Thursday, July 31, 2014


Aside from Opening Day and the postseason, the trading deadline is my favorite time of the year.

Today certainly didn't disappoint. Between guys like Lester, Lackey, Cespedes, and Price, a lot of big names switched teams this afternoon. These last couple months of the regular season should be a blast.

I guess it's fitting that I'd have a blockbuster of a trade package lined up on a day that featured so many blockbusters. I found this megabox waiting for me the very next day after I dug through a generous batch of cards from reader Wes.

This massive haul came courtesy of reader Michael. Let's's the first, second, third, fourth blogger box he's dropped on me during my blogging career. This box was a little different than the others he's sent, however, because even Michael had no idea what was inside of it.

In the note he included, Michael said that he found this very box while preparing for a move. He decided to send it my way to clear out some space, figuring I'd be the one to like find some buried treasure within its reaches.

I couldn't wait to dig my teeth into this smorgasbord of cards. Since it's perhaps my least favorite set ever, the stack of 1989 Bowman worried me.

Once I powered through those, I found nothing but pure cardboard gold.

The fun began with this beautiful double play shot from the relatively forgotten 2004 Playoff Honors checklist.

To borrow the term from another blogger, it's what you might call a "faux-rizontal" card.

Mini-collection hits were in full force with this pair of throwback and bat barrel shots.

Lighten up there, Tex.

Of all the "short term stops" in my collection, Johnny Damon as an A is one of my favorites.

I can't quite put my finger on what it is, but something about seeing him in those green Oakland jerseys seems wildly unfamiliar.

He doesn't strike me as much of a Moneyball-esque guy.

Random boxes like these are always bound to include a few fun pieces of cardboard.

It took a few glances at the Kingery to notice the bright red wiffle ball batt in his hand.

Speaking of bright colors, let's take a few moments to appreciate Score's early years.

The hobby could use more multi-bordered sets these days.

Digging through stacks of Stadium Club is always a treat.

I'm still waiting for the glorious day when I get to sift through an all-Stadium Club dime box.

If you're lucky, forgotten boxes like these could include some big names.

I'm guessing that Daisuke Matsuzaka wasn't very well known when this card was originally thrown into Michael's spares. Granted, he's not much of a name now. 

Had I found this box about six or seven years ago, though, I'd have a serious find on my hands. It's not much more than a footnote here in 2014.

A fun footnote nonetheless.

From what I could gather, I'd say this box was last touched around 2008.

These '08 UD First Edition Updates were about the most recent cards I found.

We're talking beardless Brian Wilson territory here.

Michael's box included quite the variety of designs.

A lot of what I found came from the late '90s and early 2000's. Many of the cards came from sets didn't know existed in the first place, forgot about, or tried my hardest to forget about.

Designs like UD HoloGrFx fall into that last category.

One brand I'll always remember is Topps Total.

A decent chunk of those fell out of this awesome box. I'll spare you my Total nostalgia for now.

If you read this blog at all, I'm sure you've already heard it.

The thing that surprised me most about this box was the amount of oddities that fell out of it.

This sweet Shea Stadium shot is my very first card from the 1994 O-Pee-Chee checklist, one that looks nothing like the standard Topps layout from that year.

I think I might actually like these OPCs a bit more than the '94 Topps design.

The box also included a few '80s oddballs, including a couple from OPCs days as Topps stunt doubles.

Now I can finally say I own a Canadian rookie card of The Second Spitter.

I guess Larry King is a Dodgers fan.

You learn something new every day.

One of the best tips I ever got about blogging was to scan these 3-D Sportflics issues sideways and then rotate them later.

Now you get to see shots of Kent Merker's no-hitter and a Jose Vizcaino double dip in all their glory.

Rule #1,284 of my collection...

You can never go wrong with Mookie Wilson.

Oh, and by the way, that's an MLB Showdown sighting! I've mentioned my childhood obsession with the card game on this blog many times before. Without getting all into the rules and everything, I'll say that each pitcher's control ratings ranged anywhere from 0 to 6.

That should tell you how much the people at MLB Showdown thought of Carl Pavano.

I have absolutely no information on either of these two Mets oddballs.

The designs certainly are groovy, though.

We'll close out this fun-filled box with this terrific shot of "The Great Bambino".

I've been finding these Conlon Ruths at an alarming rate lately. I'm starting to think they're some of the more common oddballs (oxymoron?) in existence.

The fact that Michael thought of me when he found this box was the real crown jewel of it all. That alone tickled me. The great cards I managed to discover inside were merely a bonus.

If you have a forgotten box like this sitting around in your house, dig it out.

You never know what kind of treasure you might find.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Who's pitching?

Yesterday was a fascinating night for my beloved Cubbies.

The Cubs beat the Rockies, 4-3, in 16 innings, the winning run coming on a sacrifice fly from Starlin Castro in the 16th. The game time of six hours and twenty-seven minutes was the longest (time-wise) in each team's history.

I got home right around the start of the seventh inning when the score was already tied at three. To be honest, the game was rather dull up until the 16th. That's when the Cubs did the only thing they could to spice up a boring game between two last-place teams.

They let a position player pitch.

John Baker, the club's backup catcher, took the mound in the top of 16th. He got the first Rockie he faced to pop out. He walked the next hitter, but quickly erased him on an inning-ending double play.

Baker then walked to lead off the bottom of the frame. As fate would have it, he was the runner that scored on Castro's game-ending sac fly. So, to recap, John Baker, a catcher, pitched, scored the winning run, and got the win in the same game. He's the first known position player to do that.

I guess I have no choice but to collect the guy now. The way Baker carries himself has been growing on me all season. He seems like a nice guy who genuinely loves the game. Last night was the straw that broke the camel's back. But, you know, in a good way.

With any luck, Topps might make a card commemorating Baker's pitching feat next year.

It wouldn't be the first time a position player has been featured on the mound.

I've never declared this as an official mini-collection of mine because there aren't a whole lot of them out there. I guess it's a mini mini-collection, if you will.

As you can tell with these two, there are a few candid cards of position players simply having a laugh on the mound.

While shots like these are definitely fun...

...I much prefer to see some real game action.

Cards of the sort are amongst the rarest sights in the world of cardboard. I treasure the select few I've found.

As great as his feat was, John Baker wasn't the first catcher to earn a win as a pitcher. That honor goes to Brent Mayne. He did so with the Rockies, the team Baker defeated last night. The distinction was noted in the special "Season Highlights" subset from 2000 Fleer Tradition Update.

The Rockies ran out of pitchers in a 12-inning contest against the Braves in August of 2000. Mayne lied about having pitched in high school in order to be allowed to take the ball. 

Though he was on the roster, he couldn't hit because of a sprained wrist. You can see the brace on his non-pitching arm in this shot. He got Chipper Jones to ground out to end the top half of inning, then picked up the victory as the Rockies plated a run in the bottom of the 12th to win, 7-6.

Before Mayne, the last position player to earn a pitching victory was Rocky Colavito in 1968.

There's your useless bit of trivia for the day.

Doug Dascenzo is the only position player I know of to be featured pitching on two different cards.

He took the mound for one inning in 1990 (as seen on his 1991 Score issue), then made three more pitching appearances the following year (shown on the back of his 1992 UD card).

Dascenzo didn't allow a single run in five career innings.

He's one of the few players who can say he retired with a 0.00 ERA.

Perhaps the most infamous position player pitching stint was Jose Canseco's fateful mound appearance.

He allowed three runs in one inning of work during a blowout against the Red Sox in 1993. More notably, however, the slugger blew out his arm pitching that afternoon. He ended up needing a Tommy John-like surgery and missed a big chunk of time.

I don't know if it was that serious at the time, but the back of his card hints that people were questioning whether or not Canseco would ever play again after the injury. As we all know, he eventually returned and went on to play many more years in the bigs.

Still, a story like this one is the obvious risk to having an inexperienced position player take the mound.

Although it is interesting to think about what might have happened if Canseco's career had indeed ended after that pitching appearance in 1993, I must admit.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

My far and away favorite from this mini mini-collection, however, is this one of "The Splendid Splinter" himself, Ted Williams.

It's among the best cards ever and one of the first I can vividly remember treasuring as a young collector. My dad got it for me as a Christmas gift one year. I couldn't have been older than ten or eleven at the time.

Had this card not come along, I might have never known that Williams once took the mound. He allowed one run in two innings of work during a blowout against the Tigers on August 24th, 1940, his only career pitching appearance.

While I've owned this one for about twelve years now, the sight of "Teddy Ballgame" on the mound still hasn't quite sunk in yet.

Mayne, Dascenzo, Canseco, and Williams are the only position players I know of that have been featured in live-game pitching action on cardboard.

With any luck, maybe John Baker could join that select class next year.

He certainly deserves it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Recycling history

For me, recycling is the biggest problem facing the hobby these days.

Topps apparently has no shame about reusing the same images over and over again in their current products. It's a grim epidemic.

From a fiscal standpoint, I guess it makes sense for Topps. In the past, they'd hire their own photographers to take photos for an upcoming set. Now, it appears that Topps is simply buying images from Getty secondhand instead of using their own originals.

Less photos equals less money spent. Less money spent equals more profit for Topps. It's a business. I get it.

From a collector's standpoint, however, less photos equal pure laziness.

Take the saga of Josh Reddick, for example.

I have three different cards of his from last year that feature the same exact picture.

Heck, there may be more that I don't know about. There's a fine line between trying to save money and being cheap. Topps crossed it with Mr. Reddick.

Maybe talking about the whole recycling fiasco is like beating a dead horse by now. A lot of other people have already addressed it. And, as much as I'd like to think otherwise, I don't think Topps is going to change their ways anytime soon.

Not while they have a stronghold on the hobby, anyways.

It angers me that Topps can get away with using the same exact photos again and again. Such repetitiveness wouldn't fly at most other companies.

It's at times like these when I have to step back and remember that recycling isn't anything new.

Topps has been doing it for decades.

One of the first examples that comes to my mind involves this pair of Dick Allen issues. Topps used the same unspectacular profile shot for both his 1970 and 1972 cards.

Never mind that one lists him with the Cardinals while the other features him with the White Sox. On top of that, I'm about 99 percent sure that this particular photo actually comes from Allen's days with the Phillies.

Topps capitalized on him playing for two other squads with red color schemes.

The 1969 Topps checklist is littered with recycled images.

I later found out that Topps and the player's union were in a bit of a rift at the time, which prevented Topps from getting the rights to print current photos that year.

Even so, I imagine Topps would have a decent amount of archived alternate shots they could've used. Nope. They took the easy way out and recycled in a lot of cases.

Rod Carew, one of the game's brightest young stars at the time, saw the same images used on his first two solo cards. It's a nice shot, and one I like quite a bit, but I would think Topps could've at least tried to change it up in 1969.

I guess Topps thought people wouldn't notice if they gave him the extreme close-up treatment.

We did.

Tommie Aaron is perhaps my favorite (is that the right word?) example of recycling.

His 1963 rookie card features a perfectly nice posed shot of him appearing to be camped under a fly ball. When I pulled Aaron's 1969 Topps issue out of a discount box years later, I knew I'd seen that image before.

Oh, right.

It was the same photo Topps had used six years prior. Aaron turned 30 in 1969, but Topps magically transformed him back into a 24-year-old for his card that year.

This is recycling at its best.

Or worst?

The '80s saw a big dip in recycling, but that's not to say it wasn't around.

Topps tried to play it coy by slipping a few older images into their 1985 Circle K checklist. This reused shot from Yogi Berra's 1965 "sunset" issue is one of a few I've found.

Strange things were definitely afoot at the Circle K.

It's not like this was exclusively a Topps thing, either.

Upper Deck dipped into the Conlon Collection archives for this shot of a young Christy Mathewson. They reprinted an image for their 2001 UD Hall of Famers release that had already been used in a Conlon product a decade earlier.

I can't say I blame companies for wanting to reuse those beautiful Conlon photos.

They'll spice up any baseball card.

I guess this long history of recycling has sort of played with my mind.

I still get excited to see nice photos in recent sets. It's a big part of why I try to stay current with the hobby.

Still, there's another part of me that can't help but wonder if and when Topps is simply going to toss the same image on another card. I don't want to think that way, but all the reused photos as of late has made me a bit of a skeptic.

Recycling makes images watered down, which takes away from their beauty. It's as simple as that.

Thankfully, Topps has restrained themselves with this terrific shot of Miguel Cabrera. I haven't seen it pop up anywhere else.


Monday, July 28, 2014

2014 Panini Golden Age: Love at first sight

For my money, Panini Golden Age is the best kept secret in the hobby.

I ranked it as the second-best product to hit the shelves last year. I doubt many people would've placed it that high. I understand the uneasiness about lack of logos, though it's not at all Panini's fault.

I also get that a lot of collectors don't like to pull non-sport personalities out of packs. While I'd agree that most sets should feature nothing but baseball players, a checklist like Golden Age keeps things fresh by featuring both legends of the game and non-baseball figures.

The past two years of Golden Age had added loads of new cards to my non-sport collection. I knew 2014 Golden Age had been out for a few weeks, but I figured I'd have to wait until they started popping up in dime boxes to find any. It's a hobby-only product, after all.

Or so I thought. When I walked into Target with my dad last Wednesday, my only hope was to get my hands on some A&G. Golden Age didn't even cross my mind. I'd barely heard a peep about the things around the blogs, so I figured Panini had continued with its hobby-only route.

I spotted the Allen and Ginters as soon as we got to the card aisle. But what should I see hovering just a few shelves above the A&G? That's right. A whole row of Golden Age blasters. Oh, and even a box of loose packs off to the side for good measure.

I could barely contain my excitement as my dad and I plucked a blaster off the shelf. Ripping it open just a short while later was one of the more invigorating pack-busting experiences I've had in a while.

In fact, I've scanned each and every card I got from that blaster for your viewing pleasure.

Pack #1:

#44 Lon Chaney, Jr.

I'd already seen this year's Golden Age design through various internet searches, but seeing them in-person was still a shock.

I absolutely love what Panini did with these. The psychedelic design gives off a great hint of creativity from Panini's end, something that I can't say I've much felt from Topps over the past few years.

Though my dad would later fill me in on his resume, I wasn't sure who Lon Chaney, Jr. was when I pulled this card, my first from this wonderful product.

I still knew it was love at first sight with Golden Age.

#9 Jim Thorpe, New York Giants

By the second card in, I knew I was in for something really special.

Jim Thorpe, one of my favorite figures from both sports and American history, fell out of the very first pack I opened. Even after years of searching far and wide for baseball issues of his, this is just the ninth Thorpe card in my collection.

The man's baseball career may not have been too memorable, but his life was quite the opposite.

He's the best all-around athlete in history if you ask me.

#128 Lindsay Wagner, Mono Blue Back mini

#110 Cadillac Ranch

#72 Ken Osmond

Never in my life did I think I'd own a card of Eddie Haskell.

#36 Lefty Grove, Philadelphia A's

My first pack of Golden Age closed out with a legend who is vastly underrepresented in the world of cardboard.

Lots of people rank Lefty Grove as one of the top five pitchers in baseball history. I don't know if I'd go that far, but he's definitely up there.

Though Panini has included Grove in both their 2012 and 2013 Cooperstown checklists, you have to go all the way back to 2007 for the last licensed card of his in my collection.

While the lack of logos can take away from the look of certain Panini sets, I don't think it hurts Golden Age one bit.

These cards are beautiful no matter how you look at them.

Pack #2:

#59 Dom DiMaggio, Boston Red Sox

Panini's player selection for this set is impeccable.

The last licensed card of Dom DiMaggio in my collection is from 2008.

Look for that to become a running theme in this post.

#99 Bill Mumy

#48 Baseball Hall of Fame, Mono Green Back mini

Given yesterday's Hall of Fame ceremonies, this seems like an appropriate pull.

Because I'd never opened a Golden Age pack before, I didn't know that each one came with a mini. The backs stay true to a lot of the tobacco flip sides that were found in cigarette packs around the turn of the century.

I could do without the different color variances, but these minis are right up there with A&G in terms of overall quality.

#140 Spectacular Bid

#131 Farrah Fawcett


#1 Cy Young, Boston Red Sox

Pack number two closes out with the first card in this year's Golden Age checklist.

Cy Young seems like more than qualified for that honor.

Pack #3:

#16 P.T. Barnum

#8 Zack Wheat, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1913 National Game insert

Though they're second nature to the terrific base cards, Golden Age does feature a few insert sets.

This "National Game" series pays homage to an actual design from the early part of the last century. Better yet, I pulled one of Zack Wheat, a guy who was active in 1913 and one of my personal favorite under-the-radar greats.

Golden Age kept getting better and better.

#23 Luisitania, Hindu Brown Back mini

#120 Dusty Baker, Los Angeles Dodgers


The former outfielder is pictured as a Brave in this year's A&G checklist. He's featured as a Dodger in Golden Age.

Either way, I'm just happy to see Dusty getting some pub in the hobby.

#65 Chuck Connors

Chuck Connors is a former big leaguer who went on to have a successful acting career.

I would've much rather have seen Panini produce a card of his short-lived time in the bigs.

#85 Jack Ruby

As much as I like Golden Age, this is a head-scratcher.

Jack Ruby is a relatively important historical figure, but for all the wrong reasons. Why Panini chose to honor him with a card is beyond me.

There's even a relic of him in this product for the especially morbid.

Pack #4:

#70 Clyde "Bulldog" Turner

#90 Marques Haynes, Hindu Brown Back mini

Like last year's brilliant Bad News Bears subset, this year's Golden Age mini-series appears to focus on the Harlem Globetrotters.

Not nearly as great as the likes of Kelly Leak and Rudy Stein, but still a fantastic idea nonetheless.

#3 Willie Nelson, Legends of Music Relic

As I later found out, each Golden Age blaster comes with a "Legends of Music" relic.

Everyone from Hank Williams to "The Memphis King" are all featured in this set. The latter has pretty strict licensing trademarks, I guess. They couldn't even use a picture of Elvis or even say his name on the actual card.

Oh, and along with a base card in the checklist (which I unfortunately didn't pull), Joey Ramone even has a place in this set. He's probably my favorite singer in music history.

My blaster produced a Willie Nelson relic. He appears to be the most common of the bunch. Since I'm not much for country, I gave this one to my mom. She's a big Willie Nelson fan.

Anything music-related is an exciting pull for me.

#48 Michael Spinks, Historical Signatures Redemption

Even so, the very next card in the pack may have managed to top ol' Willie.

What you see here is a redemption for an autograph of noted boxer Michael Spinks. I have no interest in redeeming it, so I've already put it up on Ebay in hopes of making a few extra bucks.

I never expected to pull anything like this from a retail pack.

#105 Jimi Hendrix

This was one of the cards I was really hoping to get when I first caught wind of 2014 Golden Age.

I'm a Jimi Hendrix fan, but you'll probably find a lot of other people who like him more than I do. There's little denying that he changed the course of music history with the sheer force of his songwriting and guitar playing.

Plus, he fits right in with this year's groovy design.

#146 Loretta Swit

#22 Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers

This was one of the better packs I've ever opened for a few reasons.

1) It allowed me to add to my growing Ty Cobb collection.

2) It featured both a musical relic and a redemption that might net me a few bucks.

3) It had an extra card. For whatever reason, this pack contained seven cards instead of the stated six.

You can't do much better than that.

Pack #5:

#91 Vivien Leigh

I really need to watch A Streetcar Named Desire again.

#47 William Randolph Hearst

#58 Ernie Nevers, Mono Blue Back mini

#134 Mickey Rivers, New York Yankees

Before his appearance as a short-print in last year's Archives checklist, the last licensed Mickey Rivers card had come way back in 2006.

"Mick the Quick" deserves better.

#76 Vada Pinson, Cincinnati Reds

#40 Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer

Pack #6:

#26 "Sleepy" Bill Burns, Washington Senators

This was another of my must-haves from Golden Age.

Before this, the only cards of "Sleepy" Bill Burns I owned were the awesome T206 issue my dad got me for Christmas a couple years ago and...that's it.

Before playing a role as a gambler in the infamous "Black Sox" scandal, Burns had a mediocre five-year career as a pitcher. He's a fairly esoteric figure from baseball history, so I understand why there aren't more cards of his out there.

I am eternally grateful for Panini's decision to slot him into this year's Golden Age checklist.

#34 Nap Lajoie, Cleveland Naps

Nap Lajoie was so good that the Cleveland franchise named themselves after him for a short while.

Maybe one day we'll be talking about the Los Angeles Kershaws.

#142 Gary Carter, Montreal Expos, Hindu Red Back mini

Okay, Panini.

You scored big points with Golden Age this year, but is that seriously the best shot you could find of Gary Carter? The man is the most photogenic person I've ever seen.

Surely you could've made a better decision here.

#112 Susan Olsen

I have fond memories of waking up on Sunday mornings as a kid and hearing my dad watching old Brady Bunch reruns on TV.

Peter and Bobby also have cards in this year's Golden Age checklist, but Cindy (played by Susan Olsen) was the only one I pulled.

#126 Oscar Gamble, New York Yankees

Any set that features The 'Froed One is okay in my book.

#5 Butch Cassidy

Pack #7:

#79 Geese Ausbie

#43 Moe Berg

I can't get over how cool this card is.

Before this, I'd never actually seen a picture of what Moe Berg looked like during his later years. For those who don't know, Berg was an average catcher who went on to become a US spy during World War II.

Easily one of the most fascinating men to ever play the game.

#150 Terry Bradshaw

#13 John Pemberton, Mono Green Back mini

#55 Enos Slaughter, St. Louis Cardinals

Arguably the best name in baseball history.

#95 Pat Priest

Pack #8:

#8 Rube Waddell, Philadelphia A's

This is only the sixth Rube Waddell card I own.

The Hall of Famer is one of the quirkiest figures baseball has ever seen. I read once that Waddell nearly missed a start because he was off playing marbles with a kids a few blocks away from the stadium. He was known to wander off the mound at the sound of fire engines as well.

What I'd give to see someone like that pitch today.

#117 Phil Niekro, Atlanta Braves, Smith's Mello Mint mini

#58 Ernie Nevers

#124 Jake LaMotta

Raging Bull!

#109 Bill Shoemaker

#12 Christy Mathewson, New York Giants

The great Christy Mathewson closed out this blaster.

On a whim, though, my dad and I plucked out a bonus loose pack from the box sitting on the shelf.

I wanted to milk Golden Age for every ounce it was worth.

Pack #9:

#98 Curt Flood, St. Louis Cardinals

Last licensed Curt Flood card in my collection...


#5 Whitey Ford, New York Yankees, Fan Craze insert

This loose pack produced a card from another terrific throwback insert series.

These pay tribute to a set called Fan Craze that was released around the turn of the century. Again, Golden Age isn't about the inserts for me.

But these are pretty darn nice.

#68 Jack Johnson, Mono Blue Back mini

A mini of one of the most fascinating men in sports history.

#101 Bill Russell

#74 Harvey Haddix, Pittsburgh Pirates

I wig out for Harvey Haddix cards.

His 12-inning perfect game made for one of the greatest footnotes in baseball history. Though Haddix enjoyed a successful 14-year career, his cards can be had for next to nothing. I've found a great deal of his vintage beauties in discount bins over the years.

You have to go all the way back to 2002 to find the last Haddix card in my collection. And that's not the last licensed card, either. That's the last card, period.

Thank you, Panini.

You have no idea how long I've been waiting to pull Harvey Haddix from a pack of cards.

#38 Mark Koenig, New York Yankees

Mr. Koenig closed out what was a truly memorable retail break.

Topps has had their successes during the last few years. In terms of sheer fun, however, I don't think anything Topps has done lately can even come close to the enjoyment I got out of 2014 Golden Age.

Though I'm sure it will continue to fly under the radar in the future, this set is the perfect mix of baseball history, pop culture, and creativity that I love.

I never felt the desire to scan every single card I got from a blaster until Golden Age came around.

That says pretty much all you need to know about this product.