Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been

"Truckin, like the do-dah man once told me you've got to play your hand. Sometimes your cards ain't worth a dime, if you don't lay 'em down. Sometimes the lights all shining on me, other times I can barely see. Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been." ~ The Grateful Dead's 'Truckin'


The end of another year is upon us, meaning that it's time to roll out the Looking Back/Looking Forward end of the year posts.


We will start this ride looking back at some of the best (and worst) of 2014:

Set Design
2014 Topps Heritage




A great design, modeled after the wildly popular 1965 set, and created for the set builder and low-end collector, the retro set has enjoyed a great run since its introduction in 2001. Some fear that the upcoming set- modeled after '66- will be a stinker. Maybe so; but for this year, Heritage was a winner, yet again.

Favorite Card
2014 Topps Stadium Club #141 Evan Gattis



Yes, I'm biased; my favorite card of the year is the Evan Gattis Stadium Club card, with a photo playing off the Braves slugger's nickname (El Oso Blanco). I think it would have been better used on a 2013 card, helping introduce the baseball world to Evan's narrative. Of course, Stadium Club wasn't released in '13 and it (the fun photo) just doesn't fit the mold of many of their other sets

Best Use of Photography
Do I even need to say it? Stadium Club wins this category, hands down.


Three things Topps did well with this set: 1) Superb photography 2) Resisted the temptation to rehash the same old photos 3) Used photos that are meant for cards- such as this 'fun' one of Bum, Cain, and Huddy.


Stinker of the Year




Truckin' got my chips cashed in. Keep truckin like the do-dah man. Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin on.

Tie: Topps/Bowman's incessant High-End products and Topps MLB Chipz

Expect to see a tie between these two year in and year out. Is there a place for high-end products? Absolutely. Do we need Topps to release 9 of them in a calendar year? Uh...no.

Some collector's might like Chipz; I think it's *bleep*. Cash in your chips and put  your money into some other product, Topps. PLEASE.


Biggest Surprise
2014 Topps Finest



Loud and colorful sets have never really been my thing, so imagine the surprise I felt at actually liking the wild design. No short prints, an easy and manageable 100-card checklist, and a nominal number of insert sets...Well done, Topps. Well done!



Most Audacious Claim
I believe the winner for this category was posted on Twitter and it was this: "Case breakers are keeping the hobby alive."

I think that whoever it was that posted this was mistaking the industry with the hobby. Had he said industry, I wouldn't have had a problem with it. But as long as you have people willing to spend their hard earned cash- whether it be on 1952 Topps or 2007 Upper Deck or whatever- there will be the hobby.

Biggest Disappointment 
No Warriors!!!!

When the sell sheet for 2014 Topps Archives first hit the web, I seriously considered buying a case or two to break and sell. After all, the product was going to include an insert set dedicated to not only the iconic movie Major League, but also for the cult classic The Warriors. I've always been a fan of the set, so the inclusion of the two movie sets would be icing on the cake. I was diggin' the thought, you might say.

Well, Topps pulled the plug on the Warriors insert set (for reasons I have yet to hear), which earns it the biggest disappointment of the year. We didn't even get a mock-up card to salivate over; perhaps it's best one didn't get included on the sell sheet.




Best Insert
2014 Topps Finest "Finest Greats Autographs."

(photo taken from eBay)


The odds of pulling one of these beauties may not have been in your favor, but wow- what a checklist! Checking the secondary market and you'll see that pricing isn't all that unreasonable (at least on eBay). Go buy one, now- if you're in the market for these!


Oddball Set of the Year
Unfortunately, we don't hear about many oddball sets being released these days (at least I don't). That's why when I hear of one, it grabs my attention. I only recall of one this year- and it was a jimdandy. My love of oddballs and our family's love of dogs drove me to buy two.





In helping raise awareness for the Humane Society of North Texas, the Texas Rangers partnered with Merrick Pet Care to create Dogs Safe At Home, a 26-card set featuring members of the team and either their own dog(s), or one that was up for adoption from the Humane Society's adoption centers. The cards measure 4"x6" and information on each dog pictured is included. Proceeds from the sales of the set benefit the Human Society of North Texas. More information can be found on the Texas Ranger's website.

Rodney Dangerfield Award to Player Who Gets No Respect
Tyler Pastornicky



The dude didn't get much playing time in the bigs this year (47 at-bats)- but at least he got a Topps trading card! Or did he?

Oh- hello! My name is Reed Johnson and the last I played for Atlanta was in 2013- but thanks for giving me some cardboard love.



SO LONG, FAREWELL
There were a few products from 2013 that failed to make their appearance in 2014- and unless they're released early next year (as 2014 products), I guess we can say "so long, farewell." The most noteable exclusions include: Pinnacle, Panini Hometown Heroes, Select, and Panini America's Pastime. The Pinnacle and Select offerins in 2013 were horrible, so it's no surprise they didn't see life this past year. I was a little surprised, however, that Panini didn't do something else with Hometown Heroes- it seemed to have been a hit with collectors. Perhaps the Donruss brand was its replacement.

I would be remiss to not mention the loss of Topps long-time executive Sy Berger, whose death on December 14th was the most talked-about hobby news of the year in the national media. In an industry with very few icons, Mr. Berger was truly a legend, and he will be greatly missed.

BTW- There's still time to get your name into my Hall of Fame giveaway, so head over there and throw your your name into the hat!
Truckin', Im a going home. Whoa whoa baby, back where I belong. Back home, sit back and patch my bones, and get back truckin' on.


Be good this New Year's Eve and enjoy this oldie, but goody, from the Dead.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Murphy Monday #2: 2005 Leaf Sportscasters

Modeled after the 1977-1979 Sportscaster set (which featured over 2,000 cards, each measuring 4-3/4" x 6-1/4"), the 2005 Leaf Sportscaster set featured 50 subject matters on its checklist. Sounds simple, right? Well, not so fast.




As I was searching out Dale Murphy cards, I came across this Sportscasters card. And then I discovered a tan one; and a red one; and a blue one; oh, and yellow one AND an orange one (which really pops!). PLUS...each color contains multiple print runs. /30, /25, /20, etc. It's enough to give a player collector a headache.


While I am a Murphy collector, I don't feel the need to have one of each color or from each print run- so I'll be happy to just have this green one in my collection.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hobby Birthday and a Hall of Fame Giveaway

It was five-years ago today that I re-entered the hobby (for the second time) and so I'm going to be celebrating the occasion with a giveaway.

Tell us, ChopKeeper, what can we win?!!

Well, let's begin with this autographed card of Hall of Fame outfielder Jim Rice:





















ooooooh


But wait- I'm also going to give away this sweet signature of San Diego Padre starting pitcher Andrew Cashner from 2010 Topps Update.






















aaaaahhhhhh


How do we get a chance to win such awesome stuff, ChopKeeper?

All you need to do is reply in the comment section, telling me how long you have been involved in the hobby. The contest is open for 5 days- any replies left after Thursday, January 1st will be disqualified. I will randomize all qualified contestants on Friday, January 2 and will post the results on Saturday, January 3.

Good luck to all!



Saturday, December 27, 2014

Silent Night Owl

Well, not anymore.

For those of you who haven't heard from him in recent months, fear not: a package came in the mail recently from Night Owl. The King of the Baseball Card Blogosphere even included a short note; yes folks, he is alive and has spoken!





Why, yes. Yes, I can.




IT'S A JO-JO SIGHTING!!! Jo-Jo's career with the Braves ended in an impressive fashion. Relieving starter Jair Jurrjens, who was roughed up for 8 runs (all earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks in 3.1 innings, Jo-Jo was even worse: 9 runs (all earned) on 10 hits, 3 walks, 2 homers in 3.1 innings (92 pitches!!). It was his first and only appearance during the 2010 season- and his final appearance in an Atlanta Braves uniform. I need this card for my 2009 O-Pee-Chee team set. YAAAAAAAY!

Thank God the Ryan Doumit experiment has ended. Was supposed to provide a good, powerful bat off the bench- he hit .197 in 157 AB's. But he did provide 5 homers.


Ugly all-star caps. Here's hoping that they do not use them this year.


WASHINGTON NATS....LOOOOOOOOOL!!! I JUST KNOW THAT UGGLA WILL BE IN WASHINGTON AT SOME POINT THIS YEAR AND WILL TORCH THE BRAVES FOR 10 HOMERS.

So long, Meds. Good luck in KC.



Now for some vintage- I'll just let the cards speak for themselves...













Thanks again, Greg!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Food-Issue Friday: A Cracker Jack Christmas

"We're gonna have a real jim dandy, ginger, peachy, sugar-candy, jamboree, jubilee, cracker-jack Christmas this year." ~ Crackerjack Christmas

Today's subjects were not part of my Christmas gifts this year- I didn't receive any singles, only a few packs of 2014 Topps III Update- but they did arrive a few weeks prior to the holiday season and have been sitting in my queue ever since. It's time to unwrap these very super duper, teenie weenie, hum-dinger, wiz bang, all-star, Cracker Jack baseball cards right here.

1997 Cracker Jack All-Stars #4 Chipper Jones

 Chipper was named to the All-Star team for the first time in his career during the 1996 season. The Braves third baseman went 1-2 in the mid-season classic, scoring a run in the process.



1997 Cracker Jack All-Stars #17 Tom Glavine






Tom Glavine's 1996 All-Star selection was the fourth of his career at that point. Following teammate John Smoltz and Marlin's ace Kevin Brown, Glavine pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning for the National League team, striking out one (Albert Belle).



And now, it's time for a Christmas favorite... let's listen to Anne Lloyd and The Sandpiper's sing Crackerjack Christmas.



Don't like that version? Well, how about one from Captain Kangaroo?


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Twenty-Five

Just one card for this December 25, featuring my favorite #25- Andruw Jones.



We won't talk about his December 25, 2012 incident, though.



Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Base(ball) Oddity #22: Little League Helmet, Little League Card Prices

I suppose that it's a given that people won't take you seriously when you're a major leaguer who wears double ear flaps on your helmet. Don't believe me? Well, Google it and you're bound to see quotes such as this: "Nothing is expected from Mr. Double Ear Flap- he doesn't wear a big league helmet, why should fans give him big league attention? It's little league stuff. I compare the big leaguer who wears a double ear flap to the college player who still wears his hat underneath his helmet." See what I mean?

How else do you explain this?



As Bruce Markusen of The Hardball Times wrote, there's a bit of a mystery regarding this '85 Donruss RC of former Cardinals and Braves third baseman Terry Jeff Pendleton. TP, of course, spent his entire Major League Career sporting one of those little league helmets. Perhaps Donruss confused him with some collegiate or minor league player. This seems to be one of the explanations not proposed by Markusen. Hey! Maybe I'm on to something...

Even the Braves signing of Terry in December of 1990 was jeered at the time. The legendary Furman Bisher of the AJC was critical of GM John Schuerholz giving Pendleton what was at that time the largest contract in team history. Perhaps the newly hired GM thought he was getting Jeff Pendleton and Terry Pendleton; how else can you explain that signing? Perhaps he gave him $5 million per ear-flap.




The Investment Advisor couldn't take Pendleton- well, Pendleton's cards- too seriously, either. From the back of this 1992 Baseball Cards Magazine 1970-style card: "You can't expect Terry Pendleton to have a year like he had in 1991 every year. His cards are inexpensive, but they're not really undervalued."
















I can't think of another player coming off an MVP year whose cards are "inexpensive and not really undervalued." Winning an award usually results in seeing a bump in card values, even if it's for only a short time. That is, unless you wear a little league helmet.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Meant To Be Broken

I saw something on my Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago that really grabbed my attention. And for all of those who are of the fairer sex who might be reading this, it wasn't one of you making your 'duck face'- so you can stop it. Anyway, it was actually one of those awesome lists found in Baseball Digest, announcing another record held by Craig Kimbrel.

If you will allow me, I'd like to digress for a brief moment...

As a child, there were three items that were perfect companions to my Topps baseball cards: The Sporting News, Street and Smith's yearbook, and Baseball Digest Magazine. One of my favorite things to be found in Baseball Digest were the complied lists found in the Baseball Information File, Fans Speak Out and throughout the rest of the publication.





Another of my favorite things from yesteryear were the subsets found in Topps sets, especially the Record Breakers. Topps has had Record Breaker inserts over the years, but as far as I'm aware, they've done away with them as a subset within the set. To be honest with you, since I've stopped putting sets together, I haven't really paid attention to such matters. I thought I recall seeing some checklists with season highlights on them- but, like the R.B. inserts, it's still not the same. 

Anyway, back to Kimbrel's record... Baseball Digest reported that Kimbrel now holds the record for most saves in a season without recording a win; he went 0-3 in 2014 with 47 saves, topping the previous record held by Trevor Hoffman, whose 2006 season saw him go 0-2 along with 46 saves. 



We know the old adage: records are meant to be broken; I just don't know if any pitcher would look forward to breaking the one now held by Kimbrel. I guess I'd rather break a record like that than breaking my foot in a construction accident.



Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Scariest of Cards

The following post first appeared in my baseballpicturecards blog almost two years ago; I enjoyed the card so much I decided to share it on this blog...

There was a time when I read just about everything that came out by the King of Horror, Stephen King. I don't think it was so much the macabre that compelled me to read his novels as it was that King's just a good storyteller- and I love a good story.

Those who are familiar with King know he's a baseball fan. He's even wrote a few books that deal with the sport.

One of my favorite King novels is The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, a story in which the main character, a 9 year old girl named Trisha McFarland, wanders off a trail while hiking with her mother and brother. As the hours become days, Trisha's sole solstice is found in the walkman radio she's carrying- allowing her to listen to her beloved Red Sox games.

A more recent release, the eBook A Face in the Crowd, was a collaboration with Stewart O'Nan (whom King worked with on the non-fiction Faithful...- which chronicled the Boston Red Sox' 2004 season), and is centered around an elderly widower whose reason for living is watching the local Tampa Bay Rays. Strange things- or shall I say, familiar faces- soon begin to enter the picture.

One baseball-related novella by King which I haven't read, but is now on my wantlist, is 2010's Blockade Billy. The probable reason as to why I have never picked it up: judging a book by its cover- literally. Yes, I have to admit that my first (and subsequent) impression is that the book looks like it belongs in the juvenile section of the library. That's not to say that there's no good literature to be found in children's books; it just didn't appeal to me for some reason. My second admission: I didn't even read a synopsis of the novella.

So, what does this have to do with baseball cards, you ask? Well, this morning I came across this article from April of 2012, and I don't recall seeing this card anywhere else.


Apparently, the publisher of King's Blockade Billy decided to release a couple of different limited-editions with a unique twist: a signed copy of a special edition baseball card. The link I referenced above goes into more detail, and I suggest that you read about it there. One thing they failed to note, however, is the design of the card reflects the year in which the story takes place.



My wife bought me Blockade Billy as a gift after this post was originally published. I'm glad she did, because it is a great story, albeit very short (78 pages). 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Food-Issue Friday: Sea Food Issue, Buy Food-Issue

I had a lot of free time during the summers of 1982 through 1987. My mornings were spent either with an a.m. baseball practice or working (during those 15-17 yrs) and my afternoons were spent with all-star practice or else just hanging around the house. Those lazy afternoons gave me plenty of opportunities to watch baseball- WGN style.


From time to time I found myself rooting for the Cubbies. They certainly didn't hold my interest like the Braves did, but you can't help but pull for a team when you spend so much time watching them. I didn't know it at the time, but one of my favorite players for the Cubs during those years would eventually get traded to my Braves. His name, Jody Davis. 

Every time Davis came up to the plate, Cubs announcer Harry Caray would sing, "Joooodeee, Jooodeee Davis..." The rest of the song is a blur. I've searched for the lyrics and I've found some fan saying that it went: "Jody, Jody Davis, hit one in the upper tier. Jody, Jody Davis, catcher extraordinare." One fellow claims that Caray sang, "catcher without peer," while another contradicted that by stating that what Caray really sang was "catcher without fear." Oh, and another said that it was sung to the tune of Davy Crockett. The legend of Jody Davis just continues to grow...



Anyway, while at the card show last weekend, I came across a table that had a number of unfamiliar cards. Not just any cards- but oddballs; food-issues. Probably five or six from the 1982 Red Lobster Chicago Cubs set. I initially was going to pick up the Leon Durham card, just to have a Red Lobster in my collection. Then I heard Jody calling my name. 

While the photography isn't the best, the cards are worth picking up. 

Davis only had one card prior to the 1982 season- and that was a minor league card (1979 Jackson Mets TCMA). But after a strong debut in '81, all three card manufacturers included the 6'4 backstop in their 1982 releases. And while Beckett will never refer to this release as a RC- I will, and do.

Nutritional Facts
Size: 2-1/4" x  3-1/2"
Sets Produced: 15,000 *according to the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, 2011
Set Size: 28 cards
Cost: $1



In a Jam
I haven't been able to find a date for when these cards were handed out at Wrigley, but judging by the play at the plate, the location, and fan attire, I'm going to guess that they were handed out late in the season. The Braves player pictured is none other than Rufino Linares, and a quick check of baseballreference.com tells me that this couldn't be from Davis' 1981 rookie season, nor from a series in Chicago in May of '82. That leaves this photo as being from the game on either  July 17th or July 18th, 1982.



Thursday, December 18, 2014

(Con)Fusion

I just don't know what's going on with my team. They sign a 31 year-old who needs a neck fusion to a four-year deal, they offered a pitcher coming off of his second Tommy John surgery a 1-year deal worth a reported 5 Million dollars, and then yesterday they traded away a pretty damn good reliever to Boston for a mid-level prospect who may (or may not) be his equivalent. All this after trading the most popular player since Chipper Jones. Aaaaand...they are seeing a shrinking market for either Justin Upton or Evan Gattis- their two best commodities for rebuilding. They say we're not rebuilding, but we sure as hell don't look like we're going to compete. Simply put: management has confused the fan base- leaving us feeling like we're being conned.

I often feel the same way about card manufacturers.

Cards featuring all the colors of the rainbow, chrome versions, minis, serial numbered parallels, and photo variations- all part of a big con, making us think we really need theses things; that our player collections wouldn't be complete without them. Like Leland Gaunt (the devil in human form in Stephen King's Needful Things), Topps offers us some useless objects that we purchase by selling our souls. Confusing the collector base and conning us while they're at it. Gee, #ThanksTopps. 

This confusing the collector isn't anything entirely new, though.

Consider 2001 Topps Fusion.

2001 Topps Fusion #53 Chipper Jones


2001 Topps Gallery #2 Chipper Jones

Released in 2001, Fusion was, in a single word, a flustercuck. I'll quote baseballcardpedia.com in their description of the set (which is much nicer than what I called it): "The product attempted to fuse five of Topps' brand names (Bowman's Best, Finest, Gold Label, Stadium Club and Gallery) all into one product." 

The site continues, "Card numbers ending in a 1 or 6 are done in the style of Bowman's Best (refractive chromium stock); 2 and 7 Finest (etched chromium stock); 3 and 8 Topps Gallery (canvas); 4 and 9 Gold Label (thick plastic stock with holographic foil); and 5 and 0 Stadium Club (high-glossy and full bleed)."

Like I said, a flustercuck.

2001 Topps Fusion #11 - Andruw Jones - Courtesy of COMC.com
2001 Topps Fusion #11 - Andruw Jones


2001 Bowman's Best #33 - Andruw Jones - Courtesy of COMC.com
2001 Bowman's Best #33 - Andruw Jones

Do the sets look anything alike? No, not really.

The problem is that trying to catalog them can be quite confusing. Especially for someone like me who was pretty much out of the hobby in '01, only to return to this confusion. Take this Chipper Jones card, for instance:

2001 Topps Fusion #30 Chipper Jones

Quite a few months ago I decided to try to get my house in order, so to speak. I began the arduous task of cataloging my collection (still haven't gotten too far, BTW) and soon came across this card. So I pulled out my Standard Catalog to find out more about this 2001 Stadium Club insert set.

Huh? Wha? Nowhere to be found.

Perhaps it's a 2002 TSC. Yes, that must be it. After all, this one is obviously the 2001 Stadium Club Chipper...


 2001 Stadium Club #2 Chipper Jones

The card number matches up with what Standard says. So I thumb through to 2002 but the card numbers for the previous card doesn't  jive.

It took awhile, but I finally figured it out: it's an entirely different set. 

At that moment, I just wished that things were like they were back in 1977, when the only "I'm so confused!" you'd hear coming out of my mouth was me mimicking Vinnie Barbarino.