Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year in Review: The Hobby as Therapy and Other Musings

If there's one thing I've learned this past year concerning the hobby that we share an interest in, it's this: it's a heck of an escape. And I know, through many of the blogs I've read over the past few years, that many of you have experienced that as well. Some have faced job loss; others, health issues. Perhaps it's just the stress one faces on the job from 9-5. But whatever the case might be, there's something therapeutic about going through a box, a set, organizing one's cards, trading and writing.

This summer, we found out that our oldest son (my adopted son, whom I have raised since he was two) had been diagnosed with Huntington's Disease (or, Huntington's Chorea as it used to be known as), a degenerative brain disease with no known cure that has, and will continue to, cause physical, cognitive and psychiatric problems, will require full-time care in the later stages of the disease, and is often accompanied by complications which shorten the person's lifespan even more so than the disease itself. Upon onset, the life expectancy is about twenty years. Juvenile Huntington's often progresses faster. He started showing signs of the disease (which he was originally diagnosed with tourette's syndrome) at the age of nine. He's a little over a month away from his twenty-first birthday. 

And so, in the days and weeks following this revelation, I often found myself in prayer or- when tired of wrestling with God about matters- in my office, typing away at the keyboard and going through my collection. That was certainly helpful, but so were the number of the baseball card blogs by many of you- and for that, I am extremely grateful. The blogs you dedicate a small part of your life to often put a smile on my face at a time I carried a heavy heart as well as a heavy burden, wondering how we were going to break the news to not only our son, but our other two children.


The Collection
The focus of my collection prior to late 2012 had been the Braves Topps' team sets. Boston, Milwaukee or Atlanta- it didn't matter. Somewhere though (I think in the early part of 2012), I realized how difficult it was becoming to add to my collection. A majority of the cards on my wantlist were out of my price range, and I couldn't just sit idly by, saving my card allowance for two, three months before buying something. It was at that point that I decided to expand my collection to other manufacturers (or other Topps' releases). And so, 2013 was really a year of new beginnings for me, with my goals being as follows:

  • Keep up with current releases- base Braves and whatever inserts I can find (and afford!)
  • Braves cards from 1993
Two goals- that was it. Pretty simple, really. The reason for the focus on 1993...I can't remember the genesis of this idea. At 20 years old, an automobile is considered a 'classic,' so I guess my reasoning is that cards should be viewed the same way. Actually, as much as I am in need of non-base Topps products, I thought it would be easier to focus on one year at a time; twenty years is more of an arbitrary number. While '93 was the year that there seemed to be an explosion in the number of releases, it was still fairly cheap and attainable. As far as where I ended up- both the '93 and 2013 want lists are much smaller now, with most of the 'must haves' checked off. The rest will be just gravy. I was also able to pick up a few cards that I have spent years waiting to add to my collection...

Best Cards Added to My Collection This Year:

Two Sweet '53s; one a Topps, the other a Bowman. When it comes to my purchases for my collection, I seriously doubt I'll ever have as good a day as I did at this show back in June.

I don't take part in many trades, but this one will be tough to top. It's a Chippah from north of the border.

Most collectors would probably be thrilled to add a vintage Mickey Mantle card to their collection; however, I was more excited about the other dude on this card that I picked up at a card show in the spring.  Oh, by the way- it was my first vintage Mantle.

Favorite 2013 Cards in My Collection:
No, it's not a 1/1, super refractor, or any other ridiculous rare card. It's a pretty plain Hometown Signatures card of Steve Avery- and it's glorious.

Honorable Mention:

Can You Dig It????!!!!

Can you say, "Future Ace"? Stud. Comp: Adam Wainwright

'93 Finest design; Craig Kimbrel. All that needs to be said.

Sure, it's 'gimmicky,' but it's a great photo of the team's three representatives from the mid-season classic.

The Blog
I tried my hand at a second blog at the beginning of last January- something that wouldn't be Braves-centered. That lasted a couple months, as I found that a) I don't have the time to do such a blog and, b) My hobby identity will always be as a Braves collector. It's what I know, what I enjoy. 

And so I will continue into 2014 focusing on new releases (Braves checklists), purchases, customs and some of the features I've been posting. 

The Hobby
Let's go ahead and say that 2013 was the year that the hobby enjoyed a class reunion of sorts. We saw Topps celebrate the 20th anniversary of its Finest debut with an insert set paying homage to the landmark release, as well as the return of Pinnacle and Select Baseball. It's too bad that box prices aren't what they were back in the day and that Upper Deck isn't producing baseball cards. The reunion will continue into 2014 with a Donruss release from Panini. All in all, it's still a great hobby and I look forward to what's in store for the upcoming year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Better Late Than Never

With as few trades as I execute, you would think that I would be able to stay on top of things when it comes to trade posts. Maybe waiting a couple months before doing so is a normal thing; if that's not the case, then my apologies to Night Owl and Douglas over at Sportscards from the Dollar Store. Each sent me an envelope some time back, of which I'm just now getting around to saying 'thanks.'

Douglas sent me a couple of cards just out of the blue, one of which was a complete surprise:

2003 Pacific Atomic CFL #28 Bart Hendricks

Upon leaving Boise State, Hendricks was the school's most prolific quarterback before eventually being surpassed by Ryan Dinwiddie and Kellen Moore. That this is a die-cut only makes this card even more awesome!

2013 Finest #75 (Refractor) Justin Upton

Twenty years later, I still like this offering from Topps. And I never refuse a Brave!

I also forgot to include these two CFL cards from Douglas in a previous trade:

1990 and 1991 Jogo CFL Michel Bourgeau

Another Eskimo; another former Boise State player. Bourgeau played for the Broncos before their 'glory years' and was inducted into the BSU athletic Hall of Fame in 1990.

More Braves goodness, this time from Night Owl:



Update: old and new!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Swashbuckler Sunday: 2013 Topps Ronde Barber

When the final game is played in any given sport, I often wonder which players have played their last game for their team. Other than when a player announces that the current season will be his final season, all we can do is speculate. As the Bucs play their final game today, I'm again left wondering, "who won't return next season?"

Although Ronde Barber announced his retirement in May of 2013, Topps decided to go ahead and put him in their base product. It wasn't a given that the sixteen-year NFL vet would retire following the 2012 season, but knowing that he wouldn't have a starting role with Tampa, there was no way Ronde was going to return to be a backup.

Final Game
December 30, 2012 at Atlanta
Ronde registered four tackles against the Falcons in his final NFL game. Barber finished his pro career by starting all sixteen games for the thirteenth consecutive season.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dee Gordon to My Collection?

With all due respect to Night Owl, GCRL and all other Dodger collectors out there in cardboard land, there's only one kind of Dee Gordon card that I'm interested in: 

I saw this as I was going through some cards recently and entertained the thought of starting a new collection of cards which contain Braves on other players' cards. I decided against it, as it would be just one more thing to chase after.

Gordon appeared in three games against the Braves during his rookie season, starting two of them. With the help of Baseball Reference dot com, I was able to find the game situation of when this photo was taken...

The Game
Friday, September 2, 2011, Atlanta, Ga

With Atlanta leading 5-2, Chipper Jones led off the bottom of the fifth with a single to right. After removing starter Chad Billingsley, the Dodger's brought in Hong-Chih Kuo to face Freddie Freeman- whom he got to fly out to left. The Dodger's reliever then faced Jason Heyward, who ended the Braves half-inning by grounding into a 4-6-3 double play.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Finest Moments, Finest Freshmen and....Finest Frugality

A few from 2011 Topps Finest:

Rowland's Office ran a post yesterday about Liberty Media's most recent quarterly filing with the SEC. For those of you who don't know, Liberty is the corporation which owns the Braves. Anyway, the article points out that the team saw an increase of $21 million in profits- not to mention the additional $25M from television revenues. So, with an additional $46 million one would like to think it would increase the payroll, right? After all, we've got a core group of four players (Heyward, Freeman, Kimbral, and Simmons) that should be cornerstones to the franchise's future. Well, apparently the team is still looking at a $95 million payroll.

I get the argument about not signing Kimbrel to a long-term extension, and even the one floating out there about now being the time to trade him; I don't want to see that happen, but I certainly understand the reasoning. But everyday that passes without Freeman and Heyward being extended, the less hopeful I am about them being with the team when the new stadium opens in 2017. It's not as if the team isn't trying. Reports are that both players had been approached earlier this year about an extension, but neither, at this point, is interested. While I'm glad that the team has at least attempted to negotiate, it might not be in such a precarious position if the ownership group wasn't so damn cheap. You can also blame the horrible tv deal the team signed prior to the explosion in regional television deals. Where have you gone, Ted Turner?

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Swashbuckler Sunday: Booger on the Radio

" All right, Cincinnati, it is time for this town to get down! You've got Johnny...Doctor Johnny Fever, and I am burnin' up in here! Whoa! Whoo! We all in critical condition, babies, but you can tell me where it hurts, because I got the healing prescription here from the big 'KRP musical medicine cabinet. Now I am talking about your 50,000 watt intensive care unit, babies! So just sit right down, relax, open your ears real wide and say, "Give it to me straight, Doctor. I can take it!...[music begins playing]. I almost forgot, fellow babies....BOOOOOOGER!!!"~ Dr. Johnny Fever, WKRP in Cincinnati

Unless you're an old fart like me (only 44, but to many younger folks, that's considered old), or watch older tv programming on Hulu, you may have no idea of what the call letters WKRP are- or who Dr. Johnny Fever was. The character, played by Howard Hessemen, was a disco-jockey on the late '70s/early '80s sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati. Prior to his gig at the struggling radio station, Fever (known as Johnny Sunshine at that point in his radio career) was fired for saying "booger" on the air while working at a popular L.A. radio station. Though he eventually won a cash settlement from the station for wrongful termination, his career path began to spiral, and he eventually lands in the Queen City- or as he call it, "rock bottom." After a new program director is hired, and a new station format (ROCK AND ROLL!) is in place, Johnny experiences a 're-birth'- this time as "Dr. Johnny Fever."

Anthony "Booger" McFarland is a radio personality on CBS sports 98.7 The Fan, in Tampa, who also happened to play in the NFL once upon a time for the Buccaneers and then later, the Indianapolis Colts. Drafted 15th overall in the 1999 NFL Draft, Booger was a nine-year veteran and two-time Super Bowl champion. Over the course of his career, McFarland registered 22.5 sacks, 175 tackles, 79 assisted tackles, 1 interception and 6 fumble recoveries. While his performance on the field certainly didn't hurt his popularity, it was his large personality that made him a fan favorite in Baton Rouge, where he played college ball, as well as in Tampa. As far as his nickname, Anthony received it at two years old from his mother. Apparently he was a rambunctious child. "Just a bad kid, man...a bad kid," Booger once told ESPN's Chris Low. And when it came to Saturday and Sunday, McFarland was, as Low described him, "a bad man on the football field."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

New Product Checklist: Braves 2013 Bowman Sterling

Not too much to get excited about this year with this product if you're a Braves collector. Truth be told, I'm actually glad there's not much to have go after on this one. It's nice to get a breather before the 2014 products begin bombarding us...


2013 Bowman Sterling Braves
18 Evan Gattis
37 Alex Wood

Autographed Rookies 
BSAR-EG  Evan Gattis

Nickname Autographs
NNA-EG  Evan Gattis

Friday, December 20, 2013

Food-Issue Friday: A Trio of 1993 Lykes Braves

Like many you, I have a great interest in odd-ball cards. The fact that I try to have a regular feature built around one branch of that genre should indicate an affinity for them. And while older Post Cereal, Kellogg's and the like are good and all, there's nothing like the regional odd-ball set. As a team set collector, I rarely find the hobby that challenging; most of what I'm going after is only challenging from a financial perspective. Some of the regional issues can be found, and often the asking price is a premium, but completing a team set can be difficult.

I recently purchased a lot of three 1993 Lykes Braves cards off of eBay for $3 plus shipping. Considering one of the three is a possible future Hall of Famer, I thought that was fair- especially when the only other cards from this release that I've found are going for between $8 and $12 apiece.

Clarence Jones
What's to Like about the 1993 Braves team: With CJ as their hitting coach, Atlanta led the National League in home runs, with 169. However, out of the fourteen N.L. teams, they finished ninth in hitting (.262), fifth in OBP (.331) and sixth in slugging (.408). They also finished third in walks (560) and sixth in strikeouts (946). Their 767 runs scored was good enough for third most in the Senior Circuit. 

Greg Olson

What's to Like about Greg Olson in 1993: For the second straight season, Olson saw his playing time diminish, as well as a decline in his offensive numbers. Just the fact that the popular player was able to come back from a horrible injury (broken leg suffered in a home-plate collision with Ken Caminiti) was encouraging. The '93 season would be his final one in the majors; his final at bats coming in the NLCS against the Phillies (1-3, with a double).

John Smoltz

What's to Like about John Smoltz in 1993: Made the All-Star team for the third time in his career. Fifteen wins, 243.2 Innings, 208 strikeouts.Six innings of scoreless ball (with 10 k's) in his only post-season appearance- coming against Philadelphia in the NLCS.


Lykes, the Braves stadium hot dog vendor, issued three player cards to children attending Tuesday home games during the 1993 season. According to the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, the cards of Javier Lopez, Fred McGriff, and Tony Tarasco were handed out at the final Tuesday home game and are more scarce that the other cards. Because of the way in which the thirty-eight cards were distributed, putting a set of these should prove to be a challenge.

The other players included in this set are:
Steve Avery, Jim Beauchamp, Steve Bedrosian, Rafael Belliard, Damon Berryhill, Jeff Blauser, Sid Bream, Francisco Cabrera, Pat Corrales, Bobby Cox, Marvin Freeman, Ron Gant, Tom Glavine, Jay Howell, Brian Hunter, David Justice, Mark Lemke, Javier Lopez, Greg Maddux, Leo Mazzone, Fred McGriff, Greg McMichael, Kent Mercker, Otis Nixon, Bill Pecota, Terry Pendleton, Deion Sanders, Pete Smith, Mike Stanton, Tony Tarasco, Jimmy Williams, Mark Wohlers, Ned Yost, Homer (mascot),  Rally (mascot)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

New Product Checklist: 2013 Select Braves

The last time we saw a stand-alone Select baseball product was the year 1998. That season, the Braves had four hitters who slugged over 30 homers, four starting pitchers who finished with 16 or more wins (including Tom Glavine, who would win his second Cy Young Award that season) and the team went on to win a franchise record 106 games. Since then, both the team and the hobby have seen a number of changes; but looking at the checklist, with its inclusion of Chipper Jones and Greg Maddux, it seems like Panini is taking us back in time. So, where's Smoltz and Glavine?!

(image from Panini's blog)

2013 Select Atlanta Braves
21 Freddie Freeman
47 B.J. Upton
67 Craig Kimbrel
75 Justin Upton
93 Jason Heyward
123 Chipper Jones
170 Alex Wood
209 Evan Gattis-Auto (#/750)

En Fuego
20 Justin Upton

14 Chipper Jones
59 Kris Medlen
97 Alex Wood

31 Craig Kimbrel
44 Greg Maddux

Thunder Alley
7 Justin Upton

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One Score and Zero Years Ago: The 1993 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes of Baseball Braves

It took me a number of years to warm up to the first Heroes of Baseball set, but twenty years after it's release, I can say that I really like this set.

When it was initially released, there were two strikes against it: the black and white photos and the size of the cards (2 1/4" x 5 1/4"). Back then, there wasn't really any good way of storing them and so I was initially turned off by the cards. And while I haven't bothered looking for specialty pocket-pages to keep them in, I have accepted the idea of just using normal pocket-pages and storing them in the center rows. And as far as the black and white photos- it would still make more sense to me to include color photos of some of the more recent ballplayers, but the photos the company used are, for the most part, good, clear shots. The cards also feature another unique thing about them: they're scored on both sides of the main photo. I personally would not want to fold the cards, so I don't know why Upper Deck did this. Perhaps some collectors folded them. But, like I said, it does add something different- and that's what the 90's card market was all about.

1993 Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball Braves
1 Hank Aaron
23 Lew Burdette
57 Ralph Garr
67 Bob Horner
77 Davey Johnson
83 Johnny Logan
116 Warren Spahn

B.A.T.- A Worthy Cause
Another unique feature to the '93 UD Heroes set is the B.A.T. logo found on the left panel of each regular player card. A brief description on the back of the panel explains how the Baseball Assistance Team was formed to help members of the baseball family in need. This included not only former players, but also managers, groundskeepers, and umpires.

The MLB website has a good article and accompanying video talking about the charitable program.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Black Friday at COMC, Pt. 2

As I had mentioned in a recent post, I looked to finish up some team sets, as well as get a start on some new ones, in COMC's Black Friday Sale. With shipping costs on eBay continuing to rise, I am more determined than ever to spend my money on the COMC website- which has actually dropped their shipping charges in the past twelve months.

1992 Fleer Ultra All-Stars #20 Tom Glavine
Look at those cleats; when was the last time you saw a baseball player rockin' high tops? Did he convert a pair of his hockey skates into baseball cleats? If anyone out there is looking for a new collection theme, try picking up cards with players wearing those things.

1992 Fleer Ultra Award Winners #7 Tom Glavine & #4 Terry Pendleton
Once again, it's everyone's favorite Brave (sarcasm font can't be found). I know there's some fans who still resent him for jumping ship to New York and/or for his involvement as a union rep, but he's still one of my favorites. Plus, the one-hit masterpiece to win the Series doesn't hurt his cause. And TP...another great card on what has to be one of the finest inserts known to the collecting universe. Okay, so maybe that's hyperbolic; it's still one of my all-time favorite inserts.

2007 Topps Trading Places #TP9 Marcus Giles, #TP23 Mike Gonzalez

All I want for Christmas is for Topps to revise this set in the 2014 Series 2- and for there to be a Dan Uggla card included. Doesn't look he's moving out of town anytime soon. I'm still holding out hope that Omar Infante will not sign with KC and will somehow end up back in Atlanta. Is this too much to ask for? (with arms extended upward, as I look towards the heavens).

1997 Fleer Ultra Leather Shop #11 Kenny Lofton
 In his one season with Atlanta, Lofton was 27 out of 47 in stolen bases. The only thing worse than that is that we traded David Justice and Marquis Grissom for this guy (well, we did get Alan Embree for 1.5 years- as I roll my eyes). That's enough to get many GM's fired. The one bright spot: he did put up a line of .333/.409/.428 in that year.

2006 Flair Showcase Wave of the Future #WF-17 Jeff Francoeur
Flair, Flair Showcase. What's up with the name change? Reminds me of how we used to say Fleer Ultra, but now it's referred to as Ultra. That's left me about as confused as Francoeur is at the plate.

Whole Lot of Topps Galleries
One of my favorite sets. Will someone at Topps please, please bring these back?!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Winter 2013 Card Show

Is there a worse time of year to hold a card show than mid-December? I never have understood the idea behind having a card show two weeks before Christmas, but that's when our Winter show falls on the calendar. (And by the way, the first day of the Winter Solstice isn't until next Saturday. Just sayin'.) If you're going to hold a quarterly card show, then it just makes more sense to me to do it on the following schedule: February (Super Bowl Saturday!), May, August, and then November for your fall show. But sometimes common sense is more difficult to find than that low serial numbered insert card, and so, with little money in my pocket and hopes of finding some hidden gems in the 5/$1 boxes, my buddy and I endured the cold and hit the tables. Let's see what Santee Clause had in his bag of bargains:

5 for $1 Box
This purchase was all about Leaf Studio. Why? I have no clue, because I've never been a fan of this line- other than the 1991 debut. I guess I felt as if I had to buy something, and at this point I did not have much in hand. And so, I feel as if I've already defeated one of my stated moralistic card convictions: gluttony.

1991 Leaf Studio #145 Tom Glavine
1992 Leaf Studio #10 John Smoltz
1993 Leaf Studio #61 John Smoltz, 145 Tom Glavine, 196 Greg Maddux
1995 Leaf Studio #182 Tom Glavine (the 'credit card' card. One of the dumbest sets I can remember)
1996 Leaf Studio #12 Tom Glavine, 72 Chipper Jones, 85 John Smoltz (Actually- these cards aren't that bad).
1997 Leaf Studio #56 John Smoltz, 79 Chipper Jones, 81 Fred McGriff, 85 Kenny Lofton, 88 Greg Maddux, 130 Tom Glavine

1982 Topps/K-Mart 20th Anniversary #43 Hank Aaron YES! An 'oddball' from the '80s that I didn't have!!

1998 Donruss Elite #127 Andruw Jones Die-Cut

2009 Topps Turkey Red #TR19 Brian McCann
1996 Leaf Signature Series #3 Greg Maddux
2006 Flair Showcase Hot Number #HN-3 Andruw Jones

$1 Cards
1972 Topps #401 Jim Nash (one less '72 to chase. I'm getting close to finishing team set!)

2012 Topps Golden Greats #GG-51 Hank Aaron, #GG-54 Hank Aaron

Cheap SP

2003 Heritage #378 Gary Sheffield SP Paid $1.25 for it, which I was very happy about. Been chasing for a few years now, and haven't even seen one appear on eBay. Made the trip worth it.

Red Mans!

My final purchase of the day was one of those buys in which you waver back and forth: do I, or don't I? I was just shootin' the breeze with a dealer and commented on the Red Man's that he had. I told him that I've wanted to pick some up for my collection, but that I probably wouldn't try to collect all the Boston and Milwaukee players. He was asking ten bucks apiece for the two that he had, but offered both of them to me for $15. I probably could have found them cheaper on eBay (even with shipping), but I do believe in trying to keep some of my money local.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Die-Damic Die-Cuts: 1955 Braves Spic and Span

In an era in which Regional Sets were plentiful, perhaps none was as popular among Braves collectors nor as interesting as the 1955 Braves Spic and Span die-cut set. The Milwaukee-based dry cleaning company had also issued photo card sets for the Braves in 1953 and '54, and continued to do so until 1957. After a two-year hiatus, the company would return with one final issue in 1960. According to Bob Lemke, the featured players each received $100 and free dry cleaning.

Size: approximately 7.5" x 7"
Number of Cards: 18

 Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock, Bill Bruton, Bob Buhl, Lew Burdette, Gene Conley, Del Crandall, Jack Dittmer, Ernie Johnson, Dave Jolly, John Logan, Ed Mathews, Chet Nichols, Dan O'Connell, Andy Pafko, Warren Spahn, Bob Thompson, Jim Wilson.

While I have been aware of the Spic and Span die-cuts for a number of years, I was not familiar with the dry-cleaning cover, which is much more difficult to find than the cards. According to the Huggins & Scott Auctions website, from where I found the photo of the cover, these beauties measure 30" x 12" x 12" and feature the eighteen die-cut subjects.