Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Things I Am Sorting Part 10

Yes, I am still working on putting some sets together.  That Pedro Martinez Skybox Molten Metal card is proving difficult and might be spilling over into my other set projects.  I haven't completed any of the sets that I have listed on the Projects In Progess tab at the top of the page, but I have a stack of cards sitting on my desk that need scanning and posting.  

Tonight is going to be an update on my 1999 Topps Gallery Heritage set.  A little bit of logistics first.  When I originally posted the set I had not sorted through my collection yet to see what cards were already here.  I had McGwire and Griffey off the checklist since I had posted them here in other posts.  Here is the checklist minus the Griffey and Big Mac.  

TH1- Hank Aaron 
TH2- Ben Grieve 
TH3- Nomar Garciaparra 
TH4- Roger Clemens 
TH5- Travis Lee
TH6- Tony Gwynn
TH7- Alex Rodriguez 

TH9- Derek Jeter 
TH10- Sammy Sosa
TH11- Scott Rolen 
TH12- Chipper Jones
TH13- Cal Ripken Jr. 
TH14- Kerry Wood 
TH15-Barry Bonds
TH16- Juan Gonzalez 
TH17- Mike Piazza
TH18- Greg Maddux 
TH19- Frank Thomas  

The highlighted cards on the checklist I was able to find amongst my boxes of cards.  So, out of the 20 card set I am looking for a total of 9 cards, or just under 50% of the set.  The better news is that I have found a few of the cards I am missing from the set over the past two months.  

Here is a look at the new cards........


Of the three new cards I picked up for this project this is my favorite card.  There have been plenty of art sets over the years, but Topps did a really good job with this set.  I like that Topps put Maddux in glasses on his card.  Gives him that accountant sort of look that I remember him having while he was playing.  It's hard to believe sometimes that a short guy who barely threw 90 was one of the best pitchers of the steroid era.  This is a really cool card.  


I like the Aaron card too.  Always nice to see the greats from yesteryear in the modern baseball card sets.  I like the Boston Braves markings on the cards, but the Topps Gum ad over his shoulder seems a little bit forced.  

Last card.   


I know there is all the steroid stuff with Juan Gone, but I don't really care.  The guy could hit.  Something about this card feels a little bit unfinished.  The helmet has the Rangers T logo, but the jersey just seems like it isn't finished.  It's a common thing in the art world actually. 

This Titian painting is in the St. Louis Art Museum.  He was commissioned to make the painting, but died before he finished it.  


Same sort of idea between the Titian painting and the Juan Gone card.  The main figure on each is completed, but the edges and details are a little bit vague.  Not really completed.  

Overall, happy to have the three new cards which brings the set completion down to just six cards.  


TH3- Nomar Garciaparra 
TH4- Roger Clemens 
TH6- Tony Gwynn
TH9- Derek Jeter 
TH12- Chipper Jones
TH15-Barry Bonds

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Let's All Flip Out

Things happen to players that makes us want to run away.  Sometime in the spring of 2005 I went all in on Mark Mulder cards.  The Cardinals had just been to the World Series and upgraded their starting rotation by trading for one of the A's big three pitchers.  As a Cardinals fan I loved the move.  The team had a very good starting rotation in 2004, I figured Mulder was going to be a big winner with the Cardinals.

I started hitting up the local card shops around St. Louis looking for cool Mulder cards and found plenty of great options.  Plenty of other Cardinals collectors did the same thing.  His cards were pretty reasonable and Mulder had done a fair amount of signing while he was with the A's.  One of the first Mulder cards I picked up was a copy of his 2003 Donruss Signature Series Autograph.



The 2005 season came and went.  The Cardinals reached the NLCS and lost to the Astros.  Mulder did not have his best season, but still won 16 games.  Chris Carpenter had a career year and won the Cy Young, so really being the second starter in the rotation seemed decent.  Then 2006 happened and Mulder's shoulder basically fell off.  

Collectors flipped out and there were tons of cheap Mulder cards everywhere.  I was happy to take some cheap cards off other people's hands and loaded up on his cards.  My favorite cheap Mulder card was a copy of his 1999 Topps Traded autograph.....


The way I saw the whole Mulder injury at the time was that he was going to miss a year, come back, and generally be his former self.  Not what really happened since Mulder's career was basically sunk after 2006.  He pitched a few games in 2007 and 2008, tried a comeback with the Angels a few years back, but basically he was done.  I probably should have known a little bit better, although I still love the Topps Traded autograph.  

Since the days of collecting Mark Mulder cards I have developed a system of sorts for collecting cards of players who are injured.  There is inevitably either some level of panic with a drastic sell off, or just a slow steady decline.  Either way, the price of the players cards are going to go down.  So, here it is.  Shoulders are bad and we do not touch them.  I could see good reason to flip out.  


until the price of their cards levels off.  Scott Rolen had a bum shoulder after he was run over by Hee-Seop Choi in 2005.  He missed time, his power numbers dropped, and he ended up on the Blue Jays and Reds.  For awhile I just avoided his cards, but they are pretty consistent now and much more affordable than when he was with the Cardinals.  

Then there are elbow injuries.  Everyone is always bummed out when a pitcher on their team has Tommy John surgery.  People can flip out about these injuries, but should they?  I remember back in 2011 when the Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright to an elbow injury.  Sure the Cardinals won the World Series that year, but they lost Adam Wainwright right?  So many affordable Wainwright cards......


and then he came back and won 53 games in 2012, 2013, and 2014.  No, Wainwright did not win a Cy Young Award, but everything after the elbow injury worked out pretty well.  Until that whole Achilles Tendon thing, but I haven't really thought that one out yet.  Not a real common occurrence in baseball.  Maybe a reason to flip out, the Achilles thing, not the elbow.  

Currently there is a bit of a meltdown amongst Cardinals fans about Alex Reyes.  I am sad he's out for the season too, but it's an elbow injury.  I am feeling alright about his future still and am still out trying to find his cards.  No need to flip out.    

I just picked up a really nice looking Bowman's Best autograph of the hard throwing pitcher just a few days back......



His card prices aren't sinking like a boulder in a lake, but it sure does seem like a lot of people have really lost interest in this guy.  I am still happy collecting cards of Alex Reyes and I am pretty sure that he's going to be a good pitcher.  Yes, there are pitchers who do not make it back from elbow injuries, there is always that chance, but in that case I can look back at Alex Reyes and think about would could have been....  


Friday, April 21, 2017

Project Durham Bulls #12: Hank Conger


2016 Durham Bulls 

Background- 
Conger was drafted by the Angels in the first round (25th overall) of the 2006 Amateur Draft out of high school.  Conger was a highly regarded prospect for many years making the Baseball Prospectus Top 100 Prospects 4 times between 2007 and 2011.  He graduated to the Majors full time in 2011, but Conger never hit enough to stick a starting job with the Halos.  In 5 years with the team Conger posted a slash line of .224/.294/.353 with 17 home runs, 34 doubles, and 71 RBIs.  He was traded to the Astros after the 2014 season where he was the backup catcher and post home run Robot Dancer.  I believe this was actually called the "CongerBot"


Conger ended up with the Rays in 2016 which is probably not a great thing considering the Rays seem to run through catchers fast.  Not really a surprise, but Conger ended up in Durham and did not hit at all.  In 30 games with the Bulls Conger hit .165/.200/.303 with 3 home runs, a triple, and 4 doubles.  Conger is still in the Minors this year with the Diamondbacks.  

Card-
I am not a huge Angels person, so I never really went after any Conger cards back in the days when he was regarded as a serious prospect.  I also never pulled one of his cards, so I am not sure what they actually were worth in terms of trade or monetary value back in the day.  According to the biggest Angels card collector that I know his cards had a decent following in the years he was in the Minors.  Sort of dried up quickly after he got to the Majors.  I got this 2007 Bowman's Best autograph, which was one of his nice autos, for pretty much nothing.  I have always liked this set a lot though, even if it is sticker autographs, the silver on the sticker and card fit together well.  


Monday, April 17, 2017

A Trip To The Co-Op

Everyone has written up something about their 2017 cards.  I am slowing down a bit this year, so I am doing a little more picking and choosing of sets to collect.  I set out recently to my local card, The Trading Card Co-Op to check out two different products.  In past years I have really enjoyed opening boxes of Heritage and Gypsy Queen, so they seemed like something good to work on.  I'd like to think of them as kind of staple products, or sets that are long running that I have been opening since whenever they started..... Beyond Gypsy Queen and Heritage, I also picked up a single card which fit nicely into my card collection.

New single card.




Love the black card with the gold signature and gold foil.  I am a little depressed about the Cardinals at the moment, so I am just going to leave this card here and move on to my Heritage box.  


The 1968 set is not my favorite, but it's not terrible.  I have always heard it described as the "burlap sack" set.  Good description, but I have always felt that was kind of a negative and I don't really see this set as one that I would run away from.  Besides, my box was pretty sweet.  The card above is a mini and the card below is a mini.


I think mini cards are supposed to be one per box, but mine had two.  Beating the odds is always good.  I also got a chrome Rizzo card.  Another good name to go along with the Posey and Machado.

I had one of cool parallel card which I did not scan because I did not find it until I started sorting out my cards into making my set.  One of those things you miss the first time around because it just doesn't stand out.  The other card was a grey back card which I believe are limited to just 10 copies.  All sounds good, but the card is the Rockies team card.  Not the best, but I am sure I can trade somewhere, or something like that.

On to the autograph.  I cannot complain about this one at all either.....


I actually spent the last few days watching the Cardinals play the Yankees, don't mention the outcomes, but Judge seems to be a really impressive player.  I am going to file this card away in a box and revisit it in the future.  Hopefully Aaron Judge has a nice career, if not I will look back and remember when I could have sold this card for more than $50, but now it's under $5 on COMC.....I like my chances of it staying pretty high.

Shall we Gypsy Queen?  I am going to do this one quickly.  My two autographs....




two pretty good young players.  The Severino is serial numbered to 150.  The Piscotty is not numbered, but it is always nice to pull an autograph that fits into my collection out of a box of cards.  A few other hits, not showing them all.  


My best non-autographed card, might be even better than my autographs, is a Manny Machado throwback variation.  The card is also missing the his position above his name, so this is a short print within a short print.  Way too over complicate things Topps.  Still a cool card.  



I pulled three other color variations out of the Gypsy Queen box.  The Car-Go card is a black and white variation and serial numbered out 50, Dozier and Judge are both purple and serial numbered out of 250.  


I also pulled a couple of cards with no name on the front and a few others with out the player's position above their name.  It seems like you get a couple of these per box based on what I have seen out of other people's pictures around Twitter and Instagram.  

Overall, I am happy to have finally picked up boxes of these two products.  I pulled some really cool cards out of the boxes and also am enjoying the new Matt Carpenter autograph.  Overall, a good day at the local card shop.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Junk Wax Dilemma Part 2

At some point two months ago I made a post about trying to finish up my 1990 Upper Deck set which was missing about 100 cards.  After some sorting and quick math the total was actually at 107 cards.  I acquired two boxes of 1990 Upper Deck, which seems like overkill for roughly 100 cards.  It was definitely way more cards than I really needed to finish the set, but ripping open junk wax can be underrated fun.

Just looking at the names on the cards makes me happy.

After opening 72 packs of 1990 Upper Deck I sorted the 107 cards I needed to complete my set into my box and then sat down to flip through the rest looking for cool players I liked watching as a middle school kid back when these were brand new.

First, I had done some dabbling in the 1989 Upper Deck set, but never really ripped a ton of packs from that set.  The 1990 set was the first year that I really worked on an Upper Deck set.  Of course the best card in the 1989 Upper Deck set was the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.  It was the most popular card from the moment that the set was first released.  The 1990 Upper Deck set also had a really popular Griffey card.  There were other popular rookie cards in the set, but the 1990 Griffey second year card was my favorite card in this set at the time.....



One of the other really popular rookies in the set was Yankees first baseman Kevin Maas who hit 21 home runs while only playing half of a season.  Everyone was sure that he was going to be awesome. Pretty card to have in 1990.......


Maas played a few more years with the Yankees and a year with the Twins, but never really lived up to the half season he played in 1990.  The junk wax era cards always get the bad rap of not having any really stand out rookie cards, but there are plenty of good name rookie cards in the 1990 Upper Deck set like Sammy Sosa and Frank Thomas.  There are plenty of other players in this set too who turned out to have decent Major League careers......


like these two guys were pretty good players for most of the 1990s.  Sure these cards can be found for next to nothing, but one of these guys had more than 2000 hits and 400 stolen bases.  The other one had more than 350 home runs and 1000 RBIs.  Not a bad pair of players and there are others like this in the set.  

There are also the usual superstar cards like Bonds and Henderson....


but my real enjoyment came out looking at the Cardinals cards in the set.  Being a Cardinals fan living outside of St. Louis I really took time to find their cards in the set.  1990 was really the end of the WhiteyBall Era teams with Vince Coleman, Wille McGee, and Terry Pendleton.  Ozzie stuck around for awhile longer, but I loved those teams.  My favorite two Cardinals out of the set, I eliminated Ozzie because he's the easy answer, were.......


This is actually the last Willie McGee Cardinals card until he came back to the team in 1996 as a fourth outfielder.  He also won the National League batting title in 1990 even though he finished the season playing for the A's.  This is also one of the final Coleman cards as a Cardinal as he would leave for the Mets at the end of the season.

Not the flashiest set, but overall I had a good time opening up these packs and checking out these cards.  Happy that I could finish off a set while I was at it.

Had to listen to some 1990 music while I was writing this post.  I went with my most played album from that year on my iTunes which is......

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Venerable Old Card Part 50

Laster this afternoon I am going to make the trek from my house to downtown Durham to watch the first Bulls game of the season at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.  I usually make it to Opening Night for the Durham Bulls, but have missed a few over the years.  Last year's Opening Night was cold and it rained through the first few innings, still a fun night though.  


My most memorable Opening Night with the Durham Bulls took place in 2006 when top prospect B.J. Upton hit a walk off grand slam against the Toledo Mud Hens.  I have looked high and low for video, or photographic proof of the home run, and have only found a grainy video from the Durham Bulls MySpace page.  



Got to love MySpace.  

The home run propelled me into giving B.J. Upton cards a spot in my collection.  Even to this day I still dabble a little bit with his cards as long as I can find them on the cheap.  Sometimes you run into people who insist that his cards were pretty valuable in the past, so they still have quite a bit of value today.  

No.  

One of the greatest of all B.J. Upton rookie cards is his 2002 Upper Deck Prospect Premiers card.  These were really popular in the early 2000s and ran for several years.  At the time of their release, several of the rookie autographs in these sets were quite pricy including the Upton card.  B.J., or Melvin as he is now known, never quite panned out, and his cards have become very affordable.  

I am not sure what this card cost at its peak, but today it can be yours for a few dollars....


There are some great names in this set if you ever feel like reliving the "top" prospects from this era.  Khalil Greene, Prince Fielder, Jeremy Hermida, Jeff Francis, and Zach Greinke are some of the highlights.  Some of those are actually cool....

The Upton card, the other card in the set do too, has one of those weird Upper Deck signed index card looking things.  I like to think of it as the forerunner to the sticker autograph, but I think it actually looks a lot better than some foiling sticker with a bunch of holograms in the background.   

Overall, a great card.  Frankly, it's hard to believe that this is now 15 years old.  I feel old now.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Minor League Jimmy Ballgame

I have been expanding out my Minor League card collection of late trying to find some cool cards with players beyond the Durham Bulls.  This past week I had the chance to pick up a few cool Minor League oddballs of some of my favorite former Cardinals players.  Really there was one card in the lot of Minor League issues that stood out as I was trying to arrange a trade......


Love this card from the Midland Angels 1 Hour Photo & Portraits Team Set.  

I mean Jim Edmonds kind of always looks the same appearance wise, just the uniform changes from time to time.  I believe Angels fans coined the nickname "Jimmy Ballgame" which has stuck with him throughout his career. 

The design and background of the card are the real winners on this card for me.  First the design.....

There are several Minor League team sets that I have run into over the years that have been put together by some local photo/camera shop.  The cards generally have a photo or postcard format, but also always seem tough to find.  Whether they are giving out one at a time, week by week, over the course of the season, or some other route, they are almost never given out as a set.  So much about this card reminds me of the Bob's Camera Richmond Braves cards......



Same era too with the Deion card coming from 1991 and the Edmonds being from the 1992.  The Deion card is tighter showing only a little bit of the background that is The Diamond in Richmond.  It's a pit.  Which brings me to my second like on this card......

The Edmonds card takes in much more of the stadium which looks every bit the part of a Minor League stadium from yesteryear.  Five rows of red seats and a whole bunch of bleachers.  I am not seeing any kind of overhang either which means that in the middle of summer those metal bleachers were probably an incredible place to watch a Double A Texas League baseball game.  

Most Minor League baseball stadiums these days are fairly nice.  Even the Midland Angels have a really nice looking field.  This is what current stadium looks like today......



Yes there are still dives.  Did you click the Richmond Braves link?  No matter the situation there are many things that still make Minor League Baseball Stadiums unique.  The Durham Bulls have the bull......


The Burlington Royals have all the retired jersey numbers of the former Burlington Indians in urinal stalls on the third base side of the stadium......


and there are dozens over other examples that I could post, but let's not drift too far off topic here.  The point is that Minor League baseball has many things that make it unique including the stadiums and fields.  Some are good, some are bad, but it is something that makes this side of professional baseball a little bit different than the Majors.   It's really cool to get a little bit of that flavor on a baseball card like the Jim Edmonds.

The grass isn't perfect and it's going to be hotter than hell at watch the game.  If I lived in Midland, Texas in 1992 I would have been all over it.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Bosh Pit

I ventured into enemy territory this week, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to watch a baseball game between the dreaded Tar Heels and Coastal Carolina.  I wore my best navy blue shirt, with an NC State t-shirt underneath, and parted with a few dollars for two tickets into the game.  I loaded my son into the car and away we went.....it felt a little bit like that "pilgrims in an unholy land" scene from Indiana Jones.....


A little back story.  When I first moved to North Carolina, which was a little more than 10 years ago, I had actually vowed to stay neutral in the whole college sports scene.  I lived in the southwest corner of Durham about 10 minutes from Duke's campus and roughly the same distance from UNC depending on the stop lights on 15-501.  I went to Duke and UNC sporting events didn't really have a horse in the race, just good college sports.

UNC had a pretty good baseball program at the time and I liked watching games at Boshamer Stadium.  It was a bit of dive, but you were close to the field, and the quality of players was better than State or Duke.  By dive I mean a few sections of bleachers and a grass hill.


The last game I went to at Boshamer before this week I saw UNC play South Carolina.  Justin Smoak was on USC.  I think I saw Andrew Miller pitch an NCAA tournament game sitting on the hill next to first base at some point too.  At some point a few years back the Heels shut down 'The Bosh Pit" for a year, played at USA Baseball, and then moved back into the remodeled stadium the next year.  I hadn't seen the new version.  It is nice.

A few pictures from the game......


The outside of the stadium has a nice brickyard around it and a simple entrance.  The outside of the stadium also has banners featuring some of the school's more prominent former players.  I found Andrew Miller for my picture since he was a player I saw back in the day.....


I believe that Dustin Ackley is in the background.  I like the brick facade and courtyard around the stadium.  The baseball stadium is on the UNC campus and the outside of the stadium fits in well with the other buildings in this part of campus.  Sure, there are a few ugly 1970s high rise apartment looking things in the background of the stadium, but the majority of the buildings around this part of campus are red bricks.  


The courtyard is named for the Steinbrenner Family.   Yes, that Steinbrenner family.  Apparently some of George's kids went to UNC.  I believe the former players listed on the wall made a gift towards the stadium remodel, not positive about that though.



The concourses are a little small, but I think some of that is clutter.  First base side is on the left with vending machines and concession stands.  Third base side has some of that, but most of it is built into the stadium.  A little bit more space to move around.  Still on par with a minor league stadium.  


The interior of the stadium is very nice too.  I like that they used the school colors mixed with green trim.  Green goes with baseball.  I like that the seats and furnishings are mainly green and that the Carolina blue is used on the dugouts and accents.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but a lot of the signage is green with blue writing you can see it better on the retired jerseys.....


which are behind the first base stands. 


It was a mid-week matchup, so the crowd was a little smaller than would be expected for a defending National Champion taking on a Top 10 team.  The game also started at 6 and filled in a little bit more as the night went along.  This was the line card exchange.  


A little hard to see from the pictures, the netting around the field was not loved by my camera phone, but UNC wore some throwback looking unis.  Seems to be a pretty big thing around college baseball right now.


A look at the playing field during the game from behind home plate.  So, on to the game.  UNC ended up winning.  Lots of home runs which was kind of surprising because the bats don't allow those sorts of things to happen....




In the end the Heels hung on for a 7 to 6 win.  

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

One Third Of A No-No Part 2

A few summer ago I was fortunate enough to witness a combined no-hitter by three pitchers on the USA Baseball College National team in a game against the Cuban National team at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary, North Carolina.  The stadium is a few minutes from my house and a must stop at some point every summer.  The College National team is usually chalk full of some of the best draft prospects, so even if you don't get to see a no-hitter you still get to witness a slew of first round draft picks.

Previously I have made posts about Florida pitcher A.J. Puk and Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Hendrix who pitched the last two legs of the no-hitter, but I was still missing an autograph from the starting pitcher from that game.  

The starter for that game was Mizzou pitcher Tanner Houck......



Of the players I saw in this game, I was actually most excited to find a card of Houck.  Growing up in St. Louis, I spent a lot of time watching Mizzou football and basketball games.  There are not a ton of Mizzou baseball cards floating around, but some of the ones that are out there are kind of pricey.  Max Scherzer is the most notable player who came out of the program.  He has a few recent cards in Panini products wearing the old gold and black along with a Donruss Elite card from back in 2007 when it first became a amateur baseball product with draft picks.  

Houck cards can be a little on the expensive side too, at least for my tastes, so I had to wait a bit.  I was honestly hoping that I could also find an on-card autograph too since all of his Panini autographs from last year's USA Baseball products featured stickers.  In the end, the price dropped a bit, but I still ended up with a sticker autograph..........




This is my second card from the Elite Extra Edition Panini cards after I added a Seth Beer card a month or so ago.  These are really nice looking cards with the large jersey swatches and player pictures in their USA Baseabll uniforms.  I am trying to decide what number Houck signed next to his name.  From the picture and card above, he wore 31with USA Baseball, but he wears 11 while he is pitching at Mizzou......


Either way, 11 or 31, I am happy to finally land an autograph of the third player from the no-hitter I saw almost two years ago.  Houck will be a high pick in this summer's MLB Draft, so I am also looking forward to possibly finding a few more of his cards over the next few years.....