Friday, July 7, 2017

Nautical Needs: 2016 Stadium Club

A recent purchase on Sportlots netted me a few singles that were needed to finish off a couple of team sets. Or, shall I say the base team sets; inserts from both sets are still needed.

I've seen various comments on the internet from collectors who would like to see the return of Topps Total, or an all-Negro League set, or an all-retired players set- all of which are good ideas- but one set I'd like to see would be an "all-fun" set: cards with photos of players blowing bubbles, signing for fans, or any other number of crazy antics. That would be asking too much, however, so we'll just have to settle for the occasional 'fun' card in products like Stadium Club or SP's SSPs out of flagship Topps.

The Ketel Marte card... I pulled the autographed version from one of my two hobby boxes last year, but since that doesn't count towards the base team set, I had to pick this one up.  And with it, my base team set is now complete.

Needs- 2016 Stadium Club
Beam Team #BT07 Robinson Cano

Have any of your own needs from the base set? I have quite a few singles, so let me know what you need and I'll take a look.

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

No License Required

Thanks to government regulations, it's getting dang near impossible to start or operate a business in America today. Hell, it's getting damn near impossible to just live your life without some kind of license or permit being required. And lest you think that it's just the federal government that's out of control with bureaucratic red-tape, think again. All of us have heard stories about children's lemonade stands being forced to close due to the lack of a permit  or some town in California that requires a permit if you want to park in the streets between 2am-5am. One city- Milwaukee, Wisconsin-  requires businesses that are closing to acquire a license to announce they're going out of business. And just as it is with the taxman, the bureaucrats have got you coming in and they've got you going out.

One sphere where there is a dearth of licenses is in the sports card world. On this, I think there is 100% agreement.

Most of the non-licensed (league-licensed, that is) stuff that is released these days are poorly done, in my opinion. Team colors are off, there are too many photos being used where it's obvious that the team name/logo has been airbrushed, draft pick sets of players no one has ever heard of. But done right, unlicensed products can be a good thing. I love the oddball/food-issue sets from the '80s and '90s, most of which did not have an MLB license, but were nevertheless done tastefully. 

Panini got it right on the Cano and Johnson cards. In fact, the only way a newcomer to the hobby (who's not aware of the licensing issues) might become suspicious by the lack of a logo is on Robbie's helmet- and that looks like the 'S' could be blotted out by the reflection of lights.

I'll also say this: the odds of me collecting an unlicensed product are much higher if the company issues something with a retro design. I'm probably not alone in saying that, either. Nostalgia plays a huge part in the hobby, and I don't think it's a coincidence that Panini and Leaf often go back to the well from which they had earlier success. Now, it could be due to laziness- that the creative juices just aren't flowing- but I don't think that's the case (or entirely the case).

While licensed products are (by far) the most popular ones in the hobby, you can still find cards that will convince you that a license isn't required in order to make an attractive set (or, insert set). 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Glove, a Bird and a Book

I was speaking to a friend at the card show I attended back in May and, over the course of our conversation, told him we were getting ready to go on vacation to the Oregon coast. He asked me where we were going and when I told him one of the towns would be Newport, he suggested I go to the Antique Mall. "I'm aware of the place," I said. "We've been there a number of times." He went on to me of the good buys he had found while there on their recent trip.

The "Antique Mall" is really just a big, indoor flea market with everything from tools, to clothing, to antiques and collectibles. Lots of junk, but there is plenty of good stuff to be found, if you take your time to search its maze. And the way it's set up, with the different vendors set up, it is like a maze.

As we rolled in to Newport, we decided to stop by the Antique Mall before continuing north to Lincoln City. It was just as I had remembered it from the last time we were there, which had been four years ago. Immediately upon entering the store, I saw the first sportscard vendor's set and perused the display case and shelf for a while, before moving on through the rest of the store. As we were towards the back of the store, my eyes caught something: baseball gloves. I picked up the first one and noticed it was a Ron Cey model. The asking price was way too high ($15) for as poor of shape it was in; the back of the mitt was peeling reallying bad and wasn't worth but maybe $5. The other glove was in much better shape and as I turned it over I saw a name on it that I certainly didn't expect to see. Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. The asking price on it was much more reasonable ($10), but I decided to hold off from buying it. I did, however, take photos of each to tag a couple of individuals on Twitter, both of whom I knew would be interested in the finds.

I tagged Night Owl on it later and he replied it was a 'keeper'. Too bad the glove looked like mice had attacked it; had the Cey model been in better shape, I would have bought it for Greg. The other individual tagged was journalist and author Dan Epstein, known for his books Big Hair and Plastic Grass:A Funky Ride through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s and Stars and Strips: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of '76. Many of you are probably aware of Dan's writings and have perhaps seen him on any number of baseball documentaries (Doc Ellis: No No; Lenny Randle: The Most Interesting Man in Baseball; Mark Fidrych: The Bird). I was well aware of his love for Fidrych, and when he responded; "I'd pay $10 for that glove", I decided to offer it as a gift to him. I asked him to DM me his address and I'd send it his way. He obliged and was very grateful, thanking me again for my kind and generous act. I told him to prove it wasn't altogether altruistic (I kidded- I really had no ulterior motives), would he be willing to sign my copy of Stars and Stikes for me, if I were to include a pre-paid envelope. Dan was more than happy and asked if there was any player or team from the era that I'd want him to reference in the signature. Since the Mariners didn't start their maiden voyage until '77, I suggested The Bird. I mean, how can I not have Dan Epstein reference the Tiger phenom in a book about the 1976 season?!!

A couple of weeks later, the envelope arrived in my mailbox and sure enough, Dan was kind enough to sign the book and include another interesting piece. 

The piece that showed up that I wasn't expecting was this very cool HOF postcard of none other than Bill Veeck.


The cards Dan referred to were a couple of customs I did on the Topps website. I was in the process of creating a 'Guitar Greats' set of my favorite axe slingers before Topps caught on and would no longer produce them for me. The two that I did create were Vivian Campbell and John Sykes, both of whom played for Thin Lizzy at various points. Sykes actually played with the band while Phil Lynott was still alive; Campbell, in the reincarnated TL from 2010-2011. I knew that Dan is a huge fan of the band and thought he might appreciate the cards.         

Anyway, we're now forty-one years removed from that bicentennial year, but I want to wish each and every one of you a Happy 4th of July!


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

But for Now

A good part of our lives is spent in anticipation. We begin setting aside funds in to a 529 college savings plan for our children's future; we start socking money away to help pay for a daughter's future wedding; we contribute money to our 401K and Roth IRA accounts from each pay period, looking forward to the day we can finally retire; even in matters of faith, we have what theologians refer to as the tension of the 'already, but not yet', which describes the benefits of redemption already experienced in this life and those benefits which await us at the consummation.

And, yes, we find this reality in card collecting. We anticipate the next product; the next hit; the next card show; the next trade. Some trade packages, though, are unexpected- such as the one that Greg from Night Owl Cards sent my way recently.

I'm getting older and the mind seems to slip a little each day, so maybe Greg sent this monster bubble mailer in return for something I had sent him. Had I known something was coming my way, I would have been looking forward to it with great anticipation. As it was, it took me by surprise.

What shouldn't be a surprise is when those prospects we hoard don't pan out. It can be maddening spending years watching a prospect tear it up in the minors, anticipating their MLB debut, only to be disappointed. Some, like Danny Hultzen (a number 2 overall pick in 2011), suffer injuries early in their careers and never make the Show. Others, such as Alex Jackson, struggle from the outset and don't live up to the draft hype.

I wasn't surprised to see a 'vintage' card or two coming from Mr. Night Owl. I use that term (vintage) loosely; being an expansion team doesn't really allow for what you'd call vintage. Unless you're listing on Craigslist. In that case, 1997 cards would qualify as being 'old'.

There was a little of this, a little of that. 

Junk stuff. Scratch that. Has anyone coined the term, "Garbage Wax"- because that's what 1990 Fleer (and 1989 Fleer) is. Garbage. I guess I'll have to take the good with the bad- or, the bad with the good, if I'm going to be a team set collector.

So many of the Score products from the mid-90s look the same. You might even classify it as garbage wax, too.

This Kyle Seager is most definitely not garbage. It's a thing of beauty.

One of the team sets I've been really looking forward to completing is 2015 Stadium Club. It's always one of my favorite releases each year and fans of the set are undoubtedly awaiting the release of the 2017 offering. Only a couple of more weeks away! For now, I'm content with this Nelson Cruz card.

I remember when my two sons were just wee ones, looking forward to the day they would play little league baseball. I was especially excited upon discovering my youngest was a lefty, and I envisioned him one day becoming a pitcher. Which, of course, meant a hot commodity. I know, pretty sad viewing my child as a commodity. But if you're a lefty and can throw a baseball, odds are that you'll get a shot.

More of this and that

With Heritage, Archives, and all the TBT cards that Topps is producing, retro cards seem to have lost a little lot of their luster. But that wasn't always the case. In fact, at one point, collectors longed for a release that captured the spirit of those sets from their childhood. One of the better sets, in my opinion, was the 2009 O-Pee-Chee cards. The only disappointing thing I found with this set was the number of photos that appear to have been shot in a studio. It's almost like they should have Olan Mills in the bottom right corner. Solid set, though.

Does it surprise you that Greg would sent some cards from 2013 Home Town Heroes? Yeah, me neither.

Like many of you, I could do without Opening Day as a stand-alone release. At the very least, I would like to see it with a design that's different from flagship. What I do await each year, however, are the interesting inserts included in O.D. This Stadium Scenes card of Safeco Field makes me long to make another trip to the ballpark. And if all goes well, I will, this September.

If I were to grade this package from Greg, it'd have to rate a Home Run.

Thanks again, Greg, for all the cards. And I look forward to- nay, anticipate, the next package.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


As I sat down to begin writing this post, I had one thing in mind: to focus on an on-card auto of a pitcher the Seattle Mariners once acquired from the Cubs for $1. But as I began writing, it occurred to me that the team has a battery where both pitcher (again, Zych) and catcher (Mike Zunino) have last names that begin with the last letter of our alphabet. I had never heard of this occurring on any other team, so I decided to delve deeper into baseball history for other such battery mateZ. There have been only 91 players in the majors whose surnames begin with the letter 'Z', so the odds of it happening prior to Zych/Zunino are slim. Or so I thought.

When Tony Zych made his MLB Debut against the Oakland A's on September 4, 2015, he took his place in history, becoming the last man, alphabetically, in major league history. Prior to Zych's debut, Dutch Zwilling had the distinction of being the last name on the (alphabetical) roster of players to appear in the majors. While anything is possible, it's hard to imagine anyone knocking Zych off the bottom of the list. That alone might warrant picking up an autographed card of the right-handed reliever, but that wasn't the reason for my recent addition. No, the reason I picked up Zych's 2016 Topps Chrome is that it's Tony's lone major league card (thus far, anyway). No base Chrome- not even a base Topps card from its flagship product.

Zych battled arm problems last year, but had shown promise prior to that. His arsenal includes a fastball that hits the mid-90s and a very good slider, both of which allow him to miss a lot of bats.

And for the record, this particular battery first matched up on August 23, 2016, in the Mariners 5-1 loss to the Yankees. Zych pitched one inning, allowing 2 hits while striking out one.

Prior to the Mariners duo, the most recent pair of battery mateZ were Torono's (P) Victor Zambrano and (C) Gregg Zaun. This duo hooked up in their first game together on April 4, 2007 in Detroit, when Zambrano replaced Jermey Accardo in the bottom of the 7th. The former Mets pitcher would allow 1run on one hit and two walks that inning, and then give up a single and another walk to start the eighth before being pulled.

Mr. Zaun, who donned 9 different major league uniforms over a career that spanned 16 seasons, also caught for another Z pitcher during his career: Jeff Zimmerman, on the 1999 Texas Rangers. Zimmerman, making his MLB debut on April 13, at Seattle, came in to relieve Mike Morgan with 1-out in the bottom of the 7th inning and immediately struck out the first two batters he faced. When Zimmerman came back out for the bottom of the eighth, he had a new catcher behind the plate- Zaun, who replaced Ivan Rodriguez that inning.

Forty-two years earlier, on July 1, 1957, the first Z-mates appeared together in a major league game, pitcher George Zuverink and catcher Frank Zupo of the Baltimore Orioles. Zupo, making his major league debut that day, entered the game in the top of the 10th, replacing Joe Durham (who had pinch-hit for catcher Joe Ginsburg in the 9th inning), while Zuverink took over for pitcher Ken Lehman (also in the top of the tenth) with the score tied at two. The veteran pitcher got Yankee shortstop Gil McDougald to groundout to second before surrendering a game-deciding home run to Mickey Mantle.

Well, there's your lesson for the day. Now, go out and see if you can dig up some cardZ of theZe guyZ.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Will Collect Almost Anything

Being a team set collector (or even a player collector) often means buying or trading for items you wouldn't otherwise chase after. We, as collectors, complain about certain products but then play the part of the partisan who complains about the state of politics, yet continues to choose party over country or policy. That's us, admit it.

Some collectors view cards such as this Will Ferrell as 'gimmicks'. Will's ballpark journey was part of an HBO special, done in partnership with MLB to fight cancer. So I don't have a problem with Topps creating a ten-card set. As a side note, Will's stop at HoHoKam for the Mariners game against the A's was the first on a five- stadium tour.

I've always had a soft spot for retro sets, especially those designs from my childhood. And yet I would never even think about collecting logo-less retro sets if it wasn't for being a team set (or player) collector. But I will say, I really do like what Panini did with what they have to work with. Now I just need the Kyle Seager card from this set.

It's awfully tough to hate on cards like this Griffey. Why, the way it's framed, it could very well be a licensed card and you'd never know it. More stuff like this would go a long ways in winning over even the most stubborn collector.

And we will end it today with this Fernando Rodney card. I'm probably in the minority in saying that I don't mind sticker autos, but the off-colors and prison-softball team hat just don't do anything for me. And yet I still purchased it, albeit for 99 cents.

I guess I will buy just about anything.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

5ive From... 1984 (A Care Package from Fuji)

I start off every year, it seems, vowing to be more involved in the comment sections on the various card blogs I follow. Good intentions, obviously, but, like most new year's resolutions, I always fall short.

While I am an introvert (and have suffered from that type of hangover, on multiple occasions), I'm not going to use that as an excuse. Part of it has to do with me doing a lot of my blog reading on the Feedly app on my cell phone, which doesn't allow for comments to be made without going to a web browser. Laziness probably accounts for a large part of the reason, if I'm being honest with myself.

There are plenty of you out there who might be called 'social butterflies', judging from your involvement in the blogosphere. And if I were to give out an award to the Collector/Blogger who is Most Likely to Leave a Comment, it would go, hands down, to Mark of The Chronicles of Fuji fame. A few weeks ago I posted about the card show I had attended in May, and featured, among many pieces of cardboard purchased at the show, a single card from the 1984 Topps set. Mark was kind enough to inquire about which cards I still needed for the set and then, a short time later... BOOM! A PWE arrived with 5 cards. Five cards- perfect number because I've began a new series called 5ive From...

Because all the cards Mark sent were from the year 1984, I'll be featuring music from 1984. My first inclination was to pick tunes from some of my favorite bands at the time (it was a great year for hard rock/metal) but I've decided to go with a little more eclectic mix. Now, I did pick a song from an all-time favorite band (U2) and like three of the other four bands. More on that later.

Hard Habit To Break (Chicago)....I was a freshman during the spring of 1984 and I was moving on from collecting cards, becoming more interested in girls, cars and guitars. Looking back in hindsight, my decision to stop collecting wasn't difficult- especially as one who had been collecting for a large chunk of my childhood. And that surprises me because it seems like it should be harder to walk away from something that brought so much joy. Losing must be a hard habit to break for teams like the Texas Rangers, who lost a lot of games during the 80s. I vaguely remember Jim Anderson, more from his days in Seattle- but it was as a middle infielder (and the typical '70s-'80s m.i. at that: no hit, no power, decent glove). Was surprised to see him listed as a 'C-SS'. Don't see that every day.

Heaven (Psychedelic Furs)-- Call me crazy but when watching this video, I can't help but think that singer Richard Butler looks a little like Dave Righetti, or, at the very least, like he could be a relative. Wasn't much of a fan of the band; in fact, I don't know if I could name another song after this one.
Righetti had his 'heavenly' moment in 1983, throwing the first ever no-hitter at Yankee Stadium by a lefty. I wonder if the photo on the card front is from that game? Topps mentions his glorious no-no on the card back.

That Was Yesterday (Foreigner)-- a song which, according to Mick Jones, was about a failed relationship which you're still trying to hang on to; that there's a chance to resurrect it. At this point of time, the band (Foreigner) is like a failed relationship. Sure, there were some great moments, but at some point you've gotta ask 'why is this still a thing?' In case you don't know, the band is now comprised of really no original members. Jones still makes an occasional appearance, but for the most part it's just a bunch of replacements. Scabs, I guess you could call them. Likewise, I don't recognize the Nationals as being the former Expos team. They're just a bunch of scabs, to me.

Defenders of the Faith (Judas Priest)-- Speaking of resurrection... former Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie is hopeful of baseball returning to Quebec. Cromartie is the founder and president of the Montreal Baseball Project, which exists to bring baseball back to the largest city in North America without a baseball team. One of the things I like about the Priest album cover is how colorful it is, much like those colorful uniforms of our favorite Canadian team.

Promenade (U2)-- One of the more underrated (and unknown) songs in the U2 catalog, Bono paints beautiful imagery in the lyrics on this tune and the production team of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois helped the band produce an ambiance on The Unforgettable Fire unlike any of their previous releases. Bono was once quoted as saying the entire album "was a beautifully out of focus record, blurred like an impressionist painting..." I can see that. Very much so.

Take the lyrics at the end of the song ("slide show, seaside town, Coca-cola, football, radio radio radio radio radio radio) and replace it with "Tim Raines, Montreal, Expos Expos Expos Expos..." and I wouldn't have a problem with it. there obviously wouldn't be the same flow, but go with it.

Thanks again, Mark, for the great additions to my set. I'll soon work on getting some cards sent your way!!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Knocking Back a Few for Father's Day

I had to make a run to the grocery store yesterday. That's something my wife usually does but she and my daughter were helping a couple who are getting ready to open a thrift store, and we were needing a few things for the Father's Day dinner at our house. Yeah, dad gets stuck doing the grocery shopping for his own day. I didn't mind, however, because that gave me an excuse to drive the 1.5 mile or so drive to Target. Do I really have to say why?

I try to always temper those high hopes when a new product is released. For whatever reason, it's usually a week or so after a product is released before our local retail stores have their card aisles stocked. Such is the punishment for living in Idaho.

This time, there would be no disappointment. It's like the cardboard gods were looking out for me, making sure I'd be able to purchase that Father's Day present for myself.

Pack #1

540- Billy Hamilton
660- Jeanmar Gomez
492- Avisail Garcia
466- David Robertson
387- Zack Godley
All-Time All-Stars #ATAS-29 Hank Aaron
642- Renato Nunez
693- Matt Cain
398- Blake Treinen
383- Adam Frazier
530- Jabari Blash
429- Mark Melancon

Pack #2

474- Michael Pineda
616- Mark Trumbo
525- Curtis Granderson
683- Mac Williamson
472- Pittsburgh Pirates
497- Boston Red Sox
Memorable Moments #MM-4 Steve Carlton
Home Run Derby Champs #HRD-3 Cal Ripken, Jr.
Rediscover Topps- 2006 Topps UH296 Cardinals Team Leaders
676- Eric Hosmer
634- Danny Duffy
623- Melvin Upton Jr.
696- Jeff Mathis

Well, that was unusual to get three inserts in a single retail pack- at least, from my experience.

For the third pack, I went with one of those 72-card hanger boxes. I would have preferred a jumbo pack but they did not have any at the time. I'm not going to list every single individual card from the box, but I will note that there was a 3-card run identical to the last three in pack #2 (Duffy, Upton, Mathis). Nice collation, there, Topps.

 I'll just stop complaining there because in the middle of the 7 inserts was this card.

A red flag immediately went up; a base card, with a run of four inserts before and three inserts after it? That can mean only one thing. Checking out Beckett's 'cheat sheet' for SSP Variations confirmed my suspicions. Super Short Print. That'll be going on eBay.

As far as the other inserts, here are the others from the hanger box.

Thank you, cardboard gods, thank you very much! *blows kisses*