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.....


Monday, March 20, 2017

A Venerable Old Card Part 49

I have done a few posts recently with 1990 Upper Deck cards, including a post on Mark Langston as an Expo, and the dilemma of how to finish off the junk wax set in the most economical route.  In the later post about finishing off the set I made mention of buying two really cheap boxes of 1990 Upper Deck.  I had a blast opening the boxes, so I picked out a card to talk about tonight and will be doing a post later in the week to talk about how I did in terms of closing out the set.

This week's card is a cool prospect from 1990......



At the time the 1990 Upper Deck set dropped Eric Anthony was one of the top prospects in the game.  Checking in with Baseball America, they had him ranked as the 8th best prospect entering the 1990 season.  He ranked behind Steve Avery, Ben McDonald, John Olerud, Juan Gonzalez, Sandy Alomar Jr., Kiki Jones (who?), and Todd Zeile.  Some of those players ended up having pretty good careers.  While Eric Anthony ranked behind a few other big name prospects on the field, he was pretty popular in the world of middle school baseball card collectors.  

Ken Griffey Jr. cards ruled the hallways of my middle school.  Mark McGwire and Cal Ripken types were also pretty popular, but Eric Anthony cards were probably in that neighborhood for at least a year.  Without much Major League experience much of his hype was driven by his Minor League performance.

In the two seasons leading up to his Major League debut Anthony had hit 29 home runs with Asheville in 1988 and a combined 31 in 1989 between Columbus, Tucson, and the Astros.   At the time of Anthony's debut the team had a young Craig Biggio and would pick up Bagwell in a trade with the Red Sox, yet neither one seemed to touch Anthony's star in the early 1990s.  

Fans raved about his talent.  Check out the back of this Upper Deck card.....



home runs, strong throwing arm, Triple Crowns....Sounds like a pretty good prospect.  Add in the fact that Anthony was an impressive player to watch in person.  His power was incredible and there were a lot of no doubt home runs in those early years of his career.  




In the end Anthony's career did not live up to the hype.  He played a total of nine seasons with the Astros, Mariners, Reds, Rockies, and Dodgers.  He started two seasons with the Astros in 1992 and 1993, but the rest of his time in the Majors was spent as a fourth outfielder.  At the end of his career he had 78 home runs with a .231/.305/.397 slash line.  



Sunday, March 19, 2017

5!

Things have been a little slow here over the past two weeks due to a heavy workload.  I have been working this year planning a field trip to get about 100 fifth graders from Raleigh to Washington D.C. for a few days.  The run up to the trip was hectic, but the trip itself was a lot of fun.  Blogging had to wait a few days......


At some point over the last two weeks this blog crossed the five year mark.   It doesn't seem that long ago that I first decided to sit down and take a few minutes to write a short post about a Brian Fuentes Triple Threads card that I had picked up from somewhere......


I was originally talked into trying out a blog by a trading partner of mine at the time, DodgerBobble, who no longer blogs, but does have a phenomenal Instagram page.  Almost 1,500 posts later I have arrived at this moment.  Over the years I have written not only about baseball cards, also spent time writing about road trips to baseball stadiumspizza restaurants in St. Louis, basketball, barbecue places in North Carolina, board games, basketball cards, movies, musical references, snowstorms, and all sorts of over topics that I am not remembering at the moment.

There have been a few breaks, a writing job at another website, and there was a podcast in there too.

Where to from here?  First, I'd like to thank the people who stop by and reading my writing.  I have met some great people by doing this for five years.  Whether you are a fellow writer, card trader, baseball card collector, baseball fan, or just stop by to read what I write for some other reason I cannot thank you enough.

I don't write for page clicks, I don't have ads, or anything that I make money off of on this page, but I am just surprised somedays at the number of people that read this page.

Moving forward, here are three things that I am going to work on over the next year as told by Crash Davis.....


1.  "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? "

I started a project with collecting Durham Bulls autographed cards this year and have made dozens of other posts beyond this year that could have fit into that category.  As time goes on I might expand the posts in that series to go beyond autographs.  The Bulls have been around since 1902 which means there are a ton of players in the team's history that do not have autographs.  Still trying to get a game plan for the older players....if you have any ideas the comment section is below.

My first card in the series featured Kyle Roller from the 2016 Bulls team



There are not a lot of blogs that have a heavy minor league slant and I know it's one thing that can make my blog a unique space.  I live within two hours of roughly a dozen minor league stadiums, thirty minutes away from the campuses of three different ACC schools, and ten minutes away from the USA Baseball complex.  I still love watching the Cardinals, can never go wrong getting cards of the team you grow up watching, but I feel like the Minor League and amateur baseball cards are the most enjoyable thing for me to write about at this time and that's what's most important about blogging: doing what you want to do and having fun doing it.


2.  "We're dealing with a lot of......"

I started working on posting some set projects during the past year.  I had some good momentum during the first half of the year, but slid a little bit the last few months.  I think the Molten Metal set has been a large part of the slide.  I have come a long way with completing that set, yet at the end of the process I am having a hard time tracking down just a few cards.....at reasonable cost.


I also have worked on a few other set projects, but not posted them on that tab of my blog.  For example, a few weeks ago I made a post about finishing off the 1990 Upper Deck set, but never did a follow up post for it.  So, while I have improved my writing about finishing off complete sets I still feel like there is room for improvement here.  Plus, I love that feeling of finding the last card or two that finishes off a project.  Set collectors all know this feeling, if you're not a set collector just know that it is a really really good feeling.  Sometimes your wife puts a curse on your Ebay or COMC account where you can't find the 50 cent card you need to close out a set, and nobody seems to know what to trade that dude who collects Preston Wilson cards, but only if it pictures him with the Rockies, who has three cards you need to finish your set.....

3.  Lollygaggers!

One of the last goals I publicly made in regards to my blog was to make more posts about cards that are already in my collection.  I have a few hundred-thousand cards.  They didn't just show up since I started blogging, so it's fun to go back and talk about some of the cards from my earlier collecting days, or the players I collected.  

I have done really well in this area over the past year making posts almost every Monday about a card from my collection that's at minimum about 20 years old.  I love looking through my old sets for cards and players to talk about in the posts.....



and it can be a fun way to talk about players with connections to the Durham Bulls, or other local minor league teams, or those with connections to the local colleges.  Not sure I would have dreamed that this Quinton McCracken card would have fit into my collection 20 years ago when I pulled it out of a pack of cards, but just a few weeks ago this card got a post based on the fact that the former Rockies outfielder not only played for the Durham Bulls, but also played football and baseball at Duke.  

or it's just fun to show off some of the Cardinals players who played for the team when I was growing up in St. Louis.......


even if those teams were terrible, the players were fun.  I have some really awesome junk wax era cards lined up for these posts for the foreseeable future.  

It's been a fun five years, thank you again for hanging around and making it through this post.  It feels like the equivalent of a TV clip show, but I am going to hit the publish button anyway....


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Project Durham Bulls #11: Al Martin


Al Martin 1989 Durham Bulls 


Background-
The Atlanta Braves drafted Al Martin out of high school in 1985, he then spent 5 years playing in Rookie and A Ball.  In 1991 he played for the Braves Double A and Triple A teams.  After 1991 he spent one more season in the Minors with the Pirates.  I looked up his biography on Baseball Reference and half way expected to see him in sort of trade between the Pirates and Braves, but he was actually a six year Minor League free agent.  It's not rare to see players who are Minor League free agents reach the Majors, but I am guessing that Martin had one of the better careers of a player who reached that mark.  He made his Major League debut in 1992 with the Pirates and went on to play a total of 8 years in Pittsburgh.  Al Martin had some nice years playing with the Pirates, but was on some really bad teams.  His best season was probably 1993 when he hit .281/.338/.481 with 18 homers, 64 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases.  The Pirates traded him to the Padres for John Vander Wal where he spent a year playing, the Padres traded him to the Mariners for John Mabry where he played two years, and he ended his career with the Devil Rays in 2003.  

 Card- 
Martin is also in the 1996 Leaf Signature set, but I kind of liked this Donruss Signature card a little bit better.  The main thing I was looking for in picking up a Martin card was that he was a Pirate on the card, which was not really a problem since his only two certified autos were in a Pittsburgh uniform.  Further, in working on this project of finding Durham Bulls autographs it is a little bit trickier to find cards of players from the years the team was a Braves affiliate.  Currently the Bulls are a Triple A team, so percentage of players reaching the Majors is pretty high.  During their time as Braves affiliate the team was a high A team.  The percentage of players which much smaller, much tougher to find autographs of the players.  While it's not a great signature, it's nice to finally add a Braves era player to my Project Durham Bulls posts.  

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Lost In The Closet

I go through sorting lulls at times where I just end up stacking cards on the shelves of my baseball card closet.  Giving my work schedule I know that I am never far away from a two to three week down period away from it all.  Generally I work nine weeks and then have three weeks off.  A few more during the summer and around December and January.  In my mind it can be a great excuse to procrastinate on certain chores and activities around the house.  Card sorting is not immune.

I have actually improved a lot over the last year or two.  There used to be a table in my card room that was buried with all sorts of commons, doubles, and the whatnot.....


While the situation has improved, I am a little ashamed at the state of my card closet at the moment, so I will say that it looks better than the picture above.  At the same time it's not like every card is in a box, not really even close.

A few days back I decided to tackle a stack or two of the cards in the closet that were not sorted into boxes.  Loads of commons, doubles, a few odds and ends.  Welp, I also found a few really nice cards hanging out in there too.  Most notably were two Carlos Martinez cards that I got from?  Your guess is as good as mine.

One of the cards was a C-Mart autograph from last year's Topps Museum Collection.


Martinez's autograph always seems to change every year for the good.  This is an on-card autograph too.  I like the black and grey design on this card with the red highlights.  Seems to fit well on a Cardinals card.  Nice picture of C-Mart pitching too.  

The other Martinez autograph was a jersey relic from last year's Tribute set.....


Same picture as the Museum autograph above, but there are some things that I like about this card.  First, I have been really down on materials cards the last few years.  I went through some of my posts from the last year a few weeks ago and there are almost zero, not quite, posts that deal with just relic cards.  It still is a larger swatch and it has one of those cool stickers on it.  That always means that I get to take a field trip over to the MLB Authentics website and figure out whether I should be excited or disappointed....



The jersey is from a Cardinals vs Royals game in July of 2015.  The question is always whether or not the game involved the player.  The answer is........


what does Carlos do when he sits on the bench?  He builds cup pyramids and throws water on players when they hit home runs.  Carlos was doing something with cups the day he wore the jersey on the front of this card.  Randal Grichuk and Matt Carpenter also hit home runs that game so maybe a little bit of this too...


Anyway, the prospects of finding two really nice Carlos Martinez cards in the random stacks of the card closet has made me feel a slight push to sort through some more of the cards just sitting around.  Maybe there is something else really nice in there, maybe it's just a bunch of 1991 Fleer cards.  Either way, I am excited to find out.  



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

One Great Pitching Performance, One Great Card

The Cardinals have been a perennial playoff team for most of the 2000s.  There have been very few years were the team has not at least been in the playoffs.  Four of those trips to the playoffs ended with a World Series appearance with two of those resulting in World Series wins.  There have been plenty of great moments along the way that stand out.

The Pujols home run against Brad Lidge in the 2005 NLCS, Rolen's Game 7 home run against Roger Clemens in 2004, Molina's home run against the Mets in 2006, Matt Adams off of Clayton Kershaw, David Freese against the Rangers.....on and on and on.  I am going to focus tonight on one Cardinals playoff game that sort of flies under the radar.  

After the Cardinals beat the Mets in Game 7 on the 2006 National League Championship Series the team had used up their starting pitching staff.  Meaning they had to start Anthony Reyes in Game 1 of the World Series.  At some point Anthony Reyes was a highly regarded prospect.  He had broken a lot of Mark Prior's pitching records at USC, but was not so great at the Major League level.  

Yet, for one night.......



he was untouchable.  

Were the Tigers rusty?  Was Reyes that good?  It doesn't really matter because a few days after this game happened the Cardinals won the World Series and Anthony Reyes is now walking around with a shiny ring.  

After the Series ended I start collecting cards of players on the 2006 Cardinals team and I have done pretty well over the years with it.  For me the 2006 Cardinals was not only about the fact that my favorite Major League team won the World Series, but it was also the first summer that I spent watching baseball with my wife.  I feel like many times I mark the important events in my life with baseball cards.  

Former and current jobs have baseball cards.  Children have baseball cards.  My wife is more of a collection of many baseball cards.  The Anthony Reyes section of the 2006 Cardinals collection started off with a few simple autographs, a relic or two, and a few other serial numbered cards.  




Eventually I added a really cool card from the 2009 Topps Unique set of Reyes that featured a giant patch of the Cardinals pitcher.  The timing of the card was odd since Reyes had bombed with the Cardinals and was hanging out in the Indians Minor League system.  Someone offered me a nice trade package for the card, so I ended up trading it away.  Regretted a few months later.  I have been looking for one ever since.  

There are only 20 copies of the Reyes patch card, I know a Cardinals collector who owns 8 of the 20, so at most there are 12 of them floating around.  Last week I found one.....





It has been a long time looking, but I was really excited to find this card.  The day it showed up in the mail I was literally hopping up and down in my kitchen.  My wife usually ignores whatever baseball cards come into our house through the mail, but she asked me about this one since I was a little bit more excited than normal.  The second I told her the name Anthony Reyes she knew why I was excited.  

She knows Anthony Reyes as the flat brimmed guy from the World Series.......


and she immediately knew why I was so happy.  

My wife is by no means a huge baseball fan, and while she sometimes can't keep the current Cardinals straight outside of Yadi, she seems to have a really good memory of all the players on the 2006 team.  I think the last time I was jumping up and down over the 2006 Cardinals before last week it was watching Adam Wainwright whiff Brandon Inge to wrap up the series......



While Anthony Reyes did not have much of a baseball career, he did have the best night of his career on the perfect night.  I had honestly resigned myself to never finding another copy of this card.  Finding it rounds out my 2006 Cardinals collection and gives me some really nice card, of every member of that World Series team.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Venerable Old Card Part 48

I am basing a post off another episode of the Wax Ecstatic podcast.  It's one of my favorite ways to entertain myself while I am out running or walking at night, or driving to work in the morning.  I know a bunch of other bloggers have giving the podcast a shout out in posts, or follow along with its Twitter feed.  If you haven't checked out Wax Ecstatic yet click on the links and give it a chance.

This week's episode of the podcast talked about Minor League cards which are near and dear to me.  Most of the Minor League cards that I have talked about over the years have focused team issued sets.  This podcast episode spent a lot of time talking about some of the Minor League card issues that were available nationwide in the early 1990s.


One of the sets that got a little love in the podcast was the 1991 Line Drive Minor League set which is one of my favorite Minor League sets.  I have actually picked these cards in more recent years just for fun since the boxes are out there for next to nothing.  As a 1990s baseball fan there are so many great names in these sets.  One of my favorites in the Line Drive set is former Cardinals outfielder, also a former NFL defensive back with the Atlanta Falcons, Brian Jordan.  


Jordan played for the Cardinals during some lean years in the early 1990s.  The Cardinals actually paid him at some point not to play football anymore and he quickly became one of my favorites.  Not Ray Lankford favorite, but easily top two or three players after Ray.  I have a few really nice Jordan cards floating around the collection, but I really enjoyed finding a Louisville Cardinals card of him.  I have a bunch of 1980s Cardinals Minor League sets, but I mainly bought those for the Lankford cards.  I didn't really do anything with Cardinals Minor League cards again until the late 1990s when the team drafted J.D. Drew.  

Best part about the Jordan Louisville Cardinals card is the fact that I actually got to watch Jordan play for the Louisville Cardinals one summer on a family vacation.  I cannot remember where we were actually going for vacation, maybe D.C.?, but we stopped for the night in Louisville and checked out a Redbirds game.  


There were a couple Louisville Redbirds on the roster who ended up with the Cardinals, but Jordan was easily the best player on this roster.  Jordan became a full time player for the Cardinals in 1995 and had his best years during the 1996 and 1998 seasons.  If you look at his career stats, 1998 was his career best year, but it was hard to ignore his contributions to the 1996 team which came within a game of the World Series.  

Best memory of that year was his series clinching home run off of Trevor Hoffman in Game 3 of the National League Division Series which ended up being the series clinching hit....


He also had a huge home run in Game 4 of the NLCS that year against the Braves.  Greg McMichael had a rough game between a Dmitri Young triple (seriously) and this Jordan home run.   


Even if the card isn't fancy, nor shiny, it still brings back some good memories of one of my favorite 1990s Cardinals players.  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Pack In Black

The official school colors of NC State are red and white, but if you watch enough of their sporting events you'd know that every great once in awhile the school breaks out some black uniforms.  I have never quite understood the timing of the events, but it usually happens at least once a year in most of the sports.

Black jerseys for basketball.....



Black Jerseys for football......


and of course State also wears black jerseys for baseball too.  However, of all the sports teams at the school I am pretty sure that the baseball teams wears their black uniforms more than the other sports.  True, they have a larger slate of games to wear alternate jerseys, but the black jerseys seem to pop up a little more frequently on the diamond.



The football jerseys are probably the shakiest unis out of the black alternate jerseys pictured here, and while I am usually not a fan of straying from the school's color scheme I must say that the black looks really nice with the red and white.  At least a lot better looking than some of the black jerseys that the two blue Carolina schools from down the street try to pull off.

Which leads me to my newest baseball card of a Wolfpack player.  They are wearing a black jersey on the card which is itself a black baseball card.  Looks really sharp.  There was a little glare from the scanner, the card has a really shiny finish......



This might be the nicest NC State baseball card that I own.  I have picked up a bunch over the years, and while I sure some of them have a lower print run or whatever, this card is just awesome in every way that a baseball card can be.  I know that Carlos Rodon also has a bunch of cards like this that Panini has put out, but Turner seems to suddenly be the player with the higher upside which was not the way it was viewed while they were playing in Raleigh.  The back of the card....


Very well done by Panini and very happy to own this card.  I hope that I can find another couple of cards from this set which fit into my collection.  Go Pack! Go Trea Turner, hope it's a good year!