Monday, November 11, 2013
The last place you'd expect
I have a few relatively constant sources for cardboard in my life.
Target's card aisle, the occasional card show, and (depending on the time of year) my local flea market have resulted in the vast majority of my pickups during my time as a collector.
Every now and then, though, cardboard pops up in some rather unlikely places.
I found a withered card lying on the street once. And, in probably my favorite story of the sort, my dad stumbled upon a bunch of kids selling cardboard at a lemonade stand when I was a young lad. One of the cards he found for me is still a definite centerpiece of my collection.
A few weeks ago, I made yet another shocking cardboard discovery.
After talking about it for what seemed like months on end, a couple friends and I finally made a much-anticipated trip to Dave and Buster's. For those who have never been there, it's basically a much bigger and more adult-oriented arcade hall.
We easily spent a few hours in there just acting like kids again. I even set a new high score on one of those basketball games, for what it's worth. I even played a little Pac-Man for old time's sake.
While they're really second nature to just playing the games themselves, you get tickets for your efforts. And, like many of the birthday parties I attended as a kid, those tickets can be redeemed for little prizes.
Of course, most of the rewards are just knick-knacks. After passing by racks of stuffed animals and Slinkys, I found something shocking.
Not just any baseball cards, though. They had a whole rack of unopened 1991 Stadium Club Series 2 packs.
Needless to say, I knew where I'd be spending my tickets at that exact moment.
Against all odds, I walked out of a Dave and Buster's with eight unopened packs of 1991 Stadium Club.
You can't make this stuff up.
One of my friends is a baseball fan, so I let him rip one of them open. He doesn't collect anymore, as he says, but he still likes busting a pack every now and then.
While I already had a copy in my collection, my friend did get a rather interesting pull with this Alex Cole.
That's because this card doesn't feature Alex Cole at all. Pictured above is actually former Brave outfielder Otis Nixon, the result of a "player swap" slip-up on the part of Topps.
It's a treasured part of my cherished "error" collection.
As stated on wrappers themselves, Stadium Club packs were hailed as containing twelve "premium" cards in each.
They might seem fairly ordinary today, but I'm sure the brand created quite a buzz when it was first released. From what I know, Stadium Club was the big high-end set of its day.
The photography does certainly stand out from many other sets of the time.
Just look at that hairstyle on Cory Snyder.
While neither are big names nowadays, I noticed long ago that both Oscar Azocar and Jeff Reed seemed to consistently receive some great cards.
That trend apparently continued with 1991 Stadium Club.
Unfortunately, this is one of the problems you might run into with older unopened packs.
The cards inside have a tendency to be stuck together.
While you can carefully try to each one apart with minimal damage, some just can't be saved. Both Lance Blankenship and Stan Belinda had to be sacrificed to preserve the lives of others.
Luckily, only one of the eight packs I scored had such a problem.
The fact that these packs actually resulted in a few new cards for my binders was icing on the cake.
Among those new adds was this great shot of "The Hawk" on the basepaths.
There really aren't enough cards of big sluggers like Dawson running the bases.
Also among the hits were a couple new additions to my "Short Term Stops" collection.
Candy Maldonado split his 1991 season between the Brewers and Blue Jays. He'd go on to become an integral part of Toronto's victory in the World Series the very next year.
Kirk Gibson's tenure as a Royal would last all of one season in 1991.
To most other fans, I'm sure he's better remembered wearing a different shade of blue.
As far as I'm concerned, the card you see above was far and away the best find from my Dave and Buster's breaks.
This particular issue of Mr. McGriff is a great example of why Stadium Club has stood the test of time. On top of being one of the first pieces to feature "The Crime Dog" in Padres gear, it's simply a beautiful shot on the part of Topps.
Luckily for us, horizontal cards were just starting to break back into the hobby at the time.
A vertical frame just wouldn't have done this one justice.
In the end, though, the cards themselves were secondary to the fact that I actually found 1991 Stadium Club packs at Dave and Buster's.
A set I've longed praised on this blog somehow materialized amongst a sea of screaming kids and flashing lights.
That's a lesson for you, I guess.
Baseball cards really can show up in the last place you'd expect.