Friday, August 26, 2016

Subliminal messages in '78 Topps

It all started with an innocent question from a Twitter follower. He wondered if this was a night card.

I've wondered, too, so I figured now would be a good time to figure it out.

I believe it is a night card. The photo was taken in Candlestick Park and if it was taken in 1977, then it was probably Jim Lonborg's victory over the Giants on July 21, 1977.

That means it would make an excellent addition to the night card binder. But I was distracted by something else. It's the 375-foot marker, which I believe was the right-center field distance at Candlestick.

It occurred to me that it is easily the most prominent number in the 1978 Topps set as far as the front of the card. I don't know if another number had appeared more often in photographs in a baseball card set.

Let me show you some more.

There it is again with Wayne Twitchell, clear as day. If I were Twitchell, I might be insulted. Because his career ERA at that time was 3.69.

That 375 shows up again and again on Giants cards, even though Ed Halicki and infielder Rob Andrews are doing their darndest to obscure it.

There it is peaking through the legs of Bruce Kison and probably Rennie Stennett.

The 375 even shows up on a Yankee card, even though the Yankees hadn't played in Candlestick since the 1962 World Series!

Gossage is actually a Pirate in this photo and airbrushed head-to-toe into a Yankee uniform. Still in Candlestick park, though. And still there's that 375.

What's it all mean?

I turned to card number 375 in search of an answer.

I think I've found it. John's career OPS happens to be .375 (go ahead, look it up). But that's a red herring. Take a look behind Tommy John.

That's a great big, blurred out Marlboro ad! Subliminal messages! My junior high teacher was right! The big companies want you to smoke and drink and look at naked ladies!

How do you explain this?

And I thought I was just craving pictures on cardboard when I was collecting this set!

(P.S.: I don't smoke. The subliminal messages didn't work).

(P.P.S.: I totaled up the ERAs for all the pitchers with 375 behind them. It came to 3.59. I would have freaked right out if it was 3.75).

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

When completing a set is not the biggest card news of the day

As you may have heard, I am a set collector from way back. I love completing sets. Big, honking sets of 700-plus cards with no short-prints is preferred. But the set-collecting pull is strong, and I'll settle for what they're putting out these days, as long as it doesn't look like crap.

Late last week I opened a package that contained the last card I needed to complete the 2015 Stadium Club set. It was the Kris Bryant card that I ranted about a few posts ago.

Now, normally, this would be the best news of the day. A set is complete! All that effort and time, all that cash and cataloging, all that sorting and admiring. Completion! On your average day this would prompt me to craft a post all about 2016 Stadium Club, or list my favorite Stadium Club cards of all-time, or my favorite club sandwiches of all-time.

But something bigger happened on that day. Something bigger and cardier.

The package arrived from Cardboard Icons. Ben's a blogger from way back, former Beckett Magazine writer and Twitter compatriot. He and I remember when Mario and Wax Heaven was king. When Fielder's Choice, The Nennth Inning, The Hamiltonian and Dropped Third Strike were daily blog visits. When he used to call himself Newspaperman, because he once wrote for a paper, like me. He was the first blogger to receive Red Sox cards from me.

Ben doesn't blog as often as he did, although he still puts together relevant content. And it's been quite awhile since I received cards from him.

So let's see what was in that package that could possibly top a set-completing card of last year's most cuddly Cubs rookie.

Speaking of cuddly, here are some 2014 Topps mini Dodgers. These ones -- none of whom are doing anything to help the current Dodgers -- fill holes in my mini Ultra Pro pages. I think I might need to order some more.

But that's not what topped Bryant.

A couple of singed '69 Dodgers. Big D isn't upset about the checked boxes and checked marks and eraser marks -- heck that's how I kept track as a kid -- that sad face is for the dirt on the edges. Bleeeah. What could that be? The mind reels. I don't like it when the mind reels.

Still not at the package-topper.

How about this? Is this the card that made last Friday a fantastic day?

Not quite. But it is a card that I needed, so even Prizm was making me happy on this afternoon.

How about now? A TCMA card of Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Grove, noted star for the A's and Red Sox?

Nope -- although I do admit this picture made me pause for a second and think "wait a minute, did Grove pitch for Brooklyn?"

No, the card that pushed everything aside, even TCMA Grove, dirty Drysdale and set-completing Bryant, was this one:

Nothing dirty about that card, my friend.

I figured it would be a long time before I landed Don Drysdale's rookie card. I'd set aside a special day to order it. It would be after I saved up a bunch of money specifically for that purchase, and it would have taken a while to do it.

But blogs and collectors are still working wonders like these.

Ben, whose main collecting mission is rookie cards of famous ballplayers going way back to those cards that I can't afford, had recently upgraded his Drysdale rookie and had this one to spare.

He said he had considered selling the old one, but then had a change of heart. I'm glad he did. And the note he sent along got me.

"I really enjoy your blog and all you stand for in this hobby."

Well, shucks. That hit me pretty good.

By this point, Stadium Club Bryant was way in the rear view mirror until it almost disappeared.

I don't expect the Drysdale to stay encased for much longer, although sometimes with cards like this, I wonder if maybe I should let it stay put.

Anyway, that was something, huh? The rookie mojo card superseded the set-completing card in the world of night owl.

That IS big card news.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Relics of the past

Maybe about four years ago, I declared relic cards as past-their-prime, not-to-be-trusted and generally not collectible anymore.

I said that they had lost their pull on me. I pared down my collection of Dodger relics and waited for relics to die an inglorious death.

It didn't happen.

Relic cards are still being made and still making their way into my collection. These two relics from 2016 Allen & Ginter arrived unannounced from Nachos Grande just last week. They're still making these things, huh?

The difference from four years ago is that I don't pursue relic cards anymore and haven't for four years. I also think -- although I have nothing to base it on outside of my own collection -- that there aren't as many relic cards issued as there were seven or eight years ago.

As an example, Adrian Gonzalez is a mid-level star that in the heyday of relicdom would have jersey cards that could clothe the earth. But this relic is just my second Adrian Gonzalez relic card. Compare that with, say, Chad Billingsley. I have one for every one of his trips to the DL.

As for Yasiel Puig, this is my first Puig relic, and he's been in the league for four years (well, he was in the league). This card happens to be my 101st different card of Puig. The 100th card was the one you saw on the last Awesome Night Card post. (The total is now up to 103. I seem to have gone on a Puig card spurt recently).

Ideally, Puig is where I'd like to be with relics. One player, one relic.

But I don't think I'll ever get there.

Even though I don't make an effort to find relic cards and have downsized, I admit I still find them mildly interesting. It was a hoot to get the Gonzalez and Puig in the mail. I'm not sure why that is. The nostalgia factor working, I guess.

I still might try to trim down my Dodger relics even more.

And to prepare, I took a brief inventory of what I have and figured out which three players have the most relic cards in my collection. The leader of the relics was once Shawn Green. But I've let a few Green relics loose since then and he doesn't make the top three. This is who does:

3. Matt Kemp, 11.

Kemp is from that period when relics still ruled. Any notable Dodger from this time can fill a sand bucket of their own relic cards from my collection. Russell Martin, Andre Ethier and, of course, Matt Kemp.

2. Hideo Nomo, 12.

Even though I don't pursue relic cards, I can see myself making an exception for Nomo, and I have in the past. The only other player I can say that for is Ron Cey. I've gone on a relic hunt for Cey several times and I will do it again.

1. Clayton Kershaw, 13.

It's not easy to get anything besides a base Kershaw card these days. That's why I'm glad I accumulated what I did when I could. I just figured out that I have a relic card for every year of Kershaw's major league career except this year, and, oddly, 2010. It seems that the only relic cards issued of Kershaw in 2010 were from Triple Threads and Tribute, two sets that don't come my way often.

I don't anticipate getting down to just one Kershaw relic card. Same thing with Kemp and a few others. But that remains the ultimate goal for most of the Dodgers in the collection. One of each player seems right and representative of a card phenomenon that is past its prime.

If only I could get over the thrill of getting one in the mail.

Baby steps, I guess.

I'll start with Edwin Jackson. Anybody want one?

Monday, August 22, 2016

They're real and they're unspectacular

I've used the term "digital cards" in the past. I've decided I'm not going to do that anymore.

Because there is the phrase "digital cards," Topps has now come up with the term "physical cards" to describe, you know, actual cardboard cards. That is too weird. People don't play a video football game and then play a game in the park and call it "physical football" (unless the game gets physical). I'd hate to see where that would lead. ("I took my physical dog for a walk in the physical park where he physically pooped on some physical grass.").

Those pieces of cardboard you can touch, scuff and ding are simply cards. No adjective needed. And those "cards" that you see on your phone are images of cards. Sure, they're collectible. I won't argue that point. Collect all the images you want. But you're collecting images of cards. The cards I can touch without a screen between me and my fingers are real, honest to goodness cards. If you want to separate them with terms, the cards I can feel are "real cards." I won't be mean and call the ones on your phone "fake," but they're screen images and that's all until I can experience that tactile sensation.

This new definition of the cards that I've collected for close to half a century came about because Topps has issued a set based on its digital collectible game, Topps Bunt. These real cards mimic the images created on the Topps Bunt app. I can't tell you more than that because I can't get into collecting pictures of players on my phone when there are real cards to collect.

But I am pleased that there are finally cards to collect of those images. I was completely surprised by this. I had no idea this set was coming out -- probably because I don't pay attention to the Topps Bunt thingy. Then I started seeing a couple people opening the product and, lo and behold, there the cards were in my very own town.

Topps Bunt is very affordable, and you'll see why in a minute. Paying $2.99 for 24 cards is a big plus in my mind and in those of a lot of collectors. And it's an easy set to complete at 200 cards. I realize the intent of this set is to intermingle the tangible with the digital, advertise the app to those who collect real cards, etc. But I'm approaching it from the traditional angle that I prefer, so that's how I'll continue to look at it here.

There is your typical base card. I will say right off that these cards look better in scans than they do in person. That probably makes sense as I'm assuming these images on the cardboard cards come straight from the Bunt app. But they work a little better in the virtual world than they do in reality.

The star of this set is the giant logos in the background. This has always been the appeal of online cards from eTopps to Topps Bunt. I've always wanted giant logos to appear on actual cards and finally they have. This is the No. 1 selling point.

As for the rest of the look of the set, it's passable. The formica countertop background for the name, team and position comes in ghastly gray. If you've been paying attention you know that I despise gray as a primary color for sets. It makes the set look generic. And it hurts the appeal of this set for me.

You'll also notice the smoke is back and the cards have an overall appearance of the player playing in front of a screen door (it is not quite as apparent when you have the cards in hand).

When I opened my two hanger packs, I noticed a lot of cards from the same teams.

Four Tigers in one pack. That same pack also was heavy on Rangers, Yankees and Red Sox.

All the Sox help me point out something else:

The logo changes depending on how recently the player has played. That's kind of cool, and reminiscent of 2011 Topps Lineage, which did the same thing (although I think it kept to two images for teams).

The Lost Collector, who busted a box of this product and sent me a bunch of Dodgers from the set, also mentioned Lineage, and it's a good comparison. Not only is each set the same size but the backs of both sets are very mundane with only a short write-up (Bunt has vital stats, while Lineage did not).

In fact, to me, this set looks like Lineage and 2010 Toppstown had a baby:

I don't know about you, but that resemblance to Toppstown is a little scary for me. Buying a whole pack of Toppstown would have been unthinkable five years ago, but there are definite similarities. Wrapping your set in gray will do that.

The old-timers in this set are fun.

And, yes, like every Topps set for the last however many years, the young players have to be squeezed in no matter how established they are.

This insert looks A LOT better as a scan than it does in person.

And perhaps an indication of how much I paid for each pack is the fact I received the same Unique Unis insert in each pack.

Again, this looks better on a screen than it does in person. But it's not bad and quite collectible, even if Peter O'Brien to me is the Rangers infielder of the 1980s.

Here are all the Topps Bunt Dodgers that AJ of The Lost Collector sent:

Good thing, because I only pulled the Koufax and Pederson.

Overall, this is a decent, adequate-looking set. Some have said it would be a good replacement for Opening Day, which is getting more repetitive by the year. That would work for me. But I think Topps' priority is how this set draws more interest to its online stuff, and not how it competes on the store shelves.

For me, it's nice to have real cards of those images I've seen on people's screens. In person, the cards don't look as great as the backlit images, which is to be expected.

In short, they're real but they're not spectacular.

Sorry, Bunt. You're no Teri Hatcher.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

C.A.: 1983 Topps Dan Ford/Awesome night card, pt. 265

(That's right, I'm combining my two longest-standing features into one so you can ignore both in a single handy post! But that would be your loss, of course. It's time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 244th in a series):

I'm covering a few different topics here, as you may have guessed by the title.

One of them, unrelated to the title, has to do with the 1983 Topps set. The tendency with this set is to look at the two photos on the front of each card as separate elements. A larger action photo and a smaller portrait photo. They are independent from one another.

But when you view them as collaborators on the same card, acting in concert with each other, a new door opens into an amusing sidelight.

Here, inset Dan Ford is admiring the drive delivered by action Dan Ford. In fact, it appears that action Ford has hit to the opposite field and inset Ford is looking in the same direction! Great fun. This could develop into its own separate post very soon.

This connection between the two photos makes this one of Ford's better cards, and that's another topic I think about often and have written about many times. What is the best card in the cardboard life of a particular player?

The '83 Ford is pretty great, but it's not his best card. I wouldn't even say that his 1976 Topps rookie card with the glorious rookie cup is his best card.

No, for my money, nothing captures what Disco Dan Ford was all about better than his 1978 card:

My admiration of this card goes way back, to the first writings on this blog and long before. I've held great respect for this item since I first saw it in '78.

Ford lived up to his Disco nickname (teammates actually called him "Disco"). He posed for Playgirl magazine. He was once suspended three games for having a doctored bat, discovered when the bat broke and "all kinds of things started flying out of (it)," his Angels teammate Bobby Grich said. "Disco always did have a pretty good imagination."

Speaking of imagination, I can imagine Disco in the club, chains swinging to "He's the Greatest Dancer," when I see this card.

It is a night card, and one I've wanted a second copy of so I can feature it in my night card binder for a long time. And we're off to another topic.

I finally obtained that second copy when gcrl of Frankendodger sent it to me recently. And I can't wait to add it to the night binder. Awesome.

Here are some other cards that Jim sent:

It's a dirty trick to put two players that I followed growing up on an ugly design, but that's Panini for you.

Most of these were Jim's Dodger extras featured in his Frankendodger set. That blog has been a bonus for my collection.

So, did I cover enough topics in this post?

Wait, one more thing:


Night Card Binder candidate: Dan Ford, 1978 Topps, #275
Does it make the binder?: Definitely.

Friday, August 19, 2016

It's not even my birthday

Last month I mentioned a bunch of people who share my birthday and figured out whether they have their own cards.

I came up with quite a few and a mini-collection was born. I decided to grab a card here and there of those born on July 16. I don't know if I want to fill another binder with another collection -- that whole space issue, you know. But getting something every once in awhile sounded fun.

Well, supertrader Doug from Sportscards From The Dollar Store beat me to the punch. He has his own birthday collection and it's pretty robust. He got me started down that same path with a bunch of 7/16ers, many for which I've never owned a card or even heard of in some cases.

It's not my birthday anymore and won't be for a long time. But let's see some other people who's birthday isn't for a long time, too, straight from The Dollar Store, I'm assuming:

I'll start with the most famous first. These happen to be the first three Barry Sanders cards that I own. That Goodwin Champions card is pretty weird. But I'll make an exception for Barry, who started the trend of football players retiring early -- because it's football, and if you're smart enough, you realize at some point, "hey, this is nuts."

The most famous baseball 7/16er not known as Shoeless Joe is up next. Terry Pendleton was always on playoff-contending teams the Dodgers were trying to beat.

Off to basketball now and Zach Randolph and his headband. This just shows you how diversified 7/16 babies are. I've never worn a headband in my life and can say adamantly that I never will. I've never punched another player in the face during a basketball game either.

Apparently if you are born on 7/16 and play hockey, you must play for teams that use red as a primary uniform color. Claude Lemieux, Dustin Boyd and Duncan Keith all did or do.

A couple of cards of former University of Georgia star Knowshon Moreno, featuring him with both of his NFL teams, and floating logos on each. Moreno was born in 1987, which is one of my favorite years ever. It's a shame he missed half of it.

This is where Doug showed his birthday-collecting prowess. I don't know who Solomon Jones is. So I certainly didn't know we share a birthday. But Doug did.

More 7/16 guys I don't know, except for Zach Mettenberger, who rings a faint bell. Titans backup doesn't show up on my radar much.

Jimi ... er, Jeff Hendrix is in Class A ball. Jay Rosehill played a bit for the Flyers and Leafs (ick). And Lang and Brassard never reached the NHL. Where did Doug find these guys? How did he know? Like I said, he's an expert.

The rest of the cards were of players who were not born on 7/16, but they're Dodgers so we'll let that slide.

All of those are needs, so that is very nice. I'm even willing to overlook that fact that neither player on the 2016 Bowman cards are with the Dodgers anymore. Also, I now have eight different Montas Dodgers cards from 2016 and he's never played a game for the Dodgers.

One more card and I'll let you go.

I absolutely love this.

Victor Alvarez, a native of Mexico, was a minor league pitcher for the Dodgers about a dozen years ago. He appeared briefly for L.A. in 2002 and 2003. But he sure made his mark with this autograph.

The signing genius that it took to combine the initials of his first and last name into one striking symbol! The slashing lines signifying what? Let's say power and speed. I don't even know what the circle with crosses for eyes is. It looks a little ominous and quirky at the same time, and adds to the greatness of the autograph.

It might be the best autograph I've ever seen on a card.

Such great stuff all around! And it isn't even my birthday.