Friday, October 30, 2020

I threw a costume party for my baseball cards

I've never been a big Halloween nut, but I decided to throw a costume party for my baseball cards this year.

Thankfully, a few big names decided to put in an appearance -- no one was sure why Lance Berkman dressed up in a giant sumo suit, or why Tim Lincecum came as Woody Allen, but they got the party started regardless.

A few guys stuck to the ballplayer theme -- Kevin Brown came as a fake old-timey dude in a fake old-timey uniform (hope that mustache isn't permanent marker!).

Trevor Hoffman dressed up as a catcher, for some reason.

Some guys, however, were just sick and tired of dressing up as ballplayers every day, and wanted to extend the olive branch to other sports.

Other greats, both past and present, tried to go with a couple leisurely costumes, but it just didn't work out.

Billy Wagner was a fireman, and apparently none too thrilled about it.

Tony Gwynn just sat at a desk lecturing everyone about past participles and gerunds.

Big Papi kept yelling YEAH BOYEEEE! all night.

Everyone thought Orel Hershiser was supposed to be Gilbert from Revenge of the Nerds, but turns out that wasn't a costume -- he didn't even know there was a party going on.

Then, of course, some dude in a vest showed up with an acoustic guitar -- he looked a lot like Jack McDowell -- guess there's one at every party...

Not sure if Big Mac was dressing up as Jake or Elwood Blues, but he seems more like a Jake to me, for some reason.

Groundskeeper Jose was popular.

But I think the simplest costume was the one that won everyone over -- while others spent a fortune on their Halloween garb, all Pat Neshek needed was the shades to become Lowell Palmer (of course), and he's never looked cooler.

So who won the Halloween costume contest? I'm not sure, but everyone said the party was a big hit, and word is they're already looking forward to having another one next year -- albeit without the dude with the acoustic guitar.

(A very happy early Halloween to you all!)

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Only a team collector

I've said it a million times before: I am not a team collector.

My goal as a collector has never been to hoard every Cubs card ever made. I suppose that aligns in some ways with how I enjoy baseball as a whole -- as much as I like the Cubs, I get just as much enjoyment out of following specific players, even if said players never wore/will never wear a Cubs uniform. So, then, I guess you could say my binders are basically one big universe of player collections.

But while I'm not consciously pulled by the temptation of team collecting, I've noticed certain features of my collection that could pretty much only exist in the binders of a team collector.

First off is the simple fact that people send me a lot of Cubs cards -- as shown by the big flat-rate box of (mostly) Cubs that John of "Johnny's Trading Spot" dumped on me recently.

I may not specifically collect Cubs, but I easily got more enjoyment out of a big box of Cubs than I would out of a big box of, say, Giants cards or something. I follow the Cubs more, so I'm more immersed in their history, and their players. Pulling a Cub from a pack of cards, or seeing a Cub I need pop out of a trade package, always supplies a smidge more joy than most other non-Cubs I collect. I simply want them more.

Wait -- isn't that something a team collector would say?

With the exception of Jody Davis, all of these one-time Cubs are probably better known on other teams.

But because of my bias, I tend to think of them more as Cubs, and often get more enjoyment out of their Cubs cards (especially OPCs!) -- only a team collector would do that.

Only a team collector would have a weird sort of nostalgia for failed prospects of their youth.

Corey Patterson is perhaps the biggest bust in Cubs history -- impressive considering their woeful track record -- but he's oddly always had a place in my "good" binder of Cubs dudes. And people like John sure like to supply me with Corey Patterson cards, probably because they're so anxious to get rid of 'em.

So send me your Corey Patterson cards, I guess, because for some reason I'm willing to give them a home.

Even beyond Corey Patterson, the Cubs are the only team whose failed prospects and/or forgotten names still manage to excite me.

I don't really collect any failed Marlins prospects, mainly because I don't know any of them -- but for some reason Brett Jackson(?!) occupies almost two whole pages in one of my Cubs binders.

Only a team collector would happily take these strange Honus Bonus cards from a few years ago that seemed to banished to obscurity the day they came out (is Honus Bonus even around anymore?).

It's no coincidence that two of my biggest player collections are longtime Cubs -- Mark Grace and Anthony Rizzo occupy almost an entire binder on my shelf by themsevles.

John did manage to send me a few cards to break out of my I'm not a team collector, I'm not a team collector mantra -- because, hey, I collect Jim Abbott and John Olerud, and they never played for the Cubs!

My adoration for mini-collection hits certainly isn't limited to just Cubs.

Other non-Cubs I collect, including a terrific A&G Negro League card I'm thrilled to add to my binders.

But yeah, I'd say a good 95 percent of the cards in this box were all Cubs -- and while I only needed a fraction of them, it was still a blast to dig through stack after stack of hometown greats, past and present.

When taken on average, I simply get more joy out of Cubs cards than any other team, and that sounds like something a team collector would say.

This is my 148th different Cubs card of Carlos Zambrano -- I own more of his cards than any other pitcher in Cubs history, which oddly sounds like a very team-collector thing to say.

The section of pitchers in my Cubs binder isn't led by more obvious names like Fergie Jenkins, or Greg Maddux -- no, Carlos Zambrano is the first guy you see, staring out at you when you pull the cover back. Like most Cubs fans, I think, I had kind of mixed feelings about Zambrano during his time here, but somehow I've managed to hoard a huge stack of his cards over the years. Or maybe they've hoarded me. I don't know. Like most team collectors, I'm often surprised at the amount of Cubs cards I own, even though they're right there in plain sight in my room, a few shelves over from where I'm sitting at this moment. They just kind of appeared.

I'm going to stop here because it's really starting to sound like I'm a team collector right about now.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Top Five: Whitey Ford

Whitey Ford, one of the last surviving members of the '50s and '60s Yankee dynasties, died earlier this week at the age of 91.

I don't know if it's my imagination or not, but it's always seemed to me that there's long been a huge discrepancy between Whitey's fame and the amount of attention his baseball cards get, perhaps more than any other household name. I rarely see him mentioned anywhere in collecting circles. Unlike other Yankee greats of his era like Mantle and Maris, I couldn't tell you what some of his late '50s/early '60s cards look like, because I'm not sure I've ever seen them.

As is always (sadly) the case when a legend passes away, I made a deeper dive into my Whitey Ford collection recently, and I figured it's a good enough excuse to revive my long-defunct Top Five theme around here, which I've been wanting to do for a while. The concept is simple enough: I pick a player and post my five favorite cards of said player, good for easy posts since I haven't had a lot of time or energy to devote to the blog lately.

Even if it's just in my head, I figured it's high time Whitey's cards got some attention, so here's my Top Five list in honor of the late Yankee great.

#5 -- 1967 Topps #5 Whitey Ford

Whitey's sunset card, and one of the first big final tributes I added to my collection -- a beautiful card even with the crease.

I guess someone at Topps must've really liked the way Whitey looked in that faux-follow through pose -- arm extended with middle and index fingers poking out a la Moe Howard -- because they used it on each of his last two cards.

#4 -- 2016 Stadium Club #50 Whitey Ford

It's darn near impossible to find night cards of '50s Golden Age greats like Whitey, so this beauty from Stadium Club (of course) is truly a godsend.

#3 -- 1962 Topps #315 Whitey Ford IA

This '62 Topps in-action subset is a lot like Whitey's cardboard catalog, in that I feel it's unfairly overlooked most of the time.

These are fantastic, and very much unlike anything else issued in packs of baseball cards at the time -- plus they predate the more famous '72 Topps In Actions by a full decade.

#2 -- 1954 Topps #37 Whitey Ford

I don't think I ever posted about it on the blog, but Dad surprised me with this gargantuan find last year, which I think he bought through an auction site he randomly stumbled upon.

This is a full five years older than the next-oldest Whitey I own, and while I've never been a huge fan of '54 Topps, that takes nothing away from the joy I get out of this card.

#1 -- 1960 Topps #35 Whitey Ford

I never really put it together before, but Dad's had a mighty impact on my Whitey Ford collection, because he's the reason I own this card, too...albeit under far more fascinating circumstances.

I've told this story on the blog a few times before, but I'll tell it again because I think it's a fun tale. I don't recall exactly how old I was at the time (probably 5th or 6th grade), but I remember my dad getting home from work one day and handing me a stack of random cards out of nowhere. From what he said, a few kids in town had set up a lemonade stand, and for whatever reason, they were selling baseball cards on the side for a few extra pennies. My dad rounded up a stack he thought I'd like, and paid a whole two dollars for it.

This 1960 Topps Whitey Ford was in that stack of cards(!). I wasn't too hip to card values and such at the time, but even then I knew it was out of the ordinary, and definitely something special. Over time that story has grown into a kind of legendary chapter in my collecting history, and because of that, this creased, taped, and mangled Whitey Ford would definitely be a member of my personal cardboard Mount Rushmore. 

Now that I think of it, maybe Ford's cards feel ignored to me because of how big of a role they've played in my own collecting history -- either way, rest easy, Whitey.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The best cards in life are free

I'm not sure why, but I still feel a twinge of guilt when I claim free cards from people.

I know I shouldn't. It's not like I'm taking advantage of anyone -- after all, these cards were posted with the sole intent of being given away. Plus, I've been on the giving side of Free Card events before, and I can honestly say that they were a treat to host, for a couple reasons. One, it got unwanted cards out of my room, and two, it found good homes for those cards. I wanted people to take stuff from me, so why the insecurity when I do the same?

I think some it is knowing that I've been awful at returning the favor lately. I get that Free Card stuff is given out with no strings attached, but I feel weird if I don't at least try to send something back at some point. I'm looking to rectify that soon -- I'm planning on putting some packages/PWEs together in the near future, as well as revive my Free Card Friday posts once I have a little more time on my hands.

None of this insecurity, however, has stopped me from claiming cards from bloggers over the past couple months, because some of the cards you've been giving away have been too darn good -- like this sweet Dave Kingman (numbered to a scant 79 copies) I received gratis from Jon of "A Penny Sleeve for Your Thoughts" recently.

Jon's been particularly generous with his free card coffers as of late -- I generally try to keep my claims to two or three cards, but this time I couldn't resist.

I actually own a couple real versions of these strange 1910s-20s strip cards, but I'd never seen them as reprints before, so of course these needed to come with me when Jon offered 'em up.

Okay, so maybe I'm a bit of a hypocrite, because yes, that's a total of nine cards I've requested from Jon over the last couple months.

(RIP, Whitey.)

Kerry over at "Cards on Cards" also presented a few particularly scintillating Free Card Friday lots recently -- notably one that featured an entire box bottom!

These have, of course, since been sliced up and distributed into my binders -- I enjoy individual cards way more than oversized display pieces -- but here's proof they were once together as one.

I also claimed a couple of this year's Turkey Reds from Kerry's festivities, and I'm glad to have any I can get because they're probably my favorite inserts of 2020.

Again the hypocrisy: here's another healthy batch of cards I claimed from Kerry that certainly surpasses the two- or three-card limit I tell myself I'm gonna follow.

I mainly wanted that Posey because I had no idea what it was -- turns out it's part of some Walmart-exclusive insert set from a few years ago that I've never seen before and might never see again.

These two came via a more recent Free Card Friday offering from Kerry.

That Henderson is my first look at the 2020 Topps 206s, and while I don't necessarily think that's a brand that needed to be revived, I admit they're kinda cool.

Here's one time where I was able to quell my urges -- I managed to limit my Free Card claims to a single suspect in a recent giveaway from Kevin over at "The Diamond King."

This terrific overproduction-era Kirby Puckett somehow managed to escape me all these years -- I'm certainly glad to have this one, but part of me can't help but wonder how many other easy commons are still flying under my radar.

These two colorful additions to a couple of my newer player collections came my way from a Free Card event hosted by Rob over at "Padrographs."

Good luck finding a free Vlad Jr. card anywhere else besides the blogs.

Closing out the barrage of recent giveaways around the blogs are the spoils from a few different Free Card events sponsored by Brian of the "Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary" blog.

All of these hit various player collections of mine, but I'm particularly fond of the Griffey because it gets me missing '90s inserts all over again.

Eck was another Free Card Friday claim, and a reminder that I've never quite gotten used to seeing him with the Cardinals.

The Clark was a surprise throw-in from Brian and a great oddball add to my Pitchers at the Plate mini-collection that I easily could've gone another 25 years without knowing about.

Shooter was another Free Card claim -- you can't throw free Rod Beck cards out there and expect me not to pounce! -- while the shiny Hoerner was yet another spot-on throw-in from Brian.

And the Free Card Friday marathon ends with this excellent A&G mini for one of my very favorite player collections.

Free baseball cards are one of the supreme pleasures in this world, and while my strange brain insists on that weird side-effect of guilt, I don't think you can blame me for jumping on free cards when the free cards are this great.

Thursday, October 8, 2020



I need somebody


Not just anybody


You know I need someone


When I was younger

So much younger than today

I never needed anybody's help in any way

But now these days are gone

I'm not so self assured

Now I find I've changed my mind

And opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down

And I do appreciate you being 'round

Help me get my feet back on the ground

Won't you please, please help me?

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways

My independence seems to vanish in the haze

But every now and then I feel so insecure

I know that I just need you like I've never done before

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down

And I do appreciate you being 'round

Help me get my feet back on the ground

Won't you please, please help me?

When I was younger

So much younger than today

I never needed anybody's help in any way

But now these days are gone

I'm not so self assured

Now I find I've changed my mind

And opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down

And I do appreciate you being 'round

Help me get my feet back on the ground

Won't you please, please help me?

Help (me)

Help (me)


(Happy 80th birthday, John!)