Wednesday, April 16, 2014

They don't make 'em like they used to

I'm sure that to some collectors, and even some bloggers, I'm old-fashioned. My collecting interests are focused on traditional set-collecting and vintage cards. My collecting mindset is stuck in the 1970 and 1980s. I regularly bag on modern innovations like artificial short-prints and cards imbedded with coins.

I do try to keep myself up to date -- in cards, as well as in life -- by purchasing some modern stuff, dabbling in player-collecting, welcoming parallel madness to a degree, and knowing who the hot player of the moment is.

But I fear that it's probably hopeless. Even if I write about modern cards, the way I write and my viewpoint is probably desperately out of date to some people. I'm just an old guy in his 40s to them.

And it's true. I like stuff that you just can't find anymore. Because it's old, like me.

To illustrate, I have some more 1975 Topps minis, sent to me by Jim, a.k.a., mr. haverkamp. These cards, as I've mentioned before, connect me to my childhood better than any other set ever made. But the sad fact is that a lot of things about cards from my childhood just don't exist anymore.

For example, head shots. If you want head shots in a Topps set, you'll have to go to Heritage. They don't make head shots in flagship anymore. And I don't think they have since the early 1990s. It's all action all the time now.

Another example. Airbrushing. Airbrushing has been replaced by photoshopping. It can still look as amateurish as airbrushing, but in general photoshopping does the trick better, albeit in not as charming of a fashion.

Highlights or "record-breaker" cards. I don't think there has been a subset series in Topps dedicated to record breakers in a little more than a decade. I know there have been random highlight-type cards with checklists on the back in recent sets, but I don't consider that the same thing.

Four-player rookie cards. Again, if you want those, you have to go to Heritage. Topps hasn't produced a four-player rookie card in flagship since the late 1970s. As you know, it's imperative that every last rookie has at least 48 cards before he even makes the majors -- oops, sorry, that's the old man talking again.

Team cards. Topps hasn't put a team-picture card in a flagship set since 2007. You can't even find them in recent editions of Heritage, even though there were most definitely team-picture cards in Heritage tribute sets like 1963, 1964 and 1965 Topps.

Card-front checklists as a numbered part of the set. When was the last time that happened? Probably the early 1990s again. Today it's all: deface a card from the set???? Are you insane???? (For the record, this sometimes modern-type collector would like to find an unchecked version of these cards).

The Expos. There hasn't been an Expo in a Topps flagship set since 2005. Because they stopped existing. This just makes me more and more sad every year. (And there were times when the Expos did exist that I didn't even like them).

Every '75 mini card that mr. haverkamp sent contained at least one thing that doesn't exist anymore, whether in the card world or the baseball world.

That can mean only one thing:

Even though I don't think of the 1975 Topps set as ancient at all, it probably actually is.

And so am I.

But that's OK.

I like the '75 set. And I like me.

They just don't make 'em like they used to.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sometimes I'm a numbers guy

So, I'm a word guy. I understand words. I write words for a living. I GET words.

Words make sense to me. Words come out of me instinctively. I can convey what I want to say with words better than any other vehicle that we have here on earth.

But sometimes I like numbers. When they don't make my brain hurt, numbers are fun. Numbers define and categorize and make sense of an incomprehensible world. They're also excellent at summing up what it would take hundreds of words to say.

For example, "42".

Today is Jackie Robinson Day and everyone is remembering what that man meant to baseball, this nation and our world. A lot of it has been said many times before, and that doesn't mean it's not worth saying again, but sometimes all that needs to be said is simply:


Just say it. Just wear it. The number does the work. Number 42 means "yes," and "I agree," and "the dude was the man," without anyone having to say anything else ... or anything.

Topps has done this a few times with 42. The first time I was aware of it was on the 50th anniversary of Robinson's integration of Major League Baseball. In the 1997 set, card No. 42 was this card:

That was pretty cool. Because Topps almost never tied the card number on the back with the player on the front, unless it was one of those hero numbers ending in "5" or "0".

Of course, since then Topps has used the card number on the back for more mundane recognition, like its endlessly boring love letter to Mickey Mantle, and the weird thing it did in the 2013 set by matching current players with their uniform number.

But one thing that I don't think Topps has ever done with its card numbers is used the number on the back to connect the player's card to the corresponding year.

This has interested me for a long time and tonight I'm going to do something about it.

I want to know every player who appeared in a Topps base set whose card number matched the year in which it came out. For example:

Yoenis Cespedes is card. No. 14 in the 2014 Topps set.

I want to see that for every year since 1952.

Got it?

OK. For record-keeping purposes, I've added the actual card back number image with the cards that I do have in my collection. If there's no card number image, then, sadly, I lack that card.

Time to nerd out on card back numbers:

1952 Topps - Don Mueller, #52

1953 Topps - Sherman Lollar, #53

1954 Topps - Vern Stephens, #54

1955 Topps - Rip Repulski, #55

1956 Topps - Dale Long, #56

1957 Topps - Jim Lemon, #57

1958 Topps - Art Schult, #58

1959 Topps - Irv Noren, #59

1960 Topps - Gus Triandos, #60

1961 Topps - Ron Piche, #61

1962 Topps - Steve Boros, #62

1963 Topps - Cincinnati Reds team, #63

1964 Topps - Ted Abernathy, #64

1965 Topps - Tony Kubek, #65

1966 Topps - Al Weis, #66

1967 Topps - Ken Berry, #67

1968 Topps - Ron Willis, #68

1969 Topps - Steve Hamilton, #69

1970 Topps - American League Pitching Leaders, #70

1971 Topps - American League Strikeout Leaders, #71

1972 Topps - Bruce Kison, #72

1973 Topps - Ed Herrmann, #73

1974 Topps - Minnesota Twins team, #74

1975 Topps - Ted Simmons, #75

1976 Topps - Willie Crawford, #76

1977 Topps - Dyar Miller, #77

1978 Topps - Pablo Torrealba, #78

1979 Topps - Ted Cox, #79

1980 Topps - Ron LeFlore, #80

1981 Topps - Dave Stapleton, #81

1982 Topps - Bob Welch, #82

1983 Topps - Ryne Sandberg, #83

1984 Topps - Lenny Faedo, #84

1985 Topps - Mike Marshall, #85

1986 Topps - Tom Waddell, #86

1987 Topps - Mark Salas, #87

1988 Topps - Earnie Riles, #88

1989 Topps - Dave LaPoint, #89

1990 Topps - Jack Clark, #90

1991 Topps - Greg Colbrunn, #91

1992 Topps - Lenny Harris, #92

1993 Topps - Pedro Astacio, #93

1994 Topps - Garret Anderson, #94

1995 Topps - Mark Langston, #95

1996 Topps - Cal Ripken, #96

1997 Topps - Greg Myers, #97

1998 Topps - Kurt Abbott, #98

1999 Topps - Derek Bell, #99

2001 Topps - Cal Ripken, #1

2002 Topps - Mike Stanton, #2

2003 Topps - Jimmy Rollins, #3

2004 Topps - Edgardo Alfonzo, #4

2005 Topps - Johnny Damon, #5

2006 Topps - Armando Benitez, #6

2007 Topps - Mickey Mantle, #7

2008 Topps - Stephen Drew, #8

2009 Topps - Dallas McPherson, #9

2010 Topps - Clayton Kershaw, #10

2011 Topps - National League Wins Leaders, #11

2012 Topps - Wilson Ramos, #12

2013 Topps - Brett Lawrie, #13

OK, a couple of notes:

1. The only card above that I can make a case for the player's card number corresponding with the designated year is the Cal Ripken card in 1996. Sure, Ripken broke Gehrig's consecutive games played streak in 1995, but what better way to recognize the new record than in the new year of 1996? I don't know if that's what happened, but it's possible.

2. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has made the connection of Ryne Sandberg's rookie card number matching the year of his first card. But that was just luck as few saw Sandberg's success coming at that point.

3. That is my first look at the 1970 Pitching Leaders card. Wow. Topps had to squeeze six players on there because in 1969, four A.L. pitchers won exactly 20 games to tie for third place.

4. I skipped 2000 Topps because there is no card "0." And I don't think card No. 100 works with it.

So, there you go. I think all that scanning satisfied my curiosity forever.

I hope everyone had a happy Jackie Robinson Day.

Oh, and bring that Ron LeFlore 1980 card number back here one more time.

Today is also my dad's 80th birthday.

The number says it all.