Monday, September 29, 2014

A Coke, A Smile, and Some Mets

For all but 10 teams, Sunday marked the end of another baseball season.  And if you're a Mets fan like me, it's another losing season in the books for a franchise that has essentially been stuck in neutral since it won the NL East in 2006.

Never mind all that, though, as baseball cards have no offseason, thankfully.  That's reason enough for a big smile, right Joel?

And, lucky for me, the thoughtfully Mets-centric PWEs continue to trickle into Clubhouse HQ, also known as Kaz Manor here in Delaware.

Today's installment arrived courtesy of Pat's Hot Corner Cards.  Pat is surely ready to rock 'n roll with his Motown Bengals this postseason.  I wish them well, as David Price, Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera helped me to a championship in my fantasy league this season.

The highlight of this PWE was a pair of cards from the 1981 Coca-Cola Mets team set.  These are the first Coca-Cola team set cards in my Mets collection.

Would it kill Topps and/or Coke to reintroduce this type of marketing into the marketplace today?  One way to give kids the baseball card bug is to shove these things into as many food and drink packages as you can.  It worked on me, after all.

But, I guess I'm assuming Topps or any other company even bothers to market to kids anymore.  Where's the profit in that, after all?  Sorry to be cynical, by the way.

Along with the Coke cardboard, was another addition to my David Wright collection...

Never one to wave the pom-poms for Panini's Triple Play product, I'll never turn my nose up at a Mets card, especially one of the "Face of the Franchise."

Lastly, Pat hit the bullseye with a Horizontal Heroes frankenset need:

Needed this number (149) plus it's a sneaky way of getting an additional Mets card into the set without actually putting an additional Mets card into the set.

The beauty of this card--like many from Stadium Club--is that this one coulda been a card of either of the players pictured without anyone batting an eye.

Plus, you gotta love the out-of-focus retired number of Casey Stengel on the outfield wall.  Man, I miss Shea.

A dandy quartet of cards, Pat.  Thanks again, and good luck to your Tigers!


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Buffalo Football Gameday, 2014: Week 4

Coming off a humbling loss at Ralph Wilson Stadium last Sunday, the Buffalo Bills (2-1) begin a two-game road trip this afternoon against yet another familiar face.

Last week, Buffalo suffered a 22-10 setback against the surging San Diego Chargers, whose coaching staff includes offensive coordinator Frank Reich, a former-Bill who backed up Jim Kelly during the Super Bowl runs of the '90s.

With today's matchup, Bills fans don't have to go back quite so far in team annals to find a Buffalo connection, as Ryan Fitzpatrick will lead the Houston Texans (2-1) into battle against his old team in a 1 p.m. kickoff at NRG Stadium.

Both teams sport identical records and both took their first loss in Week 3.  The Texans were rolled by the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, 30-17, as Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions.  The Texans were without Arian Foster, who sat out the game with a bum hamstring.

Fitzpatrick, a former seventh-round draft selection out of Harvard by the St. Louis Rams, played four years in Buffalo, compiling 11,645 yards, 80 TDs and a 20-33 record between 2009 and 2012.  He ranks fourth all-time in Bills history in passing yards and third in passing touchdowns, trailing only Jim Kelly and Joe Ferguson in the latter category.

Remarkably, Fitzpatrick became just the second passer in Bills history with three consecutive 3,000-yard seasons when he accomplished the feat, 2010-2012.  The only other QB to do it was Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, who strung together five straight 3,000-yard campaigns between 1991 and 1995.

And, as the back of this 2012 Topps relic card points out, Fitzpatrick also holds the Buffalo record with a 98-yard scoring strike, as he hooked up with Terrell Owens for the historic score back in November of 2009 in Jacksonville.

Accolades aside, most Bills fans couldn't wait to move beyond Fitzpatrick following another underwhelming season by the team in 2012.  Buffalo never won more than six games in any of Fitzpatrick's four seasons, and most pointed to the QB position as a leading culprit.  [Ed. Note: Your's truly was not among them, as I always supported Fitz and still consider myself a fan of his presently, but I digress.]

So now Buffalo is in season two of the EJ Manuel era while Houston is Fitzpatrick's second stop following a one-year stint as Tennessee's backup.  And it all comes full circle with today's critical conference matchup.  The winner will hold a 3-1 mark through the first quarter of the season and have an early edge in potential tie-breakers down the road.

The last time the Bills posted three wins through the season's first four games was 2011, when the team--behind Fitzpatrick--began 3-0 and 5-1 before losing nine of its final 10 games.

The Texans are a three-point home favorite for today's contest.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Four Topps, #246

Four Topps.  It's been a while.  Shall we?  Let's!

For those unfamiliar, the foundations of my youthful collecting days were built upon the Topps sets from 1987 through 1990.  So, I thought it'd be fun to compare a certain card number from each of the four sets, with providing us with the number du jour.

I get it: Blah, junk wax!  Just think of it as the cardboard equivalent of dressing up your vegetables in an effort to get your to eat them more often.  No matter, I still love these four sets today as much as I did back then.

As you can tell from the above image, we've been blessed with card No. 246, which is destined to provide us with four memorable pieces, right?

Here we go...


An empty stadium; tight and possibly itchy baseball pants; and some random dude in plain clothes wandering about in the background.  These are the things of '87 Topps!  And all captured within the iconic wood-grain border.  Dwyer was nearly at the end of his big league journey here.  This is his next-to-last Topps card, as his swan song would come in the '88 set.  Hey, Stat Man: Powered eight home runs in 160 ABs for the O's in 1986.


Does it get any better than a "Future Stars" card from 1987 or '88 Topps?  Others must agree since Topps resurrected the subset in this year's flagship set.  Good for them.  Strangely enough, back in June we stumbled upon Campbell's 1989 card as part of this very featurette.  Sadly, that card and this one complete Campbell's run of Topps cards for his brief major league career.  Hey, Stat Man: Threw a complete-game seven-hitter for his first big league victory, Sep. 21, 1987 vs. Kansas City.


Back-to-back Mariners.  It must be a sign of something good for the M's, as they continue to battle for their first postseason appearance since 2001.  Anyhow, I don't know where the Mariners used to hold spring training, but it looks very remote and mountainous.  And, I'm not sure what those odd streaks are below Rey's right armpit. I'll have to go back and look at the card to see if it's a scanner phenomenon or what.  Hey, Stat Man:  Slugged 12 homers for the M's in 1988, equaling his total from the prior season.


I first became aware of Jim Eisenreich in his days as a member of the '93 National League champion Phillies, since they were a quasi-local team for me growing up.  Here, we have Jim's third Topps card, though for some reason he was left out of the '89 flagship set and had to settle for inclusion in that year's the Traded release. Hey, Stat Man: Set career-highs across the board in 1989, including base hits (139), extra-base hits (49) and stolen bases (27).

And the Winner Is:  A less-than-inspiring quartet of cards, but I'll award the crown for card No. 246 to the '90 Eisenreich.  It was a close call between that and the '88 Future Stars card of Campbell, but call me a sucker for the Kansas City baby blues.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Buffalo Football Sunday, 2014: Week 3

Since I was up in the football Holy Land (aka Buffalo, NY) last weekend, I did not get a chance to do a Week 2 edition of this feature.  It was an equally raucous and joyous atmosphere at good ol' Ralph Wilson Stadium last Sunday, as the Bills improved to 2-0 by dominating the Dolphins, 29-10.

Much to the surprise of Buffalo fans and NFL followers alike, the Bills have been very business-like in dismissing a pair of good football teams thus far.  A solid running game, steady QB play and a defense that hasn't given up a whole lot of ground have been the main ingredients.  Not too bad for a club that was projected by most 'experts' to be a bottom-five team in the league.

As Bills fans, though, we've seen this act before.  In 2011, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Co. got out of the gates 3-0 and 5-2 before completely collapsing over the season's final nine games.  Then there was the 2008 season, which saw Trent Edwards pilot Buffalo to a 5-1 start before gagging away eight of the final 10 games.  And, in 2003, Drew Bledsoe had the Bills flying high with two straight blowout victories to begin the campaign, including a 31-0 lashing of Tom Brady and the Pats.  Then someone pulled the plug, and that team, like the 2011 squad, finished 6-10.

In other words, I'm not getting too ahead of myself.  The NFL season is a 16-game meat grinder and only the strong (and lucky) survive.  I'm gonna do my best to stay cautiously optimistic about Doug Marrone's team and pray that this is the year that the league's longest-running playoff drought bites the dust.

In the meantime, it's one week at a time.  And this week's hurdle is the San Diego Chargers, who invade Orchard Park for a 1 p.m. kick.  The Chargers oh-by-the-way beat Richard Sherman and the Super Bowl-champion Seahawks last Sunday.  Buffalo's defense will have its hands full with Philip Rivers, who is slinging it around pretty good thus far.  Feature tailback Ryan Mathews won't play due to injury, but the Bolts will still present plenty of challenges for the Bills.

How about a Bills-Chargers connection?  San Diego's offensive coordinator is former Bills quarterback Frank Reich.  As you probably know, Reich engineered the greatest comeback in NFL history when he and the Bills overcame a 32-point deficit to shock Houston in the '92 Wild Card round.  Reich, a NY native, backed-up Jim Kelly for a decade in Buffalo and is still a fan favorite today.

Though, I won't be rooting for him this afternoon.

The Bills are 2.5-point favorites over the visiting Chargers.  I'm confident in this team and I'm hoping there is something to the research that shows West Coast teams play at a sizable disadvantage when they venture to the Eastern time zone.

Go Bills!


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Back in the Saddle!

Whew, it feels good to get back into the blogging routine after some time off.  I'm just about back on schedule with my life after taking a four-day weekend excursion up to Western New York for the home opener of the Buffalo Bills last week.  A great weekend and an awesome game, but it's back to the real world now.

Thankfully, baseball cards are a part of the real world, so that always helps to soften the blow.

Earning an assist with my transition back into normalcy is my pal Shane of Shoebox Legends, who hooked me up with a down-right awesome PWE full of Mets!

That 2011 Heritage Chrome parallel of Mets captain David Wright had been on my 'wish list' for at least a couple years now.  Lots of time thinking of grabbing a copy off COMC or eBay, etc., but it never worked itself out.  In the end, I'm glad it didn't because it's way cooler to get a card like this from a blogging buddy than some stranger or a website.

This is just the second Donn Clendenon card in my collection.  One of the heroes of the '69 Miracle Mets, Donn is captured chillin' by the batting cage on this '71 Topps classic.  A great card!

A pair of neat Piazza cards, both of which were lacking from my collection.  Bonus points since one of them is from the Pacific company; one of the lost gems of the gluttonous late '90s hobby landscape.

I don't know where Wilmer Flores fits into the Mets' blueprint beyond this year, but within the last week he really began to flash the offensive arsenal that he displayed at every level of the minors.  Back on Tuesday, he cracked a pair of homers and drove in six runs to fuel a Mets victory.  He's got a long way to go defensively, but just maybe he could be the answer for New York at SS.

Mackey and Maine round out what was a very cool assortment of Mets card spanning a large chunk of their history.

There's just something about a PWE that kinda puts bigger packages of cards to shame.  Not saying it isn't a special occasion when a big, fat mailer comes your way, but there is a certain amount of artistry that goes along with creating a fun and meaningful envelope of cards.

And, Shane, you painted a masterpiece with this one -- thanks!!


Friday, September 19, 2014

YdF (Yer d'Aily Fix)

2011 Heritage Minors Clubhouse Collection Relic

I've decided that I really like Travis d'Arnaud and, in accord with that, Travis d'Arnaud cards.  Obviously I'll be attempting to track down all his Mets issues, but I'm also keen on grabbing his minor league cards, draft pick cards, high school cards, cards of him on the toilet -- you name it.  [Ed. Note: Too far?]  This one I got off eBay a couple weeks ago for a couple bucks shipped.  Not too shabby!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Evolution of a Collector

It's kinda funny how I've gone through a succession of phases in terms of my collecting habits.  I guess we all go through it, but I haven't really sat down to think about my hobby history.  Until recently, that is.

When I first began collecting cards, I was a team collector--all teams, but mostly centered on the Mets.  As I got a little older, I began to just hunt for the star players, neglecting my team-collecting roots.  A long hiatus from the hobby followed, but when I picked it back up I was still on the star search, so to speak.  Beginning in 2010, I added set collecting as one of my aims.  And, within the past year, I've jumped onto the team collector bandwagon pretty hard, all the while still maintaining all my player and set-collecting pursuits.

So, I guess I'm all over the place.  Then again, why limit yourself if you don't have to, right?

The thing that got me thinking about my evolution as a collector was a trade I completed recently with Weston D. of Fantastic Catch.  My recent obsession with Zistle and, therefore, my Mets collection kinda veered me away from my set collecting goals somewhat.  Specifically when it comes to my pursuit of some insert and parallel sets.

And that's where Weston comes into the picture, re-focusing me and reminding me why I began chasing down some of these sets in the first place.

For instance, the 2012 Heritage black parallel of Beltran you see above.  I'm not trying to complete the 100-card retail-only variation set, per se, though I certainly wouldn't mind it!  Rather, I wanted to complete a few pages of the black-borded cards for my 2012 Heritage binder.  I'm now just one off from four complete pages thanks to Weston.

A short print from 2011 Heritage is always a welcome sight in any trade package.  It's been a while since I've added on any from the '11 set.  If I ever track down all 500 cards of this edition of Heritage, I'll probably throw myself a party.

Ah, Cognac.  I'm not chasing these down with any ferocity, yet I can't help but want to grab as many as I can, just to see how far I might get.

Yup, still working my way through the 2013 throwback minis from the Topps flagship product.  Particularly, that Ripken had been very vexing, as it was the lone Series 1 card I hadn't corralled.

With these five, I'm just eight shy of putting together all 100 cards from the '72 minis insert set.

But, then there's the Update Series...

I was very excited to see the Harper fall out of the package, as his cards are always a pain to track down. You da man, Weston!  Coincidentally, I'm also down to needing eight more cards for this set.

But, it wasn't all just cards for my various set-completion quests.  I also got my fix of Mets in this package, as well.

Lovin' that funky Beltran insert from 2007 Fleer and also the 2013 Topps Debut card of Travis d'Arnaud, who is fast becoming one my favorite 'new' Mets.  He, of course, was one of the pieces that Mets got in the R.A. Dickey trade.

Welp, you outdid yourself with this one, Weston.  Thanks for--dare I say--a fantastic trade!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Buffalo Football Sunday, 2014: Week 1

It's finally here: NFL, Week 1.  While I'd be lying if I said I was bullish on the chances of the 2014 Buffalo Bills snapping the franchise's 14-year playoff drought, I'm out-of-my-mind excited for the season.  Of course, I've said the same thing every year for the past 23 Septembers and have always been disappointed following the final snap of the season.  Regardless, NFL football is just one of those intoxicating things.  And, in particular, the Bills, like all my favorite sports teams, are an unshakable love affair.

Anyhow, a quick note that the Bills open the season this afternoon at Solider Field with a 1 p.m. kickoff versus the Chicago Bears.  The Bills have never won at Soldier Field and the Bears are pretty significant favorites today (a touchdown or more depending on which service you consult).  To be honest, I chalked this one up as an 'L' when I did my preseason W/L breakdown of this year's schedule.  But that doesn't mean I won't be rooting hard and yelling at the TV between 1 and 4 p.m. today.

My final score prediction: Bears 23, Bills 16.

Here's to hoping I'm wrong...

Go Bills!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

YDF, 9.3.14

2014 Topps Heritage Action Photo Variation #84

At the last card show I attended, I did some heavy-duty dime box diving for 2014 Heritage base cards and eventually came up with just north of 100 new ones towards my set.  Mixed in with the regular assortment of cards from the 425-card non-SP set was this 'action photo variation' of Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu.  A no-brainer purchase for 10-cents, naturally.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor of Love

Happy Labor Day, gang!

I know I've mentioned on more than one occasion my new 'labor of love' as it pertains to the hobby: Zistle.  I'm still in the process of scanning and adding cards to my Zistle library.  It's definitely become the most time-consuming aspect of my card-collecting life these days.  Pretty much any free time I have to dedicate to my collection is essentially hogged up by Zistle.  Not that I'm complaining or anything, just stating a fact.  After all, it's pretty addicting and I enjoy being able to electronically flip through my collection of Mets cards via the website.

The person I can thank for getting me hooked into the Zistle coma is my buddy Shane of Shoebox Legends. The first time I traded with Shane I was able to figure out which Red Sox cards he lacked by going through his meticulous custom collection on Zistle.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Since then, Shane and I have been swapping padded mailers back and forth.  Recently, I was the recipient of a pretty awesome package that included, among other things, the sweet Strawberry uncirculated refractor you see above.  A most excellent and generous gesture!

Shane mentioned he picked up the Strawberry card from one of his favorite eBay sellers, along with this David Wright 'Future Reflections' beauty...

A couple of great cards of perhaps the two best position players the Mets ever produced through their own scouting and farm system development.

Elsewhere on the Mets front:

These are the first two Hostess cards in my collection.  Both are in near-perfect shape, too.  Not exactly a given for cards that were once the part of a box of snack cakes from nearly 40 years ago!

On the other hand...

A couple of well-loved vintage cards of the Franchise.  The '72 probably had been through some pretty intense flipping wars back in the day, while somebody felt the '73 needed to feature Tom's uniform number.

Oh well, beat-up, written-on or wrinkled-up, any and all Seavers cards are welcome in the Clubhouse!

Keeping in the vintage vain...

A pair off my '77 want list!  Always a nice surprise to receive some help for my ongoing quest to complete this 37-year-old set.

Zistle is such a valuable tool because it allows other collectors to see what you've got and what you don't got when it comes to a certain player.  Well, I was able to log all my Pedro Martinez cards a few weeks back and Shane was good enough to go through the list and check out what I was missing.  The result was a batch of awesome, career-spanning cards of the future HOFer.

A pretty big deal to get Pedro's first Topps card plus the gold version!  Can't believe I didn't have his Topps rookie already.

I really like '94 Fleer, and this one is from the '94 Update set.

Finest is the craze of the present-day collecting world, and for good reason.  This year's product features one of the best base card designs in recent memory.  Plus it's loaded with cool inserts that have a throwback vibe to them.  But, you still can't beat the originals, right?

Just when you thought you had finally seen every type of card that Pacific ever produced.  Who am I kidding; I'll probably depart this earth before I reach the bottom of the well that is Pacific's late '90s early '00s baseball card output.

And the capper on the package sent over by Shane was a prolific offering of Gabe Kapler cards for my 'Gabriel' collection in honor of my little son, who will be turning 8 months tomorrow!

Great assortment here.  Everything from his rookie year in Detroit through his time as a Rockie later in his career.

Thanks for putting so much thought into this latest installment of cards, Shane!  And, FYI, the Stadium Club hockey pack you included had a Super Mario card plus a Hull, MacTavish, Coffey and even a Trottier!  Talk about a hot pack!  You may hook me into hockey collecting yet.

But, that's a labor of love for another day.