

That's why a lot of the oddballs you see are devoid of any sort of association with baseball, often only listing clubs as "Boston" or "Chicago, NL".

The only way around the whole "no logos" thing is either airbrushing or obscuring the marks out of each photograph. That's why "Yaz" is shown wearing a plain white uniform on this Jimmy Dean issue.

It's safe to say that all logo-less cardboard can be placed under the oddball umbrella.

Is it, though?

Nearly every card in the unlicensed 2010 Upper Deck release features an obscured logo. Yet I don't really consider those oddballs in the slightest.

Plus, with their shockingly fun Triple Play and Cooperstown releases, Panini has recently produced a few nice sets in recent years without the benefit of MLB logos. Those aren't oddballs to me, either.

Once again, we've hit another roadblock.

Sure, some logo-less cards can definitely be thought of as oddballs.

But, then again, some can't.

It's an enigma.

One thing's for sure, though.

Any card in a base Flagship Topps checklist is definitely not an oddball.


I'm not so sure. I've been plucking these old checklist cards from the discount bins for a while now. To me, any card that encouraged collectors to write on them should be considered oddballs. That's why I've become so fascinated with them lately.

And, yet, the checklist cards themselves were indeed parts of Topps sets back in the day. From what I've heard, tracking well-conditioned ones down has been quite a daunting task for many a set builder.

So, back to our original question.

What is an oddball?

Well, after writing an entire post about it, I can confidently say this.

I have absolutely no idea.

What truly makes an oddball is in the eye of each individual collector, I guess.

In a way, that's what makes them so special.


Spiegel83 said...

The Jimmy Dean Yaz card is sweet. Need to track one down for myself.


I pretty much agree.
The last lines really sum it up. That's what makes this hobby so great, it can be whatever you want to be !

I have what I call my
'SAMPLE card' collection. I'm trying to get a card from every set ever made. Odd balls, comic cards, whatever. If it's baseball related I want it !


Oh, and watch out for "orange crush" in your mailbox !

petethan said...

Totally with you when it comes to diggin' the oddballs. After all, why do you think I like your blog...?

hiflew said...

For me oddballs have three characteristics.

1. A non-regulation size (ie minis, oversized cards, discs, etc.)

2. A lack of license.

3. Acquired along with some type of food product (both human and pet...can't leave out Milk Bone cards)

If a card has 2 of these three qualities, it is usually an oddball to me. With all 3, it definitely is an oddball to me.

Jeff said...

That Carew is an absolute thing of beauty.

Metallattorney said...

I love that Yaz card too. I have not seen that one before. Food issues are my favorite oddballs.