Friday, November 17, 2017

Just as good as a card show

I have a card show coming up tomorrow, and you better believe I'm excited about it.

But lately, in an almost meta way, I've started thinking about what I think about in the days leading up to a show. Card shows are (and always will be) calendar-marked days for me, but the way I approach them has changed over time. Before, I suppose I got a little too amped up over them: good luck getting my adolescent self to focus on absolutely anything else in the days before a show, because WHO KNOWS what'll be in those dime boxes?!?!

These days, card shows are still massively exciting -- even more so since I now have a full-time job and a bit more money to spend -- but they're not be-all, end-all events. There's a few reasons for this. One, I've simply had a lot more to occupy my mind as the years have worn on, various constraints, whether physical or mental, that don't often allow me to fully focus on a show until the day of. As is life.

Two, and perhaps most importantly: I've found an online card-collecting community, and I've begun trading with the great people who inhabit it, including the one and only Julie of "A Cracked Bat" fame.

Trading in general is like receiving a mini-show in the mail, and that goes doubly so with someone as eagle-eyed and generous as Julie.

Card shows used to be isolated events for many years. I'd go to a card show and then have no contact with the cardboard community for many months following. That's one of the reasons it was such an event way back when. Now, with blogging, I'm always able to have a finger on the pulse of the hobby.

While I might not trade as much as I used to, I don't really feel like my collection goes through "dry" periods anymore -- not even in the cold, bitter November months.

That's thanks to people like Julie who sometimes drop thick boxes of cards on my doorstep completely out of the blue, including a recent one that included everything you've seen in this post so far.

Unlicensed or not, there's no doubting the beauty here, and both the Doby (limited to 75 copies) and Carlton (50 copies) take their places as some of the scarcer cards in my binders.

One of my new focuses at card shows has been to accumulate as many cards as I can of stars from the '80s and '90s (Brett, Yount, Gwynn, etc.), guys who I mostly ignored during my developing years as a collector.

Though he had his best years in the '70s, Nolan Ryan long belonged to that fold, though my collection of his is blossoming at a rapid rate and now reaching the 300-card mark, a number bolstered by a nine-pocket page's worth of The Express from Julie.

Also present was a new John Olerud for the archives and a reminder of David Wells's brief "Boomer" years at Topps.

A couple minis for your viewing pleasure, though the one on the left caused a great deal of confusion.

It's obviously an oddball of some sort, but a quick Baseball Reference search on the name Hugh McAleer turned up nothing. Turns out that the card comes from a beer-brewing brand called Helmar, and Hugh McAleer doesn't exist: the player featured is actually Jimmy McAleer, a turn-of-the-century outfielder.

All that adds up to perfect fit for my collection, since I always love a good error card.

Shiny NL MVPs.

Some recent insert needs of guys I collect, and speaking of Ichiro...

...Julie really outdid herself here with Ichiros of the Total and shiny variety here.

Even one new Ichiro puts a smile on my face, much less five.

Though the staged anthem shot has always struck me as a tad awkward, I've long been on the hunt for these "Spirit of the Game" inserts for my Anthemic mini-collection, and Julie darn near sent me the entire set.

Mother's Cookies and minor-league oddballs: you just don't find this kind of stuff at card shows around here.

More lovely oddballs, these of the '70s superstar variety.

But here's where card shows are no match for trade packages: I've been collecting for my entire adult life, and never have I heard of Meadow Gold, much less seen their baseball cards.

Meadow Gold is a dairy company, and the cards they produced in 1986 resemble primitive video game avatars. Movies like Revenge of the Nerds and WarGames pop up in my head every time I see this computerized depiction of Mike Schmidt. It's a definite gem, and no dime box I've scoured in my years of experience has produced anything like it.

It took a generous soul like Julie -- and not a card show -- for it to finally find its way into my collection. But heck, with the way the universe sometimes works, I wouldn't be surprised to dig up another Meadow Gold card at the show tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Top Five: Roy Halladay

As you've probably heard by now, Roy Halladay tragically died in a plane crash earlier this week at the too-young age of 40.

I've been stuck in a mixture of shock and despair ever since I first heard the news. Not so much because I was a close follower of Doc's -- I probably hadn't thought him at length about in years -- but because there's always a sense of disbelief when a player from my baseball adolescence suddenly passes away.

With a 3.38 career ERA and two Cy Youngs to his credit, Halladay's a borderline HOFer, but more memorable to me is the fact that he really seemed like the last of a dying breed, a guy who craved to finish what he started. He pitched nine complete games in four different seasons over his 16-year career, a number that's darn near unheard of now. (Corey Kluber and Ervin Santana tied for the league lead with five each in 2017, for what it's worth.)

It doesn't seem fair that a guy who retired just four years ago could be gone forever, and it's with a heavy heart that I make Doc the focus of this week's Top Five.

#5 -- 2013 Topps "1972 Minis" #TM-54 Roy Halladay

Even better than a modern remake of a classic '70s design is a modern remake of it with a powder-blue throwback jersey from the era.

#4 -- 2013 Panini Hometown Heroes "Nicknames" #N-18 Roy Halladay

Roy Halladay was known as "Doc" for the better part of his career, a label I'm guessing he earned due to the way he used to carve up opposing hitters.

As one of the better insert sets in recent memory, these nickname inserts from Hometown Heroes make for a fun, cartoonish look at some of the game's best monikers, "Doc" included.

#3 -- 2011 Topps #359 Roy Halladay HL

My premier memory of Roy Halladay is the no-hitter he threw against the Reds in the 2010 NLDS, the moment documented on this very card.

The burst of joy Doc's no-no provided came during a time I sorely needed it. I was 18 years old, away at college, and miserable. It'd become clear rather quickly that I just wasn't cut out for a dormitory life, and that single semester I spent away from home would be the only one of my college career (for now, anyways, until I get the grad school situation sorted out).

I spent a lot of time alone in my dorm room during those four months, and one evening, as I watched Game 1 of the Phillies-Reds NLDS on the outdated Zenith television atop my desk, it soon became apparent that something special was happening. Pitches, innings, hours were going by...and Halladay still hadn't given up a hit.

I was (and still am) a superstitious viewer of baseball. My roommate grew confused when I wouldn't tell him what was going on despite my obvious excitement at what was transpiring on my grainy TV set. Both of us, it turned out, were relieved when Halladay retired the final batter, at which point I jumped off my tiny dorm-room bed and yelled: NO-HITTER!

For that, Doc, I thank you, wherever you are.

#2 -- 2014 Stadium Club #21 Roy Halladay

Though he may have received more national recognition as a Phillie, Doc was a Blue Jay for the majority of his career.

He signed a one-day contract with Toronto to officially retire as a Blue Jay, and he's seen here delivering a first pitch at the Rogers Centre in what I can honestly say is the only baseball card I own with a mountie sighting.

#1 -- 2009 Upper Deck OPC #460 Roy Halladay

I became well acquainted with this card (or at least the black-bordered version of it) after seeing it on Night Owl's blog header for many years.

And while it took longer than I would've liked, it was a joyous day when I finally tracked down a copy for myself. I personally think UD's one-and-done OPC brand is one of the better sets of the last decade, and this might be the single greatest card of the lot.

When I think of Doc's baseball cards, this is the first image that comes to mind. And though I'll feel a tug of sadness whenever I look at it now, there's still a sense of serenity in this simplistic studio shot. It's a powerful image of the late Roy Halladay, arguably the best -- and definitely the most respected -- pitcher of his generation.

RIP, Doc.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Short Term Stops: The All-Twins Team

I've long had a soft spot for the Minnesota Twins, and I'll admit a lot of that has to do with the fact that they're the team at the heart of Little Big League, one of the premier baseball movies of my youth.

Billy Heywood and Lou Collins notwithstanding, the real Twins have always struck me as simply a fun ballclub. Even some of Minnesota's all-time greats -- Puckett, Kaat, Killebrew, etc. -- are more ingrained in my mind as relatable fan favorites rather than monument-like legends (though they are all legends, no doubt).

The Twins' Short Term Stops roster carries a similar vibe. There isn't a ton of all-out star power here -- only one Hall of Famer made the squad -- but there's a whole lot of guys who you might see and say: wow, I haven't thought about HIM in forever. Which is perfect, because those types have always been my favorite kinds of players to follow in my baseball life.

So without further ado, let's see what the Twins have to offer to the world of Short Term Stops.


1971 Topps #95 Luis Tiant

Twins Short Term Stops Accolades:

Luis Tiant (1970 Twins, 18 games)

The roster kicks off with one of baseball's more beloved fan favorites: El Tiante.

Luis Tiant has been back in the news lately due to his appearance on Cooperstown's Modern Era ballot, meaning that he'll get another shot at entering the Hall of Fame. While I don't think he'll ultimately get in, there's no doubting that Tiant had a great career.

Though best remembered as a whimsical starter with the '70s Red Sox, Tiant actually debuted with Cleveland in the mid '60s and enjoyed early success before injuries derailed his career, so much so that he was actually flat out released by the Twins following his lone season with them in 1970 -- a season that saw him go 7-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 18 games with the club.

The Red Sox saw something in him and scooped him off the scrap heap, and thank god for that because the '70s just wouldn't be the same without Luis Tiant.

1988 Fleer #7 Steve Carlton

Steve Carlton (1987-88 Twins, 13 games, sunset season in '88)

Steve Carlton is the lone HOFer on this team, and this is the only card I've ever seen of him as a Twin.

Lefty looks old and ghostly in this unflattering photo from Fleer, which is fitting since Carlton was a ghost of himself by the time he landed in Minnesota. He pitched in parts of his final two seasons in the Twin Cities, going 1-6 (the last of his 329 career wins) with an awful 8.54 ERA over 13 games with the Twinkies between the 1987 and '88 seasons before ultimately being released.

Stints like these are what make the Short Term Stops universe go 'round.

1991 Score Rookie/Traded #74T Jack Morris

Jack Morris (1991 Twins, 35 games)

It's rare, but a select few Short Term Stops become so enshrined in history that you almost forget they're Short Term Stops in the first place.

Jack Morris as a Twin is perhaps the classic example. You could argue that 1991 was Morris's most memorable year: he was an All-Star, won 18 games, and threw a 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the '91 Fall Classic -- a performance that will be remembered for generations to come -- on his way to World Series MVP honors. 

What sometimes gets lost to history is that 1991 was Morris's only season as a Twin, but holy cow did he make it count.


2005 Topps Total Silver #461 Corky Miller

Corky Miller (2005 Twins, 5 games)

One of the greatest factoids in baseball history is that Corky Miller's real name is actually Corky (Corky Abraham Philip Miller, in full).

Also of note is that this particular card features the single lowest batting average I've ever seen on a stat line: Miller went 1-for-39 with the Reds in 2004, good for a .026 mark. The career backup went 0-for-12 in five games with the '05 Twins, and 0-for-4 in the only game he'd play in 2006 (with the Red Sox), which means that Miller went a combined 1-for-55 over the span of three seasons. That's a .018 batting average(!).

But before you start making fun of him, know that Corky played 11 years in the majors and is still a name I hear mentioned on occasion here in 2017, which is more than most past big leaguers can say.

First Base

2006 Sweet Spot Update #94 Phil Nevin

Phil Nevin (2006 Twins, 16 games, third-of-a-year stint, sunset season)

Phil Nevin pulled off the rare feat of having played for three different teams in his final year in the big leagues: he began his 2006 season with the Rangers, went to the Cubs, and ultimately finished with the Twins. 

There's not much to say about Nevin's stint in Minnesota -- he hit .190 in 16 games before hanging 'em up -- but I can't think of another guy off the top of my head who has pulled off the three-team-sunset coup.

Second Base

1962 Topps #208 Billy Martin

Billy Martin (1961 Twins, 108 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

The definition of well-traveled, Billy Martin played for seven different teams during his final five big-league seasons.

The last of those stops came with the inaugural Twins in 1961. Traded to Minnesota after just six games with the Braves, Billy stayed with the club through the rest of the season, hitting .246 over what would be the final 108 games of his career.

Martin would also later enjoy a second brief stint with the Twins, this time as a first-year manager with the Twins in 1969 -- Martin was fired after a single (albeit successful) season as skipper in Minnesota, paving the way for future managerial fame (and volatility) at with the Tigers, A's, and Yankees.


2009 Topps Heritage High Numbers #656 Orlando Cabrera

Orlando Cabrera (2009 Twins, 59 games, half-year stint)

Orlando Cabrera was one of those players who -- whether by chance or design -- seemed to wind up on a lot of different winning clubs.

The Twins were the sixth of nine different teams Cabrera would play for during his 15-year career, hitting .289 in 59 games as a veteran presence with the AL Central-champion Twins in '09 (though they'd be swept by the Yankees in the ALDS).

Some players are just regarded as winners, and Orlando Cabrera exemplified that label.

Third Base

2009 Topps Ticket to Stardom #40 Joe Crede

Joe Crede (2009 Twins, 90 games, sunset season)

Joe Crede was also a part of that division-winning Twins team in 2009, though his season (and career) ended before the playoffs ever got started.

Crede is best known for his time with the White Sox, and specifically his heroics with the World Series Champion '05 club. He was one of the better-known sports figures around Chicago for a couple years there. Though he was coming off his only All-Star appearance in 2008, Crede produced a mediocre .225-15-48 line with the Twins the following year before a third back surgery ultimately forced him into the sunset.

We'll always remember you in Chicago, Joe.


1961 Topps #186 Elmer Valo

Elmer Valo (1961 Twins, 33 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

I never pass up an opportunity to mention Elmer Valo on this blog, and here's a golden one.

One of only two big leagers born in Slovakia (Jack Quinn being the other), Valo was an inaugural Twin in 1961 when the original Senators relocated from Washington. Valo was released after hitting just .156 in 33 games with the Twins, eventually signing with the Phillies, where he'd end his long and largely forgotten 20-year career.

Dude had a .398 career on-base percentage if anyone ever asks you Who the HECK is Elmer Valo?!, by the way.

1986 Fleer Update #U-11 Billy Beane

Billy Beane (1986-87 Twins, 98 games)

Decades before Brad Pitt would portray him in Moneyball, Billy Beane was a struggling young outfielder with the Minnesota Twins.

His story seemed to be heading on a common (though unfortunate) path: the can't-miss phenom who ultimately missed. Drafted by the Mets in the first round of the 1980 draft, '86 was the only season Beane saw anything close to substantial playing time in the bigs, hitting .213 over 80 games with the Twins and hitting what would be his only three career homers in the process.

Beane played in just 18 games with the Twins in '87 and would see cups of coffee with the Tigers and A's over the following couple seasons before finding himself completely out of baseball.

Of course, you know the rest.

 2001 Topps Traded #T-20 Quinton McCracken

Quinton McCracken (2001 Twins, 24 games)

I collect Quinton McCracken for no other reason than that he was part of the inaugural Devil Rays club in 1998 -- I was a six-year-old baseball fan at the time and seeing a team just appear out of the blue was mind-blowing to me.

As a result, I still have an attachment to guys like McCracken, who would go on to hit .219 in 24 forgettable games with the '01 Twins following his departure from Tampa (though I'm surprised to learn he did hang around the bigs until 2006).

Might be the only time you see Quinton McCracken mentioned on the blogs this year.

Designated Hitter

1988 Fleer #2 Don Baylor

Don Baylor (1987 Twins, 20 games, half-year stint)

A last-minute addition to the presses of this post, this former Dime Box Dozen was secured in a trade with Bo in a package I just received a couple hours ago (thanks again, Bo!).

Somehow this prime Short Term Stops card completely passed me by up until now, a happening all the more painful considering the thousands of '88 Fleer singles I've encountered over the years. Pain no more, because this terrific Don Baylor (RIP) is now safely in my Twins binder.

The late Baylor pulled off the unmatched feat of playing in the World Series for three different teams over a three-year span. Sandwiched between stints with the '86 Red Sox and '88 A's, Baylor's only Fall Classic victory in those three seasons came with the '87 Twins, where he'd arrived following a late-season trade from Boston.

Baylor hit .286 in 20 regular-season games with the Twinkies, and batted at a sparkling .385 clip in the World Series to help Minnesota defeat the Cardinals in seven games -- quite a way to make yourself remembered in a city, I think.

That just about does it for this edition of Short Term Stops.

Thanks for tuning in.

Monday, November 6, 2017

A personal history of binders

I've been thinking a lot about binders lately, and specifically this image, the first to ever appear on my blog.

That's my room/card lair as it looked the night I started this blog nearly six years ago now (has it really been that long?!). The history of "Dime Boxes" began with my binders because while it's easy to give all the blogging love to the cards themselves, it's worth remembering that to me, it's the binders that really make me feel like I own a collection, rather than a random mix of things I've bought and accumulated.

And as far as this thing I call a collection goes, well...

...let's just say things have changed a bit in the last six years.

How much, you ask?

Enough to where all the binders I own can't even fit into a single picture frame, unlike they comfortably did on this blog's Opening Night.

It's fascinating to stop and look at just how much my collection has bloomed in the time since "Dime Boxes" began, and the binders provide the best time-lapse comparison I could ever hope for.

I've said it many times before and I'll say it again: I am and will always be a binder guy. A good 98 percent of my keeper cards are stored in binders. Sure, boxes are the saner option, logistically speaking. Binders cost more money. Binders require more upkeep. Binders take up a lot more space. The proof is there, I'll admit it.

But I'm of the mind that boxes are ugly and aren't proper means by which to store a collection -- binders are, in the aesthetic sense, the only appropriate way to do that.

As of this writing, my collection is stored across 82 different binders.

The ones on the bookshelves seen above are home to my array of team binders -- the vast majority of the 31 teams (all 30 current MLB clubs, plus the defunct Expos) have since been split into two, three, and even four different binders due to sheer space limits.

The four you see above are non-team-oriented, housing nooks and crannies such as my smaller number of defunct teams (Pilots, Senators, etc.), jersey/autograph cards, my Hoyt collection, my Dime Box Frankensets (found in that large white binder), and more.

It's astounding to think that the number of binders in my collection has just about doubled in the history of this blog.

While we don't often think of binders as meaningful objects in and of themselves, I definitely think that binders, like cards, have personality.

If we're just talking about the binders, this is the best one in my collection as far as I'm concerned (it's the first of two Royals binders I have, for what it's worth). I don't know the history on it or anything -- I'm guessing it was a promo item issued by Topps at some point -- but I scooped it up for a couple bucks at the local flea market long ago.

I also, by my count, own five of the actual cards featured on the cover of it, and one day I hope to have them all -- I think it'd make for a nice mini-collection quest, in fact (though I'd likely have to settle for reprints of the '52 Mantle and Mays).

But binders, like people, grow old and wear down over time.

I've had to "retire" many binders over the years, ones that were coming apart at the seams and just generally falling apart, and I still own a few that are on the brink of being sent out to pasture. Despite the random Rangers card I taped to the spine during my youth (Scotch tape on cards: blasphemy, I know, but I was young and dumb), this is actually the first of three Braves binders I own, and it's being held together by packing tape right now.

It's a sad moment when I have to dispose of a binder I've had for many years, but sometimes collecting baseball cards comes with tough decisions.

One major binder development happened just last night, in fact, when I came home from work to find this behemoth sitting on my bed.

That, my friends, is a 6-inch binder, a mythical being among the likes of Bigfoot and Nessie that I'd only seen in grainy photos around the 'net and never in the flesh. But now I can attest to their existence first-hand: my mom found one at a local thrift store yesterday (and for only 50 cents!).

But even more fascinating than seeing 6" binder in the first place... seeing one full of baseball cards, as mine now is.

Perhaps even more staggering is that the small tower of cards in this binder are just Yankee pitchers, a testament to how many stars and/or guys I collect have pitched for the Bronx Bombers.

Makes it all the more ironic that I've never been a Yankees fan, I guess.

For comparison's sake, here's what a 6" binder looks like against a 4" binder (another one of my four Yankee binders), previously the largest one of its kind I'd ever seen.

My god! It dwarfs that poor thing.

A great many candid photos of exist of yours truly flipping through one of my many baseball card binders, just because it's something I've done quite a bit of over the years.

I suppose my dividing line between an interest and a collection is that an interest is often passive while a collection is experienced. I experience my collection through by binders. They are my passageway into enjoyment, the medium through which I get to live my passion time and time again. Binders are a perpetual slideshow, a visual reward for the years of time and effort I've put into this hobby.

While it's tough to imagine a life without my baseball card collection, it's just as hard to imagine my baseball card collection without binders.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Have no fear, Dad is here

There's no baseball today, and while that would normally be a cause for despair, my dad recently took it upon himself to make the opening act of the offseason just a bit more bearable.

As if the spearing of my ultimate white whale wasn't enough, Dad stumbled upon a few jaw-dropping (pre-)Christmas gifts for me. It goes without saying, but I feel lucky to have someone like him around as a second pair of eyes for my collection, especially ones as impeccable as his.

My dad, like me, is a huge fan of the Dudes inserts from 2017 A&G, and while my focus has been on (slowly) building this year's 50-card set, Dad upped the ante by tracking down an original Dude for me, a set that harkens all the way back to 1888.

Dad considers himself somewhat of a British expatriate, so it makes sense that London Dude was one he'd target.

And then came Russian Dude!

Despite my love for this year's Dudes, I somehow never even thought to look for an original specimen for my binders. Given my love for non-baseball subjects, I'm shocked the idea never came to me.

Once again, Dad came to the rescue in the form of what are now the oldest cards in my collection, a pair of awesome Dudes that literally existed before sliced bread.

And speaking of bread, Dad just couldn't stop there: along with the Dudes came a 1949 Remar Bread oddball of none other than Billy Martin himself.

Many of the baseball stories my dad told me as a wee lad involved his admiration for Martin and the '70s Yankees in general. This doughy oddball, however, predates Billy Ball by nearly 30 years, showing young Billy during his pre-Yankees tenure with the Oakland Oaks of the PCL (along with his "vital" 1948 statistics on the back).

This is one of those oddities that you could easily go a lifetime without ever finding, but thankfully Dad was there to make sure that didn't happen.

And finally came what was, for me, the biggest WOW card of them all: a real, actual T206 of Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, my first tobacco card of a Hall of Famer (a hometown HOFer, to boot) and one with a fascinating story behind it.

A couple weekends ago, my dad took a trip down to the Illinois suburb of Rockford to meet up with a few of his vinyl-record collecting buddies. It just so happens that a rather substantial card collection was anonymously donated to a card shop in Rockford, one that features what is thought to be every base Cubs card ever made. (Yes, you read that right.)

While many of the high-dollar items are being auctioned off with more pomp and circumstance, some of the lower-grade castoffs were apparently being sold individually on the day my dad went down to Rockford. Dad said the store owner had obtained three different copies of this T206 Brown alone, and my dad managed to work out a deal for the most beat-up of the trio (notice the missing corner).

Between Dudes, impossible minor league oddballs, and T206 HOFers -- and not to mention that '52 Hoyt from a couple months ago -- Dad's apparently trying to quell any offseason despair by doing his best to trap both me and my collection in a whirlwind of vintage goodness.

With a dad like mine, I guess there is no offseason.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Through a hurricane and into my mailbox

I worked out my first trade with Hunter H. of the relatively new "Braves Country Cards" blog a while back.

Hunter's blog looks to be dormant for now, a hiatus I hope is only temporary since he put together an all-star package to send my way. But perhaps even more notable than any of the cards I received was the route they took to get to me -- specifically via an email I received from Hunter a few days after we'd worked out the trade, apologizing for a slight delay in shipping with the following:

We're in a tropical storm down I may not be able to make a trip [to the post office] in the next day or two, but I will try soon as possible.

Hunter lives down south, and that tropical storm he referenced was actually friggin' Hurricane Harvey. The guy walked through the aftermath of perhaps the most destructive natural event of my lifetime to mail cards out to me.

I feel like that could be a premise for a somber black-and-white art film or something.

In addition to the Zobrist -- a former Dime Box Dozen need -- came these two goodies, including another check in my snail-like quest to get all the throwback SPs from 2015 Update.

A quartet of fun Opening Day insert needs, although I must say I'm disgusted by the idea of Cracker Jack and Mac & Cheese on a hot dog.

My god, aren't ballpark dogs heavenly enough?

Also thrown into the storm was this Josh Reddick A&G mini, a guy whose presence is a major reason why I'm rooting for the Astros in the World Series.

Thanks to Hunter, these four player collections just got a bit shinier.

Also present was a Heritage SP of Anthony Rizzo that would've cost me an arm and a leg where I live, and an Ichiro which seems like an tiny atom in the 12,569-card universe that is 2008 Topps Moments & Milestones (no, that's not a typo).

Hunter made sure to take care of my two largest player collections with Ichiro and Vlad.

But he also added a new Mark Grace to my binders -- a thrill even if it is icky Diamondback Mark Grace -- which I'm fairly sure is my third-largest collection though I can't say for sure (further reason to actually go through and total up my player collections one of these days).

Finally, Hunter closed up shop with a rare feat: he found a new HOYT!

This (I think) is something called a Green Crystal Shard parallel from 2013 Panini Cooperstown. Attach all the unnecessary adjectives in the world to it, Panini: all I care about is that it's a Hoyt I didn't already have.

And once again, since I'm still not quite sure I believe it: Hunter walked through the dying breath of Hurricane Harvey to send this supreme mix of cardboard to me.

To say I'm flattered would be an understatement.