Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Best Serial Numbers!

Serial numbered cards have been a thing for a while now. Collectors typically don't care much about what number they get, but are more concerned by the total number produced. But some of us nuts actually think about the numbers and consider some better than others. What are the best numbered cards to own? Let's break it down:

Number One
1/500 (or whatever) is always neat. You're #1! The very first one! The original! Just be careful it's not one of those "1 out of 500" (and all 500 say that), which means nothing.. Worthless.
Also along these lines, single-digit numbers of a big run can be kinda cool, like 2/150,000 or 8/2000.

The Player's Jersey Number
If you get a Mickey Mantle serial numbered 7/250, Jackie Robinson 42/1000, or a Michael Jordan 23/1500 or something like that, that's pretty cool. It might tick the card's value up a notch in certain circles.

Special Stat

A Hank Aaron serial number card of 714/x or 755/x.. that's pretty freckin' cool. Or maybe a Pete Rose #'d 44 or 4256, or a Ted Williams #'d 406, Roger Maris #'d 61, or some other special stat/player combo like that.

Special Date

I've got that above Steve Garvey numbered 84 which I think is cool since 1984 was the year he was the NLCS MVP for my Padres and that's even mentioned on the card. Similarly, a Kirk Gibson #'d 88 would be sweet.. or Joe Carter #'d 1993/3000 or something along those lines. It's especially cool if the "total number" matches up too, or factors into it somehow, like a 19/67 Yaz, 19/77 Reggie, etc.

The "Christmas Card" and Other Holidays
A subset of special date serial numbers, any card numbered 12/25 is The Christmas Card, which is incredibly rare and ultra-mega-valuable to anyone with any trace of Christmas Spirit. (This additional value is gained each December, and gone again by the following January.)
I suppose there could theoretically also be a "Halloween Card" (10/31), but I don't think there are many serial numbered cards with a run of 31, which would seem to be a strange number to produce. Similarly, the "Love Card" (2/14) doesn't exist very often.
This doesn't work for all holidays, obviously. For instance, an "America! Card" (7/4) is impossible due to the laws of physics. Such a card exists only in the minds of our top theoretical scientists and philosophers.

Your Birthday
Ok, this might not be a big deal to anyone but you, but if you were born on November 30th, and you got a card of your favorite player serial numbered 11/30.. that would be cool as hell. Or if you were born in March of 1975 and got a card #'d 3/75 or 0003/1975.. something like that. Other dates that might mean something to you could be your anniversary or child's birthday.
If your birthday is October 29th, and Cliff Floyd is your favorite player for some reason, then you might be jealous of this card.
Your Lucky Number
Another one that might be neat for you, but probably nobody else. Oh, I don't know.. if your lucky number is 72 and you got a card #'d 72, I could see how that'd be cool for you. And of course, it always stings a little when you pull a numbered card that's just barely off.. say, if you got a card #'d 73 when your lucky number is 72 and you curse the Gods for their cruel fates they befall upon you. You scour the globe trying to find the person who owns #72 so you can offer to trade them for your #73.

Big, Round Numbers
Like 1000/150,000 or 300/499. A lot of proud zeroes. Hero numbers.

A Bunch of the Same Number
222/2000.. that's a lot of 2's! 101/1100.. binary! 9/99, etc.

The Middle
We're looking at something like 250/500 or 50/100. There's something satisfying about getting the middle card of a numbered run. So snug and safe between the other cards.

The Final Card!
The last card of any limited serial number run is pretty sweet. 50/50 or 5000/5000.. neat to have in your collection. The end-all, be-all. They broke the mold after that guy you've got there in your hands.

The Worst Card?
Well, of course the worst numbered card to own is unlucky #13. Anyone owning a serial #'d card 13 is cursed to a life of constant tragedy and misfortune, only ceased by the peace of the grave*. If you have any serial #'d 13 cards, get rid of them right now! Even while I was in the middle of writing this, I took a break and walked my dog and she nearly almost got hit by a car-- not making this up!-- so let that be a lesson to you. (*note that this only applies to triskaidekaphobics.)
For you God-fearing folks out there, another serial number to avoid is 666, or 6/66, or even 1666/2000. A card such as this has essentially been touched by the hand of the devil. Owning one may make you susceptible to demonic influence. But the good news is you can trade it to a heavy metal fan and get a great deal in exchange, since hard-rocker types value evil cards quite highly.

Oh, fun with numbers!

Do you have any particular serial numbered card that you like for some numerological reason? Please post in the comments to let us know.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

nice Dodgers 1988 WS display piece

There was this shadow box that showed up on eBay not long ago commemorating Kirk Gibson's dramatic home run in the 1988 World Series. What caught my eye was the inclusion of a Kirk Gibson 2004 Topps Retired Signature Edition certified autograph. Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows that I'm bonkers over this set, and my current foolish obsession collecting goal is to obtain all 76 autographs in the set. And I needed that Gibby. Also included were an Eckersley auto from the same set (I already got that one) and a commemorative postcard signed by Gibson.

I just recently started using an eBay sniping site (head nod to the site Gixen and user Junichi for letting me know about it in a previous comment).. very handy and less stress than trying to be around to place a "live" bid near an auction's end. So I entered a sniping bid basically just a bit over what I had recently paid for just the Eckersley card alone. I ended up with the winning bid (just 3 cents under my max bid) and got it. Cool.

This is a neat display, but again, I really just wanted it to scrap out the Gibson card (which I don't think I've seen for sale elsewhere yet). But I liked the concept of this display. Some things about it I wasn't crazy about, though. The Gibson card features him in a Tigers uniform, so it doesn't really fit the theme. Plus, since the postcard thing-- ("Gateway cachet" is apparently the medical term for this particular type of memorabilia item.. and it's not actually a postcard, but an empty envelope)-- is also signed by him, it seems a bit redundant to have 2 autographs by the same guy in one display.

So I looked around for a nice-looking Gibson card I could swap in. I found just the ticket in a 2005 eTopps card. It commemorated the home run in question, and featured a photo from that famous trot. Plus it was in one of those encased "uncirculated" cases, so it fit the feel of the display (and matched the encased Eck). And it was a refractor, so it was all purdy n' shiny. According to the seller, only 714 were made and most are kept in online portfolios (I think this is my first eTopps card.. I still don't totally get the concept).

So I got the card and swapped it in there. Pretty pleased with how it turned out.

While I'm not a huge Dodger fan, as a baseball fan, I definitely have a reverence for that magic moment. So I'll proudly prop this puppy on my wall for the time being and admire it when it catches my eye. While I'm not anxious to part with it, I'll let it be known to y'all that I'm open to trade offers. I'm specifically looking for "upper tier" guys I still need from the 2004 Topps Retired autos.

Here's the original details from the seller:
THE NEXT 2 CARDS ARE A 2004 TOPPS CHROME CERTIFIED AUTOGRAPH BLACK CHROME REFRACTOR. (ed. note: the cards aren't really refractors, as I could tell from the photos.)
I USED A 2 LAYER VELCRO TAB SYSTEM TO ADHERE EACH ITEM TO THE BACKING. (ed note: I was able to take the velcro off the Gibson auto card without too much trouble or any damage to anything, and stuck it on the the refractor I swapped in.)
Oh, and here's an attempt to show you the glory of the refractor, though it kinda turned out terrifying.

Kirk Gibson is being attacked by flying rainbow banshees! Save him!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

2004 Topps Retired auto goal update

These days, my active baseball card collecting is focused squarely on 2004 Topps Retired Signature Edition, a relatively obscure "old timers" set I didn't even know about till a few months ago. In past posts, I've opined what draws me to the set, and well as shared cautionary tales about spending a lot on premium packs.

For better or worse, I'm pretty much "the 2004 Topps Retired guy" at this point. In fact, I found out the other day that if you Google "2004 Topps Retired" right now, my young blog here shows up in the top 10 search results.

But yeah, I feel like I'm in too deep to pull out now. Since my last post on the subject, I've crossed the 50% threshold on my financially-irresponsible collecting goal of owning every certified autograph card from the set.

In the past month or so, I've ponied up for a (faded signature) Yaz and a (faded signature) refractor Yogi, in addition to a few other lower-tier guys I needed. And sure, I'd prefer vibrant blue signatures over faded black ones, but hey, if it knocks the price down a bit, I'm ok with it. I'm stoked to have the autograph of these 2 legends, even if not as visually impressive as they should rightfully be.

That gives me 43 down, with 33 still to go. (and no, I am not going after the ugly Willie Mays co-signers. Screw that! ..Though, if you've got one to part with, feel free to let me know. lol)

Here's where I'm at (as of 7/25/2013):

2004 Topps Retired Signature Edition

Red = Need it
Green = Got it
Orange = I got 2 of it (my orange for your red trade offers welcomed!)

Group A: Cal Ripken; Nolan Ryan; Carl Yastrzemski; Robin Yount;
Group B: Hank Aaron; Ernie Banks; Stan Musial; Duke Snider
Group C: Johnny Bench; Yogi Berra; Whitey Ford; Bob Gibson; Dwight Gooden; Tony Gwynn; Don Mattingly; Brooks Robinson; Mike Schmidt; Tom Seaver; Ozzie Smith
Group D: Wade Boggs; John Candelaria; Jose Canseco; Gary Carter; Carlton Fisk; Ralph Kiner; Paul Molitor; Paul O'Neill; Frank Robinson; Ryne Sandberg; Darryl Strawberry; Don Zimmer;
Group E: Buddy Bell; Rod Carew; Bucky Dent; Rob Dibble; Dennis Eckersley; Tony Fernandez; Rollie Fingers; George Foster; Ceasar Geronimo; Kirk Gibson; Goose Gossage; Orel HershiserAl Hrabosky; Greg Luzinski; Tony Oliva; Dave Parker; Jimmy Piersall; Alan Trammell;
Group F: Davey Lopes;
Group G: Tony Armas; Vida Blue; Tom Brunansky; Bill Buckner; Orlando Cepeda; Darren Daulton; Darrell Evans; Bobby GrichFerguson Jenkins; Wally Joyner; Jimmy Key; Ron Kittle; Bill Madlock; Jack McDowell; Dale Murphy; Graig Nettles; Al Oliver; Bobby Richardson; Ron Santo; Dave Stieb; Bruce Sutter; Ron Swoboda; Luis Tiant; Earl Weaver; Maury Wills;
Group H: Elroy Face
need it!
If you've got any I still need and would likely be down for a trade or sale, please let me know. I feel like I've spent way too much money on this set lately, so I'm gonna try to chill out and only go after "good deals" for a while. More patience and less "I must complete this set NOW!!"

I'm also (less-obsessively) trying to obtain the (non-auto) base set.
Here's what I still need: (again, trade help would be great)

1 Willie Mays 
2 Tony Gwynn
3 Dale Murphy
4 Lenny Dykstra 
5 Johnny Bench 
7 Ferguson Jenkins 
9 Ralph Kiner 
10 Ernie Banks 
12 Lou Brock 
13 Keith Hernandez 
14 Jose Canseco 
15 Whitey Ford 
16 Dave Kingman 
17 Tim Raines 
18 Paul O'Neill 
19 Lou Whitaker 
20 Mike Schmidt 
22 Kirk Gibson 
23 Ryne Sandberg 
24 Luis Tiant 
25 Al Kaline 
27 Don Zimmer 
29 Maury Wills 
31 Garry Maddox 
32 Tom Brunansky 
33 Don Mattingly 
34 Earl Weaver 
35 Bobby Grich 
36 Orlando Cepeda 
37 Alan Trammell 
39 Dave Lopes 
40 Rod Carew 
42 Dwight Gooden 
43 Andre Dawson 
44 Hank Aaron 
46 Reggie Jackson 
48 Carlton Fisk 
49 Dave Parker 
50 Cal Ripken 
51 Roy Face 
56 Tom Seaver 
57 Tony Armas 
58 Dave Stieb 
59 Will Clark 
60 Duke Snider 
61 Cesar Geronimo 
62 Ron Kittle 
63 Ron Santo 
64 Mickey Rivers 
65 Jim Piersall 
67 Kent Hrbek 
69 Greg Luzinski 
70 Harmon Killebrew 
71 Ron Guidry 
72 Steve Garvey 
73 Andy Van Slyke
74 Goose Gossage 
75 Ozzie Smith 
76 Richie Allen 
77 Vida Blue 
78 Tony Oliva 
79 Darryl Strawberry 
80 Frank Robinson 
81 Bruce Sutter 
82 Dave Concepcion 
83 Darrell Evans 
85 Bo Jackson 
87 Rob Dibble 
88 Wade Boggs 
92 Mike Scott 
93 Paul Molitor 
95 Bobby Richardson 
96 Rollie Fingers
97 Tim McCarver 
98 John Candelaria
99 Dave Winfield 
101 Bill Madlock 
102 Jack McDowell 
103 Luis Aparicio 
105 Dave Stewart 
106 Darren Daulton 
107 Gary Gaetti 
109 Buddy Bell

And I'm also much less obsessively collecting the 2003 Topps Retired set/autos as well (I've currently got 10 autos and 0 base cards).

I suppose this post is essentially my updated want list (see also the link on the right). As a new kid on the baseball card blog block, not to mention one with a narrow want list (I'm not really a team collector or a set collector), trading partners are hard to come by. I mean, I started this blog because I like writing/reading about baseball cards, not necessarily as a means to grow my collection, but it would be cool to swing some trades at some point, too.

Monday, July 22, 2013

One True Rookie: Joe Carter

This is the second installment of a feature focusing on a player for whom only one major card company issued a rookie card.

Joe Carter and Fred McGriff are linked together in the minds of many baseball fans. The sluggers were essentially traded for each other (with Roberto Alomar and Tony Fernandez also being traded for each other concurrently). In addition to suiting up for the Blue Jays and Padres (as result of that trade), Carter and McGriff both played some for the Cubs, too. Each guy ended his career tantalizingly close to a home run milestone, with Joe winding up at 396 and Fred at 493.

And for a baseball card collector, a big similarity is that each player only has one true rookie card, both being Donruss "Rated Rookie" cards. Since McGriff's 1986 card was the subject of the first post in the series, I figured Carter would make a good follow-up.

From their debut in 1981 through 1983, Donruss put out a respectable-- yet unremarkable-- design. Their first notable subset, "Diamond Kings", was introduced in 1982, which featured oil paintings of star players (one from each team) done by noted baseball artist Dick Perez.

While the addition of Diamond King cards was a good start for the company to develop a unique identity in the baseball card market, it wasn't until the 1984 Donruss set that card collectors really seemed to be impressed. That year, their set featured a fresh pseudo-borderless "wavy" design (breaking away from the similarity of the company's "boxy" designs up to that point), lower production numbers than other sets of the era, and the introduction of an intriguing new subset, Rated Rookies.

A "rookie" designation on a baseball card was nothing new; Topps had many past sets with "star rookies" (etc.) and multiplayer rookie cards, not to mention the All-Star Rookie cups commemorating a player who had a good rookie season the year before. But the company was never very consistent about having a distinct rookie subset. For a while, they even did away with rookie cups (in 1979) and multiplayer rookie cards (in 1983), leaving no cards that screamed out ROOKIE! to the mid-80s collector.

Donruss smartly filled that void in 1984. New York Daily News writer Bill Madden selected 20 young prospects to have their cards graced by a Rated Rookie banner where the team name typically went (it wasn't until the next year that the iconic blue RR logo first appeared). Obviously, betting on prospects will yield mixed results. Many Rated Rookies never did squat in the bigs, whereas future top stars (such as Don Mattingly and Darryl Strawberry) apparently weren't rated high enough in Mr. Madden's eyes to get the RR distinction. The website Mental Floss has a great article looking back at the 1984 class called How the Original Donruss Rated Rookies Turned Out.

In 1985, Fleer would get into the Rookie-promoting game by including 2-on-1 "Major League Prospects" cards. Topps brought back the All-Star Rookie cups in 1987, as well as reintroducing the "Future Stars" subset that year, previously used for 3-on-1 rookie cards in 1980 through 1982, but now they were on individual player cards and had a nifty shooting star logo. You can easily imagine the meeting of Topps executives.. "Kids love that Rated Rookie stuff.. we need to come up with something like that!"

But anyways, this post is focusing on Joe Carter's Rated Rookie.

minor league cards
Carter had a great collegiate career at Wichita State, I'm assuming, since he was drafted #1 by the Cubs, the 2nd player chosen overall in the 1981 amateur draft, just behind Mike Moore (P, Mariners). He put up some impressive numbers in the minors and got called up to Chicago for a cup of coffee near the end of the 1983 season, but struggled against major league pitching. Take a look for yourself:

Despite the weak MLB debut, he still had a lot of promise. Topps and Fleer left him out of their 1984 sets-- he didn't even make it into the Traded/Update sets-- so Donruss was the only game in town for a Joe Carter card till '85 rolled around. It was a great looking card, too, featuring a close-up of determined young Joe posed in a batting stance at Wrigley with the ivy in the background.

Joe started 1984 back in AAA, and his minor league success continued (.310 and 14 HR in 61 games). The Cubs, however, didn't see him as essential in their future plans, and shipped him off in a big mid-season trade. He was sent with Mel Hall, Don Schulze, and Darryl Banks to Cleveland for George Frazier, Ron Hassey, and Rick Sutcliffe. I suppose the trade worked out well for both teams, as Sutcliffe went 16-1 for Chicago, winning the Cy and helping the Cubs reach the playoffs that year for the first time in since 1945.

first Fleer card
Carter, however, would have to wait a while for a taste of October baseball. But he was able to blossom as a solid major leaguer in the Indians' outfield. In 6 years in Cleveland, he batted .269 with 151 homers. Highlights included 1987, when he joined the 30/30 Club (31 HR, 32 SB). He won the AL RBI crown in '86 (121), and later led the league in games (all 162) and at-bats (651) in '89. While not known as much of a contact hitter, he did a great job getting wood on the ball in 1986, collecting 200 hits with a .302 average (both marks he wouldn't come anywhere close to matching again). For his career, he wasn't picky with what he swung at, typically striking out about 3 times as often as he walked. In the field, he saw time at all 3 outfield positions, occasionally playing at first or DH-ing, and was known as a less-than-stellar fielder.

first Topps card
After the 1989 season, he was traded to San Diego in exchange for Sandy Alomar, Carlos Baerga, and Chris James. The deal was a bust for the Padres, as Joe delivered a down year for them in 1990, batting just .232 with his power dipping. For the Indians, Sandy Alomar would go on to win Rookie of the Year that year, and despite being injury-prone for much of his career, became one of the game's best catchers for many years. Baerga also had a few real nice years.

Maybe it's because 1990 was the year my love for baseball first exploded and I lived in the San Diego area, but I always mistakenly remember Joe Carter as being a long-time Padre. Truth is, they shipped him off after only one season, in the aforementioned Fred McGriff deal with the Blue Jays.

The pieces really fell into place for those early-90s Toronto teams, culminating in back-to-back championships in 1992 and 1993, with Carter being a big part of their success with many clutch hits. He of course carved himself a permanent place in baseball history when he cracked a dramatic walk-off homer to end the 1993 World Series.

After a few more years with the Jays, Joe wrapped up his career in 1998, splitting that final year with the Orioles and Giants. Since retiring, he's done some broadcasting and started a celebrity golf tournament that benefits the Children's Aid Foundation.

Players with similar career stats include Dale Murphy and Ruben Sierra. When he was eligible for the Hall of Fame, Carter received just 3.8% of the vote and was dropped from future ballots. Unlike McGriff, there aren't many baseball fans clamoring for his induction. In fact, sabermetric advanced-stat minded types are quick to call him overrated, pointing to his poor defense and lackluster slugging and on-base percentages despite good home run and RBI numbers.

But still, the guy put together a solid career. And of course that World Series home run is one of the most memorable moments ever in the sport. And he only has one true rookie. Score another point for Donruss for being the only major brand to give him cardboard when he came up. They took a risk, and he proved them right, arguably having the most successful career out of the original 20 Rated Rookies in that Class of '84.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

San Diego vacation recap

I did not wear a sombrero on my vacation, but I did eat Mexican food.
Just got back from a few days vacationing in San Diego, my old hometown. I try not to focus too much on SD-centric stuff or non-baseball "live journal" personal stuff here on the blog, but you'll have to indulge me from time to time. So yeah, just a heads up that this here is not really a baseball card post, so feel free to browse elsewhere if you don't care.. I wouldn't blame you. We'll return to breaking down cards shortly.

Something to listen to. Rocket From The Crypt is my favorite San Diego band.

Anyways, I lived all my life in San Diego County until moving up to Portland a few years ago. My fiancée's family planned to converge in San Diego for their annual family reunion. Sensing a great opportunity for our families to become more familiar with each other, I suggested to my family to have our annual meeting also in San Diego around the same time. The idea took off, and a few months later, there we all were.

Our first night was in La Jolla. That's a pretty fancy (expensive) part of town near the beach. It was Friday afternoon, so driving and parking was crazy, but the lady and I eventually got to the hotel. We had a nice snack and sampled some excellent beers during happy hour at Karl Strauss, just a few blocks' walk from the hotel (We are both fans of quality beer.)

Then it was off to my aunt's house for a dinner with the family. She just recently moved into a sweet-ass house with her boyfriend. To get into the house, you walk over a bridge over a pool. Sweet-ass. Huge place with a great view.

That's the bridge on the left.
So that was really nice. Great to see my mom again, as well as the rest of the extended family. The little kids put on a show and made cookies.

Then Saturday we headed over to a place my girl's family was renting in Mission Beach. It was a nice place just a block from the beach. That evening my family met up for dinner at a fancy pasta place called Piatti. Again, parking was tricky, as weekends on the coast are pretty packed. But yeah, in the end, that was a nice time.

Give me a crayon and a paper tablecloth, and I will draw something like this.
Sunday, I got together with a few old friends from high school and our significant others, plus the son of one of my friends (who is now almost 18.. I remember when he was born.. wow, that'll make you feel old). Great to see the fellas again and catch up. We played 18 holes of miniature golf in Del Mar, then-- after a long wait to be seated since it was so crowded-- had a nice lunch at a place called Milton's. Good times.

Then we had to say our goodbyes and race to my family partnership meeting that was scheduled for 3pm. But luckily the rest of the family was late too, so no harm done. After that, my family and my fiancée's family all got together at a pizza place called Fillipi's (I don't know why I'm hyperlinking these restaurants.. I guess just in case anyone is interested in checking out the menu or something.) In total, there were 25 in our party, I think, spread out over 3 tables near the back of the restaurant. It's always hard to get a good "mingling environment" for so many people in a dinning situation like that, but I think it went pretty well. Luckily, both our families are good people and easy to get along with.

After the big dinner, we said our farewells to my side of the family. Monday was spent with Beth's side. About half our group went to Stone Brewing Company in Escondido for a tasty lunch and entertaining tour of the brewery.

Four people crammed into the backseat meant for 3 on a hot summer day for 45 minutes was not the best experience, but once we got there, the trip was very much worth it. I definitely recommend the tour to anyone finding themselves in northern SD who appreciates craft beer (if your speed is more of Coors/Bud/Miller, you might be offended). My future mother-in-law even bought us nice hoodies from the gift shop as a souvenir for our visit.

Then Tuesday, we all had a nice Mexican food lunch at Coyote Cafe in Old Town, then off to the airport for our flight home.

I should note that there were a few "hanging out on the beach" times mixed in, as well as plenty of beer and fine wine in the evenings. Good times, for sure. While I lived in San Diego County for most of my life, I grew up in the East County and I didn't make it out to the beach areas that much. So it was a weird mix of being a trip to someplace I hadn't really been to before, and a homecoming. It was great to see my family again, to get better acquainted with my fiancée's extended family, and to see some old friends again. I'm happy to say I didn't get sunburned and only puked one night. Go me!

I did not go surfing on my vacation, but I did walk in the ocean a bit.
It was a very fun few days. And I even got to kinda watch some baseball! (I don't get TV service back home, so this is a rarity for me.) I caught a bit of the Home Run Derby, then most of the Celebrity/Legends Softball Game (which I was more interested in than the All-Star game itself). Great to see Rickey Henderson and those other old timers kinda back in action. It's funny when someone asks me if I'm a baseball fan, and I kinda have to give a hesitant "....yyyyeeeah..(?)" While I obviously love the game enough to start a blog about baseball cards, my interest is focused squarely on the past. I consider myself a Padres fan, and I've read the names of some of their current players, but honestly I don't think I could pick a single one of those guys out of a lineup. Ever since I moved away and Adrian Gonzalez got traded, to me they've become a faceless group of cellar dwellers. One of these days I'll chronicle my fall from fandom, but that's a post for another day. For what it's worth, I looked into catching a game at Petco Park while I was in town, but nothing fit into my schedule.
I did not lie in a hammock on my vacation, but I did play a little guitar.
But anyways, thanks to my family, to-be in-law family, and my old friends for making it such an incredible trip for me and my girl. It was a lot of fun, though I'm happy to be back in Portland with my dog and own comfy bed. It could be a long time till I'm back in San Diego, but it'll pretty much always be home to me.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

My Best eBay Transaction Ever

A few days ago, I bought a lot of ten (10) 2003 Topps Retired Signature autos on eBay. With a winning bid of just a bit over $30, seemed like a good deal to me. If you've read my earlier posts, you know I'm dangerously obsessed with the 2004 Topps Retired set, specifically collecting the certified autographs.. And I hate to say it, but I'm close to falling for the 2003 set, too. It's a real nice design. Not quite as sweet as the '04 set, but still very good. While many of the players overlap, there are a handful of guys only in one set or the other. These 10 cards recently added to my collection feature excellent former ballplayers and a HOF manager, though they might not be top-tier legends, which is I'm sure how I was lucky enough to get them all packaged together for a good price.

Here's who was included: Luis Tiant (229 career wins), George Foster (only player to hit 50 HR in either the 70s or 80s), Darrell Evans (414 HRs), Lance Parrish (right there with Fisk and Carter as best catchers of the 80s), Earl Weaver (legendary skipper), Moose Skowron (on five WS winners), Bobby Thomson ("Shot Heard 'Round the World"), Jim Piersall (great baseball character), Maury Wills (stolen base king of the 60s), and Ron Cey (incredible third-baseman). Plus, each card was bagged, keeping the cases nice and scratch-free.

At $3.14 a piece, and no additional shipping cost (see below), these were a sweet deal.
I'm happy to have a good foot in the door with this set now. But what was really cool is that the seller (Adam) was also here in Portland, Oregon. Before I paid, I wrote him just curious if we were in similar parts of town, and if so, maybe we could save some time and postage by doing a local drop off/pick up. He was cool with that idea and sent me a new invoice with shipping cost removed. He was even down to drop the cards off to me at work on my lunch break. And the kicker is he threw in a free bottle of hot sauce!

Apparently, he started a hot sauce company, and his day job is driving around distributing hot sauce to stores and restaurants. I love spicy food (I'm known to occasionally snack on jalapeños, and very often splash a healthy dose of hot sauce on my meals), so that was a happy surprise right up my alley. It's really good hot sauce, too.

I figure I should repay Adam's kindness by giving him a plug. So yeah, if you're into hot sauce, check out Portland Pepper Sauce Company. Good stuff.

A bunch of nifty cards at a very fair price, personally delivered directly to my hands for free.. plus a tasty bottle of hot sauce thrown in free.. all adds up to possibly my best eBay transaction ever. Please feel free to brag about your best eBay moments in the comments. Always fun to hear about great finds and generous sellers.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hometown Hero: Jimmie Johnson

Here's the first of another mini-series on the blog. It was originally going to be called "famous dudes I went to school with", but I wanted to expand it to also include dudes that went to my school when I wasn't there, or were at a different school in my district. These guys are all athletes, but not all of them are baseball players. And yes, this is a baseball card blog, but screw it, I'm gonna stray from focus from time to time.

(I like putting in "soundtracks" for my posts so you can listen to a song while you read. According to local radio station 91X, this was the top song of 1993.)

The year was 1993. I was a freshman in high school. I still personally think this was the all-time best time in the history of music. But then again, I think most people think the years they were in high school were the all-time best years for music. Something about starting to grow up and your life getting weird that makes songs sound better and connect closer with you, I guess.
school photos courtesy of my old yearbook.
Anyways, I went to Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, California (East County San Diego). While I don't recall ever crossing paths with the guy, also attending was Jimmie Johnson. He was a senior when I was a freshman. So yep, we were Eagles (the school mascot) at the same time.

Ah.. my awkward years. I mean, I'm still awkward, but less so.
Honestly, I'm not a NASCAR fan at all, really. I've never attended a car race, or even watched one on TV apart from catching some highlights on SportsCenter. But even I know that Jimmie Johnson is hot shit. He recently "became the first driver in 31 years to sweep Daytona International Speedway, accomplishing the feat with a dominating run Saturday night [7/6/13] for his fourth win of the season. The Daytona 500 winner is the first driver since Bobby Allison in 1982, and the fifth overall, to win both races in a season at Daytona." And also, less recently, "Johnson became the first racing driver to become Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year (U.S.) in 2009, and has won Driver of the Year four times, most recently in 2010. He also topped Forbes.com's Most Influential Athletes list for two consecutive years (2011, 2012)."

Seriously, this dude is one of the greatest racecar drivers of all time.

That's pretty cool. And it's neat to think that I most likely had a class or two in the same room he did-- perhaps even sat in the same desk he did-- PROBABLY EVEN PISSED IN THE SAME URINAL AS HIM!-- well, that's kinda cool, I guess.
Sorry, had to include more of me. Hilarious pic from track. That smirk.. That mullet.. What was I thinking?!
Congrats, Jimmie! Long may you run. You've made El Cajon proud (and you've made a ton of money). Keep on soaring proud and free, my fellow Eagle.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Happy Card! :) 1966 Topps Carl Yastrzemski

This is the first installment of a series I just now thought of for a neat addition to the blog. Happy Card! posts will feature a selected card displaying a ballplayer with a big, heartwarming smile. I for one love those cards, and I don't think I'm alone in this. I'm sure lots of collectors peruse their cards and can't help but crack a grin when they come across a picture of a genuinely happy man enjoying life.

Here's a great example of the power of a Happy Card:

See? One of these cards is iconic, beloved, and valuable; the other, just blah.  It's no coincidence that the "good" card features a fresh-faced smile, while the guy in the "bad" card looks confused and irritated. (Don't even get me started on his 1989 Fleer card!) Sure, there are other factors in the Upper Deck card being more sought-after, but you gotta believe that winning smile plays a big part in the card's appeal.

Ok, with the introduction out of the way, let's move on to the main post. I suggest playing this YouTube clip as the soundtrack for your reading.

For our inaugural Happy Card subject (um, forget about Junior up there), I've chosen a very favorite card of mine. 1966 Topps #70 Carl Yastrzemski

Hot damn! Have you ever seen a grown man display such unbridled joy anywhere, much less on a baseball card?

The year 1966 brought us happy songs such as "Good Vibrations" and "Yellow Submarine" on the radio. Happy TV viewers enjoyed watching the debuts of Star Trek and Adam West as Batman.

And Topps gave this happy little treasure to the world. Here's Yaz taking a healthy swing on a glorious midsummer morning (or thereabouts). You probably know about his career, so I don't need to type up several paragraphs riffling off stats and factoids. 1966 was smack dab in the middle of his prime years. The following year he would achieve likely his most notable feat, winning the triple crown. His Red Sox would win the pennant that year, too. His incredible HOF career stretched 23 years (with a whopping 18 All-Star selections), all with Boston.

Don't quote me on it, but I think Yaz might hold the record for most Topps cards issued during a career (well, in the pre-parallel age, at least). And the vast majority of them feature a stoic, stern-faced warrior doing his damnedest to lead his team to victory. (Although the Sox of course were never able to win it all during his tenure, he batted a fierce .369 in the postseason.)

Here's a retrospective of his main Topps cards:

See? Besides the 1966 card, only in his '81 card (and maybe his painted rookie picture) does he seem to be enjoying himself at all.

But for one year, at least, Carl Yastrzemski's card was happy as a hound dog in a whorehouse. And that picture, that card, will last for all eternity: A bright beacon of hope in uncertain times.

Let's enjoy it again, shall we?

That is one happy card. :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

One True Rookie: Fred McGriff

Welcome to the first of a new series here at Baseball Card Breakdown! One True Rookie posts will feature a guy who only had one actual rookie card during the time of multiple card companies.

(Disclaimer: Hopefully my post ideas are reasonably fresh. I am somewhat new to the baseball card blogosphere, so forgive me if I retread on ground already covered by other blogs. I assure you I strive for originality, and will never blatantly rip off another blog, but here in 2013, there are few things that haven't already been done, especially in regards to old baseball cards. I'll post about topics/cards I find entertaining, and my apologies if anything I do has been covered before. Thank you.)

To explain the premise a bit more: For a long time, Topps was the only game in town when it came to full-sized baseball cards sets, only briefly given competition by Bowman and Fleer. And so for 99% of players playing in the 50s through 1980, their first Topps card was undeniably their rookie card.

But in 1981, Donruss and Fleer came onto the scene and made things interesting. While all 3 companies gave cards to pretty much the same 500+ players, there were occasionally variances in guys chosen to have a card. Sometimes a journeyman infielder would be snubbed by one or two companies, but given a card in another's set. Sometimes a great player who retired recently after the previous season would be denied a "send-off" final card (Topps being especially infamous for this), while the other companies would be gracious enough to issue a card with complete career stats (Fleer especially).

And of course, the 3 companies would sometimes differ in which prospects they deemed worthy of having a place in their set. Most of the time, they agreed. But from time to time, one company would "guess right" and put out a card of a kid who went on to great things, leaving the other companies caught red-faced, scrambling to include the player in their traded/update sets. And sometimes, it would be a year or two till the prospect in question broke onto the scene, making the sole company who gave him a card way-back-when look like magic fortunetellers.

By 1990, the marketplace had become inflated by Score, Upper Deck, the reintroduction of Bowman, and the revamped Leaf set. Soon thereafter, things really became a mess, what with Stadium Club, Fleer Ultra, Pinnacle, etc.

So for this One True Rookie series, I'm limiting the range from 1981 to 1990, back when there really were just a handful of options for a guy's rookie card.

For the first entry, I've chosen one of my favorites:
1986 Donruss #28 Fred McGriff

The guy in charge of picking Rated Rookies really came through for Donruss in '86. The fact that they were the only game in town with a Jose Canseco rookie card not shared with Eric Plunk (Fleer) must've helped them sell a lot of packs back then. But one slow-burn prospect who turned out to be a brilliant pick for them was Fred McGriff.

When the 1986 season started, McGriff had yet to make his major league debut, and his minor league numbers were promising but not exactly explosive, so it's no shock that Topps and Fleer didn't find a place for the Crime Puppy, as I'm sure he was called back then. But Donruss saw something in him and not only gave him a card, but proudly emblazoned it with the prestigious Rated Rookie logo.

Back then, collectors must've thought he was destined to be another RR dud (the list of Rated Rookies who never amounted to much is probably just as long as those who did go on to have respectable careers, if not longer.. hmm, perhaps that could be researched as a topic for a future post?). Fred's 1986 season came and went with him only popping up for an unimpressive 3-game cup of coffee with the big league club (1 single in 5 at-bats, with 2 strikeouts) after a lukewarm season in AAA (.259 with 19 HR).

When the 1987 baseball card sets came out, Topps and Fleer again looked the other way, with only Donruss standing by their man and giving him another card in their set. His '87 Donruss card is very often mistakenly called his rookie card by collectors. It's hard to blame them when you turn the card over and see he only had 3 games under his belt at the time.

However, that year McGriff made the club out of spring training and didn't look back. He put in a solid rookie campaign, clubbing 20 home runs in under 300 at-bats mainly in a left-handed DH platoon role. Topps finally granted him his own cardboard in their 1987 Traded set, with Fleer following suit in their 1987 Update. Donruss got to gloat, including him in their The Rookies set, and perhaps in a cocky "suck on that, bitches!" gesture to Topps and Fleer, used a picture of Fred spitting while at bat.

The next year, Fred was the Blue Jays' everyday first-baseman, and broke out with a terrific season, batting .282 with 34 home runs and 100 runs scored. He was included in all 3 major 1988 sets (well, 4 counting newcomer Score), with collectors getting their first chance at pulling a McGriff from a pack of Topps or Fleer, as they looked back to check if they had any of his earlier Donruss cards.

1989 saw Crime Dog win his first HR crown with 36. He had similar power numbers in 1990, plus got his average up to .300. At the end of the year, he was involved in a blockbuster trade. Toronto sent him and Tony Fernandez to the Padres for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. Speaking as a kid in San Diego at the time deep into my burgeoning love of baseball, this was a huge deal. I was sad to see Robbie and Carter go, but quickly warmed to the new guys. In 2 and a half years for the Friars, Fred hit .281 with 84 home runs (including his 2nd and final HR title in '92 [35]). Sadly for me, San Diego shipped him off to Atlanta in mid 1993 for little in exchange. But the move worked out well for Fred, as he won the World Series with the Braves in '95. This would prove to provide him with his only ring, though he put up excellent lifetime postseason numbers (.303 with 10 HR and 37 RBI in 50 games.)

Oh, Padres, will you ever win?
McGriff spent the next several years consistently putting up good average and power numbers, moving on from Atlanta to Tampa Bay (his hometown) in 1998, and then to the Cubs in 2001.

He signed with the Dodgers for the 2003 season, but his numbers started to slide, batting just .249 with 13 homers in 297 at-bats.

The next year, he tried to rekindle some mojo with Tampa Bay, but after a sub-Mendoza Line start, the Devil Rays released him near the end of July. He lingered on the free agent market for a while, hoping for another opportunity, but wasn't able to catch on with another team for 2005 and had to call it a career. He now works in the Rays' front office and I believe also co-hosts a radio show in Tampa.

Fred McGriff finished with 493 home runs. It's always frustrating as a fan-- especially a stat-minded fan-- to see a guy fall just shy of a landmark number like 500 HR (I'm sure it's frustrating for the player, too). You can't help but to imagine if he had just one more decent season left in him..... [daydreaming]

McGriff also stars in one of the longest-running TV ads ever!
It would definitely have bolstered his Hall of Fame chances to crack the big 5-0-0. So far in HOF voting, he's been polling steadily at about 20%.. so his chances of getting in are not looking great at the moment. But taking a hard look at his numbers, he's right there with other guys who are in or likely to get in when eligible. The very cool mathematical formula-based site Hall of Stats scores McGriff a 95, which is quite good, but falls short of the 100-point threshold for induction to their elite group. Meanwhile, his Baseball-Reference page lists these ballplayers as most-similar:
Willie McCovey (887) *
Willie Stargell (875) *
Jeff Bagwell (865)
Frank Thomas (861)
Carlos Delgado (857)
Billy Williams (851) *
Gary Sheffield (850)
Andres Galarraga (850)
Jason Giambi (832)
Eddie Mathews (827) *
* - Signifies Hall of Famer

Very nice company indeed, with several Hall of Famers and probable future HOFers. It should also be noted that Fred always seems to be described as a genuinely nice guy who always does the right thing, on and off the field. And I've never heard his name brought up with steroid implications. Throughout his career, he was a tall, slender guy with a tight, pretty swing. (Not one of those muscle-bound bruisers whose heads got rounder and rounder over their careers.) Unfortunately, all the juicing going on during his playing years most certainly causes his great power numbers to be diminished when looking at the era as a whole. In 1988, he was 2nd in AL home runs; Who was first? Jose Canseco. So yeah, you can see how roided-up guys stole some of his glory throughout his career. Hopefully HOF voters are eventually able to sort out the legit stats from the bogus, and Crime Dog will be enshrined in Cooperstown before long.

And when he does, that's yet more bragging rights to Donruss for giving the kid a rookie card long before anyone else. His one true rookie.

I've only got 4 or 5 graded cards in my collection, and this was the first one I ever got. Neat.