Thursday, August 27, 2020

Adding to the back of my baseball card

As of next week, I'll have a new job.

Thanks to some help from a former coworker, I'll be starting a new position at a charity-based book warehouse, where I'll basically be pricing and listing books online all day. I've worked at a used bookstore for about a year now, and while I enjoyed it more than any of my past bookstore jobs, working retail in the age of COVID just got to be too much for me. Dealing with the public has its own hazards regardless, but it was aggravating and often incredible to see how little people seemed to care in the middle of a pandemic. So goes my faith in humanity.

I'm excited to start at the warehouse, mainly because I won't have to wait on a single customer. But like a well-traveled baseball player, I've unwittingly built up the back of my baseball card as an adult with my job changes. This is the fourth book-related position I've had, and my third in the last three years. I've never really planned on having a set-in-stone career, but I also wasn't exactly looking to become Dave Kingman, who (in)famously played for four different teams in 1977, as mentioned in this excellent Topps Comic I recently received from Greg of the legendary "Night Owl Cards" blog.

Even after his wild quadruple-stop season, Kingman did eventually find a relatively stable home in Chicago, and even became somewhat of an icon as a Cub -- I can only hope to be so lucky.

If nothing else, I think this new job will allow me at least a bit more time and energy for things like baseball cards -- I've got a set schedule with weekends off.

I'm about to set a record for fewest posts in a month on this blog -- this is just the fourth one I've written in August -- and you can attribute a lot of that to simply being devoid of brainpower after coming home from the bookstore. I always get nervous leaving a job, but this was a fairly easy decision, especially because I had another gig waiting for me.

So hopefully I'll have some more time for my cards now, and more energy to show great cards like the ones I got from Greg around here.

The Kingman and 2019 want-list miscellany were actually throw-ins to the main coup: a stack of minis I claimed from Greg during a giveaway he held on his blog a while back.

As soon as I saw that Jim Abbott advertised as part of the lot, I knew it was the prize I wanted -- the others were just cherries on top.

As fate would have it, I also received a surprise package from Greg last week, one that featured yet another heap of want list help.

I still have yet to see any 2020 Archives on the retail shelves around here -- it's probably already been bought up by the pack hounds -- but it's nice to know my 2019 Archives needs are getting closer and closer to completion.

My want lists are more for my own reference than anything, but it warms my heart to know that other people still go through it, finding stuff I need.

Here's some 2020 needs Greg found from my lists, including a couple more cards that reaffirm my love for this year's Turkey Red inserts.

I specifically requested this card from Greg on his blog not long ago, and voila, it wound up on my doorstep not long after.

I've mentioned it before, but I started collecting Ryan Borucki because his uncle is a client at my mom's work -- my mom, at some point, mentioned to him that I'm a huge baseball fan, and she came home with a ball personally signed for me by Borucki one day, given to her by his uncle.

When Greg mentioned that he'd pulled Borucki's advanced stats variation from a pack of 2020 Topps, I obviously needed to inquire.

It's the first of these parallels I've gotten this year, and I'm ecstatic to have it -- I'll wow everyone with my knowledge of Ryan Borucki's spin rate. It's a nice change of pace in what has become something of a valley for baseball card backs in recent years. For now it's just another way to connect with my collection -- which is something I hope to be able to do much more often in the near future.

Until then, wish me luck at the new job, and hope I can start to build some kind of consistency on the back of my baseball card.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Finally, a reason to use Twitter

I've yet to come up with a good reason as to why I have a Twitter account.

I really only use it for baseball and baseball card related stuff, and even then it makes me wanna tear my hair out most of the time. A guy can only stomach so many bad baseball takes and pictures of people cleaning out retail card shelves. Most of the time it's a platform for seediness. This isn't news to anyone who has Twitter, of course, but for me it's in this weird gray area of a thing I have no reason using, but one I use anyway.

Up until recently, I've always been skeptical of trading cards on Twitter. Not so much because I'm worried I'll get ripped off or anything, but mostly because it feels so impersonal. I barely use my Twitter account, and for someone to wanna set up a trade with me based on my cobweb-filled profile just seems a bit odd. That, however, changed recently when Twitterer(?) @Raiderjoe reached out to me because he wanted to trade. I was, as usual, a bit passive about the whole thing until I received a message from him saying something like: I've gone through my stuff and I've got about 800 cards picked out for you so far.

Wait a minute: 800 CARDS?!

It was at that exact moment that I decided to start taking Twitter trading way more seriously.

A large flat-rate box showed up on my doorstep a few days later, packed with just about everything you could imagine. One of the first hard-hitters I found was the '77 White Sox team card at the top of the post -- a former Dime Box Dozen need and an iconic piece of baseball history since it's the only team card ever to show dudes wearing shorts. How did I not already have this card?!

Other quirky finds soon followed -- 'fros, odd airbrush jobs, and science teacher Mark Lee doing an impersonation of a big-league ballplayer.

Other generally fun vintage randoms I'd never seen before -- that Blue Moon Odom has to be one of the few cards with a water tower on it.

Twitter isn't exactly a haven for mini-collecting, since most of what I seem to see are guys who oddly all "collect" Trout, Acuna, etc., etc.

Given that, I was all the more grateful to find a bunch of new themed hits in here  -- including a few obscure minor league singles I could've easily gone a lifetime without discovering.

In this battle of throwbacks, it's a four-way tie for first.

Always love getting new cards for the big player collections.

It became apparent early on that this wasn't just a random grouping of 800 cards -- this was stuff that was carefully chosen for me to enjoy, and I spent a whole glorious evening sifting and sorting through everything.

I'd bet good money that Bo Jackson was featured on more of these weird Broder oddballs of the '80s and '90s than any other single player, and these two help prove my case.

I really don't know a whole lot about the Senior League aside from the cards it spawned -- though it warms my heart to know Lowell Palmer was still wearing his famous shades in the late '80s.

There wasn't much latest-and-greatest stuff in here, but the few I did find packed a punch.

(Ralph Kiner really needs more baseball cards.)

A nod to the horizontals.

And now for something completely different: a card shaped like a crown, and a business card for a card shop in Cooperstown.

I've never been to the Hall of Fame, and I want to go for obvious reasons -- but admittedly part of my desire to make the trip one day is to check out the gobs and gobs of card shops I imagine lining the city's streets.

Admittedly, trading with me is like throwing paint against a wall -- it'll go all over the place, but some of it'll stick.

If you send me enough cards, you're bound to hit something I like -- I somehow didn't already have that Lenny Randle, and Ryan Langerhans is on the long list of Obscure Guys I Collect.

Weird stuff from the '90s -- not sure why that Silhouettes card freaks me out, but it does.

Question: where can you find an older Bucky Dent, a younger Kevin Millar, a pitcher in catcher's gear, and a giant bison head on a normal human body?

Answer: the minor leagues, of course!

Maybe I'm giving Twitter a bad rap.

Maybe it's not the inferno I usually make it out to be. When you dig beneath the rough surface, you might just find some quality entertainment, and good dialogue between collectors. And some of them are even willing to send you gigantic boxes of baseball cards. A place like that can't be all bad, can it?

I guess not...but show me another guy filling his shopping cart with retail blasters, and I'll probably right back on the verge of deleting my account.

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Baseball Literati

Working retail in the pandemic age has been a bit of a nightmare, but something cool did happen at my bookstore job a few weeks ago, not long after I returned to work after the quarantine.

One of the perks of working behind-the-scenes in a bookstore is that we booksellers get to see what comes in before it ever hits the sales floor, which, in some cases, means setting stuff aside that we might want to buy ourselves at a later date (not surprisingly, my book collection has grown massively in the last year or so because of this). A few weeks ago, I was browsing the stack of poetry books ready to go out for sale when I came across this title, a book I'd never heard before and written by one Dan Quisenberry.

As a baseball fan, the name, of course, immediately rang a bell -- but I figured it must be a different Dan Quisenberry, because surely I'd know if that Dan Quisenberry had published a book of poetry.

So I flipped the book over and, yeah, it's that Dan Quisenberry(!), looking very authorial in a button-up flannel shirt compared to the usual sight of him a Royals jersey.

I was (and still am) flabbergasted that I never knew Dan Quisenberry wrote a book of poetry! Needless to say, I put it on hold for myself and bought it a few days later. I plan on tackling the book as a whole very soon, and of the few random poems I've read thus far, it certainly seems like I'm in for a treat.

Baseball and poetry don't often go hand in hand -- athletes in general aren't often described as very pensive types of people -- which made it all the more shocking to discover a ballplayer I've long admired was part of the small club of Baseball Literati.

(As luck would have it, one of the first poems I flipped to upon discovering Quisenberry's book was a brilliant piece about, yes, BASEBALL CARDS!)

Until recently, I collected cards of Miguel Batista for two specific reasons: 1) I share a birthday with him, and 2) I love those few relievers per generation who seem to hang around forever, and Batista's definitely one of those guys -- he debuted the year I was born (1992) and didn't retire until 2012.

Upon flipping Batista's 2005 Topps card over, however, I discovered a third reason to collect him: he's a published author!

Best I can tell, he's released a couple books of poetry (in Spanish), and did indeed finish the crime novel that's referenced here (called The Avenger of Blood) -- another member of the Baseball Literati!

Sean Doolittle has quickly become one of my favorite current ballplayers, in no small part because he's a voracious reader who frequented independent bookstores during Nationals' road trips last season.

I actually follow him on Goodreads, and we seem to like a lot of similar stuff -- in an era where sports and the people who play them seem to be moving more and more toward intellectual oblivion, I wish with every fiber of my being that more ballplayers were like Sean Doolittle.

I suppose you could say I collect books kinda like the way I collect baseball cards -- I treasure books as objects themselves, not really paying much mind to condition or the wear-and-tear of time.

I'm one of those book hoarders who already has enough books to read for several lifetimes, and while I do enjoy antiquarian and/or collectible books (valuing old titles is actually part of my current bookstore job), I don't often set my sights on those. Much like baseball cards, those are for people with more time and much deeper pockets than me.

That said, my book stash does include a few things that might be described as collectible to the masses, and some even involve baseball, including this Minnie Minoso autobiography I've owned since I was a kid...

...a book I've always treasured since it's signed by Minnie himself on the inside cover!

I admittedly haven't read the book itself yet -- it's in that ever-growing I'll-read-it-one-day pile -- but it's a proud part of my collection nonetheless. I vaguely recall my parents finding it at a garage sale a long time ago, but they'd be the ones to confirm that story.

Like the baseball cards I've owned and loved since my youth, this book will forever remain a cornerstone of my collection.

Of course, no discussion of the Baseball Literati is complete without the obligatory Jim Bouton mention -- though it's had some competition with a few recent reads, Ball Four still remains my all-time favorite baseball book.

While I do own a copy of Ball Four -- a dust-jacketless '70s hardcover I've read and reread -- it's probably not even the most desirable Jim Bouton book I own from a collector's standpoint.

I bought this book during a trip to a suburban thrift store with a friend a few years ago. The author(s) instantly grabbed me -- I had no idea Bouton ever ventured into the world of fiction (along with Eight Men Out author Eliot Asinof), but unlike Dan Quisenberry's poetry book, I think there's a good reason I haven't heard of this one. I've read a few passages from it, and it's bad. Just...really bad. Not anything I'll be reading anytime soon.

So, then, that begs the question: why do I still have this book?

Because it's signed by Jim Bouton, of course!

If memory serves me right, I paid two dollars for this book, and I didn't even notice it was signed until I was in the thrift store checkout line, waiting to pay. I initially wanted it for the curiosity of Bouton's forgotten novel, but I've kept it all these years because of the signature inside. It's a strange, off-kilter member of what I like to believe is a formidable collection of books.

And as someone with a deep joy and respect for the world of literature, I nod silently from behind the page at the few introspective souls who can call themselves members of the Baseball Literati.

Friday, August 7, 2020

The most fascinating rookie card

I'd like to submit the argument that Greg Maddux has the most fascinating rookie cards of any player in baseball history, for the simple fact that none of them look like Greg Maddux.

If you hid the name on this card, I'm not sure I'd be able to tell you who that young Chicago Cub is. I'd probably guess some nameless dude who played three games in 1987. Heck, even with the name, I don't quite believe it's Greg Maddux -- it looks more like someone doing a bad impersonation of Greg Maddux. This guy has long hair and the beginnings of a mustache. He suggests nothing of the bespectacled ace destined for Cooperstown.

Maddux is in that weird middle ground of guys who I've managed to accumulate a decent number of cards of without actively collecting. I am, however, actively trying to acquire all his rookie cards, for reasons I've just listed. And unless there's some unknown oddball lurking out there (which there probably is) I think I have 'em all now. The last piece of the puzzle -- his '87 Donruss Rookies card -- was recently gifted to me by Kerry of "Cards on Cards" fame. Kerry was breaking up his '87 Rookies set, and though he mentioned he was planning on keeping some of the bigger names from it, he generously parted with this Maddux.

It's in my Cubs binder now, looking so way, way out of place next to the Greg Maddux cards that, you know, actually look like Greg Maddux.

Kerry also sent this spectacular Anthony Rizzo insert along with the Greg Maddux impersonator, all retro and shiny and easily the best card I've seen from 2020 Donruss this far.

On a different note, Anthony Rizzo's rookie cards will always be weird to me because they feature him playing for teams (Red Sox and/or Padres) no one'll remember he ever played for.

These came at a good time, since I'm long overdue in showing a separate group of cards Kerry sent me a while ago now.

I can always count on Kerry to help out with some recent needs, and once again he didn't disappoint -- though I'm still wondering why Topps used purplish borders for that '71 Topps tribute(?).

I'm trying my best to get my 2019 Archives needs polished off before 2020 Archives comes out...whenever that may be.

Shiny stuff of dudes I collect -- including a couple Prizm parallels that remind me of something out of a sci-fi movie.

Bless Kerry's heart for letting these go to me -- especially the Utz Bryant, since I've still never even sniffed Utz cards in my neck of the woods.

This package was actually born out of a group break I joined on Kerry's blog -- it centered around something called 2019 Topps of the Class (basically Big League 2.0), a set I'd never even heard of before Kerry mentioned them.

These have the kind of alternate-universe feel I always love on cards -- familiar design, unfamiliar photos -- and given how much I love 2019 Big League anyways, these were a no-brainer.

Between retouched photos and other strange sorcery, Topps does a lot to make our favorite players look like statues these days -- but even with all that Corey Kluber still basically looks like Corey Kluber on his baseball cards, Willson Contreras looks like Willson Contreras, etc.

But no, you'll still never be able to convince me that dude at the top of this post is Greg Maddux, no way.