Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Beats a Blaster

Buyer's remorse is something that I'm sure every collector has experienced at one time or another. I mean, who hasn't purchased a box, blaster or pack (especially the expensive kind!) only to later regret it after the thrill is gone? Fortunately this post isn't about buyer's remorse, but rather the avoidance of such regret. 

I recently expressed my love for the 1953 Topps design in a post and decided afterwards that I'd see if there were any good deals on the 'Bay for singles from the popular set. Thankfully, there was a seven-card lot of Braves, six of which I needed for my team set. 

Now around that same time, I had the itch to pick up a blaster of 2013 Archives at Wally World- but instead of buying it (which would surely have brought on buyer's remorse), I decided I'd use the amount that the blaster would cost me as my maximum bid on the vintage lot.

I really didn't expect to win the seven cards. As great a resource eBay is, you've got to remember that there is a legion of collectors you're competing with, and vintage is an especially difficult road to travel. Nevertheless, I threw my hat into the ring and rode it out 'til the end of the auction. As a reward for my self-control (abstaining from the modern wax), I won the 7 cards for a grand total of $17 plus $3 shipping. 

Needless to say, I will not have to worry about buyer's remorse this time.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Grandstand(ing and) Glory

A new card arrived in the mail the other day- one which caused me to pause and think about the generation gap that's exhibited between ballplayers who are more 'old-school' and the newer generation of players who are more of the 'You-Tube/look-at-me' school of ridiculousness...

My least favorite (current) player in major league baseball- Carlos Gomez of Milwaukee- was in the news a lot last week due to the antics he displays whenever he hits (or appears to hit) a home run. The latest brewhaha (pun intended): a bench-clearing brawl between the Brewers and Pirates after Gomez hit what he thought was a home run and then doing his thing, which irritated Gerrit Cole. Personally, I think Gomez is a psycho and the biggest D-Bag in the game. Others, particularly some in the media, celebrate his 'personality,' saying that he makes the game fun and that he should not change. Tools and skills like those he possess make him fun to watch- not him acting like a jag.

The word 'grandstand' seems to have gotten lost on us- it's one that used to be used quite often when speaking of spectator sports. Now, we speak of bleachers, luxury boxes and suites, club-reserved seats and general admission seats. You get the point. Hear the word today, and you're more likely to hear it used as a verb- as in, "Gomez is grandstanding- who does he think he is?! What a douche!" He's looking to bring attention to himself. Seeking the glory.

Back in the 50's, hearing the 'g' word would invoke the ballpark, the racetrack- where fans would sit as they cheered on their heroes or the horse they just put their paycheck on to win.

Five decades ago, long before Carlos Gomez graced the city of Milwaukee with his presence, another player patrolled center fielder (among other positions) in old Milwaukee County Stadium- Andy Pafko. Like Gomez, Pafko could do it all: hit for average, power, good arm, fleet afoot. The way I see it, the difference between the two is that Pafko was well-respected and had the reputation of one of the friendliest players in the game. Gomez' tools might be respected, but his persona is not.

Anyway- this insert set is a nice alternative to the typical jersey swatch or piece of bat relic that are often inserted into cardboard. This is the second that I've picked up, and I still a few more that I need to chase down for my master Braves Heritage sets.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

We Barely Knew Ya...Matt Sinatro

For someone who spent part of ten different seasons in the majors, former catcher Matt Sinatro had very little to show for it- at least when it came to at-bats. 

Beginning with Atlanta in 1981 as a twenty-one year old rookie and ending in 1992 with the Mariners, Sinatro accumulated only 252 at-bats in his major-league career. I don't know who holds the record for fewest at-bats in a career that lasted 10+ seasons, but I've got to think that Matt ranks in the top 100. 

Matt's perseverance paid off, however, as all those years spent toiling on the bench (as well as in the minors) prepared him for his future role as major league scout and then as a coach on Lou Pinella's staff in Tampa, Seattle and Chicago.

Atlanta Cardboard:
1982 Donruss #149 (RC)
1983 Donruss #622

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Trajectory Trifecta

I spent a good deal of the first decade of the 2000s outside of the hobby. While I did start the new millennium in the hobby, I soon lost interest due to two events: the death of my best friend (and collecting buddy) and then, less than a month later, the birth of my daughter. That was in 2001, and I basically spent the next eight years focused on other things.

One of the trends in the hobby I missed out on during that time (well, I believe it actually started in the late 90s) was the use of thin, white (or silver) lines and circles scattered throughout the design- looking like some kind of circuit board. I'm not familiar with a lot of the releases from that period, so the names of the sets escape me- but one of the sets that comes to mind is the Upper Deck MVP line. I wasn't a fan of the circuit board releases, and I'm still not.

That being said, I recently picked up three cards from 2014 Topps 1, which share a silimar design with those cards from my 'wandering years.' For a set called "Trajectory" I would have like to have seen Topps analyze the trajectory of each player's career. I'm sure there's plenty of advanced metric websites that they could have used for such a purpose. They didn't, so it is what it is.

Yes, the small swatches have worn out their welcome for most collectors- but as long as it's in a base product like Opening Day or even the flagship, I don't have a problem with it. I'm more interested in the photos and designs than the swatch. Besides, I'm looking to pick them up so it can go towards a master team set.

Until now, I haven't pursued any signed cards of El Oso Blanco. His story is great and all, and yes, he does have tremendous power- but I honestly just don't see him being a full-time major leaguer in the long run. I hope I'm wrong. Anyway... $7 was too good to pass it up for, once again, a master team set. The signature is horrible. What's wrong with these guys, anyway? Why can't they take pride in their signature?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Food-Issue Friday: Driven to Drink

"A lot of them know about my past. A few of them (players he managed) used to collect baseball cards and remember getting a couple copies of mine... A lot of them (fans) actually do (remember him). A bunch of them will sometimes pull out one of my old baseball cards." ~ Brad Komminsk, in a 2008 interview

The Baltimore Orioles issued a four-series team set in conjunction with Coca-Cola and Crown gas stations during the 1991 baseball season. The first three series (cards #1-360) were given out at three separate home games during the season. Each sheet (10 in each series) contained twelve perforated cards- each card measuring 2-1/2" x 3-3/16" and featuring a sepia-toned head shot. The fourth series, which contained 12 sheets of 12 cards, were available only at participating Crown stations.

1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Baltimore Orioles #246

Okay, so this card/set should really fall under the category of odd-balls or regionals, rather than Food-Issues, but I'm going to give myself a pass because of the Coca-Cola sponsorship. 

Komminsk coached and managed in the minors following his playing career was over, including many years in the Orioles organization- where he was considered a pretty good managerial prospect (he never would manage at the major league level). Oh, the irony.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Humdrum: lacking excitement or variety; dull; monotonous

I remember the first time I heard the word, "humdrum." It was during an episode of Happy Days (My Favorite Orkan), in which an alien named Mork is sent to earth to find an average, humdrum human to observe. The appearance would change the career of Robin Williams. Little did I know that later in life I would be able to relate so well to that newly discovered word.

Last month, I hit the twentieth anniversary of the purchase of my house; this coming September, I will celebrate my twenty-fifth anniversary of working for the same company; my wife and I will be celebrating our nineteenth wedding anniversary in about nine months. All this to say- no, I'm not going through a mid-life crisis (I hope not, anyways)- that life for me is pretty much the same routine day in, day out; I've become humdrum. But, that's okay- because big changes in my everyday life have always been difficult for me.

2014 Gypsy Queen #340 mini Justin Upton SP

When one leads a life that tends to be repetitive like that, it's easy to get sucked into the novelty of a hobby such as ours- especially when the focus of our collection seems to be getting stale.

At one point during my collecting journey, I found myself getting bored with where I was in my Braves Topps team set collection. A lot of that had to do with the fact that it was getting more difficult to find- well, afford- the ones that I did need. So, I began trying to get 'em all. Every brand, every player- it didn't matter; I wanted them all. It was new. It was exciting.

About fifteen months later and I find myself at what I might call a crossroads. Perhaps that's not the best word to define it, but I'm looking at what it takes to put all those team sets together: the costs, the time, the space it requires and just the fact that there are a lot of ugly designs out there that ruin a set for me. There's so much out there to chase down that I never thought I'd get bored doing so. And yet, I'm finding myself ...bored.

2014 Gypsy Queen #144 Eddie Mathews 

So, here I am again, looking to refine my collection and not accumulate as much. I'll still put together the current Braves Topps, Heritage and mini Allen & Ginter team sets. I think the rest of my journey will be spent on picking up cards of my favorite Braves: Aaron, Murphy, Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Chipper, Justice; a few current players (Simmons, Teheran, Freeman, Kimbrel); Rookies (or first cards with the team); inserts and odd-balls (food, regional sets). But I just don't need to go after every team set.

Will I, at a later date, gain an interest in a lot of the other current products ( and any of the non-forementioned team sets)? It's hard to tell. After all,  when I look at them, all I see are a lot of the same designs, the same photos; they're lacking excitement and variety. They're dull and monotonous. In a word, they're humdrum.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mailbox Mondays

Ahhh...mailbox Mondays. They're the only thing I enjoy about the beginning of another work week; unfortunately, I don't get enough of them.

My latest M.M. came yesterday. After a long day at the office and a quick stop at the grocery store, I actually got the pleasure of that exciting moment of opening the mailbox and finding it stuffed with goodies (my wife typically has the mail inside by the time I get home). This M.M. brought with it a curious package which took up most of the mailbox.

Once inside, I couldn't help to tear into the larger package. Although I was waiting upon a few purchases off of eBay, nothing would demand such an extravagantly large package. Could it be a fellow-blogger, sending me a care package of generous proportions?!

Not exactly.

Once I got through the large envelope, I discovered a USPS small flat rate box with...

One card in it.

 Yes, one card.

Seems to be over-doing it a little, I thought.

Okay, so maybe this needed something more than a PWE to get it into my greedy hands- but this just seemed overkill.

"Embedded in this card is a manufactured bat barrel reminiscent of the bat used by BRIAN McCANN of the ATLANTA BRAVES." (emphasis mine)

Speaking of reminiscing....

The second package took me back to the early to mid-80s.

 The person who sent it has the same name as one of the original MTV VJs (the one whose initials are MG). Mark was the cool one out of the original five. He had the Epstein (Welcome Back, Kotter) hair, wore the Levi's denim jacket and was the rocker of the group. Goodman was the only one I could stand watching. Years later after leaving the network, Mark returned to the game by joining on at VHI and SiriusXM satellite radio, hosting a number of different programs.

Another great comeback, years overdue- and causing just as much excitement as Mark Goodman's return- was the 2012 Topps Mini set. Released as an online exclusive, I didn't bother buying any of it (I was never that infatuated with the '75 mini's that so many love). However, over the last two years the set has grown on me, so I decided to purchase a Braves team set.

Mini BA's

MINI Minor!


 (Man, the scans on these minis turned out horrible- cards are fine, however. As much as I like my new Mac Mini, I do not like the scanning software that it uses)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Food-Issue Friday: I'm Your Captain

"I'm your captain, I'm your captain..."~ Grand Funk Railroad's "I'm Your Captain/Closer To Home"

The 1990 Coca-Cola White Sox set commemorated the 80th anniversary of Comiskey Park, and was the sixth consecutive (and final) White Sox team set sponsored by the soft drink company. That would be the final year of the Park- which hosted not only the South Siders, but the NFL's Chicago Cardinals, a heavy-weight title match (1937, Joe Louis vs. James Braddock), two Beatles concerts and even the Chicago Cubs in the 1918 World Series.

I'm We're Your Captain(s)
Today's card features the co-captains of the 1990 squad, Ozzie Guillen and Carlton Fisk. Rare is the team which gives the honorary title to its leader, let alone two leaders, but that is exactly what manager Jeff Torborg did for a team that had won only 69 games the previous year. Under the duo's leadership, the 1990 ChiSox went on to finish second in the American League West with a 94-68 record.

Getting Closer to Their Home
1989 record at Comiskey: 35-45 (.438)
1990 record at Comiskey: 49-31 (.613)

Atlanta Alumnus:
Guillen spent two seasons with the Brave (1998, 1999), accumulating only 496 at-bats and hitting .260 while providing his usual good defense. His best moment as a Brave came in the sixth game of the 1999 NLCS, delivering a pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the 10th to tie the Mets. Atlanta would go on to win in the bottom of the eleventh, capturing the NL pennant in the process.

Twenty years before the final season at Comiskey,  a blue-collar blues/rock band called Grand Funk Railroad released their album, Closer to Home, which featured the epic, classic rock staple, I'm Your Captain/Closer to Home. While popular with the fans, the band was not so popular with rock critics, which hasn't helped their chances of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

One interesting fact about the band: their 1971 concert at Shea Stadium sold out in less than 72 hours- breaking the previous venue record which had been held by the Beatles.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Topps Counterparts: '65 Topps/'14 Heritage #44

With a curve-ball that manager Bobby Bragan once called the, "best in the National League," and enough talent that Willie McCovey once named him among the most feared and respected pitchers he faced, Wade Blasingame entered the 1965 season carrying the expectations of replacing the great Warren Spahn.

Blasingame was a product of the pitching rich Fresno area and had a number of teams interested in his services following his ballyhood high school and Legion ball career. He eventually signed with Milwaukee in 1961 for a $125,000 bonus- making him the third Braves bonus-baby to sign for over $100,000 in less than two years. Two years later, and at age 19, Wade made his major league debut on September 17th at home against the San Francisco Giants. Registering four strikeouts, the youngster also showed his inexperience by yielding six hits and three earned runs over two innings. 

Wade's first extended stay in the majors occured during the 1964 season, when he went 9-5 with 3 complete games, a 4.24 ERA and a 1.406 WHIP for the big league club. A strong performance towards the end of the season (he went 6-1 with a no decision during the month of September) convinced management that he was primed to take over for the future Hall of Famer Spahn, whom the team sold to the Mets following the '64 season.

The former 'bonus-baby' entered the '65 season on the big league roster (the first time he broke camp with the team) and entered May with a 6.97 ERA and an 0-2 record in three starts. Things began to change for Wade with the turn of the calendar and he went 5-2 with a save during May. He also had what would be the two best outings of his career: a 2-1, 14-inning (!!) complete game win against Houston on May 5 (striking out 12) and then a one-hit victory over the Mets on May 20, in which he lost a no-hitter with two outs in the seventh.

1965 Season:
3.77 ERA
38 Games (36 Starts)
224.2 IP
116 Walks
117 Strikeouts
1.407 WHIP

As a side note, you might have noticed on his minor league stats that Wade pitched for the Braves Class C team in Boise during the 1961 season. Since I was born and raised (and lived my entire life) in the area, I might try to start a new collection of players who played for the Boise Braves during the years of 1955-1963.

There's no Braves counterpart for this card; instead, Topps included:
2014 Heritage #44 Aaron Hill

The Brave Topps should have used as a counterpart for Blasingame:
Alex Wood- a young lefty with plenty of promise. Hopefully, injuries and control issues won't plague the former UGA pitcher.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I've Got the Fever

Sorry for the use of that title for this post; I'm sure it's been used countless other times when it come to the cards featured in Topps' in-store promotion. 

I just received my first two Spring Fever cards from an eBay seller. Since I don't frequent an LCS, I decided to pick up some Braves off of eBay. Besides, were I to get the five-card packs in a hobby shop, the odds of getting anything I want are pretty high. 

Fifty players make up the checklist for the 2014 Spring Fever set, which also features an autographed checklist that features 29 players. Cards come 5 to a pack, but were only available to those who buy 16 packs of 2014 Series 1 at participating hobby shops between March 31st and April 6th (according to cardboard connection's website). 

Spring Fever SF28 Justin Upton

Spring Fever SF40 Jason Heyward

Braves cards I still need:
SF16 Freddie Freeman
SF41 Craig Kimbrel
SFA-DS Deion Sanders auto

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Lost Years: 2006 Topps '52 Tom Glavine

One of the downsides of being out of the hobby for a while is coming across unknown products upon your return. One such unknown product for me is the 2006 Topps '52 set.

Because I missed the release and the press that the set would have accompanied it (and, unfortuantely, I'm at work and do not have my Standard Catalog) I have no clue as to why Topps did the back the way the did. I'm not referring to the design- I get that; I'm speaking about the stat line which reads, "Past Year." In it, Topps included Glavine's 1987 stats with the Braves. While the "Life Time" stats line is current, the former is from his debut season. Even the write up on the back speaks of his debut season. 

Like I said, I'm on my lunch hour at work as I write this and do not have my reference book (and it's the only card that I have from the set), so tell me: Did Topps do all of this set that way? 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Base(ball) Oddity #5: Hooray for Hollywood!

For years I have heard about, but had never ordered from, Burbank Sportscards- the 'Sportscards Superstore' that claims to have the 'World's Largest Selection' (40 Million cards in stock). Articles have been written about them and complaints are plenty on the forums (or, so I read while googling them- I don't participate in the online forums), so I decided to check out their site recently. After all, with that kind of an inventory, they're bound to have a significant number of cards that I need.

Located near Hollyweird, the city of Burbank, California is also the home to many media and entertainment companies (hence the city's nickname, "The Media Capital of the World"), as well as the Bob Hope Airport. With the city being synomynous with entertainment, what a perfect place to operate your Sportscard Superstore!

As a Braves fan during their not-so-glory years, our hope was in a Bob Horner homer. And thanks to the Veres', I now have a few more Bobs to add to the collection. Hoooooooooooray for Hollywood Burbank!

 The original '91 Fleer. Yowza!!!

Too much blue for one card. Where's the yellow?

Of course, once Dale broke out, he was the man. Once again, like the '82 Drakes card, there's just too much yellow. Who designed these things, anyway?

2005 Topps Finest #164

How this thing flew under my radar, I'll never know. I only discovered it as I was pursuing the Dale Murphy cards in the Burbank database. I'm not a huge fan of the retired players in recent products (save the Topps base variations), but this one was a welcomed addition.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Food-Issue Friday: Mark Lemke. Can. You. Dig. It?

Gangs in the streets. Lookin' for you, looking' for me. Gangs in the streets. Ready for you and they're ready for me. ~ Loverboy (I never thought I'd quote a song of theirs!)

The Warriors are making a comeback. No, I'm not talking about the Bay-area basketball team; nor is there a remake of the 1979 cult classic on its way. The boys are coming out to plaaay in the upcoming 2014 Topps Archives set, which will feature an insert set celebrating the 35th anniversary of the movie Entertainment Weekly once billed as one of the 25 most controversial movies ever made.

I'm not going to go into the plot, but I will say that one of the many gangs in the movie is referred to as the Baseball Furies (or, just 'Furies'- as their uniform backs declare)- a gang of dudes who look like KISS dressed in New York Yankee garb. Silent and creepy, these pantomime punks hit more like the 1990 New York Yankees than the one from the late '70s. 

Mark Lemke was a teenager in upstate New York in 1979. Now, I've never been to the Empire State, but I can only imagine that (culturally) Utica is worlds apart from NYC. Still, I wonder what the Lemmer was like during this impressionable time period of his life. Did he have any interest in gang life? Did he rock out while spinning vinyl discs of the hottest band in the world (and fellow New Yorkers), KISS?!!! I suppose I will never know the answers to these questions- but one thing I do know:

Mark Lemke looks like a badass in this 1990 Dubuque Braves card. 

I mean, throw some paint on his face, replace the idyllic background of the card with the streets of Riverside Park, and what you have is a match made in heaven- or Hell's Kitchen, at the very least.

Mark Lemke. CAN YOU DIG IT?!!!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Base(ball) Oddity #4: 1982 K-Mart #43 Hank Aaron

In a set which celebrated their twentieth anniversary ('62-'82), K-Mart issued a card commemorating Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th home run. The boxed set contained forty-four cards (they should have had Hank as #44, but I guess they're smarter than me), each featuring an NL MVP, AL MVP, or a special card, such as the Aaron, which celebrated certain accomplishments of each select player.

Well, today marks the 40th anniversary of the Hammer's famous home run, so number 43 will be the card featured in tonight's post.

Take a look at the '82 K-Mart set and you will notice that almost all of the cards feature a replica of the Topps card from the year that each respective player won the MVP. The exceptions being the cards for 1962 NL MVP, Maury Wills, and the 1975 AL MVP, Fred Lynn- neither of whom had cards in their MVP years.

The three record breakers featured in the set (Aaron, Rose, and Drysdale), to me, stand out for the unique designs used by Topps and would be the only ones I would chase after for my collection. Unless, of course, they created one for Aaron's 1957 NL MVP- I'd be all over that one. Dang K-Mart; why couldn't they have been celebrating their 25th Anniversary in 1982?!

Here's a gem: Vin Scully's call of Henry's 715th Home Run

Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Books!

My wife, daughter and I made a quick stop at a thrift store this afternoon so I could look at the books. Such visits usually don't net me anything for my modest baseball-related book collection, but today wasn't the typical disappointing visit. In fact, I was able to add not one, but two new titles to my bookshelf! 

My first find was the 2004 release, Ichiro on Ichiro- Conversations with Narumi Komatsu. I have always enjoyed books that are in this genre (conversations) and this should offer an interesting look at the game through the eyes of one of the best hitters of our lifetime.

Like I mentioned earlier, I don't have a whole lot of luck finding books at the thriftstores, so I was excited to find the Ichiro book. You can imagine, then, how thrilled I was in running across this next one... 

Ask Dale Murphy by Dale Murphy with Curtis Patton

My childhood hero- Dale Murphy.

It would have been much more special if it had been an autobiography (or biography)- which doesn't exist, to my knowledge- but this will certainly do. The format of this title is a series of questions from children, with Dale's response to each one. Chapters include Q's about breaking into baseball, hitting, defense, playing with the right attitude, life in the majors, and family and future plans. It evens includes an introduction by legendary sportswriter Furman Bisher.

Six bucks, well spent.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Base(ball) Oddity #3: 1984 Baseball Cards Magazine Dale Murphy

One of my favorite designs of all-time is the 1953 Topps baseball set. Whether it's the large, beautiful portraits on the front or the easily identifiable card numbers on the back, everything about its design cries, "perfection."

Because my affections for this set run deep, I went cookoo for today's card upon learning about its existence. Problem was, I could never find one to purchase. In fact, I've spent years looking for one on eBay- but had never found one. Until recently.

The Murphy Baseball Cards Magazine card that showed up on eBay was part of the full sheet from the August, 1984 issue that also featured Ted Williams. According to the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, this issue was the 'pioneer' of all the replica cards that magazines used as a means to sell more issues. Unlike all the cards that would be included in later magazines, the cards from the '84 issue are on a cardboard stock much like the original cards.

My only 'complaint' with the Murphy card is that I would like the jersey to be white, rather than the baby blue. I liked the uniforms, but on this card, with the blue sky, blue on the cap and the blue fence- it's just too much. Still, I'll take it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Comic Cards

I hope you don't mind me saying that we collectors are a finicky bunch. Please don't take offense, because I include myself in that statement. We complain about the same old, same old- but when someone does something different, we complain. 

2014 Topps Opening Day Breaking Out #BO-1

One such card design that I'm tempted to complain about is the Breaking Out insert set out of this year's Opening Day product. I call them the "Comic Book Cards." They remind me of something from 1994 Fleer (was it called Pro Vision?)- only with more foil. It was a set that I didn't think too highly of.

Lest I become the 'curmudgeon collector' that I often complain about, I had to tell myself that this is a product directed at kids and that this is something that they (as well as many adults) might like. I don't have to approve of everything that Topps does; they don't have to gear every product towards my collecting preferences. 

If I can get this through my thick skull, well, I might just find a little more enjoyment in the hobby (not that it's really lacking).