Sunday, August 31, 2014

The dime box frankenset, Page 27: Numbers 235-243

Let's take a look at how last week's frankenset voting turned out.

Win -- 1992 Stadium Club #232 Andy Van Slyke (9 votes)

Place (tie) -- 2014 Topps #226 Sean Doolittle, 1993 Stadium Club #228 Rick Wilkins, 1995 Collector's Choice Special Edition #234 Alex Fernandez (5 votes each)

Show -- 1995 Topps #227 Wayne Kirby (2 votes)

The tallies on this particular page were nearly all clustered between a few different cards, but the Van Slyke took the lead from the start and didn't let go. I agreed with the masses on this one, as I also voted for the diving Pirate. 

Perhaps the best eight cents I've ever spent on Just Commons.

Here's a look at this week's nominees.

I have somehow managed to fill each and every number between 1-234 with cards I've deemed frankenset worthy.

Slot #235 is the first empty one in this binder. As a result, this week's frankenset page will only feature eight contestants.

Here they are.

1993 Upper Deck #236 Shane Mack

One of many brilliant action-packed cards from 1993 Upper Deck in this frankenset.

1982 Topps #237 Rusty Kuntz

Let's get a Rusty Kuntz autograph!


2012 Topps Update #US-238 Shawn Camp

Even a Sox fan has to admit that those are some sweet Cubs throwbacks.

1979 Topps #239 Willie Horton

A rare reverse-negative error card, as evidenced by the flipped Blue Jays logo on Horton's helmet.

1995 Score #240 Sid Bream

Another nice autograph shot, although the name Sid Bream isn't nearly as funny as Rusty Kuntz.

2008 Upper Deck #241 Jeff Francis

Pitcher at the plate!

2004 Fleer Tradition #242 Desi Relaford

Double dip!

1993 Upper Deck #243 Charles Nagy

A nice shot from the early days of throwbacks, coupled with a rare pre-interleague AL pitcher at the plate on the back.

I'm still on a vigorous search to fill this first empty slot in my frankenset. For now, though, I'll ask that you decide between these eight candidates with a quick tally.

The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My blogging mantra

Sometimes, I have to take a step back and realize just how far I've come since my trading forum days.

It's become sort of a running theme during my blogging tenure. Whenever I worry about little things like readership, posting trades in a timely manner, or really anything along those lines, I repeat my blogging mantra.

At least you're not on the forums anymore. At least you're not on the forums anymore. At least you're not on the forums anymore.

Ah, that's better. Now let's take a look at a couple trades that have been sitting in my scan folder for far too long.

As I've said in the past, about 95 percent of the swaps I made on the forums were fairly clinical. You send me these, and I'll send you these. That's that. No extra help. While I suppose there's nothing inherently wrong with that type of trading, I don't think it suited me all that well.

That's why I'm so happy to be a blogger. People go the extra mile to send cards they think you'll like, and I try to do my best in return. My longtime blogging buddy Adam of the awesome blog "ARPSmith's Sportscard Obsession", did exactly that with a recent trade package.

I knew I'd be in for a treat once I saw this red Mike Leake parallel, a rare "pitcher at the plate" shot from the current Topps monopoly era.

I'm sure you'll be seeing Mr. Leake on my "Cards of the Year" list in a few months.

I'm staggered by the amount of charity I've received towards my Vlad collection.

I was nearing the 700-card mark the last time I counted, and that was a few months ago. I may have surpassed it by now.

Any Vlads people can spare are welcome, but particularly crazy cards like the one Adam sent earn an extra nod. Yes, the design does include faux-ivy covered walls. Yes, that blue part is transparent.

And, yes, this card was produced by Pacific.

Who else could pull off something like that?

Adam went the extra mile with helping my Mike Sweeney collection.

Sweeney is probably one of my second-tier player collections, just below the biggies like Vlad and Hoyt Wilhelm. One of my long-lost card collecting friends was a Sweeney fan back in 8th grade, and that's why I decided to start chasing his cardboard way back when.

Adam sent a terrific assortment here. I'm especially fond of that '97 Fleer "tatooine" issue (center-right), one that features Sweeney during his early catching days.

The card in the center is actually a glossy parallel from 2003 Fleer Tradition, numbered to just 100 copies.

The Sweeney was actually one of three Tradition glossies Adam sent.

He was fortunate enough to obtain a big lot of 2003 Fleer Tradition recently, and featured a trio of glossy parallels that had me drooling. I asked Adam if he'd mind putting them aside for me, because I've apparently gotten a little better with that sort of thing.

Yes, I admit to collecting Randall Simon as a direct result of The Sausage Incident, one of the most stupid and inadvertently hilarious controversies in baseball history. He was actually traded to the Cubs a few months after the fiasco.

Bo Hart is a legend, plain and simple. I've been a huge fan of his since his oh-so-brief stint with the Cardinals back in 2003-04. He took St. Louis by storm for a few months there, though he seemed to sadly fade away from stardom in the blink of an eye.

If I ever had the time and resources to do so, I'd put a lot of thought into becoming a Bo Hart supercollector.

From what he tells me, Adam is a fellow Rickey Henderson collector.

In fact, he was nice enough to help get my fairly new Rickey collection up on its legs by shooting a few doubles my way.

This page nearly covers Henderson's whole career.

Adam even sent this neat Topps sticker from Rickey's first stint in Oakland during the early '80s.

I love what the A's are wearing now, but I think they should revert back to these throwback duds.

Surprise packages and/or PWEs were definitely not a thing on the forums.

Since I started blogging, however, I've learned the value of both sending and receiving some cardboard surprises. I recently decided to drop a PWE on my buddy Gavin of the spectacular blog "Baseball Card Breakdown", filled with little nooks and crannies for his various collections.

Though I didn't send it with the expectation of getting anything back, Gavin was generous enough to send me a few things in return. From the looks of it, he dug through his extra 2014s in search of some of my set needs.

I'm not usually a fan of horizontal A&Gs, but, then again, it's hard to make a bad David Wright card.

Gavin also included some Gypsy Queen of both the base...

...and insert variety.

Part of me wonders if I'd like GQ a little more if all the cards had these midnight blue borders.

Want to give it a shot, Topps?

Also present were a few much-needed Archives hits from each of the quartet of designs Topps used.

The Wright is yet another beauty, and I received the Cespedes before his shocking trade to Boston. That might go down as one of his last cards as an A.

That Hunter looks eerily similar to his actual '73 Topps issue, although I don't think they're from the same photo session.

Topps also listed his first name as "Catfish" on his 2014 Archives card, something that never happened on any of Hunter's real Topps cards.

I still don't know how I feel about that.

This, however, was far and away the crown jewel of the package Gavin sent.

While I've never much dabbled in it myself, I love seeing all the customs people create. Gavin is one of the best, as you probably already know if you've ever read his blog or received a package from him. (Or both.)

I can now say I own a piece of Jim Abbott memorabilia that no one else has. Better yet, Gavin decided to sketch a shot of Abbott in a rare appearance at the plate with the Brewers.

And, if you flip it over...'ll find a detailed write-up about Mr. Abbott, along with his career stats.

And, yes, I can vouch for the fact that Gavin's artwork really does glow in the dark. I tried it out and everything.

I'm truly honored to own this Baseball Card Breakdown Original.

The time and effort Gavin must've spent making it for me means a lot.

It says pretty much all you need to know about the blogging community.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Award years

Looking at it from an objective perspective, it's funny that rookie cards have always been some of the most coveted amongst collectors.

Only a very small fraction of players are like Mike Trout or Albert Pujols, dominating from day one in the big leagues. Most rookies, and a good deal of guys we consider legends today, struggled in their first taste of the majors.

Take Mike Schmidt, for instance. His rookie is one of the most sought-after cards in history. Interesting, considering the guy hit a whopping .196 during his first full big league season in 1973, the year that rookie card hit the shelves.

While I love final tribute/sunset cards, those can also be misleading. Lots of once-great players had miserable seasons during their waning years. Dale Murphy, anyone?

I guess that's part of why I decided to start an "award show" mini-collection. It features some of baseball's biggest stars at the top of their game, holding that coveted hardware. That's not the .196 Mike Schmidt you see there. That's the home run-clubbing, team-leading, perennial All-Star Mike Schmidt of the '80s.

Recently, however, I've begun to realize that my "award show" theme is merely an extension of something else I've been doing for a long time.

Back in the vintage era, I would think that some of each year's biggest chase cards were (and probably still are) the reigning award winners from each league.

I know I've always placed a special emphasis on what I unoriginally call "award year" issues. I guess you could chase Gold Glovers and Silver Sluggers and all those, but I pretty much limit my quests to MVPs and Cy Young winners.

After all, awards are a fascinating part of baseball's long history.

Though he has one of the best baseball names ever, I doubt the name Zoilo Versalles rings much of a bell. Makes sense, considering the guy was a career .242 hitter.

However, the guy cemented his place in history as a "one-year wonder" with his 1965 AL MVP campaign with the Twins. His 126 runs, 45 doubles, and 12 triples all led the Junior Circuit.

This, then, presents an interesting question as far as my "award year" theme goes.

Should his official "award year" card be from 1965, the season he actually won the award? Or should it be from the following year, the one that has his complete MVP stats on the back?

To me, it's an either/or kind of thing...

...but I personally give a slight edge to the card from the year after.

I'm a stat nut, so I want to see those jaw-dropping numbers on the back. Plus, as is the case with Mr. Versailles here, the following year's card often mentions the featured player's MVP award in the little blurb.

On top of that, there's the fact that Versalles received card #400 in the '66 checklist, one of the iconic double-zero "hero numbers" to commemorate his fine season from the year prior. It's a far cry from the rather bench-like #157 he received in 1965 Topps.

The possibilities never end with this "award year" topic.

The back of Denny McLain's 1969 Topps card is definitely one of my personal favorites.

As you might already know, McLain was (and will probably forever be) the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season, doing so in 1968. (I have yet to find a copy of his '68 Topps issue, sadly.)

Not surprisingly, he took home both the AL Cy Young and MVP awards that year. It must've been quite a shock to see that "31" under the W column on the back of this card in 1969.

Why Topps didn't grant him a "00" hero number, however, I'll never know.

You'd think 31 wins would qualify a guy for that sort of thing.

Although I never specifically set out to do so, I have managed to complete a few "award year" vintage sets.

The 1973 checklist features one of the better quartets you'll ever find along those lines. Gaylord Perry (AL) and Steve Carlton (NL) took home Cy Youngs in '72. Dick Allen (AL) and Johnny Bench (NL) won their respective league's MVP awards that year.

All four of these are stellar pieces of cardboard, and perhaps the best cards any of these guys received during their long and hallowed careers.

The Carlton in particular is one of my favorites, a perfect way to commemorate one of the more dominating seasons in baseball history. He went 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA and 310 strikeouts in 1972.

One wonders if he might've eclipsed the 30-win plateau if he hadn't pitched for the last-place Phillies.

I guess I could expand this thing further and include Relief Pitcher of the Year winners in the future.

Although it's a rare feat, relievers have taken home Cy Young and/or MVP trophies in the past. The last reliever to win a Cy Young was Eric Gagne in 2004. Hard to believe that was only ten years ago.

The last relief pitcher to take home both pieces of hardware was Dennis Eckersley in 1992. His 51 saves and sparkling 1.91 ERA were enough to win him both honors that year.

I still don't know how I feel about relievers winning Cy Youngs and sometimes even MVPs, but it's safe to say Topps sufficiently congratulated "Eck" with this beauty the following year.

These can both lay claim to being "award year" issues.

That's because Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell split NL MVP honors in 1979, the only time co-MVPs have ever been named.

A tie? In baseball? Could you imagine what would happen if there was a tie for MVP nowadays?

We'd be in a frenzy.

These are also neat little quirks from the "award year" category.

Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro (2001) are the only two players to win MVPs in their rookie season. One could argue that Lynn is the only true rookie MVP winner, as Ichiro had already enjoyed a legendary career in Japan prior to coming to the States.

Not surprisingly, both also captured AL Rookie of the Year honors as well.

Kind of seems like an afterthought when a guy wins an MVP, though.

I still chase "award year" cards.

That said, they're kind of watered down now, like everything else. Topps has taken to printing separate cards commemorating Cy Youngs, MVPs, etc. in their Flagship sets recently.

Clayton Kershaw, for instance, has a standard card and this special Cy Young issue in 2014 Topps. That leads to a bit of confusion as what his official "award year" card should be.

I guess I could count both, but that kind of takes away from the allure of it all, doesn't it? Or is it a "more the merrier" type of deal? I don't know.

Either way, going after these "award year" cards are a lot less of a headache than chasing rookies.

It's a lot more fun, too.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


I have to admit, I'm pretty much a one-track collector.

My collecting genes revolve around baseball cards and pretty much only baseball cards. I don't chase magazines, memorabilia, autographs, ticket stubs, or anything along those lines.

And I've especially steered clear of figures of any kind. I know lots of other collectors love things along those lines, but I myself have almost never dabbled in it. I have a few reasons for this.

a) They can take up a lot of space. I don't have the real estate for binders and figures.

b) They can get kind of pricey, at least from what I've seen.

c) I understand why other people enjoy them, but they wouldn't serve a real purpose with the way I collect.

d) Did I mention the space thing?

Granted, it's almost impossible to completely avoid figures, bobbleheads, etc. if you're a baseball collector. I do have a couple in my room.

My mom saw this Derrick Turnbow bobblehead (Derrick Turnbow had a bobblehead?) at a garage sale years ago for a buck and thought I might get a kick out of it. Even I'll admit that it is pretty neat, especially the fake little strands of scraggly hair the Brewers added.

Got to keep it authentic, you know.

I had the bright idea of buying my mom a Mark Grace Starting Lineup figure for Christmas one year.

I'm proud to say that she loved it and still has it on display in her room. I think I've mentioned it before, but Gracie was (and still is) her favorite player.

For whatever reason, the guy I bought it from decided to throw in a Dean Palmer SLU as a bonus. I'm sure Dean Palmer is a fine man, but I don't really care one way or another about having this thing in my house.

The best thing I can say about Starting Lineups is that the cards they come with are cool. They're hard to find, but I have a few of them in my binders as we speak.

That's really about it as far as figures go. Like I said, I don't usually dabble in the area, and I certainly never thought one would have any real impact on my collection.

And then, on an ordinary summer afternoon a couple weeks ago, I found a big box on my doorstep from my buddy William of "Foul Bunt". It was way lighter than expected be when I picked it up. I had absolutely no idea what could be in it.

Only one way to find out, right?

My eyes lit up when I lifted it out of the package.

Isn't it beautiful?

That, my friends, is a Hoyt Wilhelm Starting Lineup figure. I would've gone the rest of my life without knowing it existed if William hadn't come along. Hoyt never struck me as well-known enough to receive such an honor.

I actually had the card already (part of a Christmas gift from Dad a few years back), but I had no clue what set it came from before this SLU came into my life.

William has been the single biggest contributor to my Hoyt collection, so I guess it figures that he'd be the one to find something like this. Still, I think this might well be his best treasure yet.

For the first time since, well, ever, it's safe to say that a figure has cemented itself as a centerpiece of my collection.

I never thought I'd see the day.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Covering the Bases, Pt. 16: Top 5 retro sets

Most people seem to love or hate the recent retro craze.

I'm in the former camp. Or at least I was until, like everything else, the retro market started to get too crowded and uninspiring. But that's another rant for another post.

Thankfully, recent overhyping of the whole retro fad hasn't taken away from my appreciation of the old-time sets of years past.

While I'm all for creating new and innovative designs, a big part of me craves throwback checklists. When done right, they can serve as a delightful modern take on sets that are years, decades, or even centuries old.

I'll be sharing my personal Top Five Retro Sets list with all of you tonight. In order to be considered for this countdown, a set has to honor old designs while not simply being an all-reprint release. (Which eliminates the 2001-02 editions of Topps Archives and all those Dover Reprint oddballs.)

I didn't originally intend for all five slots to be occupied Topps products, but that's exactly what ended up happening. Fleer Tradition was never that groundbreaking, and Upper Deck had a tough time with the retro idea when they weren't ripping off Topps. (Does anyone remember UD Goudey nowadays?)

Donruss Originals was a short-lived throwback set that, while largely ignored, was actually pretty innovative. Try as I might, though, I just couldn't give it a spot in my Top Five.

Here are the sets that made the cut.

#5 -- Turkey Red (2005-07, various future incarnations)

I came very close to leaving Turkey Red off this list.

The originals were never in much doubt. I absolutely loved Turkey Red when it originally hit the shelves in 2005, a time which I remember quite vividly. One of my card collecting friends and I used to drool every time we opened packs of the stuff.

Between the (mostly) posed shots, muted borders, and simplistic backgrounds, Topps definitely stayed true to the original Turkey Reds.

That said, they also seem to have some strange obsession with running the brand into the ground. Turkey Red popped up as an insert set for a couple years in 2009-10, and Topps is still using the design for one of their uber-high end releases these days.

Topps can do what they want, but I don't consider anything post-2007 as being the real Turkey Red.

#4 -- Topps 206 (2002, revived in 2009-10)/Topps 205 (2003) 

Topps 205 and 206 are technically two different brands, but I've decided to group them together for the sake of clarity here.

Topps followed up their successful 206 release in 2002 with Topps 205 the following year. I personally prefer Topps 206 between the two, but both are fantastic sets that honor the tobacco era.

Of course, original tobacco cards are much smaller than what we think of as the "modern" 2 1/2-by-3 1/2 inch dimensions. Topps blew the originals up to those modern standards and set them loose. I don't blame them for the alterations, as I'm not sure how well an all-mini set would work in today's hobby.

What I like most about the 205/206 brands is that Topps coupled (then) current stars with reprints of actual T206 issues, which means that forgotten guys like Buck Herzog and "Wahoo" Sam Crawford received cards in an era that was (and still is) dominated by rookies and stars.

Like Turkey Red, however, Topps crashed and burned with their attempt to revive the revived 206 a few years ago.

I'd like to forget those ever existed.

#3 -- Topps Allen and Ginter (2006-present)

You had to know this was coming.

I'm having trouble believing that A&G is almost a decade old. It seems like just yesterday that it was winning over the hearts of collectors everywhere with its debut in 2006.

Both myself and a slew of other bloggers have talked about A&G at length in the past. So much, in fact, that I'm not sure what else I can really say about it at this point.

A&G may not be the juggernaut it once was nowadays, but the brand is responsible for some of the most beautiful baseball cards in my collection.

Between Oscar Wilde, Picasso, and so many others, the set has a long history of terrific non-baseball subjects as well, which has added to its allure over the past decade.

A decade.

Time flies when you're having fun.

#2 -- Topps Heritage (2001-present)

Aside from standard Flagship, Topps Heritage is the longest-running set in existence these days.

Topps has honored every design from 1952 to '65 thus far, and there doesn't appear to be an end in sight.

Even if I'm not particularly fond of one of the honored Topps sets during any given year (see: 1961), seeing them reappear in Heritage makes me at least go back and reconsider my opinion. I'll go on record by saying that 2014 Heritage is probably Topps' best effort yet.

I know it's a longshot, but a part of me hopes Heritage has inspired some collectors, perhaps even a few kids, to dive further into the vintage market. Weigh the pros and cons of 1960 Topps versus 1962 Topps. Experience the joys of a discounted vintage bin.

That, after all, should be the goal of a set like Heritage, shouldn't it?

#1 -- Topps All-Time Fan Favorites (2003-05)

This is card #1 of the first Fan Favorites checklist in 2003.

I don't think anyone knew what kind of monster Topps was unleashing onto the market at the time. Not even Topps.

Fan Favorites is very close to being the perfect baseball card set, as far as my collecting tastes go. Classic Topps designs. An all-retired checklist. Big checklists. And, most importantly, cards of guys who are hardly ever recognized in the hobby.

Sure, Fan Favorites has your Willie Mayses and Stan Musials, but the Dave Kingmans and Mickey Riverses of the baseball world got their fair share of the spotlight as well. The way it should be.

Sadly, Topps pulled the plug on Fan Favorites after just three years. With the way their licensing agreement is set up, it'll be a long time before we see a revival. If ever. (Yes, I know it exists in the SPs/autographs section of Archives, but it's not the same.)

If I were ever pressed to do so, I'd probably rank Fan Favorites as one of my five favorite sets of all-time.

It's far and away #1 on this list.

Monday, August 25, 2014

New semester, new mini-collection

By the time you read this, I'll be getting home from my first day of the new school semester.

I was lucky enough to get a pretty favorable schedule, in large part because I picked my classes early. (Something I would definitely recommend to any prospective/current college students.)

I only have one class on Mondays and Wednesdays, but it runs from about four to five-thirty in the evening. With the forty-five minute commute to and from my school, that eats up almost all of the time I usually allot to blogging each day.

As a result, you might see my writing get more sporadic on Mondays and Wednesdays for the next few months. Maybe I'll focus on composing shorter posts for those days in the future, which might actually be beneficial since I know some people like the more bite-sized write-ups.

Anyways, I figured the dawn of a new school semester was as good a time as any to unveil a new mini-collection theme I've been pondering during the past few weeks.

Let's see how long it takes you to guess what it is.

Yes, my friends, I am proud to announce my new and not-so-originally titled "tip of the cap" mini-collection.

The name should speak for itself, but I'm basically chasing any cards that feature players tipping their caps to the crowd.

This theme made sense for a lot of reasons. I doubt I'll ever run into a shortage of them, for one thing. I probably have at least a couple dozen more in my binders apart from the ones I just showed.

Another plus is that although all the shots feature the same "tip of the cap" action, the reasons behind them are vastly different.

Some commemorate historic milestones (Ripken, Yaz). Some might just feature a guy who had a good afternoon (Giambi). Some feature big names greeting the fans at the Midsummer Classic (Butler). Some double as awesome "sunset" cards (Reggie, Ozzie).

And some feature players who you forgot were ever good enough to deserve a tip of the cap in the first place. (Chone Figgins? Jeremy Bonderman?)

So, there you go. I'm sure this will be a fun little quest, and anyone who is gracious enough to keep an eye out for these things in the future will certainly get a big tip of the cap from yours truly.

It'll give me another reason to smile while I'm hitting the books this semester.