May 27, 2011

2010 Topps Update Box Break: Rapid Review

Does anyone remember Topps Update? Does anyone care? Did anyone want to? The deliberately tacked on finale to the Topps flagship set has a checklist strewn with photos from the all-star games, rookie debuts, and players potentially pictured in a different uniform than in previous editions.

Prices on this particular product bottomed out relatively quickly. You can now find full hobby boxes for less than $30 at some online retailers. This seems to happen with Topps update every year in the modern rookie card designation era (2006-present).

I purchased this box for two purposes, to get Roy Oswalt's first card as a Phillie and to get my hands on some tangible Strasburg hype. Well, at least my intentions were noble and pure....

The Box Breakdown

253/330 base cards-77% of the set +Strasburg (#d 661 instead of USxxx on the back)
Inserts continued from other series:
Cards Your Mother Threw Out: 12 of these+ 1 original back
Turkey Red: 9 of these
More Tales of the Game: 6 of these
Topps Attax Town: 36 of these
Topps Vintage Legends Collection: 9 of these
Peak Performance: 5 of these
Legendary Lineage: 5 of these 

There were no new insert concepts in Topps Update...bummer.  Overall, I was into the Topps Vintage Legends Collection the most and ended up completing both halves of the 50 card set from the Series 2 and the Update Series.  I hate when they split up insert card sets like feels so incomplete when you have the 25 card set from the second series, but it starts with #26.  How does one live with such a numerical anomaly?  Can the first really be the 26th?  At which point is the beginning of a circle?  Can a seagull really be caught with my bare hands?  The questions just race...

Here are the other highlights...such as they were

This is the boxloader. It's a chrome refractor rookie of Andy Oliver. It does not bend. I am happy.

This is one of the short-print variations that have populated the Topps set since 2009.  The picture is of Denton Young and is a variation of the Red Sox team card.  It's interesting that they listed the team as the Americans because for years, books wrote that they were called the Boston Pilgrims.  The back is the most interesting part; it has team stats from the 1903 season.  I neglected to scan it.  This was the card that made the box for me.

This was my event-used relic card from an all-star work-out jersey.  It's actually a marginally good-looking card for all its concept faults.
Long live the Strasburg.....I joined the bandwagon after the surgery.

Is Topps Update a relevant part of the baseball card landscape? It's hard to say. Everything about it feels like it has been done before....and this is true of every other year as well. There are so many alternate issues covering uniform changes and rookies that it has become almost redundant. What would make it special? It needs some kind of draw that's not "you haven't received this guy yet on a Topps base set design".

For me, though, since I did not partake in series 1 or 2 of 2010, it was a welcome and easygoing break. There was no pressure and sometimes too much tension leads to loss of bits of the incisors. In other words, I liked opening a box of's best on a summer's day by the beach with a cool glass of lemonade dripping over every card, while they're eyed for imperfections that are most assuredly there. Plus, it's less than $1 per pack at this moment.

May 24, 2011

Chase Utley Day was Yesterday

On that one time date
The 23rd of May
Was duly proclaimed
Chase Utley Day

With the team offense
Boggled and dismayed
With junkball lefties
Putting them away

For 46 games
The pivots sway
Did not produce runs
Or brighten the day

Valdez had no range
Orr had no sparkling play
Martinez was glad
To be in the majors to stay

Utley's knee languished
By Clearwater bay
Preventing his debut
To be continually delayed

The  fanbase rejoiced
Just as passionates may
On the news of his coming
He was heard to say

"3 runs or less?
That is absurd! I say.
This will not occur
On my return day." 

Polanco joined in
Cole's  outing was not gray
As a ten run barrage
Signaled the new way.

Hail the return! Hail!
The Phillies proclaimed
Good feelings all around
For it was Chase Utley Day

What can I say? I'm a hopeful fan these days....

May 19, 2011

2007 SP Legendary Cuts Mike Schmidt Jersey Card

It was a game for a Mike Schmidt in legendary times when powder blue uniforms ruled the landscape. It was an idyllic period when there was no labor strife between the players and owners, no fear of being booed by your hometeam, and no maple bats.

It was only a game where waiting for a ball while in the infield meant prattling to the pitcher about his stuff. "Throw it by him baby!  Way to show them the nasty slider! Make 'im dive for it! 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, you got this!"  That was some lively chatter.

Nostalgia rules in the baseball scene.  This is not to say that this is a negative aspect of the game.  Links to the historical past help drive interest in the modern game.  How do players connect to similar counterparts from different eras?  Did you know that this season so far has seen the lowest run-scoring environment since 1993?  Willie Mays's birthday: great moment or greatest moment?

There's always been a sense of comparison in baseball history through the eras.   The game is not the same as it once was.  There are no more (legal) spitballs and emoryballs.  The ballparks are both bigger and smaller. Baseballs are replaced during the game with increasing frequency.   Gloves don't look like big brown leather hands.  Catcher masks are more goalie hockey helmets with every passing year.

But for those who play, no matter the is a game, it is a livelihood, it is a passthrough to the alternate universe.  For without baseball, players are not immortalized with cardboard, foil, and cut up pieces of cloth.

When it was a game is a phrase that will never go out of style because it was only a game before you remember being grown-up.  For all of us, we're still in the process of figuring out what that's going to be like.

May 16, 2011

Card Spotlight: 1954 Topps Mike Sandlock

It may look upside down now, you just have to turn your head a bit.

Backup catchers are one of the most overlooked and yet, highly regarded positions on a baseball roster. They're overlooked in the sense that the position is usually filled by someone who's lacking in one of the major skills (hitting for average/hitting for power). They're highly regarded because their most important skills are knowing how to handle a pitching staff and fill in when called upon to don the tools of ignorance.

It can be a veteran reaching the end of the line such as Brian Schneider or Ivan Rodriguez or a guy who has been a backup catcher for most of his career such as Matt Treanor or Ramon Castro. They're described as grizzled, beaten up, inexperienced, slow-footed, strong-armed, resourceful, conqueror of pitchers' souls, and controller of games. Generally, they don't make pinch-hitting appearances unless there's an injury to the first catcher during that game. So, they're always waiting with the pitching charts in hand until the time when the chest protector is needed.

They can also be called daytime catchers. Whenever it's a day game after a night game or a split doubleheader, they make an appearance.  Mike Sandlock seemed to have filled a similar role with the Pirates in 1953.  He played in 64 games with 202 AB and was not a strong hitter that year (42 OPS+).  He had spent the previous 6 years in the minor leagues, perfecting his art.  It was amazing that he reappeared in the majors at the age of 37 playing a position he had only played for 64 previous games in his career.  He had a similar number of games in the infield (SS and 3B).

Ironically, though he appears with the Phillies on his 1954 Topps cards, he only appeared with one game within the organization in AAA.  He finished the season with San Diego of the Pacific Coast League, finishing his career, trying to capture the backup catching role one last time.

May 7, 2011

The Colors of Obak

Tristar Obak has been an always interesting set to collect. As an avid student of baseball history, it's interesting to connect images to faces of stories read such as Monty Stratton or Louis Sockalexis. There are also prospect cards within the set.

The card images themselves aren't always colorful and harken back to an era of non-colorized newspaper photos. How can one inject a bit of color into a predominantly gray toned set....? With the font ink, of course.

Gary Sanchez AutoStandard Blue/125
Jason Kipnis Auto, Brown/75
Eddie Cicotte Black Parallel/50
Ken Laundreaux Auto, Green/25

Don Baylor Red Parallel/5

All I'm missing is a 1/1 Purple, but there are scant odds of receiving that.

Also, here are the remaining autos I received from the box I opened.
Scott Sizemore Auto: Had a putout and assist in the 9th inning on Justin Verlander's no-hitter tonight
John Paciorek Auto: The gentleman with the greatest one game career in MLB history.

Looking forward to the variations and stories for this year's Obak edition.

May 4, 2011

All-Time Phillies Centerfielders List: 1957 Topps Ashburn Representing

This is my only card of Richie Ashburn I own from his playing days. I remember paying $5 for this back in 1993.  There's an understated simplicity to this card that I love.  It's so muted, it slips by the consciousness as it is  sifted from the front to the rear of the card pile.  Richie Ashburn was many a fan's favorite during his playing and announcing days in Philadelphia.  A superlative fielder and hitter for average with a great batting eye, he manned centerfield in Connie Mack Stadium/Shibe Park from 1948-1959.  Who else can compare with the Whiz Kid?

All-Time Phillies Centerfielders With No Prior Research (years as primary CF)

1. Richie Ashburn (1948-1959)
2. Cy Williams (1918-1924)
3. Billy Hamilton (1893-1895)
4. Garry Maddox (1975-1983)
5. Roy Thomas (1899-1907)
6. Shane Victorino (2008-present)
7. Tony Gonzalez (1961-1964, 1968)
8. Lenny Dykstra (1989-1994)
9. Dode Paskert (1911-1917)
10. Hersh Martin (1937-1939)
200. Ricky Otero (1996)