Friday, February 24, 2017

Two Steady Eddie fans

Today is Eddie Murray's 61st birthday, and for that occasion I have now trotted out this 1985 Topps card of Murray on two social media sites. It really is the greatest Eddie Murray card.

Even though I am a Dodger fan, I identify Murray with the Orioles, of course. He played for Baltimore for the first decade of his career and only a handful of years with the Dodgers. For 10 years, there was nothing but Murray Orioles cards in my collection.

Murray almost never talked to the press, which is a reason for me to dislike him. But I can't help it. I still like him. Someone who I know also likes him is Commish Bob. He just happened to showcase a bunch of Murray cards on his blog yesterday, Murray's birthday eve.

And I just happened to receive some cards from Commish Bob recently. None of them are Eddie Murray cards, but they sure are great. I'll lay the most spectacular on you first.

Those are a bunch of 1956 Topps off my want list. Not many names I know -- although I owned Frank Baumholtz's 1955 Topps card as young teenager after pulling it out of one of those baseball card bubble gum machines.

But I'm not done showing the '56s.

Lots more goodies. As usual, '56 lots like this make me want to get cracking on grabbing some of the more famous items in the set, just so I'm not scrounging for the likes of Williams and Clemente and Mays all at once at the end.

Commish Bob mentioned that some of these may be fillers until I can upgrade. But the vast majority I'll throw in the '56 binder without any thought of finding a replacement.

OK, this one I might upgrade.

I'm sure this card fools no one. It's not a '56, but one of those 2017 Topps ads. Now that I own the '56 Robinson, I shrug my shoulders every Topps produces another remake. But I must collect it.

I also received the only Dodger first-pitch entrant in 2017 Series 1. I didn't know who Keegan-Michael Key was when I first came across the First Pitch list for this year. You TV watchers know he's a comedian, from Comedy Central and Parks and Rec and a few other places. I use TV for baseball, weather and local news, these days, so another shoulder shrug from me.

Now I get to open one of the Jackie Robinson "patch" cards that are in blasters this year!

Let's see what's inside:

Altuve. This card traveled all the way from the Houston area so somebody in the Northeast could open it. So far I've opened two of these and pulled an Oriole and an Astro. I should open all of these for you, Commish.

There was one other group of cards in this package that when I saw the card on top, my heart skipped a beat.

I know this card means nothing to anyone who didn't grow up in the '70s/isn't a Dodger fan. But there is nothing that gets to the center of my collecting core than cards from the mid-'70s, particularly if they're Dodgers. Lance Rautzhan was a prospect that I rooted for back then, although he received just one solo card, in the 1979 Topps set.

This card is from the 1975 TCMA set for the Waterbury Dodgers, a Double A Eastern League team that was a Dodgers affiliate from 1973-76. It's odd that the Dodgers would have an affiliate so far east, in Connecticut.

I received 11 cards from the set. That's not the whole set, there are players like Rafael Landestoy and Glenn Burke in this set. Future manager Jim Riggleman, too.

I didn't receive any of those, but I did receive this one:

I now own a Badcock.

You can BIN one of these for $12.99 if you like. Mine came much more cheaply. What a fantastic card.

Tom Badcock toiled in the Cubs organization for the first half of the '70s, getting to Triple A, before moving over to the Dodgers for two years. He pitched for Waterbury in 1975 and 1976, then ended up in the Indians and Royals organizations but never made the majors.

I will treasure this card, like I treasure all minor league cards from the '70s (one day, when I have a lot of money to blow, I'm going to buy every 1970s minor league set ever made).

These TCMAs were the highlight of the package for me, better than any "patch" card (it's not a patch!) and even better than the '56s.

It's all about where you're coming from.

And I'm always coming from the '70s.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

1968 Topps, the untold story

Topps Heritage is scheduled to be released next week and already images of what is on the way, in the tribute to the 1968 design, are all over the internet.

Of course, the only cards that have been shown so far are cards that will be almost impossible to get. I've seen the dual signature Nolan Ryan-Johnny Bench card about a dozen times now (it's been declared the card of the year -- I don't consider a card whose access is limited to deep-pocket collectors as "card of the year"). I've also seen the signed Mike Trout card a few times. Again, this isn't anything I am looking to pull.

There also have been recently published looks at the 1968 Topps set since everyone -- god help us -- is going to see that burlap design for all of 2017.

Topps just issued its own retrospective of the set. It's worth the read, especially for collectors who don't know a lot about '60s sets. But the piece focuses on the same three items that I often see from these set reviews from hobby publications or others in the hobby:

Rookies. Errors. Stars.

The '80s just ruined us. Every write-up: "here are the hot rookies, here are the errors to look for, here are the stars you player-collectors can find." And nothing else.

I understand why Topps does this, especially with Heritage. Rookies give Topps the opportunity to flaunt parallels or inserts or autographs/relics of those players and they draw a high premium. Errors (and there are a few in '68 Topps) give Topps the opportunity for variations. And stars give Topps the opportunity to backload them into the short-print portion of the set, the final 75 cards. (I checked out the Heritage checklist yesterday and called Corey Seager being a short-print before I even opened the file).

These three items make Topps money. So that's why they're stressed. Why other publications stress rookies/errors/stars exclusively, I'm not sure, other than that maybe the vast majority of readers care about that stuff. I live in a card-blogging bubble where commons are just as treasured as the hottest rookie or biggest star, so my view is skewed. But I would think people who are about to dig into the 2017 Heritage set would want a more accurate, unvarnished look at the 1968 Topps set.

So, here is a little of that for you now.

First, the set is ugly. No offense to Hank Aguirre here -- I wouldn't fair very well if they slapped a goofy, smiling head shot of me with no hat and the wrong uniform onto a card -- but it just is.

There was a reason I ranked it 53rd all-time among all of Topps' base sets a couple years ago. And people who were actually kids in 1968 agreed. That's not to say that there aren't collectors who do like the set and try to collect it. I know a few of them right now. That's why there is chocolate and tutti frutti. But the general consensus is the burlap design is one of the least attractive designs Topps has ever produced.

You'll never see Topps mention that in its retrospective piece though.

The '68 set is filled with players with no hats.

And it's filled with players with blacked-out hats.

Will we see that in 2017 Heritage? I doubt it. And I'm OK with that. The combination of the burlap design and the blacked-out caps heightened the ugly factor. I would think Topps wants people to buy these cards.

The 1968 set is one of the most inconsistent visually because of the difference in the borders in the first series. The border for first-series cards featured much wider spacing in the pattern. The rest of the cards displayed a more old-style television feel (which is what I believe Topps was going for in '68).

The inconsistency in design is a real turn-off for my OCD. I have no plans to ever try to complete this set, but if I were, this aspect of it would create a throbbing pain over my right eye.

The '68 set is all about horned-rim glasses. I don't suppose we'll see any of those in 2017 Heritage. Every year I try to reconcile current ballplayer fashion with old-school Heritage designs. Seeing arm-sleeve tattoos with the burlap borders is going to be freaky.

The '68 set is about players milling about in the background. I hope there's some of that in 2017 Heritage.

It's about people sitting in the background, too. It's about miscut cards. And it's apparently about the flag of Austria.

'68 Topps is about holes in workout clothes.

It's about scribbles on the uniform (because kids and only kids collected these).

It's about guys in slacks half cut out of photos and a random camera lens appearing out of nowhere (at least I hope that's a camera lens).

And it's about puzzles on the back of the All-Star cards. Will there be puzzles on the back of the 2017 Heritage all-star cards? I'm going to say yes.

Who will be featured? In 1968, the players featured were Orlando Cepeda and Carl Yastrzemski, the respective MVPs from the previous year.

That would follow that the 2017 Heritage puzzles would be Mike Trout and Kris Bryant, two of Topps' darlings. So, yes, now I am 100 percent sure there will be puzzle backs in 2017 Heritage.

My bit of rambling gives you a little bit more insight into the '68 set than "these are the rookies, errors and stars, the end." For even more and better insight, find someone who collected the cards then. I was 2 years old at the time, I'm hardly an expert on those cards. But kids who opened packs in 1968 are the experts and they can give you the full picture.

Not just the picture that will make a company more money.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I freeze at Chinese restaurant buffets, too

One thing I still can't get accustomed to with modern shopping is the sheer variety all in one place. For years I operated in a world with only four channels on my television, a handful of station on the radio and a sports magazine that arrived once a week.

Much like someone who grew up during the depression (my apologies for comparing the '70s to the Great Depression), that period will be with me forever, and I'm still adjusting to the grand smorgasbord that appears before us whenever we fancy.

The best example of my inability to fully grasp this is whenever I select cards on COMC. I absolutely cannot focus. I have a variety of collecting interests, so that plays a part, but I cannot commit myself to a single shopping task and finish it. There is just too much other goodness to absorb.

I had a little bit of cash to spend recently and went straight to my favorite online card site. The first card I threw in the cart was the above Pete Rose In Action card from the 1972 Topps set. It's one of three cards that I needed to complete the set.

You'd think that while I was there, I would grab the other two cards I needed.

But you will not see the '72 base Pete Rose card on this post nor the Tim Foli In Action card.

I didn't bother to nab them.

My attention got diverted.

This card was a no-brainer. As a guy, I think we are all in agreement that Kate Upton is the most stunning Sports Illustrated supermodel to ever walk the earth (and if you disagree, I don't want to hear it, you just sound silly).

From there tastes diverge. But my favorite after Ms. Upton is without a doubt Marisa Miller.

So, I can't for the life of me understand why this card cost under a dollar. It should be at least 50 bucks. Not that I'm complaining.

But, I know what you're saying: this card, at under a dollar, couldn't have possibly gotten in the way of landing those other two 1972 Topps needs.

No, you're right, it couldn't.

Another card did.

I am on record as adoring this insert set from 2003 Topps. I wrote a post quite awhile ago stating that I was collecting this set.

I haven't gotten very far. I have maybe 15 cards from the set and many of those are tied up in my Dodger collection (guess where this one is going?).

The cards seem pretty popular in general, and they're a pain in the ass to find at a reasonable price. Sure $3 might not sound like much, but when you're trying to complete a 100-card insert set, that adds up quickly.

So, when I saw this card -- one of the greatest World Series programs ever -- at a decent price, I grabbed it.

It will probably be another year-and-a-half before I snare another one.

But, really, that card couldn't have cut into my spending on those other two '72s, could it?

No, not really.

But there's another card I landed I must mention.

I saw this card on Nachos Grande's trade bait post. I believe it was one of the framed versions of this card. I probably should have nabbed it then, but I'd rather have the base card.

I wasn't even aware there was a Marvin Harrison Masterpieces card. I interviewed Harrison many times when he played college football at Syracuse, so this card is for a future "Brush With Greatness" post, as I continue to expand outside of baseball in that series.

The card was pretty cheap for an NFL great and card series great (Masterpieces), so I don't think this card, added to the two other cards could have prevented me from getting the other two '72s I needed.

But, still, there was another one:

Of course it's a 1975 buyback card.

As my quest to get as many buybacks from the '75 set continues, I zeroed in on another one of my favorites from that set. I loved this Dave Cash card when I was a kid, it was a prized possession in my very small collection. I may have gone outside my buyback upper spending limit for this card. But it's worth it.

Cash also came with some friends.

 This brings me to at least 120 buybacks from that set (it's either 120 or 121, I need to recount). If I were to devote as much time as, say, Shoebox Legends is devoting to his buyback project, I'd be a lot farther along. But you know my issue with focus.

Truthfully, I may have been able to grab the Foli In Action card if I hadn't bought these few other cards. But I didn't have the money to get all three '72 Topps that I needed, so I decided to distribute my money to other interests and save my "I HAVE COMPLETED 1972 TOPPS" post for another time.

I actually love to see variety come out of one of those little yellow envelopes. It makes me happier than getting 100 cards from one set.

It's kind of like going to a restaurant buffet. Yeah, there is one dish there that you really, really like. But who wants 10 helpings of sesame chicken? There's so much other good stuff on the menu, too.

Still, there's always that time when you go back to the table and think "dammit, I forgot the wontons!"

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

C.A.: 1991 Score Rick Dempsey

(Yup, we're back to Cardboard Appreciation posts after installing another card into the Cardboard Appreciation Hall of Fame. if you're new to these posts, this is where I feature one card of particular interest to me, in hopes that it will be of particular interest to you. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. But welcome to Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 251st in a series):

In continuing with my research on helmets on Dodger baseball cards, I struck upon this semi-historic card.

This card features one of the last known examples of a catcher wearing a cap while fielding his position on a baseball card issued during that player's career.

Rick Dempsey was the last catcher to wear a cap under his mask instead of a helmet. Even long before this 1991 Score card was issued, Dempsey's cap-wearing was a novelty. Many catchers had gone over to the helmet long ago. So card companies would often show Dempsey wearing his cap just because it was so delightfully unusual.

But by 1991, Dempsey was the last, there were no other catchers foolish enough to wear almost no protection on their head while crouched behind a large man swinging a piece of lumber.

Yet, Topps went with a head-and-shoulders shot of Dempsey wearing a helmet.

Stadium Club showed Dempsey running the bases, wearing a helmet.

Donruss, Fleer and Upper Deck didn't even bother with Dempsey. They were done with his career, cap and all.

So, Score ends up with the landmark card, one of the last to show a catcher in a cap while working behind the plate.

There is another card issued that same year that shows Dempsey in a cap.

Dempsey was signed as a free agent by the Brewers after the 1990 season after being granted free agency by the Dodgers. So, actually, this photo was taken later than the Score Dodger photo. But since the cards were issued in the same year, I'm calling it a tie. The Leaf and Score cards in the 1991 set were the last to show a catcher wearing a cap behind the plate. (There are also oddball Brewers cards issued that same year that show Dempsey in a cap while catching).

Of course, with the advent of retro cards there are plenty of newer cards showing Dempsey in a cap, but he had long been retired when those were issued.

I don't have nearly enough time to track down the one-off cards that appeared after 1991 that show a catcher in a cap. I'm sure they exist.

I'm comfortable thinking that the '91 Score Dempsey card is one of the last of its kind. You have to give that to '91 Score. It has so little.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A surprise inside

If you do not have a Twitter account, I do not blame you one bit. Twitter, to put it quite bluntly, is the biggest shit show I have ever joined.

I am sure there are people who have signed up to Twitter because it's such a mess. In fact, I know there are. And that right there explains the mind-set of Twitter. It is a continuously updated series of disasters and overreactions, from people who love to wallow in disasters and overreactions, dialed up to two thousand and splattered in your face in a fit of pent-up aggression. Think of the most annoying student you knew in college. Now think of that same student with all of his or her neuroses, personal agendas and self-absorbed political thoughts belligerently aired for everyone to hear, just blaring from the student union, almost around the clock, and dammit, you'd better agree. That's Twitter much of the time.

Twitter is even more dysfunctional these days because the political takes are just relentless (as it is on any social media outlet). There are times when I wonder why I haven't seen a post or tweet from a certain person in weeks or months -- are they still alive? -- and then I realize I have blocked all of their political posts or words, leaving them with nothing else to say.

Gee, am I underselling Twitter a bit?

I guess I am.

There must be a reason I'm still there. Why am I still there?

I'm there for the baseball and the baseball cards. My job depends on staying on top of sports news in general and Twitter remains a great source of information (granted, in many cases you have to weed through several sports writers/bloggers politicized opinions to get to that info). No one really can compete with Twitter in this department.

My collection also depends on the sports card information available. This is the place where I find out about new product (and all of the cards I will never pull), as well as lots of good info on past sets and cards that I rarely come across on the blogs.

And Twitter remains a place where I can communicate with like-minded card folks. Amid all of the chaos and screaming and people running around with their hair on fire, believe it or not, you can enjoy a quiet, short convo about cards while the Chicken Littles throw themselves off an eight-story building in the background.

There are actually some people on Twitter who grew up at the same time that I did, who have an interest in the same period of cards that I do, and a number of those people don't write blogs. They like my tweets because they understand where I am coming from, and I appreciate that. (I tweet about cards and baseball and my memories of both, and that's about it. I have no interest in bothering anyone about anything else on Twitter).

One of those folks with which I've formed a Twitter bond is a guy who goes by @selectospeed. Just the other day we were reminiscing about the iron-on patches that our moms put on the holes in our Toughskins jeans. These are the conversations I enjoy.

A couple of weeks ago, @selectospeed asked if I wanted a card he pulled from 2017 Topps:

It's really impolite to say "Gimme" -- even on Twitter -- but I believe I said something very similar. Joc Pederson's Modern Ballplayer Signature aside, what a terrific card. The blue Father's Day motif, the blue Dodgers letters (they're Panini-esque), the knowledge that Pederson's dad, Stu, played in the Dodgers organization and was a noted player in Syracuse back in the day -- this is not only my first autographed card of the 2017 collecting season, but it might be my favorite 10 months from now.

But @selectospeed didn't stop there and sent a small variety of cards that I didn't expect.

 A few random Dodgers goodies. Much appreciated.

A starter set of 1983 Fleer Dodgers. The '83 Fleer set is one of those I may collect some day (unless I see another card show with the entire set available cheaply like I did last September). These will all go toward that down-the-line cause.


Here are some totally arbitrary but totally cool items (P.S.: the Bumgarner has already been distributed, selecto!)

And a very smoking 1962 Post card that I needed.

All of those terrific and they will be lovingly cataloged and stored.

But let's get to the surprise inside.

Ain't that cool?

This is a 1963 Fleer card of Don Drysdale, not the easiest card to obtain. (But easier than a couple of his teammates in this set, named Koufax and Wills).

As much as I like the autographed Joc card, it can't compare to the vintage Drysdale.

And this is what I can still get out of Twitter, people who admire the history of the hobby and appreciate fellow collectors' interests.

Early rant aside, there is the flip side of Twitter. It has many good points, including the baseball and card information I mentioned above. There is an enthusiasm for the hobby on there that sometimes I don't see on the blogs. Although I much prefer the reserved personality of the blogs, sometimes Twitter provides a more visible sign of appreciation for some of the posts I write and daily confirmation of this love for the hobby. If you are excited about a card that you just acquired, there is always someone on Twitter who knows how you feel and lets you know. That doesn't always happen on the blogs.

So, this is why I press on with Twitter. I often must put on my blinders and selective hearing before I engage with my fellow collecting buddies. But actually, I can have an enjoyable time with anyone who likes cards or enjoys baseball, especially from the '70s and '80s, regardless of their state of mind about anything else.

I suppose I can't expect everyone to think like me or act like me. But my mom not only ironed on patches on my jeans but she raised me with some manners that I try to follow, even online (as this post shows, sometimes I fail). I instinctively expect others to follow them, too. My mom could whip that Twitter into shape.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mini pages, mega reaction

I go back and forth over whether I am naturally tidy or sloppy. I tend to think that I am tidy because my mother is quite the neat freak, and, oh, the random rules when I was growing up. Whether by force of habit or inherited genes, I tend to like certain things tidy.

But only certain things. My desk at work ranks only third in the sports department in terms of health department disaster area, but consider that I have been meaning to clean my desk there for 15 years and have never gotten more than five minutes into it. That's a lot of accumulation.

So it seems I'm only tidy about areas that matter to me. The kitchen, for example. Get those counters clear. Food is too important to eat in filth.

And, above all, baseball cards.

My collection is not as tidy as other collectors. I marvel at those who have their own dedicated card rooms and have constructed four-level shelves just for their binders. My goal is one day to have my own exclusive card room (my wife has even signed off on it), but it's going to be a few years before I get to that level.

Still, even though I must go to four different sections of the house for my cards, in general, they are neatly organized. Binders are preferred over boxes. But the boxes are always organized. Even the doubles boxes I try to keep tidy, although the incentive is low.

So it is quite trying for me that time and oddly shaped cards have conspired against my hobby-related OCD. For months, probably years now, random cards of all shapes have been sitting on my card desk and in random boxes tormenting me on a daily basis. THESE CARDS NEED TO BE STORED IN PAGES!

I have been most desperate about the minis that are sitting out in the open. Stuff like this has accumulated too much for my comfort:

All minis -- especially minis -- should be stored. They're mini. They need to be sheltered and protected.

I was most disturbed by my Dodger minis, most of which I've received from various collectors. The Dodger minis get first priority for my tobacco mini pages. I carefully slip them into order, painstakingly shifting other minis to get the new mini in its proper spot.

But many, many months ago, I ran out of tobacco-sized mini pages. And the backlog began.

It doesn't look like a lot (26 cards total), but that's just too much for me to stand. The elements! The potential damage! Close your eyes!

So, for months, the OCD part of my brain (YOU MUST GET THESE IN PAGES!) argued with the accumulating part of my brain (MUST. ACQUIRE. CARDS) and the accumulating part always won. I love new cards way too much, and nobody wants to see new pages on a card blog anyway.

I thought I'd never get the pages I needed to make the inner-wincing go away. But I guess it just got to be too much. I care TOO MUCH for cards, they must be tidy!

And, so, I am showing for you now:

(*imagine that music that is played when the heavens open*)


- Hobby Exclusive
- Super Strong Weld
- No PVC - Acid Free
- Hologram/Safe Storage
- Ultra Clear
- UV Protection
- Lays Flat
- Patented

OK, I don't care about most of that. I just felt I should list it because I'm so excited!

Sure, this isn't as big as when I got my free box of newly made 1975 Topps-style minis from UltraPro after a bit of hounding on my part.

But cleaning off my card desk is really important to me now, especially when it comes to minis.

These pages mean I can do all kinds of things that I couldn't do for a long time.

- I can store my Dodger minis in proper order
- I can get one of those mini binders
- I can move all my tobacco mini Dodgers into one of those mini binders
- I don't know why I haven't thought of doing that until now
- I can store random minis, like the Munnatawket minis (gee whiz, Kate Upton needs a house)
- I can store random minis, like the owl minis
- I can store various A&G insert minis that just sit there in a box waiting to be loved
- I can store the minis rejected from my A&G frankenset mini binder until I can trade them to those who want them more.

Now that's a list I can appreciate.

I love my A&G frankenset mini binder. And I know I'll love the other mini binders as much as I love this one. I have the complete 2011 Topps Lineage '75 minis stored in their own mini binder and it's one of my most prized binders.

So that's what one box of tobacco-sized mini pages can do.

It can tidy up my card area, it can create peace of mind, I can sleep at night, the nightmares will go away, the endless rants during the day will cease, the neighbors will stop calling the police, all of that will end.

And ... most importantly ...

I can now use my money again to buy actual cards.