Friday, July 29, 2022

Half completed sets abound + Refractor Friday #7 Tony Gwynn Hall Bound

This was supposed to be a midweek trade recap post but I wasn't able to get to it until today, so we'll throw the Refractor Friday stuff on the end.

So Johnny's Trading Spot had a post a couple weeks ago about a vintage trade he did with his Old Card Traders buddy Bob D. Since I'm always jonesing for vintage setbuilding help, I checked out Bob's wantlist and was able to find some stuff for him before sending an email feeling out a trade. I was hoping he had a few '72 high numbers to spare, and though he wasn't able to find any of my needed late-season psychedelic tombstones, he was able to find a stack of 1970 Topps needs and upgrades from my list. Gaylord Perry has some surface wear and a pinhole, but as a semi-high number, he's welcomed into my build with outstretched arms. As far as old sets I'm working on, priority-wise '70 clocks in under '72, '57, and '64 for me, but it's still a multi-series vintage Topps set I'd love to complete someday, ultimately trying for a run of flagship Topps encompassing the 70s and 80s.


That lot from Bob took me to 49+% complete with 1970, just 1 card shy of the midway point. I knew I had to make a push at getting over the line, and turned to my PCs to try to dig up a needed card.

I found a 1970 All-Star in my Rod Carew PC and loaned it out to the setbuild, officially taking me to over the hump. Of course I'm not actually "halfway done" yet since the majority of what I have are low numbers, and the high numbers are much more work to track down. But the bottom line is my "haves" are now more plentiful than my "needs" for 1970 Topps, so that's something to smile about


And hey, on that subject...

Got a nice package of cards from Fuji last week that included a bunch of 1979 and 1983 Kellogg's, taking both those back-burning oddball setbuilds over the 50% hump, too. The Canseco brings me to just 5 commons away from completing the '88 Fleer base set. (I think GCA's buddy Stuart said he could finish it off for me? Let's hope he comes through!)

Some PC additions here, including a Bruce Bochy sunset/final tribute from '88 Score I'd been wanting for a while. He spent all of 1988 in Triple A as a player/coach, the beginnings of his prominent managerial career.

Excited to be a recipient of one of Fuji's new blogger cards! Love it.

Thanks, man! I've got a little something to hit you back with soon.


Fuji deciding to send me a package must've gotten karma on his side, because his guess at last week's Harmon Killebrew refractor's serial number being 134/299 was right on the money. Congrats! Let me know if you see anything in the prize pool that you could use and I'll add it to that next mailing I send your way.

As a little extra bonus for Fuji, I figured I'd pick our favorite Padre to feature for Friday's refractor this week.

Refractor Friday #7 - Tony Gwynn 1998 Topps Chrome Hall Bound refractor

I don't remember what pushed me down the rabbit hole, but I probably saw one of these Hall Bound die-cut inserts on another blog, thought to myself, "yes, I'd really like one of those (specifically a refractor one)," and poked around the usual places until I found a decent deal on one I liked. I ended up with a slabbed Gwynn for roughly what they go for raw. PSA 6 is bad for a modern card, but looks great to me. Maybe the print line on the right knocked it down a little but all the way to a 6? Maybe the PSA person found something else bad under their microscope or whatever. But yeah, no complaints from me. I'll keep it slabbed for now since I'll bet even those of you who are firmly anti-grading can still appreciate not having to worry about those die-cut points getting knocked or caught. (Mr. Padre is my largest PC, and this is only my second graded card of his, pretty sure.)

Regardless, it's a fine specimen of refractive Chrome technology, wouldn't you agree?

Time to finish off with another little contest. Back to the autograph Fuji gave me of himself... It's hand-numbered out of 30 on the back. Be the first in the comments below to correctly guess which number it is and you can win a PWE of a few cards from my prize pool. For a hint, it's less than Tony's jersey number.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend, everybody.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

A couple quick bites of Kellogg's customs

End of an era! The home printer I've used for pretty much every custom card I've ever printed out recently died. I had been planning on getting a new printer later this year anyways, so I wasn't too upset by the situation. That old Canon served me well, but had been more and more streaky over the years.

Anyways, here are the final customs printed out on its last gasps.

Posting this now specifically because Hoyt Wilhelm was born 100 years ago today, and I wanted to do my little part to celebrate. Hoyt! Hoyt! Hoyt! The design is 1972 Kellogg's. There aren't a lot of Dodgers photos of Wilhelm available, so I colorized a b&w one in an attempt at freshness. It printed out a little weird-- trying to print a third copy of this was the printer's death blow--  so I'll likely try again once I've got the new printer up and running and hope for improved results. But still happy with this oddball-adjacent entry to my Hoyt PC.

A couple weeks before the Hoyt, I made this 1973 Kellogg's Dave Winfield. Like with the Hoyt, these are "cards that could have been", technically, both having played during those seasons. Not too far fetched that Kellogg's might've beat Topps to the punch by including Winfield in their '73 set, though his debut was June 19, 1973. But like if they came out with a little Kellogg's Update set later that year, this card would have been a great fit. LOL.

Both the card backs were more time-consuming than ideal-- Hoyt with all those stats, Dave with the big write-up-- but I have a hard time leaving my custom backs too "unfinished" or they bug me.

Thanks again to my old Canon printer for the years of service, the frustrating son of a bitch that it was. I'm staying away from Canon for a while, giving HP a shot now. Hopefully it works out well and I come up with plenty more customs to show off on the blog and share with my trader buddies for years to come.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Refractor Friday #6 - Harmon Killebrew 2004 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites

This card had a cameo in my previous post, so figured I might as well make it the featured refractor this week.

This 2004 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites refractor features a young Harmon Killebrew on a 1969 Topps design. That happens to be the year he won AL MVP, no coincidence. Looks like this picture is a tight crop of a larger photo with at least one other Twin, as we can see a teammate's shoulder behind Harmon, though it's got the "bumpy" effect over it, as is typical for ATFF and Heritage backgrounds when Topps gives them the Chrome treatment.

Here's an alternate shot, giving you a better view of the patch on Harmon's shoulder. Maybe someone would be able to pinpoint the year of the original photograph with these clues?

But yeah, it's a lovely card of a great player, and genuinely good dude by all accounts. A fun fact about him is he guested on an episode of Step By Step in the 90s. TGIF, in deed! If that's after your time, well, he also made an appearance on Mr. Belvedere in the 80s.

Only his years in Minnesota are included on the back, leaving off his early years as a Washington Senator and sunset season in Kansas City, stripping him of 500 Home Run Club status as result.

Rival AL slugger Reggie.Jackson is partially obscuring the serial number in this above photo, but if you want to leave a comment below with what number you think it is, you might win a PWE. I'll give you the additional hint that the winning number is less than Harmon's listed weight.

The hope for these little weekly summertime contests is to get to 9 winners, since we're celebrating 9 years of Baseball Card Breakdown, and so far we're 3-for-5. But I think I've come up with a good solution.. After week 9, I'll basically do like a "card draft" with the folks who entered the most often without winning where they can make a list of their preferences from the prize pool, and I'll just put together well-weighted PWEs for those folks. So like, if we have 5 contest winners after the 9 weeks, then the 4 people who entered most without winning would be eligible for the draft. Sound good?

Alright, thanks for taking a moment out of your day for refraction appreciation. Enjoy your weekend, guys. How's the weather where you are? Here in Portland looks like it'll be the last nice weekend before entering the hellscape that seems to bake the city every year around the last week of July and/or the first week of August. Not looking forward to that!

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Joy of a purchased complete set: 1987 Fleer

Spring of 1990 was when I first got swept up in baseball cards. It's funny looking back now, but 1987 Fleer was treated as a highly respected set by us young'uns, in particular the Bo Jackson and Will Clark rookie cards that may as well have been Honus Wagner. The set just felt special somehow, maybe because it was sort of limited in its print run compared to the near-infinite supply of 1987 Topps and other overproduced sets of the era.

I still have the Devon White/Willie Frasier dual prospects card I had as a kid and love it though it's not worth much these days. And I briefly owned the '87 Fleer Will Clark as a young collector before another kid at school talked me into a trade. I don't recall the details, though I've always been a sucker for vintage, so it was probably a trade offer with some 70s stuff.

Anyways, after returning to the hobby as an adult, I ended up with a couple "starter lots" of '87 Fleer, good for about half the set, and I had been waiting around hoping for another big lot or two to fall into my lap before I sorted it all out and made a wantlist. But now the years have passed, postage rates have raised, and spurred on by a Night Owl post on the subject of giving in and buying a set you had attempted to build, I gave up on my half-amassed setbuild and started keeping an eye on eBay for a cheap complete set. Took me about a month of patience, but eventually scored a factory set for just under $17 out the door, most of that going towards shipping, no surprise.

I've got burned a couple times by "complete sets" on eBay not being complete or having widespread damage, so checking for completeness is a must. Looks like the set I bought had never been thumbed through, as it was still tight in alternating chunks and all out of order other than all the team stickers being at the front. You know what that means.. sorting time!

I've been meaning to write a post about my cardroom sorting set-up since shortly after moving in 2020-- I was really pleased with it when I first came up with the layout for the new house, though my enthusiasm wasn't enough to get around to blogging about it. I'm due for a big sort, and once I get the area cleaned up I'll try to cover that stuff a little more in depth for the couple of readers who might be mildly interested.

I didn't think of taking a picture of phase 2 of sorting until I was 99% finished, but this is a little sorting tray I put together with an old box and some anti-slip material. Works ok and lets me sort on my lap while watching TV or whatever, though the design is still a work in progress.

But yeah, sorting went well and every card was accounted for-- There were a few brief "uh oh, missing a card" moments, though they all turned out to be sorting mistakes on my end. Each logo sticker in the box was represented at least twice, with one having 3 examples included.

Trying to keep this quick and so I'm not gonna examine the set too closely in this post, but here are a few notable cards. A little bummed the Bonds RC isn't better centered (same with Will Clark, not pictured), and I could do without the printing flaw near the Bo's team logo, but overall I was happy with the condition of the cards, all as sharp and pack-fresh as you'd hope.

The "half set" (~300 cards) I previously had is now trade bait I'd love to thin out, so if any of you are working on completing 1987 Fleer, feel free to send me a list of your needs. Or maybe we could deal for the whole lot if anyone is looking to make bulk progress with the set. 

As far as my Fleer collection, I'd eventually like to complete a run from 1981 into the early 90s. I was most interested by '84 Fleer, and finished that set off a few years ago. I also got hooked up with complete sets in trade of 1986, 1990, 1991, and 1992. And I was given a partial set of 1988 Fleer and honestly in hindsight I may have been better off just buying another complete one, but I've been trying to fill the holes through trade throw-ins and it's dragged on longer than I was anticipating. But yeah, as I work on that run of flagship Fleer, it feels good to have 1987 complete now, especially in light of how the set was such a big deal back when I first entered the hobby. 

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Refractor Friday #5: Glenn Hubbard 2005 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites

 Happy Friday, everybody. 

Here's a cool bat-barrel shot on a 1983 Topps design. Both photos seem to be taken in the same spot, though his uniform is different.

Topps is withholding the information from you that Hubbard finished his career in Oakland. Played on a pennant winner in '88, though unfortunately for him was released at the All-Star break in '89 and missed out on the Bashin' A's championship that year.

Of course, Glenn Hubbard's cardboard legacy is his iconic 1984 Fleer card that us collectors tend to get a kick out of. I think I read he hated that card for a while, but has since grown to be ok with it. I suppose if you become best known in certain circles for one tiny out-of-the-ordinary moment of your life, it could get annoying quick.

Bonus Glenn Hubbard refraction! Some ink on this one. It's also from 2005. Sweet card, even if he does look naked without his boa.

Like most Topps Retired refractors, this one is numbered out of 25. I'm still doing the little weekly contest thing, so take a guess at the number if you want. Winner can pick a few cards from the prize pool, yadda yadda yadda. UPDATE: Prize Pool page updated with some new stuff. Remember anonymous guesses need to include your city to count (otherwise it gets confusing).

Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

A twice-mailed package plus a few PWEs

Here are a couple incoming trades I didn't have a chance to get to in my previous post of incoming cards last week.

This first trade is a doozy with GCA. I sacrificed a nice auto of a PC guy to make solid progress with some vintage Topps sets. I was amped for the cards to arrive, but the waiting dragged on and on and turns out the cards got sent to my old address. Apparently Greg and I hadn't traded in a couple years and though I gave him my new address, I didn't stress that it had changed since we last swapped cards. But he was apologetic and was kind enough to score and send a couple bonus cards from my "'wishful thinking' desperate double dozen wantlist" to atone for the mistake. It all worked out in the end with the initial mailing getting returned to sender a couple weeks later. After a little more messing around by the Post Office, the re-mailing of the package and the bonus PWE that had been sent in the meantime both finally arrived in my mailbox on the same day.

Lots of big names for my 1974 Topps setbuild.

..and a few more, highlighted by a pair of similar-photo Padres.

After this terrific lot of needs and upgrades, I find myself down to just 4 cards (not counting variations) to complete '74:

I'd like to eventually round up all the variations, with a dozen still remaining-- mostly "Washington" Padres-- but if I could at least complete a basic one-of-every-number set here soon, I'd feel a nice sense of accomplishment. So yeah, I will probably be looking to purchase those last 4 cards soon, but if you have any and want to swing a heroic little trade, please drop me a line.

Also got a nice stack of '75s in the package. Chugging along with this setbuild, down to 90 cards remaining.

Pretty good star power on these few '77s. A long way to go with this one, but nearly to 40% complete with my birth-year set now.

Here's what I was most excited about.. 1972 Topps! I'm not gonna force it-- e.g., empty my bank account on over-priced high numbers-- but I'm still clinging to my goal of completing this set during its 50th anniversary. Great selection of needs and upgrades here. At 165 cards left to go, I'm gonna need to average picking up a need per day to hit my goal (170 days are remaining in this year). But yeah, if I want to have a chance here, I'm gonna need to increase my deal-searching/purchases and hit TCDB hard for trades. More tasks for the ol' mental to-do list that's constantly overflowing with items that need doing. (Eh, at least a basic '74 set should be easily reachable this year.)

And as far as the "bonus for messing it up in the first place" (Greg's words)...

Nice! A couple big ones for my oldest setbuilds. Seems like it was back in the early days of this blog when I formally announced my intentions to complete a set of 1957 Topps... and not long after that, to complete a set of 1964 Topps. They've been kinda crawling along on the backburner for the past several years, but that old tortoise keeps moving closer and closer to the finish line. After checking off the great Brooks Robinson, I've got 137 cards remaining with 1964 (76.74% complete), while HOFer Nellie Fox lifts me just over 80% complete with '57 (81 cards remaining).

Here's the backs. These are perfect for my sets, condition-wise, in that they look pretty good but not sharp enough to attract the slabbing bros.

Thanks again, GCA! It wasn't the smoothest of our several trades over the years, but a memorable one, no doubt!


Bo and I did another PWE swap recently. Actually, I got the better of the deal quantity-wise, with Bo mailing dual PWEs.

A couple setbuild chips here, with a 1981 Kellogg's Steve Carlton and a 1970 Topps semi-high number. I'm still not to the halfway point with the old grey set, but one of these days.

Lots of team dissonance and update text in this batch of OPC... Love it!

Some appreciated PC guys.

I was hoping to put together a page or two of players looking straight up-- my "Dan Walters Memorial Binder"-- and Bo has been my top source for that project.

Thanks as always, Bo! I'm sure we'll be exchanging cards again before long.


Ok, one more for today.. Here's a surprise buzzer beater from John Miller that just arrived.

Three Gavin Sheets RCs, a couple Benito oddballs, and a soccer player with whom I share a birthday. Nice! Thanks, John! I'll round up a return for you shortly.

Here's a closer look at the Gavin refractor (as well as the different color file folders that I use to help myself keep track of which cards are from whom). And speaking of refraction appreciation, as of publishing this post, the winning number from the contest in my previous post hasn't been guessed yet so if you haven't guessed yet, feel free to click the "Older Post" link which you may see below and go pick a number if you haven't yet and have any interest in picking a few cards from my prize pool-- which I've yet to restock with some fresh cards but dang it this week has been rough and I haven't gotten to that yet, but I'll be sure to do that before I ask the next winner to make their picks.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 8, 2022

Refractor Friday #4: Steve Carlton 2005 Topps Retired refractor auto

A little follow-up to my big Chicago vacation post from last week.

Unforgivably, I neglected to mention pizza in that post, and for that I apologize. The first time we had pizza in the city was Saturday night when the family (not exactly sure who, but they did not get a consensus) ordered some thin, unpleasant tasting garbage for the group which I choked down but did not enjoy. Some of our party seemed to really like it, but my wife and I agreed under our breath that it was terrible. But not to worry...

Thankfully we were able to stop at a popular pizza joint (Lou Malnati's Pizzeria) for lunch while killing time before heading to the airport on Monday, so I'm happy to report we were able to experience "authentic Chicago deep-dish" before leaving town. It was very good, and helped us overcome the trauma of the nasty cardboard pizza from a couple days earlier. (For the record, my current favorite pizza would probably be Sparky's here in Portland.)

Despite Saturday's despicable dinner debacle, it was a good day overall. My wife and I celebrated 8 years of reasonably harmonious matrimony. The cardboard gods smiled upon our union and gave me an anniversary present that morning as I checked eBay and was greeted with a Retired refractor I needed at a solid buy-it-now price that I jumped on right away.

I've had the base version of this Steve Carlton autograph for a while, but was hoping a refractor parallel would pop up at a realistic price for me one day. That's exactly how it went down and the card arrived soon after I returned home. Despite buying the card while in Illinois, still got away with no sales tax thanks to being an Oregon resident.

2005 is Lefty's only Topps Retired appearance, as he wasn't included in the '03 or '04 sets for whatever reason.

No doubt among the top pitchers of the era, as evidenced by all the red stats on the back. His numbers slipped in the last few years of his career, but hard to blame the guy for wanting to keep playing the game he loved, even with his days at the top of the rotation behind him.

One more look at it. Beautiful card, right?! I can never get enough of those Topps Retired refractors.

So yeah, between this Steve Carlton auto and the Katey Sagal I showed off before, it's cool that I've got some memories of that Chicago trip woven into my card collection.

Onto the contest time. You couldn't have scripted it better, but Dimebox Nick ended up guessing the winning number-- after I nearly met up with him on the trip in question-- while the good ol' trader bud of mine that I know best as "Sport Card Collectors" (Matt) scored the bonus prize.

After a couple days without a winner, I was beginning to worry the lucky numbers would go unpicked, but then Matt picked 20 (which was the "bonus prize" number, the unpicked number from the previous contest [Finnegan]) and then Nick hit the grand prize with his guess of Ernie Banks being the 3rd card of the print run. Congrats, fellas! PWEs forthcoming.

This week's mystery card is the 2014 Rene Rivera black parallel numbered out of 63. I'll help narrow down the winning number by giving you the hint that it's an age you might expect a ballplayer to be (so, not over 50, etc). First comment below to guess that number (and follow basic rules of these earlier contests) will get to pick 4 cards from the prize pool... which is currently a bit outdated in the wake of Nick and Matt's selections, but I will be replenishing very soon. (Wanted to have that done by now, but Friday turned out to be a busy work day and so I'll have to bump restocking the pool till the weekend.) Maybe if you wanna fill out your comment more, tell me your favorite pizza place/toppings. I'm pretty easy to please as far as toppings, though I like to add jalapenos when possible.

Thanks for joining me for another round of refraction appreciation!

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Incoming cards like it's 2014 all over again

There was a time when I used the blog to document most new cards I added to my collection. But these days plenty of eBay wins and Sportlots orders quietly get filed away without a public mention. TCDB trades sometimes get blogged about, though not a priority. But cards from fellow bloggers, especially contest/giveaway wins, deserve a tip of the cap on the blog. So let's go!

First up are highlights from the big 'repack' I was lucky to score in Night Owl's recent 5000 Post Celebration/ 5000 Card Giveaway. Like with store-bought repacks, it's often the older cards that stand out as special. Some good names here, with the Drysdale especially getting my attention.

I used to try to keep up with the hot prospects in baseball, but have pretty much gotten off that train here in the covid era. These 3 young dudes above have seen their hobby interest fluctuate a lot over the past few years and who's got the time to keep up with all that? Not that I was ever a big "prospector", but am even less so now. But still, coming across stuff like the Wander Franco Opening Day RC was a thrill.

Some more active ballplayers I collect, including what I believe is my first card from that Ben Baller set.

Greg included a smattering of non-baseball, which I'm all for. Some miscellany highlights here. Wonder what the PSA pop report is on that Higgins? lol

Hey, it was one of those repacks with a hit! I wasn't familiar with Neil Ramirez, but looks like he had a respectable MLB career, pitching in 185 games during the twenty-teens.

Overall, after a fast & loose sorting of the repack, the "keepers" stack was significantly bigger than the "for trade" stack, which is what you hope for when opening a repack.

Big thanks, Night Owl! I say it a lot, but our little community here on the Cardsphere, as I like to call it, is incredibly fortunate to have a professional writer consistently cranking out quality posts. Here's to another 5000+!


I admit I've been a little shameless trying to rustle up 1972 Topps trades through the blog, hitting that set hard this year, but it's turned out that my readers aren't exactly sitting on a trove of '72 high numbers itching to send out to whoever calls dibs. But I have better luck when I take initiative and propose a trade, which is what I did after reading a new post on the semi-dormant Starting Nine blog. Max and I are both similarly deep into the set, and were able to help each other out, swapping PWEs of our dupes.

These are mostly from the later serieses and in great shape apart from the pen marks on the edges of the George Hendrick RC, which Max had offered to toss in as a filler card but chances are it doesn't end up getting upgraded any time soon and that's fine with me. I'm in "any port in a storm" mode with the set and will accept any condition so long as that's factored into the expected return.

I've got 167 cards left to go-- with a handful of those currently "out for delivery" courtesy of GCA which we might see by the end of this post or maybe another future post.

Thanks for the trade, Max! (Our first since 2014, back when PWEs flowed like wine.. Hopefully it doesn't take another 8 years for our next exchange!)


My Portland neighbor Kerry from Cards on Cards is one of the few trader buds who hasn't let the calendar get too far between swaps over the years. I don't have much left in the way of cards he needs at this point since I haven't been breaking new product or going to card shows, but I'm always happy to see mail arrive from him (or our quick in-person exchanges back when we were both in downtown every weekday) and always do my best to scrape together a respectable return for him.

Love the Juan Soto cards. I kinda hope he resigns with the Nats-- gotta love one-franchise guys-- but chances are he lands a monster free agent contact elsewhere.

Speaking of one-franchise guys, Pittsburgh was blessed with these guys in their lineup for the entirety of their major league careers. The Heritage reprint is a card I've wanted to add to the PC (former Desperate Double Dozen want), though it's an odd choice by Topps and they probably would have been better off with a tribute more like what When Topps Had Balls came up with rather than a straight reprint thrown into the base set. (Or could have been nice if they dug up the original photo negative and made a higher-resolution version of the card with today's improved photo processing to give an updated look to the iconic card. Hell, that'd make a great insert idea for Archives, putting out clearer reprints of classic-yet-grainy cards. I mean, if they're gonna be doing reprints anyway.)

I've got a decent Damian Lillard PC and virtually all of it is comprised of Kerry's castoffs. Good stuff here, with the comic book cover and wide action shot standing out.

Ok, I think that's all I can get to today, but I'll be back before long with some cards from Bo, plus the just-(re)delivered GCA stuff that has a bit of a backstory to go with it. (Another Refractor Friday post due as well.) Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Chicago vacation recap (with cards and a contest)

I spent a few days in Chicago recently and here's a recap of the trip (There will be cards). I consider it my "ancestral homeland", as my mother's side of the family is from Chicago. I've visited a few times over the years-- my grandparents still lived there when I was young before moving to Florida-- but I had never really experienced the city as an adult.

But yeah, my wife's dad's side of the family likes to do a family reunion thing every year, and this year it was decided to be Chicago. When my wife mentioned the Cubs would be in town and we could catch a game at Wrigley, I was interested. When I found out the Padres would be in town, that basically sealed the deal for me and though I'm not a big traveler, I signed off on the vacation. And I'm glad I did because it was a lot of fun and really helped clear my head and pull me out of a mental health rut.

This post will be a bit of a travelogue-- honestly for me as much as my readers because my memory isn't great and it's easy for me to lose details and basically forget trips I've taken, and it's nice to sometimes read my old blog posts and remember fun trips I've taken, as corny as that may sound. So yeah, I'll show some photos, talk about my trip, and also show some cool cards too, so feel free to skim down to the cards if you don't care about my Chicago vacation. We're all busy these days, I get it. This post gets kinda rambly, so just roll with it and forgive the run-on sentences.

As I was hopping out of town, caught a cute bunny pic on my walk to the Max train to the airport.

Here's a pic waiting to board at the PDX airport. I had a bag of cards with me in case I was able to meet up with my cardbloggin' buddy Dimebox Nick. I like the fact that Andrew Benintendi was giving a thumbs-up to anyone walking behind me while I was wearing my travel backpack.

The last time I was in Chicago for more than a layover was twenty years ago for my grandfather's funeral. That wasn't really a "vacation" and I have zero memories of that trip besides one memory of a relative I never knew very well crying while thanking me for spending so much time with my grampa during his final years, and another memory of standing at my grandparents' gravesite. I didn't get the idea until halfway through this trip that I would like to visit it again sometime, though didn't get to it this trip. But I think next time I'm out that way, I'll make it a priority.

The first two nights of our stay were at the Hampton in downtown Chicago. It was noisy-- big city ambiance plus there's a fire station one block over-- so I wouldn't want to live there or anything. But it was a cool hotel (I got to swim for the first time since covid; that was nice) and it was kinda neat to spend the night in the heart of a big city, something I don't think I've ever done that I can recall, rarely if ever laying my head for the night in anywhere other than suburban residential districts, and you know, like the once in a blue moon camping trip or something (I don't like camping, much to my wife's chagrin; I love nature, but not more than I love sleeping in a quiet, dark bed). So it was a life experience to check off. Above is a view of my wallet card looking out our room's window. We didn't do much that first night other than walk around the area looking for a place to grab dinner, eventually settling on a popular hot dog chain. I got a large vanilla shake and damn if I could only finish half of it, and I pride myself on being a Hall of Fame-caliber dessert eater. So that was a fun failure, so to speak. Then I think we just hung out at the hotel and watched a Simpsons before bed.

The next day was the red letter day as far as I was concerned: THE BALLGAME!

The previous MLB game I attended featured Barry Bonds going deep at Petco, so that tells you that it's been a long time! I did tour Fenway last year, so that should give me partial credit, but there were no players on the field so can't count that. But I have seen minor league baseball and collegiate woodbat summer league games over the years, so I've craned my neck at pop flys in recent years, but not on the Major League level since lucking into a spare ticket to go to a Padres game with my buddy Chris' then-wife one evening circa mid aughts that I wish I could remember but don't think I ever had a ticket stub and thanks to my aforementioned bum memory I don't think I recall enough details to piece together the specific game I was at. I would like to collect the "Home Run History" Topps card corresponding to the Bonds longball I witnessed live, but alas I'm sure he went deep a lot at Petco in those days.

But back to this game, what amazing luck that as we walk to our seats-- which by the way, shout-out to my wife's co-worker Andrew for hooking us up with complimentary tickets!-- not too close to the action, but it was a 90 degree day with the city in the tail end of a heatwave, and we were just thankful our seats were in the shady stands way behind third, not out baking in the sunny bleachers.-- what amazing luck that I see the starting pitcher for the Padres is Joe Musgrove, a kid-done-good from my very own hometown of El Cajon, California! He'd been pitching like a Cy Young front-runner and I was thrilled that, hey, if I couldn't see Tatis in person, I'm blessed to see my other favorite current Padre and a guy I've collected since back before he even came to San Diego.

I didn't really get much in the way of interesting baseball photos, but here's Joe tossing a pitch. He got off to a rough start when the leadoff guy took him deep on a very windy day (had to hold onto my hat while out ordering a dog and beer on the concourse), but thankfully he settled in after that and did El Cajon proud with a quality start. On the opposite end of the spectrum was clean-up hitter, DH Luke Voit, who embarrassed himself at the plate every at-bat, usually with men on, picking up nothing but a golden sombrero. I guess I've got a least favorite Padre now, LOL. I would have rather seen Musgrove batting for himself in the 4th spot.

The home crowd wasn't happy about being swept at home, but I was among the smattering of Padres fans smiling over the game's outcome. The win lifted the Padres into 1st place and things were sweet, if but for one glorious afternoon. (The squad went on to hit a rough patch and my boy Joe Musgrove got covid.) Sadly doesn't look like the game featured a moment deserving of a Topps Now card, otherwise I'd'a grabbed me one for sure.


But here's a sweet Joe Musgrove pickup I'd been meaning to show off on the blog for a few weeks. Scored myself a printing plate from his 1st Bowman card. I wanted to add a little oomph to my modest Musgrove PC and this piece of sheet metal does the trick. I'm thinking this would be a fun one to get signed one day since it's got all that blank space anyways. (This card is from 2011 but he didn't have autos in Bowman that year; Joe's 1st Bowman auto didn't arrive until 2016.)

Another highlight from the game was watching Nomar Mazara have a solid day at the plate, knocking a homer and a double. He's a guy I collected a little when he was an up-and-comer with Texas, but had lost interest by the time he ended up on the south side of Chicago. San Diego then signed him to a minor league contract, and after tearing up AAA, he made his way back up top. Above is what's left of my Mazara PC, condensed into a page in my "9-pocket PC" binder. If he keeps excelling for the Padres, I may have to promote him to being a full-fledged PC guy, but we'll see.

But yeah, very cool to catch a game at Wrigley! That was sort of a "bucket list" thing for me. That plus the Fenway tour last year puts me in a good place; I'm definitely not one of those "visit every MLB park" guys (I hate to travel). I guess a game at Yankee Stadium might be something to think about checking off someday should I ever find myself kicking around NY. I'd also like to check out Dodger Stadium someday, striving to hit more of the active old ballparks, but my wife promptly shot down any talk of a future Los Angeles / Disneyland vacation (She hates L.A.).

Whilst in Chicago, I watched Chicago (2002) for the first time, with my wife who said it was one of her favs. In other synergistic entertainment choices, I listened to my two favorite Smashing Pumpkins albums (my favorite band from Chicago [MCIS, SD]) on headphones walking around the city. Oh and on the flight there I listened to a Pearl Jam live show from Chicago 2000 on Spotify and another from Chicago 2003 on the way home. I did not listen to the band Chicago while in Chicago, but I did listen to Chicago while typing some of the earlier part of this post, for what it's worth.

Then Friday we hit the street and took a train to the Art Institute of Chicago. I thought Portland drivers were questionable, but man, Chicago drivers are nuts! I'm thankful I didn't have to drive at all the whole trip, getting around just by walking and utilizing the Chicago Transit Authority.

I took a ton of pictures at the Art Institute, but I'll just post a few.

My wife and I lost each other pretty early on after entering the building, which made for a fine bit of vacation time apart for us anyway, and upon reuniting back in the lobby an hour or two later, turns out we had basically each seen about half of the exhibits, more or less getting a full run of the place between the two of us.

Here's a big one to see.

Dimebox Nick and I had talked about maybe doing a meet-up at the Art Institute, and I had visions of having my own Ferris Bueller-like day off, with my wife as Sloane and Nick in the Cameron role. But alas, Nick had to work on the days I was available and our paths didn't cross on this trip. (We had previously met a few years back when he worked at a bookstore in O'Hare and I was passing through on a layover.)

Just a couple more shots from the Art Institute. This scene detail reminded me of home and our stubborn sweetie-pie Ruby who was staying with friends while we were out of town. 

It's a beautiful building and the AC was refreshing on another warm day.

After that, we walked over to Millenium Park and checked out the Bean, which is a big metallic sculpture thing. Kinda reminded me of one of my favorite childhood movies, Flight of the Navigator. In the above photo, you can see my reflection at the end of one of the light flares (yellow hat).

From there we walked a few blocks over to Buckingham Fountain. I knew the name of it-- impressing my wife by doing so-- because it was the answer to a cardblog contest Jedi Jeff ran a few years ago from which I won a Dwight Gooden buyback auto. I just remember that it's something to do with Fleetwood Mac and then I remember the name from there, LOL. (Speaking of contests, if you haven't noticed, I've been trying to give away a few cards in my Refractor Fridays posts happening over the course of this summer. Glad I was able to kick those off without a hitch by scheduling them in advance, as my blog anniversary post and first Refractor Friday post were published with the blog "set to autopilot" while I was out of town.)

While it's an impressive fountain in its own right, what made it a must-see for me is the fact that it's prominently featured in the Married... With Children opening credits, a show I enjoyed during its original run and have been rewatching on Hulu lately.

This was about the time a vertical Katey Sagal autograph popped up on eBay in the price range I had in mind, and after thinking about it for a day or two, seemed pulling the trigger on it while in Chicago was fitting, seeing as the show took place there n' all. 

The card arrived shortly after I returned home, and allowed me to complete a little 4-card project I had been working on.

Boom! Bundy Family "1989 Pro Set" autograph card project finished! Worthy of clicking the pic for a closer look, if you ask me. The "Al Bundy" is a real Leaf card and the other 3 are real auto cards wearing matching custom Pro Set overlays I made for them. Very satisfying to see them laid out together. I want to get a nice display thingy worked up for the quartet someday-- like, I want to show this off to anyone who stops by the house!-- but might not be for a while. Regardless, feels great to have this hobby side-quest completed, and it's nice that I could work the Chicago trip into the backstory.

Saturday it was back to the big hot dog joint, Portillo's, this time with the fam in tow. Here's a picture of a signed Jordan jersey (or if you look closely, there might be some shenanigans afoot combining a jersey with a separate Jordan autograph). This turned out to be an unpleasant experience as it was packed, our order took forever, and at about 30 minutes into the 45 minute wait there was a crazy dude causing a scene and the police had to come and arrest him. Big city action! By the time we finally got our food, we had to take it to-go because we had a river cruise booked.

Here's one of the few photos I took from the boat. The weather was much cooler this day, which I probably should have checked before leaving the house because I was chilly most of the day in my shorts and t-shirt despite being sunny still. (They don't call it the Windy City for nothing!) But yeah, the tour guide (an old-timer volunteer) was interesting enough, sharing the stories behind the architecture of the many fascinating buildings erected along the city's river. The cold hot dogs weren't great, but filled us up for a while.

After the cruise we walked over to Navy Pier, which is a happening area with lots of shops, restaurants, and some amusement park rides. It was pretty packed and we were all pretty tired, so we ended up not doing much there other than look around for a while. By this point in the trip, my wife and I had checked out of the downtown hotel and moved over to a rental house by DePaul University, joining the rest of the "family reunion" group who arrived in town a couple days after us. It was my wife's dad's side of the family, including her grandparents (both pushing 90) who drove up from Bowling Green. They're all good folks; nice to hang out with everyone for a while, but I'm too much of an introvert to hang out chatting all night, so after a while I slip up to my room and continue binging Ted Lasso since the house had Apple+ and a nice projector TV in the room I ended up in. I suppose it's worth mentioning that I've got some family in the Chicagoland area I was hopeful to meetup with, but sadly they were dealing with covid concerns and we weren't able to get together this trip, though there's a big family wedding happening later this year, so I'll most likely see them then, at least.

Sunday. was our last. full day there. Wait, real quick, my laptop keyboard is jacked up and it keeps putting periods where I didn't type a period. It's really a pain for me to ggo back and delete them (also the "G" key is messed up) and so I might just be a little more lazy about that for the rest of the mammoth post. So please forgive me for the errant periods and extra g's.

But yeah, my wife wanted to go to one of those places where you go in and check out the climate-controlled exotic plants, so that was kinda cool. I believe that was in or around Lincoln Park.

After that, we walked over to Oz Park and checked out statues of characters from the Wizard of Oz.

It was a nice day, and on our way back we grabbed lunch and a tasty piece of tres leches cake.

Most of our party left for home early Monday, but our flight wasn't until later in the afternoon, so we had time to kill before heading to the airport. I'm happy to report that I was able to finish both seasons of Ted Lasso over that span of 3 days. I'm not usually much of a binger, but that's a good show. I might have to pony up for Apple Plus or at least look into doing a free trial when season 3 eventually drops.

Nice view from the sky.

After the required O'Hare delay-- seriously do flights ever leave O'Hare on time?!-- we were officially homeward-bound. Taking a trip is a great time for me to catch up on my cardblog reading. What I like to do is open up a bunch of blogs in new tabs on my laptop before I leave, then I can read them later on the plane or in the airport even if there's no internet connection available. I'm not a big book reader, though I have recently started reading (via free download) The Modern Hobby Guide To Topps Chewing Gum: 1938-1956 and have been enjoying reading about the birth of Topps during my weekly commutes riding to and from work.

Despite the long day, it still wasn't dark by the time we made it back. The walk back home was bizarre for me because everything seemed different, but maybe it was the dusk playing with my mind. I wasn't drunk or high or anything, but I was like "Wow, is that house new? Oh hey, I never noticed that thing before!" and whatnot. Above is a photo I took of some flowers in front of our house on the way gloriously entering my front door for the first time in a few days. It really is a great feeling to be home, even if the house is a little stuffy/stinky from being closed up so long. We both took a "buffer day" off work the next day, so we had time to ease back into regular life.

Ruby stayed with friends while we were out of town. They have a chicken which Ruby obsessed over pretty much the whole time. But she was a good girl and fought the urges of her gray wolf DNA (11%!) to rip that plump hen to shreds. When my wife was leaving to go pick her up, turns out our car battery died while we were away-- somebody forgot to unplug the dash cam-- so Ruby ended up with bonus chicken time while we dealt with the battery. I took advantage of a rare day off work with no dog up in my business to break out the chainsaw and do some tree trimming in the backyard.

The post started with a bunny pic, so might as well end with another. Found this guy maxin' and relaxin' under my window. There's an "Oh, hare!" joke in there somewhere. Still crazy to me that the city of Portland has wild rabbits.

But yeah, it was a great trip. The good vibes continued the next day when back to work, my boss surprises me with a fat raise out of the blue, and then I go in for my first dental visit since 2019, and despite worrying I'd need some work done, I got a clean bill of dental health. That was a load off my mind! (I eat enough sugar in my diet to take down a bull elephant.)

I expect I'll return to Chicago again before too long. Like, if I ever check off the hobby bucket list item of attending the National, it would most likely be a year it happens in Chicago. And hey, I've now already got a Ventra card (for riding CTA) and sorta know my way around. Maybe next time I'll catch a White Sox game... but a place named "Guaranteed Rate Field" ain't no baseball mecca.


Refractor Friday #3: Ernie Banks 2003 Topps Retired refractor auto

Well it's Friday and I'm aiming to do a Refractor Friday post every Friday this summer, so let's squeeze more onto this already-too-long post!

Last week there were 2 possible winning answers. The Diamond King hit one in the very first comment-- congrats, Kev!-- but the second one went unpicked.

For today's refractor, it made sense to go with a sweet Cubs card, and can't do better than Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks. If you asked what's my favorite Chicago card I own, I think this might be it.

Beautiful, ain't it?! I like how it has rookie Ernie in the main photo and veteran Ernie in the inset. There are 25 of these refractors in existence. Which number of the print run do you think this one is? Take a guess in the comments below if you wanna-- same rules as before [Refractor Fridays label]-- and the winner can pick a PWE from the prize pool. Heck, this was a big post so let's go nuts and say the winner can pick SIX cards from the pool! For a hint, I'll let you know that this isn't the Christmas Card, nor is it #6 (which recently sold on eBay, but not to me). There's bonus consideration in play for anyone who leaves a comment relevant to the non-contest part of this big post in addition to their guess-- essentially giving you a second chance even if you're wrong-- in an attempt to try to dissuade the comments from being nothing but numbers.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the holiday weekend~!