Sunday, September 29, 2013

Buffalo Gameday, Sept. 29, 2013

It's very rare that a season that produces only four wins would provide so many indelible memories.  Such was the case of the 2010 Buffalo Bills who, under the management of first-year head coach Chan Gailey, lost their first eight games en route to a 4-12 mark.

Don't get me wrong, there were a ladle full of forgettable efforts and results speckled throughout the 2010 campaign.  However, skimming the season based off final record would cause you to miss three wild overtime losses to three playoff-bound teams (including the eventual AFC champs); a shootout loss to the New England Patriots; and a three-point loss to a Bears team that was a quarter away from the Super Bowl.

One such memorable loss that would fit into the first of the aforementioned categories came against the Baltimore Ravens, a team Buffalo will encounter this afternoon in Orchard Park, NY.  Buffalo was 0-5 following its bye week and a frustrating home defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Heading into Baltimore to play a heavily-favored 4-2 Ravens squad, not much was expected of a Bills team that had been outscored 161-87 over the first five contests.

Out of the gates, though, the Bills built a surprising 14-point lead midway through the second quarter.  Lee Evans, who had been seemingly invisible to that point in the season, hauled in a 20-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick that gave Buffalo a 24-10 lead.  It was Evans' second TD of the game.  But the Bills yielded 10 points to Baltimore before the half and, eventually, found themselves trailing the Ravens 34-24 late in the fourth quarter.

2 INTs and a FF vs. BUF, 10/24/10

Rather than throw in the towel, though, the Bills went to work, as Fitzpatrick hooked up with Evans for the tandem's third TD connection of the day, a 17-yarder with just under six minutes to play.  And with seconds on the clock, Rian Lindell hit a 50-yard FG to unbelievably send the game into overtime.

Unfortunately for the Bills and their fans, the Ravens would kick the winning field goal in the extra frame and the Bills would drop to 0-6.  The following week, Buffalo would again go on the road and take a playoff caliber team to overtime, as Todd Haley's Chiefs would survive the Bills' uprising.  Tack on a three-point loss to the Bears a week after that, and you could sense the Bills were getting close to turning the corner.

And, they did win their next two games and, after that, lost another OT heartbreaker to the Steelers.  This six-game stretch essentially defined Buffalo's season.  Very easily they could have been 5-1 or 6-0 during this stretch and, therefore, woulda been in the mix.  Then again, good teams win the close games and, in 2010, the Bills were not a good team.

As far as Lee Evans goes, this game was pretty much his swan song as a Buffalo Bill.  Though he finished out the season with the Bills, it was clear the aging star was on the decline.  Furthermore, he didn't fit the scheme of Gailey and his short-passing spread offense approach.  Evans compiled 105 yards and three TDs on that October Sunday against Baltimore, but completed the season with just 578 yards and four scores.  The man who ranks third in Bills annals in receiving yards and receiving TDs joined the Ravens the following season.  You might remember him dropping a pretty big would-be touchdown in the AFC title game against the Pats.

Back to the future now, and today's Bills-Ravens clash.  The Bills and their rookie QB were handed their teeth by Rex Ryan and the Jets last Sunday, while Baltimore (as I predicted) smacked the favored Texans at M&T Bank Stadium.  Baltimore's defense looks like, well, Baltimore's defense again after rebounding from the opening week salvo engineered by the immortal Petyon Manning.  That probably doesn't bode well for EJ Manuel and the Bills, who looked uninspired and overmatched on offense versus New York's scheme.  Don't expect the Ravens to cut the Bills any slack this week.  Could be another one of those annoying "teachable moments" at Ralph Wilson Stadium for Manuel.  On the other side of the ball, look for Joe Flacco to test Buffalo's battered secondary, specifically whichever poor CB has to cover Torrey Smith.  Smith might be fantasy football gold today, especially if neither Leodis McKevlin or Jairus Byrd suit up.

My Week Four Picks:  Let me get the Steelers (-3) over the Vikings in London; the Titans (-3.5) to cover against the Jets; and the Eagles (+11) to beat the spread in Denver.

Enjoy the games!


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Six Sandys Storming

In about a month from now, we here in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast will reach the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, one of the deadliest and costliest storms in American history.  Not to burden poor ol' Sandy Alomar, Jr. with any of that, but I remember posting a card of his a day or so before the storm breached the Jersey shoreline.  So, fair or unfair, I guess I'll always kinda associate the long-time backstop with the hurricane.

That doesn't dampen my enthusiasm for his cards, not one iota.  When I was hastily browsing through the 25/$1 box at last Sunday's show, I was happy to stumble across half a dozen cards of Sandy that were missing from my player collection.  I'm sure there were oodles more in that very same box and its identical twins at the seller's table, but time squeezed me out of discovering them.

Nonetheless, it was all about quality, not necessarily quantity.  The above 1990 Topps is Alomar's second-year Topps card.  Recall, he had a "Future Stars" card in the beautiful '89 set.  This was Sandy's final Topps card in brown 'n orange, as he was flipped to the Tribe in December of 1989 and featured in Indians garb in the '90 Topps Traded set.

The excess of the 1990's baseball landscape afforded the players of that era a barrel full of cards.  I won't even try to guess how many Sandy Alomar cards exist, but I'm positive it's a pretty outrageous number.  I wouldn't mind hunting down as many of them as possible.

There are plenty of him in a Cleveland uniform, this we know.

'94 Flair

'95 Stadium Club

'96 Stadium Club -- a real gem!

1998 Circa Thunder

I absolutely favor the cards of Sandy wearing the catcher's gear.  After all, he's most known for being one of the best technical backstops of his era.  And, well, the majority of his cards feature badass action sequences of him blocking the plate or tagging out a runner or busting his arse to chase down a pop-up, etc.

2004 Fleer Tradition

It's a tough call between this '04 Fleer Tradition and the '96 TSC as to which was my favorite of the new-to-me Alomars.  Look closely at Sandy's uniform on this Fleer card: number above the right thigh and the blue/red stripe around the sleeve.  These are some throwback threads!  That certainly earns this card some bonus points and may give it the edge.

One thing's for sure: a Sandy on a baseball card is way better than a Sandy on a weather radar.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Auction Action: Knockin' Out Those SPs

Allow me to take a break from rehashing my spoils from last weekend's card show, because in today's mail arrived a much anticipated eBay score.  I was the winner of a 10-card auction from a seller who had 73 of the 75 2013 Heritage short prints to choose from, including...

Bingo!  I was super-excited to finally grab Harper's SP after striking out on all my pack busting over the past six months or so.  And most sellers don't include this one or the Trout in their "you pick 'em" SP lots because, well, just look around eBay and see how much the Harper goes for solo.  So I count myself fortunate for procuring this one as part of a package deal, all for a reasonable rate.

The rest of the lot looks like this:

I've now gathered up 55 of this year's SPs, meaning I'm within 20 of completing the super-annoying portion of the checklist.  I'm hopeful that COMC has a blowout bonanza at the end of the year like they did last year.  That's when I was able to polish off a lot of the 2012 short prints.

I'm also still shy a portion of the regular base set, too, but I'm not overly concerned about reeling those in.  Via trade or discount boxes at card shows, I'll knock those out before too long.  After all, I was able to pick up about 50 that I needed for a dime each on Sunday.

Like last year, I'm just going to enjoy the journey, though.  This year's Heritage took a little time to grow on me, but I'm fully on-board now.  I certainly have my share of complaints about this year's product -- especially the way they jammed all the biggest stars into the short-printed portion of the checklist -- but it's still a Heritage set and, therefore, lots of fun to collect.

How're all my fellow Heritage collectors out there doing?  Are you already done?  Still a long way to go?  I have a good deal of extras if anyone is in need; just drop me a line!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ocho Orel (aka A Case for Art Appreciation)

One of the reasons I like to keep the cards from my player collections in soft sleeves is kind of a childish one. Then again, most outsiders might insist this hobby is for kids, so what difference does it make?

Anyhow, back to my immature reasoning.  I like to think of each card as its own piece of miniature art.  And while one wouldn't think of cobbling together a bunch of Van Goghs or Dalis for instantaneous viewing, I've tended to shy away from the binder method for my player collections despite several fractured attempts.  Instead, each player-collection card resides in its own sleeve, organized within a slotted box and available for individual gazing anytime I need a fix.

But Mark, then why is it okay to put your complete sets in binders?  

Well, okay, because there is a sense of order and balance with complete sets.  The card designs are alike and there is a numeric sequencing that keeps the cards in order and their collector sane.  Get it?

Anyhow, I respect all the different techniques and methods that all of you out there subscribe to for your collection.  There is no wrong way of doing things, which is one of the more comforting ideas embedded into our little hobby.  Do what you do and don't worry about what the Joneses are up to.

The above 1997 Upper Deck masterpiece of Orel Hershiser is a card that I'd call to the witness stand if I were asked to defend my penny-sleeve-over-binder-page argument in court.  In one snapshot, it encompasses everything perfect about a baseball card, and maybe the game itself.  It's art without the pretense and brawn with a brain.  Kinda like Orel himself.  Clearly, it's one of the most stunning cards Upper Deck ever fashioned.  It was also one of my eight Hershiser acquisitions at Sunday's card show.  At just four cents, it was a true steal. Perhaps my favorite pickup from the show.

Here're the rest of my new Orels, shown in chronological order by year...

1990 Leaf

1991 Fleer

1994 Collector's Choice

1994 Pinnacle

1996 Fleer Ultra

1996 Topps

1997 Fleer Ultra

Look at that face on the '97 Ultra, would ya.  The Bulldog is, without a doubt, one of the most fun players to collect.  Lots of quirky cards and plenty of battle-snarled faces.  I know he's ultimately a Dodger at heart, but I'm proud of Orel's brief time as a Met and I'm glad he wore the orange and blue at least for a season.

Next time, a six-pack of one of my favorite all-time backstops...


Monday, September 23, 2013

Eight for Eight

Before completely indulging myself in all the caloric spoils of a football Sunday at my favorite pub, I was able to sneak in an hour or so at the monthly card show at my local fire house.  It's been a while since I went to this show (or any show), and my main focus was shaving cards off my 2013 checklists -- namely Series 2 Topps, Heritage and Archives.

But, you know how that old song and dance goes, right?  Although I attacked my Series 2 and Heritage needs with great gusto (not so much with Archives), I couldn't resist the siren song from some of the other cardboard distractions on hand.  Namely a table that boasted monster boxes with "25 cards for a $1" placards.  I had three single bills that were burning a hole in my pocket and about 15 minutes to spare before I had to depart the show.

Lots of beautiful junk wax and mid-'90s stuff of lots of great players.  If I had more time, I'd probably still be at that table going through all the boxes.  As it was, I had to quickly flip through a few rows of cards, not being as thorough as I usually am.  Nonetheless, I turned up some real winners in my hasty search.

For this post, I'll focus on eight new-to-me cards of Gary Carter, one of the most wonderful human beings to ever put on a baseball uniform.  The first of the octet, the headliner card you see above, is form SP's 2005 "Legendary Cuts" set, which I hadn't seen before.  A beautiful set like this is the kind of thing Upper Deck ought to be remembered for, not arbitrary, wasteful crap like their Documentary set or the banal 2010 swan song.

The next seven cards of Kid all hail from that glorious overproduction era that so many of us grew up during.

1981 Fleer

1987 Fleer All-Star Team

1988 Donruss

1989 Donruss All-Stars

1989 Donruss All-Stars Pop-Up

1990 Upper Deck

1991 Score

At four cents apiece, it's pretty hard to argue with any of these pickups.  When I look at any of Carter's cards, I can't help but smile.  It reminds me of card collecting from my childhood.  And, well, Gary's smile is contagious, so it's next-to-impossible to not crack at least a grin when you look at the guy.  Jeez, I can't believe he's passed on.  The worlds is a worse place without Gary Carter, that's a fact.

In my next post, we'll go over a little "Orel" history...


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Buffalo Gameday, September 22, 2013

Today, rookie quarterback EJ Manuel embarks on his first professional road start as the Buffalo Bills (1-1) travel to East Rutherford, NJ to battle their division rivals, the New York Jets (1-1).  Florida State's Manuel was the first signal caller selected in the 2013 draft, while New York made West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith their second-round choice.  The rookie vs. rookie QB matchup certainly colors this late-afternoon clash with a bit more intrigue than the usual Bills-Jets hookup might.  More on that in a moment.

While the careers of Manuel and Smith are just beginning, today's Gameday post reflects on the closing of a fine career.  Farm boy Phil Hansen was a little-known prospect out of North Dakota State before the Buffalo Bills tabbed him in the second round of the 1991 draft.  Hansen went on to play 11 seasons for the Bills, collecting 61.5 sacks while manning the defensive end spot opposite Hall of Famer Bruce Smith.  He played in three of the Bills' four Super Bowls and rightfully became a member of Buffalo's Wall of Fame in 2011.

Hansen's final NFL season was 2001, which also happened to be one of Buffalo's worst ever.  The club finished with a 3-13 mark, which included a 1-7 division record.  That one divisional victory came in Week 16 of the season, a game against the Jets at the Meadowlands.  At 9-5, New York would clinch the playoffs with a win, while the 2-12 Bills were obviously playing out the stretch.

With his team trailing Buffalo 14-9 in the fourth, Vinny Testaverde drove the Jets to the Bills 35 yard line at the two-minute warning.  It seemed inevitable that Vinny and the Jets would pull out the comeback victory.  But, the script was spoiled on the first play out of the timeout, when Hansen tipped and intercepted Testaverde's attempted pass and returned in 17 yards to the New York 37.  A stunning reversal, no doubt, but Buffalo would still need to survive one more Jets advance which, fortunately for the Bills, fell flat as time expired.

This certainly isn't a game or a highlight which will make any Top 10 lists in Bills annals, but the memory of Hansen picking off Testaverde and throwing a wrench into New York's playoff chances on that December day remains vivid with me.  And it was a pretty neat way for Hansen to ride off into the sunset, so to speak.

As far as today's engagement, the Bills are underdogs for the third consecutive week, but this should be a pretty even affair throughout.  I think Buffalo has the better personnel on offense, and that includes Manuel, but New York's defense stands to be the best the Bills have faced so far.  One of these rookie quarterbacks is going to be 2-1 when the smoke clears, and that has both fanbases excited I'm sure.  Even though Rex Ryan has had Buffalo's number over the past four seasons, I like the chances of Doug Marrone's team to escape with a hard-fought win.

Other picks for today:  Give me the Ravens (+1.5) to knock off the Texans; the Redskins (Pick 'Em) over the Lions; and San Fran (-11) to cover against Indy.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Five's Alive

Oh how we've missed you, Captain.

In the vain of death and taxes, David Wright's power stroke at Philadelphia's home ballpark is essentially a given. In his first at-bat after a nearly seven-week DL stint, the Mets' All-Star smacked a first-inning home run off Cole Hamels to propel New York to a three-run frame.  The Amazins went on to defeat the Phillies, 6-4, in a game that mattered only to the most loyal fans of either club.

The opposite field blast gave Wright 18 home runs in 81 career games at Citizens Bank Park.  That's the most by any opposing player in Philadelphia's yard since its opening in 2004.

It also served as a reminder that Wright is the sole, true lifeblood of the Mets franchise; not to mention a not-so-subtle nudge to the masses that he is the best ballplayer in the Five Boroughs.  That's not to say his career is better than that of cross-towners Jeter or Rodriguez, but at this time in their respective careers, David is undoubtedly the best the Big Apple has to boast.

The Mets and their fans hope Wright can register a completely healthy campaign in 2014.  I know I do!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Four Topps, #644

Happily I'm back to the Four Topps routine after a quite lengthy layoff.  And boy did lay a whopper on us with this card number!  I considered titling this post "Three Reds and a Little Cubbie" for the reasons you are about the bear witness to.

On with the show...


A sharp photo and a nicely framed card of former 19-game winner John Denny, of whom I know absolutely nothing.  The 1986 season was Denny's first in the Queen City following stints with the Cards, Indians and Phils. Hey, Stat Man: Posted an 11-10 record and a 4.20 ERA for the Reds in '86.


The yellow, blue and pink color design elements at play on this card leave A LOT to be desired.  Then again, I guess we ought to just chalk it up to one of those campy little things about Topps cards that we tend to adore over time.  A pretty basic card of the former Reds backstop.  But check out the lurkers over McGriff's right shoulder.  Creepy!  Hey, Stat Man:  Played in 34 games as a rookie in 1987, swatting two homers and collecting 11 RBIs.


Prior to angrily uprooting and walking off with bases as a big league skipper, Lloyd McClendon was a baseball player for -- you guessed it -- the Cincinnati Reds.  Unlike the prior year's effort, the design and color palette utilized in the 1989 Topps set suits the Reds cards just fine.  Hey, Stat Man:  Batted .219 with three homers in 72 games for the '88 Reds.


Knock knock.  Who's there?  Orange.  Orange who?  Orange you glad this isn't another Reds player?  Speaking of orange, what was Topps thinking with the tangerine-dreamy borders for the Cubs cards in the 1990 set?  Hey, Stat Man:  Compiled an unsightly 5.21 ERA in 14 games for Cubs following acquisition from Atlanta during '89 season.

And the Winner Is:  You've got rocks in your head if you think I'm going with a Reds card here!  In all honesty, though, I just like way the blue of the wall and the green of the AstroTurf in the background compliment the deep blue of Assenmacher's jersey top.  Not buying any of that, are you?  Too bad.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Buffalo Gameday, Sept. 15, 2013

Happy Sunday!  When the calendar flips to Septebmer and the weather takes a turn for the nippy, the imaginary multi-purpose stadium here at TWTTC converts from baseball to football dimensions.  At least on Sundays.  I missed the chance to post last week -- opening week -- because I was actually up in Buffalo with my pals to take in the pageantry of the Bills home opener.  Not a happy result, but a great weekend per usual.

Anyhow, we move forward and focus on Week 2 in the NFL.  A trio of marquee games highlight today's slate, beginning with a crucial Redskins/Packers clash at 1 p.m. and concluding with a NFC West grudge match tonight between the Niners and Seahawks.  Smushed in-between is that little matter of the Manning Bowl, Pt. 3 in East Rutherford.  Just your normal second week in the NFL, right?

Well, here at the Clubhouse, we focus on our beloved Buffalo Bills.  Tough-luck losers to New England a week ago, the Bills play at Ralph Wilson Stadium for a second straight game, this time hosting the similarly 0-1 Carolina Panthers.  Cam Newton and Co. nearly pulled off the upset over the Seahawks in Charlotte last Sunday, but are now faced with an 0-2 start unless they come away with a win in Orchard Park this afternoon.

I received an email from an associate recently asking me about the Bills/Panthers series.  Kind of an unusual pairing at first glance.  The question: Have the Panthers even played in Buffalo before?  The answer: Yes, three times actually.  Most recently, the Cats scratched out an ugly 13-9 win over J.P. Losman, Willis McGahee and the Bills in November of 2005.

Buffalo leads the all-time series 4-1, including a 20-9 victory at Carolina four years ago.

But the game between these two interconference foes that stands out most to me is their first-ever meeting, way back in Week 2 of the 1995 season.  That happened to be the inaugural season of Carolina Panthers football, with former Jim Kelly back-up Frank Reich at the helm for the expansion club.

It was the home opener for Buffalo, which was stomped the week prior by Denver in front of a Sunday night national audience.  And the patrons at then-named Rich Stadium had to be getting itchy when the Panthers went up 9-0 early in the second half on the strength of John Kasay's third field goal.

But, the Bills, sparked by a Kelly-to-Russell Copeland 77-yard scoring strike on the ensuing drive, went on to score 31 unanswered points to secure the win.  Free safety Kurt Schultz, shown atop the post, crushed any hope of a Panthers comeback when he stepped in front of a Reich pass late in the third quarter and raced 32 yards for a touchdown.  The Labatt Blues went down a tad easier for the home fans at the post-game tailgates, I'm sure.

As for today, neither squad wants to start the season 0-2, but I'd say this one is a bit more critical for the Panthers.  After all, the Bills are under the helm of both a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback, not to mention brand new coordinators all around.  Thus, expectations in Western New York aren't exactly high.

Nonetheless, I think this plays out to be a fun game.  The favored Panthers probably will come away with a W in the end, but I'm looking for strides from EJ Manuel, who showed flashes of promise against the Pats. My area of concern, however, is the running game for the Bills, in that CJ Spiller clearly wasn't himself last week.  Couple that with a Panthers D that handcuffed Beastmode and the 'Hawks ground attack seven days ago, and this could be a sticky situation for Buffalo.  Additionally, Cam Newton could be in for a huge day against a banged-up Bills secondary.

Oh, and in case anyone cares, give me the Packers, Broncos and Niners in those three marquee games.

Enjoy your NFL Sunday!  (Or your MLB Sunday if you could give two squats about football.)


Friday, September 13, 2013

Catching Up (With a Little Help From My Friends), Pt. 2

This attractive 2002 Fleer Tradition jersey card of former Mets All-Star Edgardo Alfonzo comes courtesy of Bert at Swing and a Pop-Up.  It arrived at Kaz Manor recently in the form of a PWE.

Along with the card, a note which reads:  I have no idea why a swatchless Robin Ventura is on the back of this card.

Me neither, Bert.  Me neither.  Perhaps as a reminder to Robin how soulless one can look while wearing Yankee pinstripes as compared to the blue and orange of New York's National League baseball club.

Regardless, this becomes my second relic card of Fonzie.  A decisively fine addition to the collection, as well.

Thanks much, and have fun squashing the Bronx Bummers this weekend...


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Catching Up (With a Little Help From My Friends), Pt. 1

Whew, the past couple weeks have been a whirlwind!  Babies being born (not mine...not yet), trips taken, and housework piling up.  You name it.  I've fallen woefully behind on both my blogging and my daily blog reading. It's kinda like when you miss a few days or a week of work and spend an entire day or two trying to catch up on all your voicemails and emails, etc.  Not fun.

Luckily, this blogging thing is all about baseball cards, thus it is much more enjoyable than listening to a bunch of phone messages.

Anyhow, helping propel me back into the groove were a couple good friends of the blog.  Yellow mailers and a PWE from fellow bloggers were welcome sights recently.  And they usually do the trick in terms of getting me off my lazy duff and back to the keyboard and scanner.

Leading the brigade was the good-hearted Marcus of All the Way to the Backstop who sent me not one, but two yellow mailers recently.  Contained in one of the packages is the card you see above.  Clearly this is a Marcus original -- one that I'm sure Derek Norris would be okay with.  A very nice gesture presented in a most unique way!

And the best part?  It's a true 1/1.  Check it out...

Take that, Topps!

Headlining the first package were a quintet of George Foster cards.  If there were better sideburns during the '80s, let someone show them to me.

The closeup on the '84 Donruss might be my personal fave.  It really allows you to appreciate the facial hair stylings of the embittered Mets slugger.

As usual, I've not purchased at A&G this year.  It's just not my thing.  I actually really like the base set -- and I'll even put up with the strange non-baseball types that make their way into the checklist -- but I can do without the oodles of weird inserts about sea creatures and ancient warriors, etc.  Thus, buying packs of the stuff wouldn't make much sense for me.  

But, I'm only too happy to be the recipient of some of their baseball-centric extras, such as the Across the Years inserts from this year.

I feel like I've seen both of these photos before.  No matter, can't complain about the subjects pictured on the cards.

To finish off the highlights from the first package, a Met who ran himself out of town due to an inflated view of himself and an immature personality.

That, and he also cussed out Terry Collins in the clubhouse earlier this year.  Oh well, sucks for him, but this is a really great card of Valdespin!  And an orange refractor, to boot.

Okay, onto the second mailer, and I gotta show the prime highlight right off the bat:

Score!  A stellar vintage addition to the All-Time Mets Project.  A nice-looking card in great condition.  Lovin' those '64s!  Leon James "Duke" Carmel was born in New York City and actually played for both the Mets and Yankees.  A pretty cool distinction for a hometown boy.  He spent just a partial season with the Amazins in 1963, playing 47 games and batting .235 with 3 homers following a July trade from St. Louis.  His time as a Yankee?  Six games, 8 ABs, zero hits and 5 strikeouts in 1965.  Ouch!

And, while the '64 Carmel is by far my favorite of the bunch, it doesn't at all deflate my excitement over the stash of 1994 Score Traded cards that also came in the second mailer.

To describe the design of this set, one might go with "Totally '90s".  At least I would.  And that's A-OK with me. Especially for a set that contains a top-shelf rookie like a Manny Ramirez.

Or a freshly traded version of Pedro Martinez, who came to the Expos from Hollywood in November 1993.

And a cross-eyed Fernando Vina.  (This one might have to supplant the '94 Collector's Choice card I already have of Vina in the ATMP.  It's just too good!)

Plus, let us not forget the Gold Rush parallels.  Such things of beauty...

Very interesting Will Clark card, by the way.  I believe that is Ryan Thompson of the Mets scrambling back to the bag.  But, when and where would a game between the Mets and Texas Rangers occur in the pre-Interleague world??  Well, thanks to Wikipedia, it turns out it was an April 1, 1994 exhibition game between the two clubs at the brand new Ballpark in Arlington.  The first-ever game played at the park, actually.  How about that?

Per usual, my good buddy Marcus put a smile on my face with some great and thoughtful cards.  Many thanks to you, Backstop!

In Part 2 of this post, I'll show off the PWE love that recently came my way...