Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thanks for All the Memories

One advantage of living so close to work (roughly 2.5 miles) is that I go home for lunch on most days. Yesterday was one such day, and as I walked from our driveway to the house, I checked the mailbox-hoping to find a package. Not just any package, mind you, but a bubble mailer from COMC. It was waiting for me, but I waited to open it until after I ate my lunch. After all, man does not live on cardboard alone.

Among the ten or so cards were three Allen and Ginter minis for my daughter (Man's Best Friend inserts), a couple of Braves cards and a few Seahawks cards- including today's featured card, the super sweet 1989 Seahawks Police card of Steve Largent.

I'm a sucker for police set issues. This is my first football one- I have plenty of Braves police issues- and the first thing I noticed on the back of the card was the lack of the typical 'Stay in School' or 'Keep Away from Drugs' moralistic message. Nope, no tips on this one- ⎌just sponsor logos and a list of Steve's NFL records. And a great message thanking Steve for all the memories, to which I say, "Amen!"

Among the many memories from Largent's career was this play, in which he absolutely drilled Denver safety Mike Harden, here at 2:09.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


One of my biggest hobby vices is getting behind. Behind on scanning. Behind on filing. Behind on trade posts. It seems that no matter how hard I try to remedy this problem, I just can't seem to keep from getting my baskets buried.

Baskets? What is this, Easter? Halloween? No, I'm referring to my card baskets.

About a year-and-a-half ago, I decided to buy a few baskets measuring around 4'x9'. One for trading material; one for scanning/posting; one for filing into my albums. I did this because I had a tendency to get buried in cards. Inbound and outbound cards usually ended up in stacks- often anywhere from 5" to 7" high. I bought these figuring if I kept my three stacks in baskets only 3" in height, I would have no other choice to stay on top of the game. It would look more organized; the stacks, less likely to get knocked over (which wasn't really a problem. Still, why leave it to chance?). But, as so often is the case, my plans don't always pan out how I would like them to.

One group of cards that got buried in my 'Scan and Post' basket was a team set bag of cards from Brad over at Brad's Phillies Blog. I've had these close to three months and had forgotten about them. That'll happen when your stack exceeds the recommended height.

Anyway, Brad included cards of many of my favorite Bravos:

Dale Murphy

Andruw Jones

Signing Sighting! Always a favorite of collectors.

Andrelton Simmons

X-Fractor? Refractor Rookie Card!

and, of course, Chipper. Plenty of Chipper cards!

Brad also included many other players- too many to include in this post, but still very appreciated.

It's always a plus getting new cards and getting them posted. The one down side I'm now facing: now they might just get buried in my 'File' basket. Guess I'd better get to work.

Thanks again, Brad.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


We homeschooled two of our children for a number of years and one of my favorite parts of the experience (yes, I was involved in the education) was the study of Ancient Greece. I suppose that's because there was a time during my childhood where I was fascinated with Greek mythology. That interest was fueled by the 1981 movie Clash of the Titans, and it was fun to revisit some of those old tales. Anyway, our study went beyond those old stories, as we did a unit study that incorporated subjects such as art, literature, science and medicine, government/politics and the philosophers. Basically, it was an introduction to the birth of Western Civilization. 

The Greeks loved and honored their heroes almost as much as their gods- pretty much blurring the line between the two. I guess we're no different in the twenty-first century. But instead of sculpting our heroes, we collect images of them on cardboard (unless you're talented enough to draw or paint them, of course). 

While he may not have ever slain any dragons, or cut the heads off of a Gorgons (none that we know of, that is), Chipper Jones certainly played the Greek-like hero during the great 2014 Atlanta Snow Storm, rescuing Freddie Freeman. Oh, and he was pretty good at killing the baseball on the diamond.

Combine a player like Jones with the great Topps Gallery Exhibits set and you're going to get a Classical card. Don't believe me? Just look at the back of the card.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Rack of What? Well, I'll Have Some of That

'Hey waitress, eh, er- ma'am. You got any specials here tonight me and the fellas might be interested in? What's that? What? A rack of what? Well, I'll have some of that!!'-  Van Halen's Good Enough

It was with much trepidation that I bought the very first album to feature Sammy Hagar on vocals for my (then) favorite band, Van Halen. I had heard the first single from 5150 ("Why Can't This Be Love") early that spring, 1986, and I wasn't exactly blown away; but being a fan, I did what fans do- I bought the record. My fears were relieved at the very first notes of "Good Enough," the album's opening track. I said it then, and I still believe today, that the track is the one Van Hagar song that I could easily see (or, hear) Diamond Dave belting out. Perhaps that's because the origins of "Good Enough" date back to the Wild Life movie score, which Eddie penned in 1983 while Roth was still in the band. Well, that, and it, lyrically,  just sounds like something Roth would write.

The band would go on to much success with the Red Rocker at the mic, though to this day there is still that debate about whether or not the lineup during this era should be considered 'Van Halen.' Whether you loved it, loathed it, or were just plain indifferent about the lineup, there's no denying that, while it was a different lineup, it was still Van Halen to the core.

I didn't collect cards in 1986 or 1987, but I've got to believe that the reception that 1987 Topps baseball received was kind of similar. You would have a group of collectors who loved the design- not to mention the strong rookie crop- because it reminded them of their youth ('62 Topps, '55 Bowman). You also had a group who probably hated it because it was a rip-off of a set from their youth (yes, '62 Topps or '55 Bowman) or because it looked like the cheap wood paneling found in the basement or like the paneling on the side of the old family station wagon.

Had I been collecting at the time of its release (and been an adult with income), I would have been all over this product- buying it by the case. Instead, I bought a box years later... and just recently picked up this rack pack for the Dale Murphy collection.

I would have preferred that the Murphy card be his regular card from the set (#490), but won't deny it a home in my office. Besides, with as much of this product as there is out there, it shouldn't be too tough to find a pack with that base card.

Just as 1987 Topps baseball pays homage to the 1962 set, Van Halen's 'Good Enough' pays homage to the Big Bopper's 'Chantilly Lace'

And here's the original track, as recorded for the Wild Life soundtrack

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Common Man

"On my own I'm no better than- all alone, I'm a common man." ~Black Country Communion's Common Man

The 2015 baseball card season is winding down and we're beginning to see info coming out for 2016 products. One such product- 2016 Topps 1 Baseball- introduces a departure from the norm for the flagship release. For the first time, it appears, the base cards from the iconic company will feature full-bleed card fronts. And as a Topps team set collector, this change might just lead to a change in my collecting habits.

Fuji had a post yesterday where he confessed to being loyal to Topps and I, too, have echoed that sentiment for years. My stance has always been that if the company were to lose its MLB license, I'd be done with current card team sets. Topps was the only game in town when I began collecting and they have always stayed pretty true to their schtick, if you will. Even when I left the hobby in the early 2000s, I still bought the Braves Topps team set for the first two of those years. But times are a changing, and with filteration used on most of the photography in the flagship product and now a borderless card... it may be time to make a switch.

As I've pondered whether to make a change, the obvious question is whether or not to continue with team sets. Archives and Heritage are both certainly worthy of carrying on the tradition, with one small exception: the common man.

One of the great things about Topps' flagship product is that it still contains many cards of the common man. As much as all of us would like to see our team field a fantasy team each game, it's not going to happen. Unless you're the Yankees, of course. Anyway- as a team set collector, I want to have commons included in my collection. Without them, the Braves (or any team, for that matter) aren't truly being represented as they should. Like I said, this is real life- not fantasy baseball. 

So in the meantime, I guess I'll just hold my breath until the 2016 Topps release date and determine how strong my convictions are. Do I travel the road that has all the mom-and-pop stores, or do I take the exit that leads to the area with all the big box stores?  Time will tell...

No, this isn't Rush's Tom Sawyer- although the opening guitar certainly sounds like it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Throwback Thursday: 1988

I hate summertime. It hasn't always been like that, though. There were plenty of blissful summers during my youth, but the only redeeming aspect of the season at this point in my life is baseball. And when your team sucks, well, all you can do is wait upon the start of football season, I guess.

Most of those earlier summers were spent outside, in the heat, playing ball. You see, while the heat never bothered me much as a child, it has become an enemy as I have gotten older. The other reason I hate it has to do with my work schedule. It's a very busy time for me at work and vacationing isn't an option. It's been like that since '89. But I digress...

Oh, yes, horrible baseball. Speaking of which, have you seen the what the Braves have done this second half of the season? Bad team. Bad manager. Rosenthal reports that the manager has lost the team. And I believe him. 

The team has been so bad, in fact, that it has had an historically bad stretch- unmatched in team history. Certainly the worst I've ever endured.

I became a fan of the team in 1981 and spent the next four years watching a pretty good team. From 1985 through 1987 I still followed them from a distance. I was a high schooler and had too many other things to do besides watching every game or keeping an eye on the daily boxscores. And when I did catch a game, they didn't seem all that bad (although their record during those years reflects bad teams). At least they were entertaining. Or perhaps I just have selective memory.

The next three years ('88-90) were a time where I didn't follow the team at all. All that mattered to me during these years was playing music and partying. Baseball took a backseat, finishing below football in sports hierarchy, for some reason. It's probably a good thing, too, because this was- until this summer- the darkest period in franchise history since 1935, when the Boston Braves went 35-115. 1988: 54-106; 1989: 63-97-1; 1990: 65-97. 

Before joining the Braves organization, Chuck Tanner had had a pretty successful run in Pittsburgh- where he won a World Series in 1979. Charles' tenure in the ATL wouldn't go so well. His three year reign saw the team go 72-89 (.447) in 1986, 69-92 (.429) in 1987, and 12-27 (.308) during the 1988 season before being fired on May 22.

His replacement:

Russ Nixon.

There are probably not many managers who have the distinction of managing in parts of 5 major league seasons and finishing in sixth (last) place during each of those seasons. Russ Nixon is one such manager.

 Before coming to Atlanta, Russ served one-and-a-half seasons as skipper in Cincinnati, recording a .435 winning percentage. After being fired by the Reds, Nixon was brought on the Braves coaching staff and served two seasons as Tanner's third-base coach before Chuck removed him from his staff following the '87 season. Nixon then began the '88 season as the Braves AA manager in Greenville, South Carolina. Upon Tanner's firing, Nixon returned to the big league club and let the world know of his disdain for his former boss. I don't think he was trying to fire up the troops- and if he was, it didn't work. The Braves would go on to play better under Russ that year (42-79 .435 under him), but then regressed the following year to 63-97 (.394) under him. Going into 1990- Nixon's final season as manager in Atlanta (or anywhere else in the majors, for that matter)-  Russ predicted that the team would be better, that they would escape the cellar and climb to .500- or better. Problem was, it would be the next season- when they would make an improbable turn around to reach the World Series- and he would no longer be managing the team. Nixon would get fired after only 65 games into the 1990 season, as the team sat at 25-40 (.376).

As bad as his managerial record was (he finished with a .400 winning percentage), there is actually one man who believes Nixon is one of 6 managers since 1986 who affected the performance of his players more than the average manager. In other words, he was a top-6 manager in WAR, or whatever you'd call it for managers. I don't even want to try and wrap my head around this guy's argument.

I spent the summer of '88 (and the rest of the year, for that matter) in a drug-induced daze. I guess you could say it was in the top three darkest parts of my life. But I guess it wasn't as bad Tanner's and Nixon's summer. At least I had the pleasure of attending the Monsters of Rock concert in Spokane, WA, featuring Van Halen, Scorpions, Dokken, Metallica, and Kingdom Come.

Russ Nixon, pictured in 1988 with two beauty pageant winners.

Okay, so maybe Russ topped my summer.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Saturday Night's Alright for Fightin'

A few weeks ago I happened upon a few Dale Murphy items that were up for auction from the Topps Vault and decided they were items that I just had to have. While I knew that I'd be in for a fight with other Murphy collectors, I was surprised at how high the prices were driven up for what (I am presuming) are one-of-a-kind items.

Like many items that draw interest, the bidding doesn't start until late in the game, and these ones were no different. Up for auction were a Murphy color negative from 1985 Topps, two different negatives (separate auctions) from 1990 Topps and two different (again, separate auctions) from 1993 Topps. Unfortunately, three of the items escaped my eBay cart- and, of course, were the ones I really wanted. But even winning two Murphy's is something that you cannot be disappointed in. I mean, would you really be that disappointed in having a date with the Miss America runner-up? I didn't think so.

Let's take a look at what I didn't win.

1985 Topps Negative

One look at the closing price is all you need to know as to why I didn't win this auction. I just can't go anywhere near that amount. Have fun and enjoy it.

Closing price: $132.49 + $3.50 shipping

My highest bid: $37.22

Number of bids: 9

Number of bidders: 6

1990 Topps Negative #1

Same dude won this one. I really should have gone higher than my ceiling bid, but who knows how high the eventual winner would have gone.

Closing price: $26.88 +$3.50 shipping

My highest bid: $25.88

Number of bids: 9

Number of bidders: 6

1990 Topps Negative #2

Mr. Big Money Murphy collector wins again. *shakes fist at the screen*

Closing price: $45.89 + $3.50 shipping

My highest bid: $44.89

Number of bids:11

Number of bidders: 6

Now, on to MY WINNINGS!!

1993 Topps Negative #1

As shown on eBay- much better than my scan...

 As it scanned

Closing price: $26.00 + $3.50 shipping

Next closest bid: $25.00

Number of bids: 5

Number of bidders: 4

1993 Topps Negative #2

Same as first winning- eBay photo much better than my scan

As it scanned

Closing price: $23.45 + $3.50 shipping

Next closest bid: $22.95

Number of bids: 5

Number of bidders: 4

As I looked over the bid history and the list of bidders, I thing I took away is this- there is more interest in Murphy items showing him with the Braves than there is of his time with the Phillies. Small sample size, but that's the conclusion from the data provided.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Prices Like It's 1989

"I was dreamin' when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray. But when I woke up this mornin', could've sworn it was judgement day... I was dreamin' when I wrote this, so sue me if I go too fast. But life is just a party and parties weren't made to last." Prince's 1999

For the past twenty-four years I've been wanting to add a particular card from 1989 to my collection. The card I'm referring to is the Dale Murphy reverse image from Upper Deck. There's only been one problem, though: pricing. All these years later, prices for the single still often run north of $30 for ungraded copies. Graded copies go for much more than that, of course. Prices weren't made to last and I wasn't about to pay like it's 1999 Nineteen Eighty-Nine.

I've placed bids on copies of the card on eBay over the years, but have always been outbid and, being on a limited card budget, have just moved on. But with my collecting focus back on Murphy cards and with birthday money in my pocket (and baby it was ready to roar! ),  I decided I was going all in. War all around me, I was prepared to fight. If I gotta die, I was going to listen to my collecting instincts that night.

I jumped in on the bidding for one of the cards but, once again, lost out at the very last second. I wasn't about to let that defeat my night- I came to party. So I waited it out and two weeks later found myself in the middle of another bidding war. This time, I prevailed- placing the winning bid with six seconds left on the auction.

The sky could have turned purple that night, with people running everywhere trying to run from destruction- but I wouldn't have cared. And if it's the last Murphy card I ever get, I would feel as though my Murphy collection's complete.

But I don't want it to be the last.

 I'd rather collect my life away.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Call Him... Jim?

Being somewhat burned out on the current card industry, I have recently been revisiting those cards of yesteryear. Well, the '80s MLB and NFL, anyway...

I've had the pleasure of attending three NFL games in my lifetime. They were exhibition games, but NFL games nonetheless. And they were back in the 70s and early 80s- when it seemed like the regulars played more than just a couple of series like they do today.

The very first game I attended was in 1978- Rams vs. Seahawks. I remember watching players from the visiting Rams team getting off of the bus. Pat Haden. 'Hacksaw' Reynolds. And then there was John Cappelletti- who, my father pointed out, had no neck. After the game we were walking in an area near the place the players had gotten off the bus, when I saw a man who I thought was Seahawks QB Jim Zorn (my favorite player!!). Timidly, I walked over to the man and asked for his autograph. 'Who do you think I am?' the man asked. 'Jim Zorn,' I responded. Laughter. It wasn't him. I shook the dust off my feet and moved on.

In my defense, at that point in my life I had probably never seen any photos of Zorn without his helmet. His rookie card (1977) featured Jim without his helmet, but I didn't have that card- I had maybe one card of his at the time ('78 Topps, if it was even out yet). I had become a fan by the few games I had seen on network tv, as well as from reading the sports page in the local paper and perhaps in a Sports Illustrated magazine (my grandparents had given me a subscription for Christmas). They were our regional team and so there was that natural inclination to root for them. 

Even though I had mistakenly called some stranger "Jim Zorn" there's no doubt that Zorn's offensive coordinator got his quarterback's name right. At least he should have, given how often Zorn is shown on the phone on his early cards. I was amazed at how often Jim was pictured with his headset on, or at least with him speaking into the speaker. I've found four cards/stickers online and there may be more. While four isn't a huge number, it is more than I've seen of any other player in a similar shot. 

Calling all collectors: I'm looking for a 1986 McDonald's Packers #18 Jim Zorn card. If you have one and are interested in trading it, please let me know!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Story of this Year's Braves Team

Words can't describe just how bad Atlanta's offense is,  so I'll just let the card do the talking.

Of course, it might as well say, "Strikeout" or "Ground Out" 'cause they don't get many hits and they sure as hell can't score any runs.