Thursday, July 19, 2018

Cheaper by the (dime box) dozen

Believe it or not, starting a blog has forced me to become a more organized collector.

I know "organization" is probably one of the last things that come to mind when you see what I collect, but things were a lot worse in my earlier days. I had no want lists and pretty much had to rely on my (imperfect) memory to know what I had and needed. And forget about setting my sights on specific cards: I already have enough to remember!

One of the first and greatest innovations I stole from the blogs was the advent of a small want list of specific cards, a la NO's "Nebulous 9" or Gavin's "Desperate Dozen" -- Gavin, in fact, recently sent me a hit from my own Dime Box Dozen with this '97 Topps Tony Gwynn, a common yet gaping hole in my Mr. Padre collection.

While Tony would've made me happy all on its own, Gavin threw in a few friends to accompany him to the Midwest.

I always love adding a new Big Mo to my collection, and that's my first Public Enemy card (can't say I'm much of a rap/hip-hop fan, but they're probably my favorite of the genre).

Gavin being Gavin, a couple excellent customs fell out of his latest envelope as well, honoring the two greatest oddball brands in the history of oddball brands (BRAVES HOYT!).

Greg of "The Collective Mind" also recently shot down a Dime Box Dozen suspect with this '83 Donruss Gene Garber.

It's not the most enthralling card ever made, but it was an odd gap in my Garber collection that I couldn't wait to patch up.

Also not one to send a Dime Box Dozen dude out all on its own, Greg threw a couple insert needs into the mix as well.

A gaggle of Hometown Heroes.

Here's a dilemma: what happens when a guy you collect turns out to be a total dunce?

I've collected Marlon Byrd since I got back into baseball cards over a decade ago. I considered dropping him from my catalog the first time he got busted for PEDs in 2012, but since he seemed apologetic enough, I let bygones be bygones and continued to chase his cardboard. But then he got busted a second time in 2016 and promptly retired. And that was the last anyone ever heard of Marlon Byrd.

So while I'll still keep stuff like this auto/jersey combo from Greg, I'd be lying if I said it didn't leave a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

Finally comes a PWE from "mr haverkamp," a prolific blog reader and a guy who I'm pretty sure I traded with during my forum days.

And just like Gavin and Greg before him, mr haverkamp managed to knock out a treasured Dime Box Dozen with this Rizzo here. This was one of Rizzo's first Cubs cards (I'm pretty sure that's an airbrushed Padres jersey), and it came out before I started collecting him.

To think: a time when I didn't collect Anthony Rizzo!

Dime Box Dozens must not like to travel alone: mr haverkamp sent along a few other needs along for the ride as well.


Last year's A&G had quite a few awesome insert sets, but it's been slow going as far as building them goes.

I only have about a quarter of the Dudes from 2017 A&G, and I think this snippet from A Tale of Two Cities is only the second or third from the "Required Reading" series I own -- an insert set pretty much made for me since I was an English major in college (chances are you'll find me reading when I'm not playing with my baseball cards).

Perhaps the most fun I get out of having a Dime Box Dozen list is crossing off those cherished cards I'm lucky enough to receive from fellow traders like Gavin, Greg, and mr haverkamp -- yet new wants always await.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Return of the Dime Box Frankenset(?)

1991 Score #884 Doug Jones

I've recently realized that I don't discuss my Dime Box Frankenset(s) much on the blog anymore, which is odd since this is probably the one specific, concrete project I'm working on amidst all the other randomness of my collection.

Granted, my frankenset is built around randomness, but it's a bit more of an organized chaos (if that makes any sense), and that's why I enjoy building it -- so much so that I now have two Dime Box Frankensets (kinda like major- and minor-league versions). Readers who've been with me for a while might remember the bracket I held a couple years back which culminated in the crowning of our first Frankenset King.

I started posting pages from my second Dime Box Frankenset shortly after, but they received little attention and eventually I scrapped the series altogether.

2016 Topps #688 Shawn Tolleson

But lately I've had a growing itch to bring back the frankenset.

For those who weren't around at the time or may have forgotten about those frankenset posts, it went like this: each week, I'd post a page of nine from my frankenset binder and leave a poll on the sidebar of the blog. At the end of the week, the card with the most votes from my readers would win the page and get thrown into the frankenset bracket I held after all the pages had been covered, and a new page would be posted and voted on, and so on.

I had a blast with those first frankenset posts, especially the interactive part of it. I want to bring them back either way (with pages from my Second Dime Box Frankenset), but I'm trying to gauge if the interest would still be there as far as the voting aspect of it goes. I don't really want to do it if I only get like 5-10 votes a week, but if we get a good number of people voting it really makes it a lot more fun (for me at least). 

I might change up the format a bit, but the general voting system would be the same if I were to bring back these frankenset posts.

1983 Topps #789 Bryan Clark

So whaddya think -- should there be a return of the Dime Box Frankenset?

While you consider, I thought I'd offer a refresher on how my own frankenset works. The one concise rule I have is that the only players eligible to be included are those who aren't already part of my standard team binders. Thus, most big stars are nixed, and as a result my frankenset provides a fun use for cards that wouldn't otherwise fit in my collection (which is the main reason why I'd urge everyone to start a frankenset of some kind).

My two frankensets are comprised of 666 cards each -- about the size of a standard Topps set and divisible by nine so it finishes up at the end of a nine-pocket page (plus the number 666 itself is memorable, for better or worse).

In short, here's a few of the main things that make a card a Frankenset Nominee (featuring high-numbers over #666 which, sadly, eliminates them from being in my binder, though I still enjoy keeping them around).

2002 Topps Total #671 Luis Alicea


This is where the bulk of my frankenset hopefuls come from: any card of a non-binder player that hits one of my many mini-collections is automatically eligible for inclusion.

1992 Upper Deck #701 Clemente Nunez
1992 Upper Deck #710 Ryan Turner

Historic cards...

These are fairly rare for my frankenset, since most historic cards are of bigger names and thus already included in my standard team binders.

But every once in a while I'll stumble across a more under-the-radar piece of cardboard history that doesn't fit anywhere else, and more often than not they end up making the frankenset. Examples are the two seen above, notable for the fact that they're the first-ever cards in the history of the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies.

Neither Clemente Nunez nor Ryan Turner ever ended up making the big leagues, but they'll always have this memorable claim to fame under their belts.

1993 Upper Deck #676 Howard Johnson 

On the flip side...

I don't make it a point to chase fun flip-side photos -- they don't often end up in my frankenset since I can't bear to put my cards backside-first in a binder -- but I'll always give them due consideration if a good one comes along.

(1993 UD is a goldmine for this sort of thing.)

1992 Stadium Club #676 Bill Pulsipher 

So bad, it's good...

Again, I don't try to chase just plain bad cards, but some are so horrible that you just have to pay attention to them, like the weird fashions that were apparently en vogue amongst rookies of the early 1990s.

1993 Topps #706 Sherard Clinkscales 

The name game...

I know absolutely nothing about Sherard Clinkscales other than the fact that his name is Sherard Clinkscales, and that alone makes him eligible for the frankenset.

1990 Upper Deck #696 Rick Reuschel

Everything else...

But the fact of the matter is that a lot of stuff ends up making my frankenset for the sheer reason that they're just great cards, even if they don't fit snugly into any of the categories I've just listed -- more often than not, these end up being some of my favorite frankensetters.

Were it not a dreaded high-number, you could almost bank on this one being in the frankenset. A fantastic pitching action shot with a blurred hitter in the foreground (and that blurred hitter is Greg Maddux!). If not for my frankenset, I wouldn't know what to do with it. And that's why I'm so thankful every day of my life that this frankenset has given me another part of my collection to admire and enjoy.

Again, if enough of you are interested in bringing back the old frankenset voting system, I'd love to get it going again -- but either way I'll probably return to posting pages from my binder in one form or another, because cards like these deserve to be recognized.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Blogging All-Stars

With the All-Star game just a few hours away, I find myself wondering what an All-Star team featuring the player collection focuses of the blogosphere might look like.

Either Hideo Nomo or Clayton Kershaw would have to be the starting pitcher, as per Night Owl. Seems like gcrl could provide the entire infield alone. Plus Hoyt would have to make the squad, right? And while Kennys Vargas isn't a household name, he'd have to get a spot on our roster (DH?), because he's the focus of one of the most determined player collection chases I've seen via Brian of "Highly Selective and Completely Arbitrary" fame.

Brian even sent me a stellar trade package recently, which included this excellent Coco Crisp mini, a strong nominee for the 'fro All-Star team should one ever come to pass.

Both of these parallels are player- and mini-collection hits for me (though insert parallels are kinda pointless, especially when said insert set already revolves around a single guy).

While he's never been an All-Star in real life, Josh Reddick should be in the Blogging All-Star mix somewhere.


A couple vintage beauties for the frankenset.

While my disdain for Hawk Harrelson is well documented, I'll be the first to admit that that's one fantastic baseball card.

Various 2018 needs of guys who've been All-Stars at one point or another.

It's still a supreme thrill to delete a large chunk of cards from my want lists, and Brian helped me indulge that enjoyment once again with the excellent mix he put together.

Brian just about knocked out the rest of my remaining 2013 Panini Hometown Heroes wants, though with the amount of this stuff I bought I'm frankly surprised I still needed any.

Brian's a big Joe Mauer collector, which makes the Minnesota Kid a good choice for catcher on our All-Star squad.

Both of these were want list hits, and both were doubly gratifying to cross off since I owned parallels of each without the regular base card.

Lastly, we have another annoying parallel-without-base-card want from Brian with this Matt Carpenter (the Target Red version was getting lonely in my Cardinals binder), a now-former Dime Box Dozen need crossed off the list.

Given the diverse amount of player collections alive and well in the blogosphere, I think our squad would have a good chance to take down the actual All-Star team -- but for now I'll just have to be content with the standard AL vs. NL matchup, I guess.

(Go National League.)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Top Five: Pete Rose

Today is the 48-year anniversary of Pete Rose's game-ending demolition of Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game.

Given how iconic the moment has become, it's a bit odd that this is the only card I own documenting the (in)famous feat -- which hails from the All-Pete, All-the-Time 1985 Galasso checklist, the only set I've ever completed by hand in a single dime box.

Few players cause me as much personal anguish as Pete Rose. I collect him because he's one of the all-time greats, the type of ballplayer I wish could be cloned and dropped into today's game. But Rose himself isn't the greatest human being, of course -- he bet on baseball and, worse, denied it for decades. He's one of those strange figures who cause me to ask myself Should I REALLY be collecting this guy? while I hoard his cards.

Even so, in honor (probably not the best word choice) of his game-winning collision with Mr. Fosse, I present my five favorite Petes from my collection.

#5 -- 1982 Fleer #640 "Pete & Re-Pete"

A fun card from early Fleer made more intriguing by the fact that Pete Rose Jr. played professional baseball for over two decades, all in the minors aside from a brief 11-game cup of coffee with his father's Reds in 1997.

#4 -- 1966 Topps #30 Pete Rose

Not a particularly enthralling card on the surface, but it is my oldest Rose and definitely deserves spot on this list because of that.

#3 -- 1985 Fleer #640 Pete Rose "Superstar Special"

One of the premier cards of my youth right here, and perhaps the one that kicked off my current fascination with Short Term Stops.

I vividly remember buying this gem from a short-lived LCS as a kid, and all throughout my childhood I could never quite grasp the fact that Pete Rose once played for the Expos. The Expos?! It's true, though -- Pete even collected his 4,000th career hit in Montreal, as this card indicates.

But much like my childhood self, I still just can't get used to the sight of Rose as an Expo.

#2 -- 1972 Topps #559 Pete Rose

Rose and the '72 Topps design were made for each other.

#1 -- 1974 Topps #300 Pete Rose

This isn't just my favorite Pete Rose card: it's one of my favorite vintage cards period.

I got a great deal on it at the flea market long ago (I think it was only a buck) and I've been hopelessly in love ever since. This, to me, is Rose (and the Big Red Machine as a whole, for that matter) summed up in one image. Faking a bunt, a look of mischief on his face, ready to outsmart the opponent.

It's vintage Topps at its absolute finest, and the single best card, I think, from Pete Rose's long and controversial career.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Rooting for the enemy

It's a bit jarring when a guy I like ends up playing for a team I dislike (or at least one I'm supposed to dislike).

Perhaps the most prime example of this in today's game is one Eric Thames. Honestly, I'm a bit of a closet Brewers fan, but I can't root for them given their tight division race with my beloved Cubs. But I do root for Mr. Thames regardless, and it causes me a fair amount of anguish given that I really shouldn't want him to do well as long as he's a Brewer.

I'm always a fan of players coming overseas to play in the States, and I'm even more of a fan of once-failed MLBers who found success in other lands and came back to the States like Thames, a one-time Blue Jays bust who posted Ruthian numbers in Korea before joining the Brewers last season.

As if that weren't enough, Thames also received one of the best cards of the year in Heritage, which was graciously sent to me by a reader named Joey.

This isn't the first time Joey has sent me cards, and while there was nothing like an Ernie Banks auto this time around, he did still deliver a fine mix of cardboard.

In addition to the Thames, Joey helped whittle down my 2018 Heritage needs with this quartet, including a couple SPs with the Leake and Freese (and we all know how much of a pain Heritage SPs can become over time).

A couple notches in my yearly quest to complete Heritage's Baseball- and News Flashback insert series.

A gaggle of other 2018 insert needs, including a "Superstar Sensations" Judge on a design which reminds me of a defective windshield wiper.

I'm so behind on my trades that a second package recently arrived from Joey before I managed to post the first one.

Among the more recent gets was this pair of minis, which helped remind me of my many fond childhood memories of watching Cheap Seats on ESPN Classic.

Hasn't been much fun rooting for this guy so far this year, but I still collect him regardless.

A fun batch of Cubs who I've rooted for at various times in my baseball life (I was five when Ryno retired, but I probably cheered for him at some point even if I don't remember it).

I picked up a few other 2018 Finests at the card show I attended last week, but this package from Joey was my first look at it.

Not much to say about the design -- as is par for the course from Finest -- but I do appreciate the kickstart on the Bryant rainbow!

If baseball as a whole has an enemy, it might be Bryce Harper.

I don't think there's a more polarizing figure in the game right now. Depending on who you talk to, he's either saving baseball or ruining it. I'm somewhere in the middle: while I'm not as much of a Harper fan as I once was, I do still collect him, and this nifty insert does double duty as a player collection add and a hit to my Jackie Robinson Day theme.

Case in point that it's not always easy being a sports fan -- sometimes you find yourself rooting for the enemy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The curious case of Scott Kazmir

I received my latest order from Just Commons Card Barrel this afternoon, and the card you see above was one of the most anticipated pieces of my purchase.

On the surface, it doesn't look like anything special -- nothing more than a new base card of an aging pitcher in Scott Kazmir. But if you dig a little deeper, I'd say that this one seemingly insignificant piece of cardboard sums up almost everything that has gone haywire at Topps HQ as of late.

First off, there is absolutely no reason Scott Kazmir should be getting a card in Series 2. He didn't pitch at all in 2017 due to injury and was released by the Braves in spring training of this year (he's still unsigned). It's even more strange when you consider the fact that Kazmir never played a game for the Braves. So in other words, Topps photoshopped a guy into a uniform which he never actually wore (and not a particularly good photoshop job, to boot).

Now, I admit I wanted this card, but that's because I'm a weirdo who collects things like this. I'll be the first to acknowledge that this isn't something that should exist in the first place. Series 2 was plagued with guys who hadn't played in a single game in 2018. You know I love my sunset cards, but those should be for Series 1, if anything. Series 2 should chronicle big-league rosters as they stand at the beginning of each respective season.

There are several possibilities as to how this card came into existence at all, none of which are particularly pleasing. Perhaps, a) Topps finalized their Series 2 checklist too early to remove Kazmir. My answer to that would be to push back the set's release date so you don't have screw-ups like this. Or maybe, b) Topps knew Kazmir was in the checklist and neglected to do anything about it, which I don't think I have to explain why that's scary.

And just when you thought the madness ended there...

...we have the back of this fascinating piece.

Check out that 2017 stat line: "Did Not Player -- Injured." Wait: Did Not Player?  PLAYER? If you need a proofreader, Topps, I'm open to job offers. (Only half kidding.)

From what I've seen, 2018 seems to be an especially horrid year for Topps typos. I've seen many discussed thus far, though none as egregious as the back of Brandon Marrow's (sic) Living Set card. Quality control in general seems to be way down this year, sacrificed for the need of getting the cards to the streets ASAP (and that's saying nothing about the fact that Topps still hasn't fixed the collation issues I've had in years past).

I'm not saying any of these problems are new. Of course Topps has had typos, odd player choices, etc. sprinkled throughout their sets in years past. I've just never seen it all so (im)perfectly coalesce into one card before. And it doesn't look particularly good given Topps's recent charges of laziness and apathy.

Especially when that laziness comes while you have a monopoly on the industry.

Friday, July 6, 2018

When Twitter doesn't completely suck

I'm not a gigantic fan of social media, which I guess makes me a bit of a hypocrite since I am in fact on a couple forms of social media.

I've been on Facebook since high school, but Twitter's only been in my life for the last four years or so. I've tried to make Twitter a baseball-only source of news (key word there is tried), and there are a lot of great card collectors over there, but by and large I feel like one of those people at a party who's always uncomfortable and just stands by the wall or watches TV all night (so not much different than my day-to-day life, really).

I will say, however, that one of the benefits of Twitter is that people do sometimes just send you cards for the heck of it: a kind chap named Nick (@vossbrink) recently sent me this excellent Mother's Cookies Goose -- a semi-white whale of mine since it's Gossage's first and only card as a Giant (that I know of).

I've also gotten a bit addicted lately to card sales on Twitter since there always seem to be a handful going on (a welcome break from all the high-end hitz and contest retweets).

I got these dueling Lesters on the cheap from a card sale run by a fellow collector named Hunter (@bravescards5).

These nifty Cubs also came from Hunter's sale, including a spiffy pink Dexter Fowler (the borders really pop in person) and a purple Toys 'R' Us parallel of uber-bust Josh Vitters.

I found myself sucked into another cheap card sale recently, this one run by a guy named Shane (@SportsManiaCard).

Unlike most online sales where stuff is overpriced and/or you pay a fortune in shipping, the ones I frequent are quite affordable: I think these two parallel beauties were a slim 50 cents a pop.

Took care of some Opening Day insert needs as well (is that Hideki Matsui high-fiving Reggie Jackson?!).

A page full of Mo!

I pounced all over this Robin Yount box bottom for loose change, because one should always buy box bottoms when they're available for loose change.

So there: Twitter may sometimes kill brain cells, cause lost faith in humanity, and convince you that today's society can only communicate through GIFs, but hey -- at least you might get some cards out of it.