Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I am Mr. Lucky 13

You may have noticed that the "Big Fun Game," is all the rage on the blogs. When one game ends, another seems to begin almost immediately.

As usual, I can barely keep up, so I enter what I can and hope for the best. If you're stashing secret BFG contests at the end of a post about the Minnesota Twins manager, I'm probably going to miss it.

Out of the string of the four recent Big Fun Games, I've been a part of two. That's just the right speed for me. The BFGs take a fair amount of attention and the BFG needs to learn that it has to get in line behind last-minute work bombshells, dog puke and the overwhelming desire for sleep, just to name a few.

Still, I entered another one recently because I landed a Carl Yastrzemski rookie in the last one. I may be overworked, but I refuse to totally ignore the words "big" and "fun".

This one was called the "The Lucky 13," organized by Stealing Home at All Trade Bait All The Time. I was particularly interested in this because I knew there would be some Dodger goodies involved.

Considering my already sizable Dodger collection, I think I walked away with the nicest prize for my needs. It didn't hurt that I was again placed near the end of the selection process. In fact, I was the 13th and final selector for the contest. Lucky 13, indeed!

I was able to steal a lot of autos and relics, with a decidedly Dodger theme.

I'm going to rank my prize in terms of tiers. Like fancy card brands do.


BRONZE TIER




The top card is a manupatch of an Atlanta Brave in a high school uniform. We are not amused. The second card is one of my least favorite relic looks. I have a couple Dodgers from this set and could they make the bat relic tinier? It's a proper comment on Padres hitting, but otherwise, yick. The third card is a double. Autograph doubles nearly break my brain. I've been raised to think they are so exclusive.

Don't worry, the items are getting better.


SILVER TIER




The top card is signed by Armando Galarraga, remember him? He was the pitcher who threw a perfect game but didn't, thanks to a bad call at first base. (That happened seven years ago, by the way. SEVEN YEARS AGO!). I like that I have a signed card of him. The second card is Robin Ventura's half-hearted attempt at his autograph. I think players give up when they see the card is made of material that hates pens. The third card is of Mr. Smiley Angel Pagan. I can accept this card because Pagan is still a Met here (and I like the look of the card). But there's not a day that goes by in which I don't laugh that Angel Pagan is now a part of a last place team.


GOLD TIER




Welcome to my first autographed card from Jeff Shaw. Shaw's signature is another one of those ones that looks like his pen exploded, but I'm happy to add him to the collection. The Jeff Kent relic means I've far exceeded the proper allotment of Jeff Kent relics (which, let's be honest, is about 1.5). The Kyle Russell certo is also my first Kyle Russell autograph. Russell was supposed to do good things for the Dodgers, but he never figured out Triple A (or even really Double A). Still, I like the card.


PLATINUM TIER




Three very fine specimens. I honestly would have stolen something else if these three weren't involved. The Dreifort is my first autographed card of the former pitching phenom. This is long overdue. I do own my share of Chad Billingsley autos, but this one is a looker, nicely designed despite the sticker. And the GQ Dee Gordon relic announces its presence from miles away thanks to the blue relic dot at the bottom. I couldn't take my eyes off of that thing.

And that's why I feel so lucky to have participated in the Lucky 13 contest. I will probably distribute some of these items to others who want them more, but a good amount of the cards will stay in my collection forever.

Oscar added one more item to the package.


It's one of those stadium periodicals that I love so much. Since I live so far away from Dodger Stadium, this will give me as much of a taste of that beautiful blue oasis better than anything.

And if you add this to the number of cards I received, it adds up to 13 items in the package.

Lucky!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Blog bat around: Why I collect these guys


I am not a player collector.

I do not own a binder, box, shelf, room, shrine or dungeon dedicated to the cards of a single player. There is an element of player-collecting that still weirds me out and that's one of the reasons I don't do it.

I also don't do it because I enjoy focusing on sets and my favorite team a lot more. Individuals are fallible. "Things" don't let you down (unless that "thing" is the Mets).

But it's true that there are certain players that I admire more than others and that I keep a running tally of how many cards I own for each of those players. It's listed on the "Dodgers I Collect" page. It's the only place where you will see these individuals separated from the other cards I own.

This page is what is allowing me to participate in the latest Blog Bat Around, which originates from the
Eamus Catuli blog. P-town Tom would like to know how my player collection(s) came about -- you know -- if I were to have player collections.

So let's take a look at them in an order of my choosing:


1. Clayton Kershaw

Number of original Kershaw cards: 514.

How did it come about: I've known that Kershaw was going to be a special pitcher for at least 10 years. I've never been the type to get in on the ground floor of a prospect, but I decided the time was right with Kershaw. I think I chose wisely. Not only was I able to obtain many early Kershaw cards that people are scrambling to buy for high prices right now, but he has been everything that we Dodger fans hoped for back in 2008. I like the Dodgers' tradition of pitching quite a bit and I'm happy that Kershaw has basically taken that tradition to a new level.

Most unusual Kershaw item in my collection:


Unfortunately, Kershaw emerged during this current period of hyper-licensing. No one can make anything of a baseball player or a baseball team without it being licensed by someone. That puts a real damper on creativity, variety and just plain oddness. This is the best I can come up with: a signed card of Kershaw on, not the national team mind you, but the junior national team. Look at wittle Kershy there in red, white and blue.




2. Hideo Nomo

Number of original Nomo cards: 475

How did it come about: I've speculated plenty of times on this blog that Hideo Nomo owns the best-looking cards, the most interesting cards of anyone to ever play the game. After all, they were interesting enough that they prompted me -- a traditional set collector -- to try to accumulate cards specific to Nomo. He is a pioneering player and his mark in history will never be erased. Those are good enough reasons for a player collection.

Most unusual Nomo item in my collection:


If I had some more time I might be able to find something more interesting. I like this little figurine mostly because I can remove his cap. But I think I wasn't able to find anything more odd because many of Nomo's cards are so "out there" that there was no need to create anything else.



3. Orel Hershiser

Number of original Hershiser cards: 277

How did it come about: You had to be there in the mid-to-late 1980s. Orel Hershiser was the most unlikely dominant pitcher since Kent Tekulve. It was such a thrill for the Dodgers to own a pitcher who was so dominant for a period, one who led my team to a World Series title, that I couldn't help but be a fan. Hershiser remains one of my favorite players of all-time.

Most unusual Hershiser item in my collection:

There are a bunch.


This.


This.


This.



But the one that blows everything else away is my 8-by-10 photo, signed by Hershiser and addressed to "Night Owl". I received this in the early days of the blog after Zach of Autographed Cards coerced Hershiser to sign the photo as you see it. Of course, now, Hershiser knows who Night Owl is. But at the time he just had to go on faith.




4. Sandy Koufax

Number of original Koufax cards: 159

How did it come about: Koufax and Jackie Robinson are the holy grail for Dodgers collectors. And I came across Sandy Koufax when I was in fourth grade, reading a book about him during "quiet time". I've always been a fan even though I never saw him pitch. Collecting his cards was a mission long before I could afford any of them.

Most unusual Koufax item in my collection:

I'm sure there are some great Koufax finds from the past, but I'm not willing to delve into that expensive world. Save for some Koufax oddball cards, I don't own much that is considered all that different. So I'll go with this:


I own not one, but two, 1966 Dodgers yearbooks. It's a landmark yearbook that commemorates the Dodgers' 1965 World Series championship.

All of the members of the 1965 team are included within with glorious black and white photos mixed among 1960s ads and fashions.

But there is one obvious favorite page in the entire yearbook. And now I have it in duplicate:


It's the Sandy Koufax page.



That is fantastic.



5. Ron Cey

Number of original Ron Cey cards: 121

How did it come about: Ron Cey was my favorite player when I was a kid, probably brought about by owning his 1974 and 1975 Topps cards and then the Dodgers making the World Series in 1977, 1978 and 1981. I was able to watch Cey play more often than if I was a fan of, say, the Texas Rangers during that time. The Dodgers actually appeared on TV periodically all the way on the East Coast and I was able to see Cey's game for myself! I liked his power. I liked his look. I liked his second-banana status. He remains my favorite player and will be forever. I may have the fewest cards of his than the other four on the list, but that's only because misguided card companies have yet to discover what I found so interesting about Cey as a 10-year-old. Get with it card companies!

Most unusual Cey item in my collection:

Cey played in the '70s, so I have lots of unusual items. Just the other day, mr haverkamp sent me an email asking if I had ever spotted the following Cey item. It's some sort of storage box for cards that Topps was selling off of its wax wrappers and Cey is on the box! I admit, I've never seen it before. I don't plan to pay $19.95 to add it to my collection, only because I have other great unusual items of The Penguin.


Such as the 45 record of Ron Cey's 1976 hit song, "Third Base Bag" (with the flip-side single, "One Game at a Time"). Tell me how many of you player collectors have a player with his own 45?


But as cool as this item is, it can't match the most unusual Cey artifact.



Nothing will ever match the Ron Cey-signed penguin lamp created by the band Fleetwood Mac to honor The Penguin.

Yeah, when I look at this particular item, it will be difficult to explain to anyone that I am not a player collector.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dad's favorite player


My dad's favorite player is Ted Williams. It seems odd to write that sentence in the present tense. Williams stopped playing 57 years ago and, um, except for his head, is no longer with us. My dad is in his 80s and rarely talks about baseball in terms of being a fan.

But I know he still has memories of Williams in action and remembers them fondly even if he never speaks of them. One of his favorite baseball books is David Halberstam's "The Teammates," which came out about 15 years ago and chronicles the relationship between Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky during Williams' final days. My dad reads a lot, but not many baseball books, so that's how much he still likes Williams. (I have the book, but I have yet to read it).

Williams was known as "The Splendid Splinter," mostly, but also "The Kid," and "Teddy Ballgame". My dad, however, is fond of calling him by one of his lesser-mentioned nicknames, "The Thumper". When my dad says it, his eyes squint as if he's demonstrating the damage Williams would wreak on a pitcher.

My dad had some baseball cards when he was a kid. He's one of the few cases that I've heard first-hand of his mother throwing out his cards. My grandmother did indeed do that. I've tried to figure out exactly what cards he had, since my dad doesn't remember. My dad's prime collecting years were wiped out by World War II. There were very few cards made during the period when my dad was 8, 9, 10 years old, and certainly nothing that would reach a tiny town in Upstate New York.

So I'm thinking that my dad might have collected late 1940s cards. Is it possible that my dad owned a 1948 Leaf Ted Williams? It's entirely possible. (It's also possible he may have owned a 1939 or 1940 Play Ball Williams, which would be crazy, although he may have been too young to have cards then).

I don't have any cards of Williams during his playing days. One day I hope to own Williams' 1956 Topps card.

But on the occasion of Father's Day, I decided to add a playing days Williams to my next online order. It's from the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set. Most of those are easily affordable and it will fit nicely with my other latter day Williams cards.

And speaking of those later cards, how about a look at 10 of my favorites? My dad might not have much interest in talking about Williams trading cards, but I do.

So here are 10 of my favorites. No manager cards though. I'm staying with playing-days Williams, just as my dad remembers it.


10. 1982 TCMA Baseball's Greatest Hitters: These perforated cards printed white index-card stock aren't the sturdiest cards (and mine features black smudges), but I appreciate the color photos and I like anything retro. TCMA was a pioneer of retro.



9. 1993 Ted Williams Company: How cool is it to have your name as part of a baseball trading card company? That alone gets this card on the list.



8. 2016 Topps Bunt: The spare look of Bunt works well with this card. Williams played a long, long, long, long time ago. That's what this card says to me.



7. 2008 Stadium Club: At card No. 99, Williams was one of those pain-in-the-butt, divisible by three Stadium Club cards that year. So I treasure this card for that reason alone. Even though the photo is colorized, it's nice to get an eyeful of Williams' red No. 9.



6. 1983 Donruss Hall of Fame Heroes: A Dick Perez special. Maybe not the greatest likeness of "Ted the Thumper" but a lot better than I could do. It's nice to have an illustrated card of Williams in my collection.



5. 1993 Ted Williams Company, Goin' North subset: What a fun card. This shows a very young Williams in a Minneapolis Millers uniform. The back is almost as fun as the front as it recounts how Williams' mom would walk through the stands collecting money for the Salvation Army when Williams was playing in San Diego, and also documents that Williams smashed a water cooler in Minneapolis, barely avoiding severing a nerve in his hand.


4. 2015 Topps Highlights insert: Williams is featured more than once in this insert set, but this one comes out the best and recalls Williams' first Triple Crown.



3. 2007 Topps Distinguished Service insert: There's no doubt in my mind that Williams would be the greatest player who ever lived if he didn't miss so many years while serving his country in World War II and the Korean War. Also, my dad was in the Air Force, so that's all I need to appreciate this card.


2. 1992 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes: You have to have a card recognizing the last time someone hit over .400! I like this card because -- yes, Williams was cranky, loud, profane -- Williams could be fun. This card says fun to me.


1. 1976 Topps All-Time All-Stars subset: When I was trying to complete the 1976 set in the first few years of this blog, this card was a toughie. And this card is different from the others in the subset. It's the only card that features the player up close.

I remember collecting these cards back in '76. Many of the names were unfamiliar. But Williams we knew. We would turn the cards over to the back and stare dumbfounded at the statistics. They seemed to come from another planet.


Batting .400? Look at all those RBIs! Look at all those runs! Keep in mind, this was the '70s and offense wasn't as over the top as it is today. These numbers were astounding.

I'm hoping that I'll live as long as my dad has. And I'm also hoping that I'll be willing to talk about baseball cards and favorite players to anyone who wants to hear about it.

But I'm happy I know who my dad's favorite player is. That's not something that a lot of sons know.

Friday, June 16, 2017

How little civilians know


I have collected cards for most of my life, more than 40 years, with a few breaks in between. Collecting is a way of life for me and is ingrained in my thoughts and actions. It is such a part of me that I don't even realize how big of a card nerd I have become.

I am not the most knowledgeable collector around, far from it, but I do know a lot about cards. And because I've never been someone to give myself the benefit of the doubt, I just assume that everyone else knows about cards, at least a little. And if someone asks me about cards more than once, then, yeah, I'm assuming they know something about cards.

But I was reminded yesterday that civilians -- yes, I'm calling non-collectors "civilians," that's how immersed I am -- don't know squat about cards.

In the middle of a brutally long work day, I stopped at the post office to send off some card packages. I plopped six small mailers on the counter and the worker who is almost always there started asking me about cards.

We've talked about cards before. There are other people besides myself who come into this particular post office with cards to send. Most of them are dealers. The worker started talking about this one woman who ships out cards and he's talked about her before. I can tell she runs group breaks and he said she's always sending out big-dollar cards. He said lately the cards she's been sending have been even more and more expensive.

That's when I said something I shouldn't. I mentioned that some cards are soaring in price. You have to know which ones and it's not going to make you rich, but certain cards are definitely taking off in price in a way that I haven't seen in 25 years. I said all of this to him, thinking he'd know what I was saying.

I don't really like talking about "worth" when I discuss cards but with people with only a conversational knowledge of cards, sometimes you have to go there to keep the card discussion going.

I could tell he was interested.

"What about Rodriguez?" he asked.

Well now we were definitely going somewhere I didn't want to go. I never like discussing Alex Rodriguez. I don't like him. I don't like the Yankees. Please, no. But for the sake of the card discussion, yeah, OK, let's do it.

"Sure," I said. "You have to know which ones. Mid-to-late '90s could be worth something."

I hoped that was it and I hoped he wouldn't ask me "which ones are those?" I don't know a lot about cards from that time and all the elite/mirror/certified/rave/production line/artist's proof mumbo jumbo gets me confused.

But he didn't. Instead, he said, "hang on" and left to go in the next room. What the heck? There were people in line waiting behind me! And he wasn't done processing my packages. Have you noticed how long it takes to process each package lately? They have to confirm the street address with the zip code now? Gracious, what's that all about? Where is he going?

I heard him rummaging around in the next room. It sounded like he was looking through a gym bag. I heard unzipping and more shuffling. Then he came back.

And held up this card:


Not A-Rod, but K-Rod.

Not only was it the wrong Rod, but it was a card from 2010. And not only was it a card from 2010, but the card wa mangled. It was twisted in two different directions, like a deformed soda can.

I stared at it in disbelief, and just so I didn't have to say too many words because I knew if I did I was going to start laughing, I simply said:

"No."

It sounds very dismissive. But at least I wasn't laughing.

That's not very understanding of me, but I was suddenly made aware of how much I knew and how little people who don't collect cards know. I was reminded again of that natural tendency among "civilians" to think every card they stumble across is worth some money.

I then mentioned that I was talking about Alex Rodriguez and he shrugged and said, "it was just something I had lying around with some other stuff."

That was the end of the conversation about cards, thank goodness. He went back to processing my mailers and I was happy because the people behind me had been very patient but I was certain they had quietly formed a lynching party.

I made my exit. And I thought,

"Next time I'm going to mention how that K-Rod may not be worth anything, but it does have value."

I'm going to make sure there's no one behind me in line first though.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The baseball stuff


I'm warning you, I'm too tired today to be creative. And I'll probably be so tired tomorrow that I won't post. This is nothing that I want to do. I think you know if I had my way completely, I would post five times a day and get paid to do that and nothing else.

But, dammit, people who don't care about baseball cards are the worst. Their priorities are all screwed up.

The people who do care trade with me. And they're the best kind of people.

So let's get to the rest of the cards that GCA of The Collective Mind sent to me. This is the baseball portion of the package -- or what I so creatively titled as "The Baseball Stuff". ... sigh ... I want to go to sleep so, so much.


I will start with what I am now calling "necessary-but-not-sufficient" cards. These are foil parallels from last year. If I were told I had to throw out some of my cards tomorrow, these foil things would be the first items in the trash. I collect them because as a team collector I must. They otherwise have no meaning.



These things, too. Man, what have they done to gold parallels? Even if you were sick of them before 2016 at least they were always classy. I can't stand these.


Staying in "not my cup of tea" territory just a little while longer. Here is a Gypsy Queen mini that was once on my want list. In reconstructing my want list, I've eliminated certain items that I have included previously. One of them is GQ minis. "A&G minis only" should be this country's motto.


Check out this weirdness. I do not know what this is. My first thoughtis  it was Adrian Gonzalez's 2014 GQ base card of which I already own. But it isn't. At least not exactly.



Here, for comparison, is the regular GQ Gonzalez card on left and then the off-center, white-bordered Gonzalez card. There is no "white border" parallel in this set that I see listed. There is no serial number on the back. Is it a goof? Is it intentional? Who knows in this wacky world of modern baseball cards.



Something much more my speed. More Panini Hometown Heroes needs! Thanks to these six, and one you'll see in a second, I need just three more cards to complete the non-image variations portion of the base set.



This, however, makes me feel older than just about anything. Come on, man, Super Joe played in the early 1980s! It wasn't THAT long ago. I know they had color pictures anyway.



I daresay this is the package highlight. I've found that getting 1973 Topps cards in the mail is a terrific hoot. Anyway I can to keep the '70s alive on cardboard. I have to keep this ride going.



Two more of the horizontal variety. Johnny Bench heading home and Nolan Ryan somewhere in that Angel assortment.



Let's end the package and the post with another 1975 Topps buyback. This is the 163rd card in my '75 buyback completion quest. I hope to add a few more key cards to the total in the couple of weeks.

OK, that probably wasn't very exciting to anyone but me. But I'm just plain too tired to care.

Nighty night.