Wednesday, March 25, 2015

From hope to despair


A couple of years ago, I joined a card draft at Scott Crawford on Cards! I enjoyed it quite a bit and also snagged some random cards that were interesting but I don't really collect.

One of them was this 2011 Topps Andrew Bailey hope diamond parallel. I grabbed it because I wanted a hope diamond parallel in the collection. That's the only reason.

Well, since then, I've acquired a couple more hope parallels, of the more appropriate Dodger variety. And, more to the point, Scott sent a collector my way who apparently is trying to complete the entire set -- base and update -- of hope diamond cards. He needed the Andrew Bailey card as one of three cards left to completing the whole thing, and he said he'd pay me $25.

Done.

I got the cash, and I happily sent the card off, and I hope he finds that Alex Avila and Frank Robinson to finish the full set.

And that's enough about current cards.

Time to see what I got for my $25.

I went the oddball route in an effort to stretch my money as much as possible.


The most recent card was this 1987 Burger King Fernando Valenzuela, last card of the 20-card set. If you look closely, you can see the ghost of an L.A. logo on the cap. That, no doubt, would get Burger King sued in 2015.


These two cards are from the 1976 SSPC set. It turns out I had the Burt Hooton card already, but it doesn't matter because my Dodgers '76 SSPC set is now complete!

Behold:


That is a collection of the Dodgers from when I first realized there were Dodgers and baseball. Special, special people in that set, plus a few that I had no knowledge of, like Paul Powell and Charlie Manuel and coach Mickey Vernon.

This set is cherished not only because of what I just mentioned and the fact that it's a terrific-looking throwback to the '70s, but because it is the very first set that I ever saw that was Unobtainable.

The first time I saw an SSPC set was not in a store -- you couldn't find it in a store -- it was in either a Baseball Digest or Sporting News. It was the first cards that I couldn't get by asking my mom or dad to drive to the store. If I wanted them, I had to order them through the mail. What devilry was this????

And now I have the Dodgers. On to the rest of the set.

But that's a tangent. More on what I received for hope diamond Bailey:


It's time to get cracking on the Hostess Dodgers. It's shocking how many I still need. This here is light-hitting Steve from the 1978 Hostess set. He batted  all the way up to .256 in 1977. He's very proud.


Here is Dave(y) Lopes from the very patriotic 1976 Hostess set, the year that Lopes' mustache was in full fury. Lopes never smiled in '76 because is mustache wouldn't let him.


And here is Andy Messersmith from the first Hostess set in 1975. I enjoy Messersmith pitching with his batting glove, and the Dodgers congregating in the background (No. 49 for the Dodgers at that time was Charlie Hough), and that it looks like spring training was held at one of the state parks near where I live.

The Messersmith card is a short-print, and during my first real tour through Hostess checklists, I found out how many SPs there are in those sets.

That will make obtaining the cards that I want from those sets a slight challenge.

I'm finding out now how much of a challenge.

The other card that I ordered with my hope diamond Bailey money was the one that I wanted the most. It's the one I mentioned here.

Yup, it's the 1979 Hostess Ron Cey card, an SP.

After I made that post, Mark Hoyle contacted me and showed me that the card was available for a reasonable price on a vintage site that he deals with all the time. He kindly offered to order the card for me, but I was so eager to finally get the card that I had ordered it myself before Mark even made the offer.

And here I still wait without my card.

I paid my cash and paypal let me know that I paid and that's the last I heard. No confirmation from the site that I made an order or that they received my money or that they're shipping out the card. A couple weeks later, I sent an email inquiring about the status. I received no response.

Mark says he hasn't had issues with the place and has suggested calling them. I think that will be the next step when I have a moment. But I'm not very happy right now.

So, that's almost all of the goodies that I got for one meaningless parallel.

Didn't quite get all I hoped for (heh), but it'll work out eventually.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tired of being treated like a common criminal


Can you see that? You probably know what it is, even if it's difficult to see. That's a security tag. You can find them in random packs of baseball cards. They're about the worst kind of "hit" ever created.

One of these was in a pack of Heritage that I bought last week. It caused the security alarm to go off as I exited Target.

I hate that, because even though I don't bother to stop and turn around after the bell goes off, and no security guard comes running after me, and everyone seems to know that those things ring for random, innocuous reasons, I still feel like someone, somewhere thinks I'm getting away with something, like I'm shoplifting, like I'm a common criminal.

Security devices are familiar instruments used by department stores in loss prevention, and employees are forever removing them from clothes, etc. But I don't know why they're still in baseball card packs. The majority of baseball card packs cost between $2 and $6. Are we attaching security tags to candy, toothpaste, lipstick, pencils? They're just as costly as a baseball card pack.

The fact that they show up in relatively inexpensive baseball card packs leads me down a path of reasons that I don't want to travel:

1. People still believe that retail packs of cards are valuable
2. Topps and other companies are still experiencing significant "loss" in the baseball card aisles and taking measures to counter that.
3. I'm involved in a hobby filled with hoods.

I don't like that because I'm not a "hood". Not once -- not since I was 9 anyway -- have I felt the desire to walk off with a pack of baseball cards. I work hard -- way, way, way too hard -- in order to buy a stupid $4 pack of Heritage to shoplift it, or to have that blasted beeper go off even after I spent my cash.

But perhaps this is still a problem for Topps, I don't know.

When I go to the card aisle, 98.9 percent of the time, I'm the only one there. I'm sure part of the reason is because I'm usually there during "off hours" -- lunch time, overnight hours -- I'm not there when people traditionally do their shopping.

But, still, the card aisle can't possibly be a hot-bed of activity, teeming with so many people that cards are disappearing constantly, can it?

But look at all the measures that are in place to battle us hoodlum card collectors. There are the security tags, there is the fact that the card aisle is near the front of the store, by the registers, where most of the employees are; there are almost always carts full of stuff blocking the card aisle so you must weave in and out of aisles to get to the cards that you want. I still don't know what the jammed cart is supposed to deter -- a quick getaway?

And then there is my sweet, helpful Walmart. The sports section of the card aisle has grown smaller and smaller so that baseball cards now take up about an eighth of the entire aisle devoted to trading cards and their ilk.

But guess what is directly over the baseball card portion -- the whole three tiny rows?


It's not that sign exactly, but the message is the same. "Be on guard, card stealer, we're watching YOU."

It's hung right over the hanging baseball card racks. When I move to take a pack from the rack, I hit the sign with my hand. It is so close and so near what I'm trying to buy that I can't help but feel it's directed at me.

I don't like feeling like that when all I'm doing is buying picture cards.

I know that there are pack searchers -- if people still care about relics, that is -- but, again, is it that much of a problem in comparison to other store items?

Here is a list of the most shoplifted items at stores according to a survey by the National Retail Federation in 2012:

Cigarettes, energy drinks, high-end liquor, baby formula, pain relievers, weight-loss pills, allergy medicine, diabetic testing strips, electric toothbrushes, lotions and creams, pregnancy tests, jeans, designer clothing, handbags, cellphones, digital cameras, digital recorders, laptops, GPS devices, LCD televisions, high-end vacuums, Kitchen-Aid mixers.

Nothing in that list resembles a baseball card to me.

But I'm willing to bet that some of those things don't feature a security tag.

Perhaps my problem is affiliating myself with the ne'er-do-wells in Walmart and Target. But you know my thoughts with a lot of hobby shops. It's as if they think there's going to be a crime at all times. That's why cards are under glass and way up high behind the register.

I just want to say to them -- and to the folks at Target and Walmart, too -- that I'm just a guy who likes baseball cards. I like them so much that I will pay money for them. And I'll give you the money and be on my way. No funny business. I'll even come back and do the whole thing again.

Maybe I'm a rare breed. I'd like to think I'm not, but with all the alarms and angry watchdog signs going off in my face, I'm wondering if I am.

It's enough to make me want to buy all my cards online.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Someone has time to go through my want lists


As I stumble upon another week of March, realizing it will be just as busy as the week before, I am reminded again that there are people skipping happily through the month, breaking for spring, and ... get this, looking through collectors' want lists.

How do you people do it?

I received a bunch of cards a week or so ago from The Great Sports Name Hall Of Fame. The SpastikMooss seems to deal primarily in football cards these days, but somehow managed to comb my list of baseball cards and unearth several key items. Again, I repeat: who has the time?

Let's start with a Nebulous 9 need.


Good ol' Eric Riggs was the last card I needed to complete the 2003 Topps Traded Dodgers set. It's been an elusive annoyance for some time.

But The Mooss didn't leave it at that.


That's the gold version of 2003 Riggs.



And that's the Chrome version of Riggs, both refractor and original flavor.

How someone has so many different cards of a player that I only know because he was on a baseball card in 2003, I don't know, but I'm ecstatic about the whole thing.

Let's go to another Nebulous 9 need:


This 1993 Topps gold card of Henry Rodriguez now allows me to do this:


That's all the Dodger goldies from 1993, plus a random Hal McRae, Carlos Delgado, Cliff Floyd, etc.

But we're not done completing team sets:


2007 Upper Deck is finally done now that the dastardly "listed as a Padre but shown as a Dodger" Greg Maddux is in my possession.

Still not done completing team sets:


2000 Bowman Chrome is finished. Do you know how long it would have taken me to making a Bowman Chrome set from the turn of the century a priority? Scientists would have had to lengthen the average life expectancy to 170. This is why I'm glad somebody has time in March.



There's some more shiny from that period. Another prospect -- this time with a very familiar name -- that didn't make it. But don't you feel more patriotic now?

Not every card I received was on my want lists. But that's only because I don't dare put stuff like this on my want lists:


That's a Shoe-Cap-Jersey (Prime, whatever the hell that means) card of Adrian Beltre numbered to /25.

I ignore relics when I'm looking for cards to buy for myself, but I don't know how you can ignore something like that.

It looks a lot like another Beltre relic card I have:


No, I don't know why Playoff was making multiple Beltre Shoe-Cap-Jersey cards in different sets. I'm not going to question it. I'm just going with the flow.

The last card from SpastikMooss features just one kind of relic. But when you see the player featured, you'll understand why:


Isn't that beauteous?

I don't know how players from the '50s played in those things, but I am now glad they did.

Many thanks to The Great Sports Name Hall of Fame for carving out some time to look through my want lists.

I'll let you in on a little secret: I actually had time to look through a couple of people's want lists on Saturday.

I'm going to try to do that again sometime.

April is only nine days away.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

C.A.: 2013 Topps Heritage News Flashback, Rolling Stones

(If everything goes right, by my calculations, I have to survive just 15 more Marches at work at most and then I can take as many vacations as I want during this stupid month. Time for Cardboard Appreciation from an exhausted Night Owl. This is the 222nd in a series):


I love music trading cards. If there was a legitimate music trading card set, featuring different groups and singers, a mix of the new and the old, I would throw whatever baseball card set was on the shelves during that time down the stairs so fast, you'd wonder why I devoted seven years to a blog about baseball cards.

But I don't think I will be doing that anytime soon because it seems to be extraordinarily difficult to make a music trading card set that doesn't make me cringe.

I don't want a fan-club set devoted to the pre-teen singer of the day or even devoted to any one group or singer. But there seems to be few music sets that feature a diverse selection of artists.

One of the sets that came close to following what I'm looking for was the 1991 Pro Set Musiccards, which is also on the list that I just linked. I consider that a couple of octaves above the other sets on the list, because it took some thought and offers a wide range of genres from the past and the present. Sure, it was 1991 and I had to hold my nose and collect Vanilla Ice, but at last it was something in line with what I was thinking.

I collected maybe a third of the '91 Musicards set that year, and was thrilled with half of the cards and repulsed by the other half. At some point, all of those cards disappeared out of my collection.


I'm sad that they're gone and I'm left wishing another set like Musicards, or the MegaMetal set from the same period, would come along.

But since the lack of such a set probably has to do with licensing or royalties or whether the cards would make the company any money (Panini issued a country stars set last year, but I'm not interested in an all-country set), all I have is a stray singer in Allen & Ginter or the periodic News Flashback card from Heritage.

The Rolling Stones card from 2013 Heritage came from The Underdog Card Collector. It was very appreciated as a long unspoken want of mine (ever since I started this post, the Stones' '64 Bobby Womack-penned hit "It's All Over Now" has been going through my head).

The photo used on the Stones card is a Getty Images picture taken by Michael Ward, a famous British photographer in the 1960s. It shows the group, from left to right, Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards, posing in a vintage car in 1964. (The image can be found in a series of Rolling Stones photos about three-quarters of the way down).

There is also a Beatles News Flashback card, which is probably the time when someone expects me to address which group I like better. But I have no answer for that. I like them both. I have a lot more difficult time picking sides in music than in baseball.

I would think a varied music trading cards set would have a wide appeal, but then maybe those immersed in music wouldn't care about cards.

I just know that my wife, who barely notices the baseball cards that I have scattered all over the house, just leaned over my shoulder a few minutes ago, poked at the Rolling Stones card, and said "cool".

They do stand out, don't they?

Anyway, just in case you think I'm ditching baseball cards for good now, here's a baseball card that The Underdog sent, too:


Now, if someone were to make a historic baseball and rock n' roll set -- something that would include Duke Snider and Dee Snider -- I would be the first in line.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Now do you understand?


I am sure that there are more than 100 reasons why I collect baseball cards, and I've probably documented at least three-quarters of them on this blog.

Yet, many people, those who I know personally and those I just come across in social media, still have no idea what it is that makes me collect. They ignore my enthusiasm or question my interests. Why would I want to waste money on picture cards?

Many of these people aren't sports fans. They don't understand and they don't want to understand. "It's just sports," they say. "He'll always be that way." It's kind of like being patted on the head. But I don't get upset about it.

But I think I have a reason to collect cards that might open the eyes of some of those people.

I received a cool card package in the mail yesterday. It was filled with lots of my collecting interests. Dodgers, set needs, vintage greatness, oddballs, even some non-baseball goodies. You'll see them all some other time. In that box of excitement, where every card was worth turning over and absorbing, I started leafing through some 1981 Donruss needs. The Steve Henderson card appeared during my shuffling.

And I stopped cold.

Instantly, without any prompting, I was flooded with a rush of memories about my grandfather.

I was transported to my grandparents house, and there I was, sitting on the carpeting, closer to the console TV than I was allowed at home, watching a Mets game.

It was 1976 or 1977, at least four years before this Steve Henderson card was even created. Heck, my grandfather died the offseason after the Midnight Massacre, when Tom Seaver was traded to the Reds and Henderson was one of the players who came over to the Mets. My grandpa saw Henderson play for New York for only a couple of months.

But there was something about that card -- the Mets uniform at the time, the sight of Henderson and the hoopla surrounding him in '77, the fact that I remember specifically the Mets playing in Wrigley while watching games at my grandpa's -- that caused that memory to surface.

I lived about a half hour from my grandfather, my father's dad. We'd visit their house quite a bit, almost every weekend. By the time I was 12, I was bored with the toys and books in the playroom in the back. I wanted to watch baseball, and my grandpa liked the Mets.

My brother and I would get some ice cream from the freezer, grab a can of root beer, grape or orange soda, and plop on the oriental carpet rug in the living room, fixing our eyes on the giant, wooden TV console as Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner brought us the game.

It was the only way we had to connect to my grandfather. My grandma would chat with us, but my grandpa wouldn't say much more than "hi" as he sat in his leather chair. I remember trying desperately to come up with something to say to him, but I never could. I don't remember sitting on his lap or joking with him or anything. It was just "hi" and that was it. Maybe he'd join in some grown-up talk periodically, but I mostly just remember him watching from his leather chair, silently.

When it was time to leave, we would walk to the closet that was next to his leather chair and my dad got out our coats and handed them to us. I would wish my grandpa an uncomfortable goodbye and he'd smile from his leather chair.

I don't remember him walking around the room or going outside or driving in a car. When I look back on it I'm sure he was sick for the final few years of his life. But that never occurred to me. I just thought he liked his leather chair and blankets over his legs.

What got us through, both he and I, were the Mets games on the TV.

The Mets were lousy then and I was a Dodger fan, but baseball was baseball. We'd watch game after game, from "Meet the Mets" to "Kiner's Korner," and every once in awhile, my grandpa would say something about the game, and we'd pay attention -- really pay attention -- because he didn't say much.

That was the connection. We'd eat our ice cream, drink our soda, watch the game, and nod when my grandpa said a sentence.



The players back then, young players like John Stearns and Lee Mazzilli (and Mike Vail, don't forget about Mike Vail), I forever associate with my grandpa. I don't recall him having a favorite player but every once in awhile, somebody would do something good -- make a nice play in the field -- and my grandpa would say "how about that play?"

It was the best when that happened. Because we were thinking what he was thinking. Finally. We knew what he was thinking! Yes! That was a great play!

My grandfather died in November 1977. We'd still visit the same house for years and years after his death, and there'd still be games to watch. But it was mostly just my brothers and I watching them. None of the other grown-ups seemed interested. Not as much as my grandpa.

It would never be the same as "Meet the Mets".

So that's another reason I collect cards.

You know that box of letters with a ribbon tied around them that you keep under the bed?

That's baseball cards for me.

You know those framed pictures of people that sit on a table or a shelf or the mantel or the wall?

That's baseball cards for me.

You know those special songs on your iphone -- or for you older people -- on your mixed tape?

That's baseball cards for me.

Baseball cards bring back all those terrific memories that everyone has. It's a device. Just like a framed photograph or an old trinket.

That's one of the more than 100 reasons why I collect baseball cards.

Now do you understand?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ashamed


I don't know why I do the stuff that I do. Let's review why on earth I bought two packs of 2015 Opening Day tonight:

1. Needed a writing topic
2. The stress of this month is causing me to randomly buy packs
3. Every last person's birthday is in March, meaning when I'm not at work or sleeping, I'm in a store.
4. All of the above, dammit, the answer is all of the above.

So, yes, stressed-out, cashed-out, fresh-out-of-ideas night owl grabbed two 99-cent packs of Opening Day even though he was warned.

He was warned not to buy Opening Day because it was already so pointless that he hasn't bothered to address it the last couple of years and now it's the same except even more pointless. The Topps base set lacks foil player names or teams or positions this year, rendering the reason for buying Opening Day moot.

 A few people offered the hope that because there was little foil in 2015 Topps that the pictures in Opening Day might be different. This is an extrapolation that overestimates Topps' appreciation of collectors, but, yeah, I bought a couple packs because of that possibility, too.

My embarrassing results:

Pack 1


Opening Day card on the left, Topps base card on the right.

J.D. Martinez, Tigers, #71



Clay Buchholz, Red Sox, #36



Coco Crisp, Athletics, #72


Pack 2


Cole Hamels, Phillies, #153



Josh Hamilton, Angels, #87



Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals, #32


You can see just a slight resemblance to the Topps base set, with the exception of the Opening Day logo and the mad-cap repositioning of the Topps logo from right to left in some cases.

Obviously, that wasn't all of the cards I pulled out of the two packs. There were a few that were new to me.


I'm going to assume that we will see these images in Series 2 of the base set.



At least there were a couple of inserts that were distinctive enough. This is an insert set dedicated to throwback jerseys. This one is OK as I'm only interested in '70s/'80s throwbacks. Unfortunately, the card (and the Hamels card) features a corner ding. What do you expect for 99 cents?



This set features photos taken by fans, which is kind of cool, and at least one blogger is in the set. One day, there will be no professional photographers left and Topps will produce entire sets featuring nothing but cellphone shots from fans. Wait 'til you see an action shot of Albert Pujols from "Jim".



These are the blue parallels in Opening Day this year. They're a little more wimpy than in past years and gravitate toward foil, which makes me yawn all the way to 1998. But I'm sure Mark Hoyle will appreciate it.



Looks veerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyy familiar, though.

There WAS one card that was different from the Topps Series 1 base set.

Here it is:


This is very close to someone throwing it on ebay and claiming Variation-Jo. Thank goodness the Opening Day logo is there.


Now that most of the foil is gone off of the base set (I'm hoping the trend continues in the future), there is even less of a reason to buy Opening Day. I don't care if it's cheaper or if it features mascots if almost every card is a virtual duplicate of the base set. I suppose if you buy just Opening Day and nothing else, then you avoid that angst, but I can't devote myself to a set where a bunch of players are "missing."

2015 Topps is interesting enough on its own that there is no reason for me to think about Opening Day ever again.

In fact, I'm ashamed I even mentioned anything.