Friday, May 18, 2018

Short Term Stops: The All-Zero Year Team

Here's a post I've been looking forward to writing for a while: The Short Term Stops All-Zero Year Team!

I've talked about zero-year cards since the early days of this blog. And for those of you who haven't been around that long and/or might need a refresher on what the heck this zero-year thing is, it's really quite simple: a zero-year card is a card of a player featured on a team he never actually played for.

For the purposes of this post, I've decided to omit all "novelty" zero-year stints from this roster -- while they're cool and noteworthy, the likes of Michael Jordan and Ricky Williams and Eleanor Engle (among others) won't appear here since they never actually played a big-league game with any franchise.

So without further ado, here it they are: The Zero-Year All-Stars, legends of the uniforms they never wore.


1986 JD McCarthy #21 Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts (Signed by Yankees, 1962 -- released, 1962)

One reason I love zero-year cards so much is that they're cardboard antithesis of the old saying -- they're proof that if a tree falls in the forest, it does indeed make a sound.

As is the case with Robin Roberts's non-tenure with the 1962 Yankees. Many baseball fans thought Roberts was done after a woeful season with the Phillies the year prior which saw him post a 1-10 record to go along with a 5.85 ERA. Hoping the future HOFer had something left in the tank, the Yankees purchased Roberts from the Phils following the '61 campaign.

Roberts did indeed have a few good years left in him -- but the Yankees would never find that out: they released him in May of '62 before he ever play in the Bronx, which, of course, makes this bizarre oddball of Roberts in the Yankee pinstripes a coveted zero-year card.

1992 Bowman #11 Trevor Hoffman RC

Trevor Hoffman (Drafted by Reds, 1989 -- selected in expansion draft, 1993)

Trevor Hoffman is going to be a Hall of Fame closer one day, but oddly enough, his career began as a shortstop with a team for whom he would never play.

The Reds took Hoffman -- then an infielder -- in the 1989 MLB Draft before converting him to a pitcher after a couple Mendoza Line seasons in the minors. In a shrewd move, the Marlins would pluck him from the Reds in the 1993 Expansion Draft before Hoffman ever got to Cincinnati (though the Marlins would, in turn, deal him to the Padres after just half a season in Florida).

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more chaotic beginning to a Hall of Fame career.

2008 Upper Deck #630 Mark Prior

Mark Prior (Signed by Padres, 2008 -- released, 2009)

Mark Prior's an interesting figure in my baseball life -- I long loathed him for never living up to his long-term promise as a Cub, but the sight of him in any other uniform kinda disturbs me.

Prior tried valiantly to come back from a series of arm injuries sustained during his Cub years: he spent time in the Padres, Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox, and Reds systems without ever making it back to the bigs, finally hanging up his cleats for good in 2013. This 2008 Upper Deck card is the only one to document any of those non-stints, however.

I didn't know until recently that Prior is now the Dodgers' bullpen coach -- but no, he doesn't look right in that uniform either.


1993 Mother's Cookies #23 Mike Scioscia

Mike Scioscia (Signed by Padres, 1993 -- released, 1993)

Like the aforementioned Robin Roberts, this Mother's Cookies gem (which I recently grabbed off COMC) is an extremely rare example of a zero-year oddball.

In what must've seemed close to blasphemy at the time, Mike Scioscia signed with the Padres in 1993 after having spent his entire career with the Dodgers up to that point. Unfortunately, Scioscia tore his rotator cuff in spring training that year and never did suit up for the Padres.

He'd retire after an aborted stint with the Rangers the following spring (I don't think any zero-year cards of that one exist), and while time will tell if Scioscia is better known as a player or manager in the years to come, I doubt anyone'll remember him as a Padre.

First Base

2010 Bowman Prospects #BP101 Anthony Rizzo RC

Anthony Rizzo (Drafted by Red Sox, 2007 -- traded, 2010) 

I've already talked about it quite a bit before on the blog, but Anthony Rizzo is one of my favorite guys to collect, partly because he does indeed have a zero-year card to his name.

Drafted by the Red Sox in 2007, Rizzo would never actually play for the franchise -- he was shipped to the Padres three seasons later in the blockbuster swap that sent Adrian Gonzalez back to Boston.

The Padres, of course, would deal him to the hometown Cubs a little more than a year after that, and we Chicagoans are eternally grateful for that.

Second Base

2005 Topps #626 Roberto Alomar

Roberto Alomar (Signed by Devil Rays, 2005 -- retired, 2005)

Here's an odd one: Roberto Alomar as a Devil Ray?

The fact that this card exists at all is puzzling: it was part of Topps Series 2 checklist in 2005, issued well after Robbie had retired following a failed shot with the Devil Rays in spring training that year.

All I know is that, as a zero-year fanatic, I'm glad it exists, even if I don't really know why it exists.


2000 Topps Traded #T46 Michael Young RC

Michael Young (Drafted by Blue Jays, 1997 -- traded, 2000)

Michael Young may go down as one of the most underrated players of my baseball youth, and his zero-year rookie card has long been a treasure in my collection.

In a deal that I'm sure the Blue Jays would like to have back, Young was traded to the Rangers for Esteban Loaiza in 2000. Loaiza was little more than mediocre with the Jays, while Young would go on to make seven All-Star teams and win a batting title in 13 seasons as a Ranger.

Further proof that zero-year stints are, in hindsight, often tinged with regret.

Third Base

2008 Topps Update #UH126 Morgan Ensberg

Morgan Ensberg (Signed by Indians, 2008 -- released, 2008)

Here's one of those fickle Guys I Collect For No Apparent Reason: Morgan Ensberg.

I honestly don't know why I collect Ensberg, but I do -- this is one of over 100 cards of his I own, and easily the most interesting, as Ensberg never did actually play for the '08 Indians: Cleveland signed him after he'd been released by the Yankees in midseason, and he'd toil in the minors for the Indians for the remainder of the year without being recalled.

Maybe one day I'll remember why I decided to start collecting Morgan Ensberg, but in the meantime, I'm content to sit back and enjoy this fascinating zero-year sunset card.


1994 Topps Archives #251 Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente (Signed by Dodgers, 1954 -- selected in Rule 5 Draft, 1954)

This has to be the greatest zero-year card ever -- I mean, it has to be, given that it's a zero-year of my all-time favorite ballplayer.

It sometimes gets lost to history that Roberto Clemente technically wasn't a career Pirate. He was actually signed by the Dodgers in 1954 and taken by the Pirates in that year's Rule 5 Draft after attempts by the Dodgers to hide him in their minor league system proved futile. The rest, as they say, is history.

While Topps never actually issued a card of Roberto Clemente in 1954, Topps created an excellent Cards That Never Were series devoted to lost '54 subjects in their '94 Topps Archives set, highlighted by this brilliant Clemente -- a man who, in addition to countless other accolades, is, for me, the Zero-Year King. 

1990 Pacific Legends #99 Lou Piniella

Lou Piniella (Selected by Pilots in expansion draft, 1968 -- traded, 1969)

And here's what is probably my second-favorite zero-year card -- Sweet Lou himself, a zero-year Seattle Pilot! 

After cups of coffee with the Orioles (1964) and Indians (1968), Piniella was selected by the doomed Pilots in the '68 expansion draft. After somehow not making the club out of spring training, Lou was dealt to the Royals (a fellow expansion team) just prior to the start of the '69 season, where he'd earn AL Rookie of the Year honors that same season.

Given the brevity and overall obscurity of it, I can't believe a card of Lou with the Pilots exists, but I thank the cardboard gods that it does every day.

1970 Topps #360 Curt Flood

Curt Flood (Traded to Phillies, 1969 -- traded following protest over reserve clause, 1970 

Quite the star-studded outfield here: after Clemente and Sweet Lou comes the most historic zero-year card ever printed.

After being dealt to the Phillies following the 1969 season, Curt Flood famously sat out the following year in protest of baseball's garish reserve clause, eventually taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court. Though Flood would lose the trial and retire after a short stop with the Senators in 1971, his martyrdom would pave the way for free agency just a half-decade later.

Sometimes lost to history is the fact that Flood received a zero-year card out of the deal in 1970 Topps, a hallowed piece of vintage history I'm forever proud to own.

Designated Hitter

2012 Topps #393 Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez (Signed by A's, 2012 -- released, 2012)

I remember pulling this card from a pack of 2012 Topps and praying that I'd one day be able to add it to my zero-year collection.

My wishes came true: after some hemming and hawing on whether or not to bring him up, Manny was released by the A's in June of 2012 after spending a couple months in the minors. Despite brief trials in Rangers and Cubs minor league systems, he'd never play another big league game.

And so the cardboard career of Manny Ramirez came to an end with a magnificent zero-year card.

And so, also, comes the end of this theme. This is the last Short Term Stops post I'd had planned, and while I may bring it back in regards to current Short Term Stop happenings now and then (Bartolo Colon as a Twin, etc.), I just don't think there's any more rosters left to create. So, for now, I bid my beloved Short Term Stops adieu.

As usual, thanks for tuning in -- I hope you had as much fun reading them as I had writing them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Cataloging crisis (again)

So here's some unfortunate news: as far as cataloging my card collection is concerned, I'm pretty much back to square one right now.

A few years ago, I wrote about my excitement over discovering a site called Zistle, which allowed me to comfortably and efficiently document all my various collecting projects (mainly my mini-collections). But once again, the internet proved the whole we-can-never-have-nice-things aphorism true: as people who use(d) Zistle know, the site was bought out by Beckett and basically left to die amid copyright issues.

For lack of a better term, this sucks ass. Like many, many others, I put a lot of time, effort, and enjoyment into getting my collection together via Zistle. Not to mention that it damn well came in handy: while I pride myself on having a fairly good memory in relation to my cards, Zistle helped me fix my brain's missteps by showing me my collection(s) right then and there with nothing more than a few clicks.

Recently I was reminded of how much I missed Zistle by my buddy Jeff of "2x3 Heroes" fame, who, a couple months ago, was flying through the airport and stopped by the bookstore to chat and drop off a few cards he had for me.

While it's a cool card and I was happy Jeff had an extra copy to spare, I was about 98 percent sure I had the 2008 Upper Deck X Paulie at the top of this post already.

When I got home later that night, I discovered I was wrong, and that I actually needed the aforementioned Konerko, though I hardly faulted myself: Konerko's 2009 Upper Deck X card (which I indeed already had) features almost the exact same image with the same throwback jersey on an eerily similar design (sometimes I think card companies do these kinds of things to us as some kind of sick game).

Had Zistle still been its usual lively self, none of this confusion and shock would've been necessary.

True, Zistle isn't technically dead: I could still go on there right now and add these two new throwbacks from Jeff to my collection page if I so desired.

But it hardly seems worth it at this point, seeing as how it appears inevitable that Zistle will be gutted and/or shut down sometime soon. That, and new sets aren't being uploaded, which means that anything added to my mini-collections from late 2017 and forward was, is, and forever will be painfully absent from my collection pages.

As far as I'm concerned, to continue using Zistle at this point would only lead to wasted time and eventual despair.

So comes the inevitable question: what now?

Zistle was the first time I'd ever undertaken the massive task of cataloging my collection (even if only a portion of it). And while I enjoy giving myself card projects to complete, I don't know that I have it in me to do it all over again, at least not with the same level of time and commitment I put toward Zistle.

And even if I did, how would I do it? I've experimented with the Trading Card Database a bit, but I don't find the site very navigable or friendly with what I have in mind for my own cataloging means.

I guess only time will tell.

I'll probably tinker with a few things in the coming days/weeks/months, especially now that I have a bit more extra time on my hands. I'm leaning towards just opening some sort of spreadsheet and see where that takes me (although you can count the number of times I've actually used a spreadsheet in my life on one hand).

For now, I'll have to rely on my own memory and shake my fist at the tyrant known as Beckett whenever I acquire new items for my various collections, including everything you've seen in this post from Jeff (especially Stadium Club base/parallels/whatnot, because wow is Stadium Club packed with mini-collection stuff).

All I can say is: RIP, Zistle -- I'll always have you to thank for getting me off my lazy, disorganized butt and showing me that, against all odds, cataloging my collection could actually be fun.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Oh hi Mark

For better or worse, I've blogged long enough to have seen a number of blogs come and go.

Sadly, some of those defunct blogs were ones I read regularly and ones which were run by blogging buddies of mine. The first of said blogs that come to mind is the dormant "Clubhouse Kaz," run by the immortal Mark, a longtime ally of Dime Boxedonia.

While his blog has been in a deep slumber, Mark has still been active within the blogging community, and I've been able to keep in touch with him via Twitter (one of the few things Twitter has going for it).

Case in point: Mark recently sent me a surprise mailer of cards (at just about the exact same time I'd sent him a surprise package, oddly enough) that contained a fantastic mix of cardboard, as is par for the course from Mark.

In addition to the excellent Al Kaline at the top of this post (anything from Topps Retired Signature gives me goosebumps) came these two -- a rare pitcher-in-a-rundown shot and a new Rizzo for the archives, which is always appreciated even from the ugliest brands.

A couple terrific insert randoms here with a '77 cloth sticker tribute and a man who was (I think) the nation's first Sox-fan POTUS.

Parallel mini-collection hits, and further proof that the A's really need to go back to those unis full-time.

Shooter and Addy (a new sitcom coming to ABC in this fall!).

Mark always manages to include at least one thing in every trade package that elicits an audible COOL! from me when I first set eyes on it.

This was the COOL! card this time around: a nifty League Leader single from 2000 UD Victory Japan, which goes well with the kind of unspoken pact I've had with myself to collect any and all Japanese cards I can get my hands on. I know Kaz Matsui well from his brief time in the US, but Takuro Ishii is a new name to me (apparently he was a perennial .300 hitter who had a 24-year career in Japan).

While his blog might not be around these days, Mark himself is still a trading aficionado, and I can't say enough about how thankful I am to still know he's there in the periphery of this great blogosphere.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Top Five: Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra would have turned 93 today.

Yogi is, first and foremost, a Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest catcher in baseball history. But he's also something that's all but extinct today's game: a quotable ballplayer. Every time I hear a guy say "I just took it one pitch at a time" for the hundredth time, I think of Yogi Berra. ("When you come to a fork in the road, take it" is a personal favorite Yogi-ism.)

And so it's in honor of the late great Yogi that I've decided to focus on him in this week's Top Five post.

#5 -- 1992 Ziploc #10 Yogi Berra

The world needs more cards packaged with random groceries.

#4 -- 2001 UD Hall of Famers #85 Yogi Berra

Quirky action shots are rare on the cards of '50s-era ballplayers -- this is one of the extreme few I own.

#3 -- 2010 Topps "Turkey Red" #TR-83 Yogi Berra

It seems to me that Yogi doesn't appear in nearly as many modern sets as he should, and that's a real shame for someone who has the propensity for creating absolutely beautiful cards like this one.

#2 -- 1965 Topps #470 Yogi Berra

From personal experience, I'd say Yogi's vintage in particular is often expensive and/or difficult to find, a bit more so than most stars of his era.

This is Yogi's sunset card (as well as an extreme Short Term Stops sighting given Yogi's brief four-game stint with the lowly '65 Mets), and it's been a coveted piece of my collection from the day I swung a forum trade for it many years ago.

#1 -- 1963 Topps #340 Yogi Berra

This is my only real vintage card of Yogi as a Yankee (a wonderful present from Dad a couple years ago), and for that reason it remains my favorite.

Like the '65 Topps, it features a rare "Catcher-Coach" designation, and I can't help but wonder how awesome it would be if Topps did that with veteran-leadership guys like Chase Utley or Ichiro nowadays.

It's a bit shocking to me that I've never found a vintage Yogi at a card show, and sometimes I get to thinking I never will -- but like Yogi himself once said: It ain't over till it's over.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Mike's Music Pantheon, Series 1 (customs + guest post from Dad!)

A few months ago, my dad came up with the wild idea of getting someone to create a custom set of music-related cards.

My mind, of course, immediately went to none other than our own Custom Aficionado here in the blogosphere,Gavin of "Baseball Card Breakdown" fame. The kind soul that he is, Gavin agreed to undertake the project, and a quick trade was agreed upon -- my dad picked out a few vintage singles for Gavin's set builds at a card show earlier this year in exchange for the music set, which arrived a couple weeks ago.

And so I'll step aside and hand the mic over, because here to tell you about his own music set is none other than...Dad himself!

Hi all...Nick's Dad (aka, Mike) here, getting in on the action with a guest blog.

As Nick has often mentioned, his collecting apple did not fall far from the tree...and though I don't buy baseball cards for myself, I love contributing to, and going over, Nick's stuff...

But this one was my brain child after marveling over Nick's custom-made cards...Mike's Music Pantheon, Series 18-card set of cool cats and kittens!

After sweating out various "conditions" (too famous? too obscure? too modern?) I just went with "I dig 'em!"...from heroes I experienced in real time... "shoulda been BIG!"

From "uncategorizable"... "yeah, people know about them...but what about America?!"

Most have backs with years active and what I consider their "masterpieces"...but a few go the extra mile with full backs!

I feel a little bad that I've been showing these off on various record-geek groups I'm on...everyone wants to buy them!...sorry, NOT for sale!

And, if we can ever work it out, I have Series 2 all set in my mind...Peter Laughner, Gram Parsons, D. Boon, Lowman Pauling,'re on deck!

I think I speak for both Dad and I when I say Gavin, as usual, did an absolutely stellar job with these customs -- thanks again, Gavin!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The boys are back in town (more from the flea market!)

As I briefly alluded to in yesterday's post, the most welcome news I received at the flea market last weekend had nothing to do with packs or wax boxes.

No, the best part of it all was the fact that, after a year-plus absence, my favorite regular vendor was back at the flea market on Sunday. Apparently he'd been dealing with some personal problems and health issues, so his hiatus was, of course, understandable. But wow was I glad to see him back there last weekend, because no single vendor in my time of attending flea markets, card shows, etc. has provided more consistent fun than this guy.

To illustrate, I'll just say this: I bought 290 dime cards and about $3-4 worth of other miscellany off of him...and he charged me just six bucks for everything(!).

That averages out to about two cents a card.

Two cents! Two cents for the Raines at the top of this post (originally priced at a dollar), which was given out along with an accompanying SLU figure at a Sox game last year.

Two cents for these two, originally from the 50-cent box, including a 3-D Diamond Kings Vlad (I had no idea 3-D Diamond Kings were even a thing).

Two cents for these A&G box toppers, a deal which I just couldn't resist even though I'm not a huge fan of oversized cards (though these are obvious exceptions).

Perhaps the thing I like most about my local flea market is how genuine it is.

Most people there (especially the card vendors) aren't just looking to make a quick buck. It's not an easy gig, setting up at the flea market. The place opens at like 5 AM and lasts till one or two in the afternoon. The people who sell there do it because they enjoy it.

My regular guy, for instance, is obviously a huge baseball fan and collector: he was wearing an Expos cap and told me about going to Cooperstown to see Tim Raines's HOF induction ceremony (which would explain why he had the SLU card).

There's also the plain fact that his dime boxes are absolutely loaded -- I found 290 cards despite the fact that he only had about one-and-a-half baseball dime boxes on display.

Part of the reason I found so much stuff from him was because a lot of his dime cards featured '80s and '90s stars, which is good because I've recently started collecting a lot of guys from that period. Better yet, the stuff he had wasn't overproduced stuff -- most of it was from sets issued before and after the junk wax era (fringe wax, if that's a term?).

And don't be fooled by the Brett: it's actually a box bottom, and my regular readers should know how much I enjoy those.

I don't know if any single vendor has added more to my mini-collections over the years than this guy.

It wasn't all '80s and '90s stuff, though: his dime boxes contained a good helping of more recent material to tide me over as well.

Dime box dudes in unfamiliar uniforms.

Random horizontal greatness.

Random vertical greatness (including Minor League Bartolo!).

Random oddball greatness.

I could go on and on and on about all the great cards I found from my regular vendor, and how happy I was to see him back and sitting behind his table last weekend.

For now, though, I'll leave off with these two colorized Conlons from the dime box, which please excuse me for a minute while I bask in the glory of these.

The Penny Box Guy was back in action on Sunday as well, although he didn't have his penny boxes.

He did, however, have a couple dollar boxes on display -- I didn't find much baseball of note, but I did manage to add a couple terrific Monkees cards to my music collection.

I mainly frequented the table of one regular guy at the flea market last year, and he was back in town last weekend as well.

What I like about him is that his inventory changes week to week, which is great because, from personal experience, I can tell you it gets demoralizing seeing the same vendors with the same cards time after time.

His prices also vary from week to week, depending on what kind of stuff he has on display.

No dime boxes this time, but his quarter boxes proved quite bountiful last week -- in addition to the Longoria sepia refractor came this quartet, including a HOF rookie and a nifty yellow-bordered Matt Kemp numbered to 99 copies.

And hey: quarter box vintage!

No huge names this time around, but I did find these two under-the-radar beauties from '70 Topps, including the infamously spectacled Dave Ricketts.

The guy's 50-cent boxes weren't half bad, either -- tough to beat a Mike Trout refractor or Rhys Hoskins rookie insert at that price.

But perhaps the most curious vendor of the day ended up being a guy I'd never seen before.

The guy was obviously a collector and/or dealer: he had a big dollar box full of numbered cards and refractors (mostly rookies in which I found nothing of note). His other box was priced at $3 each or 2/$5, and a quick flip through it revealed a lot of stuff which was barely dime box material, if that.

But then I found stuff like this Catfish Hunter insert, limited to an extremely scarce 10 copies, mixed in with all the other overpriced junk.

Normally I wouldn't have even bought the Catfish, but I figured I might as well get the 2/$5 deal, because I knew this Mark Fidrych -- numbered to FIVE COPIES! -- was coming home with me.

Like I said, it was a weird mix, probably as odd of a box as I've ever seen. Random 2008 Upper Deck and 2012 Topps base singles mixed in with Catfishes limited to ten copies and Birds numbered to five. Somehow it perfectly sums up the flea market, I think: unbelievable stuff hidden within unremarkable fodder.

If my first week's haul is any indication, I think I'm in for quite the fun flea market season here in 2018.