Friday, June 29, 2012

An impulse buy, revisited

Have you ever seen a card and just had to have it for whatever reason?

I have.

And this isn't the first time it's happened. Although it was worth every penny, the last instance set me back twenty bucks.

Thankfully, my latest "impulse buy" cost me a mere ninety-three cents.

I have a few "go-to" options if I happen to get bored on a given day. Sometimes, like this afternoon, I'll sit down and watch a good movie. (Superbad was the film of choice this time. I miss high school.)

Other times, I'll peruse my collection just for kicks. In my opinion, you can never get sick of your own cards.

And at other times, I'll go on a search through the Internet, simply for the purpose of seeing new cards that I don't already own. The only danger to that, of course, is seeing one that is a "must-have". Especially if it's a cheap base card of some sort.

That was the case a few nights ago.

I'm not sure what exactly I was looking for, but I somehow came across this unique item.

I didn't even know a card like that existed. But I knew I had to have it. With a little searching, I found it for eighteen cents (plus shipping) on Sportlots.

A true bargain.

There's so many reasons why this card is great. For one, you have Gaylord Perry as a Kansas City Royal, nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career.

Then, you have the mischievous look on the face of George Brett. Whether it was intentional or not, that is easily one of the funniest expressions I've ever witnessed on a piece of cardboard.

It's also the only card in my collection that pays homage to the "pine tar game". Seeing as how much of a fiasco it was, I can see why. (I can't think of another card that prominently features an actual pine tar rag, either.)

But it's good to see that both Brett and Perry were good sports about the situation after the fact. (Perry tried to sneak the bat out of the stadium so before the league office could get to it.)

This game is supposed to be fun, after all.

But even a card as great as this one can only take second place in the ranks of my all-time greatest "impulse buy".

Beckett would tell you I overpaid for this one.

I disagree.

You could say that finding this card was my first trek into the blogosphere. I googled "Ed Delahanty" and this card popped up on one of the search results. The link led be to a post on a baseball card blog, although I don't remember which one it was.

That's the first time I can ever remember reading anything on a blog.

Anyways, I really had to have this one, for a couple of reasons. One, I'm a big fan of the history of baseball, especially turn-of-the-century stars like Delahanty. Second, I only had one other card of his in my collection. Plus, this is one of the greatest concepts for an insert set that I'd ever seen, chronicling the entire history of the two Washington Senators franchises.

As if that wasn't enough, it's might just be the greatest insert design since...ever. (Coming from the 2005 National Pastime "Beltway Baseball" series.)

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this particular insert was limited to just 202 copies. I figured it would be a longshot to even find one.

To my amazement, I was able to find a lone copy online. Although the price of six bucks might tell you I "overpaid", I see it as quite the opposite.

I snatched it up in a second. It proudly sits in my collection, and it always will. It's definitely up there on my list of "favorite cards".

How could it not?

I'll be away from the blogosphere tomorrow since I'm attending the huge tri-annual card show during the afternoon. For my newer readers, here's just a preview of the tremendous finds I obtained the last time I attended this particular show. (And that's just one of the four posts I did on that topic.)

Check back Sunday night for the first of what I hope is a few installments of my latest card show excursion!

Until then, I'll try and keep my impulses under control.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My cardboard medication

It's weeks like this that really test my devotion to the game of baseball.

My beloved Cubs got absolutely walloped in a 17-1 loss to the Mets yesterday. Seventeen to one. The Mets hit for the "home run cycle", with Scott Hairston's sixth inning grand slam capping off the slaughter. (Even my friends, who don't even pay attention to baseball, heard about the horrible beating.)

The North Siders are the worst team in baseball right now. I didn't expect much from them this year, but I didn't think they'd be this bad.

Maybe I was just kidding myself.

"Vlad the Impaler", my favorite big-leaguer, is still without a team.

I was really looking forward to seeing him in a Blue Jays uniform this year. Toronto quashed those hopes pretty quickly, though.

It's a longshot, I'm sure, but I'd love to see Vlad get just one more shot in the bigs. Just one more shot. (Looks like Guerrero is pleading his case as well, judging by this card.)

I don't care where. It could be with the Yankees, for goodness sakes.

As much as I might not want to admit it, the Cubs sucking and a 37 year-old DH without a team were pretty much expected happenings this year.

The news I heard a few days ago was exactly the opposite.

"The Big Three" players I collect are Hoyt Wilhelm, Casey Kotchman, and Marlon Byrd.

Shockingly, Mr. Byrd received a 50-game suspension after he tested positive for a banned substance earlier this week. As if the fact that he was also without a team didn't pain me enough, this news puts a huge damper on the future of his career.

He was the last guy I'd expect to test positive for something like this.

I've always had a soft spot for Byrd because of the way he hustles. It's what first drew me to him and drove me to devote a large chunk of my collection to obtaining his cards.

Currently, my Marlon Byrd collection stands at 237 different cards. And yes, I'm still keeping them, and I'm still a fan of his.

Although I can't think of another news story that has disappointed me more than this one.

As you might be able to tell, it's been a tough week for a baseball fan such as myself.

I've spent a good amount of time outdoors so far this week, so that's helped take my mind off things. (Although the comfort of my own home sure feels great with this 110-degree heat index today.)

It's during times like these that I look to my baseball cards as a type of "medication". Sure, Saturday's card show will be a fantastic time, but the cards in one's existing collection can be a great source of happiness.

In taking a hint from another blogger, I went on the hunt to find some "stupid" or fun cards that would help cheer me up a bit.

Sorry, "Garfoose", but this didn't do anything for my baseball woes.

Your newest book, however, did.

The first book by pitcher-turned-author Dirk Hayhurst, The Bullpen Gospels, was one of the best baseball books I've ever read. Even though I'd never heard of Hayhurst before, I plucked it off a local store's bookshelf one day because I needed something to read.

I've always thought I had an uncanny ability to sniff out good books. That proved my suspicions.

Hayhurst has a new book out. Even though I'm only about a quarter of the way through, I can already tell that it's even better than the first.

His newest offering is called Out of My League, and I definitely recommend it for any baseball fans. (As I found out in the book, the "Garfoose" is the mascot for his wife's profession.)

It's already made me forget about the Cubs' 17-1 loss.

Quite possibly the nicest insert I have helped cheer me up as well.

The scan doesn't do it justice.

Any card of a submarine pitcher is cool in my book, much less one with such a fantastic design. Even though this is the only issue I own from the 2002 Leaf "League of Nations" set, I'd still rank it in the top 10 insert sets I've ever seen.

At least Anthony Rizzo is finally in the bigs. Now was as good a time as ever to call him up. It's not like anyone's expecting him to "carry the team" anywhere this year.

Plus, there's always next season for the Cubs, I guess.

I still have a hard time grasping that cell phones were once that humungous.

I wonder how much that thing cost Mike Cameron back in 1999.

Up until a couple years ago, I was a cell phone holdout. I still maintain that people my age spend way too much time toying around with texting and whatnot, but I finally broke down and got one before I left for college.

As a result, I was probably the last teenager on the face of the Earth to do so.

These "out of the ordinary" shots are part of the reason I love baseball cards so much. I just wish Topps wouldn't relegate them to impossible-to-get SPs nowadays.

Either way, I can always bask in the glory of my existing "odd" shots. Why spend a hundred bucks on a supposedly short-printed one when this one will only set you back a dime?

Yeah, Topps.

Vlad's a Hall of Famer. He'll get in quicker if he never plays another game, anyways.

Funny faces never seem to disappoint.

I'm sure I laughed at them when I was a month old, and I'm still laughing at them today, twenty years later.

Arthur Rhodes has had some notoriously bad cards over the years (look for that topic in a later post), but this one takes the cake.

It's his rookie card, no less. Not a great way to start your cardboard career. Pair that with those Halloween-orange Orioles uniforms, and you've got one legendary card.

Marlon Byrd always hustled on the field, something I wish every player would do.

I'll always be a fan of his for that, regardless of the suspension.

Ah, yes. The ultimate "medication".

The sweet smell of vintage.

This is easily one of the better cards in my collection. To think I acquired it (with a stack of other vintage goodies) for a bunch of five-dollar jersey cards makes me smile every time I see my copy of Johnny Bench's '71 Topps issue.

As they say, "Less is more." And I don't really have much to add to the jaw-dropping elegance of this one.

I'll just say it's one cool piece of cardboard.

Well, I think I've finally pushed past this incredibly awful week of baseball. So thank you, Mr. Hayhurst, Mr. Kim, Mr. Cameron, and Mr. Rhodes, and Mr. Bench.

No matter what happens, baseball will always be the greatest game on Earth.

Zero-Year Cards, Part 36

1974 Topps Traded #630T Tommie Agee (Dodgers)

This is the newest addition to my "zero-year" collection, thanks to a recent trade with Jim, better known in the blogosphere as "gcrl".

He was nice enough to add this one into the deal as a freebie.

Other than his pair of famous catches in the 1969 World Series, I don't know a whole lot about Tommie Agee. 

One of the first things that pops into my head is his appearance on one of my favorite TV shows, Everybody Loves Raymond. He appeared with other members of the "Miracle Mets" in an episode where Ray and his brother take a trip down to Cooperstown. (One of my personal favorite episodes in the series.)

The one other tidbit that comes to mind is his part in perhaps the most massive airbrush job in Topps history, thanks to Agee's trade to the Astros in 1973. Topps went the extra mile and airbrushed the Mets jerseys of shortstop Bud Harrelson and outfielder Rusty Staub to make Agee's move to Houston seem more "realistic" in the cardboard world.

With this "zero-year" issue, Agee joins the likes of Mike Scioscia and Jose Canseco, players whose final cards are of the zero-year variety.

Before I received it last week, I had no idea that Agee was ever affiliated with the Dodgers organization. To my knowledge, this is only the second Dodgers "zero-year" card in my collection. While the other is probably one of my favorite cards, the Agee is still an extremely welcome addition to my collection.

After he split his 1973 season between the Astros and Cardinals, Agee was traded to the Dodgers in the offseason. After being released at the end of spring training that year, he'd hang 'em up for good.

It might not be all that flattering, but that's the case with a lot of other "final cards" I've seen. (The rankings for the best "final card" is a post I'll probably do in the near future.)

But any "zero-year" card has a special mystique to it, no matter what the picture on the front might tell you. 

That's how I feel, anyways.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Close, but no cigar

As many of my readers know, I have a huge fascination with "zero-year" cards.

If you don't know already, a "zero-year card" is a card of a player in a uniform that he never wore at the big league level.

I've even dedicated an entire series of posts to the topic. While my blog has certainly gone through many transformations, the zero-year posts have been there from the start. They've been among my favorites to write just because of how long I've collected those types of cards. (I've been interested in them ever since I was a kid.)

The first installment came on just the second day of this blog's existence.

Lately, the zero-year cards have been running thin. They are fairly rare in the hobby.

I've written about almost every card of its kind that I feel is deserving of a post. (After all, what am I going to write about a card of Adam Hyzdu with the Giants?)

There will be at least a few more posts on the "zero-year" theme, but I'll probably be introducing a new theme to the blog pretty soon once the zero-year cards run dry. I've thrown around a couple ideas in my head (even one that involves vintage), but nothing definite at the moment.

On a similar note, a recent post at "Cards From the Quarry" got me thinking about my zero-year collection, or specifically, some of my "near-miss" cards.

The post was based on "one-card wonders", or players who had only appeared on one Rockies card in his collection.

Thus, my thinking that I was the only one who cared about something like that went out the window.

I have a ton of these spread out across my binders. That's often because the player played with that team for an extremely short period of time.

They're some of my favorite cards.

It got me thinking about the cards I have that are close to being "zero-year" cards, but aren't quite members of the category. (Hence, the post of this title.)

Luis Tiant played in six games for the 1982 California Angels, totaling just 29 2/3 innings that year before hanging them up for good.

That's not even close to being my best "near-miss" card, though.

As you might be able to tell from the condition on it, I've had this card for a while.

Like I said, these types of cards have been prominent features in my collection ever since I was a kid. As a result, a lot of them have been "well-loved" on my part.

While Yogi Berra's tenure as the Mets' manager in the '70s is still pretty well known, his time as a Mets catcher is not.

The Mets coaxed him out of retirement in 1965, where he'd play in four games that year. (Final totals: 2-for-9 with one run.)

I also have Berra's final issue as a player that year, which lists him as a catcher as well as a coach.

I can't think of many other examples of something like that in the hobby.

This is one of those cards that is a great piece in my collection, but might get overlooked in the eyes of others.

One reason I liked Fleer is that their base sets usually covered a large part of every team's roster. Middle relievers, bench players, everyone.

In the case of the 1997 Phillies, outfielder Danny Tartabull. (Although I know him more from his Seinfeld appearances.)

While he was a three-time 30 homer/100 RBI guy in his career, he was nearing the end by 1997. The Phils picked him up as a free agent after the '96 season.

He'd play in exactly three games for the Phillies that year, going hitless in eleven at-bats to close out his career. Yet he still has a card with the franchise.

I wish Fleer was still in the industry.

Before becoming a huge star in Florida, Hanley Ramirez was signed by the Red Sox out of the Dominican Republic as a teenager.

He appeared in two games for the 2006 BoSox before being dealt to the Marlins that offseason. (It was the deal that brought Josh Beckett to Boston.)

In those two games, Ramirez (a September call-up) totaled just two at-bats, both strikeouts.

So close to a zero-year card, yet so far.

This still ranks as one of my all-time greatest dime box finds.

I've always liked these Galasso Greats cards. But then again, I'm a sucker for any set that features past greats, especially ones like "Lefty" Gomez who are often forgotten in today's world.

Gomez, a Hall of Famer, played from 1930 to 1943. Every single game he pitched came with the powerhouse New York Yankees.

Except one.

His only non-Yankee appearance came with the Washington Senators on May 30, 1943. He picked up the loss, giving up four runs in 4 2/3 innings agains the White Sox that afternoon.

This one isn't just a "one-card wonder".

It's a "one-game wonder" as well.

Until this afternoon, I'd forgotten about the ultimate "almost zero-year" card in my collection, though. I was surprised that I could ever forget about a card as great as this...

We know the story.

One plate appearance in 1951. One walk. No official at-bat.

The other day, I thought that if I really took the time and sat down, I could probably make a list of my 100 favorite baseball cards. (However, I'd have to make a separate list for vintage. It would get too one-sided otherwise.)

This one would almost certainly rank near the top of that list. (Look at how oversized that jersey is!)

I don't know that Gaedel has had any other cards produced. There might be a couple other oddball issues of his floating around, but this is the only one I've ever seen.

Beckett says that this one is worth 60 cents. I could care less what they say, though.

This Eddie Gaedel card is one of the cornerstones of my collection.

I don't know why I have such a deep interest in cards like these. It's just something about the unfamiliarity of it all.

I'm sure there's dozens of cards of Lefty Gomez with the Yankees out there. But as far as I know, there's only one of him as a Washinton Senator. And I have it.

That's a special feeling.

At a loss for words

The blogosphere sure is a fantastic place to be.

I've previously chronicled how it has changed me. Everything from forcing me to take a closer look at often-overlooked cards to reevaluating the way I look at trading.

However, there is one other way the blogosphere has affected me. It's a bit of a selfish reason, but I bet it's one that almost all of us share.

Simply put, the blogosphere has made my collection better.

I've received stacks upon stacks of utterly fantastic cards ever since I started this blog. Up until today, I'd say the greatest one of them all was the awesome 1950 Bowman Enos Slaughter from Dhoff.

That card is one of the cornerstones of my collection, and I never though it could be topped. But the package I received from another blogger this afternoon had an even better surprise inside, something I didn't think could be done.

William over at "Foul Bunt" is the most generous blogger I've come across in my time here thus far. He's already sent me a ton of great cards, everything from a stack of Topps inserts to an overproduction era card I'd wanted for years.

He outdid himself this time, though.

While the package he sent contained some other fantastic cards (including another Jehri-curled Pascual Perez), I dropped everything when I saw the last card in the mailer.

The stack of cards he sent were sandwiched in between two toploaders. The one on the front contained a card I'd just posted about. The fact that William sent it right when I wrote about it was an odd coincidence.

I could see that there was something waiting for me in the toploader at the bottom of the stack, but I couldn't quite make out what it was.

My eyes widened as I shuffled aside the cards that revealed that final, unbelievable one.

Few cards have ever excited me more than this...

...a 1962 Post Hoyt Wilhelm!

It's been a long time since I added a new vintage Hoyt card to my collection of his. At least a year or so.

Not to mention that there's only two or three other Post cards in my collection right now. For whatever reason, they've been tough to come by at local card shows. I always liked the fact that everything is on the front of the card. Picture, bio, stats, card number, all of it.

I don't really have any words that could describe just how much I love this card. I really don't have anything that could describe my appreciation to William for sending it to me, much less in a "surprise" package where I didn't know what was coming.

I definitely have to find some cards for William at this weekend's card show. Although I don't know that I could ever fully repay him for how much I enjoy this card.

"Thank you" doesn't sufficiently tell how grateful I am, but it's about all I can get out right now.

So thank you, William.

I'm still in shock.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When high-end cards meet a low-end budget

I'm still surprised by the type of cards I find in discount bins.

Most of what I find is from your basic Topps, Upper Deck, Fleer, etc. sets. Sets that you can find at your local Target or Wal-Mart stores.

If I'm lucky, though, I can snag a few cards from "high-end" sets. Vendors who open that type of product don't usually care about building the base set anyways.

So into the discount bins they go.

It works out for me, since I've never opened anything resembling "high-end", and I don't intend to at any point in the future. Even if I had the money, I'd just use it for more dime and quarter cards.

And some vintage, of course.

That's not to say that I don't like some of the high-end sets. Some of them are among the nicest cards in my collection.

Case in point, Topps Tribute.

The hobby box SRP of last year's Tribute set was a whopping five hundred bucks.

The card at the top of the post is from the inaugural Tribute release in '01. I'm not sure what the going rate on a box was then, but I have to believe that the going rate was at least in the same ballpark.

Even a low-end collection such as mine has a few shiny luxuries you might not expect to see. I'd say a good 95 percent of my single card purchases over the years have cost me a dollar or less.

Believe it or not, all the cards you're about to see in this post fit into that category.

The above Tribue Earl Averill is easily one of the nicest cards inside my Indians binders. So how much did it cost?

Zilch. Nada. Squat. Nothing.

It was free.

I had a few bucks left after going through the usual pickings at the flea market last year when I came across a guy who had a couple dollar boxes on display. Although I didn't dig into it with as much enthusiasm as a dime or quarter box, I did manage to find a couple cards I needed.

After I brought them to the vendor, he was nice enough to let me pick out another dollar card, on the house. The Averill was one of the first ones I saw, and I just had to have it. (I would've spent a buck on it had I seen it earlier.)

I don't know that free cards get much better.

Triple Threads is probably the most common high-end find in discount boxes.

I don't know that I've ever found any in a dime box, but it wouldn't shock me in the least.

I have samples of each Triple Threads release in my collection. For my money, their last release in 2010 was the best.

A box of these would easily set you back a couple hundred bucks (at the least) in their heyday. They're okay, but I'd probably put them at the lower-end of the high-end continuum. (If that makes any sense.)

I've mentioned Hank Greenberg on a few occasions on this blog. I've never actually sat down and made it, but he's easily in my "Top 10 Favorite Baseball Players" list.

One of the more oddly-priced boxes I've ever come across was a 7/$5 bin at a card show a couple years back. (About 70 cents per card.)

As was the case with the dollar box I brought up earlier, I didn't look through that one with a whole lot of enthusiasm. Most of my card show budget is for dime/quarter cards and vintage. I get afraid that I might start pulling cards left and right and then blow a big chunk of money that might be better put towards lower-priced cards.

However, this Hank Greenberg was a tremendous bargain for a 7/$5 box, in my view.

A "steal" in every sense of the word.

I own 78 cards of Walter Johnson, but I can confidently say that this is my favorite card of his, without a doubt.

I'd like to know the history of that trophy "The Big Train" is holding in that shot. They didn't have the "Cy Young Award" back then.

It's times like these where I wish I were a baseball historian.

From what I know, Ultimate Collection was one of the highest-end sets in recent memory. I seem to recall it being a couple hundred bucks a pack.

I still can't believe people drop that kind of money on a pack of baseball cards.

Even though this one is numbered to just 275 copies, I managed to snag it for a buck on a trading forum, one of the best online purchases I've ever made.

It was a lot cheaper than buying a pack of this stuff, anyways.

This is easily one of my greatest discount box finds.

Prime Cuts was the definition of "high-end" in its time. This particular card comes from the 2008 release, a set that carried a $200 SRP per five-card pack.

So how did this one end up in a 3/$1 bin?

I don't know. I prefer not to ask those types of questions. I just look at results.

Those "results" netted me a stack of $200-per-pack cards for 33 cents a piece. I found base cards of Frank Robinson, Monte Irvin, and even Mark Fidrych in that bin.

But they all pale in comparison to Jim Thorpe, the greatest athlete in history.

Thorpe doesn't have a whole lot of baseball cards. The eight different issues of his in my collection are more than I ever though I'd own.

To find anything of his would've been a huge success. Much less a card of his from a high-end set (numbered to 249 copies) for a bit of loose change in my pocket.

Not only that, but this particular copy was the last one printed, as it's numbered "249/249" on the back. Just one of those little things that I enjoy as a collector.

Now that's one heck of a find, don't you think?

I don't necessarily have anything against high-end cards or people that collect them. If someone has that kind of money and wants to spend it on a pack of Tier One or Museum Collection, I see nothing wrong with that.

But I'll stick with my discount cards. Even the "higher-end" discount cards such as these.

Believe it or not, they still fit within a low-end budget sometimes.

Cardboard Masterpieces, Pt. 13

2009 Upper Deck #461 Carlos Zambrano SH

You may have noticed that cards from various "Season Highlights" subsets are frequent features in these theme posts.

This is already the fourth of its kind in the "Cardboard Masterpieces" gallery.

I can't help it. Card companies have always knocked these out of the park, something for which I give them a lot of credit.

This one is no exception.

As a huge Cubs fan, I'm a little ashamed to admit that I missed Zambrano's no-hitter in '08 against the Astros. I'm not exactly sure where I was. 

If I could go back in time, I'd catch the no-no. Not only would I get to witness history, but I could see a Cubs team that was actually good. They made the playoffs that year (although they were knocked out in the first round), but they've been absolutely awful ever since.

What made Zambrano's no-hitter especially interesting was that it was done at a neutral site. From what I can remember, there was a hurricane watch near Houston at the time, so they moved the Astros-Cubs series to Miller Park in Milwaukee. 

I would say that we probably won't see another no-no of the neutral stadium variety, but you just never know in baseball.

I'd never seen this particular card before yesterday, as it was a generous throw-in by Clark, author of the blog "Fantastic Catch". I happened to mention that I was a Cubs fan after we had worked out a trade, and he was nice enough to add in some extra cards of the North Siders, free of charge. (Thanks for the bonus cards, Clark!)

After I admired this card for a bit, I couldn't help but think if any others capture a pair of players in mid-high five. 

I couldn't find any.

While the story is debated, it's possible that baseball is responsible for the invention of the high-five. One of the first reported sightings of the celebration took place during an Astros-Dodgers contest in 1977 between Dodgers Glenn Burke and Dusty Baker (who had just homered).

I'm not sure if I should thank or blame baseball for that.

Clark had originally agreed to send me some 2012 Bowman cards I needed in exchange for some Cardinals cards I had for him.

Personally, I didn't quite get the praise for Bowman this year. I'll admit it was a little better than in years past, but it still didn't excite me very much. 

I can still say I haven't bought a pack of Bowman in about four or five years. While I enjoyed seeing a little marketing of the product on Topps' part (I still see commercials for it on the MLB Network), it's just not my kind of set. Not to mention that the foil lettering is even worse than flagship. 

You'd never know that's a Nyjer Morgan card.

I'll still take Zambrano's no-hitter over a pack of Bowman all the time.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mondays with Hoyt, Episode VIII

2001 Upper Deck Legends of New York #35 Hoyt Wilhelm

Posed shots are obviously a big part of the hobby.

I've often wondered what the ratio is between cards with posed photos and ones with in-action shots. 

Most cards from the '50s were posed. I couldn't really imagine a '52 Topps card with an in-action photo. The poses contribute to the overall elegance of those cards from the "Golden Age" of the game.

Feelings have certainly changed in today's hobby. For the most part, posed shots just come off as lazy on the part of card companies. As a result, most of today's cards feature in-action photos.

I'd say the closest the hobby has come to an even 50-50 split between poses and action shots was sometime during the mid-'70s. Perhaps I'm off on that estimate, but it just seems that way to me.

I'm an "action" guy myself. Although there have been a few memorable poses throughout the years, I still prefer a good action shot to a pose most of the time.

Part of that is because no two action shots are the same. We've seen the "mid-windup" or "ready to hit" poses hundreds of times without much variation.

There's one exception to this rule in my book, though.

The knuckleball pose.

Since Hoyt made his living with the knuckler, most pictures I've seen feature him showing off the famous pitch. I'd say a good 75 percent of my cards feature him with the knuckleball grip, including this one.

I've never grown tired of it. Whether it's Phil Niekro or Tom Candiotti, I've always been interested in the knuckeball. It's easily the most fascinating pitch in the game, purely because of its mystery.

Wilhelm was one of the first to use the pitch exclusively. From what I've read, he had a slider and an occasional fastball, but most of the pitches he threw were knucklers.

It's only fitting that he'd be showing it off on his baseball cards.

And speaking of that, I'm a fan of the '01 Legends of NY set, but I never realized just how busy the card fronts are.

First, we have Hoyt's number in the top-left (#49). Then, his name and the team he played for, followed by the years he played for the Giants. At the bottom-left, we have his position.

The picture does still take up a good chunk of the card front, although the name "Wilhelm" in orange letters at the bottom of the card is a bit distracting.

In the top-right, he have the card manufacturer in Upper Deck. Under that, we have my favorite quality of the set, the felt New York Giants logo. I don't know that any other company had ever done anything like that before.

And finally, in the bottom-right, we have the name of the set. "Legends of New York".

That's a lot to take in for just one card. Nevertheless, they're interesting additions. I know that's definitely true in the case of my Hoyt Wilhelm collection.

Few cards can top it.

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 38: 1989 Upper Deck #415 "Oil Can" Boyd

No sport has better nicknames than baseball.

Sure, there was Jack "The Assasin" Tatum in football. Or even "Mr. Hockey", Gordie Howe. Basketball had "Dr. J", Julius Erving.

But what other sport can lay claim to having a player with the nickname "Death To Flying Things"?

Who can forget "The Human Rain Delay", "Catfish" Hunter, or "Pokey" Reese?

I couldn't say for certain what my all-time favorite baseball nickname is. However, I can tell you that "Oil Can" Boyd is right near the top of the list.

As was the case with "Rock" Raines, the cardboard community was pretty much split on which name to use for Boyd's baseball cards during his playing career.

While Upper Deck and Donruss chose to use his famous nickname, Topps and Fleer omitted it and simply used his given name, Dennis, for his cards.

To me, the backstory behind a nickname is just as interesting as the nickname itself.

Boyd once said that sipping a cool beverage on a hot summer day was so smooth that it was "just like drinking oil".

Hence, the nickname "Oil Can".

While they've certainly dwindled in recent years, there's still some great nicknames in today's game. "Chipper" Jones might be the last legendary nickname in the game today, but we still have "Mr. November" Derek Jeter (also known as "The Captain") or "The Greek God of Walks", Kevin Youkilis. (Whom I look forward to seeing on the South Side of Chicago.)

Personally, I prefer to see a player's nickname on the front of his baseball card. There's been a ton of guys named Dennis over the years.

There was only one "Oil Can".

Sunday, June 24, 2012

An unexpected dime box dig

Dime boxes never cease to surprise me.

It's not just the greatness of the cards you can find. As was the case this afternoon, it's where I find them.

There's a little annual flea market held in the parking lot of a strip mall a couple blocks from where I live. Nothing big, just a few aisles of the usual books, clothes, and everyday household items. Pretty much the normal flea market array.

I've gone every year in hopes of finding some cards, but I haven't come up with much. I recall a great table that had a great dime box once, but that had to have been four or five years ago.

Normally, I try not to get my hopes up for these types of things. But for some reason, I had a feeling that I was going to find something this time. I'm not sure why, but it felt like there was cardboard waiting for me this afternoon.

My suspicions turned out to be right.

The "B story" was finding a complete 33-card set of '91 Toys' R 'Us rookies for a quarter at one of the tables. It helped that the checklist was right on the back of the box. Once I saw the name "Olerud", I knew it was worth the quarter. Thankfully, all 33 cards were still in the box, which amounted to less than a penny per card.

I'll take that any day of the week.

The real story of the day, however, was the aforementioned dime box.

When I say "dime box", I'm sure it conjures up an image of a 3200-count box, all organized into separate columns and stacks. (At least for those who have seen a dime box before.)

This dime box was a literal "box". There were thousands upon thousands of cards thrown into a cardboard box. They were neatly organized towards the bottom of the box, but the vendor must've just said "screw it" at some point and just threw the rest of the cards on top. 

At first, all I could see from the sign peeking out of the box was "Entire Box: $100". (Although the vendor later came up to me and said I could have the whole thing for twenty. I still passed.)

But then I moved a couple of the scattered cards out of the way to reveal the other half of the sign. And I found those glorious words:

"Ten cents each."

A dime box!

I was already getting geared up for all the bargain cards at the card show in six days. But here was one scattered amongst tables of cat toys and sunglasses.

In a way, the fact that this one was so unexpected made it even more of a thrill.

One of the first things I noticed as I started digging was that I found a few '82 Fleer cards with each passing stack. I figured there had to be more somewhere in the depths of the box.

Once again, I was right.

After making my way past all the football and basketball cards, I found a few big stacks of early Fleer near the very bottom. I hadn't come across many of these in dime boxes before.

While I didn't find the one card I've wanted for a while, there were still some gems to be had.

Look no further than card number 524, Pete Falcone. If there is such a thing as an "iconic" card from Fleer, this would have to be it. I'm pretty sure it's the only case of baseball cards within a baseball card in my collection.

Sort of like a "cardboard Inception", in a way.

While I don't necessarily collect either of these guys, I had to have this pair of cards.

Seriously, how was I going to pass on a dime card of a guy named Shooty Babitt?

The Wilson was a definite steal for a couple of reasons. For one, it's an "Awesome Night Card" (an especially awesome one if you ask me). 

What really makes this card for me is the fact that the shot captures Wilson in mid-interview. I've noticed a few similar cards throughout my collection, and they're all great. (Like this one.)

A microphone on a baseball card is a plus. 

On that note, is Mr. Babitt wearing one of those clip-on mics there?

Here's some more '82 Fleer greatness.

Lowenstein is one of the more recent guys I've decided to collect. From what I've read, "quirky" doesn't even begin to describe his personality. 

If anyone were to start a "frazzled hair" collection, that Lowenstein would probably be a good start.

Although it looks as though the photographer caught Amos Otis a little off-guard, his '82 Fleer issue is still a thing of beauty.

I don't know that I've ever seen the "Green Monster" displayed better on a baseball card.

From what I've heard of his TV broadcasts, Gary Matthews genuinely loves the game of baseball. 

When I see that a Phillies game is coming up on the MLB Network, I make it a point to tune in so I can hear "Sarge" do the play-by-play. Some ex-ballplayers have been disasters in the booth over the years (although some manage to somehow keep their jobs for a long, long time), but Matthews definitely isn't one of them.

I never used to like multi-player cards. In recent years, I've realized that they can make for some great photos, if they're done right. 

I think it's safe to say that Fleer "got one right" with the amazing All-Star duo of "The Kid" and "The Cobra".

I also managed to nab a few '91 Upper Deck dime cards.

For some reason, I'm still missing a lot of cards I need from UD's earlier issues. As a result, I might be one of the last collectors who still gets excited over finding scattered piles of 1990 or '91 Upper Deck cards in a box.

While I don't really collect him, I couldn't pass up that Moyer card. It looks like he's about ready to take in a wonderful afternoon of baseball from the dugout. (Something he's still doing 21 years later.)

I simply thought the Mayne card was funny. I doubt that a collector had ever gotten more up-close-and-personal with a player's shin guards ever before.

A laugh is well worth a dime.

However, the majority of the dime cards I found came from 1995 Collector's Choice.

Rarely had I come across anything from this set before. The only specific ties I have to Collector's Choice is one of the few good memories from my old college. 

After my roommate found out I collected cards (they were scattered all around the dorm), he brought a couple stacks of them to show me one week. Of course, he wanted to know if they were worth anything. Sadly, I had to tell him that they weren't worth much.

However, he did have a couple cards I wanted, and he was nice enough to let me pick out a few. Most of the ones I got were from this very set. I even scored a "zero-year" card out of the ordeal.

Up until this afternoon, I hadn't thought much about Collector's Choice. However, I quickly realized that this was a quirky (and underrated) set.

Even though I'd never heard of Phil Leftwich before, I couldn't pass this one up. 

I'd like to know what the premise was behind that particular shot. 

Neither of these cards will go in my binder, but they were still well worth a dime.

Perhaps the Rijo could be a contestant in the "four eyes" countdown that Night Owl brings up from time to time.

At first, the Leskanic might just look like your everyday boring posed card. But then I noticed the name tag, which doesn't even have his name on it. 

It's just a series of random numbers. What gives?

I guess people can name their kids anything these days.

And then there's this one.

I don't really know what more I could add to it.

Let's just appreciate the creepy greatness that lies within this card.

How many cards have guys going through their pre-game running drills?

This is the only one I've ever seen. 

Plus, I've always thought that a hilly spring training site would make for a terrific backdrop on a baseball card. Once again, my feelings were right.

If you look closely, I'm sure you'll find a couple kids rolling down that hill.

I know it's all I ever wanted to do when I was young.

While Eddie Murray "assumes" that record, is it safe to assume that this is one of the greatest checklist cards ever made?

I think so.

Besides a few cards of Rickey Henderson, I can only think of one other card in my collection where a player is physically holding a base. 

As some of my regular readers might know, I absolutely love cards of pitchers at the plate.

I've already done two posts on the topic. (This one. And this one.)

Even more rare than a hitting pitcher is an American League hitting pitcher, as we have with the Steve Karsay. (He only made four career plate appearances, never getting a hit.)

And as if that wasn't enough, Karsay didn't even play in '95 due to injury.

Needless to say, it was one of my better finds of the afternoon.

It's hard to believe that it's been ten years since the tragic passing of Darryl Kile.

Even though I was only ten years old at the time, I still have a vivid memory of that day. I'll never forget it.

I knew this was my new favorite Darryl Kile card at first sight. (For the record, Kile was a .132 career hitter, although he did blast two homers and drive in 40 runs with the Astros, Rockies, and Cardinals.)

Position players would be lucky to have such a great shot for their baseball card.

Even with all the great dime cards I've already shown in this post, I think I have to give this one "Find of the Day" honors.

Amazingly, none of my Joe Carter cards capture the immediate aftermath of his famous homer in the '93 World Series. I would think that card companies were chomping at the bit to use a shot like this at the time. 

I always daydreamed about being a Joe Carter-like hero during my Little League days. Hitting the dramatic homer to clinch the championship for me and my teammates, the crowd roaring in the background.

While that never actually happened, something like this is pretty much what I had in mind.

It might just be the best "moment in time" card in my collection.

All in all, I bought fifty dime cards. Paired with the Toys' R' Us set I mentioned earlier, I spent a paltry $5.25 on cardboard this afternoon.

A small price to pay for such greatness.

Never did I think I'd come across a dime box at such an innocent little local gathering. I was literally on my hands and knees at times while I was digging through these. After all, it was the only way I was going to uncover the greats like Falcone and Fassero that were hiding near the bottom of the box. (Although I can't imagine what other people must've thought as they walked by.)

At one point during my "dig", a nice lady came up to me. While pointing at the box, she said:

"This is where you find the goldmines."

I can't put it much better than that.

Friday, June 22, 2012

When hobbies come together

As a kid, I tried my hand at a few hobbies besides sports cards.

There was a time when I collected Hot Wheels. I was the prime age for the whole Beanie Babies craze as well. When the new state quarters came out, I tried getting every single one. I even had this neat little holder for those, but I gave up about halfway through.

Through everything, only two have stood the test of time.

Baseball and music.

I have some neat music-related pieces in my non-sports collection. Last year's American Pie set represents a large chunk of those. Some first cards I featured on this blog were of some legendary musical figures from American Pie's first release a decade ago. (Tony Conigliaro and Denny McLain, along with many other former players, have recorded albums as well.)

However, as odd as it might seem, this Mark Fidrych card is easily the best piece of my "musical baseball cards" collection.

I accidentally bought a second copy of Fidrych's 1979 Hostess issue at a card show a while back. (Curiously, it features the same photo as his famous '77 Topps rookie.)

Since "The Bird" was always one of my dad's favorites, I gave it to him as a little gift.

He kept it in his wallet for a while, as you might be able to tell from the creases. (Indifference towards condition must run in the family, as my other copy of this card has a couple creases as well.)

Earlier this year, one of my favorite current bands, "The Baseball Project", played at a bar in downtown Chicago. Unfortunately, I'm not 21 yet, so I wasn't able to go, but my dad made the trip. (That'll change next year, though.)

If you're not familiar with them yet, you might want to give them a shot. All of their songs are baseball-themed, from "Panda and the Freak" to "Gratitude (For Curt Flood)".

They even have a song about Fidrych. (Probably my favorite track of theirs.)

I doubt many other twenty year-olds could truly appreciate how great that is. I've previously mentioned how tough it is to find anyone else in my age group who collects baseball cards.

Believe me, it's even more rare to find anyone my age who knows who the Velvet Underground is, much less anyone who actually listens to any music from that era. (Or anything that's not constantly on the radio these days.)

Anyways, from what he told me, my dad spotted a few members from the band hanging out around the bar before the show was scheduled to start.

I've always liked the idea of just chatting with a band member before they go on stage. It's one of the main reasons I'm drawn to bands like The Ramones and the Violent Femmes (who actually got their start playing on the streets of Milwaukee) than "arena rock" bands like Queen or pretty much any '80s hair metal band.

It's a more personal experience.

Having them autograph the Fidrych card was a tremendous idea on my dad's part. It definitely makes this one of the most unique items in my collection.

On the bottom-right, we have the autograph of drummer Linda Pitmon, who was nice enough to personalize the autograph to me. The autograph near the top is of Scott McCaughey, guitarist and singer in "The Baseball Project". My dad said that McCaughey, an avid baseball fan, remembered the Hostess card when it was handed to him.

The most obscured signature is probably my favorite. In the bottom-left, you can see a semblance of an autograph by Mike Mills, bassist and singer of R.E.M., one of my favorite bands ever. (He was filling in for regular bassist and also former R.E.M. member Peter Buck, who just might be my all-time favorite musician. I'd love to track down his autograph one of these days.)

The only autograph missing is of guitarist Steve Wynn. How great would it be to get the entire "Baseball Project" lineup on a Mark Fidrych Hostess card?

I'm crossing my fingers.

There's few certainties in life, especially at twenty years of age. But I know I'll never stop loving baseball, and I'll never stop loving music.

When those two hobbies come together, it's something else.