Saturday, November 12, 2016

Goodbye for now, and Thanks

I'm the husband of a woman of color, from a family of immigrants. I'm the father of three great kids, obviously of mixed race. One, my incredible daughter, is gay. She works in Chicago as a social worker and tireless advocate for the elderly. She does great things every day and she's my hero. Right now I'm worried about what their future holds.

As for myself... I've spent most of my adult life teaching and coaching young people at economically disadvantaged schools and trying to be a positive influence on them. I think I've succeeded for the most part. I am worried about these kids, too.

On Tuesday we as a country, a country I love deeply, elected a man without character or compassion, as our next president. It's been difficult for me, over the last few days, to sit here and try to write about sports cards when the only thing I really have on my mind is the kind of country we've become. How the hell did we get to the point where this contemptuous "man" is about to represent us on the world stage? To paraphrase John Oliver...look up, waaay up...see that spot waaaaay up there? That used to be rock bottom.

I swore I'd never write anything political here in what I've always hoped would be a fun diversion for me and maybe a reader or two. Right now I'm struggling to even type this. I certainly can't put effort into a card post. I don't see that changing for awhile.

I've 'met' really good folks and made some friends through this blog and for that I've very very grateful. I may try to update my 1958 and 1960 blogs as time goes by. I may even come back here and kick-start things if I get the urge.

I'll end with this video of the late Leonard Cohen's incredible Hallelujah by the equally incredible kd lang. There are some amazing renditions of this song out on the web. Maybe the most compelling is by Alexandra Burke but kd's means the most to me. Please give it a listen. And thanks so very much for reading.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Hoyle'd again

The day after I received Night Owl's envelope I got one from Mark "Friend of Everyone's Blog" Hoyle. It was like a mirror image of NO's in that it had some 2016 late release stuff and some off the wall vintage. 

The border-less (a scanner victim) Hyun-Soo Kim card goes directly into my fantasy baseball binder. I've been needing a 'real' card of him all season. It replaces a World Baseball Classic one I found somewhere. A mainstream card in the player's actual MLB duds trumps a WBC oddball.

The O's picked up Steve Pearce late in the summer (at the deadline? I forget) but he was hurt and never really contributed. Nice card though. I needed it for the same reason as the Kim card.

Next up... a 1989 Fleer Prospects card with an Oriole. I always liked this set. It contains the infamous Billy Ripken bat knob obscenity card. Boy, was that a huge deal for awhile! This one is more routine.

We have Bob Milacki alongside football coach-lookin' Jim Corsi of the A's. Milacki was taken by the Orioles in the June, 1983 draft. that's the same month I got married. He won a couple of games for the Orioles at the end of the 1988 season. That was no mean feat given how the 1988 Orioles were so utterly terrible. And that's being kind.

But he was a 14 game winner for the 1989 "Why Not?" Orioles who finished second in the AL East and were in first place as late as the eve of September. That clunky "EBW" on Milacki's sleeve is the memorial for owner Edward Bennett Williams. I never realized what a great owner he was until Peter Angelos came along. 

These Kraft Home Plate Heroes cards came on Mac'n'Cheese boxes. We went through a lot of this stuff back then as my kids were growing up but I don't think I nabbed the Ripken. Two things I do know...I never kept the two cards intact, especially if an Oriole was involved...he was cut and put in a 9 pocket. And secondly I never cut the panel as neatly as this. My 1980s  food container and box bottom cutting skills didn't improve from when I was slaughtering Post Cereal cards twenty years prior. 

Cal Jr. and Darryl Strawberry are definitely on odd couple to be sharing a panel. Hey, an Oriole and a Met...makes this something that would fit perfectly in Joe Shlabotnik's collection. And I've wondered from time to time about these food and retail issues that are logo-less due to lack of MLB licencing but list the teams' nicknames. What's different now with Panini unable to use either? 

Finally here is a 2016 Topps Update card of my free-swinging pal, Chris Davis. Topps proclaims him as a future 500 Homer Club member. He's at 241 right now, and he's 30. I'm a big Crush fan but I'm thinking that another 259 is a longshot. I hope I'm wrong as the O's have a lot invested in him. 

But either way it's a nice card of him. His swing and reaction to a blast are both distinctive. He's worth the price of a ticket even when he's off his game.  

Thanks again, Mark. I appreciate the cards very much. Those of you with a Twitter account should follow him at  Mark posts a lot of neat stuff there.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Night Owl To The Rescue

I've really let this blog go to hell in a handbasket. I just haven't had much to blog about as I've been concentrating on chasing the 1958 Topps set. October was the best month of the year for card shows in Houston and I missed all of them. And the new stuff I've bought, a couple baseball and football packs, have been very uninspiring...lacking any Orioles or other cards of interest. 

So getting a nice fat manila envelope addressed from Western New York was a welcome sight the other day. Night Owl had filled it with a stack of fancy and not-so-fancy Orioles. Most from 2016 and many from sets I never have any interaction with. I mean I know Topps Chrome exists because I see people post it on their blogs but does it come in packs? Boxed sets? Semi-inquiring minds want to know. 

Up top Adam Jones strikes a serious "I'm a bad dude" pose. Usually he's grinning like a kid. I have a hard time telling this year's A&G cards from any previous year's A&G cards. But that's on me. I'm more than happy to add another Jones card to my current O's binder. 

Chris Davis watching another dinger fly out on a Topps Opening Day card. I actually found a pack of Opening Day last year but other than that I've never seen them outside blogs and the packs on card dealer tables at shows. 

Jones again, from Heritage. I bought some Heritage in Orioles. So this and the Macho Manny Machado card below are welcome.

And then there are these two Topps chrome cards. Not only are they shiny and a bit warped as all the best chrome cards are..they have pink elements! I love pink cards

Shiny Bowmans of Jomar Reyes and Dylan Bundy. Bundy was the 'eternal prospect'. And finally in 2016 he got a season in Baltimore. He didn't tear the league up but I thought he did OK. I don't know anything about Reyes. 

I think this Odrisamer Despaigne card is from an update set. I remember looking for one of him on the O's this summer for my fantasy player collection (yes, I had pitching issues for awhile) and only finding a Padres card. He's one of those guys who pulls his cap over to one side of his head. Seems to me to be a pitchers 'thing'. When I was playing (many) years ago I pulled my cap as low as I could over my eyes. I thought I was cool. 

Henry Urrutia. He's a Cuban guy who attempted to defect twice and was successful the second time. He's been in the O's organization since 2013 and had a couple of runs in the bigs.

I don't hate the '16 Topps design as much as most people. I tend to like cards that feature team color coordinated elements. Sue me.

Here's something you don't see every Aurora card of Brady Anderson. I had no idea what Aurora cards were but at first glance it seemed like something Pacific would have put out and it turns out that I was correct. Here is the card:

And here is part of the 2011 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards entry that popped up in a Google search:

Being from 1998 kind of explains why I had never heard of these things. I was away from baseball in the second half of that decade. The good news is that because of that I missed the Joe Carter Experience in Baltimore.

Finally take a peek at this:

It's just so randomly random. 1990 Star Company Wausau Timbers card of the coaching staff. Back in the day there were several competing companies pumping out minor league sets. Star, Classic, ProCards and Best are the ones that I remember. I think Larry Fritsch published sets as well although I can't recall seeing any of those  outside his catalogs.

So my question is "How does a 1990 Best Wausau Timbers Coaching Staff  card end up in Night Owl's collection?"  Beats me but I'm happy to add it to my small box of Orioles-related minor league cards.

And thanks to Night Owl for getting me out of my blogging doldrums. I actually found another envelope in my mail today which I'm betting contains some Orioles cardboard! Looks like I'll have another post soon.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Soccer...from WalMart

I make no apologies for being a soccer fan. I coached the sport and still enjoy watching it for the most part. I don't follow the MSL but I am a fan of European soccer in general and the Premier League in particular. Manchester United is my UPL club. I follow a bunch of different International teams, those that my family has roots in, Portugal, Germany, Italy, England and Mexico. 

I don't collect soccer per se but every once in awhile I'll pick up a card of a player I like. 

Last week I ventured into WalMart, a place I usually avoid. The two in my vicinity rarely have any cards worth looking at. That's why I'll drive over a toll bridge to get to Target. But when it's 11 p.m., you are facing an early wake-up call and you are fresh out of coffee creamer its any port in a storm!

WalMart surprised me by having not only a nice supply of 2016 Football, new Topps Heritage High Number packs and two(!) 2016 Soccer releases, Topps and Donruss.

I bought a hanger package of each of the soccer products. Both came with two packs and what they advertised as bonus cards. I both cases I got an extra bonus card so that's a plus. That never happens to me with baseball of football cards. The bonus cards are shiny chrome things that a) don't scan well and b) otherwise look like the regular cards. The two cards above are both bonus cards.

The Topps cards are very 'busy'. The cards are of players from teams involved in the European Champions League. They are designed to be used as part of some sort of digital game. Who the heck has time for that nonsense?

There are no stats on the back. There isn't much of anything on the back for that matter. 

The Donruss cards I liked a lot more. They resemble their other 2016 products. Like the Topps package I received an extra 'bonus' shiny card. They promised two but I got three (one of which I didn't bother to scan). 

Also like Topps the regular cards are, at least to me, more attractive than the chrome ones.

And with Donruss I got the best card on the night, Messi. He can be a putz but there is no denying his amazing talent. 

The backs lack traditional stats but had a bunch more info than the Topps cards.

I won't buy more of these, at least not any more packs. But I may pick up a player here and there for my slim soccer binder.

I'll scan and post a few cards from the baseball and football packs I also bought that night very soon.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

My '58 Topps Blog is online

I spent a bit of time over the past week getting the 1958 Topps Blog ready to go. You also can find the link over in the sidebar. The format is still a work in progress but it'll likely remain pretty simple: a scan of both sides of the card, a blurb about the player(s) and maybe an odd fact or two from the 'net.

Right now I have 353 of the 494 cards in the set which puts me at 71.4%. Maybe a dozen or so of what I have will get upgraded eventually but for now I can live with them. The set itself doesn't get much love from collectors. The numerous head shots and lack of backgrounds tend to push it down any list of 'faves of the 50s' but that doesn't faze me. I have a sentimental attachment to it and maybe my blog will stir up some converts. Honestly, a binder page of ex/m 58s is a thing of beauty.

According to my calculations the 1958 Topps set contains cards of 39 Hall of Famers. Several are represented on multiple cards in the set including base cards plus the All Star subset and the multiplayer specials. They are:
  • Ted Williams
  • Bob Lemon
  • Willie Mays
  • Don Drysdale
  • Hank Aaron
  • George Kell
  • Roberto Clemente
  • Al Kaline
  • Dick Williams
  • Luis Aparicio
  • Duke Snider
  • Robin Roberts
  • Early Wynn
  • Jim Bunning
  • Enos Slaughter
  • Mickey Mantle
  • Sandy Koufax
  • Red Schoendienst
  • Richie Ashburn
  • Bill Mazeroski
  • Warren Spahn
  • Frank Robinson
  • Harmon Killebrew
  • Will Harridge
  • Warren Giles
  • Brooks Robinson
  • Ernie Banks
  • Walter Alston
  • Whitey Ford
  • Hoyt Wilhelm
  • Orlando Cepeda
  • Yogi Berra
  • Pee Wee Reese
  • Nellie Fox
  • Larry Doby
  • Whitey Herzog
  • Eddie Mathews
  • Casey Stengel
  • Stan Musial
I'm not sure how frequently I will be posting over there but I'll try to maintain a one- or two-a-week pace. I also want to keep my 1960 blog moving along. I neglected that one for a few months until this week.

I hope you'll check out the '58 site. Comments and criticisms are always welcome.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Upgrade Mania

After chasing the '59 Topps set a card or two at a time I decided that a more efficient way to collect a set was to start with a large lot purchase. Doing so gets you a big jump on the set at a reasonable cost per card. Downside being that large but affordable lots invariably contain some filler cards that will need upgrading. That's even true in my case despite my rather liberal view of what makes a card 'acceptable'.

I employed the 'large lot' strategy with the 1960 Topps set, the Civil War News set and most recently with the 1958 Topps set. Each purchased lot definitely had a card or two that fell into the 'I won't even put this into the binder' category.

1960 Topps Don Elston.

This beauty came in my 200 card lot. All-in-all the cards were pretty sweet but this one? Yikes.

Actually the corners were pretty nice but I think I went to eBay the day the cards arrived and found a better one:

Softer corners but at least Elston has a face.  I like to pass along my vintage dupes but there was no way I could put that first one in a PWE. It went in the trash.

1958 Topps Hank Foiles.

The guy who sold me the big lot of '58s had them in a box in card number order. That meant that Hank Foiles here, card #4 in the set, was  right on top. I remember immediately thinking that I'd made a huge mistake. The cards in the listing looked to be in at least Fair shape, most looked better than that. But if this card was representative of what I was getting then even at under a buck a card I was going to be very disappointed.

Luckily the Foiles card was the worst card in the box. By quite a wide margin. Again I had to wonder why the seller had even bothered with it. I didn't do as I did with the '60 Elston and find a replacement right away but I found one for sale on eBay from a seller I've dealt with and loaded it in my cart. I bought it a few days later with some others. Again the replacement Foiles card isn't perfect but it is perfectly fine for my binder.

The new one looks even better when placed alongside the original.

1962 Civil War News 'The War Ends'.

This card came with the original lot I picked up on eBay that averaged about a dollar each. It may be definitely is the worst card I've ever paid for. I had fair warning though. The seller went out of his way to make the condition of some of the cards very clear. He even emailed me about it after I paid.

It was obviously trimmed to include the card number.

With the cost of nice ungraded cards from this set being pretty high (routinely in the $7 to $10+ range) I did well with the lot I bought. So I didn't feel bad for paying $8 for the replacement

It's off-center but nearly every card in the set was miscut, or so it seems from looking at what I have and what is for sale. But other than that it's the nicest example of the nearly 50 CWN cards I now have. Bottom line...CWN #82 went from worst to first in my binder.

I'll continue to play the upgrade game with my 1958 set. But other than the Foiles that will have to be when I'm finished with the thing. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

NFL Oddball...1966 Amoco Stamps

One of the things (OK, the BIG thing) about getting old is a tendency to forget stuff. Like where you see things that first caught your eye. In this case I can't remember whose blog had a post about these 1966 Amoco Oil All Pro game stamps. Wherever it was I knew immediately that I needed at least one of the Colts in the set.  Old, oddball Baltimore Colts items are at the top of my list of coveted collectibles.

Poking around online I wasn't able to find much info on these but looking at the eBay auctions it wasn't hard to piece together the idea behind them. You fueled up at a Standard Oil station, received a sheet of three stamps and pasted them onto the game card.

I was able to nab a three stamp game piece that included the great Lenny Moore. As you can see by the fact that the print on the reverse is plainly visible in the scan these things are very thin.

Rules/instructions on the back with the front side showing through. Opening the package I found that the piece was in a wax paper envelope that appears to be about the same vintage as the stamp. I'm guessing that's how you received it at the gas station. 

On eBay currently there is one 'collector's card' up for grabs. I snagged the photo from the listing to show here. Top prize was a 1967 Mustang! Damn, I'd love to have one of those right now.

Just like all these types of collect-a-piece promos (McDonalds' Monopoly game comes to mind)  it appears that finding all but one of the top level prize pieces was easy. Getting the last one? Not so easy.

The stamps themselves? They are so poorly executed and incredibly cheesy that they have quite a bit of charm. Just look at these things! I can't tell if they are photos or drawings. I think they are some goofy combination of both. My Lenny Moore may be the best (least awful) of the lot.

I blew up a couple of others from the collectors card photo. 

Pete Retzlaff  (a terrific receiver in his day, btw) resembles the Great Gazoo, no?

But my very favorite is Redskins LB Sam Huff. WTH? He looks like Daniel Craig in a fez. Sam Huff was one of my father's favorite players when he was with the Giants. I bet my old man wouldn't have picked this shot as a Sam Huff photo.

Anyway it's a neat little item that now has a place in my huge Baltimore Colts binder.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

1958 Customs (Phantoms?) from Bob Lemke

Bob Lemke writes one of my favorite blogs. He has some great stories from bygone days thru his access to old copies of The Sporting News. Plus he was a mover and shaker in the memorabilia news industry for many years. 

He also produces some terrific customs, both sports and non-sports. After a brief hiatus he is currently selling them again and I for one am glad. They are not cheap but if you buy a few at a time they cost about the same as a Topps Now card and are far more interesting than a card of the latest walkoff passed ball incident. 

When I decided to go after the 1958 set I knew I'd be checking out what Bob had available. I did the same for my 1959 and 1960 projects. Both of those binders have a page in the back that contains a few Lemke creations. 

For 1958 Bob now has seven customs (plus a variation). I recently picked up three of them. Roy Campanella never got to play with the 'Los Angeles' Dodgers as his sparkling career ended with his auto accident late in  January of 1958.  Bob's custom is a spot-on take on what a '58 Topps Campy might have looked like. 

Next is Bob's version of the '58 multi-player specials. He found a nice shot of Don Newcombe and Johnny Antonelli and used it in a way I'm surprised Topps didn't think of. 

When I looked at the checklist for the '58 set I saw that there was no card #145 and then remembered that it had originally been the spot where Ed Bouchee would have appeared. He was dropped from the set when his legal issues arose and he was suspended. Lemke fills the slot with a nice version of what the Bouchee card might have looked like. He has available both a yellow and black background. I picked the black since there are not as many black cards in the set as there are yellow. Bob was kind enough to also sent the yellow version as well. I have the yellow version at the bottom of this post.

Unlike the other Lemke customs I have or will pick up the Bouchee card will reside within the main binder pages as if it was an actual Topps card. I don't like having an empty slot on a page in a completed set. But to just 'skip' the spot would have thrown off my numbering and made my card-related OCD kick in to high gear. 

BTW...Bouchee was reinstated to MLB in the summer of 1958 and had cards in Topps sets again from 1959 through the end of his career in 1962 with the Mets.

The reverse of Bob's custom is a few shades 'brighter' than the original Topps cards but it's a great replication in all other ways so I'm happy to use it in that #145 slot. If it wasn't available I would have had to make my own lousy custom which in no way would have looked right.

There are four other Lemke '58s listed on his site. I'll snatch those up at some point along with the '59s and '60s that I missed the first time.

I'm still weighing my options as far as a '58 Topps blog goes. I'll figure something out.

Oh, and here is an image of Bob's yellow Ed Bouchee #145. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

'58 Topps..the new project

Over the last couple of weeks I committed to chasing the third and final of my three 'cornerstone' sets, the 1958 Topps set. Along with the '59 and '60 these sets were the first ones that I dealt with as a kid and the ones with the most nostalgic value.

The 1958 isn't the most popular of the 50s era sets but it's colorful, relatively easy to track down and it doesn't have lots super expensive rookies. I set about to begin my quest in the same way I started with the 1960 set. I gathered together the '58 cards I already owned. I had all the Orioles, a few stars (Sandy Koufax!), a couple dozen commons and the entire All Star subset. 

Then I found a large lot (240+ cards) of cheap '58s on eBay and nabbed it at a price that netted me 210 new (to me) cards that included some stars in lesser condition. Even disregarding the 25 or 30 cards I already owned the lot cost me about 80 cents a card. The Frank Torre card at the top comes from that lot and more or less exemplifies the average condition of the lot. Trust me, some of the ones I received no doubt spent some time being attached to bike spokes.

Finally I took my wantlist to the monthly hotel card show and combed through my favorite dealer's vintage boxes and came up with about 60 more commons in really nice shape. He cut me a nice deal on a few stars as well. 

I spent last Sunday sorting what I had and making notes on cards that will need an eventual upgrade. I also looked closer at eBay and COMC to get an idea of what it will take for me to finish this thing off.

Here is a peek at some of what I have. This Luis Aparicio was part of the eBay lot. I so love the old Flying Sock logo. 

Frank Sullivan came in the lot, too. Soft corners and a bit scuffed. But this one is way down the upgrade list. Down far enough that I'll probably never do it.

Another Flying Sock guy, Jim Landis. This one came from the show. Nice card for the fifty cents or so that it cost.

Daryl Spencer sports a logo-enhanced cap. Topps modeled these on the old San Francisco Seals caps. Close but no cigar. This is another card show pickup.

Fianlly here is Hall of Famer early Wynn. I didn't intend for this to be a Sox-centric post but whatever. He came over from the Indians for 1958 as the cardback notes. And he had plenty of arm left. He won 49 games for Chicago between '58 and 1960 when his effectiveness diminished. 

Topps packed a lot of stuff on the reverse of these. Stats, cartoons, personal data and a blurb in most cases.

When the weekend was done I ended up with a total of 332 cards. That's roughly 2/3 of the 494 card set. I did have one surprise. I just know I have the Frank Robinson and Ted Williams cards from this set. But try as I might I couldn't come up with them. I'll keep digging. 

In addition to all the actual '58s I have I picked up some of Bob Lemke's customs including the 'missing' #145 Ed Bouchee. I'll post them soon.

I'm still debating whether of not I will have a dedicated '58 Topps blog. I'm waaaay behind on my 1960 blog. The idea of undertaking a new one is rather daunting. But nobody (that I have found) has blogged the set and I'd like to fill that gap. I'll try to come up with an idea for a simple way to do it.