Tag Archives: Baseball

The Best: The First

When I was 7 my grandfather died.  He lived with us at the time, but I was not really close to him.  He was old school, not a hands on grandparent like you see today, but this was the first time anyone I knew died.  My dad is from New York, as was my grandfather.  The funeral services were going to be held there so he could be buried with my grandmother.  My family, not having a lot of money at the time, couldn’t afford for all of use to travel out for the services so my dad went alone.  He was gone for a few days, I remember, and when he returned he brought back some gifts for for me and my sister.  I don’t recall what he brough my sister, but my dad brought me back a box of 1991 Topps Baseball.  Those were the first cards I ever opened.  That month in 1991 saw me lose my first family member but also saw me gain a hobby.

At the time that I got those cards I had no interest in sports.  I had gone to some minor league baseball games but was more interested in the snacks than the game.  I had no concept of football or basketball at the time.  GI Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Nintendo were the extent of my personal interests.  My family wasn’t really big sports fans either.  My grandfather, before he passed, was a Mets fan so I remember seeing Mets stuff around and believed at the time that they were my favorite team.  My dad was a Yankees fan, but was not as passionate at that time as he was as kid or as he is again (I can’t imagine anyone more nervous about the Yanks current slump than him).  Sports cards actually fostered my interests in sports.  At the time, however, I was only looking for Mets cards, specifically Darryl Strawberry because he was the only Met I knew by name.  The only other player I knew was Nolan Ryan.  From ages 7 – 9 these were my favorite players.  I’m now a Yankees fan.  As my interest in baseall grew, it became something that me and my dad bonded over, so I began to adopt his favorite team as my own, I was a full-fledged Yankees fan in time to witness the whole Derek Jeter era.  I also became a Yankees fan in time to wonder why people always get so nervous around playoff time when  their teams were in the hunt, as far as a I knew you’d win most of the time.

So I opened the box.  I methodically pored over each card.  I set aside the Mets cards and the Nolan Ryan cards.  The rest were stacked up neatly.  My dad gave me the run down about not bending them or ruining the corners before I opened the cards, so I was set from a young age on card handling skills.  I loved all the pictures and thought it was pretty cool to learn about all the players on the backs.  I didn’t have much of reference point regarding the design at the time, but looking at them now I love them.  I’m not sure if that is just because I have fond memories of my experience opening them, but I really do love the multicolor borders and the large pictures (things that I still love in card design).  The action shots from this set were really well done.  The set is expansive (792 cards) and I know I never completed it.  But I did end up with some cards that I love.   I’m featuring the Chipper Jones rookie card.  At the time I didn’t know what a “#1 Draft Pick was” nor did I know who this “Chipper” fellow was, but it stands as the best card from the set.  It is also a very cool card in hindsight: an 18 year old future hall of famer in his high school uniform.  Chipper is slated to retire this year and he has always been one of my favority non-Yankees.  He’s had the kind of solid career that any fan wishes their cornerstone player would have and he’s done it all for one team.  Chipper, Pack A Week salutes you.

.304/.401/.531 468 HR & more walks than strikeouts. Simply amazing.

Most of the cards I got from that box were recently sold with about 40000 other commons that were taking up too much space.  I did save the ones I loved like Bernie Williams, Don Mattingly, Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., and Nolan Ryan.  I also saved my Darryl Strawberry card, but I gave it to my wife because the only baseball player she knew growing up was also Darryl Strawberry.

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The Show. Or, go to hell Topps.

Card show today.  Card show today.  So excited.

That was the reaction I had to card shows as a kid.  There were regular sports card shows at the El Con Mall in Tucson from my age 8 until I was about 12.  I loved them.  They were big shows by midsize city standards, with about 15-20 tables and plenty of oppotunities to buy packs and singles.  I generally had about $20 to spend at shows as a kid, and most of that was spent on packs.  None of this is particularly interesting to any audience but it sets up two things.  The first is that the communal experience and the build up to shows is what fed my love for sports cards.  It is those memories, primarily, that fuel my collecting to this day.  The second, is that it stands in stark contrast to the lame state of card shows today.

I went to a card show with my dad today.  I’ve always collected with my dad, so we still make it a habit to go to card shows when they are in town.  There are currently semi-regular card shows at the mall that is really far from my house.  These happen about 6 times a year and generally consist of about 6 tables.  Most of the tables are selling lower end autograph and relic singles and one table sells boxes.  No packs to speak of, which is a bummer, because I still love to buy random assortments of packs (which is my usual card shop fare).  I believe me and my dad are the only regular attendees of this semi-regular event and the sellers now lick their chops when they see us.  How else would they unload their Nick Swisher relics and Ian Desmond autographs?

Today saw the arrival of some new sellers.  Excitement ensued.  Then died.  They were selling vintage commons and semi-stars and an unholy amount of “in-person” autographs.  As an aside, I do like vintage cards…theoretically.  There are some fantastic designs (1956 Topps, 1961 Topps for instance) and a lot of history.  But the only cards I really want (Mantle, Clemente, Mays) are out of my price range, so I usually find myself admiring them then moving on.  I turned my attention to the tried and true guys, who I will refer to lovingly as “nice asian guy,” “fatty mcslob,” “long hair,” “nothing less than book,” and “the mogul.”  The mogul runs the show and sells the boxes, he is also and huge pain in the ass, more on that later, and got his nickname because his attitude reminds me of Dave Hester from Storage Wars.

Nice Asian Guy  is always my go-to.  He has a decent assortment of $3 autos and relics and will negotiate on some of his higher-end stuff.  Also, he is nice.  I mention this because some card guys, like comic book guys, can be a little hostile about their hobby, more on that later.  Nice Asian Guy didn’t disappoint, I picked up a 2010 Allen & Ginter Jeff Samardzija Relic (a guy I’m high on because of his apparent skill and his fortunate team association, Cubs fans will spend on their guys) and a 2012 Topps Museum Collection Alexi Ogando autograph (same reasons as Samardzija) for $5 total.  I’ll hold on to these for a while, the hobby upside on both guys is high.  Pops also picked up a Nick Swisher relic from Nice Asian Guy for three bucks. This is the second show in a row that he has purchased a Swisher relic.  I think Chris Olds at Beckett has some competition in the Swisher fandom department.

Fatty McSlob and Long Hair are usually busts and this show was no different.  Their inventory generally consists of late 80’s and early 90’s packs, along with team sets, and miscellaneous brick-a-brack like pennants.  These guys are for the casual collectors, not for seasoned collectors like myself (dismounts horse).   Nothing Less Than Book never sells anything for less than book value.  He has nice stuff, including the Bowman Albert Pujols rookie that I’ve been hunting for a good price.  But I never buy anything from him, because buying stuff for book value is not a good strategy.  At the last show he offered to trade, but I think he might be setting me up for one of those situations, as Mike Birbiglia described, where I end with less cards worth less money than when I started.  There is another dealer who is usually present, but noticeably absent this time, her name is “nerdy lady.”  Nerdy Lady sells cards and also Russian Nesting Dolls.  She usually has some good foot traffic for the dolls, but not for the cards.  Like Nice Asian Guy, Nerdy Lady has a good assortment of $3.00 autos and relics.  Sometime last year I got a Matt Cain auto for $3 from her that I turned around for a nice profit after his perfect game.  Who’s the mogul now?

Speaking of The Mogul, he is usually who gets most of my moneys.  He sells boxes at the show and has a monopoly on that.  He’s usually about $20 higher on the boxes than you can get on-line, but I can usually negotiate down about $15, so his prices end up nearly reasonable.  Notably, today he was selling a box of Topps Mini, see previous post, for $95.  This product is available, currently, on the Topps website for $50 a box.  That is ridiculous markup and I hate seeing people prey on the ignorant.  Shit like that is why people have such a hard time getting into the hobby.  He was also selling Topps Archive boxes for $99, which is almost $30 more than they go on-line, lame.  He sells singles for about half book price, which, to his credit, is fair.

I spent the bulk of my time today at the mogul’s table.  I bought six singles and a box from him.  The singles: 2007 SP Legendary cuts Paul O’Neill jersey card for $3 (I’ve always wanted more O’Neill memorabilia, he was one of my favority Yankees growing up and a woefully under-appreciated by the baseball loving community), two 2009 Bowman World Baseball Classic gold Aroldis Chapman cards for $4 each,  a 2001 Upper Deck Vintage Ichiro rookie card (very nice retro design) for $4, a 2005 Bowman Heritage Adrew McCutchen rookie card for $3, and 2005 Bowman Heritage Mahogany Andrew McCutchen for $3.  McCutchen is a beast, but you already knew that.  Odds that he plays his whole career with the Pirates? 1000:1? 10000:1? A million to one.

Now to the box.  The f***ing box. I decided that I wanted to make my first foray into the world of high-end cards today.  For reference I’ve never spent more than $20 on a single pack of cards.  I noticed that The Mogul had a box of 2011 Topps Tier One for $95.  I felt like this would be the right product to initiate myself into this world of caviar and champagne.  As usual, I refused to pay The Mogul’s full price for the box, knowing full well that it is $20 than on-line price.  So I offer The Mogul’s assitant $100 for my six singles ($21 total) and the box.  The assistant is not permitted to make this deal, appartently.  He finds The Mogul and conveys my offer.  The mogul inspects my six singles, twice, then references his price sheet.  Then a man walks up and asks The Mogul if he has any Peyton Manning cards.  The Mogul puts down my box and singles and begins helping the man find Peyton Manning cards.  Now, in general, Peyton Manning cards, with the exception of autos, are under $10 affairs, so at best the mogul stands to make $10-$20 off the new guy.  I still have a $100 offer on the table.  (Gets back on horse) You’d think he’d prioritize me?  Nope. (Dismounts).  He spends a full five minutes helping this guy sort through the Colts cards.  It’s worth noting that he is not particularly nice to new guy, so this is not one of those situations where he is an ambassador for the hobby, he is actually a bit annoyed to be taking on the task.  I look at the assistant, he looks back uncomfortably.  Finally the assistant clears his throat and reminds The Mogul about me.  The Mogul is annoyed.  This is weird, but reminds me again why “card guys” are not helping to expand the hobby.  We need to band together for civility, or something.  The Mogul looks at my singles two more times, says something to the assistant, who then comes over and says “how about $105.”  To which I respond, “he just made me wait 5 minutes and now he wants five extra dollars?”  Assistant goes back to The Mogul and returns to accept my original offer.  /End Rant.

Excitedly, pops and I return to my house.  I extract the single pack from the double box.  I slowly tear into it.  Mel Ott. Justin Upton. Ozzie Smith. Umm…Adam Lind autograph.  This has to get better.  WTF…Brad Hand autograph.  Who the hell is Brad Hand.  No one knows who Brad Hand is.  Why is his autograph in a high-end product.  Nooooooooooooooooo.  Roberto Alomar relic.  Joe Morgan blue parallel.  Book value of my $80 pack, $35.  Expected realized value, when I try to resell this awful haul that I never want to think about again, $15.  Go to hell Topps.  Adam Lind, I can accept that, he seemed like he might have a nice career at a time.  Robbie Alomar is a hall of famer.  But Brad Hand.  In a high-end product.  Go to hell.  This is not right.  He wasn’t even a true prospect.  The cards themselves are printed on thick stock and have a simple, pleasing design.  The autographs are on-card and the relic is neither big nor small.  I just wish the players on the cards were as nice.  Product Design 4/5.  My Box -1000000/5.

Who?

I’m sticking to mid and low-end stuff.  At least when I get Brad Hand in those packs I didn’t spend $80 on it.  BTW, to all those people who consistently pull 1/1 and Ty Cobb cut autos and all that stuff.  Go to hell.  Just kidding, I’m not a hater.  But please, start telling me where you’re buying your boxes, because it’s certainly not at the Tucson card show.

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The Book Report: Sayonara Homerun!

If you want to read about sports cards, you may think you are limited to blogs, Beckett, or another book about that Honus Wagner card.  Well you are wrong.  How does that feel?  Not good?  Good.  I’m here to expose you the limitless…well, acutally limited…world of sports card related books.  This is my first in an occasional series called The Book Report.  Book #1, and one of my personal favorites, is “Sayonara Home Run!” by John Gall and Gary Engel.

The book is subtitled “The Art of the Japanese Baseball Card” and it does not disappoint. The book contains a treasure trove of images of Japanese baseball cards from the 1930’s to the 1960’s.

Japanese baseball has a cult following in the United States.  I can’t say that I’m a part of that cult, but I am fascinated by the differences in the game and I like a lot the team names over in that part of the world.  Japanese baseball cards apparently have a cult following of two, John Gall and Gary Engel.  This book is the encyclopedia of their knowledge.  It’s entertaining and it, like, half-coverted me.  I’m not willing to live in the compound or anything but I get why they’re doing what they’re doing.  They cover all the early periods of Japanese cardboard and give incredible detail about the methods used to create the cards and the players featured on them.  I learned as much about Japanese baseball history as I did about the cards, and I don’t shake a stick at knowledge.

They also provide a fantastic collection of images.  The early Japanese cards were very comic-like.  The art was highly stylized and it really draws you in with the vivid colors.  The printing techniques were different and traditionally Japanese.  These are miles apart from American cards of any era.  The book also details WWII era die-cut cards and masks, which are the types gimmicks that we didn’t see in the States until the 90’s.  Unfortunately by the the late 50’s the American style cards made their way East, with sets very similar to the late 50’s Topps issues.  I for one think it is a shame that the cards lost their personality.

As I mentioned the book also serves as a nice primer to Japanese baseball and some if it’s all-time greats like Sadaharu Oh and Eiji Sawamura.  While Oh is practically a household name even in America, guys like Sawamura are fairly unrecognizable to an American audience even though he was a baseball hero in the 30’s in Japan.  As an aside, Sawamura, as a 17 year old, struck out Babe Ruth in an exhibition game, along with Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig.  This is an impressive feat, no doubt.  But why do I feel like I’ve heard that story before…oh, it’s because I have.  You may remember Jackie Mitchell, the first professional female baseball player, who also struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  Again, an impressive feat.  But why do you make such a big deal out of this story, why couldn’t a woman, or a Japanese man, with a decent arm be able to strike out Ruth or Gehrig?  Ruth struck out almost twice as many times as he hit a home run, odds are that if you’re a somewhat competent pitcher you have a better chance of striking out Ruth than giving up the long ball.  I’m not trying to take anything away from these groundbreaking ball players, I’m just saying.

The book also contains a list of Japanese baseball nicknames.  The standouts: Human Locomotive (sweet), Emperor (whoa there buddy…it’s gone to your head), The God of Batting (that’s awfully…direct), Bozo (does that mean something different in Japan?), Big Demon (fuck yeah), and, my favorite, The Heavy Drinking Pitcher.  Does the Heavy Drinking Pitcher mean that he was a drunkard or was a solidly built vessel for holding liquids.  It’s a bit unclear, but either way it’s the best.

I could go on recapping the details of the book, but I’m risking turning into a “Reading Rainbow” kid.  (BTW, you should read this book because it is a good book and it is fun to read and the book is really cool and the main character is awesome and the end is happy.  I always wanted to do a book report on Reading Rainbow, so I needed to get that out of my system).  The take away I’m going for here is that this book is worth a look and so are old Japanese baseball cards.  As someone who gets bored by the constant recycling of card gimmicks and designs, I loved seeing something so different.  If I could get my hands on them, I would be a collector of Japanese vintage cardboard if for not other reason than to add a little color and diversity to my collection.

I do, in fact, recommend this book to all collectors.  It’s worth it, the authors know their stuff and it can be had for cheap.  Don’t delay, your knowledge on this subject is low and it’s not increasing by you not reading this book.

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Small Things

So…Topps Mini…they are small.  Smaller than regular baseball cards.  Bigger than smaller things, but still small.  I bought four boxes of them, which is too many boxes.  I couldn’t pass up the $50 price point, which is very reasonable considering there is a guaranteed hit.  I was also intrigued when I watched the Beckett Box Busters video and they mentioned that there was a printing plate in every three boxes.  I’ve always wanted a printing plate (so I needed to buy at least three boxes) and, more so, I’ve always wanted to know how a printing plate works (spoiler: I got a printing plate, but it did not help me understand how they work).  It’s also been a while (read two months) since I’ve put a set together so I thought if I bought four boxes (240 cards per box) that I would definitely get a set (given the 661 card count).

Let me begin by saying that I’m not particularly impressed with gimmicks, I much prefer a solid design and nothing too shiny.  This probably explains my affinity for Bowman issues and autographs on base cards.  I just think that chrome, die cuts, and funky backgrounds take away from the essence of a card which, if you didn’t know, is the photograph.  The mini gimmick was appealing to me though because it didn’t mess with the picture.  I also like throwbacks, so this filled the bill.

The cards themselves are just slightly smaller versions of the 2012 Topps base set, so I’m assuming that anyone reading this blog knows what that looks like.  I thought this years Topps design was solid, if uninspired.  The oval nameplate doesn’t scream all-time classic design, but I’m sure we’ll still reminisce about it when it is rereleased in the 2062 Heritage issue.

(reference)

A sort of sub-gimmick, and a refreshing one, is the lack of inserts.  Aside from the hits in each box, the only inserts are the Golden Moments inserts, and the gold and platinum paralells.  The Golden Moments cards are boring little numbers, as they were in the Topps base product.  Golden edge, black background, yawn-a-thon.  The gold paralells are numbered to 61 and inserted every three packs.  That is great odds for such a low print run, which speaks more to the print run of the whole product than anything else but it doesn’t stop them from being a lucrative sell on the secondary market. For example: I recenly sold a Tony Campana gold mini for $10 on eBay.  The gold cards really make the box a good investment, with a little luck you could pay for your $50 box with 6-7 decent golds.  The platinum cards ar numbered to 5 and are tough pulls, I got one in four boxes (it was Felipe Paulino, fucking Felipe Paulino; if there is a Felipe Paulino card to be pulled, rest assured I will pull it).

I know that everyone is here for the hits.  This product is one auto or relic per box, but if my experience is any indication you are much more likely to get the relic.  If you are lucky though one of those boxes will contain two relics like one of mine did (this still pales in comparison to the time my dad opened a mini-box of Finest and had an orange Freddie Freeman autograph stuck to the back of a gold Freddie Freeman autograph which subsequently turned into $160 on eBay, but I digress).  I got four relics and one auto.  Relics: Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander, and…wait for it…Rickey Romero x2.  Yes, two Rickey Romero relics, both gray, and both a bummer.  Rickey Romero and Felipe Paulino I loathe you.  I have a legitimate gripe with non-star relics and autos, do card companies not realize that there is nothing worse than getting all excited for your hit and it’s Rickey Romero?  Please, please, just relics of stars and rookies, that’s all we want.  Stars and rookies or none at all, because getting Rickey Romero as your relic is like losing on 20 in blackjack, straight deflated.  I’m willing to pay upwards of $10 extra if I know that my hits will be rookies or stars.  Auto: Chad Billingsley.  Better than Rickey Romero, slightly, if for no other reason than I also hear the phrase “BUZZZZSAW” in my head when I see him due to the Fantasy Focus podcast (good podcast, btw).  Autos are sticker drops, so unless it is a Yankee it’s straight to eBay.  No stickers for this guy.  Though I did appreciate the design of the auto cards, its a throwback style with the team name at the Topp and multi-color borders.  It seems to me to be an  homage to the 1975 minis.

Then there is the printing plate.  I got one in my four boxes.  It was a magenta Carlos Corporan.  He is a person I’ve heard of, that is the most I can say.  The printing plate is flat and metal.  It had some ink on it.  I still cannot tell how it works and I am apparently too lazy to look it up on Wikipedia.  Some things will remain a mystery.

Finally, and disappointingly, I did not make a set.  Not even close.  Got like maybe 75%, if that.  However, I did get the base set chase card…Bryce Harper.  One Bryce Harper in four boxes, so chase is truly apt.  Since I’m not a fan of the kid, or even all that high on his future, I put it up for auction.  The $22.50 I got help offset some of the $200 I dropped.

Overall I like the minis.  They are a fun, affordable product and the simplicity of them is refreshing.  The highlights: the throwback design on the autos and relics and the low print run.  The drawbacks: tough for set collectors to complete as they would probably need to buy five boxes, minimum, and the sticker autos.  3.5/5.

Got some of these for sale, check it: http://www.ebay.com/sch/d_rock999/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=&_trksid=p3686

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