Wednesday, February 29, 2012

If you could revive one set, it would be...

I asked myself this question today, and now I'm posing it to all my readers.

If you could pick any single set to revive, what would it be?

If you would've asked me this last year, it you'd get a quick answer.

Topps Archives. No contest.

However, since Topps is set to bring Archives back in May (although with a different concept), I had to come up with a new response. I still didn't have to think much about this one, either.

Topps Total, a.k.a the low-end collector's dream set.

Topps Total had its last hurrah just before I started to seriously get into baseball cards again. I remember picking up a few packs of it in late 2005, but I haven't seen it on the shelves since.

The packs were the best thing about the set. You could get a ten-card pack for a mere 99 cents. And it was the same year-in and year-out. It never changed.

These days, Topps Opening Day is the last 99-cent pack out there, but it doesn't hold a torch to Topps Total.

Last year's Topps Opening Day base set was comprised of 220 cards. There were some surprisingly nice insert sets in last year's product, but that's not typical of Opening Day.

For that same 99 cents, you got ten cards from a Topps Total's debut set in 2002 that contained a whopping 990 cards.

You read it right. Nine hundred and ninety cards.

That's unheard of in today's world. The three base Topps sets have that many cards combined.

While it's a nightmare for set collectors, Topps Total is a team and player collector's dream. Especially if you collect obscure guys like Tim Spooneybarger, as I do.

Mid-to-top tier player in today's game don't have very many cards at all. Perhaps a base card in the flagship set, but that's usually it.

But Topps Total had 'em all. Chances are that if they stepped foot on a baseball field the previous year, they had a card in Topps Total.

Topps Total's initial release came in 2002.

There are a few rookie gems scattered among the mammoth base set. Bobby Jenks, David Wright, and Jason Bay (shown above) all made their cardboard debuts in 2002, and they all have rookie cards in Topps Total's base set.

Jason Bay jumped around quite a bit early on in his career. He was drafted by the Expos, traded to the Mets (where Topps Total was quick to provide an updated photo), then to the Padres (for whom he'd appear in a few games for), then to the Pirates, where he'd blossom into a star.

While the rookies are nice and all, I love the array of players in the base set. I doubt guys like Jung Bong and Brad Cresse got much attention in the cardboard community, but they both have cards in this set. (I'm just grabbing a few names from the checklist as I go. Hence, Jung Bong.)

I don't remember hearing much about the '02 Topps Total set. Since I was ten at the time, I thought I would've jumped all over these 99-cent packs, but I don't remember buying any.

Topps Total's 2003 offering is by personal favorite from their four-year run.

I love the fact that the border on the right side of every card corresponds to the team featured. (Green for the A's, red for the Angels, etc.)

That's something that I wish Topps would experiment with nowadays.

2003 Topps Total was almost an exact replica of its '02 offering. The base set was still 990 cards. As with the '02 set, there were still a couple insert sets, but the gigantic base set was the main draw.

At the time, Aaron Harang was virtually unknown. He pitched in just 16 games for the A's in 2002, but he got a card nevertheless.

The 2003 set did have one major improvement, though...

Behold the almighty Topps Total Silver parallels.

They're still among my favorite parallel sets of all-time, even though it's just a simple silver border. Topps flagship had been using their gold parallels for a few years once this set hit the shelves.

There's just something about that silver border that works extremely well with the base designs. I'm not sure what it is, though.

As I mentioned in my first-ever card show post, one of the dime boxes I went through had a big stack of these silver parallels inside. I had a blast going through them.

One of my favorites from the '03 silver parallels is this one of the late Cory Lidle. I like those Blue Jays hats for some reason.

Although they weren't the main focus of the set, Topps Total did have some really cool inserts in their first couple years.

The scans don't do these justice. They look a lot better in-person.

Topps Total was back again in '04. 

Although the set shrunk to "just" 880 cards, it still had all the glory of its previous releases.

One thing that Topps Total was really good at was providing updated player photos. Vladimir Guerrero was in his first year as an Angel in '04, but Topps managed to snag a photo of him in an Angels uniform in time for Total's release.

The backs from the 2004 Topps Total set are among my favorite card backs ever.

The base cards again match colors with the featured team. (I'm not sure that's ever been done since Topps Total.)

I never learned how to play the game that was featured on the back of these cards, but it's still a nice idea. You could tell that Topps had kids in mind when they released Topps Total, both with the cheap packs and the game on the back.

That's always a plus in my book.

Sadly, 2005 was Topps Total's final release.

They weren't much different from the '04 set. They still had the game on the back. They still had the "Topps Tracker" bits of info. They brought back the team-matching colored borders for the card fronts that were featured in the '03 set.

And they were still 99 cents per pack.

The base set shrunk again in '05, this time down to 770 cards. 

Topps Total still had the silver parallels until the end.

They were still great.

Although I'd really like to see it, I don't have much hope that Topps Total (or anything similar to it) will ever be revived. I can't imagine it's much of a "money-maker", after all.

But to the low-end collector like me, it has everything I'd ever want in a set of baseball cards.

What I like best about Topps Total is that it didn't care if you were Albert Pujols or Tim Spooneybarger.

You still got your picture on a piece of cardboard.

(Happy leap day, by the way.)

Dime Box Heroes: An icon

1999 Sports Illustrated Greats of the Game #88 Mark Fidrych

In my life, I've looked through thousands and thousands of dime box cards.

Of those thousands of cards, there's a fraction of them that have come home with me. And of those cards, there are those very special few that are in a class of their own in my collection.

This is one of those special few.

I couldn't tell you what my absolute favorite dime box find ever was, but I know this card would be in the "Top Ten" if I ever took the time to actually sit down and make a list.

This card came from one of the most spectacular dime boxes I've ever had the privilege of going through. It was at the National Card Convention this past August. In terms of the numbers of dime boxes, I didn't find there to be too much of a difference between the National and the regular show they hold in that hall twice a year. 

The awesomeness of the dime boxes at the National, however, was a whole different story. There's levels of dime box cards I need, you see. There's cards I want. There's cards I really want. Then there's the "Oh my God" kind of cards that come along every once in a while.

The National had a lot of those "Oh my God" cards.

One particular table stands out in my memory. This guy's dime boxes had quite a few of the "Oh my God" kind of cards. And to top it all off, they weren't even a dime. They were 12/$1. There were about three or four of those big boxes that hold about a thousand cards, and I looked through each and every one. (Am I crazy?)

I managed to find a Ryan Zimmerman Sweet Spot rookie card in that box. A card of value and one that I really wanted. The guy also had a bunch of base cards from Topps Fan Favorites that I needed, one of my all-time favorite sets.

But what set this dime box apart from all the others that day was the stack of 1999 SI Greats of the Game cards I found inside. From my experience, these cards are a bit tougher to come by. Before the National, I only had a small handful of cards from the set.

It really is a great set. There's a few others from that dime box that I already have in mind for later "Dime Box Heroes" posts.

This Fidrych card was definitely the highlight of that dime box, if not the entire National itself.

Speaking of dime boxes, I'd just like to take a moment to say that I'm glad this blog has inspired at least a few of my fellow bloggers to dig into a dime box here and there at their local shows. They really can get lost in the shuffle with the more pricey stuff at card shows. There may be some better cards out there, but nothing is more rewarding than finding that one card you really want out of a simple dime box.

Nothing beats finding a dime card of "The Bird".

If I could go back in time to one point in post-WWII baseball history, I'd go back to 1976 so I could see Mark Fidrych. Almost everything I know about Fidrych comes from my dad's stories. The amazing hype. The effervescent personality. His nationally-televised complete-game victory against the Yankees.

Fidrych's '77 Topps rookie is arguably the most iconic card of the 1970's, if not one of the most iconic in baseball history. That card is imprinted in the memories of almost every single kid who grew up during that era.

"The Bird" himself is one of the most lovable figures in baseball history. I don't know that we'll ever see a baseball player quite like Mark Fidrych ever again.

For me, this card represents one of the most memorable years in baseball history, capturing a great moment of the man that was the forefront of the baseball world at the time.

I'll take this card over one of those high-end "glass case" cards that I always see.

I wouldn't even have to think about it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 22: 1989 Upper Deck #145 Nolan Ryan

1989 Upper Deck changed the hobby forever.

It's up to you decide whether it was for the better or worse.

Top-notch photography, great color separation, and a glossy-like card stock that collectors had never previously seen the likes of. The holograms on the back of each card prevented counterfeiting, a problem that had run rampant in the years leading up to Upper Deck's first release.

Not to mention that it was pretty much the first set to be considered "high-end". In card shops, the 49-cent packs of Topps, Donruss, and Fleer looked primitive compared to the bourgeois 99-cent Upper Deck product.

It's easy to see why when I look at this Nolan Ryan card.

I wish Topps could give these double-image shots a revival. Upper Deck's not around anymore to do it, of course. They're kind of gimmicky, but I like them. It gives the collector a different look.

It must've seemed especially fascinating compared with the slightly drab issues from the other major card companies in '89.

By the time this card was released, Ryan's days as an Astro were over.

He signed with the Rangers in December of '88 after having a slightly down year (for him) in Houston, going 12-11 with a 3.52 ERA. He'd pitch the final two of his record seven no-hitters with the Rangers.

In terms of Nolan Ryan's career, this card marks the end of an era.

But as far as the hobby goes, it represents a new chapter.

Walking off

This is the first post in a while that wasn't pre-planned.

I've somehow came up with a decent-sized batch of ideas for posts these last few weeks, and I've just been running off the backlog of those ideas since.

Yesterday's "lemonade" post was the last from that batch.

I guess it's time to hit the binders in search for some new ideas. I picked the Rockies binder by chance after getting home from class this afternoon, and it gave me an idea for a few of my favorite "celebration" cards.

I have to admit, I really like the base cards from 2012 Topps. I like simple designs, and this year's flagship definitely has a back-to-basics approach to it. (Topps has done pretty will with this in the last few years.)

But what makes the base cards great is the photography. As I've said before, the theme seems to be celebrations.

And no celebration is greater than the walk-off home run.

There may be more, but here's a few of my favorite "celebration" shots.

In 2005, Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes smaked a walk-off home run off of Trevor Hoffman on Opening Day. He was well on his way to capturing the NL Rookie of the Year award in '05 until he tripped and injured his shoulder, putting him out of commission for the rest of the season.

He's never been quite the same since.

In a memorable Coors Field moment, this shot captures the aftermath of Barmes's homer, although the shot is slightly obscured by the umpire.

Ah, that's better.

Just a sea of Mariner blue. No umpires.

I love the excitement that Griffey shows on this card (near the center). He's like a kid again.

This is also one of my personal favorite night cards. On the night of September 18, 2009, Ichiro blasted a walk-off homer to give the M's the win. The homer came off of none other than stud closer Mariano Rivera.

One thing that I never knew about until I started reading blogs was being able to date cards. I'd never even thought about it before. Ones like these are pretty easy to find, but I've seen some crazy analysis from a few bloggers that were able to nail it down to a single moment in baseball history with very little info.

Just another benefit to reading all the great blogs out there!

Oops. Wait, wrong one.

That's actually kind of creepy.

There we go.

I'm a big fan of the black-background cards Wal-Mart has issued in the last few years, but it just doesn't work for a few of them. Notably, this one.

The only walk-off home run that I could find during Orlando Cabrera's days in Cincinnati was the one he hit on May 5, 2010, against the New York Mets.

Cabrera hit a solo homer in the bottom of the tenth to win it for the Reds that day.

I'm not sure that any single play in sports is more exciting than the walk-off home run.

You just can't beat it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

From the unlikeliest of sources

This is one of my favorite cards.

And you'd never guess where it came from.

A card show? Nope. 

How about a card shop? Uh-uh.

A friend gave it to me? I bought it online? I found it on the street? No, no, and although that would've been cool, no.

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure that any of my baseball cards have a better story attached to them than this one.

I will tell you that this was a dime box find, sort of. I wasn't the one that found it, either. My dad was actually the one that found this card for me. 

A few summers ago, he came across some kids with one of those homemade lemonade stands that you see all the time. Although I never tried it in my younger years, I'm sure it's a great way to make a few bucks when you're eight years old.

Anyways, this wasn't like any other lemonade stand. 

This lemonade stand had baseball cards.

To my surprise, my dad came home with a big pile of random cards for me from that stand. (He bought some lemonade too, of course.)

I couldn't believe it when I came across a 1960 Topps Whitey Ford in the stack. When it comes to the condition on my vintage cards, my motto is "Who cares? It's (insert player name here)!"

In this case, it's "Who cares? It's Whitey Ford!"

It's got some tape residue, it's creased, and the corners aren't great.

But it's fifty-two years old, and it's a Hall of Famer. Good enough for me!

My dad told me that the whole stack of cards cost just two bucks. Two bucks!

This one is definitely one of the cornerstones of my vintage collection. It's mind-boggling that a card like this wound up at some kid's lemonade stand.

This hobby never ceases to surprise me.

"Short Term Stops", #8: Bert Campaneris

1984 Topps #139 Bert Campaneris (Yankees)

This is among the most interesting of all the "short term stops" cards I own.

Bert Campaneris had an illustrious career. He was the shortstop of the famous "Swingin' A's" teams of the 1970's. He hit two homers in his first major league game, including one in his first at-bat off of Jim Kaat.

He played all nine positions in a game in 1965, pitching ambidextrously during his inning on the mound. 

He was a six-time All-Star. He led the league in stolen bases on six different occasions. (He held the A's stolen base record until some guy named Rickey Henderson broke it.) 

However, when you talk about Bert Campaneris, his infamous "bat throw" incident is bound to come up.

"Campy" was lighting up the opposing Tigers pitching staff during the 1972 ALCS. (He'd finish with a .429 batting average in the series.)

On what was probably a purpose pitch, Tigers pitcher Lerrin LaGrow hit Campaneris in the ankle during Game 2 of the series.

In one of the wildest scenes ever witnessed on a baseball field, Campaneris got up and flung his bat towards LaGrow. 

Had LaGrow not ducked, the bat would've easily caught him dead on. Both benches emptied.

Tigers manager Billy Martin was so irate that he tried going after Campaneris himself, but was held back by teammates and umpires.

Campaneris was suspended for the rest of the ALCS and the first seven games of the next season. (He was allowed to play in the '72 World Series against the Reds.)

So why is this "short term stops" card so unlikely?

In 1983, the Yankees found themselves in need of some infield depth, so they signed Campaneris. He had spent all of the 1982 season in the Mexican League. 

He'd fill in nicely in a utility role, hitting .322 in 143 at-bats in his final year in the big leagues.

And who was the manager of the '83 Yankees?

None other than Billy Martin, the guy who had to be restrained from going after "Campy" eleven years earlier.

It's funny how baseball works out sometimes, isn't it?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Trying new things

I guess it's fitting that this will be another movie-related post while the Oscars are on. (Not that I'm actually watching it.) I don't know what it is with me and movies these past few days, but I've found they make great tie-ins with cards.

When it comes to my baseball cards, I can get kind of anal-retentive.

I haven't changed how my cards are organized since I started collecting baseball cards again back around 2006. Still the same. If I were to change it now, it would throw me all out of whack, so I don't see a time in the future where I'll ever do a mass reorganization.

My binders are grouped by teams, each one filled with players that I've personally hand-picked. It's not really based on anything specific. It's just who I like, pretty much.

Ever since I re-started my baseball card collection, I haven't made a lot of new additions to the "binders". It's pretty much been the same guys from when I first started collecting. New additions are rare. (We'll get to that Matt Morre card later on in this post.)

I've found that it's pretty much the same with my taste in movies.

Sometimes I think that I've seen every good movie out there. Until this weekend, the last non-newly released movie I can remember really enjoying was "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". We watched it in my high school psychology class one day.

I thought to myself, "Why haven't I seen this movie before?" I love psychology (I'm even planning on changing my major to psychology in the near future), and it's a classic film. I'm even planning on writing a paper later this semester for my current psychology class on that film.

This weekend, I've watched two movies that I've never seen before. And both were fantastic.

I can't remember the last time that happened.

As I've mentioned before, there haven't been a lot of new movies that I've been dying to see in the last few years.

On Friday, I saw the newly-released movie "Goon". It came out "On Demand" on Friday, over a month before it comes out in theaters.

Even though I don't collect the cards anymore, I'm still a hockey fan. "Goon" is pretty much what you'd expect it to be about, a guy who gets into hockey because he's got a newfound talent for beating people to a pulp. (It's actually based off a true story.)

I was expecting the movie to be pretty good, but it blew me away. It was that good. It had one of the best final scenes of any movie I've seen in a really long time.

I'll probably go see it again when it gets released in theaters.

Last night, I saw another movie I haven't seen before. However, this movie has been around for quite some time now, and I was surprised it took me until yesterday to see it.

After my dad read my post about how much I enjoyed a simple dinner with a few of my friends, he recommended that I see "Diner".

"The Baseball Card Snob" also left a comment on that post saying that I might enjoy this movie, so I figured it was at least worth a watch.

I'm glad I did.

See, unlike a lot of people my age, I'm a big fan of dialogue-based movies. I don't like movies with something exciting happening every second or movies with twenty different plot twists. I just want good conversations that would seem like something you or I would talk about with our friends. (It's a big reason why I love the movie "Clerks" so much.)

"Diner" is a fantastic movie, filled with tons of great dialogue. (I especially liked the argument over the roast beef sandwich.) It had a great soundtrack to boot, since it's set in 1959.

I've been thinking lately that I should expand my horizons a bit with my movie choices. Maybe try out some movies I wouldn't have ever thought to watch before.

"Diner" only strengthened those thoughts.

I've been having similar thoughts when it comes to my baseball cards as well.

Until about a year ago, I hadn't welcomed any new guys into the "binders" for quite some time. I figured it was about time I changed things up a bit.

Matt Moore is the newest addition to the binders. I'm a big Rays fan, and it looks like he might be one of their key pieces for the future.

Next to the Cubs, the Angels are my favorite team. If Mike Trout lives up to his potential, then baseball could have a new superstar on its hands.

It's hard to believe that he's only about a year older than I am.

I have to admit, the "liquorfractors" have been growing on me lately. I like the Gold Sparkles from 2012 Topps, but I find myself wishing for the diamond parallels from last year more and more.

I originally put this card up for trade after I pulled it, but I decided that I wouldn't be able to part with it. The throwback Angels uniform that Trout is sporting on this card is just too cool.

So I decided Mike Trout would be a nice addition to the binders.

I've found that I'm a little more lenient when it comes to letting rookies into the binder. I'm not trying to do any "prospecting" by any means.

These are just a few guys I like who happen to be prospects.

Josh Collmenter was one of the starters when I went up to Milwaukee to see a Brewers-D'Backs game this past summer.

His delivery is even crazier to watch in person.

Paul Goldschmidt is one of the biggest ballplayers I've ever seen. The grand slam he hit in the NLDS last year cemented his spot in the hallowed "binders".

New additions aren't just limited to prospects, however.

I recently decided to begin collecting cards of Ryan Dempster.

To tell you the truth, I'm not quite sure why I didn't already collect him. He's an easy-going guy, he's a prankster, and he's a Cub.

What else do I need?

Night Owl isn't going to like this one, but I also decided to start collecting Brian Wilson recently.

He seems like a good guy. I'd much rather have a Wilson-like "character" than a Manny Ramirez-type "character" any day.

I was looking for him in the crowd of players during that Phillies-Giants brawl last year.

If there's one guy you wouldn't want to get into a fight with, it's probably Brian Wilson.

Heath Bell seems like one of the nicest guys in baseball right now.

Not to mention that he's one of the finest closers in the game. I look forward to seeing what he's going to do in Miami this year.

Now I've just got to find a card of him on the Mets...

Carlos Pena is the one who triggered this whole change in my collection.

I finally decided to break down and let a new player into my binder about a year ago. That player was Pena.

I've got over a hundred cards of his now. I don't know how I did it, though.

I'm sure all of our collections have changed in the last few years or so. As collectors, it keeps us motivated. Most of all, it keeps us interested. A little change never hurts.

I've found that with baseball cards, as in life, change can be a good thing. 

Dime Box Heroes: The more the merrier

2000 Topps "21st Century Topps" #C-9 Vladimir Guerrero

I'm sure there's at least one player that seems to follow us wherever we go.

That one guy that always seems to be in every pack you buy. That one creepy guy.

As far as packs go, I have "that guy". Evan Longoria. The guy's in everything I buy. It became apparent to me early on, because I pulled two of his 2008 Topps Chrome rookies when they were commanding righteous bucks.

However, I collect Evan Longoria, so bring 'em on. I have no problem pulling card after card of his.

This concept of a player "following" you extends to dime boxes as well. Dozens and dozens of cards of that one player.

For me, that guy is Vladimir Guerrero, without a doubt. I seem to find a few cards of his in every dime box I go through. One of the dime boxes that I looked through last year might well have had "Vlad-o-rama" marked on the front of it. About a quarter of the box was all Vlad cards. (I came away with about 75 cards of Vladdy from that one box.)

I don't mind that "Vlad the Impaler" follows me. I don't mind it one bit. He's still probably my favorite player in the game right now. (It's a toss-up between him and Ichiro.)

I currently own more cards of Vlad than any other player in my collection. An official investigation that I conducted a couple minutes ago shows that I have 580 different cards of Vladimir Guerrero. 

You can chalk up about a third of that total to dime boxes I've gone through over the years. He seems to be in all of them.

There's a couple hundred Vlad cards that I had to choose from for this post, but I decided on that awesome 2000 Topps insert. It's definitely one of the neatest cards I've scanned thus far.

I hope that Vlad continues to follow me in my future dime box "quests".

Maybe there's another five-hundred-and-eighty Vladimir Guerrero cards in my future.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 21: 1990 Topps #278 Pascual Perez


Pascual Perez sported some mean Jheri-curls in his day. (I always thought it was spelled "Jerry curls" until I looked it up.)

What the heck happened with hair in the 1980's? Anyone that invested in hairspray back then must've made a fortune.

A few weeks ago, I looked through some boxes under my bed. All the boxes have stuff from the overproduction era inside, mainly early '90s Topps cards. I thought I might find one or two cards I could use for the GOJW series.

One of the boxes was all 1990 Topps. As I flipped through each card, I realized just how bland the set is. Not a great design, and next to no action shots. I'd say that it was probably Topps' worst offering in its 61-year history.

However, this card made me laugh. I don't know too much about Perez, but I do know that he had quite an interesting personality. He'd dance on the mound and sprint off the field after the end of an inning (a lot like Jose Lima).

I guess his hair matches his personality.

There's some good "hair" cards out there, but this one takes the cake.

I can't think of a better one.

You won't find these in dime boxes

Up to this point, I haven't shown many game used or autograph cards on this blog.

I've done that for a reason. I'm a low-end collector these days, and this blog is called "Dime Boxes", after all.

That reminds me of a quick side story before I get into the main part of this post. I may have brought it up before in one of my previous posts, but I did actually find an autograph card in a dime box once. I can't remember who the guy was, but it was one of those more common autos from the mid-'90s Leaf Signature sets. Still, it was quite a shock when I was going through that stack of cards.

It was in one of the dime boxes at my local flea market. I thought for sure there was some mistake here. I brought it to the vendor who put those boxes out and said, "Hey, I found an autograph in here. That's not supposed to be in there, is it?"

The guy let me have it for a dime anyways. (It was the "flea market guy" that I brought up in my card show posts from a couple weeks ago.)

Anyways, adding new memorabilia cards to my collection isn't a top priority for me right now, to say the least. I can't remember the last one I bought at a show.

However, I still cherish the ones that are already in my collection. A few of them are definitely among my all-time favorite baseball cards. My dad got me a couple great game used cards this past Christmas that I love.

As I mentioned in my last post, there was about a year-long period in my freshman days of high school when I lived and breathed memorabilia cards. That's when I acquired most of the cards I'm about to show you.

I can't say for certain, but the Scott Podsednik autograph at the top of this post is what may have touched that off. To this day, it's probably still the best card I've ever pulled from a pack. My family went to St. Louis for a trip one summer. The main event was seeing a Cardinals-Cubs game one of the nights we were there.

While we were in St. Louis, we stopped at one of the malls over there. One of the stores must've had some packs of 2004 Topps Cracker Jack, so I picked up a couple. At the time, I loved Scott Podsednik (and still do), so to pull that one out of a pack was simply amazing.

It topped off a great vacation.

John Olerud is another of my favorite players, and this is probably my favorite card of his.

I think I only paid about four bucks for this card.

What a steal!

However, the main part of my memorabilia collection is my HOF/retired game used and autos.

Most of these don't come cheap, which is the main reason why I stopped going after them for the most part.

Plus, I've acquired at least one memorabilia card of almost all of my favorite post-WWII guys (barring the uber-expensive guys like Mantle, Ted Williams, etc.).

I don't have many HOF/retired autographs, but this "Mad Hungarian" Sweet Spot autograph is probably my favorite. I've always liked those Sweet Spot autographs.

Plus, how often do you come across a piece of Al Hrabosky memorabilia?

In the binder that I keep these cards in, I have a nine-pocket page with my nine favorite game-used cards.

This Rod Carew card made it into that page.

Now that's a patch if I've ever seen one.

Here's some more from that page:

This is one of the best designs I've seen on a game-used card.

I never thought I'd own a jersey card of "Stan the Man", but I nabbed this one for around ten bucks during my memorabilia collecting years.

Plus, I love the feel of those old flannel jerseys.

With dime cards, I don't usually like ones that feature multiple players.

But when it comes to memorabilia cards, the more the merrier!

I bought this card for the Hank Greenberg portion. The other guys were just a bonus.

Okay, now we're into my top three favorite memorabilia cards.

This one comes in at #3.

Numbered to only nine copies, this card features a couple of the main assembly parts of "The Big Red Machine" with Bench and Morgan, and a later Reds great with Tom Seaver.

Except for the few printing plates I own, this is my lowest-numbered card.

The base cards in Triple Threads have never really blown me away.

This one sure does.

It's tough for me to decide between these last two.

It was tough, but I decided that Dizzy Dean comes in at #2.

This was a birthday gift from my dad a few years ago. I can't even begin to tell you how great of a birthday gift that was.

Dizzy Dean is one of the most interesting figures from all of baseball history.

I still can't believe that I actually own part of a jersey that he once wore.

But what could be better than this card, you ask?


This one.

My all-time favorite memorabilia card.

I've had it for a few years now, and I'm still at a loss for words whenever I see it.

This was also a gift from my dad, this time for Christmas, I believe. God knows I never would've had enough money to buy it, especially in high school.

Personally, I think Ty Cobb is the most interesting baseball player ever. Despicable, sure. But the way he lived life and the way he played baseball is just amazing to me.

I still think he's the greatest hitter in baseball history.

It's hard to pick an absolute favorite card from my collection, but this one would definitely be in contention.


Card companies have gotten way too carried away with the whole memorabilia thing in the past five years or so.

Although I don't collect them much anymore, I still love going through that binder with all the game used and autograph cards that I've bought over the years.

It still feels like I'm holding pieces of baseball history.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Surviving the hobby

We were all kids at one point.

I'm sure baseball cards were a large part of our childhoods as well, as I don't know of many people who all of a sudden dove into the hobby in their twenties or thirties.

Nope, most of our interest in baseball cards go all the way back to our preteen years. Perhaps we even have a few cards left from those "glory days".

I've said it before, but each generation of card collecting has those few "iconic" cards that come to represent the era.

For many of my fellow bloggers who have a few years on me, I'm sure that this Kurt Bevacqua card is one of those. Bevacqua was a marginal player in the '70s, at best.

But a whole generation of baseball card collectors came to know who he was, and perhaps laugh whenever they heard his name or saw this card.

"He's the guy who won that bubble gum contest!"

Ah, the simple pleasures of being a kid.

As far as my collecting history goes, this card stands above all.

This is the first really "cool" card I can remember getting. At the time, I didn't know this card had some value to it or that it was highly sought after.

It was just a cool, old card.

My grandma became a big Steve Garvey fan when she moved to San Diego in the '80s. Over the years, she's assembled a few pieces of Garvey memorabilia. She's been nice enough to hand a few of these memoirs to me over the years.

The first one I remember getting was this '71 Topps Garvey, his rookie card. I remember it was in one of those screw-down holders when she gave it to me, although I've since removed it.

I couldn't have been more than ten or eleven years old when I got this card.

Because of my grandma, I've begun a small Steve Garvey collection in the last few years, all built around this card.

Another all-too-common tale I've heard from many other collectors is the famous "teenage collecting hiatus".

In the past, it might have been because your parents threw your cards out. But for one reason or another, most collectors stopped collecting cards altogether during their high school and/or college years.

Which is understandable, due to everything else that goes on in one's life during their adolescent years and early-twenties. Plus, money can get tight once you're on your own, with not a lot left over for any luxuries like baseball cards.

When Joe Nuxhall made his major-league debut, he was just 15 years old. The more I think about it, the more fascinating it is. The guy pitched against Stan Musial when he was just fifteen years old!

When I was fifteen, there weren't many things that I knew for certain. As we all know, the four years in high school can be life-altering, for good and bad.

However, when I was fifteen, I knew that I still wanted to collect baseball cards. Unlike many other collectors I've heard from, I still collected with as much enthusiasm as my younger days during those four great years of high school.

I've often asked myself one question:


Why didn't I get bored with it? Why did baseball cards still find a special place in my life during those crazy years?

To tell you the truth, I don't know. Maybe it's because I needed that one constant presence with all the new people I was meeting and all the things changing around me.

Maybe it kept me occupied in my spare time and out of getting into some bad things that a lot of high school kids manage to fall into during their adolescence.

Or maybe it's just because I love baseball that much.

I like to think it's that last one.

That's not to say that my collection didn't change in high school.

Night Owl said some gracious things about me and my blog in one of his recent posts, which are much appreciated by this "dime box" collector.

One of things he mentioned is that you'd think that a collector as young as me would want the big "mojo" hit, instead of a bunch of dime cards.

Well, I was that kind of a collector for a short period of time early on in high school.

At card shows, I'd come back with mostly game used and autograph cards, not eight hundred dime cards as I do now. I knew about dime boxes then, but I didn't think they were worth the time. Just look, I can get an actual piece of a guy's jersey for a couple bucks! And here's another one! And another one...

The most tragic thing is that I totally ignored vintage cards during that time. What was I thinking?

Thankfully, it was just a phase.

I still think cards like the Josh Phelps patch/auto card at the top of this section are cool, and they still hold a special place in my collection.

But I'm just not that type of collector anymore.

I enjoy the stories behind baseball cards, not a piece of fabric that they may or may not have actually worn.

I've found that it's the better collecting path.

The main thing that changed me into the low-end collector I am today is the local flea market, which I've brought up many times on this blog. (It re-opens April 1st!)

I'd been there a few times as a kid, maybe once a year. I can't remember going at all during my GU/Auto collecting years.

A couple summers ago, my mom and I decided that we should check it out again. I couldn't believe how great it was. I remember one of the guys that first week had a gigantic 25/$1 box with a bunch of early-'80s Topps cards in it.

I had a blast looking through that box. My mom and I were regular attendees from that point on.

I found myself more interested in dime cards than those three-dollar pieces of fabric after a while. But there was still one thing missing.


I still didn't have much interest in vintage. The flea market also changed that.

One week, one of the vendors put out a box of low-grade '60s and '70s vintage cards for a quarter a piece. I figured at a quarter a piece, why not at least take a look?

It must've hit me when I started to look through that box. I'm holding pieces of baseball history here. Look, it's Hank Aaron's brother! Look, it's Tony Oliva! Look, it's "Yaz"!

After I got done drooling over that box, I had a newfound passion for vintage.

That vendor was always there with that quarter vintage box, filled with a different stack of cards each week.

And I'm still a regular at the flea market, buying stuff from the same vendors each time I go. They know me by now and always knock a couple bucks off the final price.

It really is a great way to spend a sunny summer afternoon.

These days, my collection is still going strong.

I still get excited over the new sets. I love going to card shows. I love trading online. I love writing for this blog. I love reading other's people's blogs. I love it all.

I firmly believe that everyone should have a hobby that they're genuinely interested in.

These days, the "hip" hobby to have among people my age is video games or cars or "Facebooking" or something.

For me, it's baseball cards, and it always has been. My collection has certainly taken on many shapes and forms over the years, but I've always had a collection to admire.

I still love baseball cards.

Zero-Year Cards, Part 22

2000 Topps Traded #T46 Michael Young RC (Blue Jays)

In today's era of big free-agent contracts, loyalty to a single team throughout a career is getting harder and harder to come by.

I can't say I blame the players, though. I'd much rather see the "free agent" era that we're living in today than the dreaded reserve claus that ruled the first century of professional baseball.

Plus, money talks.

However, it's still extremely satisfying to see that a few players have stayed loyal to their organizations. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are the first names that come to mind, and I have no doubt that they'll both retire as Yankees.

Jorge Posada probably could have caught on with another team this offseason, but he decided to hang 'em up and retire as a Yankee.

Good decision, Jorge.

Yankee players aside, Michael Young may be the best example of team loyalty. Even after his disastrous offseason a couple years ago, when the Rangers basically forced Young out of consistent playing time via free agent signings, he stayed loyal. He did ask for a trade (although the Rangers couldn't find anyone willing to give up enough to get him0, but he put all of that aside once the season started and had a spectacular season.

Young has been in Texas since 2000, when he appeared in two games as a September call-up. 

Ever since then, he's become a Ranger legend. He's currently the franchise leader in games, hits, doubles, triples, runs, at-bats, and plate appearances.

He's also a seven-time All-Star.

However, what many people don't know is that he was originally part of the Toronto Blue Jays' organization. The Jays drafted Young in the fifth round of the 1997 draft. 

The Jays sent Young to the Rangers for pitcher Esteban Loaiza in July of 2000. To be fair, Loaiza did have a legendary year in 2003, but he had already moved on to the White Sox by then.

Loaiza pitched just two full years in Toronto. Although he did total 20 wins for the Blue Jays in those two full years, he never had an ERA below 5.00.

I bet the Blue Jays would like to have that trade back.

A night to remember (and while we're on the topic of movies...)

Twenty years from now, I have a feeling that I'm going to look back at nights like tonight and wish I could relive them all over again.

My friends and I usually play basketball once a week. We decided that tonight was "basketball night". Even though I have next to no interest in watching basketball, I love playing it. Plus, it's great exercise.

After we got done playing, a couple of my friends and I decided to go to Denny's for a "midnight dinner". The food was great, but that's not the reason the night was memorable.

I always hear people older than I am rehashing those good times, when they were simply...young. Nothing to do, nowhere to go, just living life and enjoying it.

Tonight was one of those nights.

We didn't really do anything. We just talked. About whatever. Everything from recalling old stories from middle school ("Remember that time we dissected the pig in science class?"), remembering old friends that we no longer spoke to ("Whatever happened to that kid that punched a locker and broke his hand?"), and looking toward the future ("What are you planning on majoring in?").

It made me appreciate both being young and having great friends. When you're young, you don't often take the time to step back and cherish that.

But tonight, that's exactly what I did.

That's why it was a memorable night.

Anyways, sorry to get a little off the topic of baseball cards there.

As a result of being out a little later than originally intended, I didn't really have time to plan a post for tonight.

Since I mentioned that I had made a Top 25 movies list in my previous post, I figured I'd share it with my fellow readers.

I'll tie it in with a few of my baseball cards, since this is a baseball card blog, after all.

There's not a lot of "classic" movies on this list. No "Titanic", no "Citizen Kane", etc. Most movies I watch are comedies, and those take up the bulk of this list. I'd be glad to hear what my readers agree and/or disagree with from this list!


#25-- Wayne's World
#24-- The 40-Year Old Virgin

#23-- 61*

This film is about as factually accurate as possible. Director Billy Crystal is a huge New York Yankees fan, and he was in the prime of his childhood in 1961 when Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were on pace to break the hallowed single-season home run record held by Babe Ruth.

By '61, Mantle was the definition of a "Yankee". Well-respected by his teammates and adored by the fans. As the "M&M Brothers" got further along in the race, they both realized that the New York fans only had room in their hearts for one home-run king. Maris was booed in his own stadium after hitting home runs.

Maris broke the record, although he was under extremely severe stress at the time. (His hair began falling out.) And the New York fans cheered him as he made his way around the bases.

#22-- Animal House
#21-- The Rookie
#20-- Napoleon Dynamite
#19-- Adventureland
#18-- Office Space
#17-- Duck Soup (Marx Brothers)

#16-- Miracle

One of the greatest stories in sports history is the tale of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. 

It's also one of the greatest moments in American history.

A bunch of ragtag college kids come together to pull of the unthinkable, beating the powerhouse Soviet Union team, who had won four straight gold medals before the '80 Olympics. 

It became apparent that it was so much more than a simple sports victory, however.

It was a reason for Americans to feel good about themselves, something that hadn't happened much in the years prior.

#15-- Juno

#14-- Eight Men Out

Even with its minor factual issues, "Eight Men Out" is still one of the greatest sports movies ever made.

The film tells the sad story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, who "threw" the World Series in an attempt to earn some quick cash from gamblers. The team was severely underpaid by owner Charles Comiskey, who was known for being quite the cheapskate. (He made the Sox players pay to wash their own uniforms.)

Very few of the players actually saw any money, though. In a frightening array of double-crosses and death threats, the Sox did eventually lose the best-of-nine series to the upstart Cincinnati Reds.

The fix was uncovered, and the Sox players were eventually brought to court. Although they were exonerated by the judicial system, baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis still banned the famous "Eight Men Out" from baseball for life. 

#13-- The Breakfast Club 
#12-- The Blues Brothers
#11-- Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

#10-- A Hard Day's Night

"A Hard Day's Night" captures the "Fab Four" in all their glory. (Although this card shows them during their "Help!" stage.)

Personally, I prefer the "moptop" Beatles over the later Beatles. Some of their best work comes from their later period, but I'm big on songs that are simply catchy. And that's what early Beatles songs are all about.

This movie has some of the greatest and most quotable lines ever seen in cinema. ("Stop being taller than me!")

And to top it off, it's got quite the soundtrack, featuring my personal favorite Beatles song, "I Should Have Known Better".

It captures a typical madness-filled day in the life of the four Beatles. All while having to look over Paul's "very clean" grandfather, who keeps managing to make trouble for the lads.

The film culminates with a typical Earth-shattering Beatles "concert", played to a bunch of screaming fans. 

#9-- High Fidelity
#8-- Dazed and Confused
#7-- Clerks
#6-- Monkey Business (Marx Brothers)

#5-- Superbad

Okay, I know this one probably isn't a favorite of many of the people who didn't go to high school when I did.

But let me tell you, it's exactly like what my high school was like. Or any other high school for that matter.

My dad says that "Dazed and Confused" paints a perfect picture of what high school was really like in the '70s. I like to think that "Superbad" is an updated version of "Dazed and Confused".

This is also one of the most quotable movies I've ever seen, but I can't really repeat a lot of the lines here. There's the whole "McLovin" thing, for one. 

The basic plot is three outcasts who have to get beer, go to a party, and, of course, chase girls along the way. But it also has a much deeper theme to it as well. Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), best friends and the two main characters of the film, have to come to grips with the fact that they'll be forced to separate once college comes around. However, they have trouble coping with that fact, where it all blows up at the big "party" scene at the end.

(Spoiler alert!) They both "get the girl" at the end of the film, which means that their final summer together will be abbreviated with the fact that they both have girlfriends to deal with now.

Every time I watch this movie, I find myself wishing I was back in high school.

#4-- That Thing You Do!

Tom Hanks is one of my favorite actors, and this is my favorite film of his (which he also directed). 

It tracks the ever-so-short fame of a fabricated 1960's "one-hit wonder" group, who is fittingly called "The Wonders". Their song, "That Thing You Do!", skyrockets up the charts and garners the band unexpected fame. To put it in a nutshell, their singer gets to be a little too full of himself, which eventually leads to the breakup of the band, during which the members go their separate ways.

As Tom Hanks says in the film, "It's a common tale."

I've always said that the 1960's was the greatest decade of music.

These "one-hit wonders" are a major reason why.

#3-- The Big Lebowski

"Is this your homework, Larry?" 

"They've got some good burgers there, Walter."

Okay, this is the most quotable movie in history. (Again, I can't repeat a lot of the quotes, though.)

If you haven't seen it yet, please rent it. 

You'll develop a new appreciation for bowling, and I guarantee you'll start saying "dude" a lot more. 

There's not really much of a central plot to the film, only the fact that the main character, "The Dude", is tasked to recover a multi-millionare's kidnapped wife, screwing it up all the way through.

I could go on about this movie for a lot longer, but it's getting late.

#2-- Ferris Bueller's Day Off

I assume that most people have already seen this movie, so I won't go too much in-depth about it.

I'm sure we all ditched class at some point in high school. But was your day off as legendary as Ferris Bueller's?

I don't think so.

Another thing I love about this movie is that it's set in downtown Chicago, where I've been on many occasions. Every time I watch this movie, I find myself constantly saying, "Hey, I've been there! And there!"

#1-- The Sandlot

This is the movie.

All others pale in comparison.

This has been my favorite movie for as long as I can remember, and I doubt that will ever change. I'd guess that I've seen it around thirty times.

And it's always as good as the first.

Sure, the fact that it's centered around baseball is a major plus. But what makes it so great is that it captures what I talked about at the beginning of this post.

Savoring your younger days. 

This movie also has my personal favorite line from any film.

"You're killin' me, Smalls!"

Again, I'd guess that most people have seen this movie, so I won't go too much into depth. Because of this movie, I can visualize what playing on a sandlot on a beautiful summer day feels like. 

As a kid, I'm not sure anything beats that.