Thursday, September 24, 2009

Uncle Bill, The Mick and Me

I have been remiss in thanking Greg from Night Owl Cards for his part of our trade a few weeks back. His half was a pleasant surprise that got me 22% of the way towards a complete 2007 Topps set for my son. I would have posted my thanks sooner; however I have unfortunately been part of a high profile federal case in my home state. No shenanigans on my part, yet I have had to testify and play the game with the local fish wrapper. So, whilst the world she sleeps, tis best I share my thanks. For once the morning comes, they won't be firing blanks.

Uncle Bill, The Mick and Me

Uncle Bill was born in 1948, youngest of four, son to a housewife and bus driver. His bedroom, replete with Hopalong Cassidy flooring, was a converted bathroom of a small house resting blocks from DePauw University. By my mother’s account, Uncle Bill was a magician of mathematics, a seer of statistics, so it is no wonder he was drawn to baseball.

Coming from a small town situated amidst St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit and Cincinnati, he eschewed the regional teams, and cheered for those damn Yankees. Even though I never met my grandfather, I am sure this rancorously irritated him, as he was a life long White Sox fan. To make matters worse, like many boys of his era, Uncle Bill was a die hard Mantle fan.

I have heard countless stories of Uncle Bill, sitting on the family room floor, playing with his baseball cards, nearly all of them Yankees, and mostly those were Mantles. I first heard this legend from my grandmother when I was a 12 year old budding collector; for she saw my similar fascination, thus saw Uncle Bill in me. I listened intently and my ears burned with the mere whisper of the word “Mantle.” I immediately inquired as to the whereabouts of Uncle Bill’s collection.

My grandmother shrugged to my mother, turned to me and said she knew not their location. Sadly, no one knew where the cards were because
not long after The Mick hung up his cleats, Uncle Bill was killed in a car accident.

For the next four years, I spent countless summer days searching the house from the cellar to the rafters. I looked in crawlspaces, opened every box I found, searched the rickety detached garage and went as far as looking in the air registers. Fruitless, I’d sit at night in my Uncle’s room, gazing out the window at the nearby street lamp, wondering where his cards had gone. Then one night, I looked across the room at Uncle Bill’s chest of drawers.

In all my searching, I had never looked there because it felt like I would be invading his privacy or would awaken his ghost. It felt taboo. Then one day, I mustered the courage, opened the drawers and found his clothes still neatly folded, waiting for him to come home. The final drawer I opened contained no cards, but only a plastic bag which held his possessions from the night he was killed. A wallet, some pocket change and a watch.

Holding Uncle Bill's watch in my hands, I knew that my quest was over, and frankly, it didn’t matter anymore because I realized it never was about the cards. It was about trying to put my fingers on something tangible from an uncle I had been so close to, yet had never met.

Two decades later, I sat in my own bedroom, holding a small box of cards I had received in trade. I flipped through the glossy, black bordered cards and then I stopped, frozen. For the first time in ages, I felt emotion from a baseball card. In my hands was the first Topps Mantle card I had ever held, a 2007 Topps #7 Mantle. I immediately flipped the card over and poured through the statistics, relishing the red italics and reading the biographical information. The Mick’s height, weight, date of birth was listed, but no date of death. I grinned, then mouthed, “It’s like he’s still playing.” I believe Uncle Bill would have liked that.

I know Greg put those 2007 Topps cards in the box, but I’d like to think Uncle Bill slipped the Mantle in just for me. That card now sits in my dresser drawer, next to my Uncle Bill’s watch.

Monday, September 21, 2009

To Keep a Set or To Break a Set

Is that the question?

A few years ago, thanks to my father and his retirement hobby of perusing Floridian garage sales, I came in to possession of a complete set of 1980 Topps Super. The 5 x 7 cards are in excellent shape (i.e., NR-MINT to all you Buckett-ers) and it came with a not so near mint original display box.

Anyways, I am not one to have odd ball cards (especially non-standard size), and these cards have sat idly in a closet since I received them, and currently, they reside in my nightstand. Where don't I have cards stashed?

So, after reviewing some want lists, I noticed that a few people are actually on the lookout for these cards (i.e., Olan Mills portraits). Now, here is the big question. Do I keep a set that I do not care about, or do I break the set to help others complete their collections? It seems almost unholy to break a set (not that it shouldn't be to me because I unknowlingly broke both a 1984 Milton Bradley and a 1984 Drakes set when I shipped some cards off to Night Owl - don't worry, their yours!).

I guess I'm just looking for some popular opinion on the subject.

Should I keep the set intact with the box, or disperse these monstrosities across the nation?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Collectors - Get on My Trade Radar!

Since entering the card blogosphere, I have successfully completed one trade with Night Owl, which was my first trade in over 20 years. It was a pleasant experience that I will write about in the future.

In the meantime, I need help identifying future trade partners. Perhaps I am doing this backwards, but if I know someone is watching/reading and I know what they want, then it is easier for me to cull my collection to help them complete theirs. I visit many sites daily, yet, I don't always hit the want lists. I guess I'm more of a "have list" kind of guy.

So, if you're interested in trades, drop a comment and let me know what you are interested in:

1. Sets (Make, Type and Year)
2. Players
3. Teams

I have a guesstimate of around 250,000 cards from the 50s until around 2000. I have lots of oddball cards, and plenty of mainstream. If anything, just help me out by getting yourself on my radar.

So far, the following collectors have been interested...

1. Night Owl - Dodgers & Ron Cey
2. GCRL - Dodgers
3. Collective Troll - Rays
4. Captain Canuck - ???

Currently, I am working on 07 and 08 Topps for my kids, but I'll never turn down a card from 1972 and before (yeah, I won't hold my breath!).

Thanks for helping me out!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Homemade Solution to a Card Storage Problem

Since my wife lost her job about two months ago, we have been strapped for cash and are always on the lookout for cost cutting measures. One day I was going to the post office and saw the local card shop a block from my office. I thought to myself that I should stop in and look for some card storage boxes.

About 3 years ago, my cards underwent a collector’s worst nightmare due to a faulty hot water heater in the apartment above mine. Without going too much into a future “horror” post, I ended up losing three of my 3200 count boxes to water damage. Thankfully, mainly the boxes took the brunt of the soaking, and I ended up only losing about 1,000 cards to hot, steamy, wet water. One day, you will cringe at this story and from the pictures…

Anyways, I hopped into the local card shop and asked for 3200 count boxes. “Four dollars per box.” he says. My first thought was no way could that be right. So, I smiled, milled around, made some small talk, and then bolted for the door like Vince Coleman on greenies. I know times have to be tough on brick and mortar card shops, but I just cannot fathom paying $4 for a cardboard box, especially when my family is scraping by.

Next I turned to the trusty internet for all my shopping needs. I figured I had to be able to find prices better than $4, and I did, but not by much. I found 3200 count boxes for $2.75 to $3.50 each, but then you’ve got to tack on S&H. I was able to locate the desired boxes for around $1.25 each, but you had to buy at least 25 of them. Ugh.

Tired of having my hot water heater rescued cards stacked vertically in moving boxes, I had to come up with a solution, and then it dawned on me. Right in front of me at work was the answer to my cheapskate prayers. Every office has them, and usually they are cast aside to the dump or recycling bin. Paper boxes!

Why hadn’t I thought of this before? They are sturdy, tough and have lids, but they are a tad oversized. So, I grabbed a box cutter and lopped off the upper portion, leaving a 4.5-inch deep box, with a 3-inch deep lid. Using the lopped off portion, I created row partitions.

Here are some shots of the handiwork:

Look familiar?

The rescued cards have a new home!

Not bad for free. Each box holds six 600 count rows for a total of 3,600 cards. So, if times are tight in your house, create your own card boxes and save yourself some cash (to spend on more cards!).

Topps Cards That Never Were: 1976 and 1977 Frank Robinson

Life is yet again making a major intrusion into such frivolities and luxuries like baseball cards and breathing. As a consequence, my participation in the card world suffers mightily. That's about all you'll get out of me because I do not like mixing professional me with the 12 year old lurking inside of me who is waiting for a pack of 87 Topps.

So, I'll have to return to the old standby of cards that never were. I have a semi backlog now, and it seems to be sufficient blog fodder. Moving on, today's candidate is the great Frank Robinson. Frank has one of the few distinct honors of being dissed in not one, but two sets of Topps cards. Apparently Topps thought a tiny head shot of him on the team cards was sufficient for a Hall of Famer, but I disagree. Mr. Robinson was one of the best to ever play the game, and he would second that comment in a heartbeat.

Always overshadowed by Aaron, Mays and Mantle, Robinson never really got his due. Sure, he was (in my opinion) the Barry Bonds of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Not because of ROIDS, but because Frank does have a rather acerbic personality.

Alas, the end of Frank's playing career was coupled with the beginning of his managerial career. It took until 1975 for Frank to be named the first black manager in MLB history, but he had to be a player manager first. I guess he had to "prove" himself as a player/manager before becoming a full manager. I always wondered if it was because he was an awesome player, or because he was black that he had to be a player/manager first...

He looks so non-Frank Robinson in this picture...

And here's to you Mr. Robinson

Here are Frank's stats from 1975 and 1976:

1975 Indians
1976 Indians 36

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The 81 Donruss Enigma

Since I began inventorying all of my cards, I’ve started to pay attention to what is in the background on each card. Like my last post on Mario Ramirez and the incredibly shrinking Sid Monge, I noticed that 1981 Donruss has an interesting quirk.

Either Donruss was headquartered in Chicago, or they had zero budget to send their apparently sole photographer to games other than those played at Comiskey and Wrigley. Let’s do a little statistical case study…

I grabbed a random stack of 81 Donruss, and it turned out to be 56 cards. Thirty-three of the cards are of National League players and 23 are of American Leaguers. Of all 56 players, there are three White Sox and zero Cubs. Also, of those 56, all but 3 are in their road uniforms. Those not in their road unis? White Sox.

So, judging by backgrounds, 30 of the 33 NLers are at Wrigley, with the remaining three in non-descript dugouts. Of the 23 ALers, all 23 are at Comiskey.

I’m sure there has to be some card photography in this set that was not taken at Wrigley or Comiskey, but so far, I haven’t found any!





Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Seeing Doubles

I have been strangely silent the last few weeks, as I have fallen victim to responsibility! Alas, I have a few spare moments to share an odd card I recently inventoried. Yes, inventoried.

Of late, I have been using my spare time to record every dang card I have.
Is it for posterity? No. Is it for insurance reasons? Hmm, where are those matches? Is it for the fun of it? It was, but now it is a chore, a laborious chore. Is it for trades? Ding, ding, we have a wiener.

Having sent some cards to Night Owl a week or so ago, got me thinking about what I have and what I may be able to trade/give to others who are trying to complete their collections. After one box, and about 5,000 cards later, I am convinced I have too many cards. I should just keep the complete sets, pick out the HOFers and burn the rest. But, but, but, I just can’t do that. If I know another collector needs something, I must give my cards to them for their collection, rather than releasing toxic Sportsflic gasses into the atmosphere.

So, as I said, I’ve made it through 1 random box, and have about 39 more to go. One day I will have my collection inventoried for all of you to sift through and call dibs on. But, in the meantime, I found a rather peculiar card during my cataloging process.

1984 Fleer – Mario Ramirez #309

This card just popped out to me and had me doing several double takes. Forgive the cell phone image, I no longer have a scanner…

1. Crooked cap.
2. The ‘Fro is bulging out the said crooked cap.
3. Tom Selleck mustache is in full effect.
4. Grey undershirt and the obvious lack of gold jewelry in the v-neck region.

5. Batting glove poking out of his rear pocket.

6. If the image was clearer, you’d notice his stirrups are REAL and hang about 1-inch off the sock. Awesome.

7. Folded tongue protecting the laces!
8. His shadow in a 3-point stance.

Now, the weirder stuff.
1. Not sure of the stadium, maybe Three Rivers or the Astrodome, but not the Murph because thar’be plastic turf on ye ground.
2. I love the huge team logos on the outfield fence that was prevalent during the 70s to late 80s.

3. You may have to use a clearer image (, but why is the outfield fence numbering on the field?
4. And check out the player to Ramirez’s left (card right). He’s about the size of an ant. For some reason, the background on this card must have been altered, but why?

I can’t believe I just noticed the miniature player on the card in the background. Only took 25 years to find this gem. Plus, I also just saw that almost all of the 84 Cardinal cards are from a day game at The Murph!
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