Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ace in limbo

I received this card from Brian of Base Set Calling a few days ago. It's one of the National Anthem insert cards from Opening Day. These are tough pulls. One per 210 packs, I believe.

This was a generous send and I appreciate it even more now because as I'm writing this I have no idea what Clayton Kershaw's status is for the rest of this season. I need some good Kershaw news. Hopefully, a month absence is all he needs to be back to dominating the rest of major league baseball.

This sudden bad news is one of those twists and turns that happens every season. A week ago, the Dodgers appeared invincible, as invincible as I've ever seen them. And then their ace goes down with the potential lto expose the rest of the starting staff in all of its weaknesses.

But enough of my rooting angst. You all have your own favorite team problems. Let's see a few more Kershaw cards from Brian!

More Opening Day. This is from two years ago. It features the celebration after Kershaw's no-hitting of the Rockies in 2014. There is no visible sign of Kershaw in this photo, which is kind of dumb. I'm pretty sure some of these cards are made just to get a reaction out of me.

FIRE! Clayton is ON FIRE! Or throwing fire. The really hot blue kind that dissolves gloves.

Not cards, but stickars. The one on the left is new to me, meaning I can stick the one on the right onto whatever/whomever I choose.

I'm done with Kershaw cards now, but let's continue with stickers. This is from last year's MLB-neutered Wacky Packages set.

Beanball!!! My all-time favorite Wacky Pack! This is a chromed-up version, which makes absolutely no sense. It's sTupid.

I received a couple of new Adrian Beltre cards, too, including one announcing his decision to break my heart and sign with -- what? -- the Mariners??

I know I need this card. But I'll have to look up what year it's from (all the legends insert cards blend together).

This scanned like mud. Leaf Certified had no idea we'd be blogging about these things.

Brian made sure to send some night cards to add to the binder. The McCann card is already there. I'm really hoping the Blackmon card gets there.

And finally, a healthy offering of 1975 buybacks! Still very excited about these!

The three on the top were needs, which, of course means, I am your man if you're looking for Steve Braun buybacks.

I now have 162 buyback cards for the 1975 Topps set and still hope to land a few more soon.

By then, I hope this Kershaw fretting is all behind us.


Not looking forward to several weeks of nothing but 4 1/2-inning starts.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The thrift shop thrill is gone

I still have some cards to purchase with birthday money. I wish it wouldn't take me so long to spend money on something I enjoy so much, but you know how life hates cardboard.

When I do finally get those "birthday cards," you can be sure you'll see them. But for now I'd like to relay the tale of how my daughter found a thrift shop that had baseball cards for sale.

I know.

How's that for teaser?

"What? How? Who in the world set up a thrift shop in night owl's barren outpost?"

Well, settle down and listen.

So, I always lament to myself whenever someone blogs about their latest thrift shop score, or flea market find or antique market steal. Those things don't exist near me, or if they do, they contain boring stuff like plates and salt shakers and, gracious, people sure have a weird idea of "interesting," don't they?

There is an antique shop on the corner in the city that I've mentioned before. It used to be the city jail many years ago. And when you go in there, it's so dark and scary that you lose all rational thought and are quite sure they are going to lock you up forever unless you run out of there RIGHT NOW.

I don't think there are baseball cards there, but I can't be certain because of all the panic.

I do love thrift shops and antique shops though. It's in my blood. When I go visit my folks, I'll try to stop at the antique stores they pointed out to me many years ago. Sometimes I find cards there. The '72 Topps Yastrzemski in my collection was bought by my mother from one of those stores.

You'd think that given the popularity of going through other people's junk that there would be one of these things on every block in America. But Northern New York, I tell you, is proudly resistant to all kinds of modern conveniences.

That's what I thought anyway, until my birthday arrived. I opened a package from my daughter that behaved very much like a few packs of baseball cards from Target. But when I tore off the paper, I came face to face with this:

"What?" I said to myself. "That's a 1983 card of Jack Morris. What's that doing in my package of 2017 baseball cards?" I immediately started looking for the "Rediscover Topps" stamp.

But it wasn't there and I had no idea what was going on because I KNOW that my daughter doesn't know who Jack Morris is.

I started looking through the other cards in the stack:

These are all cards I know well. But they aren't your average cards from a repack. I looked at my daughter quizzically.

Daughter: "There's a new antique shop in Sackets Harbor."

Me: (stunned silence).

Sakes alive, there's a new antique shop in Sackets Harbor!!

Sackets Harbor is a small town on the lake about eight miles away. It's an easy 15-minute drive. It's a summer touristy place although there isn't much there outside of a lake and a couple of decent restaurants. It's pretty popular though.

There are a handful of shops, the kind of shops that you'd see in any tourist-friendly small town. Here, where we are fairly close to the Adirondacks and New England, there are all kinds of rustic things for sale. Homemade soaps and potholders, books about hiking trails and new age women stuff (sorry for the generic description, I stopped paying attention when I realized what I was viewing).

I stumbled into one of those potholder stores a few days after my daughter told me about the antique shop because it was all that was on my mind from the moment those words left her lips. She couldn't tell me what the shop was called or really where it was on the street (she is notoriously vague about things she doesn't care about -- gee, I wonder who she got that from?). So I walked into a random store, came face to face with jewelry and mood music and knew I was in the wrong place. I received a "what are you doing here" hello from the woman behind the counter and I made a hasty exit.

I turned left and headed toward the lake. There is an old building that used to be a seafood restaurant that is the last store front on that side of the street. It's been empty for awhile. But then I saw the "Antiques" sign. Hot dog, this was it.

(I apologize for going on forever like this, especially to those who can hit an antique shop every day on the way to work).

It was your typical junk shop. Wood floors. Random items thrown on tables everywhere. (Spoons? Who collects spoons?) There were wonderful shelves filled with wonderful things I didn't need. There were toys everywhere. Toy tractors and trucks that looked like they were just taken out of the sandbox. Dirt on the tables, dirt on the floor. A small stack of comic books. Old records. Oh man, if I could collect more than one thing, I'd have purchased half those old records. Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, Linda Ronstadt, Lynn Anderson, Cat Stevens.

There was also a stack of old baseball yearbooks and programs, mostly Cubs and Expos. Underneath that, a bunch of old hockey programs.

And next to that was a plastic tub of baseball cards.

Here we were.

There weren't a lot of baseball cards left, it appeared. It was few enough that I could identify all of them. Mid-1980s Topps cards mostly. Fun stuff, but nothing I needed. The man who ran the place finally emerged from some secret door and I asked if there were any other cards. He pointed to a binder that said "basketball cards" on it. I'm not interested in basketball so I didn't look. I probably should have.

So that was it. The thrill was gone.

Unless I wanted to add to my old record collection or my old baseball program collection, there is really no reason to return.

So let's see the other cards that my daughter gave me:

Some more from 1983.

A bunch from 1984.

A few more.

A couple from 1985.

Including one I just posted on my 1985 Topps blog.

There was just one card that I'd consider "junk wax" in the entire stack.

My daughter may not have given me any cards that I needed, but she did give me one thing that is still with me: hope.

There is still hope that the cards in that tub will be replenished, maybe this time with cards I need. And there is the knowledge that this antique shop is just down the road, just a 15-minute drive away, not half a country away on someone else's blog.

There may be no real reason for me to return to that store. But hope will send me there again.

That's a birthday gift in itself.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

2017 Allen & Ginter: the cameo set

I've come down off my Gene Hackman auto high enough to provide an overview of my two Allen and Ginter blasters and this year's product in general.

As you may know, I completed the A&G sets from 2008-13 and have only my lazy ass to blame for not finishing off 2014 already. (Order that last handful of cards now, night owl!). Around 2014, 2015, I started to tire of the set. I didn't like the zoomed-in images of 2015, some of the non-player selections were disappointing, and overall, the sameness of A&G that can turn off a collector if the quirkiness just isn't there caused me to step away for a couple of years.

I'm not saying I'm back now. I'm not saying I'm collecting this set. But '17 A&G is speaking to me like no other A&G set since probably the heady days of Gint-a-Cuffs (2009-10). And that's not just the Hackman auto talking.

A couple of features have bounced back after what I would consider off-years. There are multiple insert sets that I like a LOT and that doesn't happen every year or even every other year. The black-border minis look phenomenal again.

But let's talk about the base design because that threw me off at first.

I winced when I saw the design initially and stayed with that scrunched-up feeling for a while. Seeing the image confined within a circle seemed like a waste to me. While I didn't like the frame-filling shots of 2015 A&G, this went too much in the opposite direction. The image seemed confined, restricted.

Then I had a revelation. This is the cameo set! No, that's not a reference to the funk-dance Word Up! guys from my college years. And it's not the oft-used description of a player appearing on another player's card. It's something else.

These cards have the look of vintage cameo jewelry, well-known from Victorian times (which happens to match the time period of the original A&G cards). I can't say I'm a fan of cameo jewelry, but I appreciate what it does -- it showcases the subject within the oval or circle. In some ways it's similar to 1959 Topps, one of my all-time favorite sets.

And when I looked at it that way, and with the splashes of color emerging from inside the frame to the outer edges of the card, I suddenly liked these cards a lot more.

But that's enough words without enough pictures. It's time to show what appeared in the blasters. Astonishingly, I've scanned every card. We'll see if I show them all. I tend to get tired at the end.

OK, so here are a bunch of A&G cards with some more thoughts:


Pack 1

#125 - Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks

#225 - Ian Kinsler, Tigers

#WAD-43 - Adrian Beltre, Rangers, What a Day insert

This is the monster 100-card insert set for this year, focusing on a particularly great game for the featured player.

#WD-44 - Gardener Dude, World's Dudes insert

I don't know if I've ever loved a mini insert set more. Even the bird set from a couple of years ago with the owls can't top it (if it was a full insert set of owls then we would have something). This is a set showing old-timey "dudes" in various occupations. It's brilliant. I love the borders. And I know someone is going to persuade me to try to complete this.

#339 - Reynaldo Lopez, White Sox

No idea. But it's a short print!

#194 - A.J. Pollock, Diamondbacks

Outside of the garden dude, not anything terribly appealing. Moving on.

Pack 2

#84 - Ian Desmond, Rockies

Someone mentioned to me that there are a lot of Rockies in this set. This post will back that up.

#300 - Max Kepler, Twins

I know some people aren't going to like these cards because some stuff in the image get cut off. That doesn't bother me. It's called "cropping". Photographers, editors, etc., do it all the time. I crop almost daily at my job.

#RB-7 - Surrender of General Burgoyne, Revolutionary Battles insert

American history geeks rejoice! Here's your insert set.

#HR-20 - Bosnian Pony, Horse in the Race mini insert

Here is this year's animal mini set. Horseys! I don't think all of the horses featured race though.

#171 - Jose Canseco, Athletics

Topps pandering to everyone who was 7 in 1987 again. At least it doesn't look like '87 Topps.

#234 - Charlie Blackmon, Rockies

Shall we start counting Rockies? We shall. This is #2.

Pack 3

#83 - Ichiro Suzuki, Marlins

There you go. That is a fine base card.

#40 - Dansby Swanson, Braves

Can't say I'm very happy with the Braves right now.

#WAD-47 - Ted Williams, Red Sox, What a Day insert

There is something jarring about the caption "Too Legit To Quit" appearing below a 60-year-old image of Ted Williams.

#NNO - Kevin Gausman, Orioles, no-number mini

No-numbers used to be a bigger deal than they are now. All I know is I can't use this in my frankenset binder.

#341 - Mike Moore, Giants, SP

#214 - Nick Jonas, Musician

If this card appeared in A&G seven years ago, my daughter might be collecting A&G right now. Just a few years too late.

Pack 4

#177 - Valarie Jenkins, disc golfer

Disc golf makes a return appearance to A&G, I remember it showing up in 2010 or 2011. The back says Jenkins grew up in a "disc golf family." I'm having a difficult time imagining that.

#55 - Andre Dawson, Cubs

What a great card. Dawson is too good for one bat.

#130 - Renato Nunez, Athletics

Pale purple seems to be the default background color for these. I'd prefer something more colorful (After all, A&G is the first full-color trading card set). I've never done a color breakdown with anything other than 1975 Topps, but I'm tempted to do so with this set. Of course, that would require me to collect the set.

#SFL-6 - Largemouth Bass and Soft Plastic Worm, Sport Fish & Fishing Lures insert set

I don't fish, but there is a big Bassmasters tournament taking place in my neck of the woods right now and it's pretty cool that I pulled the bass card.

#346 - Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners, mini, regular back

I pull this guy's cards a lot and I don't think I've seen him pitch. At least there's a spot for him in the frankenset.

#242 - Luke Weaver, Cardinals

Pack 5

#230 - Kyle Seager, Mariners

#205 - Alex Bregman, Astros

#WAD-1 - Kris Bryant, Cubs, What a Day insert

#85 - Dave Winfield, Padres, A&G back mini

If you want to disappoint me, make a retro card with Winfield as a Yankee, Angel, Blue Jay, Twin or Indian. Winfield is a Padre. (In this case he's a 1980 Padre as was established on Twitter yesterday). Well done.

#350 - Jeff Bagwell, Astros, SP

Last card in the set!

#16 - Garrett Richards, Angels

Pack 6

#267 - Dellin Betances, Yankees

#WF-3 - The Atomium, Brussels 1958, World's Fair insert

This insert set is cool, too. The Atomium sounds like a crazy amusement park ride, but it's just a giant sculpture.

#216 - Michael Conforto, Mets, mini

Conforto completes another mini page in my frankenset binder!

#MR-ARI - Anthony Rizzo, Cubs, framed relic

Pretend you didn't already see this. And, next year, when I pull another Rizzo relic out of A&G, pretend it's not the third year in a row I've done that.

#256 - Andy Katz, basketball analyst

The ESPN logo was erased from Katz's microphone, which is appropriate as Katz was one of many employees laid off from ESPN in the spring. Being current in the trading card business is hell, even with non-players.

(Packs with framed hits contain just five cards).

Pack 7

#142 - Tom Anderson, Myspace co-founder

Like the Nick Jonas card, this seems several years too late. Maybe a retro card for tech fans? I never got into Myspace. I wish I could say the same for Facebook, but it's too late.

#283 - Chris Davis, Orioles

Digging the yellow frames.

#WAD-18 - Mashiro Tanaka, What a Day insert

#73 - Starlin Marte, Pirates, black-border insert

These are awesome. Black borders are BACK!

#336 - Kenley Jansen, Dodgers, SP

Yay! The first Dodger! Yay! It's an SP! Yay, I don't have to chase this SP all over God's green earth like I'm still doing with Heritage! Yay!

#297 - Troy Tulowitzki, Blue Jays

Pack 8

#206 - Aaron Nola, Phillies

#53 - Brandon Belt, Giants

Isn't that funny? Belt is making the exact same face I make when I pull his cards.

#SFL-12 - Saltwater Grouper and Diving Plugs, Sport Fish and Fishing Lures insert

#209 - Mitch Haniger, Mariners

I should've counted Mariners instead of Rockies. Good golly.

#91 - Nomar Mazara, Rangers

#160 - Michal Kapral, Joggler

He is exactly what you think he is.

OK, that's blaster one. Still with me? While I take a moment to grab a drink and fight off the urge to organize these cards by color, prepare yourself for blaster two!


All right! Here we are at blaster two! I think the first blaster was rather successful and you know the second blaster will be the same. But let's see what else is in there besides the Hackman auto.


Pack 1

#237 - Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox

Here is a guy who is really good but no one is freaking out because everyone must hit home runs.

#98 - Stephen Piscotty, Cardinals

#WAD 40 - Gary Sanchez, Yankees, What a Day insert

Oh, calm yourselves. It's not Judge.

#WD-40 - Park Avenue Dude, World's Dudes mini insert

Duuuuude! Let's stroll to the Waldorf! ... That's basically what the back says.

#315 - Willie McCovey, Giants, SP


#128 - Tyler Glasnow, Pirates

All right, those of you who remember all the way back to the first pack of blaster one, notice anything familiar? Yup, the pattern for each first pack was the same: base card, base card, What a Day, World Dude mini, SP, base card.

Let's see if I can get matches for the rest of the packs.

Pack 2

#36 - Edwin Encarnacion, Indians

#46 - Chris Archer

#RB-8 - Battle of Cowpens, Revolutionary Battles

Nice horse butt.

#HR-1 - Friesian Horse, Horse in the Race mini insert

#159 - Yoenis Cespedes, Mets

#67 - Allie LaForce, model & sports reporter

Ohio's sports news darling. A former Miss Teen USA and one of those charmed people with looks, smarts and ability. She now does basketball for TBS, which means I never see her. (The TBS logo was shopped off her microphone, too, although she still has her job, as far as I know).

OK, were you keeping track? Pack 2 of blaster two was the exact same as Pack 2 of blaster one: base card, base card, Revolutionary Battles insert, horse mini, base card, base card.

Pack 3

#145 - A.J. Reed, Astros

#163 - Wesley Bryan, pro golfer

#WAD-97 - Jacob deGrom, Mets, What a Day insert

#C-4 - Scorpius, Constellations insert

I admit I was bewildered by this when it first fell out of the pack. The front appeared to be missing a picture and when I turned it over, I initially interpreted the yellow pattern as some sort of printing residue -- obviously this card had been mangled in the printing process and accidentally inserted into the pack!

Ah, but that is where A&G is too quirky and wise for you.

The front of the card is the constellation shown on the back but it only shows up in the dark! It glows in the dark!

Not the greatest image in my darkened room, but I think you can see the pattern. That is pretty fantastic.

#326 - German Marquez, Rockies, SP

Hey! There's another Rockie!

#246 - William Shatner, actor

Obviously one of the highlights of the set.

The pattern continues for the Pack 3s. Each one was: base, base, What a Day, funky mini (no-number and glow-in-the-dark), SP, base. Hmmm.

Pack 4

#281 - Yoan Moncada, White Sox

#22 - Albert Almora, Cubs

#14 - Robert Gsellman, Mets

So far we have 3 players with an average MLB playing time of 1 1/2 years.

#SFL-4 - Freshwater Bass and Hula Popper, Sport Fish and Fishing Lures

More bass!

#301 - Trey Mancini, Orioles, mini SP

#264 - Robinson Cano, Mariners

Outstanding facial projection.

Another pack match! Both Pack 4s are: base, base, base, sport fishing insert, SP mini and base.

Pack 5

#95 - Dee Gordon, Marlins

#12 - Corey Bellemore, Beer Mile runner

Bellemore is the world record holder in the beer mile, in which you run a mile while chugging beer. This is a thing that has been around for more than 25 years. No surprise it was invented by Canadians. A complete surprise that I'm learning about it for the first time.

#WAD-9 - David Price, Red Sox, What a Day insert

#149 - Mike Piazza, Mets, A&G back mini

#312 - Raimel Tapia, Rockie No. 4

There's no way that hat is staying on.

#82 - Bobby Abreu, Phillies

Another card of a recently retired guy. I don't understand the purpose of including players like Abreu and Roy Oswalt in modern sets. Not enough time has passed for nostalgia to set in, they were playing like five years ago. And for the love of god, where are the retro cards of Garry Maddox and Ralph Garr and Ellis Valentine and Ron Cey????? Give me something I haven't seen in the last five years!

Pack 5s extend the pattern: base, base, What a Day, A&G-backed mini, SP, base. Had I been aware that this was happening when I was opening them, I would have known to look for a hit in Pack 6!

Pack 6

#248 - Wilson Ramos, Rays

#WF-9 - Sunsphere, Knoxville 1982, World's Fair insert

#115 - Carlos Rodon, White Sox, mini

#AGA-ND - Gene Hackman (as Norman Dale) autograph

There it is again! The pattern called it!

#191 - Jay Glazer, sportswriter

The Pack 6 patterns match right down to a sports media person being the final card in the pack. Base, World's Fair, mini, framed hit, sports media member!

Pack 7

#132 - Corey Seager, Dodgers


#121 - Randal Grichuk, Cardinals


#WAD-55 - David Wright, Mets, What a Day insert

#21 - Eric Hosmer, Royals, black border mini

#345 - Lance McCullers, Astros, SP

#60 - Nolan Ryan, Rangers

Pack 7 patterns match: base, base, What a Day, black border mini, SP, base.

One pack to go.

Pack 8

#285 - Hunter Renfroe, Padres

#26 - Matt Wieters, Nationals

#SFL-14 - Saltwater Giant Trevally and Stickbaits

That's a mean-looking fish.

#163 - Wesley Bryant, pro golfer mini

The only person for which I pulled both the base and the mini.

#287 - Elvis Andrus, Rangers

#32 - Peter Rosenberg, radio DJ

No idea. Too old to care.

Pack 8s are the same: base, base, sport fishing insert, mini, base, guy I've never heard of.

Getting two "matching" blasters means I missed out on a couple of items I was looking forward to -- including the Required Reading minis. But it also means I avoided any duplicates.

Opening these was a hell of a lot of fun (heightened by the hits, of course) and the reason why I like A&G. It's colorful, it's quirky, it's intelligent, you learn stuff, you have a good time.

I've kind of missed that from A&G the last couple of years.

I'm glad it's back.

Even if it makes for epic long posts on the weekend.