Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My work here is done

If I were to stop collecting right now, immediately this very minute, ignore the card show coming up this weekend, return the amount in my paypal account to the bank, leave the cash that I received for my birthday for the express purpose of purchasing more cardboard on the counter, I will have led a good hobby life.

In many ways, I'm done.

I don't need to acquire any more cards. I own far more than I ever thought I'd obtain, and have far more interesting cards than I ever thought possible even five years ago.

A few recent developments have lead me to this.

The first came when I received yet another card bonanza from Jaybarkerfan's Junk. As I often do, after first going through the cards, I then figure out which ones are duplicates. There were a lot of duplicates, which is no problem because there were a lot of terrific non-duplicates, too, which you'll see soon.

I put the duplicates where I normally do, and then -- I don't know what possessed me to do it this time -- I took a picture of where they're stored.

Here is a look at my Dodgers card dupes:

Sorry about the card blurriness, this is a dark corner under my desk.

The box at the bottom (ignore the writing on there, that was from a long, long time ago) is packed full of Dodgers doubles. Inside that box is one full set of columns on the bottom, followed with another full set of columns stacked on top of the bottom columns, with some small rows jammed on the end.

And then there are the stacks, there are six of them that you see there, of cards that don't fit in the box. There is also a separate stack up on shelf that you can't see.

Once upon a time on this blog, I advised people to go through their doubles periodically because you never know when you'll find a card in there that you actually need.

I now shudder at the thought of that.

I also haven't organized my doubles in probably a couple of years. That's both a function of less time and MOAR DOUBLES.

And when I see what's before me, there is that inevitable thought:

Are we done here?


OK, the other occurrence that caused me to consider whether I've accomplished everything I need to do.

Often, people ask me out of the blue if I need a certain card. I am always grateful for the thought. Thinking of little ol' me just because they have spare Dodgers card.

But I didn't know how high on the priority list I actually am. Here is a tweeted response from a blogger when I thanked him for considering me:

Honestly, I think that's all I can accomplish. There is no chance I eventually surpass Koufax or Robinson on that list, so everything else from here on out is either a lateral move or heading down.

But when you see something like that, your thought -- or at least my thought -- is: (*fist bump*) mission accomplished.

I wanted people to send me Dodgers. Now they do it almost as a reflex action. Right after thinking of the man who broke the color barrier.

What else is there to do?

Well, I guess the least I could do is show the cards that Jaybarkerfan's Junk sent.

I sincerely hope he did not spend $10 for this card. First, that's too much to spend on a card you're going to send to me. Second, I still can't figure out why these are so valued -- if they are anymore. I'm going to hope it's because of rarity and not stitching. Please tell me these were rare.

More stitching. The heart of the package was relics. A whole mess of them as you can see.

I also no longer have room for all of my Dodger relics. A year or so ago I planned to weed out some of my relics. But that involved trading, selling and mailing and there is no time for that, so I've just let them pile up. The Delwyn Young relic is a dupe, that Shawn Green relic is Green relic No. 15 in my collection, so obviously I need to take some action.

But let's move on because I don't want to think of that.

I still have room for tobacco minis. I'm running out of pages, but at least I can buy more without worrying about creating a fire hazard.

I also have a space rule for vintage. If I receive vintage doubles of Dodgers from 1977 or earlier, I file them in the appropriate binders.

Anything after 1977 goes in the dupes pile that you just saw in that picture. So the above cards are safe. I think that might be my 7th or 8th 1977 Cey, so I may have to bump the rule back to 1976.

OK, now here -- here is why I am not calling it quits (I had some of you worried this whole time, huh?). This lousy 2014 Topps Series Kenley Jansen card is why I'm still pressing forward.

This is just the third Dodger from Series 2 that I own. That's all I have. For someone who comes third behind Koufax and Robinson, don't you think I would have wrapped up all the Series 2 Dodgers by now?

Clearly I have still have some very important work to do.

My work here is NOT done.

Not by a long shot.

(*clears throat*)

Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Night Owl.

I want your Dodgers cards.

Tell your friends.

Thank you.

Monday, July 21, 2014

C.A.: 1978 Topps Mark Lemongello

(I suppose you've heard that today is National Junk Food Day. Why this day isn't scheduled for a Sunday in October is beyond me. But mostly I want to know, where is National Junk Wax Day? We could schedule it for every August 27 -- August always needs a holiday -- and celebrate by dumping our surplus 1991 Donruss in the river. Think about it. In the meantime, here is Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 209th in a series):

Let's start with the name, since that's what draws everyone's attention first.

To be honest, I didn't make the connection when I first saw this card in 1978. Mark Lemongello? Lemon Jello? It sailed directly over my head. This was probably because I was in seventh grade at the time and completely smitten with a devastatingly pretty girl named Lisa Maringelli. "Lemongello" and "Maringelli" are much too similar when you're 12 years old and in love.

So, to me, at that time, this Lemongello was a cool dude, because his name glides off the tongue -- like Maringelli -- not because it glides down the throat like lemon jello.

Next, let's address everything else you've read about Lemongello, because he's been written about more than a few times.

 You've probably heard that he had a temper. He wrecked things. He'd take out a clubhouse after a poor start. He punched through hotel ceiling tiles with his fists. He once smashed a Coke machine, destroyed a couple hairdryers, and when he was a teenager, obliterated his stereo system. There is video of him (uploaded by none other than Wrigley Wax) flipping out -- and flipping off -- on the field against the Cubs.

A former teammate and good friend of his at the time, Frank MacCormack, remembers the aftermath of a minor league game in 1975 in which Lemongello held a 9-0 lead before exiting in the sixth inning with a blister. The other team tied the game 11-11 and then won in the bottom of the ninth when the right fielder lost a ball in the sun and the winning run scored. Said MacCormack:

"Later, at a restaurant, there were a bunch of us, we ordered four T-bone steaks and four baked potatoes. Finally, after an hour and 15 minutes, the waitress put the food before us. But there was one T-bone steak with french fries and she made the mistake of putting them in front of Mark who hadn't said a word since the game, just sat there seething. The french fries made him go nuts. He picked up the french fries and threw them at her, hitting her on the back of the head. Then he picked up the steak and fired it off the wall on the far side of the room. We told the manager we didn't know him."

This story, the others, and even more, including the time he bit a chunk out of his own shoulder, can be found in a Montreal Gazette story from 1979. It also recounts how Lemongello famously mocked Toronto and the Blue Jays when he was traded there by Houston, and how his family believes his increasing outbursts were due to losing a brother to bone cancer in 1976. Near the end of his major league career, he showed up Blue Jays manager Roy Hartsfield, letting the ball drop and walking away when the manager came to take him out of a game.

OK, now let's get to the kidnapping.

There was the time in 1982 when Lemongello and another pitcher, a former minor leaguer, abducted his two cousins and forced them to withdraw $50,000 from a bank and then dumped the two in the woods. (The two cousins, by the way, were Mike Lemongello, a former pro bowler, and Peter Lemongello, a former crooner who appeared on the Tonight Show several times -- but that's another story).

Mark Lemongello was sentenced to community work and seven years probation, which he served. The whole incident allegedly evolved from a dispute related to work that Lemongello was doing on Astros pitcher Joe Sambito's house.

But you know all that. It's all there on the internets. A number of times.

When I write about well-covered topics like this one, I try to find something that I haven't seen everywhere else. The most ideal nugget would be to determine what Lemongello is doing now. After all, today is his 59th birthday, and someone somewhere must be celebrating that, right?

Sadly, since serving his sentence, Lemongello seems to have dropped off the earth -- or at least off the internet.

But I did find something interesting that I didn't see anywhere else.

Lemongello began his professional career with the Detroit Tigers. He was signed by them in 1973. In 1975, he played for the Tigers' Double A club in Evansville, Indiana.

One of the pitchers in the same rotation as Lemongello that year was ... Mark Fidrych.

Lemongello and Fidrych were ON THE SAME TEAM!

Evansville must have been the most entertaining place to watch baseball in 1975. On one side you had Fidrych, charging out of the dugout, congratulating infielders in the middle of the game after nice plays, talking to himself, exhibiting hyper energy at all times; and on the other side you had Lemongello, a brooding perfectionist, whose outbursts were as volatile as Fidrych's were gleeful.

And here's another thing: Fidrych and Lemongello, along with MacCormack, Ed Glynn and Dennis DeBarr, were roommates.

Holy heck, the '70s were great.

So, I don't know where Lemongello is, and I hope the fact that he hasn't popped up in the public eye since 1983 means he's settled down and is enjoying a quiet birthday today.

But at least I know something that I didn't know before:

They need to make a movie about the 1975 Evansville Triplets. Right now.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I guess I collect prospects now?

I made an off-handed comment about the hype over the Dodgers' best hitting prospect a few posts ago. I hold no ill will toward Joc Pederson. In fact, if he was called up today to replace Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier, I wouldn't say a word.

My point was that you never know what you're going to get with prospects, no matter how good they look in the minors.

Part of my viewpoint on this is my age. The longer I am a fan, the less gullible and more cynical I've become. I've lived through Joe Simpson, Mike Marshall, Greg Brock, Jack Perconte, Mike Huff, Rafael Bournigal, Karim Garcia, Wilton Guerrero, Adam Riggs, Delwyn Young, Xavier Paul and a host of others that I've long since forgotten. They tore up Triple A and, at best, put together an average major league career.

The other reason I hesitate over players like Pederson is I live a long way from where the Dodgers' top prospects play. Albuquerque and Chattanooga, and before that, Las Vegas, Jacksonville and San Antonio, are nowhere near me. I don't get the chance to evaluate these players in person.

So, when another of these prime prospect types comes along, I stand with my arms crossed and say, "show me".

Well, Corey from the Tim Wallach blog did show me. In the form of cards. He happens to live where Pederson's name comes up more often than anywhere else outside of Los Angeles-based social media. Corey and Pederson each apply their trade in New Mexico, and apparently, judging by the package I received from Corey, there are stores in New Mexico that you can go to where all they sell are Joc Pederson cards.

How else would you explain this?:



I used to be proud of the seven Joc Pederson cards that I was able to muster before this package arrived at my home. Now, I have about 20 cards of a guy who has never played in the major leagues to this point.

This is very uncomfortable. I guess I'm collecting prospects now?

Since I try to avoid cards of players until they reach the majors, a couple of things I noted with these cards that prospect collectors already know or brush off:

1. The helmets. I can't get used to those helmets.
2. Player-collecting of minor leaguers is odd just because some of them aren't full developed yet and you can see their body types and even their faces change over just a couple of years. This reminds me of how close these guys are to high school and it weirds me right out.
3. I don't collect "minor league only" cards unless it's a complete set issued by a team or a league. The Heritage minors set looks nice, but I can't get over that every player in it is a minor leaguer and I'd have a difficult time spending money on that.
4. The repetition of images would drive me to drink if I was a player collector.
5. I can't get over how accustomed I am to someone's first name being "Joc".

For the record, I hope Pederson has an exceptional career with the Dodgers, and that fans aren't demanding he be traded four years from now (but they probably will no matter how well Pederson is doing).

But even after more than doubling my Joc Pederson collection, I'm not ready to guarantee anything about his career.

That's because I remember Bobby Mitchell. And Billy Ashley. And Antonio Perez ...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Awesome night card, pt. 219

I tracked down a 1 1/2-inch binder today and paged my complete 2011 Topps Lineage 1975-style mini insert set.

Here is a quick snapshot:

Isn't it beautiful?

I admit I am a bit concerned that the thrill of both completing this set and having pages that fit these cards is fading a little. The excitement of both feats should stay around forever.

I guess that's why I blog, to keep the thrill going a little longer.

Completing a 200-card insert set is no easy achievement and these minis marked the first time I ever thought of doing such a thing. If the cards weren't a tribute to my favorite cards from the first year that I collected, I never would have attempted such insanity.

Now I'm standing over my purchased binder with the cards all paged, yelling to myself, "THIS WAS DIFFICULT, DAMN IT! DON'T YOU REMEMBER? BE MORE EXCITED!"

Anyway ...

After having paged the "real" 1975 Topps mini set and now the Lineage mini set, with the perfectly fitted pages that UltraPro so graciously sent me, I have a handful of mini pages left over.

What to do. What to do.

I'm pretty certain that I will use the remainder to store any 1970s Kellogg's cards I obtain. The skinner ones (1979, 1980, 1983) swish around in the pockets a little too much for my liking. But the Kellogg's cards I really like, which are between 1974-78, are the perfect size.

But it'll take awhile before I get to Kellogg's on the priority list.

So what should I store in those pages in the meantime?

I'm considering one mini-card page of night cards.

In the past I shunned mini night cards because the night card binder is in order by number and I'm not putting mini cards next to regular-size cards in customary 9-pocket page and then watching the mini cards flap around when I turn a page.

But if I segregate the mini cards in a mini-card page -- at the "kids' table," so to speak -- then that will take care of my OCD. It will be a page of honor for mini-night carddom.

Until I need the page for Kellogg's.

Sorry, I discovered Kellogg's 3-D action long before night cards.


Night card binder candidate: David Freese, 2013 Topps 1972-style mini insert, #TM-52
Does it make the binder?: Yes, in the special "kids table" mini page.

Friday, July 18, 2014

When cards were for kids

I received a handful of cards recently from the ever-generous Mark Hoyle, and as I was looking at them, I suddenly became proud of the era in which I started collecting cards.

No, I didn't start collecting in 1966. I'm not that old. But I did begin in the mid-1970s. And at that time, collecting cards was still a kid's hobby. There were no adults who collected cards. I remember reading about a noted dealer who collected in the 1960s who said he would almost have to hide his hobby from other adults for fear of being ridiculed.

So, I think I came along at the right time. When I collected as a kid, that's what kids were supposed to do. And now that I'm an adult, that's what adults are supposed to do. Eighty to ninety percent of the attendance at every card show is adults.

But back to those glorious days when cards were manufactured for kids and no one else.

The designs for cards back then were remarkably simple. I'm not sure how much thought Topps (and past card companies) puts into their adult consumers when they create card designs, but I have a feeling that back in the '50s, '60s and '70s, they didn't think about it all that much. What did a kid care about design? All kids care about are the guy in the picture and bright colors. There is so much you can get away with when manufacturing for kids.

Even the backs, while filled with adult-like features like statistics and transactions, retained a kid flavor with a brightly colored background. And, of course, there was a cartoon, which was a staple for cards from the 1950s right through the early '80s, when, not so coincidentally, cards became an investment for adults.

(By the way, the back of this Lou Johnson card looks like it came directly out of a pack. It almost looks like a reprint, it is so pristine).

Speaking as a former kid, who remembers what it was like to be a kid (don't you just hate those adults who don't?), I know that the fact that the first set I ever collected -- the 1975 Topps set -- was so brightly colored was what helped get me hooked on cards. I loved that red, blue, pink and yellow so much that it was almost like candy, because god knows the gum was inedible.

Mark also sent some Classic game Dodgers cards from a different era of collecting.

Even though Classic came out with cards during the junk wax period when people were gobbling up cards because they were going to make them rich, there was still a kid-element to cards of that period.

They were still brightly colored -- Classic is Example A -- and they still felt like kid fodder. Classic featured quiz questions on the back and were part of a game. And there was space at the bottom for a player's autograph -- or your own if you were feeling egotistical.

As cynical as we get about the cards from 1987-93, there was still a general feeling at the time that "cards were for kids." The Donruss and Fleer designs from that period will tell you that.

So, it was a changing but still innocent time -- yeah, I'm going to save a few of these ones for my stock portfolio, but really the cards are for the kids.

Mark also threw in a couple of cards from an even later period, when I don't think cards were for kids anymore.

These are from the Just Minors set from 1999.

The fact that there was a card company created to nationally produce a card set featuring minor leaguers -- a.k.a. "prospects" -- is all you need to know about the market for baseball cards in the late '90s.

No longer was it for kids clueless about the players on the front. They knew exactly who those guys were, and who was in the minors, too. Because "the next big thing" was what was going to have value. In fact, I don't even know if I consider kids who think like this "kids". That's a rather adult viewpoint. And, of course, adults had begun to take over the baseball card market by this point.

Today, kids -- if they collect cards -- collecting small rectangles of fantasy figures. Some still collect athletes' cards because I see those kids here and there. But mostly, Topps and Panini are marketing for adults like you and me, who critique endlessly the design, quality, collation, value and other Very Adult concepts.

Cards aren't for kids anymore. Haven't been for a long time.

But as long as I don't look at my collection like it's a ticket to a house in Hawaii or a blissful retirement, then cards can still be for the kid in me.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Some more semi-cranky observations on 2014 Allen and Ginter

I received a blaster of Allen and Ginter for my birthday. It's about time. After nearly a decade of broadcasting my love for baseball cards, people are beginning to realize that this is not a phase I am going through and that, "wow, I guess he really does like these things."

The most interesting card out of the blaster was the above card of Desmond Jennings. Yes, a Tampa Bay Ray was the most interesting card. More on that later.

First some observations:

1. Topps' collation sucks never collect modern cards put down those cards right now and RUN, RUN, RUN to vintage: I don't know if I'm just more observant and cynical about these things than in years past but seven of the 31 base cards that I pulled out of the blaster were dupes. That's 25 percent after opening only two A&G blasters and no other packs. That seems pretty high to me. Almost obnoxiously high. Someone crunch the numbers and see if I should be as irked as I am.

2. 2008 is not "yore": First of all, this is a terrific insert set and I'm sure everyone who opens a pack of A&G is collecting it. But word choice is important. Sure, Shea Stadium doesn't exist anymore. But it did exist six years ago. "Yore" is men in tights and "History Of The World, Pt. 1". It is not Wii Fit and frozen yogurt. I started a blog in 2008, for crying out loud. I am NOT Yore!

3. What is it about Expos uniforms that turn me into a goopy mess of nostalgia?: I love, love this card. It's not because it's Tim Raines, because actually I'm sick of hearing about Raines and how he belongs in the Hall. Yes I get it, I agree, stop mentioning it every two weeks, now please just go away. I love the card because of the uniform and the helmet. I am now more of an Expos fan than I ever was when the team existed -- by far. It's like I'm one of those dirtbag boyfriends who cheats on his girlfriend until she leaves and then gets all pathetic about how she was the only woman for him. COME BACK EXPOS, COME BACK!!!!!!!

4. How much did this site shell out to get included in this set?: This is one of the cards that I was referring to in my last Ginter post. We're supposed to collect a card of this guy because he created a supposedly popular blog. I had never heard of "Barstool Sports" before I found out its creator was in the set. When I googled the site, I suddenly missed those blissful days when I didn't know what Barstool Sports was. Don't click this link if you don't want to be dumber. What a steaming pile of every internet stereotype this thing is. I looked at it for no more than a minute and saw references to Hooters girls, Charlie Sheen and hot sorority chicks. I like pretty girls as much as the next guy, and really where would the world be without boobs, but this site makes me feel like I'm going to contract 47 different viruses, computer or otherwise, after viewing it for 30 seconds. Why is Topps recognizing this? And why oh why in the name of under-the-table deals is there a second card of another Barstool Sports blogger? If A&G is turning into a commercial for stupid shit, I'll stop collecting it. Because A&G used to be known as a set where you could learn something -- other than what the latest teacher sex scandal is.

4. Before I get too grouchy, here's what I still like about A&G: There is no other set on the planet where you can pull minis of both Brooks Robinson and Deion Sanders. That's one of the many reasons why I keep coming back and hopefully will continue to do so. Both of these cards made my frankenset mini binder.

5. Speaking of Orioles (and Braves): Why can't I have this kind of luck with Dodgers? Out of the four Pastime's Pastimes I pulled three were Orioles. I'm pretty sure I pulled the entire Orioles set in one blaster. The other PP was a Brave. By the way, Chris Davis' "pastime" is working out, which I'm pretty sure is part of his job.

6. This is not a black border: This is what passes for a black border this year. It is not a black border. There are rows of white in that border. Black borders are black. Still, Kipnis goes in the frankenset binder because it likes to laugh at me, which is why I have two cards of Jason Kubel sitting right next to each other in it.

7. OK, back to Desmond: What you see on the front is a common variety base card of Desmond Jennings. He is listed as card #114 in the set.

Let's turn the card over:

There is no card number on the back.

Now I'm accustomed to seeing no-number backs on minis, but I've never seen one on the back of a regular base card.

So, the obvious question is: Does this have to do with the Ginter Code?

If it does, I'll never know because I have a job and I don't do codes. The other possibilities are a printing error, a variation, or something I didn't think about because -- ha, ha! -- someone is always bringing up something I didn't think about.

It seems that others are pulling the same thing. Crackin' Wax did a case break and pulled a mess of Jennings no numbers. And the folks at Twitter have already weighed in by claiming "all of them are like that." I don't know how they've seen every Desmond Jennings A&G card that exists, but that's what they say.

But mostly I just want folks to know that there are NO-NUMBERED BASE CARDS.


More meddlin' in the base set.