Friday, September 19, 2014

Proud to be an oddball

I shudder when I think about all the years I wasted not caring about oddballs.

I was, for lack of a better word, a more mainstream collector. As an adolescent, Topps and Upper Deck were my main focuses, and I had yet to become a full-blown dime box-aholic.

It was kind of like listening to whatever happened to be on the Top 40 at the time and nothing else. Follow the masses.

Thankfully, I've changed a whole lot since then. My focuses have become a lot more broad, which, in an odd way, has actually given my collection a stronger identity. It was inevitable, then, that I eventually started to become much more enamored with the world of oddballs.

That's why I can honestly say that a recent package I received from Tony of the awesome blog "Off Hiatus Baseball Cards" made for one of the better trading experiences of my blogging career.

Tony and I haven't been trading for very long, but it's obvious that he's a true blogger buddy and has a firm handle on the kind of cardboard I like.

He'd emailed me a while back saying he had this Ricky Vaughn "Major League" insert for me if I wanted it. Of course I wanted it. I don't know if it's a true oddball, but it's about as close to it as we can get these days.

We wear caps and sleeves at this level, son.

Is this an oddball?

Is this even a baseball card?

Yes and yes, if you ask me. I'm sure thousands and thousands of people have thrown these away this year, treating them like any other advertisement. I don't play video games, so I couldn't give two you-know-whats about the code on the front.

As far as the card, though, it's as binder-worthy as any other Miguel Cabrera issue I've come across.

The rest of the package was about as Cubs-centric as they come.

Better yet, they were all oddballs. While it was issued by Topps, the most mainstream brand around, I still count this Lee Smith Mini Leaders issue as an oddity.

Most minis are.

I'd somehow never gotten my hands on anything from the 1981 Topps Scratch-Off set before Tony came along.

These things are smaller and a bit more narrow than your everyday baseball card, and definitely worthy of being considered oddballs.

Most of the ones I've seen around the blogs are unscratched, which leaves me wondering how many collectors actually played the scratch-off game back in '81.

These were completely new to me.

Apparently, the Jay's Potato Chips brand released cards back in 1986. Like a lot of oddballs from the period, this quartet of Cubbies has the airbrushed caps and helmets thing going.

Tony later asked me on Twitter whether Jay's Potato Chips are still around. As a potato chip lover/enthusiast/addict, I was able to confidently answer that yes, they are.

If I could have one snack for the rest of my life, it would probably be chips and dip.

Without double-dipping, of course.

Now we're getting into the real sweet stuff.

I don't get Hostess cards too often in trades, so the rare times they do appear in my mailbox are special. Especially if they're hallowed Cubs like Bill Madlock and Bill Buckner.

I'm pretty sure that Hostess were the first oddballs I ever saw as a young collector.

That's probably why I still have such a strong attachment to them to this day.

That said, Kellogg's is giving Hostess a serious run for its money.

Even when I was starting to jump back onto the oddball train, it took me a little while longer to dive deep into these 3-D beauties. I think you can thank one particular card show experience for making me a full-fledged Kellogg's convert.

Tony sent over a real gem with this '78 Kellogg's Bruce Sutter. The famous forkballer is one of those guys that, for whatever reason, I basically ignored until fairly recently. These days, I'm trying to make up for lost time by snatching up Sutters left and right.

In any other trade, this might've been the centerpiece of the package.

But not this one.

The 1984 7-UP Cubs stadium giveaway set that Tony sent along has to be one of the single best items I've ever received in a trade package.

He told me that it's been in his hands since he attended a fateful Cubs game at Wrigley back in '84. It was still in the thirty-year-old shrinkwrap when it fell out of this package.

The fact that Tony would send over such a longtime possession of his means more than I could probably ever put into words.

For a moment, I considered leaving the cards in the shrinkwrap for the sake of keeping the set intact. However, that instinct didn't hold for very long, and I found myself busting it open within seconds.

The coaches issue you see above is very '80s. A lot of oddball team sets from the period seem to have something similar, as opposed to the zero coach cards you see nowadays.

This one has a rare shot of the late Don Zimmer back when he was coaching third base for the Cubs.

Coaches card aside, these beauties have an extremely minimal full-bleed design.

The nameplate is short and to the point, complete with the player's jersey number, name, and position.

Better yet, they come in both the horizontal...

...and vertical variety.

One of the other big draws of this set is the fact that it was produced in 1984, one of the best years in Cubs history. Though they ended coming up just short of the NL Pennant, the team was still loaded with big names.

Rick Sutcliffe won the Cy Young in '84, despite only spending about half the season in the National League. Lee Smith was starting to come into his own as a young reliever, and veterans like Larry Bowa and Jay Johnstone helped set the tone for the team.

As far as photos go, that shot of the sans-helmet Gary Matthews had to be the best of the lot.

For me, though, the crown jewel had to be this early oddball of Ryno.

Sandberg's rookies hit the shelves just a year prior in 1983. As most Cubs fans know, he'd go on to win the NL MVP in '84, the year this set was issued.

It's packages like these that make me wonder why it took me so long to get into the world of oddballs. They've made for some of the best experiences I've had in this hobby.

When it comes to collecting, I'm proud to be an oddball.


cynicalbuddha said...

I'm an oddball lover too. I think one of my favorites are the old Pepsi MSA discs from the 70's. There are lots of cool MSA discs but the baseball and football pepsi ones came inserted with a glove or football panel. And those 1981 Scratch off's are pretty easy to find unseparated and unscratched. So many cool oddballs out there, so many. I really miss all the old food issues and send aways.

Tony L. said...

I'm glad you liked these, Nick. I always liked that Madlock Hostess card for listing him as a Pitcher rather than as a third baseman. Hostess issued a correction for that, though.

And, like the CB, I definitely miss the food issues and the send aways. Panini would be 100,000 times cooler if its cards were issued in loaves of bread, bags of chips, and 12-packs of Coke.

Mark Hoyle said...

Great package from Tony

Adam Kaningher said...

I, too, am a potato chip addict.

Jupiterhill said...

I love oddball cards too. I miss cards being included with food also. If they were still included it would highly influence what I eat. I think I miss the Post Cereal cards the most.

As for those scratchers, my dad had a lot of them, and some were scratched. Since nobody scratched theirs off, maybe mine could be worth something... or maybe not.

I like that Ricky Vaughn card too. I still need it to finish out my set, not including the special editions cards and autographs.

The Junior Junkie said...

That manager card is gorgeous! ISO all day long...

Fuji said...

Great stuff. I'm still looking to either build or buy that 1981 Topps Scratch-off set. And the Kelloggs and Hostess cards are probably my two favorite oddballs of all-time.