Oct 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Do not look directly at its eyes! You will be tricked into not getting a treat! 

Oct 26, 2011

The 100 Most Significant Cards......in 1993: #s 41-60

For the previous entries in this series, see Part 1 here and Part 2 here

It's been awhile since I've remembered to continue this series.  It's still an interesting exercise because the top cards of this year have almost no relation to top cards of the year past.  Today, autos, refractors, colored foil changes, and patch pieces make a card a desirable from the moment it leaves the pack.  What would allow a card from 2011 to maintain its significance over the next generation of card production.  Just as from 1993 to now, conceptions will change over what makes a memorable, value-sustaining, eminently collectible feature card.  But there's one idea that has not changed over the last 18+ years, rookie cards rule.   Rookies of up and comers, rookies of hall of famers, rookies of established stars, rookies of flashes through the baseball stratosphere.  There's something special about the first card, and for a long time, it was easy to define.  This is evident from the next portion of this list. 

There's also a couple quirky choices among the denizens of the list; the cult of the error card continued apace during this era, as did the genesis of the insert revolution, expanding beyond the basic parameters of the base set, something we almost take for granted now and expect as the natural adaptation of the collector moves beyond any boundaries.....on the list....

60. 1985 Donruss Corrected Tom Seaver: The regular issue Tom Seaver was pictured as a left-hander named Floyd Bannister.  This version was only available in factory sets.  Now, it's common to find cards you can only get in factory sets like red parallels of 2010 Topps, special team issued factory sets (2008-2010 Topps), draft pick cards (2005 Topps), and rookies (2001 Fleer Tradition).  Great unintentional innovation.

59. 1962 Topps Managers' Dream: Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays on the same card.  These guys led the vintage card value increase in the '80s.  It's also a rare photo of players from the opposite league in the '60s.  More also, it's a much better concept than Diamond Duos.

58. 1972 Topps Carlton Fisk/Cecil Cooper/Mike Garman: He was still playing when this issue came out, having joined the 4 decade players club.  Invest in the card now before he makes the Hall of Fame!  He already has?  Great, it won't rise in value anymore.

57. 1985 Topps Mark McGwire: This card was a heavy player for many years, selling at a peak of around $200 in the late '90s.  Little did the writers of this issue know that this card and its inhabitant would spur a realization and backlash against steroid use in baseball.  And with that, the card would fall off the list.

56. 1984 Fleer Update Dwight Gooden: A great card in the '80s, but it soon became surpassed in popularity for awhile by two other cards in the set, the Puckett and Clemens.

55. 1957 Topps Brooks Robinson
54. 1960 Topps Carl Yastrzemski: I have to put these together because the view on these players is very similar.  Two franchise icons, two hall of famers, each had a defining MVP season (Yaz: 1967, Robinson: 1964), each sometimes overshadowed by other franchise icons (Williams for Yaz and Ripken for Robinson), yet still two amazin card to own.

53. 1956 Topps Mickey Mantle: A card from the set with arguably the best design of all in his return to Topps after a two year Bowman hiatus.  Plus, there's a smile.

52. 1957 Frank Robinson: It's not everyday that a 586 HR hitting, Triple Crown winning, two-time MVP winning, groundbreaking Hall of Famer has an undervalued card.  I would argue that his greatness has been consistently underrated.  He is one of the top 20 players ever.

51. 1983 Topps Traded Daryl Strawberry: They sure did love the Mets in '93.  Strawberry flashed across the hobby scene before his career dropped off quickly at the age of 29.

50. 1962 Topps Roger Maris: The card with the first 60+ HR season line on it that led off the set. Picturesque and perfect.

49. 1974 Topps Dave Winfield: The only notable rookie in this set.  This ranking was before his 3000th hit.  
48.  1955 Topps Harmon Killebrew: Kind of the cult hero of the 500 HR club.  Everyone was a fan of the Killer, even if you weren;t a Senators/Twins fan.  Unscrupulously powerful, and the card shows a great depiction of the original Washington Senators logo.

47. 1979 Topps Ozzie Smith:  The first card of the Wizard showing him pensive as a Padre.  Did you know he was at my graduation in St Louis?  He earned an honorary degree the same day I received my degree.

46. 1965 Topps Steve Carlton: This card is #1a on my personal wantlist.  His quantity of strikeouts, Cy Young awards, and terse press statements defined his career.

45. 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken: Still the most celebrated (or entertaining) error card.  There are at least 10 documented variations of the obscene and obscured bat knob.

44. 1954 Topps Ted Williams:  The year of the Williams bookends for the Topps set.  Do you prefer the first or last card in the set?

43. 1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations Frank Thomas: Insertmania! $4 jumbo packs of 1992 Fleer!? The Big Hurt in blue foil!  This card booked for $45 in July 1993.  Any other normal, non-numbered, non-rookie inserts out there now that have inspired such craziness?

42. 1948-49 Leaf Satchel Paige:  It actually says Leroy Paige on the front of the card.  It's also a shortprint of one of the top 5 pitchers to play this game.  A true collection cornerstone.

41. 1959 Topps Bob Gibson: A rookie card of the pitcher with maybe the greatest modern post-deadball era season (1.12 ERA in 1968).  This card is also from the artistic 1959 Topps set and comes from the high series. 

Some stats for this list

# of cards in my collection: 0
# of rookies: 14
# of errors: 2
# of Mantles: 2
# of pitchers: 5
# of cards that I can afford to get this week: 8
# of cards that I will buy this week: 0, unless I find a 1992 Fleer jumbo box for cheap/

Oct 25, 2011

Welcome addition to the Collection: Cole Hamels Rookie, 2002 Bowman Draft

Sometimes the simplest acquisitions are the first ones of your favorite player.  After the negativity of the postseason (for me), sometimes it's best to reflect upon the joys of collecting and the rigorous and rewarding searches of the hobby.

Here is the only true (as in first year of production before the rookie card rules) Hamels rookie card.  Ah, you may say, what about the 2002 Bowman Chrome Draft card?  And I would respond with a comment about your astuteness and how you could surely read the list of available rookie cards for said player.  And then you would say, do you not read the same lists that I do? And I would say, I do indeed, however, I do not agree with the assertion that you have just posited.

After all, in yet another strange twist from 2002, Bowman decided to package the Draft product as two separate sets with chrome cards being inserted at a rate of two per pack.  Why build one 165 card set when you can build two at the same time and never get close to either?  I'm not sure if this has been apparent before, but I would like to express disdain for all parallels.  As a standalone set, Bowman Chrome is fine, but I will now be disdainful of the Bowman paralell mania that apparently began as an innocent gesture to have autographed base cards that were not parallels of any other card in the main set.....yes, making sense yet again.  This has only become worse through the years as the Bowman proliferation of the multi-set beast has expanded and devoured the prospecting collecting set into a neverending chase for the virtual parallel (chrome), the cast aside parallel (gold), the cool kid's parallel (refractor), and the ultimate going to stay up all night jumping because I finally got one parallel (superfractor).  Stamp it, number it, and call it a day.

Back to Mr. Hamels.  He was a risky first round pick because he had had a broken humerus in high school, I believe.  What a happy, clean shaven face expectant of the career ahead.  I do like this card, it was so nice to rip open the envelope where it was stored.  This is the beginning of phase III.

Oct 20, 2011

Can it Be? Is This a Trade Post from an Order of Angels? Survey Says....

10 out of 10 people agree that trade posts display cards in them.  However, only 5 out of 10 people believe that trade posts actually cause people to turn into traders.  Can the pernicious influence of the trade post be stopped?  Will it infiltrate our precious and fragile human psyche and cause us to want to barter anything and everything for pieces of foil and cardboard?  I will listen to any offer that includes my car at this time for a low numbered Bryce Harper auto refractor....

Thankfully, the gent from The Angels, In Order needed no such provocation to have a trade with me.  When there's a trade with me, it occurs....slowly.  So, first I thank him for his patience and then gamely slogging through the jungle wasteland of magnetic cardboard that plagues our planet's surface to discover hidden gems to deposit into the kingdom of the wantlist.  What did he discover?

 1998 Bowman Bobby Higginson: There was a time when I thought Bobby Higginson was a great player.  He was pretty good for awhile and he went to Temple, so that bumps him up a couple levels in my book.
 2010 Topps Update Rob Johnson: Remember when Jason Kendall played? Did anyone buy 2010 Topps update?  Who is Rob Johnson?
 1998 Bowman Ralph Milliard:  This was before Bowman proudly proclaimed first cards on every prospect card even if it isn't their first card and they had a prospect card in a a previous year's set, but it's not recognized as a rookie card because it doesn't have that strange logo, even though it's an MLB licensed card.  Does anyone understand the rookie card rule?
 1999 Bowman Kenny Lofton: 1999 Bowman is the cooler cousin of 1998 Bowman....there I said it.  It had marbleization and Then & Now backs for the veteran cards and it was right-signed instead of left-signed and had much better international parallels.
 2010 Topps Update Alex Gonzalez: "Take that Yunel Escobar!  You are no match for me!  You say we were traded for each other?  To be challenged? Fine, I challenge you to a leaping duel.....to the pain!"
 2010 Topps Update Lance Zawarski: You know what I miss? The old Padres uniforms with the brown and yellow.  These are so generic and don't remind me of the beach at all.  Plus, the stadium may look over the water, but it's really hard to see past structure to the water....I call a rebuild.
2010 Topps Update Mike Gonzalez: He's in the World Series!  He escaped the Orioles!  He's left handed!  I hate that he's in the World Series and I'm not.  I want to be left handed.  Did you know I used to practice throwing with both hands when I threw tennis balls against the wall so that I could learn to throw with either hand?  All that got me was learning how to play pool poorly with my left hand and make me left footed....the world works in mysterious ways.

Thanks for the trade Tom! It's great to get these elusive cards.....

Oct 12, 2011

Junior High Countdown: 52. 1993 Studio

The Stats

A 220 card set in one series with 12 cards per pack and 36 packs per box.  The SRP at the time was probably $1.49 per pack.

The Design

Studio always had a focus on the face of the player, and this edition was no different.  This set had the player's portrait superimposed over a background of the team's uniform.  The player's signature was emblazoned in foil across the bottom third of the card.   The back was an expose on the player's interests, thoughts, and inspirations....there were definitely new facts to discover.

The Rookies
The most recognizable rookie name was JT Snow. 

The Inserts
There were four insert sets in 1993 Studio.
1. Studio Heritage (1 in 12 packs). This was probably the most visually striking of the sets.  It dressed players in throwback uniforms with a sepia flavor.
2. Frank Thomas: A 5 card set showing the lighter side of the "Big Hurt", showcasing the spokesman for 1993 Donruss/Leaf products.
3. Silhouettes (inserted only in jumbo packs): A weird concept with the action shot of the player being a shadow on top a ghosted portrait image.
4. Superstars on Canvas: Player portraits with an artistic flair, think of a precursor to Topps Gallery.

The Impact

Seriously minimal impact, the sepia tones and throwback jerseys of the Heritage insert influenced some other insert sets through the years (I'm thinking of 1994 Score Dream Team first).  The portrait style really created its own niche until the end of its 15 year run.


1993 Studio was an upgrade over the previous editions in 1991 and 1992, embellishing the photographic aspects while at the same time staying true to the brand's core of player portraits and player profiles (no stats were necessary).  The insert sets were appropriate and gave the overall release a little extra to round out the presentation.  It was an enjoyable set to buy individual packs of, but there was nothing inherently extravagant or innovative about it.   The backgrounds of the cards were great and really enabled it to surpass similar offerings during this time period.  This is why is sits in the middle of the countdown as an enjoyable, but not unforgettable set. 

Oct 7, 2011

What a Waste of an Effort and Season

102 wins? Means nothing. Great players with gutty performances? Means nothing. 2011 season? Means nothing. It will go down as the year the lineup choked and the rotation barely kept its head above water in the playoffs.

How many regulars hit .200 or below for the series? Four. Small sample size, one can claim. Well, small sample size is not the malady that leads to a playoff series loss. Poor approaches, poor situational hitting, swinging at any pitch outside the zone, going meekly with hardly any hustle.

Don't get me wrong...it was hustle, but of desperation, trying to make something happen when it wasn't possible to be there. Running into outs on the basepaths in this game just doesn't cut it.

For one word of praise for the opposition....Carpenter's curveball was practically unhittable.

Game 2 was the real killer of the series. 4-0 lead, knocked out the ace, and then it was frittered away by Ryan Theriot and Jon Jay at the expense of Cliff Lee. A 2-1 lead in the series, and then David Freese gets inside Oswalt's head and has 2 large extra-base hits.

The bullpen pitched admirably, only 3 runs allowed total after the mop-up time in game 1. Ryan Madson will make a lot of money in the free agent market. The starting pitching was gutsy, but not spectacular. Halladay could not get off the first inning schneid and it cost him in this game. He sure pitched incredibly after that though. Hamels struggled and still ended up giving up nothing.

Everything up to this point was a waste...great season....to only be remembered for the 102 wins....when someone else asks what happened to this team? The only answer is they lost in the first round of the playoffs....not the championship series or World Series, but the first round. There is no sense of accomplishment for the 2011 season,just a pile of happy memories shadowed by this overarching fact.