Saturday, September 30, 2017

Top Five: Carl Yastrzemski

Carl Yastrzemski is what I like to call a "stop-and-look" kind of guy when it comes to my card collection.

If I happen to pull my Red Sox binder off my bookshelf, I always, always have to stop and look at my Yaz cards -- even if the original reasons for retrieving my binder are completely unrelated to Yaz or his ilk. I can't resist spending a few minutes flipping through my Yaz pages, every damn time.

Part of the reason Yaz is such a cornerstone of my collection is the fact that he simply received a ton of fine cardboard during (and after) his hallowed career, and today I'll be featuring the five best of his many stop-and-look cards.

#5 -- 1982 Fleer #633 Carl Yastrzemski

I don't know if there's a more universally loved figure than Yaz in the annals of Red Sox history.

Despite the many empty seats in the background, you really get a sense of how much he meant to the franchise with this gem, a special "tip of the cap" from '82 Fleer highlighting Yaz's 3,000th game with the Sox.

It's also a personal favorite of mine because there aren't many cards that give us a glimpse of Fenway's Pesky Pole territory.

#4 -- 1981 Topps #110 Carl Yastrzemski

I seem to like '81 Topps more than most collectors out there -- it's one of Topps's ten best sets as far as I'm concerned.

Even amongst the many great cards in the checklist, Yaz here might be my very favorite of the lot: a candid shot of the slugger in the twilight of his career, applying pine tar to his trusted lumber while waiting for his turn in the cage.

It seems to me that '81 is among the least honored of Topps's retro designs, which is a shame because it's cards like this one that made me fall in love with the hobby in the first place.

#3 -- 1982 Donruss #74 Carl Yastrzemski

Here's what might well be the most mysterious baseball card ever made, for a few reasons.

1)  Bunting? Since when does the mythical Yaz ever lay down a measly bunt?

2) As described in a Night Owl post I remember reading in my early days of the blogosphere, the red batting helmet, pullover Sox jerseys, and striped socks are dead giveaways that this shot doesn't come from the early '80s at all. In fact, it can be traced all the way back to...1978.

3) So, then, how the heck did a photograph from 1978 -- a full three years before Donruss even existed -- end up on a Donruss card in 1982?

I doubt we'll ever know for sure but, at the very least, the sheer mystery of it all makes it the most interesting Yaz card on the market.

#2 -- 1966 Topps #70 Carl Yastrzemski

Nothing eerie about this one, just a fantastic image of a young, all-smiles Yaz -- which stands out given his largely stoic personality on most of his Topps cards.

#1 -- 1965 Topps #385 Carl Yastrzemski

One of the white whales I've considered in the wake of my '52 Hoyt takedown has been Yaz's 1960 Topps rookie.

But even if I do one day capture that elusive rookie, I'm not sure it'd supplant this one as my very favorite Yaz card, if I'm being completely honest. There's just so much I love about the #1 card on this countdown.

For one thing, it's 1965 Topps, my favorite design in Topps history. And while the common (but great) looking-up-at-the-sky pose isn't anything out of the ordinary, there's something about Yaz doing it that makes it feel different, unique. It's like he's readying himself for the years of glory and stardom yet to come.

It's easily the most stop-and-look card of my beloved stop-and-look collection of Yaz.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Penny boxes, round two

Between white whales and card shows, this has sure been one glorious whirlwind of a week for my collection.

One thing that got a bit lost in the chaos was the fact that the penny boxes were back at the flea market a couple weekends ago. These, as you might remember, took me completely by surprise during an otherwise routine afternoon a while back, and despite purchasing over 500 cards the first time around, I still hadn't finished going through the guy's inventory.

I mentioned that this same vendor was back at the flea market during my last trip a few weeks ago, only without the penny cards. Though I scored a nice '54 Billy Martin from him that day, I basically begged him to bring the penny boxes back the following week, because with cards as great as his, I just had to look through them all.

Flash forward a week later, and there they were: the penny boxes were back!

Any cases of the early-morning yawns were immediately quelled by those glorious 1¢ price tags.

It was all smiles from here on out.

Believe me when I say that I scoured every last penny card this guy had -- even rehashing some of the same ones I dug through the first time around a couple months ago -- because I'm a completist when it comes to this sort of thing.

With a situation like this, I can't bear to think of what I might be leaving behind, and I can sleep a little better at night knowing I didn't abandon this quartet of superstars in those poor penny boxes.

And while big names like Rickey and Mo are great, for me the penny boxes just about hit their peak with the more secondary stars like Shooter and Jim Abbott.

And hey, the penny boxes even inspired me to start a new player collection.

Mo Vaughn has long been one of my favorite players of the '90s, but for whatever reason, I've never chased his cards with much vigor. I'd grab a few here and there if I felt like it, but overall, I'd describe my Vaughn collection as passive, at best. But after seeing Mo after Mo after Mo pass me by in the penny boxes, I wondered: why am I not collecting this guy?

I didn't have a good answer, and thus, a player collection was born.

Mini-collection hits for a penny a pop, and what a feeling that is.

These filled a couple gaping holes in my sunset collection, and I sometimes forget that both Winfield and Murray both played well into the '90s.

Some prime Short Term Stops here, including one of the extreme few cards I've ever seen of Vince Coleman's forgotten stint with the Reds.

I feel a little better about the world knowing that penny-box oddballs actually exist.

Seeing the same optometrist, are we?


And just when I thought I'd seen it all, lo and behold: a Dime Box Dozen need.

Yup, Kenny here was indeed on my DBD list before this second foray through the penny boxes. Before last Sunday, I'd had a Dugout Collection parallel of this one sitting in my Cleveland binder for ages without ever reeling in the standard base card.

All it took was a single penny to put years of frustration to rest.

These penny boxes were overwhelmingly '90s-heavy, so stumbling upon some weird and wacky cards was pretty much inevitable.

I still haven't the slightest clue what I'm seeing on that Skybox Thunder design, and E-X did their best to provide their subjects with an apt adjective in an effort to make their brand stand out (though in the case of Lenny Dykstra, RIPPED = 'ROIDED).

Sometimes '90s cards can be quite left-of-center, just like the train-conductor wardrobe of that usher (I assume?) sharing the spotlight with Dean Palmer there.

Then again, whether they come in vertical...

...or horizontal form, some '90s cards are just objectively beautiful.

Some '90s cards capture the often-ignored beauty of the dugout.

Finally, the penny boxes helped me find greatness in a few '90s sets I'd previously ignored or just plain disliked.

I doubt I'll ever come around on '96 Donruss or '98 Topps, but it's good knowing that with a little effort, there are bright spots to be found in even the darkest corners.

About 45 minutes and one harsh neck sunburn later, I had done it: I'd finally conquered the penny boxes.

The final tally for the day came to a whopping 450 cards, mine for the insane price of four dollars. It boggles my mind to think that, between my two trips to this guy's table, I added right around 1,000 new penny cards to my collection.

From there, the Penny Card Guy and I shook hands -- and would you believe it, he actually thanked me for taking the time to look through everything he had. No, no, sir, thank you!

I am honored to have had the privilege of experiencing your penny box heaven.

(And in perhaps the most noteworthy aside in blog post history, I ended up buying these two '54s from the Penny Card Guy's higher-priced stuff to go along with the 450 penny cards -- as well as the Billy Martin I purchased the last time around.

Talk about the best of both worlds.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Suit and tied

Rob Manfred has a card in this year's Archives, and I'm still not quite sure how I feel about that.

I didn't pull it myself -- it arrived from reader Jonathan T. who recently reached out to me about a trade -- but I have to imagine seeing this older, suit-and-tied Harvard graduate fall out of a pack of baseball cards would be rather jarring.

I suppose it's an interesting experiment, if nothing else. Aside from Kenesaw Mountain Landis, I own next to nothing of baseball commissioners -- and the appearance of MLBPA director Tony Clark in this year's Archives is also a first. And I'd honestly rather have a commissioner in my collection than my 109th different Henry Owens (seriously, the guy's stalking me).

But the question remains: do we really need a baseball card of Rob Manfred? If you want to feature an outside-the-lines member of the baseball fraternity, why not include a couple announcers? Or some superfans?

At the very least, it seems like Manfred would be better suited as a subject in A&G or something along those lines.

But I guess all that pontification is a good enough indicator that, yes, I'm glad that Rob Manfred is on a baseball card, if for no other reason than it sparks a conversation about whether or not Rob Manfred should be on a baseball card.

For now, however, let's take a look at a couple other things Jonathan sent over: starting with a couple of your standard non-commissioners from 2017 Archives.

Jonathan and I executed a trade in which we sent each other a handful of cherry-picked items from our respective want lists, and another handful of completely random stuff -- the two you see here came from the latter category.

The Piazza is much appreciated, as I've recently started to ramp up my chase for his cards, and I may be the only person left who still has any sort of affection for the Triple Play brand.

A couple from the want lists, including an Altuve from this year's Five-Tool insert set which I've begun warming up to as of late.

I was excited when I heard that Topps would be issuing a special series of Jackie Robinson Day inserts, as players in 42 jerseys is a prominent mini-collection of mine.

I'm currently in the midst of trying to build the entire set, but I've noticed a problem with some of the photos: many of them don't actually feature images where the 42 is visible, which kinda defeats the purpose of the whole thing, doesn't it?

Now that's more like it, Topps.

Jonathan sent over another small package shortly after his first arrived, and these NL Team Set cards were among the highlights.

Not sure if I'm alone, in that I'm always tempted to pick up one of those sets every time I walk into a Target, so thanks to Jonathan for suppressing that urge...for now.

As far as a card capturing the true spirit of an insert set, look no further than this Independence Day-themed look from Mr. Rizzo.

Red sleeves, blue sleeves, white jersey, stars all over the place: AMERICA. Rizzo is one of the few guys these days who seems to consistently get good cards -- no, I'm not just saying that because he's one of my favorite players -- and this one just adds to his legend.

Certainly more exciting than a suit and tie.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Vacationing at the card show

I took a couple much-needed vacation days from work this week, and while I didn't plan it as such, my time off just happened to coincide with the local card show.

I've never been a big travel guy. My five days off are more centered around relaxation -- what's more relaxing than a card show? -- and if I had to guess, the hour-long drive Dad and I made down to the village hall yesterday will probably be the most energy I spend all week. Even better was knowing that I was basically getting paid to be at the card show with my vacation days and all, and wow, what a great feeling that is.

This, as I've said before, is my favorite of the shows in my area, and to make a great place even better, I even got to meet up with Tony for a bit yesterday. The village hall has a calm, friendly atmosphere that persisted despite the fact that it was quite packed, as you might be able to tell from the photo above. But that's okay with me, because the last couple shows I've hit here were on Saturdays, and those had a bit too much of a ghost-town feel to them.

Sure, atmosphere is great and all, but what's a card show without the cards?

You know as well as I do that I wouldn't still be going to this show if it didn't have the cards to back it all up.

Yesterday, in fact produced the single greatest card I've ever found at a show -- and that's not hyperbole by any means -- but more on that a little later. In the meantime, I basically accomplished the only steadfast goal I set for myself at the very first table of the day: find Heritage High Numbers -- and, specifically, the Cody Bellinger from the set. I'm a fan of the Dodger prospect, but I sadly didn't have any luck in pulling his card from the packs I opened.

In a rare move for me, I actually forked over five whole dollars for his Heritage rookie, mostly because I just wanted the thing now and didn't want to have to hunt and peck and hope that I might find it cheaper a few months or a year from now.

With the Bellinger out of the way, I was able to kick back with a dollop of suntan lotion on my nose and simply take in the rest of my card show vacation.

That included, as always, a healthy attack on my remaining 2017 base needs, including almost all of the other High Numbers I needed. Everything on this page aside from the Bryant (which was a dollar) came out of a dime box.

Also, why did no one tell me Krazy George has a card in A&G this year?!

I'm still amazed at how quickly and easily inserts wind up in the discount boxes.

This whole page cost about two dollars all together -- the Reddick being the priciest of the lot at a whole buck -- and, once again, Finest continues to floor me with its stunning retro-themed inserts (though I have yet to actually open a pack of the stuff in my long collecting life).

I also added what I hope is the first of many Bruce Maxwell cards to my collection, and by now, I think you know why.

Dime box minis of all shapes, sizes, and creeds -- chrome minis, Artist Dude minis, and even a National-exclusive Topps mini that I'd never even seen before yesterday.

Dime box hits for a few of my main player collections, including the last card I needed to complete Lee Smith's rookie card puzzle.

I now have Smith's Topps, Fleer, and Donruss rookies from '82, and, somehow, they cost me all of 45 cents total (two dimes and a quarter).

A card show isn't complete without mini-collection hits, including that terrific Chili Davis which I've been targeting for a while.

Parallels have long been a source of unabridged joy for me, and I've found that no show satisfies that need more than this one.

While these were certainly exciting to pull from a quarter box... table has ever exposed my childish love for shiny objects quite like the one I encountered near the end of the day.

These boxes had BLOWOUT written on them in large print (usually a good sign) and underneath, the words 10 CENTS EACH (always a good sign). One of the boxes was a 3200-count box filled almost entirely of refractors. I repeat: a 3200-count box...ALL REFRACTORS.

Safe to say I was under a fair bit of hypnosis during that dig, and somehow I managed to not blow my entire budget at that table alone...which could've easily happened with a bit less self-control.

But cards don't just have to be shiny to grab my attention: I'm mostly on the hunt for just plain fun stuff at shows, like these.

(Hakuna Machado?)

Fun is finding photo-variation SPs in 50-cent boxes.

Even more fun is finding other ignored variant short-prints in dime (Leiter) and quarter (Arrieta) boxes, as these two are.

Only problem with the Leiter (still not sure what the heck is going on there) is that I've now acquired his rare photo SP without actually tracking down the standard base card.

Dime box oddballs!

The fact that I would voluntarily purchase a Jose Canseco should tell you how much I love Mother's Cookies cards.

Here's a new one for the Card or Not A Card? chronicles.

I unearthed this Mattingly from a dime box and immediately asked myself What the heck is THAT? Turns out these were issued as tags on Franklin products sometime in the '80s. So, a retail tag: card or not a card?

Verdict: card!

Franklin tags aside, the dime boxes certainly had the zany-meter cranked up to 11 yesterday...

...or maybe it was just that '90s inserts seemed to be in vogue during my digs.

Flying 3-D baseballs, screaming eagles, CDs-as-cards: I'm seriously starting to think that maybe '60s drug culture didn't hit card collectors until the mid '90s.

Though these dime box legends are certainly worthy of oohs and aahs...

...they couldn't hold a candle to the actual vintage I found yesterday.

My one complaint about this show in the past has been that it's largely been much more skewed towards the modern stuff -- but after what I experienced yesterday, I certainly can't say that anymore.

Take this one, for instance, actually my final purchase of the day. That's a 1971 Milk Duds issue of Fergie, and count me among the many who didn't know that Milk Duds -- Milk Duds! -- actually produced baseball cards at one point.

Originally priced at $10, the vendor gave it to me for eight bucks, and I was happy to have it since this is the type of thing I probably would've never seen again had I not bought it right then and there.

These 1969 Milton Bradley oddballs aren't terribly exciting, but at a buck a piece, they gave me an opportunity to acquire new cards of guys who don't have much left for me to chase.

I nabbed these from the same vendor who provided me with my Greatest Card Show Find Ever -- but hold the phone...we're not quite there yet.

For now, let's go back to that guy with the Milk Duds (not a euphemism).

I found his table right as the show was clearing out, having somehow missed it during my original tour of the village hall. He had lots of set-based binders on display, which I don't usually flip through. But one of them caught my eye: a vintage oddball binder! 

First up inside those pages was a healthy offering of '60s Fleer Greats singles, and with my budget dwindling, I chose these as the four I wanted most. Dolf Luque doesn't have many cards in general (I think this is only the fourth one I own), while the other three came home with me because of the gloriously unfamiliar uniforms featured on them.

That's only my second card of Ralph Kiner as a Cub, and my first of Red Ruffing (nine games with the '47 White Sox) and Dazzy Vance (six games with the '34 Reds) with their respective teams.

More from the oddball binder: Looie for a dollar, Ronnie for a five-spot.

The Aparicio peel-off actually came stuck to a piece of plain white paper, which actually works out for me: it'll be a whole lot easier to slide into a nine-pocket page now.

A couple heavy hitters from the oddball files with Willie and Hank (five and four dollars, respectively), including one of the last cards I needed of Aaron as a Brewer -- though that airbrush job certainly didn't do him any favors.

Tucked into the very back of this oddball binder were a bunch of 1970 Kellogg's -- and if I were to imagine cardboard heaven, I think it'd involve page after page after page of Kellogg's cards.

Though, at two bucks a piece, these two Hall of Famers packed some star power into my purchase... was actually the cheaper fan-favorite types that stole the show.

It's almost hard to believe, but these six cards cost all of two dollars together -- the Alou and Bando were 50 cents each, while the other four ran just a quarter a pop.

And then there's this one, which might have you convinced that I've finally lost my damn mind.

Yes, I actually bought a card that'd been ripped in half. Call me crazy if you want, but I did. Fact is I needed it: I collect cheap Senators and Mister(s) Epstein here was just a dime, for obvious reasons. I guess I bought it out of sheer wonder at how a two-part card could end up at a show in the first place.

But good news: a strip of Scotch tape later, and I'm happy to report that Mike Epstein is back in one piece and resting in my Senators binder as we speak.

Now, under normal circumstances, this would easily be my big purchase of the day: a 1960 Stan the Man for only ten dollars, only the third vintage Topps Musial I own and one you hardly see at anything near that price.

But as I said, this was no ordinary card show: for yesterday, as it turned out, would be the day I made my Greatest Card Show Find Ever.


I kid you not, one of the first thoughts I had in the aftermath of last week's '52 Hoyt saga was: maybe my next white whale should be a real Jackie Robinson card.

Just a few days later, and really without much conscious effort on my part, there it was: a real Jackie Robinson! It was my dad who first spotted Jackie amongst a pile of other vintage at the table where I'd later purchase the aforementioned Milton Bradley cards. (I'm starting to think he's the real cardboard magnet, and not me.)

I don't think I'd told my dad about my thoughts regarding Robinson as a possible future white whale at the time, though he has known of my desire to get a real card of his (a desire I'm sure I share with many collectors). I've never had a serious opportunity to own a Jackie: most I see are in good shape and/or priced way above my budget. This one, however, was priced at $70, still a tad out of my range, but enough to perhaps negotiate a price I could stomach.

My dad suggested I offer $50, and, in a moment that might as well have spanned a lifetime, the vendor replied...

...Sure, I can let it go for that.

Just like that, Jackie was mine. And as if my dad hasn't already done enough for several lifetimes by now -- including but not limited to tracking down the elusive '52 Hoyt just last week -- he even split the cost of the Robinson with me.

I don't think I ever quite believed I would actually own a real Jackie Robinson -- but if I did, I didn't think it'd be this one. It is, after all, Card #1 in the '53 checklist, which tends to carry a premium. The copy I purchased obviously isn't in the greatest shape, but like so much else of my vintage collection, that's the only reason I had a chance to buy it in the first place. It was the perfect storm of events that led to Jackie being in my binders right now.

After making the transaction, the vendor said he'd had the card for a long time and, though the price was a little less than what he'd asked, he gave it to me because he (and I quote) wanted to see it go to a good home.

Rest assured -- O generous vendor! -- Jackie will always have a good home with me. And, for the record, that's two titanic white whales I've speared (with much credit to my dad, of course) in the span of five days.

With card shows like these, who needs to travel?