Friday, January 31, 2014

Clubhouse Correspondence: Home Sweet Dome

It's always a great day when you discover a good new sports card blog.  And even better when you strike up your first trade with the man behind said blog.

Marc B. from Houston, TX is behind a little operation called Remember the Astrodome, so obviously you know he's a fan of those wild and wonderful Astros.  I learned about his blog via Robert at $30 a Week Habit.  Since Robert doesn't suffer fools, I figured it would be a safe and dandy idea to holler over to Marc and see about striking up a trade.  And, well, here we are.

It this initial encounter, Marc dialed up a fantastic assortment of cards for my player collections, including so many tremendous numbers from that beloved and infamous era of cardboard overproduction.

You know, funny thing about that "junk wax" era (I use the term lovingly, of course, since it's what I grew up with), every day you seemingly tend to discover cards that you had no idea even existed.  And each time, you say to yourself: How is it that I missed this one?!

Example A-1 of this theory is displayed atop today's post.  I can't tell you how much '92 Score I bought in them days, or how many 15/$1 boxes I've combed through at countless shows, yet I don't think I've ever come across this cardboard masterpiece.  Without a doubt, it's one of the top Will Clark cards in my collection.

Speaking of The Thrill...

It's bizarre enough to look at Clark in a St. Louis uniform, but to see it on a Pacific Omega card just amplifies the strangeness.  Don't get me wrong, I kinda like the design that's happening here, but I think this might be the first of these cards that I own.

If you've got a White Sox card from any of the '91 sets, the chances are pretty good that the player is wearing one of these throwback unis.  They're everywhere!  I think '91 Topps and Stadium Club were the biggest offenders, though this isn't necessarily a crime.  Let's face it, these threads are kinda cool.  And so is this card of Rockin' Robin.

I've never been an overly huge fan of '92 Pinnacle, but when I see cards like this, I can definitely understand those who are.  The blue Expos jersey and batting helmet create a nice contrast against the hallmark black bordering of this product.

Another entry from 1992, this time Donruss.  I'm thinking long and hard, and I cannot recall scanning too many cards from this set.  In fact, I can't think of any.  I'm sure I could easily do a quick search of the blog and find out for myself, but that sounds like too much work for a Friday night.  I'll just enjoy this great Todd Zeile card instead; another card that is new to my eyes.

Leaf's early '90s sets are a study in drab and dreary.  Lots of slate gray, lots of right angles, and little imagination.  But, if you put the right photo within the harsh frame, you'll find yourself with a pretty dandy card.

I've seen this card around plenty and I feel like I should own it five times over.  Yet, this is the very first copy of Carlos Baerga's 1995 Topps card in my possession.  I really like this card because it perfectly captures the essence of a man who enjoyed his job and played the game with all his heart.

Back when K-Mart had a pretty impressive hobby section, I bought a box of 2000 Upper Deck Victory and accumulated a good amount of these Junior Circuit cards.  I thought I had most of them...until Marc dropped nearly 20 more in my lap.  Most excellent!

Mets card?  Check.  Player I collect?  Check   Super-cool oddball?  Check!  I always think back to my grammar school days when I see any SI for Kids cards.  My friends and I would always jockey for first dibs at the magazine rack in the school library when the newest SI4K would arrive.  I was chubby and slow, but I would always conjure up a quickness that got me to those cards before anyone else.

Let's finish up with perhaps my favorite parallel set in recent years.  I don't care that it's Ryan Braun -- he didn't murder anybody -- I'm always thrilled to acquire a new 2012 Heritage Target black parallel for my collection.  I've now got 31 of the 100-card set.  Not too shabby!

Marc, thanks for going above and beyond on our inaugural trade.  I look forward to future exchanges!

And definitely go check out Marc's blog and give his nicely organized 'want' lists a look!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

A PWE for the ATMP

I'm starting to come down from my 2014 Topps baseball card high.  Helping to hasten the process is a thoughtful, random act of PWE kindness.

Earlier this week, Steve D. from Brooklyn, NY -- a fellow Mets fan and collector of Amazins cardboard -- hooked me up with a duo of cards to satisfy some gaps in my All-Time Mets Project checklist.

The cool thing about doing something like the ATMP is that the more obscure or underwhelming the name, the more exciting the acquisition.  Such is the case with Alvaro Espinoza's 1997 Stadium Club gem.

Espinoza played 942 games over 12 big league seasons, but only 48 of those games occurred in blue and orange.  He joined the Mets at the deadline in 1996 along with Carlos Baerga when New York shipped Jeff Kent to Cleveland.

To my knowledge, this is the only card of Espinoza as a Met.  And, oh yeah, it just so happens to be from my all-time favorite Stadium Club set.  Double bonus!  I had been combing eBay and Just Commons for quite some time trying to find a copy of this dang thing.  Thanks to Steve, my search is over!

Oh yeah, the guy from Moneyball who was portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, right?  Art Howe succeeded the controversial Bobby Valentine as Mets skipper in 2003.  He was nobody's first choice.  After two underwhelming seasons in Flushing, he was flushed in favor of Willie Randolph, who helped the Mets turn the corner.

Kinda interesting that Howe was featured on a Mets card in 2005, considering he was history by then.  Hey, I'm certainly not complaining; this card fills a need.  Plus, '05 Topps is an attractive design.

Thanks for the nifty duo of Metropolitans, Steve!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Some Words About 2014 Topps

A trip to Target on my way home from work netted me my first taste of 2014 Topps.  Almost quite literally, I'm the last one to the party on this one, but what can you do?  I've enjoyed reading the thoughts and opinions of all the other talented bloggers out there, and now I'll take my turn at the mic.

I picked up a pair of rack packs jumbo packs 36-card packs (and a single loose pack for Gabriel, which will remain untouched), deciding not to go crazy.  Since the little guy arrived on the scene, we here in the Kaz house have to tighten our collective belts a tad.  So, my game plan is to be very sparse with flagship purchases this year, pooling all my available hobby dough on Heritage this spring/summer.  I still want to have a complete 2014 Topps set, but I'm gonna just put a factory set on my wish list to Santa.  Yeah, I know it's cheating, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

I won't torture you with too many base cards, as I'm sure you've seen your share -- as have I.  Instead, I'll just show you my favorite of the batch, which you can see above in the form of Coco Crisp's fashionable coconut.  I thought this might be one of those SP versions at first, but this is his actual base card, which I think is pretty cool.

This Jon Lester was the first "official" 2014 card I pulled, so I figured I would share that.  Normally, I'd put the year's inaugural card as the header of the post, but it's a rather plain photo and I didn't want anyone to ignore my blog on the count of a ho-hum card.  I take it you're reading this post right now, so I guess I was successful.

My thoughts on the design?  Like the rest of the world, I passionately dislike the Bowman-esque tab on the right-hand side of the card.  It's unnecessary and clutters the frame.  If not for the tab, this might be my favorite design of the decade so far.  As it is, however, I'll take all four prior designs over it.  But, it's growing on me since I had a chance to stare at the cards in person for a while.  Who knows, by tomorrow I might be singing its praises (but probably not). 

Okay, yes, I like the return of this subset, but is anyone else bothered that the cards say "Future Stars" (plural)? I see just one player on there, and in the olden days they were just called "Future Star" cards.  A minor gripe, yes, but it's an accumulation of these little things that ultimately drive us batty (or at least just me).  This, by the way, is a short print of Puig, one of two SP versions of card No. 331.  A pretty nice score for your's truly!

I noticed what I perceived to be an honest effort by the Topps folks to have less boring pitcher cards.  Last year, it seemed like every card of a hurler featured a photo of the guy in mid pitch or wind-up, etc., limbs cropped and cut and the whole nine yards.  A cardboard yawnfest.  But, interesting photos like the one used for this Chia-Jen Lo rookie spice up the checklist and make pitcher cards way less mundane.

Way too many parallels, you say?  Well, I agree.  I don't know what color this is supposed to be, but it looks much better in person (no it doesn't).

And, this is the red-hued cousin of last year's Emerald parallels.  Not a huge fan.  In the long run, these are just cards that curl up faster than any of the others.

I was most excited to get a hold of one of these 1989 mini die-cuts.  But I'm feeling a bit deflated after seeing this card of the Big Unit up close.  What color is that, purple?  That, or the wimpiest shade of blue ever concocted.  Not even close to the blue used on the Mariners cards from '89.  Also, did Topps do the unthinkable for the second straight year?  Isn't '89 Topps one of the motifs tabbed for 2014 Archives?  Kinda like the '72 minis in 2013 flagship, right?  Ugh.

Nonetheless, because I"m an '89 Topps devotee, I'll pursue all the cards.

I was most impressed with these classy, attractive Upper Class cards.  This I would collect.  And I think I will.  Might be the best looking insert Topps has made in a long time.

Only because it's Zack Wheeler do I even pay attention to this.  Wasn't this design something Topps used for one of their sticker sets within the past five years?  I will pass on this insert set.

Kinda neat to see Super Veterans return, but isn't this something we would/should expect to find in Archives?  

Not enthusiastic about this Power Players gimmick at all.  I guess if you collect all 220 of these parallel cards, you get some sort of autographed set or whatever.  But, really.  Who and why?  

Hey, when it's all been said and the dust settles, it's still the official kick-off of the 2014 baseball card season. And that's a wonderful thing.  Sure we all have our list of gripes and notes for improvement, but I think 2014 does have its redeeming qualities.  Let's let it sink in for a bit before we cast it aside as a lackluster venture.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Four Topps, #35

In the last edition of Four Topps, I let take a sabbatical and selected the card number myself.  This time around, I put the little buggers back to work and made them do their arbitrary magic.  And here's what we've got for ya today: card No. 35.  We should see some all-stars or at least some noteworthy vets with a number like this.

But, there's only one way to find out, so let's go...


Because I readily associate Sid Bream with the 1992 Atlanta Braves, I kinda forget that he had a whole 'nother baseball life prior to that with the Cubs and Bucs.  I love the old Pirates logo and the old Pirates cap, and this card has both.  And they just look so right within the '87 Topps motif, no?  Hey, Stat Man:  Sid established career bests with 16 homers and 77 RBIs for Pittsburgh in 1986.


This is a card I most definitely remember from my early collecting days.  I recall being confused about the number on Baines' pants.  I mean, what's it doing there?  It's almost as confounding as the green and pink color combo Topps used for their White Sox cards in '88.  Hey, Stat Man:  Pounded 20 home runs and collected 93 RBIs during an all-star season for the ChiSox in 1987.


Tudor joined the Dodgers in August of '88, as the Cardinals sent him to Hollywood in exchange for Pedro Guerrero.  He made a pair of postseason starts for the eventual World Series champs, including Game 4 of the Fall Classic.  I've always liked this card because it appears to feature some nighttime baseball action. Something I'm sure this guy appreciates.  Hey, Stat Man:  Finished the '88 season with a 2.32 ERA, good enough for fourth in the NL.


I was a catcher for pretty much every year I played Little League ball, so naturally I loved any card of any catcher.  This is one that I remember from the summer of '90, when 10-year-old me begged my mom for packs of cards every time we went to Caldor or Thrift Drug or, well, anywhere that sold cards.  I really liked this card back then, and I still like it now.  Hey, Stat Man:  Won his 2nd of three straight Gold Gloves and made his first All-Star Game for the Padres in 1989.

And the Winner Is:  Oof, this is a tough call.  But, I'm gonna go with my brother from the Order of the Shinguards and give the cookie to the '90 Santiago.  Bream finishes a close second.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

LCS Repack: Top 20, Pt. 2

On we go with the 20-card sampling from my recent purchase of a 400 card repack from the local card shop.  In this second part, we'll see some cards of players wearing uniforms that look, well, wrong on them.  Okay, maybe "wrong" is the, uh, wrong word, but it just looks odd.

For instance, am I the only one who didn't know that Glenallen Hill played for the Angels?  Yet, here he is, wearing the cartoonish threads of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California on this neat-o 2001 Upper Deck card.  Even though he played for a number of clubs during his accomplished career, I'll always associate the burly, no-nonsense Hill with the Cubs.  FYI, Anaheim was Hill's final stop before retirement; he played just 16 games for the Halos in 2001.

Sandy Alomar, Jr. is a guy I'll be adding to my Player Collections page in the very near future.  I can't say why for sure, but I just like accumulating cards of the guy.  That's why it was pretty cool to find this 2006 Upper Deck card of Sandy wearing Dodger blue.  When I first saw this card, I wrongly assumed that L.A. was Alomar's final stop.  But, he actually played eight games for the Mets in 2007.  You'd think I would recall that, but, well, I don't!

Since we're on the topic of the Mets, now would be an appropriate time to show this awesome 2000 Stadium Club card of Edgardo Alfonzo.  This one was in my cart, which makes it a pretty nice coincidence that it found its way into my repack box.

Okay, seriously?  I'm beginning to feel like a sports fraud with all these puzzling Upper Deck cards.  I like to think I follow baseball pretty closely, yet J.T. Snow playing for Boston isn't something committed to my memory. He played for the Sox in 2006 (the same year of this card) and batted .205 in just 38 games.  Oh well, I'll chalk it up to getting old, I suppose.  Anyhow, it's a pretty great addition to the J.T. Snow corner of my collection.

Rick Monday is an American hero in my book.  Anybody who prevents the Star and Stripes from being burned is A-OK with me.  The two-time All-Star and World Series champ wound down his 19-year career with the Dodgers in 1984.  Thus, I have to believe this '84 Fleer is Monday's "sunset card," right Nick??

The CyberStats cards from 1995 Topps were one of the better parallel issues created by the hobby leaders.  Just my opinion, of course, but I'm starting to get a bit fatigued by the umpteen number of rainbow parallels.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some Wal-Mart blue and Target red, but I can do without the camo and pink, etc.  Oh, and in terms of this particular card, this is one of the most epic on-deck circle poses you'll ever see on card stock. And, since Kevin Mitchell won the NL MVP when I was nine, that forever makes him a viable player to collect.

Consider these two Kenny Lofton cards as one entry, a 1A and 1B, if you will.  Yes, I know Lofton played on basically every team in baseball, but it still weirds me out to see him in such uniforms.  He'll always be an Indian in my mind.  I used to collect Lofton's cards with relative fervor, but I guess I stopped in the late '90s.  Looks like I have a lot of catching up to do!

I think I this particular repack box was destined to for me.  How else can you explain the presence of a 1976 Topps Jesus Alou card?  I was hunting for this exact card on eBay not too long ago.  Another name from the All-Time Mets Project crossed off!

This is what a throwback uniform is supposed to look like, right down to the cap.  Jason Isringhausen wears the old Philadelphia A's threads well on this 2001 Upper Deck common.  Izzy was just coming into his own as a closer at this time.

And, we'll finish up with my guaranteed jersey or auto card:

I'm pretty happy with this one: a David Ortiz Clubhouse Collection relic from 2007 Heritage.  This is definitely one of the best Clubhouse Collection designs, as they have been kinda hit or miss throughout the existence of the Heritage brand.  I could've done a lot worse than this as my "hit."

Thanks for taking a jog with me through a few of the highlights of the repack.  I think this is the third one I've purchased within the past year or so, and I've yet to be disappointed.  For five bucks, how can you go wrong?


Saturday, January 25, 2014

LCS Repack: Top 20, Pt. 1

As I believe I've discussed on this very blog previously, my local card shop puts together these 400-card repack boxes that they sell for $5 a pop.  That includes at least one relic or autograph card.  A pretty good deal relative to the various Fairfield repacks you find at the retail giants.  Plus, the variety of cards is much stronger from what I've experienced.

So let's take a look at 20 of the most outstanding, noteworthy cards from this homemade repack box. [Ed. Note: Remember, everything is relative.]

In the leadoff spot is the 2006 Upper Deck card of Doug Mientkiewicz.  I'll overlook the fact that this is technically a K.C. Royals card and will happily include it in my All-Time Mets Project.  My collection was missing a card of the defensively gifted first baseman who played just one season in Queens (2005).  Plus, this is some sort of great scene at home plate.  I take it Doug was either just tagged out or perhaps even knocked down by a pitch.

Things appear to have gotten rather lively at third base, as Aaron Boone applies the tag on this neat action shot from 2001 Stadium Club.  Yup, Aaron 'Freakin' Boone.

Bert Campaneris had quite a long and successful big league career, amassing 19 season in the majors among four different franchises.  This 1982 Donruss portrait finds him in the twilight of his playing days.  Did you know that Campy's birth name is Dagoberto?  I didn't, but the back of this card made me a learned man.

Before he became a star in Cincinnati, Brandon Phillips was a 2nd round draft selection by the Montreal Expos in 1999.  He was also a piece of the infamous 2002 trade that sent Bartolo Colon from the Indians to the Expos. Here, we've got Dat Dude's 2000 Bowman rookie card.  Not too shabby!

What's so noteworthy about a Steve Trachsel card?  Well, on this 2007 Upper Deck common, the Mets hurler is donning a cap of the Fire Department of New York.  The Mets preferred to wear these caps (or those of the NYPD, PAPD or EOM) on the anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy, thus honoring the memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty.  Of course, this was back when Bud Selig wasn't threatening repercussions on anyone who dare deviate from the officially licensed MLB garb.  This card will definitely supplant the Trachsel card already residing in the ATMP collection.

El Presidente, aka Dennis Martinez, was the cover boy for the Montreal Expos team checklist in 1993 Upper Deck set.  A pretty snazzy number, and I especially like how the artist added a shadow to the sketch.  This kinda looks like a propaganda billboard from Nicaragua, no?

A new Gabe card towards my newest collecting pursuit.  Mr. Gross looks like he's having a gay ol' time on this 2007 Topps Update card, which is more than I can say for my little guy.  He's screaming his head off as I write this.

Studio cards never get old, do they?  If you can deal with the violet colored borders from the 1991 edition, then I think you can find a lot to love about these cards.  And, hey, it's Dave Winfield.

We're all drunk with anticipation for this year's Topps Heritage set, are we not?  The attractive 1965 design will be revived with the players of today.  Well, back in 2003, Upper Deck already had the idea and *poof* you've got UD Vintage ripping off the '60s Topps creative department.  Still, cards like this Nomar are nice to look at, even if they are knock offs.

Pedro Astacio had one of the best baseball nicknames in recent memory.  Teammates called him mula, which is Spanish for "the mule."  I guess that's endearing, right?  Anyhow, ol' Mule spent two seasons in Flushing, putting up a 15-13 record with an ERA just north of 5.  The memories of Astacio as a Met aren't glowing, but this is nonetheless a nice card.

Let's call it a day for now.  The next 10 cards will be comin' at ya in Part 2.  I hope you'll stop back, because there are some pretty neat cards to come!


Friday, January 24, 2014

Triple Play: Alex Rodriguez, Topps Heritage, 2011-13

Finally, I was able to hunt down a reasonably-priced copy of A-Rod's short print from the 2011 Topps Heritage set. (Oh, for the magic of eBay!)  I'm slowly but surely working my way through that wonderful set, enjoying it piece by piece.

And since I've got that one in the stable now, I wanted to take a look at each of Rodriguez's cards from the three years I've actively been collecting Heritage.

So, here's the 2011 SP, card #490:

Then we've got the 2012 edition, #361:

And, finally, from this past year's set, #69:

The card from 2011 is probably my favorite of the A-Rod trio, though the 2012 is pretty snazzy, too.