Friday, October 27, 2023

Requiem for a baseball season

As the season comes to a close - featuring yet another World Series I can't bring myself to care much about - I'm left to grapple with the questions left by another year of baseball.

Since I'm not much of a morning person, I love having a consistent night shift at work - the main consequence, however, being that it doesn't leave much time for catching ballgames. I probably watched less baseball in 2023 than I have in any other year as a fan. I still keep up with the game (watching standings, checking leaderboards, etc.) but my actual viewing kinda went downhill this year.

Part of the beauty of baseball is its consistency - there's almost literally a game going on at any waking hour - but I wonder if this signals some kind of shift in me as a baseball fan. If I should be thankful for the rare Cubs game I get to watch rather than be woeful about all the ones I missed. I don't know.

Which makes for a good transition into this Mookie Betts Topps Now card I graciously received from Jim (aka gcrl) of "cards as i see them" fame - featuring a double dip Mookie turned as a shortstop(!) in one of the rare Cubs games I did actually manage to catch on TV!

The good thing about baseball cards, of course, is that it's a year-round hobby if you want it to be - no staring out the window waiting for spring.

Cards occupy an even warmer place in my heart during the winter months, and while I don't trade nearly as often as I once did, it's always a treat when I see a hallowed envelope or package in my mailbox. 

In addition to becoming a steady supplier of Sonny Gray cards, Jim always seems to send me something I've never seen before - like that excellent Don Baylor from a (regional?) Twins World Series anniversary set.

I can't for the life of me understand why companies make thick cards for no reason - that Giolito is massive, so big that it doesn't even fit into a regular nine-pocket page.

Stadium Club Chrome probably doesn't need to exist, but it features a good amount of interesting shots that keeps it on my radar every year.

Jim's been sending me cards for a long time now, and always selects a first-rate mix of curious cardboard.

(Pink refractors are cool, but they've got nothing on '90s Dufex!)

A more recent PWE from Jim saw yet another trademark stack of cards, including a rare Hoyt appearance in a modern set!

Mike Sweeney doesn't get much airtime on this blog, which is weird since he's one of my bigger player collections - that neat UD Play Ball Promo reminds me I should talk about him more.

It's always Sonny!

Jim closed things out by sending along a treasured Dime Box Dozen need with Dave Parker here, a card I probably should've had a long time ago now (is '86 Donruss the most '80s design ever?).

I'll still watch however much of the World Series I can - I suppose I'll root for the Diamondbacks since I still have a soft spot for the few expansion teams I've seen in my lifetime. At the end of the day, baseball is a passion for me, and while that passion shifts with age, nothing can make it go away.

If nothing else, I'm just happy to have the day off work today, to be able to park squarely on my couch for Game 1 and scoop up the last few sweet bits of a baseball season that so quickly seemed to pass me by.

Friday, October 13, 2023

You can never have it all (a COMC order)

Once in a while, I foolishly wonder if there can really be that many more cards I need floating out there in the universe.

The plain fact is that I do have a lot of baseball cards - I'm at north of 90 binders(!) as we speak, not to mention the boxes of other frankenset/non-sport/miscellaneous stuff I've accumulated scattered around my room. To anyone not involved in the hobby, it'd appear that I am 1) insane, and 2) kinda close to having everything I want by now, right?

Whether I'm insane or not is up for debate (isn't collecting a minor form of insanity?) but as for the second concern, the answer should be obvious - I've barely even scratched the surface of having all the cards I need!

I may take it to the extreme with my 924 different projects, but most card people seem to understand that there is always something else to collect, something that'll make us say Ooh, I need that!

Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than the COMC orders I seem to regularly post around here, the most recent of which landed on my doorstep earlier this month. I admit that every time I click "send" on a large COMC pile, I have that weird thought of wondering how much is left on the site that I still need. (Spoiler: I've since bought so many more cards on there that I'm almost ready to have another order shipped to me.)

Chasing minor league issues of guys I collect (Mookie Wilson!) is a task that itself could take a lifetime, but that's not even including the weirdly cool cards of people like Frank Verdi whom I've never heard of (could the photographer be any further away?).

While my mini-collections are fairly expansive at this point, I'm constantly finding new ones I need - including Topps Now exclusives and GQ variations that Topps prints just to annoy me.

And while I'm proud of the numbers my bigger player collections have grown to, what I own is a small percentage of all the Konerkos and Gwynns out there (if I'm at 5 percent of either guy's total cards, I'd call it a win).

And all this is to say nothing about oddballs - I try not to think about how many of these I'll never know about.

Instead, I try to focus on the ones I'm somehow lucky enough to discover - like a weird McDonald's oddball of Dime Box favorite Karim Garcia, and my first Don Zimmer Rays card!

A second Zimmer here with that tough (Senators!) Archives SP - I paid a touch over $5 for it, which is almost unheard of for a modern card around here.

Food issues carry an extra special place in my heart, which made stuff like a Domino's Al Kaline and other odd McDonald's oddballs a prime part of this order.

COMC always manages to suck me into the bottomless pit of Topps Throwback Thursday - I've bought so many of these over the years, and yet a big stack seems to wind up in every order.

(How great is that Buck O'Neil?)

Other Topps online exclusives that have me wondering why there isn't more stuff like this in standard pack-issued sets.

Seriously, I'd buy the daylights out of a Negro League set if I saw one at Target.

I've said it many times on the blog: magazine covers on baseball cards are an absolute godsend, and I want them all.

Don't believe me?

...still don't believe me? about now?

I stumbled upon a seller unloading these Topps/Sports Illustrated mashups on the cheap (most of 'em were a buck a pop), and as you can see, I had myself a field day.


I've always liked the Topps 206 brand, and while I hate that these are online-only the cards themselves are neat - can't resist a good Steve Carlton Cardinals sighting.

(And another weird Don Zimmer!)

I continue to be a sucker for cheap photo variations despite thinking said photo variations are wildly unnecessary. 

(RIP, Brooks.)

Even if by some wild fantasy I was able to acquire every US-branded card I ever needed, that would leave the loads of foreign-issue stuff I'll probably never see.

My love for BBM is well-documented, but I also discovered a fun mid '90s "Line Up" Venezuelan Winter League brand with this COMC order that I didn't know about (cool Ozzie Guillen double dip!).

A few neat horizontals here, including a rather intense Venezuelan double dip and my first-ever card featuring all three Alou brothers.

I'm by no means a Manny Ramirez collector, but that photo variation was too fun to pass up.

SSPC only had one major release, and I don't even own all of those I need yet, which should tell you how far I am from conquering the entire baseball card universe.

Nolan Ryan and Pete Rose bring me a couple steps closer to finalizing my '76 SSPC wants, and I tracked down other offshoots with the '75 Gaylord Perry sample and a neat '78 SSPC Don Baylor. 

I acquired my first Dodger Bell Brand card at this year's National, and I liked it so much that I immediately wanted another one.

Thankfully, an affordable Frank Howard presented itself in the COMC archives one afternoon, and I managed to couple it with a weathered '69 OPC Hondo for a song ('69 OPCs seem harder to find for some reason).

These are both bizarro-world cards from the '78 Burger King set and represented gaping holes in my binders.

Fergie was a "Keep Dreaming" need, and a particularly painful one given that the cheapest copy I could find online for a long time was over $20 - but out of the blue, a $4 copy popped up on COMC one day, and here we are.

I have an unspoken agreement with myself to try and track down one "big" card with each passing COMC order, and this '60 Frank Robinson certainly fit the bill this time around.

Like Fergie, this one had been on my "Keep Dreaming" list for a while. Thanks to a little paper residue on the back, I was able to nab this copy for a whopping $10. Another vintage Goliath slain!

As I said earlier, I'm not even two weeks removed from the arrival of this order, and I'm almost ready to have another one sent to me. So, no - I don't think I have to worry about not having any cards to chase. 

Or maybe I'm just insane, I don't know.