Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Things I Am Sorting Part 9

A whole bunch of things to run through and catch up tonight, so let's start out with a card connected to yesterday's post.  I was hoping this card would arrive in time to put together with the Carlos Martinez and Blake Snell card, but it was a few steps too slow.  So, here is one more Holiday Relic from the Big Blue Box Store......

Archer is one of my favorite Durham Bulls, out of the Rays relics on the checklist, this one was a must have if I am going to put these into the collection.  The snowflakes in the corners of the card are a little bit more visible on this card than the two yesterday.  Cool picture of Archer too.

Next up is a card from my latest set project.  I am working on the 2002 Bowman Futures Games Autographed Relics.  Nice looking set that I am piecing together.  First addition to the set since I announced the project is kind of the oddball of the set....

The set is a relic set, like the vast majority of Topps cards produced from All-Star Game related events, the cards contain pieces of jersey.  For whatever reason Toby Hall is a game used base card.  I have no idea why and I am sure that I will never know.  It's still a really cool card and added bonus, Hall was on the Durham Bulls at the time of the Futures Games and the production of these cards.  He was a serviceable Major League catcher, but has a career OPS of .899 and a batting average of .326 as a member of the Bulls.  

I will cross this card off of the checklist.  One third of the set is done.  

Next is another set, but this one is a new release and it's already completely put together.  We are going to do a little compare and contrast with the cards.  

I picked up a copy of the much ballyhooed Gold Label set.  If you really like this set, hear me through until the end.  It starts out rough.  First, this set is not nearly the quality of the original Gold Label sets.  I love the design, on first glance I loved these, but then I held one in my hand.  The card stock the cards is printed on is cheap and the edges of the cards are chippy.

The original Gold Label cards, or any of the original run through the early 2000s, blow these cards away in terms of quality.  The card stock is thick, the edges are not chipped, and the gloss finish is much nicer.  This is a card from the original.....

If there was a way for me to allow each of the readers of this blog to reach out and touch these two baseball cards you would feel the difference immediately. Unfortunately that sort of technology does not exist, so you are going to have to take my word for it, or go get your own Gold Label cards.

The backs of the cards are quite different too.  I do not talk a lot about card backs, but I always enjoyed the backs of some of the late 1990s and early 2000s set.  Many of them had nice finishes, color photos, and interesting designs.  The original Gold Label back.....

Very well done 1998 Topps card designers.  A little busy, but overall I like that the stats are a little different and you have the nice color picture of the player.  Not sure what I would get rid of, maybe the factoid or the name at the top (I didn't know BJ worked out with JJK, but I did know his name was Brian Jordan), but the card seems a little busy. Again, I really like these backs though....

and the Gold Label.  It's not bad, but this is supposed to be a nice product.  Where is the effort?  This is a passable card back, but I want another picture of Manny Machado.  I want some cool stats, like his average exit velocity on extra base hits.  Give me something.  Anything.

Sigh.  Let's talk about one more thing.  This can be applied across the board to all Topps products, I just had never expressed this opinion before.  It's been lingering in my head....

This is a 1990s remake set.  There are current players in the set and then there are older players in the set who have retired.  I get the modern players, while the original Gold Label did not have retired players in the set, I am accepting of the concept of having older players.  However.....

lets look at two Braves cards.  I like Hank Aaron.  I like Greg Maddux.  Not really.  One of the players would seem to fit a little bit better into a 1990s remake set than the other.  Again, I like Hank, but you are not a 1990s player.   The set has Randy Johnson in a Mariners uniform and Mike Piazza in a Mets uni which I really like a lot.  It has Cal Ripken in an Orioles uni, but it's an 80s Orioles uni.  cartoon bird, not the black hats with the serious orange bird.  

Just my two cents, but I would love to see remake sets with past players match up a little bit better.  As a 1990s collector I think I would have enjoyed the checklist a little better if I had been able to see some good players from that decade.  Give me Albert Belle, Sammy Sosa, Brady Anderson with sideburns.  

Really, the design of the cards in Gold Label is nice and I think this is a set that is worth owning if you can find a copy of the set on the cheap.  The boxes are not too bad as far as cost goes, but a few autographs and a copy of the set can be had for roughly the same amount of money.  

Really, the back of the card design is probably me just being nit picky and the card stock thing is just kind of how cards are nowadays.  Some of the recent Five Star sets had some nice thick card stock, but even that has thinned out over the last year or two.  

Monday, December 5, 2016

Wally World's Holiday Cards

A few weeks ago someone messaged me about some "sweet" Carlos Martinez card that they had pulled from a pack of cards at War-Mart.  I looked at the blurry picture of a 2016 Topps card with a snowflake in the corner.  I kinda had to hold back the eye roll.  The cards seemed gimmicky and not nearly as cool as some of the past cool holiday themed cards, especially those awesome die-cut Pacific Ornament cards from the late 1990s.

Welp.  I still think the cards are kind of gimmicky, still not as cool as the Pacific Ornaments, but I sorta caved a little bit once I saw the relic cards in the set.  Not that I really love relic cards all that much, but there are a few players I like, so what the heck.  I got a few.  Might get a few more.  These are especially nice when I can trade for them, or buy them off of Ebay, rather than actually having to venture into Wal-Mart.  

I hate the place, although I liked when Mizzou fans made fun of former coach, and Duke player, Quin Snyder by photoshopping him into pictures as a Wal-Mart greeter.  

So here are the Wally World holiday cards that I have managed to add so far....

First up is a card of the Cardinals ace pitcher Carlos Martinez.  The snowflake design doesn't really stand out on this card, but it's there.  This is the only relic card of a Cardinals player in the holiday set, so this is likely it for cards of the Birds.  There are some Metallic cards in the set, but I am likely to skip over them.  

Next.  One of my favorite Durham Bulls from last year....

Big fan of Snell, great pitcher, and should be fun to watch for a long time.  There are several other Rays cards in this set, even a few autographs, so I will likely have another couple cards from this set to post in the not too distant future.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Venerable Old Card Part 36

In years past I have made up a post about the players that I am hoping will make the Hall of Fame.  This year's vote announcement is still a little ways away, but there is a possibility that a few players and executives could make it into Cooperstown at the start of the Winter Meetings on Monday.  One name that I am pulling for is Mark McGwire.  I know that known steroid user's election into the Hall has been a controversial subject of late, and I know like many other sticky political issues, there is little chance to sway the minds of baseball fans who keep up with the voting.

So instead I am going to talk about a favorite baseball card of mine from the late 1990s and write a few words about what Mark McGwire's time on the Cardinals meant to me as a baseball card collector.

First, before McGwire was traded to the Cardinals in 1997 I very much enjoyed baseball cards.  I had spent most of my life collecting, at the time as a kid in college, I still liked stopping by the card shops in St. Louis and picking up a few packs of cards here and there.  The real problem was that the Cardinals were really devoid of stars from the time the WhiteyBall Era team was blown up in 1990 until Anheuser Busch sold the team to the current ownership group.

My Cardinals collection circled around two players:

Ozzie Smith.....

who was older at this point and near the end of his career.  I still loved Ozzie, but at the beginning of the high end card era in the early to mid 1990s, he was often skipped over in cool insert sets.  There were still some nice base cards of The Wizard in sets like Finest, Ultra, and Stadium Club.  That was really it.

Then there was also the Ray Lankford collection.....

After the August Busch got cheap and refused to spend money to sign players like Willie McGee, Vince Coleman, and Terry Pendleton the Cardinals were reduced to Ozzie Smith, a bunch of castaways like Bryn Smith, and a whole bunch of kids.  Several of the young players like Bernard Gilkey, Geronimo Pena, and Brian Jordan showed flashes of stardom, but Ray Lankford was always the best of the group.  

However, playing on bad teams meant that Lankford was sort of in the same boat as Ozzie in terms of baseball cards.  Some nice base cards of the Cardinals centerfielder floated around, but not much in terms of inserts or flashy cards.  

My interest in baseball cards was really pushed at times during the mid 1990s.  Of all the years of cards in my collection, 1993 through 1995 are easily the thinnest.  Much of it has to do with the fact that the Cardinals were not good and card manufacturers generally ignored them.  

The Cardinals improved when LaRussa took over the team in 1996 and the team signed players like Andy Benes and Ron Gant, traded for Dennis Eckersley and Todd Stottlemyre and became a relevant team again.  Cardinals cards were still not really anything too special.  

Then McGwire showed up in St. Louis.  McGwire cards mattered and it meant that other Cardinals cards mattered too including players like Ray Lankford.  Outside of his Finest refractor, which was a parallel card, Lankford did not have any real high end cards.  After he started batting fourth behind McGwire he showed up in autograph sets and some of the nicer card releases.  

It was also fun to add McGwire cards to my collection.  He was the first really high-end popular player that I had ever really tried to collect.  Some of the cards were out of my price range, but there were plenty of cards that I pulled, or did manage to find at the right price, that were welcome additions.  

This was my favorite McGwire pull for a long time...

the amount of variations was a little obnoxious, but I kind of stopped when I pulled the 62 card out of my first box of 1999 Topps, but it was not my favorite.  One of my favorite products in the late 1990s was the Topps Gallery set.  Always made sure that I tried to put together that set.  Loved the look of the set, the inserts, everything about it.

This was my favorite pull from a Gallery box and landed this card before Topps went too crazy with reproducing all of their old cards, or making new cards using old designs.  These cards were really popular and highly sought after at the time.....

The Gallery Heritage set seems to be one of those card sets that has faded away in terms of popularity and price, but I am still a huge fan.  I know a lot of other 1990s collectors who still love these cards too.  If you have never seen these cards, or do not own any, they are not too hard to find on sites like Ebay and COMC.  They used to be pretty expensive too and have become a lot more affordable.  

There are plenty of other McGwire cards that I could have shown off in this space that for this post that mean a lot to me.  I have often wondered if the Cardinals hadn't traded for McGwire if I would have eventually lost the desire to collect cards.  

Not sure I can answer that, but I can say also say that I probably wouldn't have the interest and love in the hobby that I have today without him.  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

There's No Crying In Baseball

I am a big fan of players showing emotion while they are playing the game.  Some of the "unwritten" rules of baseball stuff, put your head down and run, drive me crazy at times.  Don't get me wrong, if Scott Rolen types want to run around the bases as quickly as possible I am not going to complain for a second.  However, at the same time, if a guy like Bryce Harper hits a 500 foot home run I don't see a problem with him checking it out on his way to first.

Emotion is a two way street.

Baseball always seems to be the last sport to adapt to everything, not only are celebratory displays of emotion much more acceptable in other sports, but so are some of the emotions for losing a hard fought game.

Basketball has crying.

Football has crying.

Hockey.  Crying.

Even Pep Band members at sporting events cry....

but baseball has generally been devoid of crying.  If you scour the internet long enough you can find a few examples of players crying on the field, but most of them are pictures of players dealing with something tragic from off the field.  Pictures of Craig Biggio and Larry Walker can be found crying after the death of Darryl Kile, Marlins players after the death of Jose Fernandez, and Yankees players after the death of Cory Lidle.

Baseball players really don't cry on the field outside of that Flores kid on the Mets.  At the time this incident happened, I really did not think much of it.  Guy crying because he is going to get traded?  Sounds a little sad, but I am not sure that it's worth this sort of display....

I recently ran into a pair of Wilmer Flores cards.  They were pretty nice cards, and while they are not something I would go out of my way to find, both cards fit into sets that I have enjoyed collecting.  First up...

I did a little bit of work collecting these a few years back.  There were always some nice players in these Bowman's Best insert sets.  I especially enjoyed the die-cut versions of a few of the Cardinals and Rays prospects.  I do not have the complete set, but Wilmer is one of the cards that I was missing out of this set.

Last one is a Gypsy Queen autograph from the 2014 set.  I have always liked the GQ sets and really enjoy the on-card signatures in the product.  Wilmer does not have the best signature or anything, but adding cards like these to the old collection isn't going to cause any hurt feelings or tears.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Project Durham Bulls #1: Kyle Roller

I have been working on a few set projects recently on the blog, but I have also been thinking about taking up another project beyond the sets that would focus on single cards of Durham Bulls players.  More specifically, I am looking to add autographs of players who have appeared for my favorite Minor League team.

A few challenges I envision:

  1. Minor League teams have a little bit higher turn over rate than Major League teams.  There are many years where the number of players who appeared on the roster is eye popping.  I am ready to track them down.
  2. Some of the players who appear on the Bulls do not have autographs.  I am thinking about whether or not to chase in-person autographs, but have not made a final decision on that yet.  Kind of leaning towards no.  
  3. What to do about the hundreds of posts that I have made over the last three plus years with cool cards of the Durham Bulls?  Just because I have one autograph of the player, say someone like Evan Longoria, doesn't mean that I am just going to skip over all of his autographs in the future and never give him a post in this series.  I will get there.  

With that being said, I have started a new page up at the top of the blog which will display the different players who appear in these posts.  

With that being said here is the first of many cards....

Kyle Roller - 2016 Durham Bulls 

Kyle Roller appeared on the 2016 Durham Bulls for a total of 50 games before he was released.  His time with the Bulls included a .216/.316/.377 line with 5 home runs, 9 doubles, and 12 RBIs.  Roller's professional career started with the Yankees in 2010 after he was drafted out of East Carolina.  He played in the Yankees system from 2010 until the end of the 2015 season.  His best season in the Minors was easily in 2014 when he hit .300/.391/.550 with 26 home runs, 30 doubles, and 74 RBIs splitting time between Double A Trenton and Triple A Scranton.  Roller's other notable career highlight came in the 2015 Triple A All-Star Game when he sparked the International League to a 3-2 win over the Pacific Coast League.  

I really like college sports, so I was happy to find a card of Roller in an East Carolina jersey.  I am not always a huge fan of the Panini products, but I always liked these Elite Cards.  Roller was the Cape Cod League MVP during the summer of 2009 and was named first team All-American in 2010 at ECU, so while he was not the highest of draft picks or most highly regarded prospects, it's nice to see a player with a college career get a little cardboard love.  


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Then There Were Two Of Us In The Wolfpack....

Trea Turner is really fast.  I am really fast if I am running with someone who has a sprained ankle.

Trea Turner is really good at baseball.  I am really good at wiffleball when the people I am playing against have been drinking.

Trea Turner is on the Washington Nationals.  Sometimes I watch the Washington Nationals on television.

Trea Turner was once a student at NC State.  I was also once a student at NC State.  I graduated, not sure about Trea, but I might have that over him.  Maybe.

Sorry, I am not scanning my degree for this post.

I did scan a pair of Trea Turner cards for the post that I picked up because I did go to NC State.  I borrowed the title from a speech given by another former student at NC State.....

I am hoping that maybe Zach Galifianakis could have Trea Turner on Between Two Ferns in the near future.

On to the baseball cards.....

I actually picked up both of these cards from a card shop in St. Louis, RBI Cru 7, awhile back.  The store was not there when I last lived in the Lou, but I actually picked these up after they posted a picture of them on Twitter.  I need to get to that shop one day soon, hopefully it's near an Imo's since we do not have provel cheese in Raleigh.  

First up.  

This is a Tier One autograph of Turner numbered out of 25.  I love these cards when they have the gold and silver signatures.  It's a little busy with the granite like design on the bottom of the card, but overall this is a very nice card of the former Wolfpacker.  The card is serial numbered out of 25.  


Also a Topps Tier One autograph, this card is serial numbered out of 250.  The card has a little bit cleaner look with the lighter colored marble pattern on the bottom of the card and the signature in blue ink.  While Turner has a really simple signature, he is really good about the consistency on his 'graphs.  The autograph on both cards is roughly the same.  

Overall, I am thrilled to add these two cards to my growing collection of Trea Turner autographs.  

Oh, and while we are here tonight.... Go State!  Beat the Illini.  

Monday, November 28, 2016

Set Project #4: 2002 Bowman Futures Game Autographs

Yesterday I took a little bit of time to post a copy of a 2002 Bowman Futures Game autograph of slugging first baseman Carlos Pena.  I love the looks of these cards and have decided that these cards are going to be my next set project.  Doesn't seem like it's going to be too difficult, but there is that one set project up on that tab that's been there awhile now.

Always something difficult to find.

So, here is what I am starting out with......

The Wilson Betemit card from a few months ago.....

and the Carlos Pena card from yesterday.  

I also have a copy of the Ryan Ludwick card, but the autograph on the card is all but worn off.  I am not going to count it at this point.  Meaning we are going to run with this checklist as the cards that I need to finish off the set.....

#FGAJ-CH Carlos Hernandez 
#FGAB-TB Toby Hall 
#FGAJ-NJ Nick Johnson 
#FGAJ-DT Dennis Tankersley 
#FGAJ-JW Jerome Williams 
#FGAJ-RL Ryan Ludwick 
#FGAJ-JRH J.R. House 

I am starting out with 2 out of 9 cards, or 22% of the set.  Let the searching begin.......