Sunday, March 30, 2014

This is (not) the year

I'm not delusional.

Being around Chicago, I'm sure you'll find a lot of Cubs fans that always seem to think that this year is the year. The year the curse ends. The year they win the Series. The year all is right with the world.

I'm not one of them. I know full well that this is definitely not the year. As of right now, the Cubs are one of baseball's doormats. People might rag on them a lot, but I can't say it's not justified.

I'd be surprised if the Cubs crack 70 wins this year. The fact that 2014 is Wrigley Field's 100th anniversary may be special, but this year's team looks anything but.

Even so, I'll still be sticking with the Cubbies all year. It might not be easy, but I'm a devoted fan.

Of course, the reason I bring up all of this now is because tomorrow is Opening Day!

Sure, there were those games in Australia last week and tonight's Dodgers-Padres contest, but let's face it. Tomorrow is the real Opening Day.

Unfortunately, I'll be stuck at school for most of it. While I may be able to catch bits and pieces of some games, I'm sure to miss the vast majority of the Cubs-Pirates opener in Pittsburgh. I'm not happy about it.

At least I'll be able to bask in the glory of a recent trade package sent to me by Mark of the Pirate-centric blog "Battlin' Bucs" in the meantime.

I'm fully prepared to see the Cubs take a lot of butt whippings from the Pirates this year.

As a Cubs fan, I remember this guy well.

I can't say many of my memories of Hee Seop Choi are positive, but I sure was excited to see him play when he came over from South Korea in 2001.

He hit exactly .210 during his two years in Chicago and was out of the majors by 2005.

Typical Cubs.

Mark understands my unabashed love for oddballs.

I'm especially fond of the Sandberg because of the intense action shot. You don't see that too often on oddballs.

If you ask me, the Cubs need at least one standout player. Even as a devoted fan of the franchise, I still have a tough time matching the names with the faces on occasion. I understand they're rebuilding, but I think it's been a bit too much of a revolving door lately.

I'm waiting for another guy like "Ryno".

Though I've mentioned my interest in them in the past, I've never explicitly said I collect bunting or mound conference cards.

Still, that doesn't stop people like Mark from sending great ones over. Each new one I get inches me closer to declaring them as new mini-collections.

I'm not quite ready to pull the trigger yet.

But stay tuned.

In the meantime, Mark did send along a few hits to my official mini-collections.

One reason I enjoy watching the Cubs so much is that I get to see pitchers hit. People can plug the universal DH all they want, but I'll always be an advocate for NL-style play.

Besides, you'd never get these great "pitcher at the plate" shots otherwise.

Also present were a couple awesome "at the wall" and "play at the plate" pieces.

I used to buy packs and packs of Upper Deck MVP when I was a kid, so I'll always have a bit of a weakness for them.

Looking back, though, their designs were pretty darn ugly.

How about a couple Bowman Chrome beauties?

I'm usually apathetic towards anything Chrome-related these days, but I'll be darned if these aren't some sweet "double dip" and "throwback" hits.

With my OCD, though, I'll have to make it a mission to track down the base versions of each.

Mark's mini-collection madness ended with this beautiful Fan Favorites issue.

It's definitely one of the more bad-ass "bat barrels" you'll ever find.

I vaguely remember when Don Baylor managed the Cubs.

He hasn't been at the helm of a big league club since the Cubbies let him go in 2014. He's the hitting coach for the Angels these days.

While my managerial memory of Baylor may be a bit fuzzy, that doesn't stop me from collecting cards from his playing days.

This '75 Topps issue was one of the more gaping holes in my collection before Mark sent one over.

You can never go wrong with the Vlad-man.

I think he would've looked perfect in the Cubbie blue.

One can only dream.


Deja vu, bro.

The crown jewel of yesterday's featured trade package was a Pat Neshek autograph.

As it turns out, the grand giveaway Mark had in store for me was another Pat Neshek autograph.

What are the odds?

It's awesome that not one, but two different bloggers thought of my new Neshek collection while putting together trade packages to send my way. They'll look spectacular next to each other in a binder.

With cards like these, I can forgive Mark for the inevitable beatdown his Pirates are going to put on the Cubbies this year.

Just you wait until 2020, though. The tables will be turned.

I hope.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Position per capita

As of this writing, I'm knee-deep in organizing last week's card show finds.

My sorting methods probably take up a bit more time than most other collectors. As I've mentioned before, I organize my cards by team and then by position. Every time I look through my Angels binder, for instance, I get to see the history of their franchise, position-by-position.

In many cases, my ways of organization have forced me to take a deeper look at baseball cards as a whole. One thing I've often wondered over the years is which position has the greatest cards per capita.

I doubt it's anything you can accurately quantify. Still, seeing as how I've been sorting my cards by position for more than a decade, I think I have enough experience to speak on the matter.

Luckily for me, I recently received a great package of goodies from Oscar of the terrific blog "All Trade Bait, All The Time". Though I doubt it was his intention, he sent along a nice mix of positions as well.

In a rare move for me, I specifically asked for this yellow Mariano Rivera parallel when Oscar posted it on his blog.

Pitchers probably have the most variety in terms of photo selection. The majority may be standard windup shots, but I also have cards that feature hurlers fielding, attempting a pickoff throw, or even at the plate.

Mound conference shots sneak in from time to time as well, though I've never seen one quite like this. In a highly emotional moment from last year, "Mo" is seen here being taken out of his final game by longtime teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte.

It's definitely a one-of-a-kind pitching shot.

The other half of a baseball battery often receive some pretty neat cardboard as well.

This Mauer mini was the second and final card I specifically requested from Oscar. I love this year's 1989 minis, but others seem to hate them. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground on these, either. They're very polarizing minis.

If I were to look through my Mauer collection, chances are you'd see a fairly decisive split between standard hitting shots like this one and others that feature him in his catching gear.

While this is a great card, I prefer the tools of ignorance.

Though the "Mo" and Mauer would've been more than enough, Oscar kept on going.

He sent along a couple terrific catcher-centrich cards with these two.

Backstops probably have the best action-based photos, as you can see with that terrific "Pudge" play at the plate.

I guess players of any position could receive one of those "chilling in the dugout" shots, but there seems to be a certain special aura with a lot of the catcher cards I receive.

I'm not sure what it is, but I can see why some people devote large parts of their collection specifically to backstops.

Infielders see their fair share of action as well.

There's a ton of great cardboard out there of first and third basemen, but middle infielders have what I like to call the "Double Dip Advantage". (Okay, I just made that up right now.)

Double plays are sometimes turned at first, third, and home, but I can't recall seeing one featured on a baseball card. 

Most "double dips", of course, take place at second base. That's why shortstops and second baseman have the advantage in that department.

Dee Gordon may still have the ball in his hand here, but this beauty still qualifies for my double play mini-collection nonetheless.

I can't believe I didn't already own a copy of it before Oscar came along.

As I said, second baseman often get into the "double dip" action as well.

If Roberto Alomar is any indication, they can also sport some interestingly goofy shades sometimes.

Let's not forget the outfielders.

There's more room to roam in the gaps of a baseball field, which sometimes gives outfielders an advantage over infielders.

You probably won't see this great of a catch displayed on a card of Roberto Alomar or Dee Gordon.

Designated hitters are limited in the photo department, since their job is pared down to...well, hitting.

They're not likely to receive any head-turning action shots in the field. You might get a good dugout image, but the vast majority of DHs have to make their cardboard count at the plate.

"Big Papi" certainly did on this one, as shown by this awesome "broken bat" shot.

Overall, though, I'd have to say that pitchers receive the best cards of any position in baseball.

There's just so many different routes to go with the men on the mound. Numerous different grips, numerous different windups, and numerous different arm angles.

If you want to get even more technical, submariners like Pat Neshek probably receive the coolest cards of any pitchers.

Still, the neat action shot wasn't what caught my eye about this piece.

I've heard that Mr. Neshek is an avid card collector and a prolific signer, but I'd never been lucky enough to own an in-person autograph of his until Oscar sent this beauty my way.

I usually don't care one way or the other how a guy signs, but I must say that Neshek has one of the most beautiful signatures around. It beats the hell out of most of the other scribbles I've seen over the years.

So, here's to you, Mr. Neshek.

Here's to all the pitchers out there, for that matter.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring break in paradise, Pt. 4: I'll be back

There is such a thing as card show overload.

I'm not talking about too many card shows. That isn't possible. One can never have enough card shows.

No, I'm talking about that moment when you set foot into a show and begin to soak everything in for the first time. As you walk through the aisles, endless barrages of "10 CENTS EACH!!!", "CLOSEOUT SALE!!!", or "BARGAINS!!!" begin to hit you.

I often have no idea where to start at a card show. That's why it's important to have a good first table to break the ice a bit.

At the last couple shows, my dad and I have found that special icebreaker. There's a guy who has an absolutely huge assortment of dollar cards all scattered wildly in a bin. In my stupidity, I forgot to take a picture of the thing on Saturday. That would've been a gem of an image for this blog.

I guess I was too excited to finally be "getting my card show on" (as the kids say) that afternoon.

With my budget, a smart shopper probably would've set a limit of about ten cards from this guy's dollar box. After all, you don't want to blow too much of your cash right away.

At card shows, though, smart shopping sometimes goes out the window. I ended up with 26 great cards after all was said and done, and the vendor graciously only charged me 20 bucks for the lot. The ice had been broken.

One of the first things I unearthed was this awesome 1967 Topps Poster of Felipe Alou. As I've mentioned before, I go absolutely bonkers for anything related to the Alou brothers.

I'm still not exactly sure why.

Oddballs are slowly starting to take over my card show experience.

I seem to come home with more and more each time. These two legends are from the 1970 Milton Bradley checklist.

Without early card games like these, future gaming releases like my beloved MLB Showdown might've never been possible.

Every so often, I'll find an oddball that leaves me completely stumped.

Two of those fell out of this guy's dollar bin.

The Concepcion is obviously from some sort of Mexican League set. I don't know about you, but I didn't even know things like that existed before Saturday.

It's printed on about the flimsiest card stock imaginable, and the back is completely blank. There isn't a whole lot of hope in finding much more information about Mr. Concepcion.

I tried doing as much research as possible about the issue on the right. It's some sort of playing card, as there's a ten of spades on the back. (Possible royal flush?)

I assume it's fairly old, or at least a reprint of something that was fairly old. Extensive searching came up with absolutely nothing.

Sometimes, though, the best kinds of oddballs are the most mysterious.

Let's get back to the more familiar oddities, if such a thing is possible.

You probably know the Hostess and Kellogg's brands fairly well by now.

If not, you need a crash course in "Oddballs 101".

From what I hear, 1975 minis will also be part of that class.

I landed not one, but two of them out of this dollar box. And not just any two, either.

If I were to make a list of my five favorite cards from '75 Topps (as another blogger recently did), these two would most certainly be on it.

I think Herb Washington would be #1, but Killebrew and Carew might well be numbers two and three. The Carew is by far the greatest "bat barrel" card ever made.

With a treasured "autograph" shot, the Killebrew is also a mini-collection hit. But, more than that, it's also his final Topps card.

I'm ecstatic to finally have both in mini form.

This dollar bin had quite a few shockers in store.

As a diehard Beatles fan and avid card collector, it makes sense that I've long wanted own one of these '60s Beatles pieces.

Well, as I'm happy to report, that dream has come true.

Thanks to some condition flaws on the back, this A Hard Day's Night single became mine for a single dollar. I'm probably one of the few fans who ranks Ringo as their favorite Beatle, so I'm happy to see him featured on this beauty.

Ah, I finally own a Beatles card.

What could be better?

How about a second Beatles card?

This very clean piece also set me back just a buck. It's a still from the memorable opening scene of A Hard Day's Night.

Like the title of one of the more underrated Beatles tunes, I'll be back to this guy's table come the next card show.

For now, though, let's get back to baseball.

These also fell out of this guy's dollar bin. I was sure glad to land them at that price. No, no, not a buck each, dear reader.

A buck for all three.

It was a bit hard to comprehend landing three 1950 Bowmans for about 33 cents a piece. All have obvious condition flaws, but that sure didn't stop me.

From left to right, we have Billy DeMars, Herman Wehmeier, and Mel Parnell. The DeMars was the only one I actually needed, as I somehow hadn't owned a real St. Louis Browns card before Saturday.

I never used to care for early Bowman, but they're slowly starting to win my heart.

Of course, vintage Topps has always made me swoon.

This spectacular pair also cost just a buck a pop.

That won't be the last you'll hear of Reggie this evening.

Even with Beatles cards, minis, and vintage Bowman, however, I'd have to rate this as the best find from the dollar bin.

I've long wanted to pick up a copy of Rich "Goose" Gossage's 1973 Topps rookie, but all the ones I've seen have been just a tad out of my price range. I always hoped I'd find an off-condition one at a show someday.

In yet another fulfilled fantasy, that's exactly what we have here with this miscut gem. I plopped down a wrinkled George Washington for this one without a second thought.

Welcome to the collection, "Goose".

It was long overdue.

About halfway into the show, I discovered yet another vintage bargain box.

I think I only walked away with five cards from this table, and two of those were for other people.

Despite what you might think with my 200-card dime box conquests, however, it's not the quantity that matters. It's the quality.

I certainly made my three "keeper" cards count.

This terrific Post oddball of "The Duke" set me back a paltry buck.

I went back and forth on this one a few times.

At just three bucks, I knew I was going to buy Mr. Newcombe no matter what. The only question was whether I'd keep it or send it to one of the gazillion Dodger collectors around the blogosphere.

In the end, I decided I just couldn't part with such beauty.

My apologies, you Dodger fanatics.

This was probably the best find from this guy's table.

As the owner of arguably the best baseball name in history, Richie Ashburn has always been a personal favorite of mine. I've made it a point to track down as much cardboard as possible of the Hall of Famer.

With this three-dollar find, I now own each of Ashburn's Topps cards from 1958 to his 1963 "sunset" issue. (I also have his '54 Topps for good measure.)

After all was said and done, I deemed this one to be unquestionably "Wall-worthy".

You might remember "The Wall" from a past post of mine.

I wasn't done with Mr. Ashburn just yet.

The last table I'll be recapping in these card show posts had a couple little boxes of scattered cardboard, fresh for the picking. My dad helped me out with this one, pulling a few cards he thought I might want.

The above Post Ashburn was one of the treasures he selected.

At two bucks, I couldn't say no.

He also scoped out this Kellogg's Ron Santo for just a dollar.

Good eye, dad.

My dad actually bought the OPC version of Willie McCovey's 1970 Topps issue for me this past Christmas.

I guess it's fitting that he found the standard Topps version of the very same card in this bargain box. At just a buck, my dad helped bring my McCovey collection full circle.

Reggie Jackson has always been a favorite of both mine and my dad's. Picking up anything of his is a virtual no-brainer for that very reason.

With the '70 Topps issue you see above and the '72 Topps I featured earlier, I now own every single Topps card of "Mr. October" apart from his iconic '69 rookie. Though it's a dream to complete Jackson's "Topps set" one day, I don't see it happening anytime soon.

Still, at three bucks, this nifty '70 Topps single did bring me one step closer.

In fact, it was tied with guys like Newcombe and Ashburn as my most expensive purchase of the day.

Oh, and let's not forget Babe Herman.

Wait, what?

Nick, I thought you said your most expensive cards were three bucks?

Yes, they were. I wouldn't lie to you. Mr. Herman here was indeed priced at a mere three dollars.

I was as shocked as you are.

This vendor actually had quite a few 1933 Goudeys in the three-dollar range. Most of the ones I found were no-namers, though. Still cool, but I thought there had to be a halfway decent name somewhere in the pile.

I didn't know it at the time, but I was holding out for Babe Herman. Though he's probably not a household name, a lot of more passionate baseball fans know who he is. A .324 career hitter, Herman is one of three players to record three cycles. (The others are Bob Meusel and John Reilly.)

Though I certainly never thought I'd own a real card of Babe Herman, I couldn't be happier with this purchase.

It was my find of the day.

There's no doubt about it.

As usual, I'd like to give one huge heartfelt thanks to my dad. Just like he's done throughout my entire life, he was at my side through all four hours at Saturday's show. Without his generous grant, chances are I wouldn't have been able to afford the likes of Gossage, McCartney, or Herman.

Today just so happens to my my dad's birthday, by the way. A fitting end to what has been an immensely fun card show recap.

Happy birthday, dad!

Thanks for everything.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spring break in paradise, Pt. 3: Binder up

While picking through cheap Heritage and other modern cards was a blast, I had the most fun with my discount vintage digs on Saturday.

To me, it seems like the ways other collectors peruse bargain bin vintage is very methodical. Most people have their set lists or whatever and simply dig for cards that fill their needs.

I've never brought one of those lists to a show. Of course, the main reason for that is because I'm not a set collector. Along with that, though, I want to be up for whatever when it comes to discount vintage.

I'd say about 90 percent of the vintage-minded people I see at shows have lists with them. There doesn't seem to be many of my "up for whatever" kinds at these things. I did, however, encounter one of my own on Saturday.

One of the dime boxes I unearthed had a stack of Kellogg's cards inside. I'll repeat that again.

Dime Kellogg's cards.

It doesn't get much better than that.

One of my goals for this show was to find me some Kellogg's, so it was pretty much perfect.

I scoped out a few of the ones I needed and went to dig through the vendor's other dime box treasures. Literally seconds after I finished up with the Kellogg's, another guy came up to me and asked about them. He must've caught a glimpse of all the 3-D cards I was holding.

Shortly after that, he bought the entire Kellogg's stack. I don't even think he looked through them. I guess he just enjoyed Kellogg's that much.

Still, had I found that vendor's table just minutes after I did, my quest for Kellogg's would've come up empty. I would've never found the likes of Quisenberry, Raines, or Oliver. And, as nice as it would've been to meet one of my own kind, I would've been pissed.

I guess I was just in the right place at the right time.

Those were far from the only vintage oddballs I found on Saturday, though.

Take a look at these...say it with me now...


The same guy with that big lot of '84 Donruss and all the 12/$1 cards also had a box of 5/$1 cardboard that was largely filled with '75 minis.

Just days before this show, I was looking through my Red Sox binder and noticed that I hadn't yet found the mini for Mr. Tiant. I fantasized about how cool it would be to own a copy.

That fantasy came true on Saturday.

About halfway through the show, I managed to stumble upon a 3/$1 vintage bin.

Among the gems I found inside was this neat '62 Post Eddie Yost, a card that qualifies for my "sunset" collection.

At some point, a young collector updated this one to reflect Yost's position as a coach with the Senators. Note the "No Record" label at the bottom as well.

These "updated" vintage cards will always be fascinating to me.

Here are a couple more gems from the 3/$1 bin.

That Alou was actually in the lost Just Commons order I placed a couple months ago, so finding it in this discount box was especially sweet.

This same vendor had a small fifty-cent vintage box on display as well.

I didn't find a whole lot from it, but I was extremely happy with this pair of Cooperstown inductees.

Plus, it always nice to add a Browns card to my collection.

One of the first tables my dad and I stopped at had a 90% off vintage bin on display.

These are almost always a ton of fun because they usually house off-condition cards of some big names. If you see one at your next show, I'd recommend digging through it.

I think I paid about 50 cents for this one. Besides, it's one of those ultra-rare "pie in the face" short-prints. Right?

Oh, wait. This card is from 1967.

Topps wasn't pulling that crap then.

"Maz" for 80 cents?

Yes, please.

Mr. Santo for 60 cents?

You know it.

In honor of Heritage, one of my other goals for this show was to pick up a few real '65s.

Boy, did I succeed in that department. Not only did I nab that Marichal for a mere 80 cents, but I also tracked down one of my most desired '65s with the Fox.

At $2.50, it was one of the pricier purchases of the day. However, as Fox's last card, it's a new cornerstone for my "sunset" collection.

A small price to pay for such greatness.

Another goal of mine was to track down both Carl Yastrzemski's and Johnny Bench's 1975 Topps issues.

I'll spoil it now by saying that I failed on those. However, I probably one-upped myself with the "Yaz" anyways by dropping three bucks on his '66 Topps single.

I've seen it on a few other blogs thus far and have wanted a copy ever since. It's a nice departure from the stone-faced expressions "Yaz" seems to have on most of his other cards.

I was actually thinking about making this one of my goals for Saturday's show instead of the '75, but figured, "Nah. I doubt I'll find that one."

Never assume anything when you set foot into a card show, my friends.

Here's something I certainly didn't think existed before Saturday.

That, my fellow readers, is an entire binder full of Hostess cards. I didn't take as many pictures as I would've liked at this show, but I did remember to snap a shot of this monstrosity.

It might be tough to tell from the photo, but this thing was absolutely huge. I'm pretty sure it was one of those gigantic three-inch binders.

Each section was separated by year. At the end of all that pecking through the binder, I'd added about 65 new Hostess singles to my collection. The vast majority of the ones I bought were anywhere between 40 and 75 cents a pop.

I usually don't even dig through these types of set-based binders at shows, but I'm sure happy I found this one.

How happy?

This happy.

I'd never seen so much Hostess in one place before.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The 1975 section was probably the smallest in this guy's binder.

Between Cardenal, Lee, and Gamble, though, it had some of my favorite names.

While you go through these next few scans, by the way, I invite you to play a little game.

It's called "Spot the Bobby Grich".

The very patriotic 1976 design is probably my favorite in Hostess history.

Now that I think of it, I don't think I've ever seen a shot of Al Hrabosky with facial hair that wasn't his famous fu manchu. He looks a little strange with just an ordinary old mustache.

Oh, and note Mr. Grich in the bottom-right-hand corner.

The guy's binder got more plentiful as the years moved forward.

I landed a good dozen of these '77 Hostess cards from his selection. The Tenace and Tiant were discounted to just a quarter each because of the candy stains.

In a lot of ways, I actually prefer those. They add a good amount of character to these things.

Grich, bottom-left.

I probably found more '78s than any other year.

I'd have to go back and check, but I believe I came away with about a couple dozen of these. I'd always assumed that Lyman Bostock's only tragic "sunset" card was his '78 Topps issue. I'd never known that Hostess card existed until I found it in this binder.

Note yet another fantastic Oscar Gamble 'fro in the center here as well.

Grich, bottom-left.

I always get the '78 and '79 Hostess designs confused because they look eerily similar.

Sadly, this is where the tale of Hostess ends. For whatever reason, the brand discontinued the legendary oddballs after 1979.

They'd make sporadic appearances in the '90s, but none of them even came close to the greatness of the originals.

Oh, yeah. Grich, top-right.

Not only did I add a whole bunch of sugary cardboard to my binders, but I also unwittingly landed the complete run of Bobby Grich Hostess cards.

I didn't realize that until after I got home from Saturday's show.

The Hostess extravaganza ends with Mr. Munson here.

At a whole dollar, it was the most expensive card I purchased from the binder. Like the '78 Bostock, it's yet another tragic addition to my "sunset" collection.

Still, it's a serene piece of history, and one I'm proud to own.

I'll have to do more binder digging at the next show I attend.

This Hostess find was the binder of a lifetime.