Saturday, October 31, 2015

Turning the Clock Back

Instead of doing the Halloween or something scary theme, I thought I'd do something else that's appropriate for this October 31. It's time to turn the clock back...

I recently showed off a few cards that had been purchased with my COMC credit and noted that I still had some credit remaining. So last weekend I got on their site to see what other goodies I might find. 
Okay, I'll do it: it was a little like trick or treating. Only I didn't have to dress up.

If you're like me, you probably use 'free money' to look for things that you might not normally spend your card budget on. It's not like these cards aren't worthy of my hard earned cash, it's just that I rarely spend $8 or more on inividual cards- being on a pretty limited card budget and all. And so this was a perfect opportunity to look at some autographs from Topps Archives.

Rather than going the baseball route, I decided that I would look for some former Seahawk greats. One in particular (Jim Zorn) was on my radar.

There were two Zorn cards that grabbed my attention: the 1997 Upper Deck NFL Legends autographed card and the 2013 Topps Archives auto. As much as I like the Upper Deck card, I had to go with Archives and its tribute to the 1979 Topps set. The '79 design is one of my favorites and, being in a somewhat nostalgic mood lately, I knew I'd regret it if I had gone with the other card.




I still had some credit left in my account after the seller accepted my offer so I decided to add an auto of another former Seahawk, John L. Williams.




Williams currently stands in fifth place on the team's list for all-time leading rushers. While he wasn't a spectacular back, he was a solid one- averaging 3.99 yards per carry over his 8 seasons in the pacific northwest. As far as the card, it was an easy choice for me because it fit into the remaining money in my account and because I really like the 1990 Topps design. It fits into the catagory of underappreciated designs, imo. 

Thanks for reading, don't overdose on the candy and don't forget to set your clocks back tonight.






Monday, October 26, 2015

A Long Season, and Musings on Update

I received a bit of a shock last Wednesday. We had just finished lunch and were about to head to the zoo, but first my daughter ran out to the mailbox to retrieve the junk mail (that seems to be all we get on Wednesday's). She came back in and let me know there was a package for me. The only thing I could think of it being was either a trade package or the Braves Topps Update team set I had just bought a few days before. And with the release date supposedly being that same day, it couldn't possibly be that, right?

Turns out it was the Topps Update team set that I had just ordered off of the 'Bay on Sunday. To say that I was surprised is a bit of an understatement. To get to Idaho on Wednesday from Iowa means the seller had to have shipped it on Monday. And on a product that wasn't supposed to be available until the 21st... Someone got their cards a little earlier than you would think.

Anyway, I wasn't expecting such a large number of Braves in this year's Update set- so when I saw the advanced checklist I was a little disappointed. Normally I would be bummed if there were, say, five or six Braves cards in the set. Eighteen seems a little excessive for any set. Especially when you consider that Series 1 & 2 combined for a total of 24 Braves.



Like so many other collectors, I really don't think we need all the All-Star cards in Update. Player cards. Home Run contest cards. I'm surprised they don't include an All-Star Game Snubs insert set. Let's get back to the N.L. All-Star (or A.L.) reference on the player's base card and be done with it, already. And we really didn't need the reminder of the horribly designed 'pillbox' caps.





Of the 60 players to appear in a game for the Braves this year, 36 were pitchers. And so it's understandable that many of the players donning the A in this year's Update set are those who take the mound.



Brandon Cunniff began his career by setting a Braves record for most appearances to start a career without allowing a hit (4- over four innings). Things could only go downhill from there- and they did, as Brandon would go 2-2 with a 4.63 ERA, 1.400 WHIP and a 1.68 SO/W ratio.





You know it's been a long year for your team when, upon examining the checklist for this year, you say, 'He wasn't a Brave!' I'm speaking of Ross Detwiler (pictured above) and Jason Frasor (below). Fraser only had 6 appearances between July 18 and August 1st, allowing 3 hits and 3 walks over 4.2 innings. Detwiler was horrible: 15.1IP in 24 games with a 7.63 ERA, a 2.348 WHIP, 16 walks to only 13 strikeouts. 





I haven't read many reviews of this product on the blogosphere, yet- but I can't imagine the 'Rookie Combos' being very popular among collectors. Personally, I don't mind split cards. I always had a soft spot for the prospect quad cards of yesteryear. Even if it meant a RC being shared with other players. My only complaint on these is the lack of any kind of vital stats/info (Year drafted, height/weight, career stats, etc) for the players. Instead, we get a paragraph with a little info that we could do without. The Combos work much better horizontally than they would had they been done vertically.





I have to voice my displeasure at what has become the norm the past three flagship releases: cheek-puffing and other facial features. Look through older sets, say 1984, and this isn't a thang. At least, it's not as noticeable. It might have something to do with today's cards having a much closer zoom on the player, where as earlier cards didn't have as many close-ups.



Speaking of all those close-up shots... doesn't anyone at Topps realize that in doing this, all the cards tend to blend together? There's no uniqueness- no diversity whatsoever to their sets anymore. I've mentioned recently that this very well might be the end of me pursuing the flagship team sets. Perhaps I need to add Stadium Club to my annual purchase- they still get that right, photography-wise. Can't we have both a unique design and unique photos? Apparently not.














This year's Update set will be remembered for its strong rookie crop. Correa, Buxton, Lindor, Rodon- among others. Will they live up to their potential? Only time will tell. I'm hoping that Braves rookie starter Matt Wisler (acquired in the Kimbrel trade) will be one of the key rookies from this crop. Matt had his ups and downs his rookie season, but finished strong after a summer swoon. 





You can't see me right now, but I'm still shaking my head as to why Topps felt compelled to include Eric Young Jr. in this set. If you can include players who were added to a team at the trade deadline, then why can't you pull a player such as Young from the checklist? Now, he didn't get sent to the Mets until August 22nd, but he had not been in Atlanta since June 3 and there was no way he was going to come back up to the Braves from Triple-A.





I guess I didn't thoroughly read-up on this product in advance because I had to do a double take when I looked at the back of Jace Peterson's card. 399? What? Doesn't Update contain the same number of cards as the first two series (330 350)? Eleven Hundred cards between 3 sets? Too many damn cards.









Thursday, October 22, 2015

Jacob's Ladder

There are plenty of things to which the title of this post could refer. A student of the Bible might read into it the passage in Genesis where it speaks of angels ascending to and descending from heaven. The student of science may think it's a demonstration of the electric spark that jumps between two parallel wires and then 'climbs' up the ladder. The fitness fanatic will probably think of the cardio machine that sits in his bedroom, while the movie buff will remember the 1990 psychological horror movie staring Tim Robbins. But this 'Jacob's Ladder' is one of my own creation. It involves cardboard and a former NFL defensive end.



Before being drafted by Seattle as the 10th overall pick in the 1980 draft,  Jacob Green had earned All-American honors during his senior season at Texas A&M, recording a school record 20 sacks. He would finish his collegiate career as a two-time All-American and 37 sacks, a total that would stand as a school record until Aaron Wallace finished with 42 career sacks ten years later.

As a professional, Jacob was nearly unmatched at the defensive end position. Despite the sack not being an official stat until his third season, Green finished his fourteen-year career with 97.5 official sacks (116 unofficial)- which were good for 3rd all-time at his retirement. The two players ahead of him, Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor, are both Hall of Famers. Unfortunately, the two-time All-Pro has yet to get elected to to the Hall of Fame. He was, however, named to the Seahawks Ring of Honor in 1995 and is still considered one of the best- and most popular- players in team history. Many believe that it's inevitable that he will one day be enshrined in the Canton.


I recently picked up ten cards of Jacob in a purchase on Sportlots.




This 1983 Topps is considered Green's Rookie Card- but his first appearance came in the 1981 Topps set, where he appeared on a team checklist card (#19) as well as in the Topps Stickers set (#115) and the odd-ball Seahawks 7-Up set (#11). 





Jacob was also featured in the 1982 Topps set (team leaders card #243), 1982 Seahawks 7-Up (#5) and 1982 Seahawks Police (#13) sets prior to his rookie card.




Following his NFL career, Green returned to his alma mater as V.P. Major Gifts and Endowments for the university's 12th Man Foundation. He has also been very active in raising money for the Fred Hutchinson Research Center in Seattle and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.








Green's son-in-law is Red Bryant, himself a former Aggie and starting DE for the Seahawks' Super Bowl XLVIII-winning team.




As a defensive end, Green's appearances on cardboard is pretty limited, even with a fourteen year career. With his popularity among fans- not to mention a great career- Jacob is an ideal candidate for collector looking to add a new player collection.



Monday, October 19, 2015

My Favorite Murphy

There's nothing like a stay-cation and being on your own schedule. I have a list of things I am thinking of doing (notice I didn't say want to do) but I'm in no hurry to get any of it done. Let's talk some baseball...

If you're following the NLCS, then you are aware of the Mets' Daniel Murphy and his amazin' home run binge. Not only has he hit homers in four straight games this post season (and 5 total), but he has hit them off the following pitchers: Clayton Kershaw (2), Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, and Jake Arietta. And by the way, these pitchers aren't exactly chopped liver.

Murphy's accomplishment is pretty dang impressive, especially considering that he's never been much of a home run hitter- his 14 during this year's regular season were a career high. And so I asked myself how does this binge compare to my favorite Murphy- Mr. Dale Murphy. A trip to baseballreference.com answered my question, but not without scouring through a list of every home run hit by the former Braves icon.

Dale's streak for homers in consecutive games matches that of Daniel's, at four. He did this twice: in 1985 and then again in 1987.




The streak in 1985 came in April with one off of the Philies Charles Hudson (4/11), and then aginst the Padres' Andy Hawkins (4/12), Tim Stoddard (4,13), and LarMar Hoyt (4/14).






Dale did it again two years later against the Mets' Ron Darling (5/8), Terry Leach (5/9), and Sid Fernandez (5/10), with game number four coming against the Expos' Bob McClure on May 11. Murph would have a big game (including 2 doubles) on May 12th, but without homering, before hitting two bombs in a game against the Phillies on May 13. Oh, so close to six consecutive games. 




Thursday, October 15, 2015

Remnant from My First Card Show

I was kind of bummed recently when I checked to see when the next card show was scheduled, only to find out that the one that would typically take place in September had already happened- in early August. It sounds strange to hear myself say that because I had gotten tired of the same-ol', same-ol' that it had become. So what caused this change of heart? Football, believe it or not (I wanted to pick up Topps Seahawks singles for cheap and thought it'd be a good place to start). But for some reason it got me thinking about the first card show I ever attended.


I don't remember the exact date, but I certainly remember the first purchase at my very first card show. It was September, 1991, and the Braves and Dodgers were in a dogfight for the NL West title. One of the key players during this crucial time period was second-year pitcher Steve Avery, who went 5-0 over 8 starts between August 30th and October 4th. By this time, Stadium Club baseball had debuted and was an extremely hot product. I don't remember the pack price on the secondary market, but it was probably more than I wanted to pay- and since I couldn't find it at retail, I just waited for singles. Well, this particular day I found the card I wanted: one of the aforementioned Avery. 



The show was in a business plaza that was the home to a card shop called Base Hit Sports Cards. The plaza had a nice, large common area where the dealers tables were set up. And though it was 24 years ago, I still remember the spot where I bought the Avery card (but I don't remember who the dealer was). The location would be home to more shows for at least the next year or two. I even set up a table at a couple of the shows and had a lot of success selling cards from binders that were marked at 4/$1.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

After completing the HDSA Team Hope Walk this past weekend, we decided to go out for some ice cream- and I knew the perfect place. There is an old ice-cream parlor a short distance from the park where we were, and it's become somewhat of a legendary place. But before we got to the parlor, we came across those old stomping grounds at Cole and Ustick. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I pulled off the road and into the parking lot. The business plaza is still there- but Base Hit Cards is long gone, as they closed the doors around '93 or so. I debated on whether or not to take a picture to include in this post. I decided not to and drove a couple of blocks down the road, to where we would enjoy some homemade ice cream.

It would have been nice to have been able to walk into that old building and purchase a card or two. But at least I was able to drive away with a memory- and come home to a card.



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Good Credit- Bad Credit



One of the things instilled in me as a child was to live within your means. My parents were both self-employed and provided a decent lifestyle for our family. While we were by no means wealthy, we certainly didn't lack for anything. One of the ways they were able to do this, I believe, was by staying out of debt. To this day I would be surprised if my dad still doesn't have a credit card. My mom only got one in the last two or three years, I believe- and that, only after her husband passed away. Even so, I don't think she uses it much at all.

My wife and I, on the other hand, do take advantage of credit cards. In fact, I just had to cancel one about two weeks ago after discovering a pretty large transaction that we did not make. Anyway, we don't use them unless we have the cash in the bank to pay for the purchase the next month. So it's more a matter of convenience for us. We also started to use one as our primary card and build points off of purchases that we can then either cash out or use on Amazon.com. Though we've used them for years, I can't remember the last time I didn't pay off a credit card bill in full.

Another credit line I have taken advantage of the past couple of years is PayPal Credit. I can probably count on my hands the number of times I've used this, as it's been more of a "Crap, I forgot to transfer money into my Paypal account"-type of thing. The only exception to that safety net came late this summer, when I deposited birthday money into our savings account and then used PayPal credit to purchase about $170 worth of Dale Murphy items. I'd just transfer the birthday money to our checking account when the bill came due and then pay it off. Easy enough, right? Well, I paid the bill, alright- but apparently it arrived one day after the due date. And PayPal Credit charged me a $25 late fee. Shoot, I guess I should have gone to Alpine Loan Center (see above video) for a loan. It would have cost me only seven bucks.

About 20 minutes after discovering that kick to the crotch, I asked my daughter if she would like to scratch off the COMC redemption card that came with my recent purchase. She enjoys scratch offs (Lord, please don't let her be one of those lottery ticket junkies!) and so she was thrilled to give me a hand. The $5 store credit that was revealed helped ease the pain just a little, but what came next was an even better surprise. I had to log in, obviously, to redeem the card and after redeeming it, I discovered I now had a little over $50 credit. Huh? Well, it turns out I had forgotten that the online card seller had deposited $50 into my account almost two years ago. I never log into my account- even when making purchases- I usually just log into PayPal or Amazon at checkout. Good thing I had that $5 redemption card!

So what did I get with my newly discovered funds? Nine cards and... another scratch off. I still have about $25, so there will be more to come. But for this first purchase, it looks like this:



 First up- a Rookie Card of Russell. He's been running for his life thus far, so I hope he doesn't get seriously injured this season.



Dale Rookie!! I already have one of these for my team set, so this baby will go in the Dale binder.


Another card of Wilson- this one a box bottom from Archives. Would prefer the borders to be black, but hey, it's still a pretty sweet card.

Another RC- and I actually prefer this design over the regular flagship product. Anyone know where/how these 'Kickoff' cards were distributed?



Cross off one of the Fourteen Fugitive's off the list. Paid a little more than I would have liked to- but it is a freebie...


Like Dale's '77, I already have this in the team binder, so this one goes into the PC binder.



2013 Topps Football. The bad news: the ugly-ass design along the bottom (looks more like the Bowman line). The good news: It's got a white border. And, this is a Russell Wilson card.



Absolutely beautiful design. It looks so much better with more current photos than the original '76 photos.


Box bottom from 1989 Topps. I love these things- what a concept! And it's got the highly underrated Jacob Green, to boot.



Well, crap. No winning any store credit this time.


But COMC isn't the only source for cards that has given me money to spend. Remember those Dale Murphy purchases I spoke of earlier? Well, they earned me some eBay bucks- $7.60, to be exact. And so I've also had some fun using those funds...



One of the all-time best Food-Issues. Nothing could get your mouth watering for Dominos like these babies.





Another Player of the Week box bottom. A little wrinkled, but glorious nonetheless. Have I told you how much I love these things?



After purchasing these three cards, I still have about $2.60 in eBay bucks. What will be my next purchase? Remains to be seen.



Sunday, October 11, 2015

Hope

I tend to be a pessimist. Some people (other pessimists) refer to us as realists, and from my point of view, I guess they're correct. To be honest with you, though, I hate viewing life from this perspective. I wish I could see the best in others and in all circumstances, but my senses and experience tells me otherwise. Not all is doom and gloom, however, as I do possess a hope- hope that goes beyond this life, beyond the grave.

Hope was on my mind a lot yesterday. My wife, daughter, and I took part in Team Hope Walk, the fundraising campaign of the Huntington's Disease Society of America. The event is designed to provide hope and support for those whose lives are affected by HD. People like us- or shall I say, like my son. You see, my adopted son, whom I raised since he was two, has Huntington's. The disease is a fatal genetic disease with no cure and causes the progressive breakdown of the nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person's physical and mental abilities, affecting their ability to walk, to reason and to speak. Those who have the disease eventually succumb to pneumonia, heart failure or other complications, such as choking or infection. Some have described it as having ALS, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's all simultaneously. Juvenile onset, the form of HD my son was diagnosed with, has a more rapid progression rate, with death often occurring within 10 years of JHD onset. We have become resigned to his fate and pray for God to be merciful to him during his remaining time on earth.



Prior to leaving for the walk, I tuned-in to the Ole Miss-New Mexico State football game to check out Chad Kelly- the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and controversial quarterback for the Rebels. Uncle Jim made an appearance in the booth during the broadcast and was seen sporting a silicone wristband with the words HOPE. At first I thought it had to do with the cancer that Jim is battling. He's a fighter, and sounds like the optimist I so often wish I could be. But I then remembered his late son Hunter, who died in August of 2005 from Krabbe disease. How could I have forgotten? Reading the story the day after his death had brought me to tears. He was one of my all-time favorite stars of the gridiron and I couldn't fathom what it must feel like to lose a child like that; to watch that child get progressively worse, while there was nothing you could do to prevent it. Kelly and his wife started Hunter's Hope- a foundation whose mission is to offer education and awareness of the disease, help fund research and offer family care for those suffering from Krabbe and other Leukodystrophies.



I may not have a platform like the one that Jim Kelly has, but we will do what we can do- where we are in life. Maybe it's participating in a walk; perhaps it's a simple blog post like this one. You do what you can do and hope that one day a cure is found so that others won't have to suffer.

Although the Boise Team Hope Walk has already taken place, donations are still being accepted through December. If you feel moved to donate, I have a personal page set up on the HDSA donor drive website, which can be accessed here. Online donations are accepted and there is also a form that can be downloaded and sent in with a check. Thank you for considering a gift.



Friday, October 9, 2015

The Truth of Finality

"Unlike most, a ballplayer must confront two deaths. First, between the ages of 30 and 40 he perishes as an athlete. Although he looks trim and feels vigorous and retains unusual coordination, the superlative reflexes, the major league reflexes, pass on. At a point when many of his classmates are newly confident and rising in other fields, he finds that he can no longer hit a very good fastball or reach a grounder four strides to his right. At 35 he is experiencing the truth of finality. As his major league career is ending, all things will end. However he sprang, he was always earthbound. Mortality embraces him. The golden age has passed as in a moment. So will all things. So will all moments. Memento mori."  ~ Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer

Roger Kahn randomly (?) used the age of 35 to describe the point in life where the the athlete comes to the realization that his time on the field is short, that the end is nigh. Though I have never played professional sports, my own experience in life confirms the 'truth of finality,' as Kahn calls this phenomenon. Thirty-five was an age where my own frailty began showing: my hand-eye coordination wasn't as good as it once was; my memory, a little slower to recall; the aches and pains, a little more intense; my body, a little slower to heal.



After being released by the Phillies just two days before the start of the 1993 season, Dale Murphy didn't stay unemployed for long. The expansion Colorado Rockies, looking for veteran help, made Philadelphia's decision a little easier by indicating that they would be willing to sign 37 year-old outfielder. An 'Iron Man' for most of his career, Dale had missed only a total of 42 games between 1980 and 1991- but the daily grind had taken its tole on his knees, leading to him having to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery in November of 1991. Murph would play in 18 games during the 1992 season. His time in Philadelphia, short. His career nearing its end and the truth of finality, undoubtedly, beginning to settle into his mind.


As a fan and collector, there was nothing I would have liked to see more than to have Topps include Dale as a Rockie in their 1993 Traded set. But with only 49 plate appearances in 26 games for the Rockies, it wasn't to be. One interesting card, however, was this one- from the special Rockies Inaugural Year set. It is probably the closest thing we'll get to a Topps card showing Dale Murphy as a Colorado Rockie. Unless, of course, the company does one in its Archives set. *HINT, HINT*

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this awesome custom of Dale, created by Steve over at White Sox Cards. It is my all-time favorite custom card, BTW.



Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Collector's Duty

The Major League regular season ended two days ago and I couldn't have been more relieved. What started out as an exciting year for the Braves (as they were overachieving) quickly began spiraling out of control as the team went 12-41 after sitting at .500 on July 7th. The team turned it around over their final fifteen games- going 10-5 during that time- but by then, I had lost interest. Go Seahawks!

In the midst of all of that misery, I discovered my interest in baseball cards had waned, too. And so it was with reluctance that I bought the Heritage High Number team set- kind of like I bought it out of shear duty. Going through the motions, as some might say.

However, when it arrived yesterday- the first day of the off-season- I found myself actually excited to open on the package. How did I know what the contents were? I had purchased only two items in the last couple of weeks (the regular high-number team set, and the one Braves SP from the set), and both arrived on the same day.

One of the positives about Topps putting out a High Number series is that it allows team set collectors like myself the opportunity to add many of the guys found in the flagship product. And as the flagship product continues to drive me away, this (and Archives) is a nice alternative.



The two cards I was most looking forward to adding to the collection: Peterson and Wisler. While Wisler turned things around the final month of the season, Jace proved himself to be the player I thought he'd be: a super-utility guy. Peterson has some nice tools, but too many plate appearances will expose his weaknesses. Hopefully he adjusts and proves me wrong.