Dec 31, 2012

A Story Involving a Baseball Legend and Happy New Year

As the year draws to an end, I would just like to wish everyone a happy new year. 

This blog got its start because I always wanted to write about baseball in some form.  I wasn´t sure which direction to go as you can tell from my first few posts back in 2009.  I´m still not sure half the time, and the other half I´m completely lost. However, what draws us all here to read blogs of this type are generally two things: an appreciation for baseball as a game and appreciation for baseball as a uniquely nostalgic history.  This can be expressed through collecting cards, going to games, watching, or what have you.

Many of us have had baseball permeate our life through experiences with our family.  Who doesn´t have fond memories of going to games as a child?  Others have had baseball become a folklore as we can recite which cards came out of which pack from which store during which year?  While even others have had first hand run-ins with our heroes of the diamond and cardboard and foil.

This is one of those such stories.....but I was not the benficiary

As is often the case when reaches a certain age, certain activities become part of the lexicon which did not exist before in my previous experience.  One of these is perusing antique shops for furniture.  Furniture shopping is one of the worst things that I can do on a weekend because of my childhood (Brad knows what I´m talking about).

Anyway, because IKEA furniture doesn´t last that long and apparently, every corner of an apartment needs to be filled with something...(why? I can´t explain the mind of some people)...antique stores have been the last refuge of semi-affordable, don´t gouge your eyes out after seeing the price furniture.

It was during one of these trips to an antique store that I stumbled upon something else that I had to have.  It was simply a wooden sign that said ¨I heart baseball cards¨ with the heart actually heart-shaped.  It looked like it was from the 1960s or so.  After an afternoon of searching in vain for furniture, finally there was something worth looking at and buying.

I went to the front of the store to have it purchased (my friend was kind enough to give it to me) and the proprietor of the store started asking me about baseball cards.  Do I collect?  Who´s my favorite team/favorite player?  He showed me some cards in the front case.  They were all early 90s Upper Deck Heroes cards. 

He then told me that his other location had more cards and I should look there, and I assented.  He then started asking where we were all from originally.  The group was eclectic with myself being born in Philadelphia, one from Spain, one from Massachusetts, and another from Oklahoma. (all living in the Bay Area now.) 

He then said he was from Texas and started talking with the person from Oklahoma about similar places and family traditions and so forth.  But one piece was interesting in that he said his favorite team was the Yankees because of where he was from. 

Texas?  Yankees?

He must have been 70 years or more, so there was no team in Texas to root for outside the minors.  Maybe he had a minor league team in his town?  No, he said it was because of his aunt and uncle.

His explanation continued.

When he was 7 or 8 years old, he used to stay the summers with his aunt and uncle.  He said that the group of kids that was there used to play baseball in the backyard of his aunt and uncle as well as the adjoining neighbors.  They used the clothesline posts as bases and tried their best to not break windows.

He said that there was one boy, who must have been 12 or 13, who was head and shoulders above everyone else in skill, regardless of age of the group of kids.  He could run, catch, throw, and hit better than anyone he had ever seen.

I then asked where his aunt and uncle lived.  And he replied......a town called Commerce, Oklahoma.  In other words, the home of the Commerce Comet, Mickey Mantle.

It turned out that his uncle and Mickey Mantle´s father worked together in the mines (if I remember correctly) and the Mantles lived either on that street or at least in the same neighborhood.  His aunt kept a scrapbook of everything that Mickey Mantle ever did and he started rattling off facts about him.

By this time, it was time to move on to the next antique store, so we had to bid our leave.  It turns out that furniture shopping can be interesting after all.

Dec 27, 2012

Sterling....a question...a rare midweek thought...

As someone who normally operates, in the so-called "first world" collecting arena, I am baffled by some of the prices for the Bowman Sterling brand.  Prospect autos are all the rage, especially in the last 3 years, in which there has been a stellar or near-stellar class to pursue. 

Shown above is one of the few Bowman Sterling cards that I possess.  It´s a single swatch jersey relic.  It comes out of a $50 per pack product.   It is luminous, but is otherwise lacking in anything else that would suggest it´s from a premium, high-end brand.

But past is least as Bowman Sterling is concerned.  Until the past couple years, it was single relics like these and autographs on shiny stickers.  It was a visual mess to say the least.  (I was not a fan to put it mildly.)

These past couple years, the on-card auto content has at least been increased, so that there is more connection.  There also is less emphasis on the relic portion of the checklist content.  It seems a smorgasbord of prospect autos is what to expect judging from the box breaks I have seen.

Questions for those who prospect....
-Are there checklist elements in this set that are more desirable than other sets?
-Since this is the last release of the year, who missed the cut in other prospect-centric sets?
-Would you rate the appeal of these prospect autos over Bowman Chrome and Topps Chrome?
-Isn´t this now just a high-end version of Bowman Platinum?
-Is there a continuity element to collecting it from year to year?

I want to understand more about the Bowman Sterling phenomenon.

Dec 24, 2012

Back to Basics: Cards from My Cardboard Mistress

There are times in this world where sharing is difficult.    For instance, I have trouble sharing cookies...I am guilty as charged as a cookie hoarder.  I also have trouble sharing  personal items about myself.  But I´m trying to break out of that.  Did you know I can wiggle both ears at the same time independently?  Lately, and most importantly, I´ve had trouble sharing on the blog.

How can this be?  Is it because I´m part bear and gone into hibernation (possible).  Is it because I´ve become obsessed with fantasy football and drove my team to the championship? (probable)  Or is it because everytime I looked at a computer outside work, my first instinct was to kick first and ask questions later? (correct).

I´ve discovered there´s only so much typing in me per day for any subject, and unfortunately, the fun subjects suffer. And this includes my real reason for being, collecting the heck out of baseball cards.

These cards are from a group break at the inestimable My Cardboard Mistress, who hosted the most random, surprisingly satisfying group break I´ve taken part in awhile.  I snagged the present Philadelphia team as well as the former Philadelphia team (and the team in my backyard) as my weapons of choice, and what came out were 100s of cards of varietal surrealism that left me in sorter´s heaven.  Included among the group were the following (see how the formal writing creeps in may now erase that last sentence from your consciousness)
2008 Upper Deck Timeline (2004 Timeless Teams Design) Cole Hamels: I don´t know how I missed the original of this set.  This guy did not.  But, I will gladly take an update for the most memorable Phillies year of my lifetime.
1993 Ted Williams Mike Schmidt:  I also wish I bought this set when it first came out.  I used to have designations of real/not real cards.  What a strange idea....since they´re all real now.
2000 Topps Gold Label Brett Myers:  A rookie! A rookie! I can trade this for a cookie!
2003 Topps Bobby Abreu: The always underappreciated Bobby Abreu....shown here at the height of his walking, not-fielding powers.  It looks like his career might end if he doesn´t sign with someone soon.  Still, one of the top 5 trades in recent Phillies history.
2009 Goudey Jimmy Rollins(heads-up);  I think I love these heads-up cards.  I want them all from all the Goudey years.
2006 Topps Aaron Rowand: old ¨fence face¨had an interesting two year run with the Phillies.  He was a strange beast with power from the center field spot and liked to get hit by pitches.
2012 Bowman Platinum Roy Halladay: He was part of ESPN´s Hall of 100, and this year, the hopes of Phillies nation hinge on his return to form in 2013 (was that overdramatic? I meant it to be.)
1984 Topps Rickey Henderson: Early Ricky cards are the best.  Even Rickey thinks so because Rickey was faster than lightning and cooler than a glacier melt.  Rickey still is.
1987 Fleer Dusty Baker:  I didn´t know he played that long, and 1987 Fleer is on my list of sets to pursue.
2002 Donruss (spanish card) Mark Mulder:  Mark Mulder begat Dan Haren who begat Brett Anderson/Chris Carter/Carlos Gonzalez who the last begat Matt Holliday for half a season who begat Brett Wallace who begat Michael Taylor (I really thought it would be a better ending to this trade chain)
2003 Topps All Star Miguel Tejada:  He was truly special in his time and blasted the ball as a shortstop.  I like shiny cards almost as much as cookies, but I wouldn´t trade a cookie for a shiny card.
2008 Upper Deck Timeline Frank Thomas:  It looked weird, but it worked.  39 HRs and 140 OPS+ in 2006.
2007 Fleer Ultra Mike Piazza; It looked weird, and it didn´t work.  Anyway, can anyone identify Ultra sets just by looking at the front without consulting references (1997-2007)?
2012 Topps Archives Yoenis Cespedes: Not the best rookie (Trout) this year....but man, was he dynamic to watch...a twisting corkscrew of power and flair.  He made a popfly look fun.
2000 Topps Gold Label Eric Chavez: He and his back have been resurrected as a very successful platoon player.  He seemed like a contender for the HOF until the back injuries.  It was a legitimate debate: Chavez or Rolen in the mid-2000s.
2000 Topps 21st century Topps Ben Grieve:  This is not a refractor, but it should be.  Ben Grieve needs the refractor designation to stay hobby relevant.
2010? Heritage Flashback Jason Giambi:  He came back, he flashed back, he bashed back, and then went to the Rockies.
2009 Opeechee Matt Holliday: See, it wasn´t a dream.  Having lived in both places, I prefer Oakland to St, Louis....but the St. Louis baseball experience has been better.

Thanks for the sweetly awesome break, Adam....I will celebrate the sorting with some cookies.

Dec 6, 2012

Two Random Vintage Phillies: A Look into New Players

I do love when vintage Phillies worm their way into my collection. Whether by land, sea, or air, the gray, creased versions of bygone players bring to life the nostalgic voice inside my head. Remember when? Can you see the filtered sunlight?  Why are there palm trees in Philadelphia?  How many splinters can you pick up by sitting in the bleachers?

The ironic part I wasn't alive for any of that.  I've always considered myself a person that had baseball history interest first and that expanded into card collecting.  My first exposure to the deep inner workings of baseball was through a book my dad bought for me in Cooperstown when I was 8.  I don't remember the name, but it was edited by Donald Honig.

It had one or two pages for every year's happenings and photos from every decade of baseball history.  It was amazing.  I read that book so much that the pages started falling out.  This is where I learned the names of Ferris Fain, Stan Coveleski, Fred Clarke, Karl Spooner, Jim Lonborg, Sandy Amoros, Rube Waddell, and more.  I also learned that the most impressive accomplishments were to win 20 games in the season and win the batting title.  Things have changed a bit since when that book was written in 1989 or 1990.

Even with the comprehensive overview of baseball history (since 1900) under my belt, there are always players that are not as recalled.  Even for one's favorite team, is it really possible to name all those players during your lifetime?  The answer is no,  So it's not surprising, that there are Phillies from the '50s that I'm not familiar with....especially pitchers.
Jim Owens was a Phillie from 1955-1962.  Oddly, he took a year off for military service in 1957.  It's only odd because the majority of major leaguers that were off for military service were during the Korean War in the early '50s.  The highlights of his career with the Phillies were few, but the 1959 season was one.  He reached .500 on the awful teams from that era, had 11 complete games, and a career best 135 K.
Ron Negray had a short Phillies career spanning 1955-1956 and 130 innings or so.  He did have 3 saves in 1956 in a time when saves weren't the stat chaser that we all know and love today.  He also went 3 for 7 with a .929 OPS, leading the team, but.....sample size. Still a fun fact.

Amazing, these two only crossed paths for two months over these two years.  But we cross paths with players as we sort through cards to create memories of players we have never seen play.