Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Box Breakdown: 2016 Topps Series 1

What's that old saying about good things come to those who wait? Prior to yesterday afternoon, it had been about 5 years since I bought a box of anything to break (not including blasters). I'm pretty sure the last hobby box I had purchased was from 2010 Topps Update. No- I take that back, it was 2011 Heritage. Anyway, once I decided to get back into the game of set collecting, I couldn't help but pre-order a box of 2016 Series 1. After 5 years and one delay due to weather, I finally had the joy of ripping into a full, 36-count box. Let's see how I did.

Product: 2016 Topps Series 1 Baseball
Packs per box: 36
Cards per pack: 10
Base set completion: 305 of 350 (87%)
Duplicates: 0

Inserts:
Buybacks: 2 (1972 #183 Bill Melton, 1977 #97 Dave Heaverlo)

Perspectives: 9 (Andruw McCutcheon, Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki,
 Juang Ho Kang, Kris Bryant, Yadier Molina, Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun, Ozzie Smith)

First Pitch: 5 (Mo'ne Davis, Hayley Atwell, LaVar Burton, Abby Wambach, Kristaps Porzingis)

Rainbow Foil Parallel: 3 (Glen Perkins, Bryce Harper, Wade Miley)

Black Parallel: 1 (Brian Dozier #40/65)

Pink Parallel: 1 (Joe Ross #12/50)

Gold Parallel: 4 (Matt Garza, Charlie Furbush, Dariel Alvarez, Clayton Kershaw)

Wrigley Field Celebrates 100 Years: 5 (#4, 7, 9, 24, 25)

Pressed into Service: 4 (#1, 4, 7, 8)

Berger's Best: 9 (#6, 11, 15, 23, 30, 34, 41, 47, 50)

Back to Back: 4 (#5, 8, 10, 14)

Wacky Packages: 3 (#1, 3, 4)


And, as I was down to the last pack, I noticed that I had yet to pull the auto or relic card that is promised in each box. Perhaps I missed it? Or perhaps I just got a lame box? Well, come to find out it was neither. What I got was the best card I've ever pulled:





Five years. One long weekend. Well worth the wait.


Between this box and the retail packs I opened, I'm down to the following cards needed for my set:
8, 11, 18, 41, 44, 63, 70, 71, 72, 88, 98, 99, 101, 121, 122, 156, 165, 194, 197, 211, 216, 225, 240, 241, 248, 252, 253, 257, 268, 272, 275, 283, 294, 302, 305, 308, 336, 337

If you have any of those to trade and are needing singles, I have the following available for trade:
96, 100, 103, 105-107, 110, 113, 114, 116, 119, 123, 125128, 130, 131, 133, 134, 136, 142-145, 151, 154, 158, 167-169, 172, 173, 176-178, 180, 183, 188, 195, 199, 201, 204, 206, 207, 210, 212, 214, 217, 219, 220, 222, 224, 231, 233, 235, 243, 244, 245, 251, 260, 261, 264, 266, 267, 271, 273, 277, 278, 281, 282, 286, 298, 300, 302, 303, 306, 316, 318-321, 326, 329, 334, 335, 338, 342, 346, 348, 349, 350

All inserts, except the Auto/Patch card and the Gold Garza and Kershaw are available, as well.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Perfect Day for a Girls Night Out

At first I was a little disappointed. My wife had informed me that she was going to have a Girls Night Out with a couple of friends on Friday. That kind of news would typically be welcomed- she doesn't get out with friends much and I try to encourage her to do so. However, Friday nights are our night. We have had the tradition for years: try to keep it open for movies at home or a date night. And I'm all about tradition.

I guess I also felt a little jealousy. I rarely do anything with friends- an occasional lunch or a card show with a buddy (although that seems to happen once every 2 years), but my social life outside of work is pretty minimal. The dog is cool, but she doesn't talk much. Looks like it will be a quiet night at home.


Anyway, in the middle of my pity-party, it dawned upon me: I'm expecting my box of 2016 Topps on Friday!! What perfect timing for a Girls Night Out! By all means, dear,  go out. Have fun. Tell the girls hello for me.



Not our dog, but one I saw on a meme on Facebook.



















I was still giddy with excitement when I woke up Friday morning and decided to check the tracking number, as if that would make it arrive quicker. My morning quickly turned to darkness, however.








As you can see- the shipment progress had changed since I had last changed. "Severe weather conditions have delayed delivery..." was the news I woke up to yesterday. Being in denial, I was still holding out hope that it would arrive at work later Friday morning (I had it shipped to my workplace). Yes, I was disappointed once again when it didn't show up.


Not all was lost, though. I had the opportunity to take my daughter out last night on a father/daughter date night. Ice cream, picked up a Redbox movie, checking thrift stores for a piece of a costume for her upcoming 'Decades Day' during 'Spirit Week' and a quick stop at Target. Why Target? Need you ask?


Among the many cards I received were two of the most important Topps Rookie Cards of the past thirty-five years- and they're GEM MINT!



Hang on- I'm being told those are not, I repeat ARE NOT rookie cards. Hmm. Disappointed. Again.


At least I got some valuable time with my daughter. And there's never any disappointment with that.



Friday, February 5, 2016

Base(ball) Oddity #41: The Last Shall Be First

...and the first was the last.


It's becoming more and more difficult to find Dale Murphy cards to add to the collection. Well, not if I count the numerous high-end releases that have come out in recent years. But I don't consider post-retirement cards as essential to any PC and so I just pass over most of them as I scroll through the pages. There are certainly ones I have liked and really wanted to add to the collection, but we have gotten to the point of overkill in the retired player checklist over the past decade. *Shakes fist*

One item I have been searching for came up on the 'Bay towards the end of December- only it was a graded copy. I really didn't want to pay the higher price usually associated with graded cards, but made an exception this time. I certainly don't want to have to worry about storing it in the case, so I will be performing surgery on it soon, removing it from its shell.





I made sure to purchase it just late enough in the month so that it wouldn't show up until after the first of the New Year. And so the last Dale Murphy purchase of 2015 was also the first Dale Murphy card received in 2016. 

Clever- aren't I?


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Quantity over Quantity

So I made a quick trip over to Target last night with hopes that they would 2016 Topps 1 in the card aisle. I had seen a post that Raz had published the night before, so I figured they must be on the shelves here locally- and I wasn't disappointed. Once I arrived in the card aisle, I was faced with a dilemma: do I get 8 regular packs @ $1.98 (or 1.99) each or do I get a jumbo pack and a hanger box? I chose the latter, figuring I'd get a few more cards for my money. I later regretted it, though. I mean, wouldn't you rather have more packs to open? I know I would. I only wish I had thought along those lines before my purchase.

The packs were typical: 36 cards in the jumbo, 72 in the hanger. Each contained the assorted inserts that I have grown to despise. And there was that piece of crack in it as well (the Bunt ad offering a free pack!). There was a nice surprise, however. More on that later. I will say that once in hand, I like these more than I thought I would. Should Topps have included the traditional border on the design? Absolutely. But if they were going to go borderless, they couldn't have picked a better design.


First Card:
#224 Billy Burns





First Brave:
#183 Andrelton Simmons~ well, first former Brave in a Braves uniform























Best card:
#96 Jose Bautista~ I think we have our Card of the Year, 2016. Hands down.






First Pitch:
FP10 Johnny Knoxville





Funny Faces:
#32 Zack Greinke
169 Charlie Morton






















GET WACKY!



I was very surprised to find one of these in the pack. Looks like a product I will buy when it's released next month.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Countdown to 2016 Topps #1: Outliers

I was perusing Facebook the other day and found myself reading some comments that others had left on a friend's post regarding the Iowa caucus. One man's comments, in particular, compelled me to jump in. I can no longer access the thread for reference (it was deleted, apparently), but his views basically boiled down to this: stupid people who vote render his vote useless and should not have a right to vote; only landowners should be able to vote; you must past a test in order to vote. Sounds like practices used in Jim Crow south, if you ask me. But anyway,  I asked him how does land ownership equate intelligence. Was he saying all land owners are intelligent? Are there no intelligent people that rent? 'Back in the day you had to own property in order to vote...' was how he started his response, to which I retorted "'back in the day' neither women nor blacks could vote. Be thankful that you live in a country where we can vote, regardless of intellect." 

In case you didn't know, Topps decided to allow the democratic process to take place in electing the player who would occupy the top spot in this year's set, which comes out tomorrow. Congratulations, Mike Trout.





In announcing that collectors had chose Angels outfielder Mike Trout to grace card number 1 in this year's Topps set, David Leiner, VP and GM of North American Sports and Entertainment for Topps, spoke about the historical aspect of the card number. "The first card in the Topps baseball set has historically been given to top players or has been meaningful," he said. "This time around, we wanted our great collectors to be part of the 65th Topps baseball set, and they made their mark by picking one of the best players in baseball today." 

After reading Leiner's quote, I tried to recall any Number 1 cards that featured players who were neither superstars nor, in the case of Andy Pafko (a 5x All Star), at least stars. I could remember cards such as the Record Breakers, World Champion Team Checklists, League Leaders and even ones for baseball executives that have held the top spot, but that was it. Then I stumbled upon an outlier whose name sounded like a professional wrestler.





To tell you the truth, I wasn't very familiar with Rhodes. Other than the heroics he displayed during the 1954 World Series, I couldn't tell you anything about him. Maybe that's because there wasn't much else to his game. He couldn't run and he couldn't field and, apart from the 1954 and 1955 seasons, he didn't hit much, either; his skills were so limited that manager Leo Durocher threatened to quit if the team didn't trade the guy who was basically taking up a valuable roster spot. They couldn't find any takers so Durocher was stuck with Dusty. Leo later confessed how wrong he had been in his assessment of Rhodes. I wonder if he would be singing the same tune if the hard-drinking country boy from Alabama had not helped him win his only World Series title. 

"I ain't much of a fielder, and I got a pretty lousy arm, but I sure love to whack that ball," Dusty once told a newspaper reporter. I find that kind of honesty refreshing- and am glad that Topps chose someone known more for a moment or two in time than for their superior skills. After all, not everyone is an intelligent landowner. 


If you had your choice of electing a player for the top card, who would be your choice? What's your favorite #1 card of All-Time?


Monday, February 1, 2016

Countdown to 2016 Topps #2: Take Flight

Imagine being a Seattle Pilots fan back in the spring of 1970. You had heard the threats from ownership towards the end of the season: show up or else... The threats of from the city: pay your bills or face eviction. It became quite apparent during the offseason that the financially-strapped team could not survive long enough to move into the new stadium that was supposed to be built in Seattle Center. A judge would declare the team bankrupt on April 1, 1970 and ordered the team be sold to an ownership group headed by Bud Selig, the man who had struck an agreement to buy the team during secret negotiations during Game One of the 1969 World Series. And so the team headed to Milwaukee- only days before the beginning of what was to be their second season. Forty-six years later, we're only two days away from the release of 2016 Topps and I think it's safe to say the company isn't pulling the plug on this upcoming release...



                            



I wonder how many disappointed fans tore up their 1970 Topps Pilots cards upon news of their team taking flight for Milwaukee. I know that I would have done something like that as a child, had I been in their shoes. But some fans/collectors, the discerning ones, might have looked at their Diego Segui card and seen hope. Here was a man who had left his family and his home in Cuba to pursue a career in the Major leagues; he had not been back home since 1960. After struggling to live up to the promise that he showed with "stuff" that former pitching coach Cot Deal said was just as good as Juan Marichal's, Segui was taken by the Seattle Pilots in the Expansion Draft that followed the 1968 season and went on to become the team MVP during their lone season.






Now, about that discerning fan/collector... perhaps they would have seen a foreshadowing of some sort on Segui's card number 2. When the city of Seattle was awarded another expansion franchise and Mariner team officials began putting together a roster, they turned to the former Pilots star.

Unfortunately, Segui's second go around in Seattle didn't go very well. The thirty-nine year old had his moments- he was named Opening Day starter (while taking the loss against the Angels) and would later strikeout 10 Red Sox hitters in a game- but he struggled to an 0-7 record over 40 games (7 of which were starts). And while he saw his strikeout/walk ratio improve to the best it had been in nine seasons, he also watched his hits per 9 innings hover around 9 and the number of home runs per 9 increase to the highest of his career. Segui would pitch the final game of his major league career on September 24th against the Chicago White Sox.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Countdown to 2016 Topps #3: The Other Duke

With all due respect to the late Duke Snider, I believe any player bearing that nickname should be positioned behind the plate. Because, you know, catchers are tough. You have to be to squat for 9-innings during the 120-130 games that you play over the course of a season, taking foul balls off your face mask, chest protector and wrists, or taking a bat to the head or the arms on a hitter's backswing. There are also the collisions at the plate. And do you think it would be easy wearing all that gear on a field when the temperatures soar well above 100 degrees? Unfortunately, neither Duke Sims' 1972 nor his 1973 Topps cards (where he looked tough) were numbered '3' Instead, we're stuck with one from 1967...





To be honest with you, I was not familiar with Duke Sims prior to Friday morning. I discovered this gem while eating breakfast and searching for candidates for card #3 in this countdown.

The name on the card may have caught my attention, but it was the 'Home' line and cartoon on the back of the card that cemented my decision. Being an Idaho native how could I not feature a guy who graduated from high school (Pocatello High School, class of '59) four hours from me and went to college 5 hours away? 

"Okay," you're saying, "so the guy is from Idaho [but born in Utah]- tell us something interesting." 

Well, Duke has the distinction of hitting the final home run at old (original) Yankee Stadium. The blast, coming in the seventh inning against his former team, the Detroit Tigers, was his first and only dinger for the Yankees, and afforded him the opportunity to be invited to many Old-Timers games. 





Thirty-five years after hitting that home run, Duke watched history unfold from his Las Vegas home as Jose Molina hit the final home run at the renovated Yankee Stadium. The event gave Sims a business idea: autograph signing appearances and baseball seminars of two catchers who will forever be linked together in Yankee trivia.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Countdown to 2016 Topps #4: Check!

1
2
3
4 Days 'til 2016 Topps hits the shelves







Many of us are dependent upon lists to help keep our lives organized and for the purposes of time management. We have our grocery lists, a list of what's for dinner during the course of the week, to-do-lists and lists of emergency numbers, just to name a few. I suppose there are people who continue to write these things down on paper but I'm guessing most folks now use their smartphones for such things. Log into the iTunes Store (or Google Play) and search for 'To Do Lists' under iPhone (iPad) apps and you will find more than enough to meet your needs.

I find myself using my phone for keeping notes of movies and music to check, but prefer pen and paper for other things (such as blog ideas). As far as my cardboard want lists, I used to prefer using pen and paper for those, as well, but it makes it hard to share with others (potential trade partners) who might have cards I need. So I've begun putting those lists in Google Docs. Plus it's much easier to have a phone in my pocket than carrying around a notebook at the card shows.





Thankfully, Topps still puts Checklists in their flagship product. It would be easy for them to just have it available on the website, but they must see that collectors still value such cards. I doubt anyone (other than maybe kids) actually puts pen to cardboard anymore, but most of us probably prefer referencing a checklist card to see which players they need than a website. At that point I then go online and enter in my want list. That being said, I still enjoy the initial pre-release checklist posted on sites such as Cardboard Connection. It provides a little sneak-peak at what we have to look forward to, much like the movie trailer. It's not quite as exciting as the day the new design is revealed or release day, but I still enjoy it.


My one complaint with the way Topps does their checklists in flagship is their combining checklist and season highlights into one card. The fonts seem to be a little smaller (or maybe it's just my eyesight getting worse?) and it forces them into having to make more checklist cards, since they aren't using front and back. Plus, the checklist on the back doesn't allow for any expounding upon the event being highlighted. Wouldn't it just make more sense to do it like they used to? I should tweet them about that.

Maybe I'll add that to my to-do list.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Countdown to 2016 Topps #5: On the Brink of Extinction

Eighty-three years have passed since President Franlkin D. Roosevelt said those now famous words during his presidential inauguration: "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." And yet, all these years later we are still in what seems to be a perpetual state of fear. Sixty years ago fear against the Soviets united us; fear today often divides us. We fear another stock market crash. Our fear of terrorists lead us to fear the orphan and widow seeking refuge from poverty, war, and assorted madmen. We fear the police; we fear the young black man; we fear the coming Zombie apocalypse. Sometimes we're accused of fearing a group of people because we don't agree with their lifestyle. And it's bad enough that politicians and the media feed our fears, but we also have physicists telling us that we are on the brink of extinction. Please, God, just let me live another five days until the new baseball cards are released!







If you were to ask me what is the most endangered species in the game of baseball today, I would have to say the slick-fielding shortstop whose slash line over 12 years as a starter reads .226/.282/.302. Want to hear something even crazier? How about a big league shortstop hitting .203/.259/.279 with a 0.7 WAR and finishing 9th in MVP voting- even placing ahead of teammate Mickey Lolich, whose 7.2 WAR that same year (1972) netted him 10th place. We're talking Lonesome George territory here, folks. 




 



One look at the photo of Ed Brinkman on card #5 of the 1973 Topps set tells you all you need to know about how good his glove must have been. I don't know how similar this pose is to Ed's batting stance, but if it is an accurate representation, pitcher's must have pounded the inside part of the plate when he came to bat. Maybe it's just me, but Ed's stance looks so unnatural. Perhaps he'd look more natural on some island out in the Pacific. But on the diamond? No.

But seriously, there was only one contemporary of Brinkman's who even came close to matching his defensive skills, and that was the Orioles' Mark Belanger. Ed had excellent range to either side, was sure-handed and had a rocket for an arm. Not only did the shortstop place 9th in the 1972 MVP voting, but he would also win the only Gold Glove Award of his career that season.

Oddly enough, the man known for his slick glove would struggle after being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1975 season. Ed committed 6 errors in the 24 games he played for the Cards and was then traded to the Rangers on June 4. He would play only one game for Texas and was then sent to the Yankees eleven days later, where he would finish his career.

An interesting, but useless, piece of information: one of Brinkman's teammates with the 1975 Yankees team was cardboard icon Walt 'No Neck' Williams- who just passed away six days ago. Can you imagine getting the two players to stand next to one another for a photo shoot? What a contrast that would be!




Thursday, January 28, 2016

Countdown to 2016 Topps #6: The Sixth of July

"In baseball there's no such thing as a small enemy."~ Fernando Valenzuela.





Acting on a tip about a young shortstop in a league down in Mexico, Dodger scout Mike Brito instead found himself in awe of a young 17-year old lefty with a good fastball and an above-average curve. A year later, Dodger team VP Al Campanis traveled south of the border to catch a glimpse of the kid and liked what he saw. 





Despite being offered more money by the Yankees for Fernando's contract, Puebla (Mexican League) team owner Jaime Avella kept true to a promise he had made earlier to Campanis, that the Dodgers would be given the first shot at the future NL Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award winner.

And on July 6, 1979, Fernando Valenzuela was sold to the Los Angeles Dodgers for $120,000- preventing the Evil Empire from adding even more star power to its roster and cementing the cultural phenomenon known as 'Fernandomania.'