Friday, February 28, 2014

Piazza Party

It's Friday night and the weekend's here, so what better time for a Piazza Party?

One of the blogosphere's all-time great Mike Piazza collectors once again graced me with a most amazin' assortment of Piazza cards towards my collection.  Joe M. of The Sandlot is nearing 900 unique cards of the should-be Hall of Famer.  And, thanks to a recent package he sent me, I'm two Piazzas shy of the 300 mark.

Let's take a gander at the career-spanning array of Piazza cards that are now part of my collection.  The '96 Collector's Choice above is maybe my favorite of the bunch, simply because it features another guy I collect, Eric Karros.

But there's plenty more where that came from...

Who knew '93 Triple Play included Piazza in its checklist?  A very cool rookie addition!

Leaf and Leaf Studio from 1994.

Two more from 1994.  The Pinnacle "NL Rookie of the Year" card features a most outstanding action shot, while Mike is just chillin' on the TSC Dugout Dirt card.

Back in the day, Pinnacle did checklists that were just as nice as the base cards.  Such was the case with this '95 NL checklist.

A couple of cool Upper Deck products from 1995: SP and Collector's Choice Special Edition.

Lots to like about 1996 Upper Deck's base design.  Very classy.  At least I think so.

The back of this '97 Doruss Hit List card informs us that Piazza finished fourth among major leaguers in BA in 1996 (.326).

Lots of stuff happening on this one from 1997 Pinnacle Xpress.  I like how the "X" doubles as a spotlight.  And, apparently, it's also a laser that can shoot a gold embossed Dodgers emblem.  Rad!

Mike turned the 1996 All-Star Game at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium into a triumphant homecoming.  A native of the Philly burbs, Piazza homered and had an RBI double in the NL's 6-0 victory, earning him MVP honors.  These two '97 cards -- from Topps and Collector's Choice -- both celebrate his All-Star heroics.

This pair of cards surfaced in 1999, which was Piazza's first full season as a Met.  Thanks to Mike's power stroke, the Mets made the playoffs in both '99 and 2000, reaching the World Series in the latter campaign.

Topps Gallery was a pretty novel idea, and the 2001 Gallery set produced this sharp Piazza card.  I like how the backs of the cards include a little blurb on the artist.

Upper Deck Victory in 2003 looked more like playing cards than trading cards.  Nonetheless, you can't tell me this card isn't terrific in a psychedelic and bubble-popping sorta way.

Two from 2004.  I like the Leaf card on the left mostly because of the old Olympic Stadium backdrop.  On the right, Mike is recoiling from a mighty cut.  Both of these cards rock!

Though he's pictured as a Met on his 2006 Fleer card, Piazza became a Padre in '06.  His final season in New York saw Mike slug 19 homers with 62 RBIs in 113 games.

This one's an insert from the 2006 Ultra set.  Piazza had a pair of 124-RBI seasons; one with LA and one with the Mets.  With New York, he did it during the 1999 season.

From 2006 Topps Update and Highlights: A very fitting conclusion to this parade of Piazzas.  Mike cracked 22 homers for San Diego in 2006, including No. 400 of his career.  The decorated backstop finished his career with 427 round-trippers.

Joe, thanks for pumping up my Piazza collection with these great additions!

Happy Weekend, everybody!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014 Heritage: We Have Checklist!

Holy cow, 2014 Heritage is less than a week away!

One of the most anticipated Heritage releases in recent memory is scheduled to hit hobby shelves next Wednesday.  I've been so busy with the little guy and some extended work hours -- among other things -- that the release date has kinda snuck up on me.

But, thanks to the wondrous blog world, I caught a much needed reminder when I happened upon the blog of The Topps Baseball Fanatic earlier today.  And, much to my excitement, he brought news of the checklist going live.

I'm going to provide a little commentary and my initial thoughts on the checklist and so forth, but if you'd rather skip that and just scope out the checklist, be my guest!

Here it is:

Okay, so my first task was to jump directly to the 75-card short print portion of the checklist, because this is the area that causes me and the rest of the set collectors a great deal of grief.

As was the case in 2013, this year's Heritage set has overloaded the SP checklist with a vulgar amount of the game's most sought after names.  For starters, the hottest young players such as Puig (shocking!), Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Wil Myers, Yu Darvish, and Stephen Strasburg can be found here, as well as established stars like Cabrera, Votto, Jeter, Verlander, Cano, and Felix Hernandez.

But, in the interest of fairness, I will point out that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are not SPs this year, nor is my boy David Wright, who was a short print each of the last three years.  Zack Wheeler, Yoenis Cespedes, Clayton Kershaw, Michael Wacha, and Andrew McCutchen are also in the regular 425-card non-SP base set.  All easily could have been made SPs, further driving us all into madness.  I guess I have to concede that Topps did a pretty fair job this year, even more so than last.

Other things that interested me:

-- Chris Davis finally made the 500-card Heritage set!  The last two years he was only included in the High Numbers box set.  Way to go, Crush!

-- The Mets received 16 slots in this year's set.  Included are: Daniel Murphy, Jenry Mejia (why?), Johan Santana (double why??), Ike Davis, Jon Niese, Terry Collins, Jeremy Hefner (nice!), Bartolo Colon (airbrush special, I'm sure), David Wright, d'Arnaud/Flores RC, Dillon Gee, Tovar/Robles RC, Bobby Parnell, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Curtis Granderson (more photo magic).  Coulda done without Johan and Mejia; maybe give us Eric Young, Jr. and Juan Lagares instead.  Or, if they insist on a pitcher, Scott Rice or Vic Black.  I mean, Johan didn't throw a single pitch in 2013 and, furthermore, he's presently a FA.

-- Roy Halladay got a card.  The retired Roy Halladay.

-- Jeter's final Heritage card (maybe) is #433.

-- New Age Performers, Then & Now, and Flashbacks have returned as insert series.

-- Blue, Red and Black bordered parallels are back (YES!).

-- Keith Olbermann has two Real One autographs?  Barf City.

Those are just a few of my initial thoughts and observations.  I haven't had a chance to digest the whole thing yet.  Plus I'm too giddy to process and recite much more than this.

But, all gripes aside, I'm geeked out of my mind to get my hands on the new cards.  I think the '65 set is one of the true home runs from Topps' history of card designs, and I know many of you folks reading this likely agree.

Whereas last year I bought a hobby box, I think my plan of attack this year is to just buy a truckload of the 3-pack blister packages from Target.  You know, the ones that have the three black variants as a bonus.  For the price of a hobby box, I figure I can snag about six or seven or eight of them.  For me, the black bordered cards are of greater interest than the photo variations or jersey cards that I'd otherwise get in a hobby box.  Plus, you can still score autos and relics in retail packs.

Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind regarding this plan, but that's where I'm at right now.

The release of Heritage is always a special occasion during the baseball card calendar, and this year's edition looks like it'll meet and exceed the excitement levels from any prior year.

Next week can't come soon enough!


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Four Topps, #590

And away we go with another edition of lovable, huggable Four Topps!  I guess was getting antsy, because the site responsible for generating the card number for this feature pulled out the TaylorMade driver for this one.  As you can deduce from the image above, we get to dissect card no. 590 for today's experiment.  And, if you know the history of Topps cards, you know that the card numbers ending in a zero are reserved for the guys who drive Cadillacs.

Sooo... Let's see what we've got!


Before he became a cancer in the Mets clubhouse in the early '90s, Vice Coleman was emblematic of Whitey Herzog's Runnin' Redbirds teams of the '80s.  They don't make base stealers like Vince or Rickey anymore, that's for sure.  Topps kept it simple for VC's 1987 card, but it's still got a cool vibe to it.  Hey, Stat Man: Coleman topped 100 steals for a second straight season in '86 with 107


While card no. 590 represented elite speed in 1987, it was all about brute strength in '88.  He was sometimes Jorge and other times George during the '80s, but however you spelled his first name, Bell was a bad man with the bat.  This card might receive a slight point deduction for the mesh BP jersey, but he gets double points back for the "one batting glove" look.  And don't even get me started on that sick Jheri curl.  Hey, Stat Man:  Bell terrorized the AL in 1987, racking up 47 home runs and 134 RBIs en route to his first and only MVP award.


Topps kept card no. 590 north of the border in 1989, albeit in a different province.  While the Big Cat might not fully give George Bell a run for his money in the hair category, Andres sweeps the board in the overall style department.  The powder blue jersey and tri-color cap of the Expos ensemble are outstanding, as always, and a couple swipes of eye black complete the look.  And I've always been partial to Montreal's color scheme on the '89 Topps cards.  Hey, Stat Man:  Selected to his first All-Star Game and captured the Silver Slugger for the Expos in 1988.

The Canadian spell was broken in 1990 thanks to a Wizard (of course!).  The second Cardinal to occupy the 590 spot in a four year span is also perhaps the most iconic of his era.  Ozzie Smith will always be remembered for his mastery of the shortstop position, but I can't help but also think about the flapless batting helmet every time I hear his name.  This card gets bonus points for the Wrigley bricks in the background.  Hey, Stat Man: Established a career high with 8 triples for the Cards in 1989.

And the Winner Is:  Boy, this is a tough call.  A great batch of cards!  My first instinct was to hand the gold medal to Ozzie, but after further consideration the bouquet goes to the '88 George Bell.  Yes, the Jheri curl played a role, but more so the man's monster '87 season was a sufficient tie-breaker.


Monday, February 24, 2014

An eBay Double Dip, Pt. 2: Fleer Tradition '99

If you're wondering, Hey, where's Part 1?, I wouldn't blame you.  I didn't intend to go so long between parts, but sometimes life tends to draw you away from your scanner for long stretches.

About two weeks ago I blogged about a pretty great tandem of eBay auctions I scored from a single seller.  The first, which I already shared, was a complete '91 Stadium Club baseball set already in pages and a binder.  The other was a '99 Fleer Tradition set, likewise in pages and binder.

In a lot of ways, I was more excited for the '99 Tradition set since I wasn't as familiar with the cards as I was the '91 TSC checklist.  My only prior experience with this particular year of the Tradition product was through a few random cards I picked up at shows or via blogger trading.

But, the few samples I did have let me know enough about this set and how fun it would be to leaf through the pages.  And, well, I kinda cheated and clicked through all the cards on the Trading Card Database in the interim between winning the auction and receiving the cards.  What can I say, the anticipation was killer.

Man, I could go for a Pepsi right about now...

I was certainly not disappointed when the cards arrived and I finally got to look over my newest acquisitions.  In a lot of ways, this set has much in common with the Stadium Club releases.  Full bleed photos on the front, interesting photo choices, and pretty thorough checklists.

Normally, I'm only interested in putting together and/or acquiring complete sets of Topps and Topps products. But there is always room for an exception or two in collecting just as in life, right?  That's the thing I love about this hobby; nothing has to remain static or boring.  There are so many different types of cards and sets out there, why limit yourself?

Second from the left, in case you were interested.

One thing that thoroughly confuses me is the name of the product.  To my knowledge, 1999 was the second year of Fleer's Tradition line.  And, like the seminal output in '98, the cards are super glossy with edge-to-edge photos.  Which is great, don't get me wrong.  But, what qualifies that as traditional?  Maybe if your traditions began in 1992, I guess, but I don't think that's what they were intending.  Am I missing something?

"Honey, get me the phone!"

Well, one bit of nostalgia that found its way into this Tradition set was card no. 6 of the great Stan Musial, the lone retired player that made the cut.  I guess it's kinda like Topps did with using card no. 7 for Mantle in its latter day releases, but a lot less annoying and tiresome.

Keep in mind, I'm biased because Musial is of Polish heritage (born Stanislaw Fransiczek).  My good ol' Grandpa Kaz, when he's talking about Musial, will always call him Stasiu, which would be his nickname in the Polish language.  Ask Grandpa, and Stan the Man is right up there with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  So, yeah, Musial is my favorite of all baseball's legends of old.

Nevertheless, beginning in 2000, Fleer Tradition began using their vintage card designs as the template for their base cards, and some bit of normalcy was bestowed upon the brand.  And, it kinda became dull.  No more "Daddy/Son" cards or catchers popping bubblegum, etc.  But, at least it was more true to its title, for whatever that's worth.

Now that I'm a daddy, I dig cards like these.

If you like horizontal cards as much as I do, your palette will be sufficiently whetted by this 600-card set.  You've got your plays at the plate, double plays, bang-bang plays at third base, fancy portraits, and all sorts of outfield acrobatics.

I guess if I want to add some beef to my Horizontal Heroes frankenset, I would do well to track down dupes of some of these cards.  I mean, it became a challenge to pick just a few cards to scan for this post.  Every album page had at least two or three "Look at me!" pieces of art.

Now, there is one little nitpick I have with this set.  Because, well, there is no such thing as a perfect score. But, it kinda irks me that the horizontal cards are designed to sit in the binder pages with the bottom edge of the photo lined up on the left side of the pocket.  This is opposite of how 99.9% of sets orient their cards.  So, yes, my OCD receptors twinge ever so slightly when going through the binder.  Not enough to ruin my experience by a long shot, but worth mentioning.

With so many different brands of cards to collect during the late '90s, it had to be dizzying to figure out what was available, never mind deciding what to collect.  I'm almost kinda glad I was dormant in the hobby during those years.  Yet, when you come across a set like '99 Tradition, the excellence of the era comes into focus.

I'm certainly glad I got to experience this set up close, albeit many years later.  And I'm thrilled to have it in my collection.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

And the Winner Is... (Plus a New Trading Partner)

Before I talk about my first 2014 David Wright card and a recent trade package I received, I need to reveal the winner of the A&G mini lot that I posted about on Friday.

Thanks to, I have selected a winner, and that person is...  Jeff from 2x3 Heroes.  Congrats, Jeff! Your cards will go out in the mail in a day or so.

Don't bum out if you didn't win this time around; I plan to do a few more of these small-scale giveaways throughout the year.


Okay, onto the new cards that arrived in my mailbox late last week.  Jeff Y. operates One Man's Junk (Wax) and is a relatively new blogger, but he's been around it as a reader and trader for longer than that.  He's a fan of the Halos and is working on an Angels frankenset, which sounds like a pretty fun project.

Anyhow, he had a couple of 2014 inserts that were of interest to me.  The above Wright card was included as something of a surprise, which is always great.  Since David is one of my primary player collections, this one will go into that corner of my collection rather than towards the Upper Class checklist.  Yes, it's a recycled image (shocking!), but it's still a nice presentation of the Mets captain.  

Now this is what I'm talkin' about!  These are the puppies I was after.  This is the A-1 insert set that I'm chasing for 2014.  Upper Class is nice, but I won't pout if I come short of putting it together.  The '89 mini die cuts, on the other hand, well, I will likely throw a minor tantrum.

Finally, Jeff included Matt Harvey's base card, thus making it my first Harvey of the new collecting season.  The base cards are definitely growing on me.  I approve of Topps' decision to back to using the team's circular emblem for the 2014 Mets cards rather than the overlapping orange "NY" from last year.  After all, it's the best team emblem in baseball!

A pleasurable exchange, Jeff.  I look forward to trading with you in the future!


Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Box Rocks!

If you've stumbled onto my blog before, you might've caught me writing about my experiences with the 400-count homemade "repack" boxes that my local card shop sells.  For just five bucks, you can't go wrong with these boxes.  As far as value goes, they blow the doors off the Fairfield repacks that you'll find at Target, etc.

Anyhow, I've kinda become obsessed with the things, especially since I'm working on a pair of non-traditional sets, or frankensets, if you will.  Recently, I've happened upon some fantastic pickups for those, as well as my player collections and assorted set-collecting pursuits.

And, beyond that, they're just plain fun and also a lot gentler on the wallet of the collector who has also become a new parent.  For the price of a "jumbo" pack (36 cards) of this year's Topps, I can get 400 cards ranging from the '70s through the present.

That includes wonderful oddities like the Hank Aaron jumbo card at the header of the post, as well as the Panini mini of Joe Morgan.  The former is from 2000 Topps and, based on it's extra-large dimensions, I can only assume it was some sort of box topper.  Of course, I could be wrong.  Nonetheless, it's the biggest card of a HOFer I have in my collection.

And every box contains either a relic or auto card.  This time around, a jersey card from Bowman 2004.  While I don't know Bill Murphy from Murphy Brown, this is a Futures Game jersey that Murphy (Bill, that is) wore for Team USA.  So, that's A-OK with me.

These three cards were included in the box I picked up last weekend.  I've definitely gotten better "hits" than the Murphy, but the Aaron and Morgan were certainly among the coolest and most unique pieces these boxes have ever yielded, at least in my experiences.

But, more so than the unorthodox components, these boxes provide the most excitement within the array of base cards.  Yes, I received a good number of cards for my player collections but, more than that, this particular box had a rookie vibe to it.

For instance:

Definitely my favorite among Smoltz's rookie issues from 1989.  If you were only going to get one rookie per box, this wouldn't be a bad one to be saddled with.

But, there were plenty more.

No matter how many copies of this card I have, I'll never get tired of seeing it nor getting a new copy of it.  I've never compiled a countdown list of my top cards from '89 Topps -- which is kinda silly since it's my all-time favorite set -- but if I did, this would absolutely get consideration for the catbird seat.

Any box or repack that has a HoJo rookie is a badass one, to be sure.

I remember Glenallen Hill being such an ornery, no-nonsense guy during his prime playing days.  So, it's kinda funny to see him wearing such a happy face on this rookie card.  I like Hill and his cards an awful lot.  I should probably officially add him to my player collection list someday.

One of my favorite attributes of these homemade repack boxes is the abundance of Topps Traded (or Update) cards.  I had never seen this '94 Traded card of Chan Ho Park previously.  I don't think I even knew he was on the checklist.

Staying with the Traded theme, here we have K-Rod's first Topps card.  This was before he ate at McDonald's three times a day, apparently.  There was a time where I would've been over the moon to get this card.  While I'm not gaga for him these days, it's still a neat card to get.

While the skies on K-Rod's card were crystal clear and deep blue, there were some clouds looming for young Ben McDonald, who once was the great hope of the Baltimore pitching staff.  Easily one of the most buzz-worthy names in the hobby back in 1990, he fizzled pretty quickly.  I guess those clouds had a little moisture to 'em.

Maybe a Bruce Chen rookie isn't the biggest news item from a given pack.  But for a guy who has stuck around for as long as Chen has, and worn as many different hats as he has, I have to admire the man.  Plus, he was once a Met...briefly.

Who doesn't love these, right?  Rated Rookies and their unmistakable and iconic brandmark excited us collectors back then.  Flash Gordon had a very nice career; Kevin Belcher had some very big glasses.  But, they'll both be invited to the Rated Rookie reunion banquet, just the same.

A most unexpected find was this Raul Gonzalez rookie from 2003 Upper Deck  A little known Met who played in 137 games over two season in Queens.  He had a two-homer performance in his fifth game as a Metropolitan, which is noteworthy for anyone, but especially for a guy who would produce just five big-league homers for his career.  Without a doubt, this is a great All-Time Mets Project addition.

And we'll conclude with a few cards that might fit nicely into my newest project, the Horizontal Heroes collection.

How did I forget about this card?  Boy, 2011 Topps Update had some amazing photos!

This is what throwback uniforms should look like!  Those are some serious socks, no?

Before he was a utility player for the late-90s Mets, Luis Lopez was kickin' up some dust for the Padres.

As you can see, lots of fun to be found within these boxes.  They've basically spoiled for me any other repack productions on the market.  I just hope the shop owner continues to make 'em!