Tuesday, April 25, 2017

C.A.: 2011 Pacific Coast League Top Prospect Eric Thames

(Hello on World Penguin Day. This is the perfect excuse to post a Ron Cey card. But I'm not gonna do that. Because I gotta be me. It's time for Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 255th in a series):

All of the Eric Thames autographed cards are gone. Or they're priced way out of your range. All of the parallels from 2011 and 2012, too.

Eric Thames is HOT! right now. All of the ebay listings say so.

Brewers Power Hitter! Red Hot! On Fire! MVP?? Rare! All of the exclamation points! And question marks, and asterisks, and dollar signs!!!!!!!

You can buy 30 of the same Eric Thames card for 65 dollars (but why would you?).

After Thames hit two more home runs last night to extend his major league lead to 10, I got caught up in the hype -- in my usual reserved way. I decided to see if I had any Eric Thames cards.

I did.

This 2011 minor league card of Thames, as a Toronto Blue Jays prospect, is the notable one.

Many people are discovering that the Brewers' Thames was a major league ball player before he arrived in Milwaukee this season, after three years playing in the Korean League. But he was a legitimate prospect before his trip overseas.

The back of this card says he was the 12th-ranked Blue Jays prospect in 2011. And in Double A ball in New Hampshire in 2010, he hit 27 home runs in 130 games.

This particular card is listed twice on ebay right now. One is a buy-it-now $7.25. The other is a buy-it-now $29.99.

I have no plans to sell this card. I think by not selling I get to experience more of these instances where some player ignites out of nowhere and -- hey! I have his card!

That's the other card I have of his, from 2011 Update. All of Thames' mainstream cards are in 2011 and 2012 with either the Blue Jays or Mariners.

Neither of the cards I own of Thames are rare, as some the ebay advertisements say.

But what is rare is seeing the Brewers lead the league in home runs like they're Harvey's Wallbangers again.

And also rare is getting this guy on the east coast, who pays attention to a team on the west coast, to notice the Milwaukee Brewers.

Monday, April 24, 2017

There are no buybacks on life

Boy, that's a heavy post title for a Monday, right?

I assure you all the title refers to is the fact that I am back to work after a week of vacation. I'd love to buy back my vacation (without giving up any of my salary, of course). But that's as deep as I'm going with this post.

This is yet another example of being able to do something with cards that you can't do in real life. You get to buy back cards from the past. Or Topps does anyway. Then Topps goes and plasters a stamp on the thing, proving that nothing in life is the way it should be.

But we collectors adjust. And I'm getting a great amount of fun in my attempt to "complete" a buyback version of the 1975 Topps set. I recently received the above Glenn Borgmann card from Shane of Shoebox Legends. It's one of his rejects from his buyback frankenset. I like pestering Shane for his '75 buybacks because I MUST HAVE THEM ALL.

Shane added another one, too. This is one of my favorites from '75. I never saw it when I was buying packs that year. But it came across my radar not too long afterward and that began a years-long pining for this card. There is so much goodness to it, but possibly the best part is the shadow that also depicts the photographer crouching to take Dick Sharon's photo. Marvelous.

Shane also sent a couple more cards, but I can't break up the '75 buyback theme just yet.

That's because gcrl of cards as I see them sent a pair of '75 buybacks, too!

I don't know how he did it, but he managed to send two of the more reviled cards among us kids on the 1975 playground. We absolutely did not want these cards. If gcrl also threw in Bruce Ellingsen, Gene Locklear and Brent Strom, I'd be convinced that he was on the playground with us 40-plus years ago!

The four cards from Shane and Jim put the total number of 1975 buybacks I have accumulated to 137. I'm getting ready for another small modest shipment soon and 150 is not far from sight.

The thought of reaching that total just makes me giddy.

Shane sent one other buyback that is a keeper.

One of the greatest cards of the '70s right there. Normally I'd be horrified by the buyback stamp daring to steal some thunder from Lopes' mustache, but I think I have 3 or 4 non-stamped versions of this beauty and I'll gladly add it to my collection.

The other two cards from the Shoebox are both Kershaws!

I devoted an entire post to this Kershaw 2011 Chrome atomic refractor a few years ago. Man, I love this thing.

I know that gcrl loves it, too, as he completed the full Dodger set of these. That means I probably owe All Trade Bait, All The Time some Dodgers at some point soon and this Kershaw will go along for the trip.

On the other hand, this Kershaw, from last year's Donruss Optic, receives the supreme honor of being the first card to be crossed off my brand new, under construction want list! This is a big deal. It means my new want lists are working!

Jim checked out my want lists before they went kaput and I was able to determine that this Fat Andruw Jones card completed the 2008 Bowman Chrome team set for me.

All these came from my former want lists, too. I checked them off on Saturday and then they vanished. But I do still have the memory of erasing Jason Schmidt off my 08 Bowman want list, which if you know what Jason Schmidt did for the Dodgers, is a terrific feeling. I should never have to want a card of a player who performed so pathetically.

I also received some key night cards for the frankenset binder. I've kind of neglected the binder over the last few months. Time to get back to filling up that baby.

Finally, a couple football cards from Jim, the first he's ever sent me. I had no idea he was a football guy.

The Smerlas card is kind of neat because it's some Kellogg's issue from 1992 that I never knew existed. Smerlas was one of the first Bills players I ever interviewed, possibly the first one actually.

I've made a little more progress with the new want lists today, thanks to Scott Crawford's help in recovering my former lists. I'm now incorporating the old lists into a slightly new format, in which I list by year instead of brand and I am adding the names of players instead of just their card number.

Speaking of buybacks, I don't think I'd ever try to buy back my want lists, but there was a moment Saturday night when I was desperate enough that I would have jumped at the chance.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Reconstructing the want lists from scratch

I suffered yesterday one of the great misfortunes that can happen to a modern-day card collector.

A web browser crash ate my want lists.

All of them. They're all gone.

I'm not sure how it happened. I was updating the want lists with some cards that arrived in the last couple of days. I closed the file and then returned to my list of posts. That's when I got the rotating "loading" circle and -- wap -- the browser crashed.

When I opened the blog back up and went to my want lists page, it was empty. Years of work and 60 years of want lists gone.

The Internet Wayback Machine wasn't much help. It could retrieve my want lists from April of last year, but that would mean trying to track down a year's worth of updating and that didn't sound attractive at all.

Shockingly, what did sound attractive was starting up my want lists from scratch.

So that's what I'm doing. 2017 wants are already up and I've started on 2016. I've also just re-added the 1975 Topps buybacks. The whole undertaking is painstaking already, it will take forever, and there are probably dozens of collectors who will curse me out once they agree to a trade with me, click on my wants and see just three years worth of numbers.

But this is my blog and that's what I want to do. The wants needed an overhaul anyway. I'm changing slightly how it is presented and hopefully it will be easier for people to navigate (I'm already finding out that Topps isn't making it simple with its recent funky way of presenting and numbering inserts).

If you urgently require my feedback on whether I need a certain card, just shoot me an email. Because it's going to be months before everything is back up to speed. (This disaster did have to happen on the final day of my vacation).

There have been a lucky few collectors who were able to check out my want lists before they were erased from the face of the earth. You'll be seeing the cards I received from those people over the next week and a half or so. Then there will probably be silence because nobody knows what I need anymore!

Anyway, how about some cards from Scott of I Need New Hobbies? He didn't just send me the 1972 Topps Tim Foli In Action card that completed that set. He added more cards!

Those are all cards, plucked off of my late, great want list, that I needed from the 1994 Ted Williams set. To my recollection, I'm down to 6 or 7 needs from this set. I should be able to get that on the new list very soon.

Here is a variation from 2017 Donruss. Instead of Corey Seager's name it says "ROY" in honor of him receiving the Rookie of the Year Award last year (and you thought his nickname was "Roy").

This is one of those "yeah, I guess I'll take it" variations. My new want list -- like the old want list -- will avoid listing variations. There are just too damn many and I will never see 90 percent of them. Just assume that I want them if they're Dodgers. Same goes for parallels. I'll list some on the new wants page, but it's ridiculous to try to list them all.

The rest of the cards Scott sent were football cards. The above are two Bills from the respective 1970 and 1971 Topps sets. Like baseball, Topps stepped up its game in 1971 after a pretty bland 1970 set. The 1970 football set looks much older to me than something issued in 1970.

As for the 1971 card, more cartoons on the front of cards please!

Finally, this nine-card salvo from my most favorite Topps football set. I needed all nine of these 1977 gems.

The disappearance of my want lists will definitely get me to finally include a '77 Topps Football list in the new version.

See? There are lots of positives to this disaster.

Of course, let's see what my tune is when I'm trying to update my Dodger wants from 1999.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The strangest subset ever made

It's difficult to shift gears so quickly after completing a set with so much meaning to me and one known for its challenges.

So after yesterday's post, I'm going to remain stay on 1972 Topps and discuss the strangest subset ever made.

I've written about the "awards subset" before and mentioned it in passing several other times. But I've never devoted an entire post to it and shown all the cards. So get ready for the only subset that I know of that features no people.

The Strangest Subset begins in the fifth series (cards 526-656) with card No. 621 and the Commissioner's Award, misspelled as "Commissioners" Award on the front of the card.

The Commissioner's Award at the time went to "the player who best typifies the game of baseball on and off the field," according to the back of this card.

This is the only card in the six-card subset that includes all text and no list. As you can see, it was such a new award that only two players had received it, Willie Mays and Brooks Robinson. And, this write-up shows how late in the season the fifth series hit stores. The 1972 Commissioner's Award had already been issued.

The Commissioner's Award was renamed the Roberto Clemente Award after Clemente's death in 1973 (this bit of information answers my question in a previous post). And the name "Commissioner's Award" was attached to the All-Star Game MVP trophy (later renamed the Arch Ward Memorial Trophy and now named the Ted Williams Award).

Card No. 622 displays the Most Valuable Player Award (and a bitchin' crease). The award looks almost exactly the same today.

The award was first handed out, one each for the American and National leagues, in 1931. And 40 years of awards was just enough for Topps to squeeze them all onto the back of this card.

The creepy Cy Young Award appears on card No. 623. By 1972 standards, the award was relatively new, having been handed out for only 15 years.

You can see there is only five years of awarding two pitchers each year as it was a combined award through 1966.

The Minor League Player of the Year Award appears on card No. 624. It was presented by The Sporting News from 1936-2005. Baseball America and USA Today now issue their own separate Minor League Player of the Year Award. I don't know if MLB sanctions either one as the official award.

The two trophies are familiar to anyone who has collected baseball cards. The trophy on the left appeared on cards of players named to Topps' all-rookie team prior to 1973. The trophy on the right has appeared on cards of Topps all-rookie team members since '73. I'd be interested to know whether the trophy on the right had any meaning to collectors in 1972 since it hadn't appeared on any cards prior to then.

The back doesn't explain the two trophies. It also terms each minor league player of the year as the Topps' minor league player of the year, although these names correspond with the names selected by The Sporting News each year. Perhaps Topps joined The Sporting News in the selection in 1960.

Card No. 625 shows the Rookie of the Year Award. The award is now known as the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award, renamed after Robinson the 40th anniversary of his first major league game in 1987. The award was originally named the J. Louis Comiskey Award in the 1930s. But it appears to have become the Ford Frick Award at some point because on the plaque above is a likeness of Frick, the former baseball commissioner, with "Ford C. Frick Award" written above it.

The Ford Frick Award is now presented by the Baseball Hall of Fame each year to a broadcaster and has been a tradition since 1978. The Rookie of the Year award now looks like this.

The first two Rookie of the Year Awards went to just one player (Robinson in 1947 and Alvin Dark in 1948). In 1949, it was opened up to both leagues. The AL winner in 1949, Roy Sievers, just died a couple of weeks ago, and I heard way too little news about it.

The final card in the subset, at No. 626, is the Babe Ruth Award. It goes to the World Series MVP and has not changed since 1972.

The award didn't start until 1949, the year after Ruth's death.

Any time I saw one of these cards as a young collector I'd almost laugh at the sight. A picture of a plaque? Really? The awards floated in front of dayglo background. I had never witnessed stranger cards in my life. They were both laughable and fascinating.

Many years later, I still don't know if I've seen anything stranger on cardboard. It is, without a doubt, the strangest subset ever made.

But at least I learned something from this post.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Nine-year-old me is standing and applauding

On Thursday, I completed the 1972 Topps baseball set.

This is tremendous news. It is tremendous news in particular for a 9-year-old kid from Upstate New York who had just wandered into a world of baseball and the picture cards that display that sport. He is awe-struck, astonished and, frankly, a blithering idiot. His mind has been blown.

The '72 set -- I've said it before -- is the one set that I think of when someone says "baseball cards". To someone younger, the cards may look rooted in the past, wild and crazy, and almost primitive. But that's only because they did not stumble into this hobby during one golden, sun-splashed day in the early 1970s.

I saw 1972 Topps cards only in the hands of older kids. And I probably first saw them before I even started collecting. To me, those cards -- that design -- said Baseball Cards. That's what trading cards were supposed to be. That has stayed with me for so long that now when I look at my binder of 1972 Topps, it will transport me to those days of gazing at '72 Topps and thinking "so, that's a baseball card."

That binder of 1972 Topps is now complete because I added the final card to its pages today.

That final card -- the Tim Foli In Action card -- arrived in the mail Thursday twice. Two different envelopes each produced the elusive Foli.

The first one I opened came from Commish Bob at The Five Tool Collector. I wasn't expecting that. It arrived with a well-grooved crease through Foli's kneecaps and Bob said it would make a good space filler.

That it would ... if I didn't get another Foli In Action from Scott Crawford of I Need New Hobbies from that same trip to the mailbox.

I knew Scott was sending me the card. We arranged that he would mail me "The Last Card I Need To Complete My 1972 Topps Set" last week, and he graciously used some COMC credit to produce the card as part of trade we were wrapping up.

So, I had two Foli In Actions, except now I don't. Scott is also attempting to complete the '72 set and I just sent that creased Foli IA to him in the mail. See how it all works out? That's some righteous trading there if I do say so myself.

Before including Foli IA in my binder -- and announcing to the world that my 1972 Topps set was complete -- I did the gremlin check that is now required before a set is officially complete. Gremlins -- i.e. missing cards you thought you had -- have burned me in set completion tasks too many times. But I'm happy to say no gremlins were found. The complete set is intact.

My love for the '72 set -- the Psychedelic Tombstone Set -- is well-known. I've dedicated a number of posts to it (128 according to my blog stats). The very first post devoted to it was published on May 18, 2009.

In that post I said I had completed about one-third of the set and expected my attempt to complete it to last the rest of my lifetime. But I'm happy to say, unless my demise is scheduled for this evening, that '72 Topps is completed with plenty of time to spare!

Also in that post, I counted down 12 favorites from the '72 set based on the modest collection of cards I had at the time.

I'd like to do that for you again now, but with owning the entire set. I'm also going to attempt to show no cards that I've mentioned before in previous posts, nor the usual cards that everyone has seen before (the Clemente, Billy Cowan, Billy Martin, Hoyt Wilhelm, etc.).

No, here, simply, are 12 cards from the 1972 set that I like and why.

1. Carl Yastrzemski, In Action: Many of the 1972 In Action cards look amateurish compared with today's action photography. But this is one I'd put with at least what I saw in the 1980s. A nice, centered shot of Yaz at work.

2. Roger Metzger: I have a love affair with the 1972 Topps Astros cards. I think the brightness of the Astros' uniforms of that time goes well with the the yellow-blue-and-orange theme chosen for their cards. Every color in the rainbow is displayed here, and Metzger's unique pose, along with the interesting crop, makes for a memorable card.

3. Mark Belanger: For many baseball hitters in the 1970s, this is how you held the bat. There was no need to squeeze the life out of the bat knob. Try to picture a player today holding a bat five inches off the end.

4. Sal Bando: To the left of Sal Bando, on card No. 650, is teammate Steve Hovley, who wore No. 28 for the A's at the time. But 33 cards later in the set ...

... Steve's been traded to the Royals!

5. Willie Stargell, Boyhood Photos of the Stars: Is there a better example of a baseball card with a photo that illustrates the promise that awaits with one swing?

6. Denny Doyle: If you know the Phillies cards in the '72 set, you know that many of them are a disaster. Equipment strewn everywhere. People milling about. This one is probably the best example. My favorite part is that if this photo were to be extended to the right, you might see a series of Phillies players performing a baseball task to infinity.

7. Fred Gladding: Remember those novelty glasses with the eyes on them? I'm sure Fred Gladding is wearing a pair.

8. Bobby Murcer, In Action: The last couple of times that I've mentioned to my favorite vintage card show dealer that I needed only a handful of a cards to complete the set, he guesses the Bobby Murcer In Action card. I've begun to think that this is the scarcest card in the set. Or that the dealer is hoarding this card.

9. Pat Jarvis: I've lived in the Northeast all my life. I've never seen an orange tree in person. To me, they are exotic and spotting them on a baseball card is a trip. If that's not an orange tree behind the fence, I don't want to know.

10. Tito Fuentes, In Action: If it weren't for the balletic moves illustrated by the runner and fielder, they would fade into the very busy background.

11. Wilbur Wood, Boyhood Photos of the Stars: You guys, I may have completed the 1972 Topps set, but young Wilbur Wood has caught himself a fish. And he's standing in the garden so he can tell you about it.

12. Bill Mazeroski: This is Mazeroski's final card. He'd show up in the 1973 Topps set as a Pirates coach on the manager card. This card speaks to me. There's Bill. He's ready to hang it up. His jacket is on. His job is done. It's time to go home.

And my job is done here. I will never have to moan about short-prints or look for the Bobby Bonds In Action card or count my cash to see whether I can afford a bleepin' team card ever again. The set is done and it was A Process.

Many thanks to Scott Crawford and anyone else who sent me cards for this set. Many thanks to Brian at Play at the Plate for holding a contest a few years ago that allowed me to land the Nolan Ryan card in this set.

I may upgrade some of the cards, but basically I'm done fretting over what I've always considered The Baseball Card Set.

That 9-year-old still can't believe it.