Wednesday, December 28, 2022

A bit of a Scrooge

It's safe to say that working retail for most of my adult life has soured me a bit on the supposed magic of the holiday season.

I still have a soft spot for Christmas itself, but each passing year the lead up to it is met with relief more than anything. The bookstore I work at does the majority of its annual business in December alone, which means far more people and questions and gift wrapping than any other time of the year. I worry sometimes that losing the sentiment of the Christmas has turned me into a bit of a Scrooge. 

Thankfully, I have a number of reminders that there is something to be treasured in the holidays - one being that I was the recipient of a special "Baseball Card Breakdown" Christmas-themed gift from Gavin that have been making the rounds around the blogs.

(Side note: today is my mom's birthday, and Mark Grace happens to be her all-time favorite ballplayer. Happy birthday, Mom!)

The Grace came at a good time since I'm way overdue in posting some other cards I've received from Gavin in the latter half of the year.

I was lucky enough to win a contest on Gavin's blog a while back, and got to cherry-pick a few cards from his trade bait stack as a result. I, like so many fellow bloggers, am immune to the pleasures of Gavin's customs, so of course I had to nab that bubble-blowing bonanza of collection favorite Tony Gwynn.

The Hoffman, however, is very much a real card, and one I've been targeting for a while since it offers a rare glimpse of his zero-year Reds days.

A few other prize claims from Gavin's contest - Reggie is a Burger King oddball, Jenks is an X-fractor (and yet another zero-year card!), and please give me all your Topps Retired Signature cards.

Gavin threw in a few bonuses with my prizes, including these two that get me a couple steps closer to this Pro Cards MusiCards set I'm kinda sorta trying to complete.

(Though I have to admit I've never been a huge Led Zeppelin fan, he says, ducking the fists about to come.)

A separate envelope from Gavin saw a few more excellent customs come my way, including this beautiful Kellogg's-That-Never-Was Dave Winfield rookie.

Winfield ended up wearing a lot of uniforms in his career, but I don't think he looked half as good in any of 'em than he did in the old yellow-and-black Padres jerseys.

A few other customs that are actually reprints of real cards - only technically, however, in the case of that Dick Allen, which was a Topps proof that never officially made it to market.

(Editor's note: I've since acquired the real deal of that Walewander, and the two look great next to one another in my Yankees binder!)

And here's the part where Gavin gave me a heart attack.

Yes, friends, that's indeed a true Ron Santo auto from Topps Retired Signature. It takes a lot for me to get revved up by an autograph card these days, but damn if this card doesn't do it. A beautiful on-card signature of one of the greatest Cubs in history, and longtime favorite of my collection. Hard to believe anyone would send this card free out of the goodness of their heart, but that's Gavin for you.

With friends like these, I really don't have much of a reason to be a Scrooge - please remind me of that this time next year when someone asks me if I can gift wrap 18 different books for them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022


I'll admit now that I was always afraid of getting hurt in Little League.

I remember getting beaned once, but I think it stunned me more than anything - it was during one of my first years, so the pitch couldn't have been going more than 30 MPH. I also remember lining a ball down the line that hit the third baseman in the wrist and forced him out of the game (postscript: I later became friends with that kid in high school). But I was afraid of getting hit, and usually struck out against the kids who threw hard (or whatever qualifies as "hard" when you're in fourth grade) because I had one foot out of the box.

I guess my fears weren't completely unfounded - the sport may not be entrenched in violence like football, but if you watch baseball long enough you'll see a fair amount of injuries. Still, baseball's leisurely pace makes it even weirder to see those rare moments of pain forever frozen on cards.

Just ask Craig Biggio, whose 268th(!) career plunking set a new modern mark is immortalized on this strange Topps card - and one that takes the term "Record Breaker" to a whole new level.

For no particular reason, I had the idea to collect the most painful baseball cards into a single, garish post here tonight.

There (understandably) haven't been a lot of HPBs documented on cards over the years, but one notable exception is this classic Classic of Andre Dawson getting pulverized by a fastball - in true Hawk fashion, he somehow got up and charged the mound shortly after. 

I've always wondered if these guys know about their weirdly painful baseball cards, and what their reactions would be if they didn't.

What would poor Ryan Thompson say, for example, if you showed him a card of him writhing on the ground (presumably) after getting nailed by a pitch?

I collect cards of double plays and plays at the plate - two relatively common baseball events that have become far less violent in today's game.

You'll find a fair amount of said violence depicted on the cards I have in those mini-collections, and these are a couple that instantly came to mind - I really hope that anonymous Dodger didn't suffer any kind of spinal injury after getting overturned by The Kid.

I don't know what card has made the most appearances on this blog, but the famous '73 Topps Pat Corrales would definitely be in the running.

It's a perfect clash of so many different areas of cardboard weirdness - not the least of which being the Fergie Jenkins cameo! - and I show it again here because no discussion of painful baseball cards is complete without it.

John Smoltz's '96 Pinnacle card is a big batch of strange.

The front features a shot of him hitting, which explains why it took me a long time to even think of turning it over and finding the extra little easter egg of him yelping in pain on the back.

You could start a landfill with the number of Pacific Nolan Ryan sets out there - seriously, they seem to be in every dime box I find - but there's a number of weird photos in the set that prove ubiquity doesn't necessarily equal "bad."

Not the least of which is this one, featuring the Hall of Famer profusely bleeding all over a uniform that probably warranted a good run through the wash after the game.

But in the end, if you ask me "what's the most painful card ever made?"...well, I'd have to go with this one.

For starters, I still wonder how an image like this ever made it onto a baseball card - and I can't imagine it ever will again. I can only guess at what we're seeing here, but it looks to me the good folks at SP saw Pat Borders get clipped by a backswing, saw his head split open, saw the blood running down his cheek and chin, and finally said "yep, that's the one we're using." But maybe they knew what they were doing, because, with apologies to Mr. Borders, here I am talking about said baseball card 30 years later.

For all my fears of getting plunked or spiked in Little League, I guess, in hindsight, I didn't have it so bad - at least my pain wasn't printed for all to see in a pack of baseball cards.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Eleven years

Against all odds, "Dime Boxes" turns eleven today.

I say it every year, but it's really incredible to know that something I started when I was 19 is still going strong today. The flux of my twenties did nothing to kill my love for blogging, and my appreciation for being part of such a great community who listens to me ramble about weird uniforms and shiny cards. While I might not blog as much as I once did, I've never had a thought about letting this blog wither - and that's a testament to the people here more than anything. So for that, as always, I thank each and every one of you.

I thought of various ways to celebrate this very Spinal Tap-ish anniversary, but in the end I couldn't come up with anything better than what I did last year - and that's to GIVE AWAY BASEBALL CARDS!

I've managed to accumulate a good amount of extras throughout the course of this year - probably because I've sent out a sad amount of care packages (which I should really rectify).

Anything you see in this post is up for grabs - and if you'd like to send something in return, that's always welcome, but by no means necessary. Also, if we haven't traded recently, please email your mailing address to me at nickpecucci AT gmail DOT com.

We'll start with a few oversized items, but for the forthcoming nine-pocket pages, simply comment with something along the lines of "Page 1, #4 (Eddie Murray)" or something along those lines. Picks will be first come, first served, and feel free to claim as much as your conscience allows - I'll do my best to update this post with what's gone/still remaining. (Also, due to obnoxious shipping costs, I'm gonna have to limit this to US claimers only. Sorry, Canadian friends!)

For starters, I've got this partial Miller Lite Brewers set I picked up at a show over the summer but don't think I blogged about - I removed a few of the cards I needed for my own collection, but the rest are looking for a good home.

(All oversized cards claimed!)

A handful of oversized cards here - you can simply comment with "Oversized - Tucker" or something like that if one of these strikes your fancy (warning: those helmet inserts are incredibly thick!). 

And now, without further ado, the pages!

Page 1

(Note: good amount of creasing to Garvey & Mays.)

(Claimed: #s 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Page 2

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 3

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 4

(Claimed: #s 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Page 5

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 6

(Note: Marte is numbered /99.)

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 7

(Claimed: #s 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Page 8

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 9

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 10

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 11

(Note: Kluber is numbered /250, and Duffy is a throwback logo variation numbered /99.)

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 12

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 13

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 14

(Note: Thames is an action photo variation.)

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 15

(Note: Fernandez is a Heritage foil parallel.)

(Entire page has been claimed!)

Page 16

(Claimed: #s 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Page 17

(Claimed: #s 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9)

Page 18

(Claimed: #s 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Page 19

(Claimed: #s 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9)

Page 20

(Note: Griffey has a bit of chipping along the top edge.)

(Claimed: #s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9)

There you have it - get claiming, and thanks for eleven great years!

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Feeling outnumbered at the card show

Dad and I made our semi-annual trek to the big convention hall show last week, and for the first time in the many years we've been going to this thing, I can honestly admit I felt outnumbered.

This show has long been a hub for the higher-end types who I regularly see pull wads of cash from their pockets. But despite the massive size of the place, I've always felt at heart that the majority of the people were there for pure enjoyment - not PSA registries or recouping expenses. I can't say for certain that's the case anymore: I have no substantial proof to back it up, but it just felt like I kept seeing unopened wax and slabs where dime boxes used to be. Kept seeing the same rookie cards under glass cases in every aisle. 

While I can't imagine this show will ever be completely overrun by high-dollar stuff, I think I finally felt the teeter-totter tip to the other side of the hobby - the sheer variety of the card show experience I've come to love seemed to take a hit.

Early returns, however, were good: a table in the very first aisle had a dime box!

But little did I know that'd be the only dime box of any substance I'd find in the entire place. Still, if I was only gonna see one dime box, this wasn't a bad one to stumble across - the guy had a lot of those strange '80s Broder oddballs that I find oddly lovable, and even had a few treasured cards of local heroes Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Doolittle.

Gorzelanny attended a community college about five minutes from my house, and Sean Doolittle's a noted book lover who shops at the bookstore I currently work at (though, sadly, I have yet to run into him) - you can even see a couple pictures of him in our bookstore in this SI article.

I saw a lot of 50-cent and dollar boxes that were quite obviously dime boxes in disguise - is anyone seriously buying 1991 Upper Deck Nolan Ryans for a buck? 

This, I think, is my main fear of the changing hobby - that cheap cards won't be cheap any more, that inflation will hit the lowest reaches of the totem pole. People buying $500 graded cards doesn't affect me because that's not anything I cared about in the first place. But seeing people asking a buck a piece for regular base cards I saw a year ago for a dime is disheartening.

This blog may be called "Dime Boxes," but I love quarter boxes if the cards inside warrant a quarter each, and thankfully I found a few such boxes on display at this show - including an excellent Johnny Cueto that has to be one of the shiniest cards on the Shiny Card Spectrum.

I was over the moon about landing a gross of these "150 Years" inserts from a few years back for a quarter a pop - I think Topps did a fantastic job with this set, but for whatever reason I've had a hard time finding them in the wild.

Believe me, I don't mean to say this was a bad or disappointing evening in the slightest - few things in this world will ever beat a day at the card show, and as you'll see in this post, I still came home with a fine haul.

The general flux of vendors at shows these days makes it even nicer to see some of the same guys I've been buying from for years - a lot of them even recognize me and my dad by now. One vendor I love has a table that perpetually looks to be in the eye of a hurricane, and all of his stuff is 50 cents a pop - an inventory that includes everything from single cards to unopened oddball sets.

For 50 cents, I'll grab pretty much any minor league set I can get my hands on - finding a few names I recognized was icing on the cake.

Your standard helping of card show minis - I have no idea what that Tim Keefe card is, but I love it.

Our first stop at this show is always a guy right near the entrance with a big 50-cent tub full of random cardboard that seems to have no rhyme or reason to it.

And few things my scratch randomness itch more than treasured '80s oddballs.

One of the vintage vendors I usually buy from didn't have a whole lot of great stuff this time around, but he did have a nice helping of these Reggie oddballs for 50 cents each.

(I'm still not sure why, but finding these weird '80s Star cards excites me more than it probably should.)

A vendor near the end of the hall had a whole box full of loose O'Connell & Son singles, which was a surprise since I don't think I've even seen one of these at a show before.

Though the art sometimes freaks me out (why does Enos Slaughter look like a Neanderthal in a museum exhibit?), I couldn't resist buying a few. They weren't really priced to move - these were $2 each, and the cheapest ones the guy had - so I eventually settled on this quartet because they feature guys I eagerly collect and rarely find new cards of (can't remember the last time I added a new Wes Parker to my binders!).

And while I can take or leave the art on most of these cards, I must admit that Roush is just plain fantastic.

The discount-box randomness may have been down at this show, but it wasn't completely KO'ed.

Some general '90s/early-2000s wackiness, including a nice surprise with that tough Platinum Medallion parallel from what was an otherwise lackluster dime box dig near the end of the evening.

A few more quarter box gets here - my dad tried to argue that phone cards aren't baseball cards, but we all know he's wrong.

Point: as much as I love '70s oddballs, I don't often take the plunge on these food-issue discs - they're a bit clunky to store and I never really know what to do with them.

Counterpoint: I bought about 40 of them at this show. A vendor had a box of cards that were 50 cents each or 50/$20 - with the promise of a deal like that, I just couldn't let these go. The star power was there (Yaz! Stargell!) as well as your '70s fan favorites (Tiant! Hrabosky!) - as fun of a collection of names as you're ever gonna see from an oddball set.

I still don't know how I'm gonna store these, but I think you'll agree that I would've been crazy to pass 'em up.

There's a lot of high-end vintage at this show, but even though I'm (obviously) not in the market for it, it's at least fun to fawn over a T206 Ty Cobb or Goudey Babe Ruth rather than some graded autograph that looks like trash.

Better yet, there's still a good amount of low-end oldies to tide me over - I didn't know I needed the Yost until I started cataloging my cards of his recently (more on my TCDB adventures in a future post), and the Colbert brings me one step closer to having all the '74 "Washington" variations, a quest that once seemed other-worldly but is actually now within reason.

Some smaller-than-your-average vintage here - shelled out $5 a piece for those Milk Duds cards, but knowing me, I would've been kicking myself all day if I left them behind.

Raggedy vintage time!

The Yaz was a card I was specifically targeting at this show, and even though the copy I found has a mysterious blob on it, the 50 cents(!) it cost me is at least good enough to warrant placeholder status until I can find a cleaner one.

I don't know if it was my imagination or what, but it seemed like every vintage table had rows and rows of '60s Post for sale - of course, I couldn't help but buy a few.

From the looks of it, a young collector whittled those '50s Red Man cards down to standard baseball-card size at some point - those were certainly fun grabs for 50 cents a pop.

These four superstars came out of a single handful of cards I randomly grabbed from a box at a vintage table, and they ran about the cost of a blaster combined.

If that doesn't describe the madness of a card show, I don't know what does.

With a little scouring, it's incredible how cheap some vintage star power can be - I think the Killebrew was the most expensive card of this lot, and even that was only seven bucks.

Also, "First Base-Catcher" is a weird position designation in the first place, but why the heck did Topps list that for Gil Hodges in 1961?!

My memory isn't what it used to be, and neither is my collection - I wasn't 100 percent sure I needed that '59 Aparacio when I snagged it for a song early on in the day, and being unsure about a card that huge would've been unheard of as a young collector (happy ending: needed it!).

One could argue that the '63 Drysdale I found near the end of the show was my most satisfying purchase - at about $15, it was the last card I needed to complete my complete 1957-69 Topps run, which is a major accomplishment for this low-end collector!

In adding to the general wackiness of this card show, I'd have to say my biggest purchase of the day - both financially and emotionally - was a card of...Sandy Alomar? A middling infielder best known for fathering two future greats?

Few things elicit more fear in a collector like myself than the term "vintage high-number," because that, of course, means MONEY. And as fate would have it, here we have a key card I needed for the Short Term Stops archives colliding with the dreaded "vintage high-number" train - Alomar played just 10 games for the Mets, and outside of a few later oddballs, this is the only documentation of that brief stint. 

Some of you probably know that '67 highs are especially icky - which is why I was overjoyed that a vendor took my $20 offer on this one near the end of the evening, and thus put to rest the growing fear that I'd never find one at a reasonable price. It's probably the most I've spent on a card I specifically wanted for my Short Term Stops collection, and not anything I thought would end up being a "big buy" at a card show, but as they say, times are a'changing.

Card shows may change, as will the masses that attend them, but to me they'll never stop being pure joy.