Monday, December 31, 2012

Background Noise - 1984 Fleer Mario Ramirez

To me, this card defines background noise.  I say that because for years, I never noticed what was going on with this card.  Sure, I'm a Padres fan and I've probably seen this card oodles of times.  However, let's be honest, it's Mario Ramirez who was a career .192 hitter and was the perennial backup to Garry Templeton.  Not exactly a card that likely garnered much attention.

If anything people are probably drawn to Mario's askew cap, peeking 'fro/perm and thick, bushy mustache.  He almost reminds me of a Sesame Street character.  Of course, that could be the all the yellow and the fact that he's big.  I mean literally, he's huge.  Check out the picture.

Why does he look so huge?  Well, look to his right, and you'll see a player in the outfield that appears to be the size of an ant.  Could it be the angle?  No way.  And then, check out the outfield wall distance marker that is magically appearing on the AstroTurf in left field.  What the???  

Ok, something weird is going on in this card.  There is obviously some double exposure going on, or the folks at Fleer were having some fun...  Oh, and to top off the Background Noise, I'm digging the shadow behind/below Mario, as well as the bright, nuclear yellow sky above the outfield bleachers.  Shenanigans indeed I think.

2013 MLB Tournament Prizes

For the 2013 MLB Tournament, there will be 30 prizes available, however, only the tournament winner will receive a prize.  I have personally selected one card from my collection (or soon to be in my collection) for each franchise.  

In previous incarnations of this tournament, bloggers have snatched up their favorite teams without a moment’s hesitation.  This resulted in some of the less popular or poorer performing franchises in never being selected.  Because of this, the “quality” or “value” of the 30 franchise cards will be on a sliding scale.  Those teams with a higher chance to win the tournament will have a lesser “valued” card, and those teams with a Cinderella’s chance of winning will have a much, much, much higher “valued” card.  I hope this tempting bait will make some of you have second thoughts about picking your favorite team in lieu of a sweet, sweet card. 

Confused?  Here is an example: If you select the highly favored Los Angeles Dodgers, then your winning prize would be a 1968 Don Sutton.  If you select a dark horse like the Chicago White Sox, then your prize would be a 1959 Luis Aparicio.  Get it?   

Here are the potential prizes ranked from best chance of winning to least.  Please note prizes are being announced in batches of five between now and when seeds will be available for selecting.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cameo Cards - 1971 Topps Bud Harrelson

This week’s Cameo Card was almost a Name the Game card, but I couldn’t be 100% certain of the exact play depicted.  Hence, that is why this 1971 Topps Bud Harrelson (#355) card has been relegated to the Cameo Card Club.  My research on this card showed that it is the May 30, 1970 matchup between the Houston Astros and New York Mets.

I was able to deduce that nugget because of who’s on the mound.  #30.  The Ryan Express.  Nolan Ryan tossed one home game against the Houston Astros and that was the May 30th matchup.  Well, given all that information, you’re probably asking why I couldn’t name the exact play shown on the card.

It’s obviously a stolen base attempt, since Ken Boswell is backing up the covering Bud Harrelson, while Nolan Ryan is off on the 1st base side of the mound.  Problem is, there were two stolen base attempts in that game.  One by Jim Wynn and the other by Joe Morgan (both safe).  I’m almost positive that is Jim Wynn sliding into second because of the monster sideburns in the photo.  However, the distance is too far and the resolution is too low to correctly Name the Game.

Yet, this card fits nicely into the Cameo Card Club.  I love the action in the shot with Nolan Ryan appearing to clench his right fist in a “we got’em out” gesture.  But, if you look really closely, second base umpire, Ken Burkhart is beginning his “safe” motion.  Man, I would have loved to have seen Ryan’s reaction after the “safe” call was made.

By the way, this 1971 Bud Harrelson card is an inexpensive way to pick up a ‘71 Topps Nolan Ryan (cameo) card!!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Almost There!

It's a sleepy, rainy Saturday afternoon and Voltron is playing on the Blu-Ray for my five year old.  I find the circle of life interesting.  Perhaps (most likely) I am influencing my son, but I find it fascinating that he enjoys the cartoons and hobbies that I did when I was a child.  

Anymore, when I'm not pursuing my personal albatross of completing each Topps set from 1952 to present, I am building sets with my kids.  That's why if you glance to your left, you'll notice the "Almost There!" section showing how close we are to finishing several sets.  

Most of those sets I completed long ago, but due to a tremendous supply of doubles, triples, and even Bip-esque masses of cards, we are working on finishing even more sets.  Every once in a while, you'll see me put up a "Wanted!" post, and those are for sets either I or we are working on.  Those posts are then tabbed on the "Wanted!" drop down menu at the top right of the blog.

If a set is over 90% complete, I add that want list to the "Almost There!" section in hopes some good souls will help us out on our quest.  Like I said before, there are plenty of dupes and singles that I have no desire to keep.  So, if you'd like to trade sometime let me know.  If you'd just like to send some junk wax my way to finish a set, that would be cool, too.

Time to go, Pidge is about to get into the Green Lion... 

Spot the Ǝrror - 1971 Topps 2nd Series Checklist

This is the third in a new series comparing error and corrected card versions.  If you spot the error, leave a comment.  First one to correctly identify the difference between the two cards wins the round.  "Standings" will be updated continually with an eventual prize.

No cheating, the honor system applies!

Fuji (1)
Wilson (1)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

What's So Funny?

Uni-Watch has the inside scoop on the new MLB batting practice hats (read: money grab).  Some of them are pretty cool like the Rays' Sunburst, throwback Brewers, and the A's Elephant.  But then there is this...

The return of the "screaming savage."  I can't say I ever thought he was screaming or a savage.  He always appeared to be laughing to me.  Perhaps he was watching early 80s Brave baseball [skip caray voice] on TBS [/skip caray voice].

Given my affinity for Native American culture, I'd much prefer to see the proposed logo replaced with the Braves feather logo they wore on the shoulders back in the 70s. 

What do you think?

The Joy of Sets - 1982 Kmart 20th Anniversary

What: 1982 Kmart 20th Anniversary
Size: 44 cards
HOFer %:  54.5%
Subsets: None
Errors/Variations: None
Completed: August 1989

The 1982 Kmart 20th Anniversary MVP Series Set is perhaps the most anticlimactic set in the history of baseball cards.  Produced by Topps and distributed only through Kmart stores, this 44 card set featured cards of the National and American League MVPs from 1962 to 1981, and is reminiscent of the 1975 Topps MVP subset.  The set was packaged in its own stylish box and came with a monster piece of bubble gum.

So how does this set sound so far?  All MVPs from the Wonder Years of baseball; cool "limited edition" box; awesome bubble gum; man, this set sounds tubular.  Alright, let’s open this box and check out the cards!

Oh.  Yeah.  Um.  That’s it?  Crooked reprints of Topps cards on a predecessor homage to the Topps Turn Back the Clock design?  How…sterile, safe, prefab.  

I received this set as a gift from my Dad way back in the summer of 1989.  I believe he bought it at a garage sale in Nowheresville, Indiana.  At the time, I actually really did like this set.  As a young collector, I enjoyed looking at reprints of “old” cards and it helped me learn about players like Zolio Versalles and Elston Howard.

Yet, over time, this set wore on me like a pair of pants two sizes too small.  Little things started to bother me, like the cards pictured are not the cards for when the players were MVP.  Roger Maris won the MVP in 1961, so why is Mickey Mantle’s 1962 card shown?  Mantle won the AL MVP in 1962, so his 1963 Topps card should be shown, etc., etc., etc.  Also, Maury Wills didn’t have a 1962 Topps card, and that 1975 version of Fred Lynn never existed.  Well, maybe those two cards are alright. 

I wish the set could have been full reprints of the original cards with Kmart emblazoned on the top right of the front to alert collectors that it is in obvious reprint.  However, there is one saving grace about this set, and that is it’s an easy way to obtain a Mickey Mantle card for next to nothing.  

Final Score: 3/10 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Spot the Ǝrror - 1990 Fleer Cal Ripken

This is the second in a new series comparing error and corrected card versions.  If you spot the error, leave a comment.  First one to correctly identify the difference between the two cards wins the round.  "Standings" will be updated continually with an eventual prize.

No cheating, the honor system applies!

Standings: Fuji (1)

Monday, December 24, 2012

ESPN Article - Baseball Card Industry Grows Up

For the original article, click here.
My friend Marty told me a story about how his 7-year-old daughter loves baseball cards. She likes baseball, but she loves baseball cards. Enough so that she recently took some to school for show-and-tell. What she likes most about them is the information on the back: How tall a player is, how much he weighs, whether he throws right-handed or left-handed, where he was born and now lives, what position he plays.

And this is Prince Fielder. He's 5-foot-11 and plays first base for the Detroit Tigers. He was born in Ontario, Calif., which is different from Ontario, Canada. That's a whole different country. The card says he weighs 275 pounds but my daddy says that's probably with only one foot on the scale.

I loved the data on the backs of baseball cards as well. I knew Rod Carew was born in Panama or that Mick Kelleher was from Seattle or that Freddie Patek was listed at 5-foot-4 on his 1978 Topps card. I realize now, however, that as I stacked those 1978 Topps inside a blue shoebox that I carefully placed back on the closet shelf after the addition of each new pack that what I really loved were the other numbers: Carew’s .388 batting average and George Foster’s otherworldly 52 home runs and the long string of seasons for Pete Rose, so long there wasn't room to write anything below the rows of numbers, such as "Pete likes to spend his off days at the horse track."

I collected cards through high school -- yes, while other kids were sneaking off to the local golf course to drink beer in bunkers, I was spending time at the local card shop, spending the few dollars I earned from umpiring and refereeing youth rec league games on new cards and the occasional 1965 Sandy Koufax or 1969 Roberto Clemente or that Frank Robinson rookie. ("Frank found night games to his liking in '56 and compiled a .314 average while belting 10 circuit smashes in 64 'after dark' contests.")

The card industry was booming through most of the 1980s -- maybe you remember thumbing through a Sports Collector’s Digest or Beckett Baseball Card Monthly to see how that college fund was maturing -- but Marty's story prompted me to think back to those days and the current state of the card industry. It's been close to 20 years since I had attended a card show, so I decided to check out the Philadelphia Sports Card and Memorabilia Show in King of Prussia, Pa., in early December.

* * * *

Babe Ruth underwear box: $900
Jackie Robinson business card: $15
Mickey Mantle-Roger Maris puzzle from 1962: $750

The best things about a big show like the one in Philly are all the oddball items that you don’t see unless you’re addicted to eBay. What I didn't see much of were new cards; unlike the shows from back in the day, this one featured dealer after dealer with tables full of old bobbleheads and yearbooks, magazines with Joe DiMaggio covers, signed bats and eclectic items like above -- not to mention tobacco cards and cards from the '50s, '60s and '70s, like the ones I once picked through.

There's a 1975 Topps Bake McBride: "Possessed with blazing speed, 'Bake' has excellent chance to break Lou Brock's new record for Stolen Bases." McBride topped out at 36 steals but would challenge Oscar Gamble's record for biggest Afro. And win over Phillies fans for his excellent 1980 season when the Phillies won their first World Series title.

"The industry took a big hit after the strike in 1994," said Don Stilton of TNT Baseball Cards and Collectibles of Toms River, N.J. Along with his partners James Kennedy and Anthony Connelly, their tables mostly featured items other than baseball cards. A seat from old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, signed by Orioles Hall of Famers Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver caught my eye.

"People come by looking for the weirdest things," Stilton said. "But everybody wants something different. We have all these Colts early '60s bobbleheads. A hardcore Colts fan may walk by and see these things and want something for his man cave."

While several dealers said business has picked up recently -- mostly in older cards and collectibles -- they also echoed what Bill Yanno of Gloversville, N.Y., told me. A 78-year-old retired schoolteacher, Yanno had an impressive display of magazines and other publications. He's been attending shows for 25 years -- as much to add to a collection began as a boy when he'd cut out pictures from magazines and paste them in scrapbooks as to make a little money.

Now, however, he's mostly looking to liquidate. He and his wife Bev sat patiently in front of several tables of old publications. Renting your space at a show like this can cost as much as $500 and Bill and Bev were just hoping to break even for the trip. "Hopefully, that's the goal. Between hotel, gas and food, it isn't cheap to come down," he said.

Not surprisingly, his business took a hit when the economy nosedived. Sports collectibles are one thing people can cut out. "It hasn't improved too much for me," he said. "It’s been hard. But the biggest problem is they're taking the kids away from the hobby. That’s the key, to get the kids interested again."

I enjoyed a copy of Sport magazine from August 1947, with a cover story by Dan Daniel titled, "Why they hate night baseball." Of course, most kids aren't going to be interested in a 65-year-old magazine.

The new stuff is better quality than what we collected as kids, but "chrome" is still just a fancy word for cardboard. I remember buying those packs of '78 Topps at the local pharmacy for 15 cents -- even with inflation, that's only about 55 cents today, a lot less than the $3 or so a kid has to pay today for a basic pack. And we got that piece of pink bubblegum stuck to the back of the bottom card. Still, I’m sure I begged my mom once or twice too often for a spare quarter or two, intent on filling that shoebox. I’d later graduate to a little coin shop tucked into the far back corner of a strip mall that had a few old cards. Stagg’s later moved to a bigger shop as the industry exploded in the 1980s -- he’d soon have plenty of competition, of course, when card shops popped up like 7-Elevens -- with shiny glass cases and shelves full of unopened boxes, 36 packs to a box.

There were some kids walking up and down between the aisles and aisles of tables at the Philly show, but I suspect most of those were leftovers from the autograph sessions that included Chase Utley and John Kruk the day I was there. I didn’t witness many transactions involving kids.

One of the father and son (or father and daughter) pairs I saw walking around were Ron Clearfield and his son Ethan, 15, from Richboro, Pa. I saw them scouting out a Nap Lajoie tobacco card but they weren’t at the show for the cards. Ron has a collection of 1960s bobbleheads he was looking to add to while Ethan collects old gas station signs and the like.

"I had some cards as a kid," Ron said. "But I was from that generation where my mother threw them out when I went to college." Ethan used to buy a few hockey cards, but said, "I don’t really collect much sports stuff. Cards were never a big thing with my friends. But I like old stuff. I've been told I have an old soul."

As Ron explained to Ethan that Lajoie is a Hall of Famer, I understood Ethan's words. I look at the old tobacco cards, admiring a Christy Mathewson T-205 or Joe Tinker T-206 and conjuring up a game played with sharpened spikes and rock-strewn infields and cigarette advertising on outfield fences, when a single ball would often be used until grimed with spit and dirt. While the first cards I collected featured players in brightly colored doubleknits from the '70s, a past I want to see features players in dull grays and whites.

There's nothing wrong with an old soul, Ethan.

* * * *

I ran into Cory Weiser, a 32-year-old financial adviser from Sayreville, N.J., and Mike Murray, a 34-year-old telecommunications manager from Staten Island.

If kids have been priced out of today's marketplace, Weiser and Murray represent the lineage of those kids who collected in the '80s and early '90s. Each was carrying a small stack of old cards encased in hard plastic cases. Serious cards for serious collectors.

I asked them how these shows have changed through the years.

"Well, still not too many women here," Weiser laughed. "A little better than a Dungeons and Dragons convention, however."

They were on the hunt for the good stuff: Old tobacco cards in good condition.

"If a table doesn't have stuff from before 1960, we don't even look," Weiser said. His parents owned a collectibles shop when he was growing up, and he and Murray collected the new stuff when they were kids, but it's the search for tobacco cards that brought them to Pennsylvania.

Murray had bought a 1912 T227 Rube Marquard card -- one in a series of hard-to-find cards that includes Ty Cobb, Home Run Baker and Chief Bender (the four baseball players in a larger 25-card set). Actually, it was the second T227 Marquard that he had purchased that day. He traded his first Marquard and cash for a higher grade one. He said he had about $750 invested in the current card.

"It's not an inexpensive hobby," he laughed.

But he also believed the card was in such good condition he could easily turn around and sell it to another dealer at the show for $1,000. For now, he decided to keep the card.

Murray is also working on completing a T-206 set -- well, minus the famous Honus Wagner at least -- in decent condition, which he estimates he owns 45 to 50 percent. "The market for the T-206 hasn’t really dipped at all," Weiser said. "It’s still the holy grail."

Weiser was working on his 1911 T-205 set. He'd spent over a grand on several cards. One of those was Ed Walsh, the White Sox Hall of Famer. The back of that card reads, in part, "In 1910, although he did not break even, an analysis shows that in the 369 2/3 innings he pitched, opposing teams were charged with 1,294 times at-bat and only made 242 hits, a batting average of .187."

And you thought statistical analysis was relatively new to the game.

* * * *

As I walked out of the convention center, there was an old box cover from an "indoor baseball game" that Mathewson designed. It would have made a nice addition to my office, but at $1,250, it was a little out of my price range.

I don't need that, however, because I still have my old cards. There's that '65 Koufax sitting in a box in my closet, with him staring right into the camera, slightly hunched over, a picture of a pitcher in his prime, a picture of my own past. I think I'll let it sit in that closet a while longer.

Background Noise - 1971 Topps Ken McMullen

This card has so much going on, it’s overwhelming.  Why do you say that?  It’s just Ken McMullen fielding the hot corner.  Alright, look to the left of Ken, look to the right of Ken, and look below his signature.  It’s a virtual cornucopia of background noise.

The first time I saw this card, I thought it was an ERR.  For the life of me, I thought that was Brooks Robinson, and that Angels read Orioles.  It must have been the dingy uni and the baby blue team font.  Once I overcame my disbelief, I began to notice all that is awesome with this card.  I think this may possibly be one of the best cards ever.

Why you ask?  Two words, Monument Park.  That’s right, the heralded Monument Park prior to the 1970s Yankee Stadium renovation.  Originally constructed in 1929, this park consisted of a Flag Pole and multiple monuments to Yankee greats of yore…in the outfield…in play.

At the time of this photograph, the center field wall in Yankee Stadium was 461 feet, and all of Monument Park was in play.  Makes Enron Field seem even lamer.

Here is a composite photograph of Yankee Stadium when Monument Park was in play (see the bottom left corner).

Another reason why this card is just over the top breathtaking is the dirt third base coach’s box.  I can’t say I’ve ever noticed one of those before.  I can almost see Larry Bowa refusing to wear a helmet in one right now. 
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