Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 22: Numbers 190-198

Frankenset Page #11 WINNER -- 2016 Stadium Club #93 CJ Wilson (14 votes)

Last week was one of those pages where I had absolutely no idea who was gonna win.

Turns out the rest of you weren't as divided as I was: CJ Wilson took the crown without much of a challenge, taking 14 of the 41 total votes for a cruise-control win. The next closest competitor (Travis D'Arnaud) managed all of seven tallies, cementing Wilson's easy road into the Gallery of Frankenset Champions.

Also, I'm pretty sure this was the first time I've cracked 40 total votes for the week, so much thanks to all who played along!

It took a few tries for the Random Number Generator to land on a new page (we're nearly two-thirds of the way through the frankenset now), but alas, one finally arrived: this week's nine is supplied by Page 22 (#s 190-198) of the binder.

Let's meet them.

1997 Topps #190 Andy Benes

Signing for the Redbird faithful. 

2018 Stadium Club #191 Raisel Iglesias

For the win. 

2016 Stadium Club #192 Delino DeShields

In an odd coincidence, here's Delino DeShields Jr. getting soaked...just a week after a different card from 2016 Stadium Club won a page in which Delino Sr. was featured!

1996 Donruss #193 Eddie Taubensee

Even the worst sets have their high points. 

2000 Stadium Club #194 Todd Jones


2013 Topps Update #US195 Chris Johnson

Negro League throwback! 

2019 Topps #196 Adam Engel

A spectacular dual mini-collection hit from one of the frankenset's newest tenants.

2017 Stadium Club #197 Tyler Skaggs

Stadium Club panorama. 

2016 Topps Opening Day #198 Avisail Garcia

Still another coincidence: here's the second White Sox '83 throwback/at the wall combo in the same page!

That's it for this week's batch. The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Monday, June 17, 2019

This better be good, Series 2

My wild goose chase for this year's Series 2 is a good example of why collecting baseball cards is sometimes more of an addiction than anything.

Here's a few reasons why I say that. 1) Series 2 isn't even that exciting. 2) I told myself I wanted a quiet day around the house today. 3) I can probably get most of what I need from these extremely cheap at the card show I'm hoping to attend in a few weeks. The symptoms of addiction are all there. And yet since Series 2 was released last Wednesday, I've been to no less than four Targets and two Walmarts (some multiple times) in search of them.

The fruits of my insane labor finally paid off this afternoon when I found a fresh stock at a semi-local Walmart I didn't even know existed -- a place I've never been to before and don't plan on ever seeing again.

In the eye of the storm, it's a bit difficult to objectively discuss what my mind's been like since Wednesday, why I chose to nearly get into multiple car accidents driving through the parking lots of places like Target and Walmart, or nearly getting slammed by multiple shopping carts once inside their aisles.

I chalk it up to emotional buildup. The Target across the street from my house is usually good about putting new card stock out, but when I kept coming up empty there all week, and also struck out at another Target and a Walmart and another Target (and on and on...), I guess some kind of fire caught beneath me in frustration. It was about more than just the cards. My retail tour came more out of determination than joy.

Hence, addiction.

In the aftermath, all that matters is that I have some Series 2 now, and I won't be needing to wade through so many empty card displays at the local (and evidently backlogged) retail outlets.

Don't read too much into my search: Series 2 isn't the greatest set ever or anything. But I also don't wanna make it seem like it was all for naught, or that I'm disappointed. On the contrary: Series 2 was a fun break -- I bought a blaster and a hanger box -- and actually seems a bit more cozy than past (and often dull) Series 2s. (Though that may just be an after-effect of my goose chase.)

Series 2 has the usual dudes in new (albeit photoshopped) duds, but there's also a few notables who haven't switched jerseys -- like Max Muncy, who was mysteriously absent from almost every Topps release until recently, and Jung Ho Kang, who's back in the bigs after visa issues the past couple years.

Like every Flagship release, it's always a treat to witness the new crop of photographic prizes, the ones that make sifting through the reams of boring pitching/hitting shots worth it.

These ballpark cards remain a hit, some even managing to spruce up stadiums I normally consider to be eyesores (see: pretty much any Florida sporting venue).

Most people seem to be opening Series 2 for the rookies -- from most of the pub you'd think there were three guys in this set and no one else.

Me, I'm probably most excited for Series 2 for all the new high-numbered frankenset contenders -- which have a tendency to be quite scarce since most sets don't go past 300-400 cards.

Some inserts I'm mostly indifferent about (thank christ I didn't get a Gary Vee card).

Buying these cards at Walmart meant I got a handful of exclusive Mookie Betts inserts -- I suppose they're nice enough, but do we really need more Mookie Betts cards at this point?

Let's change the channel to some inserts I actually like -- I'm still woefully behind on accumulating the 150 Years inserts I need from Series 1, but it's nice to get a head start on Series 2 here.

Also, dig the '84 Ichiro!

And hey, at the end of it all, I even pulled a photo SP of a guy I collect -- thankfully it wasn't one of the two photo SPs I already purchased on the secondary market in my Series 2 anxiety.

Starting tomorrow, I'll probably look back at my Series 2 experience (the four Targets! the two Walmarts!) and wonder what the hell was wrong with me -- although I'm betting some of you are probably thinking that already.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Why I'm here after 20 years

It occurred to me recently that 2019 marks my 20th year of collecting.

It's somewhat of an unofficial anniversary: I'm not 100 percent sure when I got my first cards, but I generally place it around the time I was seven years old (1999). I've been collecting for so long that I literally can't imagine my life without it. And unlike many others, I've collected in some way, shape, or form the whole time without any breaks -- I hoarded cards straight through high school and college.

I'm constantly trying to connect the cardboard dots from my youth to now. Which is why it's surprising that, in a roundabout way, I only realized it was my 20th anniversary thanks to a few coincidental Pacific Legends sightings around the 'net lately (notably on Night Owl's most recent post). I credit the somewhat forgotten Pacific Legends sets with keeping me in the game for 20 years: the cards contained names from throughout the long history of baseball and were some of the most readily available legend-based singles in my youth.

I think they also might've fueled my later love for guys in weird uniforms: Pacific Legends includes quite a few odd (but great!) photo choices, like this one of Jim "Mudcat" Grant's brief stint as a Montreal Expo (11 games in 1969).

So that got me wondering: what other sets have kept me here all this time?

This isn't necessarily a discussion of my favorite sets: stuff like '65 Topps, Kellogg's cards, and really anything from Stadium Club (etc.) remain among my biggest thrills to collect, but I can't really say that they were the most influential chapters of my card life. The one-off 2001 Upper Deck Decade, however, was. The premier card shop of my youth used to have a big box of single packs for a dollar, and I just about bought out their inventory of them as a kid because I loved the cards so much.

But it wasn't only about the cards themselves: I grew up listening to my dad's stories about collecting and baseball in the '70s, and UD Decade provided me with a chance to both collect and see those stories personified -- the afros, the Technicolor jerseys, all of it.

I recently talked about the role SI for Kids cards played in my early collecting years -- I'm not exaggerating when I say that these were more influential to me than anything Topps, Upper Deck, or anyone else put out when I was eight years old.

I started collecting right when the whole jersey/autograph bonanza really started to take off, and it only got bigger and bigger throughout my grammar- and high-school years. Though I did eventually get sucked into the memorabilia market for a bit as I got older (sigh), SI for Kids was a good early indicator that cards could still appeal to kids like me in spite of whatever the big card corporations were churning out, or whatever Beckett and the rest of the cardboard mafia was spitting out.

I mean, where else was I gonna get a card of Jason Kendall as Ash Ketchum?

Part of the reason I was so pissed to hear about this year's disastrous Topps Total revival was the fact that I vividly remember Total as it existed in its heyday.

I knew early on that I wanted to explore the unsearched rooms and obscure corners of the baseball world -- I wanted to collect the Doug Mirabellis of the baseball universe. Topps Total gave me a chance to do that at a price I could actually afford (99 cents a pack!). I didn't know or collect all the names Total offered (probably a small percentage, actually) but just knowing that the middle relievers and backup catchers so often passed over in favor of the mega-millionaire stars were getting their due was, both in the literal and symbolic, important.

Given that a 10-card pack of 2019 Topps Total costs $10 and is only available online, there's no chance the ten-year-old version of myself would be buying it, which is why the revival is a crime and a failure.

Like Pacific Legends and UD Decade, it's odd how big of a role a select few obscure and forgotten sets played in my youth.

My dad used to take regular trips to Memphis when I was a kid, and he always used to stop at a huge card shop down there that had packs all over the place. I can't say I remember all the stuff he brought back for me, but I can say that I looked forward to the Ted Williams cards the most. The brand only lasted two years (and I'm not sure how big of a part Ted Williams played in their production, if any), but it was the second of those two sets that will forever be enmeshed in my memory.

When I see anything from the 1994 Ted Williams checklist -- and especially this Norm Cash card in particular, for some reason -- a wormhole opens up, and I'm back on my living room floor, my parents watching as I fan a stack of baseball cards out in front of me.

But if I had to pick one set that cultivated my lifelong love affair with collecting more than any other, it's gotta be Conlon Collection.

Unlike the others on this list, Conlons weren't on my radar as a kid. I only bought them after I returned to baseball cards (after an odd year-long foray into hockey cards) right around my freshman year of high school. I heard about the set somewhere, thought Oh, old guys, cool!, and bought a 36-pack box for something like $20 shipped because the overproduction era was crazy, man. I didn't know it at the time, but this set, and that box, was responsible for the knowledge that I'd be collecting baseball cards for the rest of my life.

I sometimes wonder what I enjoy more: baseball or its history. As far as history goes, you won't find a better set than this. Conlon has everything. HOFers and the obscure -- including a slew of guys who never received an actual baseball card during their career. The historic moments and the forgotten minutiae -- like the cursed year (1916) the Dodgers decided to wear checkered jerseys, for some reason. It's all there. I've read many books on the deadball era, but Charles Conlon and his photography brought the game and its players to life for me.

That, I think, is why I'm still here after 20 years: baseball cards keep me that much more connected to the game I love, the game as it existed a year or a decade or a century before I was around to see it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 11: Numbers 91-99

Frankenset Page #42 WINNER -- 1992 Stadium Club #376 Greg Gagne (10 votes)

Who says bunting isn't fun?

Despite a lower-than-usual vote turnout, Greg Gagne took last week's page without much controversy, collecting 10 tallies (of just 29 total) for the win. Derek Parks finished second with six votes, and Tom McCraw (who I actually thought was gonna win) came in third with five. I don't (yet) specifically collect cards of guys bunting, but this is easily one of the finer shots of the sort I've seen.

And given how many failed bunts I see in the game these days, a lot of guys could do with a little studying of Gagne's form here.

Thankfully, we're back to a completed page this week: the Random Number Generator spit out #11, so we'll be taking a look at that page (#s 91-99) tonight.

Let's meet the newest nine.

2018 Topps #91 Travis D'Arnaud

Right into your living room. 

2018 Stadium Club #92 Kyle Farmer

I'm pretty sure this is the only card I own of a dude catching a ceremonial first pitch. 

2016 Stadium Club #93 CJ Wilson

[insert lyric from "Kung-Fu Fighting" here]

 1992 Upper Deck Minors #94 Chris Seelbach

You know you're in the minor leagues when you're dumping baseballs from a milk crate into a warped shopping cart.

 1997 Pinnacle #95 Delino DeShields

A fab double dip on a not-so-fab design.

1993 Stadium Club #96 Joe Oliver

Yer out! 

2000 Stadium Club #97 Mickey Morandini

A wonderful twin killing at Wrigley. 

1994 Upper Deck #98 Kent Hrbek

Can I speak to Hugh Jass? 

1993 Upper Deck #99 Mark Portugal

The elusive autograph/shades/lollipop triad.

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Worst of the worst

I'm not sure if it's a weird quirk in my personality or maybe the simple curmudgeon in me (perhaps both), but I tend to bond better with people over common dislikes more than likes.

I enjoy asking people about the worst movies they've ever seen, the worst books they've ever read. I'll initially get a confused stare, but it's usually followed by lengthy, genuine thought. In a world brimming with "Best Of" lists, I don't think people ever really stop and consider the worst of the worst. But I find the topic fun.

And I'm as guilty as anyone else of focusing on greatness rather than the obscure: I've said that 1965 Topps is my favorite Topps set ever about a million times on this blog, but when have I ever discussed the worst of the Topps canon?

When I did my Topps countdown a few years ago, 1999 Topps brought up the rear.

I've reconsidered that as of this writing: '99 Topps is pretty darn bad, but I'm now of the opinion that 2000 Topps is even worse -- the worst ever, in fact. At least '99 had a couple nice cards. I can honestly say there's nothing memorable about 2000 Topps. Not the photos, not the borders (I'm not even sure what you'd call that color), and certainly not the foil-crazy failure of a design.

Like Miguel Tejada's admirable efforts here, it's just one big fat miss.

It seems as though Topps and Upper Deck teamed up to present a miserable year to us collectors in 2000, because that year's UD design is also my least favorite in their catalog (an opinion which hasn't changed in the year or two since I did my UD countdown).

I suppose it's not so much that I hate the looks of these cards, it's just that I feel absolutely nothing when I see them.

Sadly, my birth year wasn't exactly a goldmine for cardboard -- 1992 Fleer is far and away my least favorite of their offerings.

I almost audibly groan when I see these cards. Something about the sidelong nameplates and the closing elevator door I can't help but notice in the design plays with my sense of what is good and right about a proper baseball card. I can at least applaud the effort of an off-kilter green border, but that doesn't quite work for me either.

It's like claustrophobia manifested itself into a card design.

My birth year once again makes an appearance on this list -- 1992 brings up the rear in Score's decade-long stint in the card market.

All things considered, though, Score probably has the best of the worst (if that makes any sense). I don't really think there is a bad Score design -- a good amount of decent, some mediocre, and occasional greatness, yes -- but I certainly don't hate anything they produced. I think 1992 wound up being my least favorite because, like '92 Fleer, it just kinda makes everything feel squeezed in.

As I've written this post I've realized that I can live with wacky LSD colors and strange font tweaks, but the one thing I won't stand for is a design being intrusive -- thus, my feelings about '92 Fleer & Score.

Easy call here: 1996 Donruss is the worst Donruss (I'm not counting the Panini Donruss revival of recent years).

Even otherwise nice cards are rendered dull by those awful nameplates, which are tough to read in-hand and downright poisonous to scanners -- not to mention they make it seem like every guy in this set is about to collide with an ill-placed chunk of foil.

And so here it is, the worst of the worst of the worst: 1989 Bowman, which might well be my least favorite set ever made.

A lot of this probably has to do with my affinity for binder storage -- both literally and figuratively, '89 Bowmans stick out like sore thumbs (and I'm not about to buy eight-pocket pages just to appease this dumpster fire of a set). But aside from the look-how-retro-we-are attempt by Topps to revive the olden days of Bowman, this design is just, well...nothing. It's barely a baseball card to me. I'll just say this: 1989 Bowman managed to make Tony Gwynn look bad, which I always thought was impossible.

If that doesn't make it the worst of the worst, I don't know what will.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Worth a thousand words

Without a scanner, I doubt I'd have this blog -- a good 99 percent of the images I've shown in my years here have come via basic scans.

But every once in a while, my scanner just doesn't cut it. Whether it's a picture of a binder, a card show, or even sometimes an elusive photo of yours truly, I sometimes have to revert to my phone camera. This recently happened with a couple jaw-dropping trade packages I received from Tom of the excellent "Waiting 'til Next Year" blog. The first of these mailings, as you can see, contained a couple Cub-branded food items: a bag of sunflower seeds with Javier Baez on it, and a Ron Santo Ale.

I'll probably keep the seeds as a Cubs memento (I've honestly never been much for sunflower seeds), but I drank the Santo Ale the very night Tom's package wound up on my doorstep -- I'm no beer connoisseur, but it hit the spot after a day of work.

You can also see a team bag of cards from Tom in that picture, which gives my trusty scanner a chance to get back into the action.

Appropriately, the seeds and beer came with a couple food-themed Ryno oddballs, presumably dupes from Tom's legendary Sandberg collection.

A couple vintage Cubs, including a well-loved LaCock! (Hehehehehehehe.)

I received a second large box from Tom just last week, and the contents of it just about knocked me to the floor.

Inside, I found a few dozen loose SI for Kids pages, as well as a trio of the magazine's recent issues, completely intact. I've mentioned it before, and I'm not exactly proud of it, but I used to steal the cards from the SI for Kids magazines in my grammar school's library. I still own most of that pilfered cardboard to this day, and they all remind me of those moments of my childhood, for better or worse.

And in a kind of full circle scenario, I once again have semi-regular access to SI for Kids stuff: I'm sometimes asked to switch out and recycle the old magazines at the Barnes & Noble where I work, and I always pray that SI for Kids is one of the due outs since that means I get to snag the page of cards (it's not stealing, we're allowed to do it!).

The pages Tom sent were almost all of the early-to-mid '90s variety, a few years before I started swiping them from the school library (most of the ones I stole featured a completely different design).

Until this, I've basically had to live on finding SI for Kids cards here and there in dime boxes, which has happened maybe a half-dozen times (at most) over the years. So you can imagine how insane it was to see a whole mess of pages at my disposal like this. It was unlike anything I'd ever received in a trade package before.

Though I'll only be keeping the baseball cards (I have a slew of non-baseball ones available if anyone wants them), the sheer act of separating and tearing apart those perforated pages took me right back to my youth, of the fun that could be had from those flimsy photos of '90s heroes (with a few war-era legends thrown in for good measure!).

And while those SI for Kids pages already brought this package into the realm of the legendary, Tom just couldn't stop there.

You might notice a few other loose cards in that above photo: that's because Tom hit not one...

not two...

not three...

not four...

...but FIVE(!!!) of my Dime Box Dozen needs.

A lot of these have been sitting on my list for many months, some longer. The Kline was probably the most gratifying to receive. Aside from being a card of goofy greatness featuring a semi-obscure Dude I Collect, I've had the Gold Medallion parallel of it sitting in my Expos binder without the base version since before I started this blog...which means it's been on my want list for at least a good eight years. To think of a need like that being put to rest by Tom, completely unsolicited and by surprise, is almost overwhelming.

The cards themselves are excellent, but I don't think my scanner could've conveyed just how thoughtful and incredible these packages from Tom were: because the picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words.