Saturday, September 24, 2016

C.A.: 1977-84 TCMA Galasso Greats Larry Lajoie

(Greetings on International Rabbit Day. On this day of caring for and protecting the welfare, hug a bunny today. But don't let it loose in your house. Those things chew electrical cords. It's time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 247th in a series):

This card, from one of my favorite oddball retro sets of the 1970s, is a missed opportunity.

Larry Lajoie is one of the finest hitters of the early part of the 20th century, a Cleveland legend, and known for being the American League's first superstar, someone who helped bring legitimacy to the upstart league. He is also on the front of one of the most famous rare/expensive baseball cards, his 1933 Goudey card.

His full name is Napoleon Lajoie. On the 1933 Goudey card he is listed as Napoleon (Larry) Lajoie. I haven't heard many references to Lajoie as "Larry," but apparently it was a thing as he's "Larry" on a few of his cards.

Many more of his cards list him as "Nap" Lajoie. And that's how I came to learn of the player, as Nap Lajoie. If I were to bring him up in conversation -- which, sadly, never happens -- I would refer to him as "Nap Lajoie". For crying out loud, Cleveland was named the Naps when Lajoie was with the team!

"Nap" is short for Napoleon, but this card has me thinking it also meant that Lajoie was known for getting quite sleepy. Look at him on this TCMA card. He's practically in dream land. Yup, that's Nappy. Always dozing in the clubhouse, slumped over at his locker. He was quite perky on the field, but always being nudged awake in the dugout.

How great would it have been to have a photo of this sleepyhead on a card with Nap Lajoie for the name? Photo and caption in perfect harmony!

Something like this:

Night, night.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Define the design: even more set-namin'

It's Friday, people.

You're celebrating because the weekend is here. I'm celebrating because it's looking like this Friday work night will be a little less insane than usual for a September. Small victories. We can't all go to the club and get smashed.

"Define the Design" is a nice lighthearted feature for a Friday. I haven't done one of these all year, outside of naming the 2016 Topps base set just so it would get out of my sight.

In fact, when we last left Define the Design, I had promised to find a name for the 2002 Donruss set, with help from your suggestions. As usual, I completely forgot about that, so it's time to right that wrong. Using a combination of suggestions, 2002 Donruss is now the "pinstripe curtain set." (I really did want to name it "1970s boy's bedroom wallpaper," but sometimes "simple" casts a wider net).

So let's get to naming a few more sets. The only thing this handful of sets has in common is all of them have borders -- rather distinctive borders, in fact. Borders are very helpful when naming sets. Why do you think I haven't even attempted to name an Ultra set? No borders!

So check out some sets with borders. I don't have names for all of them, so if something comes to mind, shout it out in the comments. Contributions are what makes this feature live on.

1971 Topps

Easy one. It's "the black border set." Perhaps that doesn't capture everything that's great about this set, the lower-case lettering, the bold, colorful team name, the first use of action photos for a player's base card. But come on now! The border is black! Where would 1985 Donruss and all those Bowman sets be without 1971 Topps? It's a black beauty. In fact, consider that '71 Topps' alternative name, "the black beauty set."

1986 Topps

So if 1971 Topps is the "black border/black beauty set," what's that make the 1986 set?

I really want to make this the "Ebony and Ivory set," so it can be the baseball card hobby's small contribution to racial harmony. The Stevie Wonder-Paul McCartney song was a hit four years prior to '86 Topps arriving, so it's in sort of the same era. Or maybe I could call it the "black-and-white cookie" set.

None of those names, though, recognizes the huge, sharp-edged team names in '86 Topps. That doesn't seem right. So I'll hold off naming this one for now.

1990 Donruss

I could take the easy route and name it "the red border set." Worked for '71 Topps, right? But that discounts the speckle spatters on every card. (P.S.: If you stare at the '90 Donruss design for awhile, pondering define-the-define names, your brain weirds out and the speckles start to look like mildew on a wall. "The mildew on a red wall set"? Anyway ...).

I want to reference the black speckles in some way and that's why I'm naming it:

The ladybug set.

There's probably a better name out there, but I like this one for now. People are welcome to change my mind.

1983 Fleer

There is already a named "gray border set" -- 1970 Topps. But I think the most positive aspect of 1983 Fleer anyway is the debut of the team logo on the front, which would be a practice for Fleer sets throughout the 1980s (until that dastardly 1991 Fleer).

So the logo needs to be part of the name. I haven't figured out exactly how. "Fleer's first logo set?" That's not it. I will think on this some more.

2001 Topps

The tricky part on the border for 2001 Topps is pinning down what color of green that is. I studied it extensively in last year's Topps flagship countdown and still don't know what color of green it is.

But for naming purposes, I settled on "forest green" as the color. My first thought was cars from the 1950s. But there were all different shades of green cars in the '50s. So I went in a different direction -- towards clothing.

And I found it:

2001 Topps is now the "nursing scrubs set."

I've never liked 2001 Topps more.

2005 Topps

Final set.

There is so much going on with 2005 Topps. Team word marks. Sideways team and player names. A much-appreciated set date in the lower left-hand corner.

But the overriding star of the 2005 Topps is the last name banner. There are other sets to place emphasis on the last name -- all those 3-D Kellogg's sets, for example. But I've never seen it exclaimed so prominently than in 2005 Topps.

So I'm calling this set the "last name first set."

By the way, Topps suddenly started adding "Jr." to Snow's name in 1997 and stayed with it through 2005 Topps. But for Snow's final flagship card, in 2006, he's back to simply "J.T. Snow"! Since the "J.T. Snow Jr." era came during the time when I didn't collect cards, "J.T. Snow Jr." looks very odd to me. I notice most of the other companies ignored the "Jr." I wonder if this was a "Rock Raines" thing by Topps?

Anyway, I think I have at least three solid set names to add to the "Define the Design list." Maybe a couple of more. That's up to you.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Acquiring vs. admiring

I picked up a pack of cards today after a long drive.

The joy that comes from opening a pack, the anticipation, the thrill, the variety, the two-minute vacation from reality, is unlike anything else in my experience in the hobby. It's something that I hope is always available to me.

But there are some collectors, many in fact, who choose not to open packs. The reasons are varied and since I'm not one of those collectors, I'm sure I'm misconstruing their viewpoint. But the perception I get is that they consider, at some level, random pack-opening as inefficient. It's a waste of money or time or space, or, probably more accurately, there are better ways to obtain the cards you want.

I started thinking of this when I compared opening a pack of Fleer from 1989 to buying a ToppsNow card. If you know me, you know that I prefer opening the pack of '89 Fleer. In comparison, a ToppsNow purchase seems calculating, cold, and although you're getting exactly what you want, this is my version of wasting money.

But there is another view. A ToppsNow card gives you what you want and only what you want. It conserves time and space and, if you do it right, actually saves money.

There are good and bad points to each point of view. Collecting through packs glorifies the experience but with diminishing returns. Collecting through one-stop shopping (buying the whole set or a single needed card) diminishes the experience but enhances the prize.

So I decided to post a poll on Twitter that was somewhat related to this comparison:

What is more enjoyable to you: the getting or the having? The experience or the possession? The acquiring or the admiring, as one astute person said? Is it the chase or the catch, another said.

The results:

No contest, right?

To me, buying packs is the way to go because the experience is front and center. Pack opening is not a passive activity. You are participating. But the same can be said for combing online sites for your desired card(s), using your internet wiles to find them or beat other people to them. The searching, the finding, the opening, the CONQUEST, is the most thrilling part of the hobby for me.

Having the cards -- oh, that's nice, too. A number of people asked, when the poll went up, "can't I vote for both?" and I understand completely. It's ALL good. But if I put a "both" option on the poll, that's all anyone would choose. I wanted to see what people would choose if they had to choose between the two.

So the process is important. Many would say the process is more important, or more enjoyable, than owning the card. In other words, how you go about getting cards is not incidental.

Some folks mentioned how "having" can be overrated. One person mentioned how the "having" lasts about 30 minutes until the cards are filed/sleeved/paged and then it's back on to the hunt. Another person mentioned how they own so many binders filled with cards that they rarely look at anymore. Because that's how much more exciting acquiring is than admiring.

There are problems with "the chase," as well. Too much of "the chase" leads to too many cards. Too many cards to admire. Too many cards that you don't admire.

But not enough of chasing -- restricting your acquiring to ordering a readily available card or buying the entire set in one shot -- eliminates what I view as one of the hobby's greatest charms: the challenge inherent in this hobby.

There is no one way to collect. And although I could never be a person who buys the entire Topps set each year and nothing else, it's fine if it works for someone else. Just don't expect me to understand it.

You don't have to open packs to get the thrill of "the chase," the thrill of the experience, the thrill of acquiring. You can go to card shows or stay up all hours searching ebay, or coordinate trades with buddies across the country.

But I think the very unscientific poll underlines that some aspect of pursuing is needed to experience the hobby to its fullest. And in my world, that's opening packs (with a little online chasing mixed in). I need my two-minute vacations.

(Quick thoughts on Heritage High Numbers:

1. The black border cards are apparently back for this set.
2. Jeff Samardzija is in the Heritage base set, and a short-print in high numbers. Same team. This will never make sense to me.
3. No Dodgers -- which, if I didn't trade with a bunch of people, would be an argument for not buying packs).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Some very 2016 cards and some 2016 contest results

I will be announcing the winner of my anniversary contest in this post, but I wanted to clear off one side of my desk first.

This is the last remaining trade package on the card desk. That means I have to get my butt in gear and get the cards on the opposite side of the desk out to people. The rest of this week, though, is looking fairly grim for that kind of frivolity.

Anyway, these cards are from Twitter pal, Will. He sent very recent and very needed cards from 2016. I have neglected 2016 cards so much.

There was a selection of needs from a variety of products. Let's take a look:

Some Bowman. Only Kershaw and Puig are still with the Dodgers. #ThanksBowman.

Some Allen & Ginter. These are from the retail-only insert set, I think. I get these confused with the Numbers Game inserts, which tells you how necessary it was to create both insert sets.

Some Stadium Club. This just leaves three Dodgers cards remaining for the team set: Kershaw, Koufax and Jackie Robinson. Hmmmm.

A Chromey of the Dodgers' 17th Rookie of the Year. I knew it all along.

A Pinkie parallel of Brett Anderson. Bring back the borders.

Two unnecessary inserts of Mike Piazza but at least in the right uniform.

A first-pitch card of Lorraine Baines-McFly that I've wanted since the Series 2 checklist was first announced.

Oh, and this guy:

I'm not going to insult your intelligence or mine by pretending to know who this is. Hip-hop guy. That's all I will venture.

An Archives for the '79 cause. Need 10 more (excluding *cough* the super short-prints).

Three very appreciated Heritage cards (including the Kershaw Stand-Up at the top of the post). This pairing of last season's fantastic 1-2 punch includes the Kershaw short-print that completes the Dodgers team set for me, and the black-bordered chrome Greinke that allows me to do this:

The base card looks horribly wrong I would hope even for the most objective of eyes.

And, finally, two more 1975 Topps buybacks. Those are cards No. 83 and 84 in the collection. I think it's time to order another bunch!

Many thanks to Will for sending those along. I'll be compiling some return cards to go with the other packages I have to send out in the next week or so.

One of those will include the prize package, which just to review includes:

-- The Steve Balboni autographed card
-- The George Foster relic card
-- The Reggie Jackson diamond giveaway card
-- The Ben McDonald Obak autographed card
-- The Terry Pendleton autographed card
-- The small lot of Corey Seager cards
-- The Mike Trout Stadium Club gold parallel
-- The 1958 Hoyt Wilhelm
-- And the blaster of 2016 Gypsy Queen

OK, there was an amazing 82 entrants for the contest. So you really put (and me) to work. But after counting and re-counting and RE-counting, I'm confident everyone is accounted for and a proper winner was determined by three spins of the randomizer.

Here are the spins with the winner being the No. 1 person on the final spin:

One spin.

Two spins.

Final spin.

Congratulations to Nachos Grande. Happy to see a Reds fan (they've suffered so much) and a frequent trading partner win a bunch of good stuff.


Thanks for entering, trading and all that stuff.

Have I used the word "stuff" enough?


Monday, September 19, 2016

Pocket card produces desired results

Sometimes it feels like I'm traveling on a different wave length than a lot of card bloggers. I guess that's what makes life interesting.

An example:

Almost two years ago now, the phenomenon of "wallet card" swept the nation ... er, the nation's card blogs. I got caught up in the hysteria, too, but then I realized "wallet card" wasn't doing what I wanted it to do.

For many, "wallet card" was an opportunity to take their chosen wallet resident out on a tour and take photos of the card in various places. At least one blogger is still doing this. Then again, he lives in a place where there is a lot to see.

But that's not what I wanted to get out of wallet card. Instead, I wanted to re-create the damage that I achieved as a child when I loved a card so much that I carried it around with me.

Like this card. This is one of two Dodger cards from the 1975 set (the other was Steve Yeager) that I carried around with me for a period in my pocket.

Of course, as a 9-year-old, I didn't have a wallet. And that was the problem with wallet card -- it just couldn't reproduce the loving damage of a card stored in the pocket of a kid in Toughskins on the playground.

Wallets are very adult. They're created to keep things neat and tidy. They produce neat and tidy damage.

And, that's why I invented "pocket card" for 2016.

Nobody paid pocket card much mind. Probably because I mentioned it only briefly in passing at the end of a post. But I was serious about it. I was going to put that Panini Donruss Mike Piazza card, up at the top of this post, in my pocket and see if could create some natural '70s style wear-and-tear.

The card went in the pocket where it could absorb the most damage in the shortest span of time -- my left front pocket. That way it could get mixed in with car keys and spare change. ... I know, kids don't have car keys and spare change. But consider those the rocks and spare M&Ms of the adult world. Same dif.

The Piazza card went in my pocket in mid-July and emerged for good this past weekend.

Here is how it looks now:


THIS is what I was wanted. A cool worn card as if I had rolled around on the playground with it for a couple of weeks, but in 2016 in the pocket of a grown man!

Here is the back:

Yup, pocket card had achieved its mission in a mere two months time.

In fact it had done so well that I noticed something while I was at work on Saturday.

I had gone back to the break area and stared at the vending machine (I don't buy much from it anymore, I just stare at it and think about what I used to eat). I reached casually into my left pocket and pulled out pocket card.

I noticed a new development. It was as if the cardboard had shifted. I took ahold of an end and it peeled back ever so easily -- just like taking blue tape off of a team bag full of cards.

The card was now two cards:


You know, as a kid I always wondered how they put baseball cards together. I never had the heart to peel one apart then. Of course, I figured out the baseball card production model long ago, but pocket card had gone the extra mile.

I was so gleeful about this development -- really, I was -- that I returned pocket card Piazza to my pocket. I'm not even sure why. All that's left is for the card to disintegrate.

But I'm not ready to let go of my childhood just yet.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Something I haven't opened for a very long time

I was sitting slumped in a chair, watching the Red Sox crush all of the Yankees' hopes and dreams and moping about having to go to work, when my wife walked in and plopped six junk wax packs on the arm of the chair.

"It's your lucky day!" she said.

She was right.

Opening packs is just about the pinnacle of enjoyment in this hobby. It's right up there with completing sets and sliding the first cards into a brand new page in a brand new binder. Who cares if it's junk wax when the packs are sealed and I need cards from the set? Must open!

The packs -- three from 1989 Fleer and three from 1988 Donruss -- came from a dollar store in town that I've mentioned many times. The last time I went there, a couple of weeks ago, there were no cards except hangers and hangers of plastic containers stuffed with 1991 Upper Deck. I have zero desire to own any more '91 UD, so I passed. But these I liked and were three packs for a buck.

"I thought they were all out of cards!" I exclaimed to my wife.

"They just got some new ones," she said, like she worked there or something. I stared at her quizzically. It was like we were dating again. Who was this woman?

I opened the 1988 Donruss first. I have opened lots and lots of '88 Donruss since my return to the hobby. I still kind of like it and I enjoy opening it, but Lord knows, nobody needs to see it.

The 1989 Fleer I saved for last because I couldn't tell you the last time I opened a pack of 1989 Fleer. I'm sure it was in 1989. I have no memory of opening a pack from that set. And this post is my attempt to get that memory back into my brain.

My first question when I saw the packs was about the wrapper. Has there ever been a case of a wrapper matching the set inside prior to 1989 Fleer? I couldn't think of any. I tried to do research, but you know the internet and 1989 Fleer. Type in "1989 Fleer" and suddenly you're in a forest of Billy Ripken F-Face links. It's almost impossible to find your way out of them or find anything else out about '89 Fleer.

So I'll dispense with the suspense: No I didn't pull a Ripken card. I didn't pull a Randy Johnson or a Ken Griffey Jr. either. There are other cards in the set you know.

I'll show you just one pack. It's the only pack that didn't contain any dupes -- because even though I haven't opened 1989 Fleer in 27 years, somehow I have almost half the set.

Cubs sticker

Every '89 Fleer pack starts with a sticker, which is the preferred way to start a pack.

#600 - Pete Smith, Braves

Fleer did not do the hero number thing, although Smith was feeding the rookie hype machine at this time by throwing three shutouts during his first full year in 1988.

#639 - Power Center SuperStar Specials (Kirby Puckett, Eric Davis)

These days I'm more likely to stare at the background than look at the players on these cards.

#452 - Bob Horner, Cardinals

Horner played not even half of one season with the Cardinals in 1988. But because it happened during the late 80s, there are 96 cards of him as a Cardinal. As someone who is still waiting for his card of Boog Powell as a Dodger, this is really annoying.

#103 - Keith Atherton, Twins

Don't be fooled by the uniform, Keith wants to sell you insurance.

#39 - Howard Johnson, Mets

I am the only person still fascinated by the fact that Howard Johnson wore blue and orange colors, the same colors as the Howard Johnson's restaurant franchise.

#611 - Eddie Murray, Orioles

One of Murray's last cards as an Oriole before being traded to the Dodgers. He was already a Dodger when this card appeared.

#182 - Mark Clear, Brewers

#290 - Jamie Quirk, Royals

#51 - Dave West, Mets

I'm sure I have this card somewhere. It's a night card!

#417 - Rich Yett, Indians

Pack over Yett?

#158 - Eric Davis, Reds

Is the pull of the pack Murray or Davis? Let the debate begin.

#506 - Kelly Paris, White Sox

#347 - Trevor Wilson, Giants

#95 - Carlos Quintana, Red Sox

This guy is in every pack issued in 1989.

#426 - Mark Grace, Cubs

Card got scuffed up inside the pack.

And there you are: 15 cards for just over 33 cents total.

It was great fun opening these packs. There is something about 1989 Fleer right out of a pack. It has a sturdy, almost premium feel. And I can't believe I just wrote that.

I was opening these packs as Topps was going through it's daily trumpeting of the latest ToppsNow cards on Twitter. The idea of paying $9.99 for a single current card (or whatever $2 or $3 discount you get for them elsewhere) never seemed more ludicrous than when I was opening those packs. The cards were just as much fun, even though they were of retired players -- plus I got the anticipation of not knowing what was inside!

1989 Fleer and I have had a shaky relationship over the years. It's never been one of my favorites. But at that moment, I couldn't have liked it more. It actually had some meaning to me.

It sure was my lucky day.

Next date night is at that dollar store.