Friday, March 27, 2015

Food-Issue Friday: Two from Nineteen Eighty-Two

"The boy lies in the grass with one blade stuck between his teeth. A vague sensation quickens in his young and restless heart. And a bright and nameless vision has him longing to depart...The boys lies in the grass, unmoving, staring at the sky. His mother starts to call to him, as a hawk goes soaring by. The boy pulls down his baseball cap and covers up his eyes." The Analog Kid (Neil Peart/Rush)

"He picks up scraps of information, he's adapt at adaptation. Because for strangers and arrangers constant change is here to stay..." Digital Man (Neil Peart/Rush)

From the time I started collecting (1977) until 1981, almost all of the money I earned from allowance or money received for birthdays went towards cards. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, KISS, Charley's Angels, and whatever else was at the nearest Circle K (and there was plenty of other stuff!) was open game. But that began to change in 1982.

So what caused this shift in spending? Music. Or, more specifically, my discovery of the Columbia House mail-order music club. Surely you remember it? 12 tapes or records for a PENNY! That discovery just so happened to coincide with- in my mind- the greatest year for record releases. 

The music from 1982 is literally the soundtrack of my teenage years. As a fan of the rock/ hard rock/metal genre from that era, there isn't an influential band that didn't release a classic album that year: Iron Maiden (The Number of the Beast), Van Halen (Diver Down), Judas Priest (Screaming for Vengeance), Scorpions (Blackout), Rush (Signals), and even the remaining members of Led Zeppelin released the appropriately titled Coda. There were also a number of huge songs that I will always associate with those days, as well: I Ran, Take My Breath Away, I Want Candy. The Boss had an album (Nebraska), the Clash (Combat Rock), John Cougar (American Fool), and of course, Thriller also came out that year. And that's just a drop in the bucket.

It's funny. Today we have digital cards and digital music. I really don't care for digital cards, but what music I do purchase is in the digital format. (although I consume a lot of it via Spotify and Pandora). Columbia House is no longer in business, but hobby mail-order dinosaurs such as Larry Fritsch Cards and Kit Young Cards somehow hang on. 

Both of today's cards were purchased through the 'Columbia House' of card sites, COMC. You know, you get sucked into their huge catalog and then pay out the nose for those commons. Heh.

Anyway, the 1982 Cracker Jacks set was produced by Topps for the first 'Old Timer's Baseball Classic," which was held at Washington's JFK stadium and was the creation of former Braves VP Dick Cecil. Cracker Jack was a sponsor of the classic from 1982 through 1985 and offered this one-time set through the mail for proof of purchases of their snack. Uncut sheets of the cards measured 7.5" x 10.5", while individual cards (trimmed) measure 2.5" x 3.5". The first eight cards (plus a ninth card, an advertising card) feature American League legends, while the second set of eight/plus ninth card feature stars of the National League.

I'm still looking for card #9 of the Hammer, Hank Aaron- so if anyone has one to trade, please let me know! And if you have a few minutes, be sure to read the link above. Marty Appel gives a history of the Classic and it's a must read!

From Analog Kid

To Digital Man

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Grand Illusion

"Welcome to the Grand Illusion, come on in and see what's happening. Pay the price, get your tickets for the show...But don't be fooled by the radio, the tv or the magazines, they show you photographs of how your life should be. But they're just someone else's fantasy...just remember that it's a grand illusion and deep inside we're all the same."~ Styx's The Grand Illusion

One of the frustrating parts of being a player collector of an athlete whose final game was over twenty years ago is how to approach post-career cards. In my case, that would be with cards of Dale Murphy.

My collection still has some holes in it of items from Dale's playing days: some are tough finds, others I have in my Braves team set binders (and want to get second copies for the Murphy binder) and I'm undecided on what to do with sets such as O-Pee-Chee and the Tiffany sets.

As it is with many of Dale's contemporaries, the number of cards produced of #3 after his retirement exceed the number from his playing days. Many of those cards are from sets I do not care for. Sets like Tribute, for example, I find totally unnecessary. Countless parallels- yawn. So what's a completest to do?

When it comes down to it, I'm fine with not having every card of Dale Murphy out there. The notion of being a 'Super Collector' is hogwash. Am I any less a fan because I don't have every card of his? If I collected everything available would my life be somehow more complete? No, it wouldn't. Don't buy it into the lies, my fellow collectors.

I'm sure I sound like that vinyl record you have that skips every time you put it on the turntable, but I refuse to join the crowd who want nothing to do with unlicensed cards. Just because something is unlicensed doesn't mean it's an inferior product. 

One of my most recent Murphy purchases:


I love the look of 2012 National Treasures; such a classy look. Yeah, it's your typical white jersey swatch, but the relic cards I do pick up are more about the photo and design, not the swatch itself.

Sure, the Fleer Mini pictured below has the team logo in the bottom right corner- but for me the photo is always the focal point on a card, with the design a close second. Especially when talking about a player collection. I do not see an 'A' on the helmet or much of anything, other than a very small bit of the script, on the jersey.

The next Panini card isn't a recent addition- but it has been sitting in my photo folder for some time, so I figured it was time to break it out.

Who is this Dale Murphy guy- and what team does he play for? Sorry, I can't tell you; the front of this Topps card doesn't indicate his employer.

I have featured the City Hall card from Home Town Heroes in a previous post and don't understand why collectors complain about it....

when they don't have a problem buying these. We have an appetite for them, you might say. 

This Playoff Prime Cuts card is actually on my wantlist. I can understand why someone might be turned off by a sticker auto.

After all, we all know on-card autos are much more appealing. Well, the signature on this Scherzer card (found on eBay) does kind of suck- but at least it has, er...logos?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Want to Believe

Scrolling through Yahoo's homepage last night made me feel as if I'm stuck in the 90s. It seems like every other headline was about the return of a wildly popular Fox TV show that first aired twenty-two years ago. Fans never thought they'd see its return, so it gives me hope...

I want to believe that digital cards will disappear and this is the closest thing that we will see to digital trading cards.

I want to believe that we will see another Diamond Kings set featuring an 'A' on a hat. (or choose your team's logo.)

I want to believe that the trend in retro sets continues, including one in the not so distant future that is produced by Upper Deck.

I want to believe that there are some records that will never be broken (and if they are, they're legit) and that we never have to say goodbye to our heroes.

I want to believe in prospects again.

I want to believe in the return of some of our favorite sets from the period some call the Last Great Decade.

O you of little faith.

Monday, March 23, 2015

For Old Times Sake

There was a reunion of sorts this weekend as the Braves and Cardinals met for a spring training game. Though they had played earlier this spring, it was the first time that the one time face of the franchise (Jason Heyward) faced his former team after being traded last November. I think that every pre-game photo I saw had Freddie Freeman standing next to his bosom buddy.

Saturday brought not only their on-the-field meeting, but a cardboard reunion, as well. Three packages arrived in the mail that day, two of which contained a card of the players.

I'm trying to abstain from purchasing relic cards, but Jason's regular base card pictures him in a Cardinal hat and I wanted to has one last Heritage card, for old times' sake.

This year's Diamond Kings will probably be panned- but just as last year, I really like them. No, it's not a Dick Perez painting, but think they're well done. Beats the hell out of a lot of the 'art' in the Topps National Chicle set a few years back.

This final Heyward card arrived earlier last week, but I had not featured it on the blog yet. I do like the design and think the red, white and blue stripes on the bottom resemble the colors found on the '84 Diamond Kings, I think it is?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Base(ball) Oddity #31: Vermont Historical Society Set

I discovered today's featured set by accident. Well, sort of.

It all began after discovering a set produced by the Wisconsin Historical Society commemorating the 1957 World Champion Milwaukee Braves team. Seeing the 96-card set got me thinking: are there any other similar sets that have been produced? The wonders of Google gave me my answer.

Produced by the Vermont Historical Society in the year 2000, the 36-card Vermonters in the Major Leagues set features one card for each of the 34 Vermont-born men who have played major league baseball, as well as an artist card and a VHS header card.

Each card measures 3.5" x 5" and features the work of artist and S.A.B.R. member Dick Leyden, who himself is a resident of Vermont. Only 2000 Commemorative Sets were produced, each boxed and stamped with a serial number. Backs feature a nice gold border, short biography and career stats.

I never would have imagined the second-least populous state in the union would have produced as many major leaguers as it has. However, many of the players included in this set played during the 19th Century or early part of the 20th Century, and are thus unknowns. My primary interest in this set was the inclusion of former Braves player and broadcast legend Ernie Johnson. Other notables include more modern players, such as former Texas Rangers first baseman Pat Putnam, Rangers/Twins pitcher Len Whitehouse, and Orioles/Twins pitcher Mark Brown, long-time player and manager Birdie Tebbetts, and Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk.

Two other cards feature players with interesting stories:

Ray Fisher, who pitched in a total of ten major league seasons, was blackballed from the game after a contract dispute with the Reds in 1921.

Ed Doheny, former NY Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher (1895-1903), began acting bizarrely shortly before the first ever World Series and was sent home. Despite receiving treatment, the sixteen-game winner attacked a nurse with a cast-iron stove leg, also holding a number of people as prisoners. After being taken into police custody, Doheny was declared insane and spent the final years of his life in asylums.

For anyone interested in obtaining their own set, the Vermont Historical Society has them for $1 plus shipping. Or, if interested in receiving one for an oddball or team set, let me know. All except the Johnson are up for trade.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

First. Middle. Last.

I will be having an uphill battle the next two weeks as I fight the temptation to make a trip to Target and buy 2015 Donruss. I really like the look of this year's design, especially the 1981 retro cards. But there's one problem: I have exhausted my monthly card allowance. And if I were to go over budget, and the wife found out about it, well, you know the idiom about a woman scorned... I can hear it now, "STEVEN!" I normally go by 'Steve.'

When I got in trouble as a kid, my mom would use my full name. First. Middle. Last. I'm sure yours did as well, so you know what I'm talking about. Whenever you would hear it, you knew something wasn't right. Probably messed up; did something wrong. No use in running, you'll be found. Put on the big boy pants and deal with it like a man.

That's why I've found it odd that the use of a full name has been a part of Donruss cards since the beginning. Of course, early Donruss was plagued with mess ups, to put it nicely.

Horrible choice in composition and lighting?


Photo editor asleep at the computer?


Copy editor have something against Hammerin' Hank?

BOBBY! LEE! BONDS! Son Barry didn't even hit 986!!!

Looking at the Fab Freddie card that arrived in yesterday's mail, I see nothing wrong with it. Some might complain that it's an 'SP' or a 'gimmick.' Won't hear me complaining. No logos? Nah, don't care about that, either. Glossy, thicker stock than original 81's? I like it.

Many Braves fans are concerned about a lack of offense during the upcoming season, causing the team's first baseman to get pitched around. That's the only trouble I see.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Chips and Swatches

The spring cleaning bug came to our house a little early this year. After a pretty mild winter, spring arrived what seems to be five weeks early this year. I'm not complaining.

One of the symptoms of this year's bug is the desire to paint two rooms and a hallway. I know this year's bug is bad because I hate painting. Lord knows I've had plenty of practice in the past. Each summer during my high school years (and the first two out of high school), I would work for my dad, who's a commercial artist. Advertising on the outfield walls at the local stadium, fire work stands, business signs- each having to be lettered. I also had plenty of practice as a kid, painting the fence along our driveway. Not to mention the joys of home ownership. Anyway, I've finished the hallway and am now waiting on my daughter to choose the color for her room. Our office is going to be a different story.

Perhaps if my wife didn't have some of her crafts in the office- better known as my card room- there wouldn't be a problem. You see, she wants warm colors throughout the house, and I'm good with that. But, I really want to have one accent wall in the card room- with the baby blue like on the old Braves jerseys (shown on this Glory Days card). That's all I ask. I even brought home some color chips to try and match the colors. (perhaps I should have taken a relic card to the store). My wife, however, wasn't too crazy about the idea. Heck, it would be the wall that houses my bookshelves (not to mention it's the wall where the door is), so it's not even an entire wall, per se. 

Of course, if she still says no, I suppose I could buy up as many relic cards featuring the baby blue and just make a large collage or ten, frame them and have my accent wall.'d cost a lot more than a gallon of paint, but it might just work.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Base(ball) Oddity #30: Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers

"If you see me walkin' down the line, with my favorite honkey tonk in mind. Well I'll be here around supper time, with my can of dinner and bunch of fine. Beer drinkers and hell raisers, yeah. Uh-huh-baby don't you want to come with me." ~ ZZ Top's Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers

I'm not much of a beer drinker, but when I do have an adult beverage, it's either a Blue Moon, a Corona or Sam Adams. During my high school years, however, our choice was Coors Light. I guess it must have been the best tasting beer we could find at the time. It certainly wasn't because of price point; there were many less expensive choices for our underage palates. While I no longer care for the Silver Bullet, I do care about today's card- which I picked up recently for about the price of a bottle of the brew.

Released in 1994, the Colorado Silver Bullets promo cards featured nine cards and were available with the purchase of a twelve-pack of Coors. Like the Niekro card, each piece of cardboard featured one of the brewing company's brands (Original Coors, Coors Light, Coors Cutter, Coors Extra Gold, and Coors Dry) in either a gold or silver foil-stamp in the top left corner.

Card backs are simple: Black and white with career highlights and, for the ladies, vitals such as height, weight, birth place, home, etc. 

Viewed by some as a ground-breaking opportunity for women to enter the world of professional baseball, while others, such as New York Times columnist Barbara Walder, saw it as merely as stunt that hindered women's quest to compete at the highest levels of sports, the Silver Bullets fielded a team from 1994 until 1997- when Coors decided to pull the plug on sponsorship.

Things didn't start out too well for the lady barnstormers, who began their first season playing against a team made up of Northern League All-Stars. After a 19-0 shellacking, former big-league pitcher Dennis 'Oil Can' Boyd had this to say about his opponents: "They could give a good high school team a hard time." Not exactly what ownership and management wanted to hear.

After canceling the rest of their scheduled games against Northern League opponents, the Silver Bullets played a schedule made up of semi-pro and amateur teams as well as a couple of Class-A short-season teams from the Pioneer League.

Hell Raisers

The Bullet's final season saw perhaps the most memorable moment in team history, in a most "unfortunate situation."

During their June 11th game against the Americus Travelers, state champions in the Georgia 18-and-under league, outfielder Kim Braatz-Voisard, having just been hit by a pitch, decided she could live with being hit- but not with being laughed at by the teenage boy whose pitch had just drilled her in the back. And so she charged the mound, setting off a brawl between adult women and teen-aged boys. No word if any charges were filed.

Prior to the plunking, Voisard had told Americus catcher Jonathan Crumbliss, who had been mouthing off all game, "to be quiet and play the game." The next pitch from Greg Dominy hit Voisard and the rest, as they say, is history.

Knucksie had this to say about the melee: "As good a baseball brawl as I've ever seen. All havoc broke loose."

That wasn't my favorite quote about the incident.  Mark Lastinger, a reporter for the Albany Herald, said that Braatz-Voisard was on Dominy "like a cat on a pork chop."


Monday, March 16, 2015

It's More than Just Junk from Jaybarkerfan

I'm a little behind on this, but a couple of weeks ago I received a flat rate box in the mail from Wes over at Jaybarkerfan's Junk. Wes had contacted me after a recent post, asking for my address- and you can imagine the first package from one of the most generous traders in the blogosphere!

I certainly wasn't disappointed as I went through the box full of goodies.

But there's more....

The box had a little bit of everything: 70s Topps, brands I've never seen, recent releases, and junk- plenty of junk era stuff. And you know what? I loved it!

My collection is lacking in a number of late 80s/early 90s cards and I found plenty of them to add to my team set binders.

Perhaps my favorite of all Wes had sent was the 2000 Gallery Rafael Furcal Students of the Game. I love that set and would like nothing more than to see Topps bring it back in the near future- as they did with Topps Tek last year. The card next to it, the Ultra Andruw Jones, is an interesting one. No foil stamping. You can't have an Ultra card without the bling. (unless, of course, it's the 1991 debut.) Terdo has a good shot at making this year's roster, and that would be a good thing. Finally- orange, gree, and yellow on a card?! Well, it worked well on this 1990 Score Steve Avery. Gotta love the 90s.

Have never been a fan of Fleer, but was thankful for the Linares and Cabrera cards. They are missing from their respective years. Donruss was King of the 80s and I'm glad to see the brand make a comeback the last two years. Now, if only Upper Deck would comeback. Can you image them doing a college baseball set? Yes, please! But for now, I'm just happy with the ones in this package. I will, one day, finish those team sets.

I know, it's crazy, but I had never seen a Topps Unique card before this LaRoche found its way to my hands. My first thought was that this would have been a perfect design for an NFL set. 

Like Fleer, I was never a big fan of Score. That being said, I do really like the '89 and '90 sets- and the representatives shown here will go towards those team sets. My first Upper Deck Masterpieces...all I can say is WOW! I wasn't collecting during the two years UD produced these beauties. One more reason why we need that company back.

Thanks again, Wes, for all the great cards! I don't open wax boxes any more, but this was right on par with that experience. Be on the lookout for a bubble mailer from me soon!