Wednesday, June 28, 2017

But for Now

A good part of our lives is spent in anticipation. We begin setting aside funds in to a 529 college savings plan for our children's future; we start socking money away to help pay for a daughter's future wedding; we contribute money to our 401K and Roth IRA accounts from each pay period, looking forward to the day we can finally retire; even in matters of faith, we have what theologians refer to as the tension of the 'already, but not yet', which describes the benefits of redemption already experienced in this life and those benefits which await us at the consummation.

And, yes, we find this reality in card collecting. We anticipate the next product; the next hit; the next card show; the next trade. Some trade packages, though, are unexpected- such as the one that Greg from Night Owl Cards sent my way recently.

I'm getting older and the mind seems to slip a little each day, so maybe Greg sent this monster bubble mailer in return for something I had sent him. Had I known something was coming my way, I would have been looking forward to it with great anticipation. As it was, it took me by surprise.

What shouldn't be a surprise is when those prospects we hoard don't pan out. It can be maddening spending years watching a prospect tear it up in the minors, anticipating their MLB debut, only to be disappointed. Some, like Danny Hultzen (a number 2 overall pick in 2011), suffer injuries early in their careers and never make the Show. Others, such as Alex Jackson, struggle from the outset and don't live up to the draft hype.

I wasn't surprised to see a 'vintage' card or two coming from Mr. Night Owl. I use that term (vintage) loosely; being an expansion team doesn't really allow for what you'd call vintage. Unless you're listing on Craigslist. In that case, 1997 cards would qualify as being 'old'.

There was a little of this, a little of that. 

Junk stuff. Scratch that. Has anyone coined the term, "Garbage Wax"- because that's what 1990 Fleer (and 1989 Fleer) is. Garbage. I guess I'll have to take the good with the bad- or, the bad with the good, if I'm going to be a team set collector.

So many of the Score products from the mid-90s look the same. You might even classify it as garbage wax, too.

This Kyle Seager is most definitely not garbage. It's a thing of beauty.

One of the team sets I've been really looking forward to completing is 2015 Stadium Club. It's always one of my favorite releases each year and fans of the set are undoubtedly awaiting the release of the 2017 offering. Only a couple of more weeks away! For now, I'm content with this Nelson Cruz card.

I remember when my two sons were just wee ones, looking forward to the day they would play little league baseball. I was especially excited upon discovering my youngest was a lefty, and I envisioned him one day becoming a pitcher. Which, of course, meant a hot commodity. I know, pretty sad viewing my child as a commodity. But if you're a lefty and can throw a baseball, odds are that you'll get a shot.

More of this and that

With Heritage, Archives, and all the TBT cards that Topps is producing, retro cards seem to have lost a little lot of their luster. But that wasn't always the case. In fact, at one point, collectors longed for a release that captured the spirit of those sets from their childhood. One of the better sets, in my opinion, was the 2009 O-Pee-Chee cards. The only disappointing thing I found with this set was the number of photos that appear to have been shot in a studio. It's almost like they should have Olan Mills in the bottom right corner. Solid set, though.

Does it surprise you that Greg would sent some cards from 2013 Home Town Heroes? Yeah, me neither.

Like many of you, I could do without Opening Day as a stand-alone release. At the very least, I would like to see it with a design that's different from flagship. What I do await each year, however, are the interesting inserts included in O.D. This Stadium Scenes card of Safeco Field makes me long to make another trip to the ballpark. And if all goes well, I will, this September.

If I were to grade this package from Greg, it'd have to rate a Home Run.

Thanks again, Greg, for all the cards. And I look forward to- nay, anticipate, the next package.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


As I sat down to begin writing this post, I had one thing in mind: to focus on an on-card auto of a pitcher the Seattle Mariners once acquired from the Cubs for $1. But as I began writing, it occurred to me that the team has a battery where both pitcher (again, Zych) and catcher (Mike Zunino) have last names that begin with the last letter of our alphabet. I had never heard of this occurring on any other team, so I decided to delve deeper into baseball history for other such battery mateZ. There have been only 91 players in the majors whose surnames begin with the letter 'Z', so the odds of it happening prior to Zych/Zunino are slim. Or so I thought.

When Tony Zych made his MLB Debut against the Oakland A's on September 4, 2015, he took his place in history, becoming the last man, alphabetically, in major league history. Prior to Zych's debut, Dutch Zwilling had the distinction of being the last name on the (alphabetical) roster of players to appear in the majors. While anything is possible, it's hard to imagine anyone knocking Zych off the bottom of the list. That alone might warrant picking up an autographed card of the right-handed reliever, but that wasn't the reason for my recent addition. No, the reason I picked up Zych's 2016 Topps Chrome is that it's Tony's lone major league card (thus far, anyway). No base Chrome- not even a base Topps card from its flagship product.

Zych battled arm problems last year, but had shown promise prior to that. His arsenal includes a fastball that hits the mid-90s and a very good slider, both of which allow him to miss a lot of bats.

And for the record, this particular battery first matched up on August 23, 2016, in the Mariners 5-1 loss to the Yankees. Zych pitched one inning, allowing 2 hits while striking out one.

Prior to the Mariners duo, the most recent pair of battery mateZ were Torono's (P) Victor Zambrano and (C) Gregg Zaun. This duo hooked up in their first game together on April 4, 2007 in Detroit, when Zambrano replaced Jermey Accardo in the bottom of the 7th. The former Mets pitcher would allow 1run on one hit and two walks that inning, and then give up a single and another walk to start the eighth before being pulled.

Mr. Zaun, who donned 9 different major league uniforms over a career that spanned 16 seasons, also caught for another Z pitcher during his career: Jeff Zimmerman, on the 1999 Texas Rangers. Zimmerman, making his MLB debut on April 13, at Seattle, came in to relieve Mike Morgan with 1-out in the bottom of the 7th inning and immediately struck out the first two batters he faced. When Zimmerman came back out for the bottom of the eighth, he had a new catcher behind the plate- Zaun, who replaced Ivan Rodriguez that inning.

Forty-two years earlier, on July 1, 1957, the first Z-mates appeared together in a major league game, pitcher George Zuverink and catcher Frank Zupo of the Baltimore Orioles. Zupo, making his major league debut that day, entered the game in the top of the 10th, replacing Joe Durham (who had pinch-hit for catcher Joe Ginsburg in the 9th inning), while Zuverink took over for pitcher Ken Lehman (also in the top of the tenth) with the score tied at two. The veteran pitcher got Yankee shortstop Gil McDougald to groundout to second before surrendering a game-deciding home run to Mickey Mantle.

Well, there's your lesson for the day. Now, go out and see if you can dig up some cardZ of theZe guyZ.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Will Collect Almost Anything

Being a team set collector (or even a player collector) often means buying or trading for items you wouldn't otherwise chase after. We, as collectors, complain about certain products but then play the part of the partisan who complains about the state of politics, yet continues to choose party over country or policy. That's us, admit it.

Some collectors view cards such as this Will Ferrell as 'gimmicks'. Will's ballpark journey was part of an HBO special, done in partnership with MLB to fight cancer. So I don't have a problem with Topps creating a ten-card set. As a side note, Will's stop at HoHoKam for the Mariners game against the A's was the first on a five- stadium tour.

I've always had a soft spot for retro sets, especially those designs from my childhood. And yet I would never even think about collecting logo-less retro sets if it wasn't for being a team set (or player) collector. But I will say, I really do like what Panini did with what they have to work with. Now I just need the Kyle Seager card from this set.

It's awfully tough to hate on cards like this Griffey. Why, the way it's framed, it could very well be a licensed card and you'd never know it. More stuff like this would go a long ways in winning over even the most stubborn collector.

And we will end it today with this Fernando Rodney card. I'm probably in the minority in saying that I don't mind sticker autos, but the off-colors and prison-softball team hat just don't do anything for me. And yet I still purchased it, albeit for 99 cents.

I guess I will buy just about anything.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

5ive From... 1984 (A Care Package from Fuji)

I start off every year, it seems, vowing to be more involved in the comment sections on the various card blogs I follow. Good intentions, obviously, but, like most new year's resolutions, I always fall short.

While I am an introvert (and have suffered from that type of hangover, on multiple occasions), I'm not going to use that as an excuse. Part of it has to do with me doing a lot of my blog reading on the Feedly app on my cell phone, which doesn't allow for comments to be made without going to a web browser. Laziness probably accounts for a large part of the reason, if I'm being honest with myself.

There are plenty of you out there who might be called 'social butterflies', judging from your involvement in the blogosphere. And if I were to give out an award to the Collector/Blogger who is Most Likely to Leave a Comment, it would go, hands down, to Mark of The Chronicles of Fuji fame. A few weeks ago I posted about the card show I had attended in May, and featured, among many pieces of cardboard purchased at the show, a single card from the 1984 Topps set. Mark was kind enough to inquire about which cards I still needed for the set and then, a short time later... BOOM! A PWE arrived with 5 cards. Five cards- perfect number because I've began a new series called 5ive From...

Because all the cards Mark sent were from the year 1984, I'll be featuring music from 1984. My first inclination was to pick tunes from some of my favorite bands at the time (it was a great year for hard rock/metal) but I've decided to go with a little more eclectic mix. Now, I did pick a song from an all-time favorite band (U2) and like three of the other four bands. More on that later.

Hard Habit To Break (Chicago)....I was a freshman during the spring of 1984 and I was moving on from collecting cards, becoming more interested in girls, cars and guitars. Looking back in hindsight, my decision to stop collecting wasn't difficult- especially as one who had been collecting for a large chunk of my childhood. And that surprises me because it seems like it should be harder to walk away from something that brought so much joy. Losing must be a hard habit to break for teams like the Texas Rangers, who lost a lot of games during the 80s. I vaguely remember Jim Anderson, more from his days in Seattle- but it was as a middle infielder (and the typical '70s-'80s m.i. at that: no hit, no power, decent glove). Was surprised to see him listed as a 'C-SS'. Don't see that every day.

Heaven (Psychedelic Furs)-- Call me crazy but when watching this video, I can't help but think that singer Richard Butler looks a little like Dave Righetti, or, at the very least, like he could be a relative. Wasn't much of a fan of the band; in fact, I don't know if I could name another song after this one.
Righetti had his 'heavenly' moment in 1983, throwing the first ever no-hitter at Yankee Stadium by a lefty. I wonder if the photo on the card front is from that game? Topps mentions his glorious no-no on the card back.

That Was Yesterday (Foreigner)-- a song which, according to Mick Jones, was about a failed relationship which you're still trying to hang on to; that there's a chance to resurrect it. At this point of time, the band (Foreigner) is like a failed relationship. Sure, there were some great moments, but at some point you've gotta ask 'why is this still a thing?' In case you don't know, the band is now comprised of really no original members. Jones still makes an occasional appearance, but for the most part it's just a bunch of replacements. Scabs, I guess you could call them. Likewise, I don't recognize the Nationals as being the former Expos team. They're just a bunch of scabs, to me.

Defenders of the Faith (Judas Priest)-- Speaking of resurrection... former Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie is hopeful of baseball returning to Quebec. Cromartie is the founder and president of the Montreal Baseball Project, which exists to bring baseball back to the largest city in North America without a baseball team. One of the things I like about the Priest album cover is how colorful it is, much like those colorful uniforms of our favorite Canadian team.

Promenade (U2)-- One of the more underrated (and unknown) songs in the U2 catalog, Bono paints beautiful imagery in the lyrics on this tune and the production team of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois helped the band produce an ambiance on The Unforgettable Fire unlike any of their previous releases. Bono was once quoted as saying the entire album "was a beautifully out of focus record, blurred like an impressionist painting..." I can see that. Very much so.

Take the lyrics at the end of the song ("slide show, seaside town, Coca-cola, football, radio radio radio radio radio radio) and replace it with "Tim Raines, Montreal, Expos Expos Expos Expos..." and I wouldn't have a problem with it. there obviously wouldn't be the same flow, but go with it.

Thanks again, Mark, for the great additions to my set. I'll soon work on getting some cards sent your way!!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Knocking Back a Few for Father's Day

I had to make a run to the grocery store yesterday. That's something my wife usually does but she and my daughter were helping a couple who are getting ready to open a thrift store, and we were needing a few things for the Father's Day dinner at our house. Yeah, dad gets stuck doing the grocery shopping for his own day. I didn't mind, however, because that gave me an excuse to drive the 1.5 mile or so drive to Target. Do I really have to say why?

I try to always temper those high hopes when a new product is released. For whatever reason, it's usually a week or so after a product is released before our local retail stores have their card aisles stocked. Such is the punishment for living in Idaho.

This time, there would be no disappointment. It's like the cardboard gods were looking out for me, making sure I'd be able to purchase that Father's Day present for myself.

Pack #1

540- Billy Hamilton
660- Jeanmar Gomez
492- Avisail Garcia
466- David Robertson
387- Zack Godley
All-Time All-Stars #ATAS-29 Hank Aaron
642- Renato Nunez
693- Matt Cain
398- Blake Treinen
383- Adam Frazier
530- Jabari Blash
429- Mark Melancon

Pack #2

474- Michael Pineda
616- Mark Trumbo
525- Curtis Granderson
683- Mac Williamson
472- Pittsburgh Pirates
497- Boston Red Sox
Memorable Moments #MM-4 Steve Carlton
Home Run Derby Champs #HRD-3 Cal Ripken, Jr.
Rediscover Topps- 2006 Topps UH296 Cardinals Team Leaders
676- Eric Hosmer
634- Danny Duffy
623- Melvin Upton Jr.
696- Jeff Mathis

Well, that was unusual to get three inserts in a single retail pack- at least, from my experience.

For the third pack, I went with one of those 72-card hanger boxes. I would have preferred a jumbo pack but they did not have any at the time. I'm not going to list every single individual card from the box, but I will note that there was a 3-card run identical to the last three in pack #2 (Duffy, Upton, Mathis). Nice collation, there, Topps.

 I'll just stop complaining there because in the middle of the 7 inserts was this card.

A red flag immediately went up; a base card, with a run of four inserts before and three inserts after it? That can mean only one thing. Checking out Beckett's 'cheat sheet' for SSP Variations confirmed my suspicions. Super Short Print. That'll be going on eBay.

As far as the other inserts, here are the others from the hanger box.

Thank you, cardboard gods, thank you very much! *blows kisses*

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Base(ball) Oddity #44: VIPs

News broke yesterday via the NSCC twitter account about the VIP cards for this year's National. And with this being the 30th anniversary of the iconic 1987 Topps baseball set, it's no surprise that the card manufacturer will revisit the design for those purchasing the VIP tickets.

Great- a Junior Griffey card. I can tell you right now that this card won't be added to my collection- there will be too many collectors clamoring for his card. I would hope that Topps would use an earlier photo from Junior's career, which started in 1987. It would have been really nice if they could somehow use a picture of the Kid in a Bellingham uniform, where he began his professional career.

I may not be able to add that wood-bordered design to my set, but I still have two other VIPs featuring a wood design...

These two cards were part of the 2011 NSCC VIP packages and were from a COMC purchase I made last year. Look up 'disappointment' in the sports card dictionary and both of these names might be included: Ackley, for failing to live up to the hype that was (unfairly) place upon him coming out of college, and Pineda, for being traded for Jesus Montero. Yankee fans have pulled their hair out over Pineda's inconsistency, but at least he's still pitching for your team; I don't really have anything positive to say about Montero.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

You Got Me, Donruss

I've been fairly vocal about my dislike of products such as Fleer (and then featured 1999 Fleer in yesterday's post) and the logo-less cards that Donruss has issued. It's pretty easy to be critical when you're a set collector- you just collect what you like. But these sub-par releases can cause consternation to the team set collector.

Having returned to being a team set collector has caused me to question just what should I collect? Are unlicensed products part of the goal? There are certainly no rules as to what a team set, or player collector, has to collect. But there is that part of me that feels like I need to add whatever I can to the binder pages; it's that sense of being a completist, I suppose. This feeling has led me down the path of picking up recent Donruss issues such as the 2017 Dominator and 2016 Disco Ball card.

One thing I have realized through this change in collector status: it was much easier when I was just collecting Topps sets.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Happy Anniversary?

I received an email yesterday reminding me of an anniversary I apparently wasn't even aware of. No, it wasn't my wife sending a message, scolding me for a forgotten anniversary; it was from eBay, offering a look at some of the 'milestones we've shared' (their words) and a look ahead to our future together. Sounds like a serious relationship.

To commemorate this union, I'm going to feature 18 cards- one for each year we've been together- each card, recently purchased off the website and arriving in the mail yesterday. Almost like an anniversary gift- to myself. Gifts on an anniversary are a tradition, right?

I've been critical of Fleer in the past, at one point saying the only set worth a damn was 1994 baseball. But upon further review, this offering from 1996 wasn't bad, either. In fact, the more I looked at it, the more I decided I needed to find a team set.

And so purchase a team set was exactly what I did- all 31 cards. But being that it's only our 18th anniversary, the other 13 cards will have to wait to be featured. When and on what occasion... I haven't a clue.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Nautical Nees #3: 2016 Archives '85 #1 Draft Picks

The 2017 MLB draft begins today, with the Twins selecting first. While there doesn't seem to be a consensus #1 overall pick, there is reportedly a list of five players who are locks for the top five picks, Hunter Greene being the only one I've ever heard of (I no longer follow college or high school ball).

You might remember that Topps included an insert set in last year's Archives, paying homage to the 1985 Topps #1 Draft Picks subset. I'm not putting the entire insert set together, but am in need of 1 for my Mariners team set. The card needed is # 85DP-AR of Alex Rodriguez.

Prior to the Mariners taking Alex Rodriguez first overall in '93, the team had the first pick three other times, drafting Al Chambers in 1979, Mike Moore in 1981 and Ken Griffey Jr in 1987. 

So who's the best #1 pick of all-time? Is it Chipper, with his 85 WAR, 1 World Series ring and the 1999 MVP?  Griffey's WAR is just south of Chipper's, at 83.6. The Kid also won an MVP, but didn't get the title. Perhaps a case should be made for Arod, whose 117.2 WAR ranks 16th all-time. He, too, has a ring to go along with 3 MVPs and numerous other awards. Something tells me his admitted steroid use and his reputation of being a prima donna won't garner him many votes.

Needed: 2016 Topps Archives #85DP-AR Alex Rodriguez. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Food-Issue Friday: Ballooned

Our recent week-long vacation was bookended by a high-school graduation (night before leaving) and then two weddings in two nights immediately upon returning home. Throw in my wife's birthday after those weddings and what you have is a stretch of us eating out for dinner in 10 of 12 days. Lest we forget mid-day meals, there were seven days of eating out for lunch while in Oregon (then another one a couple of days after returning home). While that equates to a lot of money forked out to many different establishments, I bring this up because of how I felt upon returning to work this past Monday: bloated.

Speaking of things that have ballooned astronomically...

It's an Arod oddball, from the 1997 Denny's set.

After having Upper Deck produce its first five offerings, Denny's 1997 set marked the second year of the set being produced by Pinnacle. Once again, the hologram was incorporated into the design, being used on the back of the card, while the front sported 3-D technology (a first for the Denny's series). One-card packs were available at the restaurant for 59 cents between June 26- September 3, with ten cents from each sale going to children's charities.

If only Denny's were running a similar promotion while we were on vacation. It would have been Denny's every morning, noon and night.