Friday, July 21, 2017

Too distracted by my pull of the year

After finding 2017 Allen and Ginter on the shelves of my local Walmart early this afternoon, I had intended to give the usual exhaustive blaster-breaking rundown.

A&G is always interesting and I think this year it might be particularly so.

But I can't give it the attention it deserves because I pulled the biggest card I am going to pull all year from one of the two blasters that I bought.

My luck with A&G has been pretty surprising the last couple of years. I seem to be pulling hits quite easily and of decent players, too. (You old-timers remember my Jeff Clement Years). I don't know if that's sudden good fortune or Topps seeding its blasters more liberally than in previous years. But whatever the case, today was the first time that I had bought two blasters of anything at the same time and pulled hits from both of them.

The first blaster yielded this hit:

This is the second time this year I have pulled an Anthony Rizzo relic out of an Allen & Ginter blaster. I found a discounted 2016 blaster a few months ago and pulled one then. In fact, I just sent that Rizzo relic to a Cubs fan a couple of days ago.

Apparently the card gods really wanted me to own a Rizzo relic.

Then I opened the second blaster.

In the sixth pack, I spotted a framed hit of some sort. As I was getting my first glimpse of the picture, I knew it wasn't a baseball player. I was guessing a college football coach, which doesn't do me any good. But I was really hoping it wasn't a fabric swatch from some comedian I didn't know.

It wasn't.

That is the autograph of actor Gene Hackman, written below the image of him as Norman Dale, the basketball coach in the 1986 movie "Hoosiers".

Holy smokes.

If you were a movie-goer during the '80s, you know the impact of Hoosiers. It's one of the better sports movies ever made, a movie that may follow the usual "underdog" script, but does so memorably that it makes an impact even on cynics like me. I know school sports very well and some of the stuff in that movie really strikes home.

Also, Hackman, come on, only one of the greatest actors of the '70s, '80s and '90s!

Here is a list of the non-baseball player autographs one can pull in A&G this year:

I would put Hackman right at the top of that list.

As impressive as this card is, I don't expect to hold on to it for very long. My guess is I will probably sell it. College bills are calling.

But it's pretty cool to pull something that you know right away will be the biggest thing you pull all year.

I'll be back tomorrow with a lengthy review of 2017 A&G.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Go team!

Do you remember this poster?

If you do, then you know what the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders meant 40 years ago, to the Cowboys, to football, to sports, to America, to men and women young and old, but most importantly, to teenage boys.

This poster was released exactly 40 years ago and it is credited for sparking the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders to what they are today, an iconic brand in sports. But they were never more of a sensation than 40 years ago and the years that immediately followed.

The poster hit the streets at the very end of May in 1977. What followed was an October article in Esquire magazine about the cheerleaders. Soon after, the Cowboys cheerleaders were featured in every magazine from People to Newsweek. They appeared on three separate network TV specials within a year. And other NFL teams mimicked the Cowboys with provocative outfits for their own cheerleaders.

There was some backlash at the time, but the Cowboys cheerleaders proved unstoppable. They issued their own calendars, then their own swimsuit calendars, then their own "behind the scenes" reality TV shows. In the early '90s, Score and some other card companies issued trading cards of the Cowboys cheerleaders.

But back 40 years ago, there were no TV shows or trading cards. There was a poster, one or two small photos in a magazine and a glimpse of the cheerleaders in a game.

This was not going to do for a 13-year-old boy.

The late 1970s/early '80s also happened to be the period in which I ordered cards through catalogs and magazine ads. One of my favorite catalogs was from Larry Fritsch, which I've written about before. His catalog came to my home a few times a year.

During one glorious day at the dawn of the 1980s, I spotted the following ad in the catalog:

That's a newer version of the ad, but it looked basically the same. I couldn't believe my eyes, 5 x 7 photos of all the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders?


I sent away for the cards (they weren't $24.95, I never would have been able to afford that as a 15-year-old) and they arrived in their glossy glory.

This was the peak period for glossy cards. Topps was issuing glossy photos of baseball players that were the same size and they were quite popular. But, even better, the cheerleader glossy cards contained girls.

Then, sadly, something happened. My set of 30 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders cards disappeared. I don't know what I did with them. Perhaps they got thrown out with a bunch of stuff when I moved out of the house, but that never should have happened. I missed those girls. I missed those glossy cards.

For years I've intended to re-order them: not through Fritsch Cards because $24.95, man.

Recently, I did order them, for a much cheaper price on ebay. And the girls are now back with me.

Here are the two photos featured on the ad. The cards are in great shape, although you know what happens to glossy photos over time if they're not religiously protected: the glossiness fades to a pseudo-matte finish. I'm sure there's a technical term for that, but I don't know what it is.

The cheerleader in the first photo is Angelia. I know that because she's mentioned on the back of her card. To get the rest of her name, I found the Dallas Cowboys cheerleader roster from 1980.

Angelia Parnell is the first girl in the top row, one of the veterans.

She is also the only cheerleader in this set to get two cards of her own.

That is the other one.

That's what the back looks like. The write-ups are rather generic and include lots of exclamation points! You can see at the bottom that they were created and distributed by Topps.

Some of the card backs identify the cheerleader on the front by name, so I was able to go to the roster and find the full ID.

That is Cheryl Balderas

That is Stephanie Scholz

That is Sonia Patterson

That is Judy Trammell.

Trammell is now the head choreographer for the Cowboys cheerleaders. Here is a little "now" action from her Twitter account.

That is a helpful reminder (other than the dated hair and makeup) that all of the cheerleaders in this set are in their late 50s or early 60s. Yikes!

There is also a reminder of how times have changed on one photo card in particular. You can read what some would now consider alarming on the back of the photo:

My guess is they still want Cowboys cheerleaders to be "neat and trim" but hopefully they're not as obsessed about it.

Also, today's Cowboys cheerleaders seem to be, shall I say, more "well-developed" than the cheerleaders in these photos. Not that I'm complaining. There's plenty to like whether it's then or now when tied-off blouses and short-shorts are involved.

Here are some more 5 x 7s of my personal favorites from the set from all the way back when I first received these in the mail in 1981:

Most of the cards and photos that I accumulated during my first collecting period from 1975-85 were strictly baseball. There was a little football and hockey mixed in. And there were the nonsports items, such as Wacky Packages and Star Wars.

But the 5 x 7 cheeleaders? They were definitely unique at that time.

I owe it all to that poster.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Living among young people when you're old

My one sister-in-law, who is older than me, refuses to join Facebook. You may consider this a wise move given that the book of face is overrun with politics, babies and selfies. But that's not the reason why she's not on there.

She's not on there because she's old and resistant. If she knew I was writing about this (or that I called her "old and resistant"), she would be quite upset.

She also refuses to get a cell phone or text or do anything with a computer actually. We younger people laugh about it and lament how she's shutting herself out. There are so many things we could share with her if only she would budge a little.

Then there's part of me that wonders if she's the wise one.

Go with me on this:

In today's world, we are inundated with what young people think is "cool," "wise," "important," "relevant," etc. This has been the way for a long time with advertising, etc. But it's louder than ever today. That's because online sites are well-populated with people under the age of 40. The online world remains a youthful medium even as it's entering its third decade in popular culture.

It didn't used to be like that.

Think of it: Before the age of the internet, if you were above 50, about the only time you would hear young people's views would be when dealing with your children. Or maybe the friends of your children. Or the children of your friends.

That's the only time you were around young people for an extended period of time (I'm excluding teachers from this, and others with jobs in which they deal with youngsters). Adults prior to the 1990s spent most of their life dealing with adult thoughts and mature views. They'd spend their whole day with adults and in the evening watch an adult show on TV. Young people's views were often marginalized in prime time. And a station like MTV could be easily ignored by an adult.

That was the world. And it was like that for a long time. That's the world that my sister-in-law wants.

And you can have it still. Ditch your computer and cell phone. But, today, you must give up an awful lot -- contact with the people you like and love, for one -- to do so.

So, I get myself involved with a world filled with young people and with views and opinions that often don't square with mine. And before you get too deeply into that, a lot of what I'm talking about pertains to baseball cards.

I received my first 2017 Bowman Platinum cards in the mail a few days ago. They were sent to me by The Baseball Card Snob.

I don't like Bowman Platinum much. Sure, it looks nice here, but that's a deceptive scan. In hand, the cards are foilboard (something I think should have been outlawed by now) and the cards are curled.

But I admit I was happy to receive them, even though they are very modern cards that I don't understand.

I have even gone to Walmart in hopes of finding some Bowman Platinum on the store shelves so I could actually buy it.

Here's why: Young people (I'm pretty sure most of them are younger than me) are going nuts for this stuff. If you're on the blogs only, you probably haven't seen it, but get on a younger social medium, like Twitter. My goodness, it's all youngish card people are talking about. Platinum, Judge, Bellinger, Platinum, Judge, Bellinger, Platinum, Platinum, Judge, Judge, Bellinger, More Judge, More Platinum, Judge, Judge, Judge, Platinum!

So I get caught up in it a little but I'm a mature, old adult now and keep myself from getting out of hand.

And then I think, if I wasn't on social media, would I know about Bowman Platinum? Would I know how much Aaron Judge cards are selling for? I suppose it's been mentioned briefly on TV, but that's easy to miss.

And what's the wise position on this?

Is it smarter to know all of the latest, greatest, "young" cards and rookies and the ToppsNow cards and digital apps and all the young opinions on it?

Or is it smarter to go at your own pace, hang out with people your own age and, you know, just collect a bunch of vintage?

Obviously, I still haven't figured that out.

I lean toward the second direction. Mostly because of my age. I see a lot of unnecessary baggage in the latest and greatest and when I'm feeling especially cranky, I can formulate opinions on how the last 10 to 20 to 30 years have ruined the hobby.

But I can't shut myself off completely. I have the need to see what's "new". I still get interested in new ideas and views. Often I think, "oh get it away" the instant I see/hear them. But there is something in me that refuses to be "old." I still feel "young" in many ways.

Perhaps young people would prefer if I just stayed with vintage and didn't bother stumbling into 2017 product. Obviously the old man doesn't get it and all he's going to do is crap all over it.

But you know what they say: hanging around young people keeps you young (I think my grandmother used to say that). And hanging around young cards probably keeps you young, too.

Meanwhile, I'm more comfortable with old cards, so fortunately the Card Snob sent those, too:

A couple of 1981 Fleer, you'll probably see a lot more of this stuff in the near future.

I was watching the Mets the other day and Keith Hernandez was discussing how he liked to talk to players when they reached first base (big surprise). Some players didn't like to talk and one of them was Rick Monday (who later became a broadcaster). Hernandez said one of the only times Monday said anything when he reached first was to say to Hernandez, "Great, Hernandez is at first, guess we all have to hit doubles."

Some 1979 Dodgers. These are in terrific shape. I'll have to see what the upgrading situation is.

Why is Dave Fleming here? I have no idea. But I appreciate random cards.

This Jerry Reuss card is a key one because it's the first time he showed up in a Dodger uniform on a card. I was very happy when I pulled this card.

I collect it all, I think you know: young and old. I may have "old" opinions on plays at the plate, video replay and home run derby, but I balance that with trying to tell people older than me that there are benefits to an online world.

There will be those that say, "collect what you want, why think about it so much?" Sorry, I'm a thinker. There will be others that say, "for too long we younger people had to listen to nothing but old opinions, it's about time there was some balance." And you're right, you've got me on that one.

I'm that guy stuck in the middle. Still trying. Still flailing. Still struggling to understand.

I haven't given up yet.

When will I?

Probably when the blog goes dark.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Finally, something worth ripping

The next-door neighbor is having a new addition built onto the back of her house. You know what that means: just because the workers get up with the cows, everyone else is getting up early, too.

So with the sound of hammers and saws in my head, I showered and dressed and headed out to do some early shopping. My birthday was two days ago, so I was armed with gift cards and ready to do some damage.

Unfortunately, one of those gift cards was for Target.

The Target card aisle the last month or more has been depressing. You'd have to pay me to buy the cards offered there now and that's saying something, particularly in the middle of baseball season.

But I stopped there again and left less than 3 minutes later empty-handed. I decided to give Walmart a try even though it has been just as barren lately.

Then, as I was about to leave that card aisle also with nothing, I spotted hanging in the back of the shelf some 2017 Stadium Club rack packs. I seized one of them both eagerly and warily. The price on the hanger said $9.98. I know Stadium Club is steeply priced, but that seemed more outrageous than usual. "9.98 for 12 cards? That's 83 cents a card!"

I squinted at the tiny type on the hanger and noted it was for some Gypsy Queen thing so it didn't apply to Stadium Club. I hate how half the items in stores don't have prices ON the items. Gee, why would consumers need to see the price of something?

So, I assumed the SC packs weren't $9.98, but still wasn't sure and grabbed just 3 of them instead the whole 5 that were there. When I got to the register, they rang up $5.98, so only 49 cents per card, which is still crazy but at least the way the world works.

I was just excited to finally have something worth ripping. The urge has been unfulfilled for too long.

So let's see the pretty pictures I found in my packs. You know they're gonna be good:

Pack 1

#181 - Nolan Ryan, Rangers

The Rangers are No. 4 on the list of teams I'd like to see Ryan with on a baseball card. Angels or Astros are tied for first, followed by the Mets. Ranger Ryan I equate too much with junk wax. Not that there's a lot wrong with junk wax, I just saw it too much.

#221 - Cal Ripken Jr., Orioles

I did not clean my scanner before scanning these. Bad move. ... Anyway, this card makes me miss old Yankee Stadium and I can't believe I am saying that.

#247 - Gary Sanchez, Yankees

Last year's Aaron Judge. This is a surprise to no one, but as I was watching the Red Sox-Yankees game on Sunday night on ESPN (don't @ me, it was the only game available), I noted Judge's name mentioned 35 times in the first 3 innings. Also, ESPN during those first 3 innings spent the Red Sox's half of the inning talking about Judge -- twice, meaning while the Red Sox were batting, the announcers ignored virtually everything going on during the game to talk about the right fielder, who was just standing.

#153 - Roy Oswalt, Astros

Roy Oswalt was still appearing in Topps products in 2013. I am not nostalgic for Roy Oswalt yet. That would be like being nostalgic for Grumpy Cat.

#241 - Elvis Andrus, Rangers

KNOW YOUR RANGERS INFIELDERS! Andrus is the guy on the left. The guy the Dodgers should have never let go is on the right.

#43 - Jharel Cotton, Athletics

Another former Dodger.

#17 - Didi Gregorius, Yankees, gold parallel

I seem to have a knack for pulling SC gold parallels of Yankees.

#PZ-AP (PLEASE number your inserts!!!!!) - Albert Pujols, Angels, Power Zone insert

I'm on record as saying Stadium Club doesn't need inserts (or parallels). It's a fascinating enough set on its own. But we have to have ways to prevent set collectors from completing sets, so here we are.

#259 - Adrian Beltre, Rangers

Beltre gets to appear in two different Rangers uniforms in Stadium Club.

#297 - Curtis Granderson, Mets


#151 - Tim Raines, Expos


You ever see a card advertised prior to the set being issued and know you need to have it. Well, here it is. It helps that I've walked the very ground Raines is standing on here.

Oh, and night card. Duh!

#169 - Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

My first thought when I pulled this card was: "I hope this wasn't against the Dodgers."

Pack 2

#32 - Brandon Phillips, Braves

This would have come in handy for my bubble gum-blowing post.

#53 - Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

So who is actually Batman, Rizzo or the guy with the T-shirt? I think you know the answer.

#225 - Yangervis Solarte, Padres

The first card that gives me nothing to say, so let me just show this:

The font used for Stadium Club looks a lot like something Fleer Ultra used between 2005-07. Fortunately, the images are even better than those from Ultra, but this is two straight years of Stadium Club's font riffing off a Fleer product (last year it was 1996 Fleer) and I wish SC would use something more distinctive. Design matters to me, even with a set that has little of it.

#135 - Jameson Taillon, Pirates

Back to greatness.

I read something a few years ago about what men and women are attracted to in terms of photographs. I don't remember what it was for women (if Facebook has any say, it's baby animals and wine). But for men, "scenery" was way up there. I concur and the only thing better than this card is me sitting in PNC Park while holding a beer.

#164 - Kenta Maeda, Dodgers

Yay! A Dodger. ... That's almost a Clayton Kershaw move he's doing.

Here is an example of the card back. Stadium Club's card backs have become generic and boring for awhile, which is sad considering SC had the greatest card backs when it first appeared in 1991. Bring back those rookie card photos!

#140 - Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

Get the smiles in, sir, before you have to say goodbye to half your teammates.

#184 - Cameron Maybin, Angels, gold parallel

I am made a bit uncomfortable by this photo.

#198 - Ryan Schimpf, Padres

#222 - Miguel Sano, Twins

The All-Star Game is still useful to a guy like me who isn't in the habit of watching Twins or Mariners games. I had no idea until last week that Miguel Sano should be an offensive lineman.

#10 - Danny Santana, Twins

Santana is the guy on the right. I only know this because I saw a Twins fan's card blog yesterday. He tells me the other guy is Jorge Polanco. I assume by what he is wearing and holding that Jorge Polanco is a ballplayer for the Twins.

#4 - Nelson Cruz, Mariners

That is not Cruz's buddy Joe West in the background.

#273 - A.J. Ramos, Marlins

I do not know what a bear's head (is that a bear's head?) has to do with the Marlins, or why a player is wearing it. But throw all that in with the shaving cream pies and a lot of free time and we have dudes with odd ways to define camaraderie.

Pack 3

#285 - Orlando Arcia, Brewers

#168 - Sandy Koufax, Dodgers

It took me a very long time to get Koufax's Stadium Club card last year. Very pleased that it arrived so easily this time.

#6 - Adam Jones, Orioles

#203 - Hernan Perez, Brewers

#110 - Michael Conforto, Mets

#216 - Odubel Herrera, Phillies

Bat flip!

#120 - Jon Lester, Cubs

#30 - Danny Duffy, Royals, orange parallel

These are the only SC parallels that interest me and, of course, they're not easy to pull. The lettering is orange (it didn't scan here) and the photo is sepia-ish. I think it was executed better in the previous two SC sets. Something about that Fleer Ultra font.

#CS-AR - Addison Russell, Cubs, Contact Sheet insert

Remember when people were all giddy about Addison Russell and Pokemon? That shut down awfully quick.

#253 - Evan Longoria, Rays

Evan Longoria playing football in the Astros' park. Because that's what you do in Texas.

#284 - Chase Anderson, Brewers

Three Brewers in this pack. Off-Hiatus Baseball Cards has been alerted.

#56 - Ian Kinsler, Tigers

Ian is very excited that I'm done with this pack rip.

Stadium Club is the same as it's been the last three years. It is consistently one of the best products every year in terms of quality and being interesting. It's not cheap and collecting it can be a bit frustrating (I know from my completion quest in 2015), especially if you're not into the parallels and inserts.

Yet, it is far and away better than the stuff that has been sitting on the Target and Walmart shelves the last month. And, although I'm pretty sure those last 2 rack packs of Stadium Club that I left there are now gone, these packs I opened will keep me stopping by periodically (that and A&G releasing).

I'll never cure myself of the urge to rip.