Monday, March 31, 2014

Opening Day '65

Historically, the Mets have been dominant in home season openers over the past forty-some odd years.  Today, however, was a different animal.  The Amazins blew leads of 3-0, 4-2, and eventually 5-4 in the top of the 9th thanks to a Bobby Parnell meltdown.  Final score: Nats 9, Mets 7 in 10 frames.

It's just one game out of a 162-game marathon, but a win to kick off the new baseball season is always preferable to a downer.  But, what can you do?  I'm just glad to have the sport back in full bloom again.

Anywho, helping make up for today's Metropolitan slip up is a surprise PWE I got a day or so ago from Pat at Hot Corner Cards.  This here is one of those 50th Anniversary box topper cards found in hobby boxes of Heritage.

On opening day in 1965, Bobby Klaus and the Mets were dominated by the Dodgers by a score of 6-1 at Shea Stadium.  Don Drysdale went the distance for LA, yielding just four hits with nine strikeouts.  Klaus, who started at second base, went 0-for-3 with one of those whiffs.

Thanks for keeping me in mind for this great card, Pat!  And congrats to your Tigers on a nice come-from-behind win over those pesky Royals today!


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Blue Sunday

I'm always browsing eBay to find a deal or two that may have snuck through the crosshairs of other more serious auction hunters.  I mean, there are so many hours a day to hunt for baseball cards, right?

Well, you know how crazy I am for the color-bordered variations from Heritage.  So I'm always on the lookout for new additions to the respective red and blue collections.

My latest score was of the blue-bordered variety, and it was a doozy:  a six-pack of 2014 blues, including Yasiel Puig and Jose Fernandez.

These were two of the Walmart variations that I wanted the most, so it was a great feeling to knock them both out in one fell swoop.  And, I didn't have to go crazy with  my wallet to make it happen.  In fact, this six-card Buy It Now was way cheaper than most of the single-card auctions for either the Puig or the Fernandez cards.

Also part of this sextet of cards are two of the best right-handed pitchers of this era...

The zit-faced interns at Topps sure did get a kick out of using the "high blue sky with the whispy stratus clouds" backdrop, eh?  It kinda looks natural on King Felix's card, but it looks rather forced on a few of the others they tried.

Speaking of Hernandez, his newest teammate was included in this lot o' blue, as well...

Cano's skyward glance coupled with some close-up cropping made this a pretty simple photoshop job.

And, finally, one of the most exciting young outfielders in all of baseball...

Gomez is a former Mets prospect who got dealt to Minnesota in the Johan Santana deal.  He's always been a great defender in center field, but he's really come into his own as an offensive threat since he's been in Milwaukee.

With this acquisition plus the two I already had, I now have 8 of the 25 Walmart parallels.  Here's a look at what I've accumulated thus far:

Doubtful that I'll be able to track them all down on the cheap, but I'll have a good time trying.  Heck, if I'm only able to snag the Wright and Wacha cards, I'll be a pretty happy camper!


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cards from the Shoebox

I've been so focused on all things 2014 Heritage lately that it would be easy to neglect my other collecting ventures, such as the All-Time Mets Project or my horizontal card frankenset (which I still haven't formally named, I guess).

Thankfully, one of the true allies of the Clubhouse blog came through to keep me on my point on those aforementioned fronts and quite a few more.

I'm not sure what took so long for it to happen, but I finally made my first cardboard exchange with Shane D. of the Shoebox Legends blog.  I shipped him some Red Sox for his collection and, in return, I recently received a yellow mailer with oodles of awesome stuff inside.  There were Mets cards; cards for my player collections; and even a 1993 Pinnacle fat pack--which I can't bring myself to rip into because it's such a cool collector's item!

But the thing about the collection of cards from Shane that stood out the most was the many amazing horizontal cards.  And that's what I'd like to focus on for this post.

One set in particular that is destined to have the most representatives in my Horizontal Heroes set (that's the working title I'm going with, I suppose) is 2008 Upper Deck.  For one, it's a massive set (799 cards).  But, more so than that, it's loaded with some of the best horizontal cards in the hobby.

The header card for this post is from that very set.  You may not think Jason Bay's '08 Upper Deck card is the most exciting thing you've ever seen, but I'm kind of a fan of those artsy-fartsy posed shots.  Plus, I'm in a Canadian sorta mood watching the Mets and Jays play a matinee in Montreal currently.

Some other '08 UD gems that are now part of my collection...

Like the Bay card, this awesome card of Garrett Atkins was among the many cards I set aside in my most recent Just Commons cart.  I guess I can remove it now!  Tons of action on this one; lots to like.

A cloud of dust accompanies Yunel Escobar on his dive back into first base.  Love this one.

I was very happy to see this card as I shuffled through the stack of goodies that Shane sent.  I have a copy of this one in my Ryan Zimmerman collection presently, and can now add one to my frankenset.

Man, I really dig this card, but it will but placed into my Schilling collection rather than the Horizontal set.  The Sox had some pretty extraordinary cards in '08 UD, that's for sure.  Remember this one?  Still one of the greatest baseball cards I've ever seen.

Aside from the triumphant 2008 set, one of Upper Deck's real crown jewels was its 1993 base set.

These cards took 'glossy' to an all-new level.  And the photography--especially that of the landscape cards--was second to none.  I've probably looked over this Todd Hundley card a hundred times, but only now do I notice the random upturned leg on the right edge of the frame.  I'm extremely happy to have a spare copy of this to add to the frankenset now!

In the pre-interleague days, this is what happened when Rangers and Pirates crossed paths!  This card is a must for my horizontal set, and I believe it might be the second card of Billy Ripken to make the cut.

John Orton only played five big league seasons and produced a grand total of 4 home runs in 401 ABs, but none of that matters when cards are being considered for the Horizontal Heroes collection.  Orton is a welcome addition.

Perhaps the best known or most beloved of Walt Weiss' cards is his '91 Topps masterpiece, but the Colorado Rockies manager was the subject of quite a few more brilliant baseball cards during his time.  This, obviously, being one of them.

Not to be outdone by the competition, Topps played an ace during the '93 collecting season, too, with their Stadium Club offering.  Of course, we all know that TSC offered full-bleed photography that took a back seat to no one.

As a Mets fan, Mike Gallego is a Yankee I don't feel yucky about including in any sort of frankenset project. And when he's got a card that looks like this one, it makes the call that much easier.

Looking at them now, these cards probably could've done without the little baseball graphic and the gold-embossed jet trail.  Less is more; let the photo do its thing with as little interference as possible.  Still, it's one of my favorite Stadium Club sets of them all since it's the first TSC edition I seriously collected as a kid.

A great horizontal card doesn't have to hold corner-to-corner action or acrobatic feats to be great.  Take this Wayne Kirby piece.  The facade of the old Municipal Stadium in the background makes this card a keeper.

Score brand was always good for some unique horitzontal cards throughout their base sets.

I mentioned earlier that I'm watching the Mets/Jays game being played in Montreal, and one of the on-air guests during the telecast was this guy, Darrin Fletcher.  He was a member of the '94 Expos team that built a 74-40 record before the plug was pulled on the season.  Fletcher was an All-Star for the only time in his career during '94.

Here's another guy who's been featured on his fair share of landscape cards, a few of which have already made the cut for my collection.  But, of them all, this might be Darryl Hamilton's best.  Here, Darryl takes a moment with the fans at Camden Yards.

Lenny Dykstra was an intense dude on the ball field, and that's the main reason why I think this is such an effective card of Nails.  Alas, since Lenny is a guy I collect, this'll go into the player collection box.  Not the worst thing in the world, mind you.

In 1994, Fleer began mixing horizontal cards into their base set.  A wise decision, I'd say.

I think I'll go on record and state that '94 Fleer is the best set Fleer ever produced--not counting Ultra, of course.

It's a shame that all the cards within unopened packs of mid-90's product are probably glued together thanks to the super-glossy, over-the-top sheen that these babies were coated with.  Otherwise, I'd love to bust a box of '94 fleer.

This'll probably be my second card of Benito Santiago to make the set.  But that was Benito the Padre and this is Benito the Marlin.

Ah, but I've saved the best for last...

It's true: Babe Ruth brought children joy with his big heart and his power-packed bat.  And now he'll be bringing joy to my horizontal card frankenset with this beaut.  A most appropriate card to wrap up the post, don't you think?

Shane, you're a good man and great and generous trading partner.  I'll definitely look forward to future exchanges!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Four Topps, #611

Hey, it's been a while, so let's fire up another edition on my longest-running feature, Four Topps.  For the uninitiated, this little exercise takes a peek at a random card number--provided by the great the most beloved and influential Topps sets from my childhood (1987-1990).

Today's number is 611 and, while it may seem harmless enough, it offers us a first-time occurrence for a Four Topps post.

Intrigued?  Well, read on, dear reader!


And right off the bat, we've got our first.  As in the first time an All-Star subset card has made an appearance in this feature.  And, for my money, '87 Topps gave us one of the best looking designs for an All-Star card.  The tri-colored stars at the bottom and and the nice big League emblem in the top left corner makes these things really pop.  Hey, Stat Man:  Puckett finished the '86 season tied for sixth in the AL with 31 home runs.

Now we begin the procession of Yankees.  The background of this card makes it appear as though Tommy John is pitching inside an aquarium.  And, of course, this was well before any Flordia/Miami Marlins and their big fish tank ballpark existed.  This is John's next-to-last Topps card, as he would appear for the final time in the '89 set. Hey, Stat Man:  Twirled a two-hit shutout in Detroit on August 8, 1987; a 7-0 New York win.

Live from the batting cage, it's Don Slaught!  Ya know, that name just sounds like a catcher from the '80s, doesn't it?  It also rings kind of familiar to this little project.  Oh wait, that's because Don's 1987 Topps card made an appearance in the Dec. 21 edition of Four Topps.  Not only that, he won first prize for card No. 308. Lucky devil!  Hey, Stat Man:  Don batted .283 with 9 homers in '88, his first season in the Bronx.

The Yankee trifecta concludes with a former Met, Walt Terrell.  The one thing this card's got going for it is the bit of info on the back: "On August 6, 1983 he became the first pitcher in NY Mets' team history to belt 2 Home Runs in one game."  Cool nugget of info.  It also cracks me up how Topps decides to capitalize such random terms such as "Home Runs" as if that were a proper thing.  And, call me crazy, but I kinda like the whole purple thing that the borders on the 1990 Yankees cards got goin' on.  Hey, Stat Man:  Posted a combined 11-18 mark in 32 total starts in 1989 with the Padres and Yankees.

And the Winner Is:  A little part of me thinks it would be cheating to award the top spot to the lone All-Star card of the batch.  With that in mind, I, here and now, have decided to abstain from choosing an All-Star subset card for any single number unless all four cards are All-Star cards and I have no other choice.

Okay, now that we've cleared that up, I will give the nod to the '88 Tommy John, with Slaught getting the runner-up position.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Have You Met...? A Five Pack of Mets

Some All-Time Mets for my on-going project came my way late last week, courtesy of Mr. Yeo at One Man's Junk (Wax).  A pleasant surprise, to be sure!

We'll start with the head of the alphabet and this '79 Bob Apodaca.  Dac spent five years in the big leagues, all as a reliever and all with the Amazins.  An interesting note about this card is that Apodaca didn't throw a single pitch during the '78 season due to an elbow injury sustained during spring training.  As a matter of fact, he wouldn't throw another major league pitch--period.  His final action, therefore, was during the '77 season. Strangely enough, he also got a card in the '80 Topps set.

Apodaca, who nowadays earns a paycheck as a pitching instructor in the Rockies organization, previously served as the Mets' pitching coach during the Bobby Valentine managerial years.  More on Bobby V in a bit.

Two men named Mike Marshall logged major league time as a member of the New York Mets.  One was a longtime Dodger outfielder/first baseman who played 53 games for the Mets in 1990.  And the other, pictured on the above '82 Fleer, is Mike G. Marshall, a reliever whose lone season in Flushing coincided with this big league swan song.  Marshall appeared in 20 games for the Mets in 1981, posting a 3-2 mark with a 2.61 ERA.

I've now got both Mike Marshalls in Mets history covered in my All-Time Mets Project.  All I need to do is win the lottery and I can die in peace!

Jackson Todd is one of those special kind of guys going through life with a first name that oughta be a last name and a last name that oughta be a first name.  Beyond that, Todd's tenure as a Metropolitan spanned exactly 19 games during the 1977 season.  The back of the card informs us that Todd's first major league start and first major league win occurred on May 19, 1977, when he fanned five Giants in 7 2/3 innings of a 4-3 New York victory.

Like the Todd card, this Bobby V. comes from the '78 Topps set.  Interesting that both are badly centered side-to-side.  No matter, that sort of thing doesn't bug me too much for a project like.  I can always upgrade at a later time, but I won't lose any sleep if it never happens.

Once a big-time prospect in the Dodgers system, Bobby joined the Mets via San Diego during the '77 season.  He played 42 games for the '77 Mets and put up a woeful .133 clip over 83 ABs (11-for-83, 2 XBH, 3 RBIs).

This is one of two Topps cards of Valentine as Met (at least during his playing days); he also appeared as a Met in the 1979 set.  He would take over as Mets skipper late in the '96 season and would eventually get a manager card in both the 2001 and '02 Topps sets.  I'm still chasing after one of those for the Project, by the way.

And then we've got this tri-panel Mets Prospects card from '79 Topps.  I'm puzzled and troubled by this one all at once.  Why are the photos on the '79 Prospects cards in black and white?  One of life's great card-collecting mysteries I suppose.

Each player on this card would make a great solo addition to the ATMP, but I'm not sure if I want to accept a multi-player card as an entry into the binder.  Especially if it's not in color.  I think Norman might have a Fleer card in the '81 or '82 set, but I don't believe either Berenguer or Bernard has a Mets card other than this.  A shame, really.  Oh well, it's still a pretty good card to have in my Mets collection, even if I'm not sold on its feasibility for my uber-selective ATMP binder.

Thanks for the cards, Jeff!  Mets cards of any era and any player are always welcome 'round these parts, especially those lacking from my checklist...


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Not Heritage

I've been in a 2014 Heritage cocoon for over a week now, and I guess I should come out and take a breath, no?

Bringing me back to earth is this pack of 1988 Fleer that came in one of those repack boxes that my local hobby shop sells.  Every once in a while they'll throw a junk wax pack in there because, well, how else are you gonna get rid of them?

Anyhow, it's still fun to open a pack of cards, no matter the brand or the year.  So let's check it out!

#527 -- Franklin Stubbs, Dodgers

The first card out of the pack.  Fitting on this day, I suppose, as the Dodgers are fresh off a two-game sweep of the Snakes this weekend in Australia.

In case you forgot, '88 Fleer isn't for the faint of heart.  It's got a weird patriotic candystriper thing going on for it.  I don't necessarily hate it, but it doesn't stand up well to the test of time.

#546 -- David Palmer, Braves
#572 -- Larry Sheets, Orioles

#626 -- SuperStar Specials (All Star Righties)

I really like the names on this card.  But, good Lord, who was in charge of centering the photo?!  Sheesh.

#449 -- Billy Hatcher, Astros
#386 -- Rey Quinones, Mariners

#641 -- Major League Prospects (Mark Grace/Darrin Jackson)

Card of the pack?  At the risk of spoiling it: Yes!  The man who had the most hits and most doubles of any player during the decade of the '90s.  Grace also had a stand-alone card in the '88 Update set.  But, this is his 'true' Fleer rookie.

#67 -- Dan Petry, Tigers
#502 -- Johnny Ray, Angels
#478 -- Jeff Russell, Rangers
#99 -- Jose Uribe, Giants

#294 -- Terry Steinbach, Athletics

This is a pretty neat photo of the longtime Oakland catcher.  There are way too many colors -- most of which are clashing with one another -- but this card is A-OK in my book.

#580 -- Joey Cora, Padres

The baby-faced Cora amusing himself with a baseball.  I'm guessing this is his rookie, which undoubteldy means something to someone, somewhere.  Whatever, I think it's a pretty cool card of the 11-year big leaguer.

#358 -- Al Nipper, Red Sox

#136 -- Keith Hernandez, Mets

We finish the pack with Jerry Seinfeld's buddy, Mr. Keith Hernandez.  And this is a Keith card I didn't already own, so that's a bonus for moi.

[Ed. Note: I'll spare you the sticker card.  It wasn't memorable and, further, it has all sorts of stains and printing blemishes on it.]

All in all, I'm thinking this was/is a pretty good pack of '88 Fleer.  Then again, I think it might be the first-ever pack of the stuff I ever opened, so I can't genuinely nor accurately gauge that assumption.  But, I got a Mark Grace rookie and a Keith Hernandez card, so that qualifies as 'good' in my book!

Now then, back to my Heritage haze...


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Small Wonders and Other Delights

Big shocker, I picked up a few more rack packs of 2014 Heritage yesterday.  Three more to be exact.  The newsworthy item in this case is that these packs came from Target.  It was the first time I saw the new Heritage cards at the Bullseye store.  And, just like their blue-themed cousins, Target only had rack packs; no blasters or loose packs, etc.  Kinda strange if you ask me.

Among the marquee-worthy items from this latest pack break is the above SP of Matt Harvey.  It's the lone short print that my trio of packs netted, but, for this Mets fanatic, it's a damn good one to get!  Sure, it's Harvey, but can you beat that cap?  Great job by Topps!

All right, now we're talkin'!  It's no secret that I'm nutty for the colored-bordered variations in Heritage.  Red, blue, black...whatever.  Lemme at 'em!  The odds for the red parallels are stated at 1:4 packs, but I nabbed two in three packs.  The Jeter was an especially satisfying pull since this season will be his swan song (in case you haven't heard a thousand-billion times).

You may be curious about the title of this post, specifically what "small wonders" we might be alluding to...

Well, this marks the first time I've been lucky enough to yank one of the "super rare" Heritage minis from a pack. The cards are numbered to 100, and this one is 027/100.  Stated odds of finding one of these in a random rack pack are 1:108.

This mini Mauer was definitely a cool and most unexpected find, to say the least.

But, this wasn't even the smallest card from this particular pack rip!

Another pretty tough pull are these '65 Bazooka minis, seeded 1:104 'jumbo' packs.  The 25-card checklist is loaded with all the usual stars as well as the trendy up-and-comers.  I guess Cole would fall into the latter category.  Not the sexiest name I coulda drawn, but Cole does have the tools to be a superstar.

Aside from the three packs, I also did a little bit of eBay shopping.  I was trying to get a Puig short print on the cheap.  I, of course, failed because I refused to cross a certain price threshold.  But, from the same seller, I wound up with a couple pretty good consolation prizes.

I love this card.  Might be my favorite from all the cards I've seen thus far from '14 Heritage.  The goofy photo choice does a great job of capturing the essence of this young ace's personality.  Plus, it's a rookie cup card and a short print.

And, well, the other recent pick up...

Braun's a piece of the checklist, so I have no choice.  Could Topps have exhibited the decency and better judgment not to put such a person in the short-print checklist?  Yes.  Yes, they could have.  But, it is what it is. At least I don't have to bother chasing after it anymore.

Enjoy the weekend, folks!  And happy Heritage hunting!