Sunday, June 29, 2014

It might be me

I realize I have more varied collecting tastes than most people.

My interest in the hobby stretches to so many different categories. Even in well over two years of blogging, I doubt I've covered them all.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the great people in blogosphere is the fact that they're willing to dig for the wackiest things I might want. I'm so appreciative that others have taken the time to look for "zero-year" or "autograph" cards for me.

It's gotten to the point where people are just sending me the craziest things they can find.

Tom, of the terrific blog "Waiting 'til Next Year", included a wrapped stick of gum in a surprise package recently. If anyone would have a gum collection, it'd be me.

Rest assured, I do not have a gum collection.


Like most packages I get, there wasn't a whole lot of consistency to what Tom sent.

The gum was followed by this terrific Stadium Club shot of catcher Carl Nichols. The angle of it gives the illusion that the former backstop is patrolling the outfield, though it's almost certainly a simple foul pop in reality.

Catchers in the outfield.

Now that would be something I'd collect.

Though I've never specifically sought them out, I do enjoy finding cards of "outside the lines" subjects.

Managers, announcers, GMs, mascots, you name it.

Yes, even umpires.

And let's not forget trainers.

One of the great things about minor league sets are the fact that a lot of them include odd things like this. It's not something you'd ever see at the big-league level.

Could you imagine opening a pack of Topps and pulling a trainer card?

People would be up in arms.

Tom actually sent me a complete 1998 Multi-Ad Peoria Chiefs set.

They're the single-A affiliate of the Cardinals. Tom lives in Peoria and had a bunch of these lying around. I've always enjoyed minor league cards, so he found a good home for this one.

None of the guys you see here ever made it to the bigs. Most never got out of the low minors. I'd bet that a lot of these guys are working regular everyday jobs now. That's part of the charm of minor league sets.

The names of Ryan Darr and Aaron Gentry may be lost to history, but they can always say they had their very own baseball card.

I'd only heard of two guys in the entire set.

Though he started in their system, Pablo Ozuna never played for the Cardinals. He came up with the Marlins in 2000 as a much-hyped prospect. Though he never quite panned out, Ozuna was a useful utility guy during his seven-year career.

I'll always remember him as a valuable part of that 2005 Chicago White Sox championship squad.

This was basically the reason Tom sent this set my way.

He remembered that I collected Rick Ankiel from my past posts, and thought this would make for a nice addition. Boy, was he right.

This is probably Ankiel's first card as a professional. He began his rapid rise through the Cardinals system with Peoria in 1998. He advanced to high-A ball after just seven games with the Chiefs that year.

Ankiel was just 19 years old when this card was released and had no idea where his career would take him. His unexpected future as an outfielder wasn't even a glimmer in his eye at this point.

It's just one of the many things to love about minor league sets.

Whether it's gum, umpires, or minor leaguers, I'm always willing to take on whatever other people want to send me. I suppose I might have to pare down my cards at some point in the future, but that's a long ways down the road.

For now, there's room for everyone in my collection.

Friday, June 27, 2014

An impulse buy: Back to school edition

This year, I did something I never thought I'd do.

I enrolled in a summer class.

Part of my decision was thanks to the blogosphere. The class I'm taking is sort of a creative writing institute crash course. I've loved blogging about cards, but I have to say that doing so has opened me up to writing in general these last couple years.

The class started today, and it was a ton of fun. It's only a two-week course, but it's 9:30-to-3 every weekday for the next couple weeks. So, if my post count takes a slight dip, you'll know why.

To commemorate my inaugural venture into the world of summer classes, I decided to buy a few baseball cards. Hey, any excuse to pick up some cardboard is a good excuse.

In case you've missed these "impulse buy" posts in the past, they usually come during a particular point of weakness when I find myself jumping to Sportlots to buy a few cards. Just Commons is better for bigger purchases, but Sportlots is good for these little buys when I don't have much money.

The key is to find a seller with a large inventory and reasonable shipping prices. All the cards you'll see tonight came from the same person. And, except for the final card in this post, all cost a whopping 18 cents a piece.

That's certainly a steal for anything featuring the old Cincinnati Red Stockings.

These little impulse buys always seem to entail a few key "short term stops" pickups.

Though it may seem mundane to others, that '94 Donruss Bobby Thigpen is the only card I know of that features him as a Phillie. The former single-season saves leader pitched in 17 games for them in 1993.

Besides being a neat "play at the plate" shot, that Phil Nevin is one of the few cards that feature him as an Anaheim Angel. His tenure with the team lasted all of 75 games in 1998.

I would like to say that was the best Phil Nevin card in my latest impulse buy.

But it wasn't.

I fell in love with this card as soon as I saw it on one man's Angels blog not long ago. It resonated with me on so many different levels.

1) As I said before, there aren't many cards of Phil Nevin with the Angels.

2) That's a way more epic "play at the plate" shot than the aforementioned Pacific issue.

3) This shot was snapped just a split-second before Brady Anderson's card from '99 Stadium Club. I picked that one up earlier this year.

4) I'm pretty sure this particular photo comes from an exciting Angels-Orioles contest played on September 12th, 1998. The O's won, 3-2, with three runs in the ninth. Mr. Anderson scored the game-winning run on an Eric Davis single.

From what I can gather, that's the exact play you see developing here.

I haven't been that fascinated by a single card in a while.

I just recently decided to start collecting Josh Donaldson.

The A's have become my favorite non-Chicago ballclub these last couple years. Josh Donaldson is the face of that franchise. Why did it take me until now to start collecting him?

I'm not entirely sure. Better late than never, though.

The only thing I don't like about Donaldson is the fact that the Cubs let him slip away. He was sent to Oakland in the trade that brought Rich Harden to Chicago.


I saw this one on another blog a little a while ago, but I can't remember exactly where.

Like the Stadium Club Nevin, it was one of those cards that I absolutely had to have.

On the surface, this "Boomer" doesn't look like anything out of the ordinary. Until you take a closer look at that Yankees cap, at least.

As the story goes, David Wells took the mound wearing an authentic 1934 Babe Ruth Yankees cap in a game against the Indians on June 27th, 1997. Joe Torre made him take it off after just a single inning.

I'm almost positive that this image features the hallowed Ruth cap. That doesn't look anything like a modern Yankees hat. Since the game was in '97, it makes sense that it would appear in a set from the following year. This card, as it happens, hails from the 1998 Fleer Tradition checklist.

I'd say Fleer most definitely deserves a round of applause.

This is another card I've seen on quite a few other blogs.

At some point, I figured enough was enough. I needed to have this Superman shot of Mr. Dunston in my collection.

It's one of the better "double dips" out there.

There's always a "Dime Box Dozen" need or two hidden in these impulse buys.

I've had my eye on this one for a while. One of Brad Ausmus's more obscure claims to fame is the fact that he was featured on two "zero-year" cards.

After being drafted by the Yankees, the current Tigers manager was taken by the Rockies in the 1992 expansion draft. He'd be traded to the Padres before ever playing a game in Colorado.

As far as I know, this is one of only two cards that feature Ausmus with the Rockies.

It's always nice to add a new "zero-year" piece to the binders.

This impulse buy eventually culminated with a few new SSPC finds.

I actually had a lot more of these in my cart at first, but then my weak budget forced me to scale back a bit. Guess I'll have to save the others for my next purchase. I'm sure most of you know that feeling.

In the end, I settled on a trio of SSPCs. I'm an unofficial Lenny Randle supercollector, so I had to have the one on the right.

On the left, however, is a card I bought purely for laughs. I can't say I've ever heard of former Phillie Joe Hoerner, but that is one goofy hat he's wearing there.

It's good to see guys that don't take themselves too seriously.

This was by far the most expensive piece of my latest impulse buy.

Fifty cents for anything of Boog Powell is still a steal to me. Especially one that features his forgotten stint in Cleveland.

Seeing him in those awful Bloody Mary Indians jerseys from the '70s has never looked right to me.

Of course, that makes me like it all the more.

I'd say it made for a fitting end to my latest impulse buy. Who knows? Maybe I'll be able to quell my cardboard impulses one of these days.

Or maybe I should just come to grips with reality.

There's always another impulse buy to be made.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The all-bro team, bro

The game of baseball is changing right before our very eyes.

In the past, most guys went about their business with relative level-headedness.

Longtime baseball fans often say that the game had a way of policing itself back in the day. Players who celebrated a little too much and were bound to take a Bob Gibson fastball between the eyes.

Baseball isn't like that now. With guys like Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter leaving the game, that kind of quiet cool level of respect is fading away. We're seeing a lot more emotion and personality in baseball.

The bro is taking over.

What is a "bro", exactly?

You've probably seen one before. They seem to flock to card shows, for some reason. A bro is someone who, well...uses the term "bro" a lot. They can also be quite loud and boisterous if you're around them for any period of time.

Still, while I tend to stay away from them in my everyday life, I don't necessarily mind the bro in baseball. Some of them have infused the game with a much-needed shot of adrenaline. There's no joy in any sport with a collection of dry personalities.

That's why I've decided to put together a roster of the most killer bros around, bro.

Starting Pitcher -- Matt Harvey

I like Matt Harvey.

Had he not gone undergone Tommy John surgery this year, I think he'd be in the running for the NL Cy Young right about now. But, alas, he's out of commission for 2014.

In fact, he fought the Mets to have his rehab in New York City. I imagine it's why any bro would.

He wants to enjoy the New York nightlife. Harvey came under some strange scrutiny last year for going out on the town a bit too often for the New York media's liking. He was even dating a model at one point.

All I can say is this.

Kudos, bro.

Relief Pitcher -- Jonathan Papelbon

For whatever reason, the relief role seems to attract the most bros.

A few that come to mind are Brian Wilson, Joba Chamberlain, and Grant Balfour. For me, Jonathan Papelbon is the ultimate bullpen bro.

While it's gotten him into trouble on quite a few occasions, he's not afraid to speak his mind. He's rubbed a lot of people the wrong way during his career, which I can see.

I don't think there's much denying the fact that he's a true bro.

Catcher -- Robert Fick

This may be the most bro-tastic card I own.

Whenever I see it in my Tigers binder, the same exact thought always pops into my head.

Yeah. That guy's a bro.

Robert Fick is kind of a dark horse bro for this roster. He was never a star, and he played a pivotal role in probably the ugliest brawl I've ever seen. I'm still not exactly sure why I collect him.

I guess it was just too much bro to ignore.

First Base -- Kevin Millar

I always had a suspicion that Kevin Millar was a bro during his career.

Now, watching him on MLB Network's Intentional Talk as much as I can, my thoughts have been confirmed.

Kevin Millar is, without a doubt, a bro.

He says the actual word "bro" more than anyone else I've heard. I'll have to do an official "bro count" one of these days. I think it'd be right around a couple dozen.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I do enjoy watching Mr. Millar.

He's a lovable bro.

Second Base -- Robinson Cano

Second base doesn't attract a lot of bros.

Robinson Cano was one of only a few names I considered. There's just something about him that reminds me of a bro.

I guess if you sign with Jay-Z's agency, there has to be a little bit of bro in you.

Shortstop -- Troy Tulowitzki

Again, bros don't necessarily flock to shortstop.

"Tulo" was the runaway choice for the all-bro team at this position. The man has the numbers to wear any hairstyle he wants, but anyone who rocks a mullet in this day in age is either a bro or stuck in the '80s.

Probably a bro, though.

Third Base -- Brett Lawrie

Brett Lawrie reminds me of so many people I knew in high school.

Loud, energetic, and full of emotion. As long as I wasn't around them for extended periods of time, I didn't mind.

Most people like him seem to end up playing football or basketball, but I like that a few of his sort are starting to trickle into baseball.

It wouldn't hurt to have a bro or two on most big league rosters.

Outfield -- Bryce Harper

The all-bro squad has an unbelievably strong outfield.

While fellow #1 pick Steven Strasburg seems to have a more distant personality, Bryce Harper is a full-fledged bro. You may remember his "clown question, bro" quip from a couple years back.

Some may not like him, but there's no denying that Harper plays the game hard. The way it should be played.

Besides, that has to be the most bro hairstyle you'll ever find.

Outfield -- Yasiel Puig

Here's the most controversial bro on this roster.

The baseball world seems to be split on Yasiel Puig. As you probably know by know, he's been scrutinized for everything from lack of hustle to overthrowing cutoff men to sliding into home plate on a game-winning homer.

He's probably the most polarizing figure in baseball today. I, for one, enjoy watching him play. I try to tune into every Dodger game on MLB Network or ESPN.

If he can put it all together, Yasiel Puig may go down as the most famous bro in history.

Outfield -- Nick Swisher

Nick Swisher is simply a goofy bro.

He's been a bro throughout his entire career. And, as a lot of you read yesterday, my dad is a big fan of his. I think he knew about Swisher before I did.

His numbers may have fallen off lately, but he's still a strong candidate for the all-bro roster. He even inspired an entire section of Indians fans, affectionately dubbed "Brohio".

This particular piece, by the way, is in competition with the aforementioned Heritage Harper for the most bro card of 2014.

Designated Hitter -- Jose Canseco

Ah, perhaps the original bro himself.

Jose Canseco is a great example of a bro gone horribly, horribly wrong. Most bros seem to become less bro as they grow older. I'm interested to see guys how like Brett Lawrie and Yasiel Puig act in ten years.

Some never quite leave the bro stage. Take Jose Canseco, for instance. I don't think he never quite got over his "Bash Brothers" days with the A's.

You can see a bit of that cluelessness in this late 2001 Topps card of his. He never played for the Angels, and his career was already over at that point.

He still thought he had a chance. He (and Topps, apparently) thought so in 2002 as well.

Jose Canseco is the eternal bro.

Manager -- Joe Maddon

At first, I couldn't think of a good manager for the all-bro team.

It hit me right as I was starting to write this post.

Joe Maddon!

He might well be my favorite manager in the game. With his ever-changing hair colors, crazy clubhouse shenanigans, and stylish road trips, he's the perfect skipper for the all-bro squad.

Joe Maddon is a vintage bro.

Knowing how a lot of people my age act, I'm sure we'll see a whole lot more bros in baseball these next few years.

I'm looking forward to it.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A guest post from Dad

Nick has been kind enough to let me, dear ol' Dad, do a guest column on his great blog!

I've been a huge baseball fan for as long as I can remember, and was wild about card collecting from roughly '74-'80, after which I focused on record collecting...but since he's taken up the hobby, I am glad to be right back in the thick of it through him, and we've had so many good times digging for, talking about, and just looking through baseball cards...I'm thrilled he's so into it!

Aaanyway, I'd like to present "How Baseball (and Baseball Cards) Shaped My Life".

1. History Is Important

These Sporting News cards were great when I was a kid...I would always try to force my doubles into trades with friends, like "you NEED to have these in your collection!"...I was always a big fan of Baseball history, and I still feel ya gotta know where ya been to know where yer going, right?...With all the baseball history covered in cards these days, the 10-year-old me would've been in hog heaven!

2. "Fan-Friendly" Goes A LONG Way...

Nick has mentioned a few times my encounter with Pirates player Mike Easler as a kid of 12 (1978) at a Cubs game at Wrigley.

I remember it so well, leaning over the third base line during batting practice and trying to get a player, ANY player, to come over and sign an autograph or even a few words....the only one who trotted over to us was Easler....gave us all five, signed some scorecards (I didn't have one, so I didn't get an auto!) and chatted for a minute....we went nuts!

In those days, Wrigley was pretty empty during weekday games so you could basically sit wherever you wanted to, so we sat towards home plate and every time he came up to bat that day, we just screamed "EASLER!!!...YEAH YEAH!!!!" much to the bemusment of Mr. Easler, who even waved to us during one at-bat!

It hurts when I hear about what jerks some ballplayers (or any celebrity) can be about meeting their fans...I've met some of my heroes (Alex Chilton, Chuck Barris, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Davies, etc.) and I'm happy to report they were all really cool...but meeting a real-live BASEBALL PLAYER as a boy will always stick with me...athletes should remember that...

3. Racism Is Stupid

Don't get me wrong...Nick's grandpa (my dad) was not really a racist...but I grew up in a lilly-white neighborhood, working-class, and....well, you know how old-school guys were, little comments slipped, jokes cracked....and it's funny, now that I'm older, a lot of my peers who never left the neighborhood (I did, the FIRST chance I got!) are still like that, just like their small-minded dads....

I remember when it hit me....I was a big White Sox fan as a kid, watched every game I could...Dick Allen was my favorite player and that whole early-mid 70s team were SO cool!...the sideburns, the soul-handshakes in the dugout...I always made sure I completed my Sox team checklist with every year's new set of Topps.

Sooo, I'm watching the game, watching these incredible super-cool dudes (many of whom were African-American) then I turn around and look at my dad and his idiot friends...these were certainly NOT super-cool dudes!...and it hit me...THEY are wrong, and THAT attitude is not acceptable.

And I've never felt differently, and it makes me VERY proud that Nick is the same way.

4. "The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live..."

That's a quote from Jack Kerouac's "On The Road", and its certainly true of me, and it started with baseball....Like a lot of guys my age who were 10-11 in 1976, Mark Fidrych loomed large in my's hard to imagine nowadays, but the best thing was he was loose, unrehearsed, not too far off from the way me and my goofy 10-year-old friends acted!

I was sold!...It was an absolute thrill to meet the man, WITH my son, who was also pretty jazzed, in 2002...just one of the baseball-related moments I was so fortunate to share with Nick.

Dizzy Dean, Bill Lee (who Nick and I also met...great guy...and he gave us a hilarious take on his brawl with Graig Nettles), Dock Ellis, Luis Tiant, Jose fun-loving guys like Nick Swisher these days, I'm always drawn to the eccentrics, the left-of-center, and the ones with genuine passion and love for it, whatever "it" is...

5. You Can Come Back, Baby...Baseball Never Forgets...

For a while in the late 80s-early 90s....well, let's just say I strayed from some of my younger passions...I would mostly catch games in bars and felt far away from the game I once loved and 1992 a baby named Nick came along and it's true what they change ya!

I actually bought a pack of baseball cards that year to commemorate the birth of my son, and he was a big part of straightening out my life...

Guys like Ichiro and Derek Jeter renewed my love of the game, and as Nick got more into the collecting side, I was reminded how great baseball cards could be...and how great baseball could be...especially for a father and son!...Thanks, Nick!!

So there's a few from Dad...I'd like to thank all you readers for being such a positive thing in Nick's life, he really digs this whole blogging community thing and I'm glad y'all are such a good bunch...

I'll be reading right along with you....

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Conspiracy theories

The card companies are all in one big conspiracy.

When I stop and look through my collection, I sometimes spot odd coincidences. Coincidences that can't be explained with much rational thought.

You know what? I think there's a secret force behind the card companies that none of us know about.

I think they tried to jinx Hank Aaron in 1974.

When I picked up my copy of Aaron's famous "Home Run King" card, I didn't realize that it was originally released before "Hammerin' Hank" actually broke Babe Ruth's record. The back lists his career total at 713.

My theory is that someone at Topps placed a crazy 10,000-to-1 bet that Aaron wouldn't break the record in 1974. Whoever it was snuck this card into the checklist that year, hoping it would prevent him from passing Ruth.

Aaron showed them, though.

He broke it anyway.

It gets spookier.

I probably own more cards of Rick Ankiel at the plate than any other pitcher in my collection. I find that strange, considering he was perhaps the game's biggest prospect in the late '90s.

Could you imagine if a guy like Jose Fernandez had a bunch of cards that featured him hitting? It just doesn't happen.

That's why I think card companies had something to do with Ankiel suddenly losing his control. They secretly wanted him to become a full-time hitter because it meant they could produce more game-used bat cards of his.

They got their wish.

The transformation of Rick Ankiel is still one of the more fascinating baseball developments of the past decade or so.

Without this secret cardboard society, there probably wouldn't be any Moneyball.

On-base percentage and at-bats-per-homer stats weren't exactly mainstream in 1996, yet a lot of Fleer-based cards from the mid '90s feature those very numbers on the flip side of every card.

Maybe Fleer is to thank for Billy Beane's fame and success. Perhaps the careers of on-base machines like Scott Hatteberg wouldn't have breathed new life without Fleer.

Had Fleer not come along, maybe we wouldn't be hearing all about Ultimate Zone Rating and OPS+ these days.

I think card companies forced Michael Jordan into baseball.

Originally, I think Upper Deck was just trying to have a little fun when they included a short-printed card of his in their 1991 checklist. After that, though, they saw an opportunity for big bucks and took it.

I believe Upper Deck met with Jordan behind closed doors in 1993 and offered him a huge contract to switch to baseball. They thought it would help sell packs of Collector's Choice and all their other brands.

Anything for a few bucks.

Topps had plans to make Gypsy Queen into a huge brand way before 2011.

They tried to casually slip a GQ-inspired insert into their 2007 Topps Wal-Mart series, hoping no one would notice.

They didn't count on the minds of conspiracy theorists like me.

Finally, I think Baseball Cards Magazine was in cahoots with Topps.

They were the ones responsible for triggering this whole retro craze. No one gave a second thought to reproducing old designs until they showed up with their little cut-out giveaways.

Would anyone care about Heritage, Archives, Allen and Ginter, or all the other oldie sets on the shelves these days?

I don't think so.

What's next?

Is this whole facial hair thing just a conspiracy for Topps to start producing game-used beard cards in a couple years?

I wouldn't put it past them.

Okay, don't be fooled with this post. In reality, I'm about as far from a conspiracy theorist as you'll find. Everything I just posted can be explained by shrewd marketing techniques, rational thought, or merely just coincidence.

But I don't think I'm that far off on the whole game-used beard thing.

That's going to happen.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Flea market luck

I hope some of my posts around here have inspired others to take a closer look at the flea market business.

Still, I realize that the treasure trove of cardboard I seem to have at my local flea market isn't typical. Not all flea markets have regular dime box vendors and great selections like the one around here.

A lot of it is pure luck.

Sadly, my usual local flea market has been closed the last couple weeks for various reasons. Luckily, though, the annual neighborhood-wide flea market (located just a few blocks from where I live) was in business yesterday.

It's only a few aisles deep, basically just one big garage sale. Mostly just people trying to unload their junk onto others. Still, I've found cards there the past couple years. Last year featured a few nice little grab bags of '90s goodness, while the year before that produced one of my more invigorating dime box digs.

I got lucky again this time around. There were more cards ripe for the picking yesterday. What you see above was actually my final purchase of the afternoon.

Seconds after I started looking through it, the guy told me I could have the entire box for three bucks.

I handed over three crisp Washingtons without much of a second thought.

About 99 percent of the cards I found inside were from 2001 Fleer Focus.

There were so many, in fact, that I probably had enough to complete the set twice over.

Granted, it's not the most glamourous design ever, but I couldn't pass up something like that for just three bucks.

The checklist has plenty of star power and provided quite a few new hits to my many player collections.

As I found, however, the biggest draw to this set is the ample amount of retro jerseys it features.

I dug up nearly a dozen different ones, including these two awesome Pittsburgh Grays throwbacks.

I never thought I'd say this, but Jeff Kent actually made for the best card in the box.

He's seen sporting a terrific turn-of-the-century New York Giants throwback in this shot. It's one of the best retro specimens I've ever seen on cardboard.

To me, just digging through a whole box of cards would've been well worth the three bucks.

The throwbacks were just a bonus.

I found a box full of unpriced miscellany about halfway through the flea market.

Most of it featured card-related pieces, though there were a few housewares and other random knick-knacks thrown in for good measure.

One particular item that grabbed my eye was this intriguing "Card Stocking" you see above.

It felt like Christmas in June when the vendor said I could have it for a buck.

As you can probably tell from the picture, the stocking was filled with a few random packs of cards.

The one all the way at the bottom was like an odd makeshift repack. It featured singles from a number of early '90s brands and even advertised the fact that each pack contained a Topps Gold card.

It lived up to its promise.

I also found packs of 1991 Leaf and 1993 Donruss amongst the rubble.

I'm fairly apathetic towards both brands, but that's not to say they don't feature brief glimmers of greatness every now and then.

I just wished Donruss used that awesome double play shot of "The Wizard" on the front of the card.

This card stocking was the gift that kept on giving.

Tucked away behind the packs of Leaf and Donruss was the entire 27-card 1993 Stadium Club Rockies team set. I can't say I'd heard of all twenty-seven guys, and I couldn't help but notice that Topps gave a snub to Dale Murphy.

Still, seeing guys like Andres Galarraga and Vinny Castilla in inaugural Rockies gear is pretty darn cool.

As you might have noticed from the photo of this card stocking, a pack of 1992 Stadium Club was probably the crown jewel.

I still think this is one of the more beautiful sets ever made.

Bar none.

The card stocking wasn't all I found in this guy's box of randoms.

I dug up a complete 150-card box set of 1990 Topps Pro Debut near the bottom. (It's labeled as 1989 because all the guys included made their debuts in '89.)

Complete sets aren't usually that high on my radar, but I couldn't help but pull the trigger on this pickup.

Pro Debut is a concept I wish Topps would bring back.

Each card lists the exact date of each player's big league debut. The write-ups on the back are terrific as well, going so far as to note who each guy replaced on the roster when they were called up to the majors.

Now I can win bar bets knowing that Sammy Sosa replaced an injured Pete Incaviglia on the '89 Rangers roster.

Instead of spreading unremarkable Rookie Debut cards in Update or producing reams and reams of meaningless rookie-based insert sets, I would much rather Topps simply create an offshoot brand along the lines of Pro Debut in today's hobby.

I think it would be way more successful than those lame "The Future Is Now" inserts that no one cares about here in 2014.

As a fun little side note, 1990 Pro Debut features what has to be one of the extreme few Jose Cano cards ever produced.

The six games he played in for the '89 Astros would be his only taste of the bigs. He's much better known for fathering a future star named Robinson.

As you might remember, Jose Cano was the pitcher when his son won the Home Run Derby in 2011.

For just three bucks, I managed to land the entire 1990 Topps Pro Debut set...

...and this.

What you see here is a 1971 Topps Super issue of a young Cesar Cedeno. It was lying rather unremarkably near the bottom of this guy's box when I found it.

As the third Topps Super in my collection, I'll give it a good home.

So, for just seven bucks, I took home a giant box of 2001 Fleer Focus, a card stocking, a complete set of 1990 Topps Pro Debut, and a spectacular Cesar Cedeno vintage oddball.

How could this day get any better?

More vintage.

That's how.

The very first table I stopped at had a few giant stacks of vintage Topps lying next to heaps of ceramic plates and tool boxes.

Although they weren't priced, the vendor said he'd let them go for a quarter a piece. He kept bugging me to take home the entire lot for twenty-five dollars, but I didn't bite. I didn't have twenty-five dollars, for one thing.

Besides, pecking away at huge stacks like these is much more my game. I looked through every single card he had on display, coming away with about four bucks' worth of cardboard after all was said and done.

The vast majority of what the guy had came from '73 Topps. Just when I think I've discovered all the quirky photography this set has to offer, I manage to find a pile of great shots that I'd never seen before.

This Jim Fregosi was completely new to me.

And is that a Johnny Bench cameo I see?

I know this card well from seeing it on other blogs.

Thanks to this flea market, I now own a copy of The Most Airbrushed Card in History.

Tommie Agee was sent from the Mets to the Astros before the 1973 season started. Not wanting to cut corners, Topps proceeded to airbrush Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson and outfielder Rusty Staub into Houston gear in order to match up with Agee's move.

One of the best quarters I've ever spent, no doubt.

Just a couple of beautiful Wrigley Field shots here.

The Roberts is another card I've seen countless times before without managing to find a copy for myself.

If those early Padres uniforms make you shield your eyes...

...then this one will probably cause outright blindness.

If you look closely, you can see the late Don Zimmer in the center of the bottom row.

He managed the giant tube of mustard you see here.

The '73s the guy had vastly outnumbered the '72s.

Still, a lot of the '72s I pulled were semi-high numbers. I'm not a set builder, but I know they can be tough finds. That's what made finding them for a quarter all the more shocking.

Though I've never actually sought to get one, a part of me has always wanted to find one of these award cards that were, for whatever reason, part of the '72 Topps checklist.

Since I'm such an advocate of the obscure in this hobby, I guess it's fitting that the one I found featured the obscure Minor League Player of the Year trophy. I didn't even know such a thing existed.

As the back notes, however, a young infielder named Bobby Grich took home the award in 1971.

Here's some more 1972 Topps goodness for you.

I actually already had the Gibson, but the copy I found yesterday is an upgrade to the one that was sitting in my Cardinals binder.

It's hard to go wrong with a vintage Hall of Famer for a quarter.

Just when I thought this guy's stacks couldn't get any better, a new development arose.


These are arguably the greatest oddballs in history. I've had a lot of luck in finding them lately. I guess yesterday's flea market continued the trend.

I only found a pair of '72 Kellogg's singles at this guy's table. The first featured Doug Rader. I collect him, but he's not exactly a name most casual baseball fans would know.

The other guy I found... another story.

To my utter disbelief, I dug up an authentic 1972 Kellogg's Lou Brock in a stack of flea market quarter cards.

An oddball of a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest base stealers in history.

For a measly quarter.

Between the Brock and everything else, I spent a grand total of eleven dollars last afternoon.

I can go on and on about the different strategies I have when it comes to finding new cards and whatever else, but I guess that all went out the window yesterday.

Sometimes, you just have to be lucky.