Safe to say 2020 has been the Year of a lot of things, mostly bad, but I think we should decree it "The Year of Dad."
As you may already know -- and as he himself has written about on the blog before -- my dad works a side job stocking Target shelves, and one of his regular tasks is putting out sports cards. It's sort of two jobs, in that he has to a) actually put the cards on the shelves, and b) do it while dealing with the flipper-hungry mobs. Things seemed to have calmed down a bit in the early fall, but from what I've been hearing the flippers are back in full force now. (I've been pressing him to write a sequel to his guest post with the stories he's told me lately.)
On a human level, I truly sympathize with my dad, and wish people would leave him alone when he works (his fuse is longer than mine would be). But on a more selfish level, I love that Dad works these jobs, because it means he gets first crack at whatever new cards come out, and more often than not sets a few packs aside for his card-collecting son who'd otherwise never see new product. This is doubly the case because my dad, for whatever reason, seems to have a magic touch with the packs he picks out. And while that's been the case for a long, I don't think it's ever been more true than it has in 2020.
Example: over the summer, my dad grabbed me a blaster of 2020 Big League, decided to open the first pack in it for kicks...and promptly pulled a Jim Abbott autograph, numbered to 99 copies -- not a huge deal except if you consider the fact that JIM ABBOTT IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLAYERS IN BASEBALL HISTORY.
Way back when everyone was going insane for Bowman, my dad picked out a few packs for me, and wound up pulling a card most retail flippers could only dream of.
This was, again, a pack my dad opened before giving to me, and he sent me a text at the time saying something along the lines of -- hey, I think there was an autograph of some Rays guy in there. I don't know much about Vidal Brujan, but apparently he's a somewhat highly-touted prospect in the Rays system, and thus a key target for "investors" (my heart hurts a little just using that term). I'm no investor, but I work a minimum-wage job and am thus partial to extra cash. And having no attachment to Mr. Brujan myself, I quickly sold it for more than I'd ever sold a baseball card before.
Since it was his pack and all, I wanted my dad to take the profits, he insisted I keep the money, and funnel it back into my own card collection (more on that in a bit).
Nearly the same exact thing happened a few months later, when Topps Chrome came out.
I still haven't seen a single pack of Chrome out in the wild at any of my Targets, but once again, Dad grabbed a couple for me to sample...and once again, he pulled an autograph. I at least know who Trent Grisham is, and recognized him as a somewhat popular prospect. Like the Brujan (and the Abbott), this was a parallel of an already bigger-money base autograph, and I quickly sold it for a handsome sum. My dad, again, made me keep the money. If I didn't know any better, I'd think he was searching packs.
All this, then, begs the question: what did I do with all that found money?
Answer: I bought more baseball cards, of course!
I don't often have this much extra spending cash available, so I wanted to specifically knock out a few bigger wants with the money. One was an absolutely HUGE card I'd wanted for a long time that I had trouble finding at a price I was comfortable with -- and in a weird coincidence, many long years of waiting were finally put to bed...just this afternoon. I'll post about that one when it arrives (sorry to be a tease).
One of the other biggies that instantly came to mind was a '62 Topps Lou Brock rookie. I've never seen a copy of this card at anything near an affordable number -- the cheapest copy I saw at the last big card show (remember those?) was triple-figures. So, then, you could understand why I thought a '62 Brock would eat up a good chunk of the money I got for Dad's cards. I stumbled upon an auction for a particularly well-loved Brock one afternoon, with a very reasonable starting price, and threw in a bid as almost an afterthought, thinking there was no way in heck I'd win it.
But imagine my surprise when it turned out I was the only bidder on that '62 Brock...and that I won it for all of $9.99 and a couple bucks shipping -- white whale, speared.
I also treated myself to a few photo-variation SPs from this year's Topps -- which included pitchers hitting(!) and a Reggie Jackson play at the plate with cameos from Sal Bando and Steve Yeager(!!!).
A couple more variations: another pitcher at the plate, and a true Ichiro sunset card that I wish didn't have to be a short-print, but a card I'm thrilled to have nonetheless.
But in the end photo-variations were small potatoes, because I had much more pressing matters at hand.
This is, indeed, the same Joe Charboneau you know and love, a few seasons removed from his years (year?) of glory and languishing in the low-minors of the Pirates system. It was his last stop before retiring, but you'd never know that by the smile on his face there. I kind of laughed to myself when I put this card on my Keep Dreaming list, because it truly seemed to exist in a dream -- I'd never even seen a copy of it offered for sale.
This is one of those cards, though, that I was determined to have, even if it took months, years, decades. At some point I decided to see if the whole Prince William Pirates set was up for grabs anywhere, and if, by chance, it was anything near affordable.
To my surprise, I did actually find a dealer who had a partial set available (including the Charboneau) at a fair price, and, after a chase that wound up at so many dead ends, it seemed something like a miracle when I found Super Joe on my doorstep a few days later.
In the process, I learned a valuable lesson about buying minor league cards -- try to find the whole set, because a lot of the time that's cheaper than any of the singles, for some reason.
That was my strategy with this '83 Pawtucket Red Sox set, and it paid off, because the whole thing ended up being cheaper than any of the copies of the single card I really wanted from this checklist. (Even better was the fact that there was an Ebay coupon going around right when I bought it, and I basically ended up getting it for free.)
While there are a few familiar names here, anyone who's seen this set, and has read this blog before, probably knows the card I was after.
To my knowledge, this is the only card to come out of Mark Fidrych's failed comeback try with the Red Sox at the time it was happening -- there's a couple other "flashback" minor league singles out there, but I think this is the lone contemporary one.
It's a bit painful to see The Bird looking so haggard and worn-down -- boggles my mind that he was only a year older than I am when this came out -- but it's still a card that was right near the top of my Want List Mountain for a long, long time, and I can't tell you how thrilling it was to slide it into that empty slot in my binders.
Dad may have not been a direct supplier of the cards I bought with the cash generated from his pulls, but he indeed selected and purchased the last couple things I'll be showing here tonight, an early Christmas present for yours truly.
I had the insanely good fortune to find Bobby Murcer's fantastic '72 Topps In-Action card (an uber-high-number) in a 3/$1 box at a show a while back, but it's always felt kinda orphaned in my collection since I didn't have Murcer's standard '72 Topps single to go with it. Which is why it ended up on my Keep Dreaming list...and stayed there, because have you seen how much '72 Topps high-numbers cost?
As fate would have it, Dad came through with the illustrious '72 Murcer, which I'm pleased to announce has finally joined his action-packed brother in my Yankees binder.
But Dad went a step further on my Keep Dreaming list and unearthed a card I never thought seriously about owning until recently: a 1963 Fleer Sandy Koufax.
Koufax's Topps catalog dominates his legend, and for good reason. But while '60s Fleer mostly gets treated as a forgotten chapter in vintage history, you can't tell me this isn't just as good as any of the Koufax cards Topps made at the time. Like most Koufaxes, it's a bit pricey, but Dad was able to secure this miscut copy (not my scanner's fault) for a tag that matched our light pockets. My Koufax collection is among my favorites to flip through, and by some miracle, it just got a whole lot better.
So I think you can see why I'm all set to announce that 2020 is indeed, and always will be, The Year of Dad.
If you've made it this far, I thank you, and I might even have a little reward for your troubles.
In thumbing through my Keep Dreaming list, my dad accidently read the '63 Fleer Koufax as being a '63 Topps Koufax, and bought a copy of the latter. A great card, yes, but the problem is I already have one -- COMC took care of that a while back in those ancient times when they were actually shipping orders to people. So, with Dad's blessing, I'm holding a little pre-holiday giveaway where you, the reader, could win this very '63 Topps Koufax from Dad!
All you have to do is comment on this post, and you're in. Entries will be accepted until Sunday, December 20th, at 11:59 PM. I'll put the names into a randomizer, randomize the list three times, and announce the winner that following Monday. The victor will get the aforementioned Koufax, along with an accompanying prize pack of cards. All I ask is that you don't share this giveaway anywhere, as I want the winner to be someone who actually reads the blog. Also, due to shipping costs, I'm gonna have to limit this to US-only addresses (sorry, Canadian readers/friends!).
Other than that, however, please comment away -- and here's hoping the good fortune of The Year of Dad spills over into your household, dear readers.