There was a time when I wondered why anyone would ever just stop blogging.
Why not keep doing this? Isn't it fun? Don't you want to? I see now the naivete of this train of thought, spoken like a true teenager with a lot of time and energy on his hands. Of course people want to blog, but there's a little thing called life that gets in the way sometimes. Heck, I stopped blogging for a little while there a few years ago, and these days I'm lucky if I get my customary one post a week up. It happens.
There are, admittedly, a few boarded-up blogs whose absence have left a little bigger gap in my blogging heart - one of those was a blog you fellow veterans might remember named "Playing With My Cards" by a guy who went by EP and enjoyed a lot of the same Random cardboard happenings I did. That blog hasn't been active for (checks notes) seven years now (seven years?!), and it sadly entered into the long line of blogs I once loved that have since gone defunct.
So you can imagine how surprised - and glad! - I was to get an email from EP recently saying Hi Nick, it's been a long time.
The rust of seven years was brushed away in the stroke of a single email - we quickly got to talking about Random cards, general life goings-on, and, yes, sending cards to one another!
It wasn't long after that I received a re-introductory PWE from EP, one that had a Dime Box Dozen need (Nelson), an excellent custom (Sojo), and a goofy minor-league masterpiece (Noce) that gives Keith Comstock a run for his money.
While I selfishly wish every blog in existence would stay active and churn out card content for all of eternity, I realize the blogosphere is a forever-shifting world, with people coming and going every day.
To be clear: EP wants me to emphasize that he isn't planning to relaunch his blog anytime soon, but still, it's nice to know that people I long since assumed had left the blogs are still out there, still reading and lurking.
He also let me know that he came into a large amount of '71 Topps recently, and asked what I still needed from the set - though I'm sure there's a bunch of frankenset-worthy shots waiting for me, I was surprisingly down to a grand total of two needs for my player collections (zero now, I guess).
Ah, but the world of Random isn't limited to just baseball.
After a few emails back and forth, EP hit upon a fun trading concept/game/strategy - he asked me to send him names of guys I collect, any and all that popped into my mind, and he'd send back photos of extras from his collection that I could choose from.
This, to me, was the best of both worlds - it's like digging through a dime box specifically crafted and curated to fit my tastes.
I started out with some obvious names like Tony Gwynn and Tim Raines, and EP came through with a bunch of new ones (aren't OPC Expos the best?).
The majority of the names that I sent along were '80s guys I didn't start collecting until a bit later, thus leaving a bunch of obvious gaps in my collection - guys like Doc Gooden, for instance.
(Highly recommend the recent "30 for 30" series on the '86 Mets if you haven't seen it yet.)
I feel like a bit of a bandwagoner with my Orel Hershiser collection - EP and numerous other Dodger collectors have been raving about this guy since I've been on the blogs, but only recently have I begun to chase his cards.
The beauty of trading with someone who collects a certain player is getting the hand-me-downs from that person's collection - oddballs, OPCs, and obvious cards alike (how did I not already have that '86 Topps?!).
A collecting rule I've only recently started to follow: you can never have too many Kirby Puckett cards.
Dale Murphy mastering the bat-on-shoulder pose, and a couple Big Hurts that have me further wondering why it took me so long to start collecting him.
South Side legends.
Big names on weird teams.
More stuff to fuel my oddball fandom, including what I believe EP said was a New York magazine insert with that Piazza.
I admire people like EP who can not only keep their collections organized, but their extras as well.
If someone asked me to do something like this, I'd have to go rifling through my closet and search through 15 different boxes of cards to come up with anything, and by then both of us would've lost interest.
But little did I know that our little trading game would only be the beginning of this trade, because nestled next to all the cards I'd selected through our emails was a batch of surprise customs from EP himself!
One of the many things I've been floored with during my time around here is how many people are creative and savvy enough to not only pull off their own customs, but do them well.
I'm not joking when I say the customs I've seen around the blogs are better than about 99 percent of what Topps puts out these days, and EP's are no exception.
I sometimes fantasize about what it would be like if Topps (or Fantatics, in the future) handed the reins of the over to the real, actual collectors out there, and not just a corporate syndicate out to make a quick buck.
My guess is that the card industry would absolutely flourish with not only well-designed cards like these, but cards of players so often ignored in the industry, the Don Newcombes and Ted Kluszewskis of the world.
(I like that Dock Ellis has gotten a couple trippy cards in the "Project 70" set, but the dude did do more than just pitch a no-hitter on acid, you know.)
A couple things I learned from EP's customs: 1) The Mariners used to deliver their relievers to the mound in a giant boat, and 2) Don Newcombe pitched in Japan after his MLB days were over.
I knew that David Ortiz began in the Mariners' system - I like to imagine a timeline where he became a Seattle legend - but to my knowledge no cards were made of his tenure there...until these customs, of course!
Had no idea Chet Lemon started out with the A's organization, though (or that he was originally a third baseman!).
And if the Virdon really is a Topps stock photo, I think they missed out on making a truly legendary baseball card out of it.
There are many alternate realities to explore here - David Ortiz as a Mariner, bloggers getting to make their own mass-produced card sets, and, of course, EP continuing his blogging career all those years ago, and being able to see him pop up my blogroll night in and night out right now.
Alas, things change. I'm grateful to still be blogging, no matter how inconsistently, and that a few of the blogs I've been reading since the beginning are still here. It's a testament to the staying power of the blogosphere.
But it's also gratifying to know that, even if their blogs have gone by the wayside, some of my earliest blogging buddies of mine are still around, reading from the sidelines.