Sunday, December 21, 2014

Awesome night card, pt. 228: the new guys

If you think you've already seen this night card featured on Awesome Night Card, then you are very perceptive ... and probably need a life.

The card that was featured then was the 2008 Upper Deck base card. This is the Jimmy Rollins card from '08 Upper Deck First Edition.

I am showing this card because, of course, Rollins is now a Los Angeles Dodger. In a convoluted scheme involving the Phillies, Marlins, Padres and Angels, the Dodgers landed a new shortstop (Rollins), second baseman (Howie Kendrick), catcher (Yasmani Grandal) and assorted prospects that they either kept or distributed to other teams.

The Dodgers also added some pitchers and a couple of other guys since the 2014 season ended. What I usually like to do during the offseason after my team's made new acquisitions is to see what cards I have of the Dodgers' new guys.

Because I'm not much of a player collector, I don't pay much attention to a player's cards if they're not a Dodger. I accumulate them only through set-building or my habit of buying random packs for reasons that are only known to my psychiatrist.

So it's interesting to see what cards I have of these guys just lying around the house.

I'll start with the players who haven't been around much and then build to the more established.


Number of cards I have: 2
What I knew about the guy before he became a Dodger: He was a PED user.
How I hope he helps my team: I like my catchers to hit. This isn't the 1970s. You can't put Steve Swisher back there anymore.

Cardboard claim to fame: I have only two cards of him so his fame is yet to be established as far I'm concerned.


Number of cards I have: three
What I knew about the guy before he became a Dodger: Nothing.
How I hope he helps my team: Well, the bullpen was a disaster last year. Anyone new is better than what there was.

Cardboard claim to fame: He has two cards in the 2011 Topps Traded set, which isn't all that notable because that's what Topps does with rookies these days. But five years from now someone is going to want a full accounting of why in the hell Topps put two Juan Nicasio cards in one set.


Number of cards I have: three
What I knew about the guy before he became a Dodger: Nothing. I've had this terrible habit of not paying attention to the Reds ever since they left the NL West.
How I hope he helps my team: I'm assuming he's some sort of replacement for Andre Ethier or intended as insurance for Joc Pederson, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, etc.

Cardboard claim to fame: Nothing that I know.


Number of cards I have: five
What I knew about the guy before he became a Dodger: I know him from the Rays and him wearing that goofy 1970s San Diego Padres tribute uniform on his 2013 Topps card.
How I hope he helps my team: See what I wrote for Juan Nicasio.
Cardboard claim to fame: His 2013 Topps card.

My favorite card of his:

I have a card of him as a Syracuse Chief.


Number of cards I have: nine
What I knew about the guy before he became a Dodger: Switched teams a lot, recently played for teams I hated (Diamondbacks, Yankees), rampant Twitterer.
How I hope he helps my team: If he can pitch better than Dan Haren, then we're good.
Cardboard claim to fame: He is the last card in the 2010 Topps set (top card on the right).


Number of cards I have: 14
What I knew about the guy before he became a Dodger: I can't get rid of his cards because he's an Oakland A.
How I hope he helps my team: I guess the deal isn't official yet, but again, I'm just looking for something better than Haren.
Cardboard claim to fame: Shows ability to stay in my collection no matter how little I know about him.

My favorite card of his:

 A Lineage mini, of course!


He's never been impressed with you.


Number of cards I have: 18
What I knew about him before he became a Dodger: Well, honestly, until the last three years or so, I mixed him up with Kendrys Morales.
How I hope this player helps my team: He gives me a lot more confidence at second base than Dee Gordon did.
Cardboard claim to fame: Kendrick is the last card in the 2012 Allen & Ginter set (third card from the left in the top row).


The "wave" on Kendrick's 2010 Topps card is blue while all his teammates feature a red wave.


Number of cards I have: 35
What I knew about him before he was a Dodger: One of my favorite non-Dodgers around 2007-09.
How I hope he helps my team: He's a solid fielder and he isn't know for getting hurt, so that right there is an improvement for the Dodgers over the last several years.
Cardboard claim to fame: Rollins also appeared last in an Allen & Ginter set:

He was the final card in 2009. So the Dodgers' double play tandem are short-prints!

Also, both Rollins and Kendrick have a couple of the better cards in 2014 Topps:

More cardboard claim to fame:

Rollins is one of many players recently who showcase my least favorite part of modern cards:

And, in case someone from Upper Deck is looking at this and snickering:

I don't think card companies think we talk to each other. Or buy more than one set. Or observe anything.

I'm hoping the Dodgers feature a couple more changes to the playing roster before the offseason is done. But overall it's nice to see some sort of plan and process involved rather than just accumulating stars.

Whether that works, well, you just got to put your faith in the people in charge.

After all, I didn't even know who Juan Nicasio was.


Night card binder candidate: Jimmy Rollins, 2008 Upper Deck First Edition, #435
Does it make the binder?: Yes.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Minnnnniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii(this is me running around the house)iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssssssssssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I think I've done a decent enough job conveying how important my childhood is in my hobby of collecting baseball cards.

It's why I am collecting today. If I didn't collect cards as a kid, there's a good chance I wouldn't be collecting now. There is no bigger thrill for me in this hobby than finding a card that connects me to the joyful moments I had as a kid when I pulled or looked at or played with that card.

The vast majority of those childhood memories are contained in 1975. The years 1974-77 are prime territory for childhood card memories, too, but 1975 ... well, 1975 I could dedicate an entire blog to all of the card memories created that year. In fact, I did.

I had it pretty good as a 9-year-old boy. Topps produced one of its most colorful and memorable sets of all-time during my first year of collecting. It's no wonder I'm still collecting now.

Also that year, Topps decided to produce a parallel set to its main set and market it in select part of the country. Again, I had it pretty good. One of those areas was my little corner of Upstate New York (even though the official book on this is that they were only marketed in parts of Michigan and California).

If I think about it really hard, I think the minis were only available at the corner market across the street from my elementary school. I know I didn't find them anywhere else. But in a case of fortune upon fortune, not only did these minis land in my lap but I fell in love with them immediately.

During card trades at recess that spring, I traded regular-size cards for mini cards. How could you not love the mini versions? They were so mini! I sought out those cards wherever I could.

That year I was able to accumulate maybe 70-80 mini cards from the '75 set. And that's the amount I had for years afterward.

I never planned to complete the '75 mini set. The regular-sized set was enough for me. And given what I heard about how unavailable the minis were, I figured that was a lost cause. Also, and this is how limited my view of the hobby was before I had a blog, I figured EVERYONE was chasing these minis.

I thought that these were the most desirable cards for just about any collector. I grew up loving '70s cards, I figured everyone else did, too. And such a colorful, mini set? Why that was at the top of every last collector's want list, right?

It turns out that's not the case. Lots of collectors can't be bothered with vintage sets or minis. Some like cards that are even older. Some collect only cards with scribbles or pieces of material attached to them. Walking around in a world where collecting interests are so wide and varied made me realize that maybe trying to collect the '75 mini set wasn't so impossible.

So, ever since I announced that I was collecting the '75 minis set, I became the '75 mini guy, which still amuses me because I still react to it like someone's saying, "Oh, that's the guy who loves money" or "that's the guy who loves pizza." DOESN'T EVERYBODY?????????

The '75 Topps mini set, to me, is the pinnacle of the collecting experience. It is my favorite set and it's from my childhood. It's a niche set. And somewhat difficult to complete.

And guess what?

I've completed it.

You thought I'd never get to that.

I had three cards left to finish the set. I didn't get them the way I thought I would. I wanted to find them myself. But money has been terribly tight this fall and even though I set an objective for grabbing them before the end of the year, I realized that wasn't going to happen. So I tempered my expectations (I'm really good at that) and decided I'd just grab them sometime early next year.

I figured I could look at these three unfinished pages for another couple of months. Hell, I'd been working on this set for 40 years:

This is where Zippy Zappy comes in.

He either didn't read or didn't pay any mind to the post I wrote in which I said I wanted to get the final three cards myself. Because this is what arrived in an envelope one week ago today:

Those are the last three cards that I needed to finish the set.

So, if I've had those cards for a week, why didn't this post show up earlier? How did I restrain myself?

Well, if you're a set-builder, you know the deal. Just because you think you've completed a set, it means nothing until you page all the cards and go through them. I may have completed a lot of sets, but double that and that's how many sets I thought I've completed.

It took me a week to go through the entire set and I can finally say that:


OK, I'm very winded now, but there's one more thing I have to do.

Just give me a minute here ...

Almost done ...

All right, I'm ready ...


That is glorious.

This has been a pretty successful year. In the same year I got UltraPro to return the '75 mini-style pages to the market place I completed the most important set in my collecting experience.

I could retire from collecting right now.

Hmmmm .....

HMMMM ....

But I won't.

I'll probably upgrade a small handful of the minis -- I'd like all of the checklists without checks and one is checked and a couple cards are a little too miscut for my taste -- but I'm pretty much done with this set.

After that, I'll have to find another set from the '70s to complete -- Kellogg's or Hostess or SSPC or '73 Topps or something.

Because even though there are still cool sets with cool cards that I have my eyes on -- 1956 Topps and stuff from the '60s and even some current-day things, there is nothing like collecting with the zeal of a 9-year-old boy.

Thanks all for contributing to this set.

I won't retire.

But I think I have to lie down now.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Turn to your right, Mr. Carlton

So, writing three blogs is kind of pain in the ass. It requires quite a bit of devotion and sacrifice and I would be lying if I said I didn't think every now and then about returning to just one blog.

But if I wrote just one blog, I'd be eliminating a considerable source of material. I get ideas, man from the other two blogs. Maybe they're not the most fantastic ideas -- it's not like receive a Christmas break, you know -- but they amuse me.

For example, I posted the above card of Steve Carlton on the 1985 Topps blog a couple of days ago. It's Carlton's 70th birthday on Monday and I mentioned that, too. But I can't look at a card of Steve Carlton for very long without thinking of how he trolled the 1984 Topps set.

Carlton, if you remember his greatest days, was one of the most prominent players in the major leagues in 1984. His team, the Phillies, had just appeared in the World Series the previous year. Meanwhile, Carlton enjoyed status as both a solid star of the game and one of the all-time greats, as he was climbing the list of the most prolific strikeout pitchers. He was everywhere.

Yet, he wasn't the most available player in baseball. I don't know what his relationship with Topps was but he sure wasn't talking to the media then.

Perhaps Topps wasn't able to get a lot of pictures of Carlton that year, which would explain what you are about to see.

In 1984, for whatever reason, Topps issued a mind-numbing 18-card subset addressing MLB's active career leaders in a number of categories. I've always regarded this as one of the dullest subsets of the 1980s (I know this statement will automatically cause someone to comment how much they love it and how they met their first girlfriend through this set and how it saved their nephew from a burning building, but it's still dull). It drones on and on  -- much like this post.

That's the basic format, a Olympic pedestal design with a whole lot of mug shots staring back at you. Oh, and lots and lots of yellow. Bleah.

Although it's nice to get an extra card of Cesar Cedeno, or Larry Bowa as a Cub, there is a lot of repetition in this set.

Like so.

Perhaps the most notable repetition in this subset involves Steve Carlton. He appears in three successively numbered cards in this exact order:

That's a whole lot of Carlton turned to the right (and Seaver facing forward).

But that's just part of it.

Carlton appears quite a bit in other parts of the 1984 set, because like I said, he was both an All-Star and career standout.

So he's on both a leaders card ...

and a season highlights card ...

... turned to the right.

Now let's go to the cards in which Carlton is the only player featured.

Here he is on another highlights card in the middle of his wind-up -- probably as he was in all of those head-shot photos too -- turned to the right.

Now the All-Star card. And the LHP is facing to the right again in mid-windup.

OK, now all that's remaining is Carlton's base card.

Let's see what he's doing there.

Why am I not surprised?

Even on the inset photo, he's turned to the right.

So, if you've kept track, that's nine different images of Carlton that very well could be from the same game, the same inning, the same wind-up (note he's in a road uniform in every photo).

I doubt that's the case, at least as far as the same wind-up. But it's obvious that Topps had difficulty getting multiple pictures of Carlton that year, or at the very least, they could only shoot him in action.

It probably wasn't the greatest time to decide to run an 18-card subset on active career leaders.

Right, Steve?


Oh, sure, now you turn to the left.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


As someone who collects cards, it's difficult for me to think of dupes -- otherwise known as duplicates, doubles, the same exact thing -- as something desirable.

But in real life, a dupe isn't all bad. Twins, for example. Parents of twins love their dupes. And plates. I'm told it's a good thing when the dishes you set out for dinner all look the same. Socks are usually dupes, too, unless you're a teenage girl. A weekend is a dupe -- two straight days off. See? Dupes can be good.

As for cards, I still avoid dupes for the most part. As a set and team collector, I'm required to have a number of dupes just so I can complete both set and team missions. But other than that, the best I can do is tolerate dupes.

In my Dodgers binders, if it's a card from before 1978, then, yes, I'll allow a duplicate in the binder. Anything after than that has to be pretty special for me to include the same card back-to-back on a page.

The card you see above is an example of both exceptions to the dupe rule. First, it's from before 1978 so it goes in the binder. Second, it's a pretty special card -- one of the greatest Dodgers cards of all time, according to this list, which I need to update again.

So I will be adding it to the binder. The card on the left, which came from Dave, of "Dave sends great cards" fame, is actually an upgrade to the '64 ERA Leaders card on the right. I had pined for this card for a long time on the blog before finally getting a copy.

Now I have two, and nothing amuses me more right now. Two versions of the two Dodgers on the card!

The Koufax-Drysdale card came with another 1965 Topps leaders card:

This is definitely not a dupe. This was a Nebulous 9 need and the last 1965 Topps Dodger-related card that I needed to complete the team set. In case you're wondering, Sandy Koufax finished fourth in 1964.

Dave sent me one other dupe, and it's kind of an unusual one:

Yup. It's my first yearbook dupe.

I have just one Dodgers yearbook from the 1960s, and wouldn't you know it? It's this one.

I love this yearbook as it's the one that follows the Dodgers' World Series title in 1965. When I was in my "buying yearbooks" stage as a teenager, I focused mostly on the mid-1970s, but then on a whim decided to land this one too.

So, hmmmm, now I have two.

I don't expect this to get any results, but if someone has a Dodger yearbook from 1973 or earlier and it's in relatively decent shape, I'll trade one of my '66 yearbooks for it. It's in great shape, too.

I have three more cards here from Dave that aren't dupes, let's take a look at them:

1972 High Numbers! Gloriously miscut!

I could stare at the Astros Rookie Stars card all day. What a fantastic piece of '70s memorabilia that is. Can you imagine any card company taking up that much real estate for an Electric Company design today?

Also, if you look really closely at the Jim Fregosi card, somewhere around the tree in the distance, you can see Nolan Ryan cackling.

These three cards, of course, will be the first ones in my 1972 binder, because no one but no one has dupes of '72 high numbers. That would be rude.

Speaking of which, now that I have two, maybe I'll start hoarding this card like that guy with the 1964 Curt Flood card.

Nah, that'd be kind of jerky.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thinking outside the box

There is a lot of talk about whether cards look better with or without borders. I can see points for both, but in general I'm a border guy. Borders help make a set distinguishable over time. Most Fleer Ultra sets will never be able to say that.

But here is one thing about bordered sets that I've never seen brought up anywhere else, and it has to do with the 1991 Topps set:

Some of the player images OVERLAP THE BORDER!

Here is what I mean:

Felix Fermin's foot doesn't get cut off at the toe just because his spikes have hit the white border. They overlap into the white space!

Why all the exclamation points?

Well, up until this time, as far as I can tell, Topps sets featured a clearly defined border. And the image didn't stray into it. Pick whatever pre-1991 set you want. There's no glove straying into the black edges in 1971 Topps. There's no bat wandering into the purple of 1975 Topps. There's no elbow bumping up against the hockey stick in 1982 Topps.

But in 1991 Topps, time and again ...

... players are breaking the border wall.

It's like they've entered into a new dimension. All those years of being confined within four corners. All those "rules" about the pristine white border. So constraining.

It didn't matter anymore. Did it, Dwight Evans' bat?

I knew there was a reason I liked 1991 Topps other than the original, terrific photography. They were literally thinking outside the box!

However, I'm not willing to give Topps full credit.

I have my suspicions that it got this border-barrier-breaking idea from somewhere else. And, no, it was not Upper Deck.

It was Fleer.

During the late 1980s, Fleer went with very thick borders. I don't even think you can call them borders in some cases. And there's no way they could get a full major league baseball player within the photo space reserved for, say 1989 Fleer.

So the players instead broke out into the border, most notably in 1990 Fleer.

I think this is where the '91 Topps idea originated.

Early '90s Classic did the same thing periodically.

But even if it wasn't original I think it was best executed  by '91 Topps.

Now, if only it could have been done with 2008 Topps.