Before the blogosphere came around, the contest gods never really smiled down on me.
I entered a fair share of them during my trading forum days, but I came up empty-handed nearly every single time.
Ever since the blogosphere came along, though, I have reason to believe that my luck may well be changing.
I scored an amazing assortment of HOFers around Christmas time last year. And, in a contest held by Mark of the terrific blog "The Chronicles of Fuji", I'd hit on a nice complete set of old-timers a few months prior to that as well.
As fate would have it, Mr. Fuji recently held a contest on his blog that featured one of the best prizes I could ever hope to win. The victors received the complete six-card Bad News Bears set from 2013 Panini Golden Age, arguably the single greatest innovation any card company has had this year.
The flick has been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember. Trailing only The Sandlot, Eight Men Out, and The Rookie, The Bad News Bears came in at #4 on my all-time baseball movies list.
Without so much as a second thought, I threw my name into the hat on Mr. Fuji's blog. A few days later, the news came in. The impossible had happened.
I was one of the winning contestants! I was getting the complete Bad News Bears set!
My heart jumped when the grand prize arrived in the mail. The first card to greet me was the above Tatum O'Neal, the actress who wonderfully played pitcher (and spitballer/Vaseline-baller) Amanda Whurlitzer in the film.
That was just the beginning.
Having picked them up at the National, these were the only two Bears cards I'd had before Mr. Fuji's contest.
Even so, this is one of the few times where I don't mind having doubles in my collection. Not even in the slightest.
Given that both Toby Whitewood and ill-fated hurler Rudy Stein weren't among the main characters in the film, I found it interesting that they were included in the Golden Age checklist. One that, I may add, doesn't feature Tanner, Lupus, or even Buttermaker.
Then again, maybe Panini is stocking up for a sequel run in 2014.
Speaking of sequels, I didn't think Breaking Training was all that bad. It certainly pales in comparison to the original. On its own, though, it's a quality flick.
I have yet to see The Bad News Bears Go to Japan, the third and final installment in the film's catalog.
From what I've heard, I'm not missing much there.
That said, the second film did have its drawbacks.
Perhaps the most massive discrepancy is the fact that the original Engelberg isn't even in Breaking Training. For whatever reason, they got some other kid to reprise his role.
That's a shame, especially considering that Engelberg is probably my favorite character from the original film. He smashed the front window of Buttermaker's car, bit into a fully-wrapped candy bar, and hit an infield inside-the-park home run in the course of a single movie.
What's not to like?
Ahmad Abdul-Rahim was the star right fielder for the Bears, as you might remember. He also worshipped Hank Aaron, as evidenced by his #44 jersey number.
To me, though, he'll always be the kid who paid dearly for not wearing a cup.
Capping off the six-card set is none other than the famous Kelly Leak.
He (supposedly) rode a Harley, smoked cigarettes, and terrorized the general community at a suspiciously young age.
As they'd eventually learn, though, he was a darn good baseball player.
Note: The following sentence may contain spoilers. It's been 37 years since the movie came out, though. Just watch it if you haven't already.
Although he'd eventually get thrown out at home to end the championship game, the Bears probably wouldn't have gotten that far without Kelly Leak.
It's hard to explain just how thrilled I was to win such an awesome prize. Mr. Fuji, I can't thank you enough. I'm still in awe over such a tremendous effort on Panini's part.
For now, though, I'll just be going back to the stands before Buttermaker shaves off half my mustache and shoves it up my left nostril.