Friday, February 23, 2018

Ramblings ... with a contest winner at the end

The start of the busiest period of the entire work year began this week. This weekend is packed with sports chaos, and I expect every week and weekend to be like that until late March.

You don't notice the bedlam here because I try to keep it away from the blog as much as possible. Good ol' night owl just keeps posting as much as he can.

But it wreaks havoc in other hobby ways. The organization of my collection is always a disaster at this time of year. I have trouble sending cards out to people. If I can even get cards packaged, the packages often sit there lonely for sometimes weeks.

And, every once in awhile, I throw out a rambling post like this with no cohesive thought. The cards are deserving of more, but sometimes a dude's got to eat and pay bills and figure out why the car suddenly sounds like a chipmunk stuck in the engine, you know?

So let's just accept the disarray.

Above is a signed card of the recently deceased Doug Harvey. I received it from Matt from Bob Walk the Plank.

It's a pretty cool item from 2015 Panini Cooperstown of one of the greatest umpires of all-time. I enjoy it because Harvey was a regular part of games when I was growing up (although he was gray-haired then, I'm not old enough to remember when he looked like the picture on the card). He was different from other umpires. I don't recall any player or manager arguing with him, although I'm sure they did. He had an air of authority but not the false air that you see from some umpires that is really just a dare. Harvey always seemed to be right. He was nicknamed "God" for a reason.

I don't really know how to end this, but I just wanted to recognize the card.

While I go about my busy days, I try to carve out some small moments of the important stuff: cards. I make sure I have time to write a post most days.

And if I have unopened packs in the house, I make sure they don't sit there unopened.

Among the many things that Johnny's Trading Spot sent me recently were nine packs of 1995 Leaf, Series 2.

There was so much foil on this thing that it took me awhile to decipher exactly what it was. I didn't open anything during the mid-1990s and didn't open any Leaf at all for the entire decade.

So this would be an adventure for me, and I have been trying to open one pack a day, usually not too long after I wake up, before I go about my long list of daily responsibilities.

The first four packs were the usual mid-90s suspects, meaning nothing that appealed to me much. Bruce Ruffin, Scott Ruffcorn, the often-forgotten Orange Ruffie (why did mid-90s pitchers have dog noises in their names?)

My main goal in opening these packs is to find a Hideo Nomo rookie, which I have already.

So, anyway, I mentioned I'm opening these on Twitter, causing The Junior Junkie to chime in:

I had forgotten exactly how obsessed he is with 1995 Leaf.

Today it was time to open pack five.

The second card out of the pack revealed a tadpole of an infielder:

Awww, .204 for a career average. Isn't that precious?

The fifth card in the pack yielded an insert:

It's obvious who this is now, but picture pulling this card in the Northeast in February. Foil is not made for north country winters. Who is that? I can't read it! Do I have to turn every light on in the house to read this thing? Fine!

I was struggling so much identifying the player because John Kruk played for the White Sox?

After a quick online consultation, I realized he did end his career with 45 games with the White Sox.

Then the seventh card out of the pack:

It's one of them slideshow thingies.

Junior Junkie's slideshow thingy!

I quickly looked to see if he had it. Of course he did.

Then I suddenly realized I was excited about something that came out of 1995 Leaf!

So, I have four packs to open. But that's probably the highlight.

OK, so you survived all that rambling to get to where I reveal my 2 million views contest winner.

It received a good amount of entries, although I don't know why every card blogger wasn't entered in a contest in which I buy the winner a card they've always wanted.

I also appreciate all the nice comments. I wasn't really fishing for those, I promise (well, maybe a little). I just wanted to get a good idea of what readers liked so maybe I could gear my content toward anything specific. But I'm more than happy sticking to "write whatever you feel."

So, there were 83 entries in the contest. The lucky winner after three twirls of the randomizer will receive a card, under $40, that they've always wanted. Let's take a look at the winning spin:

Congratulations to Jonathan. He's won himself a card he's always wanted!

According to his comment, he's looking for a '72 Nolan Ryan, which would be appropriate because I also landed my '72 Nolan Ryan after a blog contest win.

But he always has the option of changing his mind. Send me an email, Jonathan!

I didn't have enough room to show the bottom of the randomizer list and didn't think to make a copy of the bottom part. But the last entrant on the list was Nick of Dime Boxes.

He may be happy to know that I sent him a card package today, as kind of a consolation prize.

So that wraps up my random post of randomizing and ramblings.

Thanks for viewing, thanks for reading.

Now I've got to get to work.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The most error-filled card back ever

There is a clipping pinned to a bulletin board at work just as you walk into the sports department.

It is a copy of a high school sports game write-up from another newspaper. It's your typical roundup item, two paragraphs long. But those two paragraphs are so error-filled -- nine lines of text and about eight things wrong with them -- that the correction that the paper ran the next day is twice the size of the original roundup item.

This amused me so much that I had to pin both items side-by-side onto the bulletin board. In the newspaper world, this is one of our greatest fears, that you will attempt to correct an error and just make things worse. So in typical black-humor fashion, I posted one of our greatest fears for all to see.

I have never witnessed so many errors committed in one tiny space.

Until I came across this Larry Milbourne card that I recently posted on my 1985 Topps blog.

The back of that card is a treasure trove of mistakes.

First, let's address the write-up on the bottom.

Larry Milbourne is not a graduate of Milville High School. He is a graduate of Millville High School. Yeah, I know it's just a difference of one "l" but spelling is key.

Also, there is no Port Jervis, New Jersey, that I know of. Port Jervis is in New York. It's where you can stand in one place and be in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey all at the same time. When my folks drove me to see my great grandma in New Jersey, we'd stop in Port Jervis and my brothers and I would stand in that one spot. It was a hoot.

Anyway, Millville High School is actually in Millville, New Jersey. Milbourne was born in Port Norris, New Jersey, which is south of Millville.

So, are we keeping track of mistakes? That's technically three mistakes already.

We're not done.

Take a look at the vital statistics up top and note where Milbourne was allegedly born. How come I said he was born in Port Norris, New Jersey and the write-up says Dallas, Texas? Because the vital stats are wrong, that's how come.

Milbourne was not born on March 12, 1955 either. He is a Valentine's Day baby, born on Feb. 14, 1951.

He was not drafted by the Royals in 1973. He was signed as a free agent by the Orioles in 1969.

The back says he bats left, yet he's batting right on the card front!

He is not even 5-10, 170 pounds! He is 6-feet, 165 pounds!

What the heck is going on?

Well, if you read my 1985 Topps blog, you know what happened. Thanks to some research by some commenters, it's been discovered that the vital stats used for Milbourne's card are actually the vital stats of former Mariners teammate, Ruppert Jones.

Here, let's pin those two card backs side-by-side on the bulletin board:

You can see that both sets of vital stats are the same.

I'm counting at least 8 or 9 mistakes (you could make a case for double digits) on the Larry Milbourne card back.

I've lost so much faith in that Larry Milbourne card back that I had to double-check the family information. I was able to find some public record information of a Chris Milbourne from New Jersey who is related to Milbournes named Larry, Consuella and Terra, so I think at least that info is correct. And Topps got the playing stats right, thank goodness for playing stats.

It's a good thing that baseball cards don't issue corrections like newspapers do. The size of the corrected 1985 Larry Milbourne card would be three times the size of the original.

Oh, and for those who are curious, here are Milbourne's actual vital stats:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The last hurrah

The underlying reason behind my recent quest to pursue 1980s Fleer sets (and some of the early '80s Donruss sets) is a continued mission to connect with the baseball players who were in the game when I was a kid.

I'm not in this hobby for the dudes that play today. As much as the current hobby thrives on Judge and Trout and the hot rookie du jour, that does very little for me. I'm not even in this hobby because of Kershaw or any of the current Dodgers.

The guys who played and managed in the game in the '70s and '80s keep me collecting cards. They keep me connected. They keep me young. Sure, all of them have stopped playing. They're all old now. Some of them have died. But they will always have more meaning to me than anybody who played in the 1990s, 2000s or today.

So, with most of the Topps sets completed from my childhood, I'm searching for other avenues. Fleer is at the top of the list. So is Hostess and Kellogg's 3-Ds. Beyond that, I'm always on the lookout for oddballs that relive the good old days of 1975-85.

Recently, Johnny from Johnny's Trading Spot sent out a bunch of goodies to several collectors. I was one of those lucky people. I can't possibly put everything he sent in one post without making it a 3-day project, so you're going to see several posts that include cards that he sent.

Many of those cards reconnect me with baseball of my youth. And one of those is a collection of cards from one of several sets devoted to the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball Association of 1989-90.

The almost-complete set that he sent is the one made by something called T&M Sports. More familiar companies, Topps and Pacific, also devoted sets to the Senior Professional Baseball Association, but I prefer the look of this set (the Topps set has that relentless wood paneling theme, dammit).

The set, issued to celebrate the first year of the league, in 1989-90, is 130 cards and 95 percent of the people pictured in the set are folks I followed during my childhood and teenage years.

I don't care that the uniforms are unfamiliar. This is another opportunity to own a card of my legends. The George Fosters and the Amos Otiseses.

Every one of the players shown here was a favorite when I was a youngster. What a hoot to see them playing again, one last time.

Here are nine cards of players that probably mean almost nothing to someone under the age of 40. Too bad for them. These were all guys I collected on baseball cards in the late '70s/early '80s. They all speak to me. In fact, I'll give you 10 Paul Goldschmidt cards for one Juan Beniquez card that I have never seen before.

What a rush it is to see these cards for the first time.

All the characters from that time period are here.

With so many colorful figures in the league it's a bit of a mystery why it folded in the middle of its second season.

The SPBA was based in Florida and featured eight teams in its first year. Born from the concept of "there's senior golf so why not senior baseball," the league struggled to draw fans from the start in the winter of 1989 and was toast by December 1990.

I personally think the league was wasted on Florida. It's very much of a football state, despite its spring training status. But the old dudes aren't going to play in the snow are they?

I would have jumped at the chance to buy tickets for these games. Who cares if the players weren't as good as when they played in the majors -- did you see Cecil Cooper on the field?

Holy heck, I'd be in heaven.

But at least I now have the cards of that brief tribute to my golden age of baseball.

The league has lived on in various publications and internet tributes. You can't field a league with Gates Brown, Willie Mays Aikens, Ross Grimsley, Ron Washington ...

... and Curt Flood as your commissioner and not capture the imagination of those who follow the game.

The box that I received contained all but seven of the cards in the set. Perhaps not coincidentally, five of those seven cards are of players referred to as the league's marquee names:

#9 - Vida Blue
#35 - Rollie Fingers
#55 - Ferguson Jenkins
#59 - Dave Kingman
#112 - Earl Weaver

I'm also missing #20 - Cesar Cedeno and #118 - Favorite Suns (Luis Tiant and Cedeno).

I will be picking up those cards/welcome anyone sending those cards.

However, although all of those missing players are key parts of my baseball-following childhood, I don't consider their cards more important than anyone else's. That is the great part about collecting cards as a kid in the 1970s.

Bill Madlock is equal to ...

... Walt Williams, is equal to ...

... to Bob Shirley ...

... in the grand scheme of things.

And that grand scheme is they all made baseball the most important, glorious, fascinating event when I was a kid.

They deserve a place of honor.

They deserve this set.

They deserved to play longer in that league than a year-and-a-half.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I need my '90s card gurus

I have been collecting cards for a long time, but I don't think I know all that much about them.

For example, when I first started blogging, the card blogs were dominated -- at least in terms of frequency and zeal -- by collectors who grew up with cards from 1990s. The most prolific of those blogs was Wax Heaven, and I learned quite a bit about what went down in the '90s from Mario.

It's a very confusing period for someone who didn't collect at that time, and I imagine it is confusing even for those who did. But I started to get a handle on the difference between Pacific and Pinnacle, the rise of the relic and autograph cards, and something called "dufex" thanks to reading that blog.

Then Wax Heaven went silent. And so did many of the blogs from other '90s collectors. I still had much to learn, but there weren't many bloggers willing to dive into the depths of '90s cards. One -- the Junior Junkie -- does an excellent job, but he's pulled back, too, and the '90s has remained very much a mystery. (When I refer to the '90s, I'm mostly focusing on 1994-99).

But now Wax Heaven has returned. And Mario is writing about all of the familiar topics that I first read in 2008-09. Pacific, Pinnacle, it's all there. And lots and lots of Jose Canseco. It's like old times.

Almost instantly upon Wax Heaven's return I discovered something about '90s cards that I never knew. Apparently Marvel comics owned Fleer in the late '90s? I totally missed that. I'll admit that I'm not paying attention much of the time when '90s cards come up, so it's possible I read that before. But suddenly those strange and inexplicable Fleer/Skybox Metal cards made sense to me.

Of course! Who else would put some sort of giant space robot behind a photo of Mike Piazza chasing a foul pop?! Marvel!

I received this card recently from reader Jason. It is the last Dodger that I needed from the 1996 Metal set and had been hanging on the want list for too long.

I've always considered these Metal cards bizarre since I had no frame of reference. Now that I know Marvel was involved, for the first two years of the brand anyway, then I now officially understand them.

See? I need '90s collectors to explain this stuff to me.

Here is another wild '90s cards that I needed. It is the 486th different Hideo Nomo card in my collection.

It's an insert from 1996 Upper Deck and very, very, very, very '90s. It reminds me of the "Black Hole Sun" video.

Particularly the lizard girl.

Jason sent several other Dodgers of varying degrees of needs.

And -- cool -- a couple of pocket schedules that I didn't own prior and will fit neatly into the few pages I have reserved for them.

I'll never know all there is to know about '90s cards (nor do I want to), but I do feel a bit smarter now that Wax Heaven has returned.

Now when I encounter '90s cards, I at least don't feel like I've been sucked into a black hole anymore.

Most of the time anyway.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The all-presidential name team (Dodgers version)

(Programming note: The 2 million views contest entry window is about to close. I've tacked on a couple extra hours for west coast readers, but the deadline is tonight, 2 a.m. EST/11 p.m. PST. If you want to enter, go here for the rules).

It's Presidents Day, a day I seem to work just about every year.

I suppose that's appropriate since I've never been the political type. But before shoving off to the job, I engaged in one of those exercises that are supposed to help geezers of advancing age keep their minds sharp.

I tried to put together an all-presidential name team. But it's not just any generic presidential name team. It's filled with Dodgers.

Here it is:

First Base: Gary CARTER

He may be listed as a catcher on this card and played the position for about 95 percent of his games, but he obviously isn't catching here. He's playing first base. He did that with the Dodgers from time-to-time.

Second Base: Chris TAYLOR

Somehow I actually found a Topps card of Chris Taylor as a Dodger. There are very few. I don't know what Taylor did to offend Topps.

Shortstop: John KENNEDY

The only player on this list to share a president's last and first name.

Third Base: Randy JACKSON

Long before his stint on American Idol, he was a smooth-fielding white dude.

Left Field: Lou JOHNSON

The '60s was a great time for presidential Dodger names.

Center Field: Otis NIXON

Otis has had an interesting life since the end of his baseball career.

Right Field: Hack WILSON

I don't think Hack is holding a bat.

Catcher: Charles JOHNSON

I tried not to repeat the same presidential name with this team. Unfortunately, the lack of any real first base candidates and an abundance of catching Johnsons and Wilsons made that impossible.

Plus, I really wanted to show this card again.

Starting Pitcher: Jim "Mudcat" GRANT

I am very pleased I own the 1990 Target card of Grant because he's wearing a Dodger hat on it (at least I think it's a Dodger hat).

Relief Pitcher: Terry ADAMS

This the second "All-" team that I've done that includes Adams. He appeared on the All-Early Alphabet Team I did a couple years ago.

Apologies to Brickyard Kennedy, Reed Johnson, Jim Johnson, Micah Johnson, Horace Ford, Tom Wilson, Steve Wilson, Adam Kennedy, Bob Kennedy, Lance Carter, Harry Taylor and a few others (no, I will not apologize to Brian Wilson).

Those of you who had the day off, I hope you enjoyed.

Meanwhile, I have a vacation day tomorrow. I think I'll spend it with baseball cards.