Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 73: Numbers 649-657

Frankenset Page #33 WINNER -- 1963 Topps #294 Bill Rigney (13 votes)

We have a frankenset first!

Last week marked the first time a manager has won a frankenset page. I don't have many skippers in the binder -- they don't often receive overly exciting cardboard -- but Bill Rigney managed to capture the crown with this wonderful '63 Topps card. Not that it was an easy win or anything: Rigney squeaked out a narrow one-vote victory over Bob Hamelin, taking 13 tallies to Hamelin's 12 (of 33 total).

And so it gives me great pleasure to finally induct a manager into the Gallery of Frankenset Champions -- here's to Bill Rigney!

The Random Number Generator sent me flipping to the very end of the frankenset binder this time, all the way back to the second-to-last page of the binder: Page 73 (#s 649-657) is up for grabs this week.

I still haven't found a worthy card for the #650 slot (though a quick search reveals at least one fantastic candidate), so we're down to eight nominees this week -- let's meet them.

2013 Topps #649 Ryan Hanigan

So close, yet so far. 

1991 Upper Deck #651 Mike Benjamin

Kind of an awkward way to sign autographs, under the netting and all, isn't it?

1994 Bowman #652 Bobby Jones

A more conventional signing session. 

1993 Score #653 Steve Decker

Ooh, palm trees!

1991 Upper Deck #654 Alex Cole

Ball four, take your base. 

1972 Topps #655 Jerry Grote

The classic crouch. 

2015 Topps #656 Adeiny Hechavarria

God I miss 2015 Topps. 

1978 Topps #657 Bombo Rivera

Because Bombo Rivera is a highly underrated Baseball Name.

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Irrationally Updated

There are certain things in my life that I can't help be irrational about.

A few random examples that come to mind: I refuse to hear a bad word about The Beatles, Seinfeld, or peanut butter. Yet I've come across people who actively dislike these things, and my only reaction is simply...how?! I mean, how could anyone on earth not like The Beatles? People may have their reasons, and they might even be somewhat logical, but good luck trying to convince me.

For a long time, I was like that with Topps Update. It was my favorite release of the year, and I'd defend it to the death whenever someone spoke ill of it. I think a lot of this comes from the fact that Update was probably the set that got me back into baseball cards around 2006-07 -- I've bought a box of the stuff almost yearly since then. I loved the All-Stars, I loved the guys on new teams, I simply love the way it chronicled the story of each passing year.

To me, Topps Update always felt like a happy consolation to the inevitably gloomy end of every baseball season -- and for that reason, I didn't want to hear anything bad about it.

But while it pains me to say it, I've become somewhat disillusioned with Update over the last few years.

I'm still a fan, and I still look forward to the day it hits the shelves, as it once again did a couple weeks ago. I don't see that ever changing. Unlike the tradition of years past, however, I didn't buy a box this time...because they were going for over $100 last I checked, mostly thanks to people keeling over from all the rookies (my box of 2018 Update cost about $60). What's worse is that -- stop me if you've heard this before -- Topps seems to cater to the cash-hungry masses at the expense of actually living up to the set's name.

It's called TOPPS UPDATE, and so the question should be asked: are three cards each of Vlad Jr. and Pete Alonso truly updating me? Nope, nope, and nope.

Update should not be a set littered with filler: there are more than enough big-leaguers who have changed teams or simply missed inclusion in Series 1 or 2 to fill Update's checklist.

And while 2019 Update does indeed feature some precious Dudes in New Uniforms -- really the main reason I still salivate over the set -- one wonders about the forever forgotten guys who got the shaft because of the need(?) to throw three Pete Alonso cards at us.

The All-Star cards were once exciting, and not that long ago, but they seem to have lapsed back into standard hitting, pitching, and general standing around images that don't stand out in any way from the other cards in the set.

But the irrational part of me comes back to life when I see the greatness Update is capable of producing -- don't you dare talk bad about my Update!

Not a bad word about these magnificent cards!

Still, when I take off my Update rose-colored glasses, I can't help but see some flaws. We've already mentioned the rookie filler fiasco, but what's with the weird blurriness going on with some of the action shots? And why is Jonathan Lucroy still shown as an Angel in a set called Update...if he actually finished the season with the Cubs?

There I go again, thinking rationally.

I don't buy Update for the inserts, but I figured they're worth scanning (especially the Clemente!).

Had some parallel luck with the limited amount of retail Update I bought (a blaster and a few rack packs) -- including some help from the cardboard gods for my new Josh Bell collection.

And hey, I was even lucky enough to pull a helluva nice photo variation here!

But after all this, I'm left feeling somewhat empty with Update. I still like it, and had fun ripping the packs. It's still an okay set. But it just doesn't feel like it once was to me, that cap on the end of the baseball season. The only way I can think of to describe it is like having someone scratch out the last sentence of a good book. Maybe I'm just getting older, and losing that sheen of sacredness certain baseball cards once had. Or maybe Topps Update really is just getting crappier. Maybe both.

Maybe those seeds of irrationality are simply falling away -- and maybe that's not such a bad thing, because maybe now I can see the good with the bad in Topps Update, the joys with the flaws.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 33: Numbers 289-297

Frankenset Page #31 WINNER -- 1973 Topps #273 Chris Speier (13 votes)

No drama here: Chris Speier's magnificent '73 Topps PATP stomped the competition last week, taking 13 of the 34 total votes for the easy win.

No other card received more than five tallies, and it's easy to see why. Cards like this are a perfect example of what makes '73 Topps so legendary -- I haven't checked, but I'd bet it has the most frankenset champions of any single set out there.

In the meantime, let's welcome yet another one into the gallery.

Thankfully, we're back to a full nine this week -- the Random Number Generator chose #33, so we'll be taking a look at that page (#s 289-297) here tonight.

Let's meet the hopefuls.

1996 Pinnacle #289 Bob Hamelin

I feel like this card is the lasting legacy of Bob Hamelin's career. 

2017 Stadium Club #290 Jon Gray

One way to contract hypothermia. 

1998 Pacific #291 Walt Weiss

Double Dip MVP Walt Weiss.

2019 Stadium Club #292 Chris Archer

Taking the field. 

2018 Topps Update #US293 Charlie Culberson

A great card that also triggers my slight claustrophobia. 

1963 Topps #294 Bill Rigney

Managers don't often make the frankenset, but it's so glorious when they do. 

1993 Upper Deck #295 Kevin Seitzer


1972 Topps #296 Dick Dietz

Gun 'em down! 

2010 Upper Deck #297 Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo, one of the last good-hitting pitchers.

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 31: Numbers 271-279

Frankenset Page #23 WINNER -- 1960 Topps #204 Ryne Duren (12 votes)

In rare (but glorious) cases, I think about the objects associated with a certain player more than the player himself -- Wally Moon's unibrow, Ted Kluszewski's sleeveless jersey tops, or, as we saw last week, Ryne Duren's Coke-bottle shades.

Without those memorable specs, this would just be another ordinary baseball card, and nothing that would come close to sniffing my frankenset. But the shades make it a classic, and as it turns out, a frankenset champion. Duren won last week's page, collecting 12 of the 39 total votes and edging out Rick Cerone (9 votes) and Kevin Maas (8 votes) for the crown.

It's the oldest card I've had the privilege of welcoming into my Second Gallery of Frankenset Champions.

Slots 1-275 of my second frankenset are filled, but the Random Number Generator decided to pick the page with the earliest gap in my binder -- Page 31 (#s 271-279) is up for grabs this week, and apologies for that ghastly empty pocket.

I have yet to find a worthy candidate for the #276 spot, so this week's voting will (sadly) be a field of eight -- let's meet the nominees.

1992 Upper Deck Minors #271 Eduardo Perez

Multiple exposure treatment is usually reserved for big names and superstars...not mere minor leaguers!

2014 Topps #272 Carlos Villanueva

Here for the handlebar mustache. 

1973 Topps #273 Chris Speier

Play at the plate perfection. 

2017 Stadium Club #274 Ian Desmond

The more I see this card, the more I think of the Looney Tunes That's all folks! ending. 

1992 Upper Deck #275 Mike Greenwell

Shadoobie, shattered. 

1995 Topps #277 Chris Gomez

Infinite action in a single image. 

1990 Topps #278 Pascual Perez

Long live the Jerry Curl! 

2019 Stadium Club #279 Rougned Odor

Dig the angle on this double dip.

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!

Monday, October 14, 2019

A confederacy of dunces

To me, part of the beauty of collecting baseball cards is the escape it offers, an escape almost paradoxically rooted in the reflections and images of real-life players in a real-life sport.

But as of late I've been forced to consider some of the more unpleasant questions that arise when that fourth wall breaks. Specifically: what happens when a player you once admired turns out to be a total dunce? What happens to the cards you've accumulated of that player, and how do you reconcile the lost time, spent money, and dead joy spent chasing said cards?

These questions, while uncomfortable, definitely aren't anything new. But they really came to the forefront during a Twitter exchange that recently took place between former teammates Seth McClung and Aubrey Huff, one that saw McClung label Huff as the worst teammate he ever had. Huff has come off as a bit of a bonehead in the past, and his response here didn't do him any favors. And if Huff wasn't a player I once admired I honestly wouldn't care -- he was one of my top five player collections at one point, and I currently own about 300 cards of his. To say I don't have much enthusiasm for my Aubrey Huff collection these days would be an understatement.

As the slightly updated version of a popular axiom goes: never follow your heroes on Twitter.

I could live with some of my one-time heroes becoming dunces -- it happens.

But unfortunately the question doesn't end there: the longer you stretch it out, the more serious it gets. Like, what happens when one of your favorite players, like Robinson Cano, gets busted for PEDs? Or, in the case of Marlon Byrd, what happens when one of your favorite players gets busted for PEDs...twice? It's even more painful with the latter since I gave Byrd somewhat of a pass after his first PED bust and kept collecting him, only to wind up with the egg on my face after his second suspension (which he retired before serving).

I used to be a big fan of both of these dudes (especially Byrd), but ever since I've been led to question what was real about them and what was all just a drug-made illusion.

Here's one that has sadly become somewhat of a regular occurrence: what happens when a player you like reveals himself to be a domestic abuser?

As a rule, I don't remove guys from my binders. Once they're in, they're in for good -- it's one of those collectors' OCD things for me. But I no longer accumulate their cards, and if I could go back in time and just never start collecting wife-beaters like Addison Russell and Steven Wright in the first place, I definitely would. (Wright also has a PED suspension under his belt now, which makes him a double dunce.)

Aroldis Chapman's trade to the Cubs brought up all kinds of uncomfortable questions for me when the Cubs traded for him in 2016 -- it's obvious they wouldn't have won the long-awaited World Series that year without him. As a baseball fan, I'm eternally grateful to have seen the Cubs win it all, but as a sheer feeling human being, it's hard for me to reconcile. I have no doubt that people can change for the better, and Chapman seems to have done that, but I mean the dude fired a gun in the same room as his girlfriend. That's pretty darn close to unforgivable.

And speaking of the Cubs...

...what happens when the team you love is run by a hateful, money-crazed dingbat?

It's no secret that the Ricketts family supports a lot of the horrible things going on in the country right now. And somehow they had the bright idea to give Addison Russell a job last year. No? Not bad enough? How about their grand scheme to take Cubs off public television and move them to a subscription-only channel starting next year?

What I once said with sarcasm is starting to skew more and more to reality, but...sometimes I wonder why I'm even a Cubs fan in the first place.

The sad part is that none of what I've talked about so far has even scratched the surface of baseball's long and often tainted history.

And by no means am I trying to say that I'm above any of this with my collection and general fandom. For example, I've long been a fan of Billy Martin and Mickey Mantle, and I'm still a huge collector of both to this day. I hoard as many of their cards as I can. But despite their stardom, both were also heavy alcoholics and general deadbeats for much of their lives.

My collection isn't perfect, and neither am I.

And what of people like Ty Cobb?

What of Cobb, a racist and generally incorrigible human being? What of Cap Anson, who refused to play any team that fielded a black player? What of baseball's long and embarrassing history of segregation? It's easy to ask these questions, but as a collector, it's so much more difficult to answer them with anything resembling correctness. Of course Cobb was an asshole, and Anson a dickhead. But the unfortunate fact is that I remain fascinated by them, and I thus collect them both, along with the numerous other dead-ball stars who froze major league baseball into a white man's game for nearly a century. You'll sadly find the Josh Gibsons and Oscar Charlestons and Cool Papa Bells in my binders along with the very same people who kept them from ever playing big-league ball.

It's admittedly one of the darker corners of collecting, bridging that disconnect between being (or trying to be) a compassionate human being, yet at the same time owning cards of idiots, 'roiders, wife-beaters, drinkers, racists, etc., etc. At the very least and most simplistic, it's uncomfortable. And as a white man observing what has been and still is largely a white man's game -- and devoted to what is overwhelmingly a white man's hobby -- I have no answers for any of the questions I've asked in this post, nor am I equipped to answer them in the first place.

I may love baseball, and the cards that go along with it, but there's no changing the damaging and sometimes sad history of the game reflected in the very cards I choose to collect.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The (Second) Dime Box Frankenset, Page 23: Numbers 199-207

Frankenset Page #64 WINNER -- 2013 Topps #568 Steve Lombardozzi (14 votes)

Last week's page was basically a two-horse race.

Steve Lombardozzi and the Gatorade Shower staved off a late run from the famous '74 Topps Ralph Garr, collecting 14 of the 37 total tallies (to Garr's 12) for the close win -- no other card received more than six votes. Vintage and '90s stuff make up the majority of my frankenset champions, so I think it's fun when a more modern nominee like Lombardozzi (one that I actually remember pulling from a pack) sneaks in there.

Welcome to the gallery.

We've only got about ten pages left to cover in the frankenset, and here's one of the remaining few -- as per the Random Number Generator, we'll be looking at Page 23 (#s 199-207) of the binder tonight.

Let's meet the hopefuls.

1982 Donruss #199 Rick Cerone

Seriously, I could stare at this card for hours. 

2013 Topps #200 Scott Downs

Hero number throwback! 

2006 Upper Deck #201 Todd Jones

Those giant circa-2006 iPods seem just as outdated as Walkmans these days. 

1994 Upper Deck #202 Chuck Carr

The lost art of the drag bunt. 

2014 Topps Update #US203 Cole Figueroa


1960 Topps #204 Ryne Duren

You can find Ryne Duren's Coke-bottle shades next to Wally Moon's unibrow in the Frankenset Gift Shop.  

1999 Fleer Tradition #205 David Dellucci

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...David Dellucci? 

1993 Leaf #206 Kevin Maas

An umpire, a tarpaulin, and a shirtless dude, all in one tidy baseball card. 

2012 Topps Update #US207 Greg Dobbs

Kinda gives new meaning to the whole "put the team on your back" thing.

That's it for this week's page. The polls are now on the sidebar.

Happy voting!