Sunday, September 25, 2016


Jose Fernandez was a great young pitcher who loved the game of baseball.  I remember being really excited to get this card a few years ago.  One of the best young talents in the game gone too soon.  #RIPJoseFernandez

The Snorting Bull will return next week.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

I'm Ready To Talk About Fernando Again...

Several years ago there were a lot of current and former players who roamed social media that were pretty fun to follow along with, but in my opinion former Cardinals third baseman Fernando Tatis might have been the best of them all.  Most people remember Fernando, I like to call him Freddy Tats, from his game against the Dodgers in 1999 where he hit two grand slams in one inning off of Chan Ho Park.

Welp, the Twitter account of Fernando Tatis just added to the legend of the man who hit two grand slams in one inning.  There was so much to love about the account:  

Art work about Wendy's founder Dave Thomas....

Tweets putting down the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl while making reference to his two grand slams in one inning game.....

and inspirational quotes, my personal favorite could not be tracked down on Twitter....

"Swag is made up of 4 characteristics, Solid fun, Winning attitude, Aggresive pursuit of humanity, and Goals"

-Fernando Tatis 

All of the fun came crashing down one day in September of 2014 when MLB writer Jesse Sanchez attended a baseball game to watch Fernando Tatis Jr..  So, while he was watching Fernando Jr., now plays in the Padres system, he ran into Fernando Tatis.  The guy who hit two grand slams in one inning.  That's when the bomb was dropped.....

Something put on the internet was not true?  I was devastated and have not many any Fernando Tatis posts over the last two years.  He's been mentioned in a post here and there in passing, but no cards.  Is it really because I was that upset about his Twitter account being fake, or was it simply that nobody really made any cool Fernando Tatis cards?  

After looking back through my cards, I noticed that there are basically no cards of Fernando made over the last two years, and I didn't buy or trade for any cool old ones either.  I do want to say though, that I miss the Fernando Tatis Twitter account, fake or not, it was funny.  

and finally someone made a new Fernando Tatis card this summer.  This card has been sitting on my desk for the last two or three months and I figured why not go ahead and post it....

I love this card.  I am not sure why Fernando Tatis is on a 1983 Topps card, but I love the design of this set.  It was one of the first sets that I collected when I was a kid, not sure how many other people like this design, but I like the reprints Topps makes of this set for the most part.  Fernando still has the same unique signature which has a pretty cool look.  

Happy to see Freddy Tats back on a baseball card.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Five: Five Cardinals Players I'd Rather Not Have In My Collection

We are winding down on the 2016 baseball season and I have been waiting for a certain Cardinals player to turn around their season.  Do something positive for the team.  I reached a tipping point of sorts today, so I came up with my first Friday Five post in awhile.  These are always fun to write, and tonight, this one is going to help me blow off a little steam about my Cardinals.

Every baseball fan has a player, or players that they wish their team had never ever touched.  The Cardinals are no exception.  While they have been good of late, there have been a few less than stellar signings over the years.  One of them took place this year.  Luckily Jason Heyward and his .630 OPS is not on the team, or there would have been two of them from this year's squad on my list of five.

Without further delay: Five Cardinals Players I'd Rather Not Have In My Collection

5. Bob Horner - 1988

Horner was a fixture for the Braves infield for much of the late 70s and early 1980s.  After finishing the 1986 season in Atlanta he opted to play a season in Japan with Yakult where he hit .327/.423/.683 with 31 home runs and 73 RBIs in just 93 games.  The Cardinals had lost Jack Clark at the end of the 1987 season to the Yankees, so Horner seemed like a good option to fill his spot at first and give Whitey Herzog his token big bat in the middle of the line up.  Horner lasted just 60 games with the Cardinals and hit a whopping 3 home runs in almost 250 plate appearances.  The 1988 Cardinals ended up trading for a few power hitters in season to compensate picking up Tom Brunansky from the Twins and Pedro Guerrero from the Dodgers.

4. Adam Kennedy Part II

Kennedy was originally a Cardinals prospect and number one draft pick.  The team called him up at the end of the 1999 season and then packaged him up with Kent Bottenfield in a trade with the Angels for Jim Edmonds.  Kennedy was sort of an average player for the Angels for the seven years he was on the team, but he also famously went Reggie Jackson in Game 5 of the 2002 ALCS...

For some reason nobody has yet to figure out, the Cardinals brought him back to the team in 2007 where he clashed with Tony LaRussa, played horribly, and ended up getting run out of town.  In fact, he ended up on the Durham Bulls.  Just an all around bad signing by the team who had the opportunity to retain Ronnie Belliard from the 2006 team.  While Belliard was not exactly an All-Star caliber player, he spent the next three seasons post numbers at, or above, the league average from second baseman and got paid less money than Kennedy.  Painful.

3.  Wiggy (Ty Wigginton) 2013

Wiggy got paid $5 million dollars over two years to be a bat off the bench for the Cardinals.  The problem is that Wiggy only made it 57 at bats into the two year deal.  In those 57 at bats he posted a slash line of .158/.238/.193 for an OPS of .431 and OPS+ of 21.  That's better than Bartolo Colon batting, but just slightly better.  On July 9th, 2013 the Cardinals kicked Wiggy to the curb and Cardinals fans rejoiced.

2. Mike Leake 2016

I had really thought about making Mike Leake first on my list this week since he is the inspiration for this post.  When the Cardinals announced his signing I was at a Wendy's in Princeton, West Virginia stopping to eat lunch on road trip to Michigan.  I remember tweeting out, hoping that something would hit a snag, and Mike Leake would not get a five year 80 million dollar contract from the Cardinals.  Welp, didn't happen.  Mike has an ERA of 4.54 and an ERA+ of 90.  I guess Mike has four more years to do something, but I wouldn't mind if he got lost in the bullpen or left in an airport on a road trip.  A lot of luggage gets lost in Denver, the Cardinals were just there, but apparently Mike made the plane to Chicago.  Sigh.

1. Tino Martinez 2002-2003

The Cardinals had Mark McGwire in 2001 for his last season and it was dreadful, so the team signed Tino Martinez to replace him.  Tino was a winner and there was some sort of personal connection to Tony LaRussa, seemed like a good fit until Tino couldn't hit home runs anymore.  In 2001 Tino hit 34 with the Yankees, 2002 he hit 21, and in 2003 he hit 15.  In the two years Tino played for the Cardinals Albert Pujols played left field, but frequently ended up at first base when LaRussa would keep Albert's bat in the lineup moving him to first, and playing a defensive outfielder as a sub for Tino.

I guess being double switch for Kerry Robinson and So Taguchi was not cool in Tino's book who told a New York sports reporter that St. Louis wasn't as good of a baseball town as St. Louis.  Not going to argue the point, but it's never a good idea to put down the city in which you are employed as a professional athlete.

I will give Tino some plus points, and the possibility of moving to second on this list if Mike Leake stinks all five years of his contract, for his fight with Miguel Batista in 2003.  Batista hit Martinez with a pitch during an at-bat early in the game.  Tino had a few words, went to first, and then was forced out at second later in the inning.  Rather than running back to the dugout, Tino decided it was time to charge the mound.  No video, but there is a picture of the fight.....

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fixing Aledmys

A few months back I ordered one of those Throwback Thursday sets from Topps.  The cards arrived in the mail and were quite disappointing.  Instead of receiving a nice copy of the Cardinals shortstop's first rookie card, I got a bent up card.  Not happy.

I decided that I did not want to miss out on having the card, and it's not like Topps really did anything to help resolve the situation, so I went ahead and traded for another copy of the card.  This time the card came in a nice bubble mailer and was in good condition.

The scan is a little bit crooked, not my best day, but the card also does not have a big crease in it.  After completing the trade it has become clear to me that the best way to pick up these cards is to let other people buy them and pick them up on the secondary market.  Trade partners and sellers on sites like Ebay want to maintain their reputation, they know how to package cards, and if something were to go wrong I probably won't be ignored.  

Besides trading for the Aledmys rookie card I also picked up a nice Wil Myers card.....

This is from this year's Topps Chrome set.  I have picked up some cards from that set, but have yet to post them on here.  This is an insert set featuring different Rookie of the Year winners.  Myers is one of two former Durham Bulls players in the set along with Longoria.  There are also autographed versions of these cards, but the seem like they might be a little pricy.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

An Archived Friar

Rewinding a bit with this post to a card that has been sitting on my desk for the past two months.  I think I actually already took a picture of it and put it on my Instagram feed over there on the left side of the page.  Always some good retired players in the Topps Archives set and this year was no different.  I opened some packs, pulled a few autographs, but I missed out on the former Cardinals players.

I don't even remember if I traded for this card or bought it, but one of the former Cardinals in the set is pitcher Andy Benes.  He was actually on the team twice.....

Bones actually started out with the Padres who took him with the first overall pick in the 1988 draft.  The Evansville native spent the first few years of his career with the Friars, before moving on to the Mariners for the end of the 1995 season, and then landing with the Cardinals in 1996.  After two years with the Cardinals, Benes tried to re-sign with the team, but some technicality took place between the Cardinals, Scott Boras, and Bud Selig.

Benes ended up with the Diamondbacks.  Then back with the Cardinals.

For those who missed out on watching Benes pitch let me summarize briefly.  He threw hard, he won 155 games, but had an ERA+ of 104.  What I remember about Andy Benes, besides the fact that young Alan Benes was a lot better pitcher?

Here is Barry Bonds 100th career home run.  The pitcher???

A Mike Piazza Grand Slam.  The pitcher???

Ken Griffey Jr. Walk Off Inside the Park Style.... The pitcher???

That Griffey is a classic. 

Benes has actually taken residence in St. Louis and is pretty active around the town.  He does some work with the Cardinals as the host of their Kids Club show.  There are clips of the show floating around the internet including one where Fredbird spits sunflower seeds into his mouth.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Venerable Old Card Part 28

I picked this card up awhile ago and just have not had a chance to post it yet.  Nothing beats getting a really cool card of a Minor Leaguer.  Especially when the Minor Leaguer is someone who made it to the Majors and had a cool nickname like "The Secret Weapon"

The card.....

This gem is from the 1982 TCMA Tidewater Tides set which also featured Ron Darling, Mike Cubbage, and Dave Von Ohlen.  I skipped out on all of those in favor of the team's light hitting shortstop Jose Oquendo.  "The Secret Weapon" would end up spending parts of the 1983 and 1984 seasons with the Tides, also a little time with the Mets, before being traded to the Cardinals.  

I have seen and heard many people put Oquendo in the Keith Hernandez trade, but the Cardinals and Mets also swapped a bunch of Minor Leaguers around the same time.  Oquendo was basically the only name player in the trade.  

Oquendo would gain notoriety on the 1980s "Whiteyball" Cardinals for randomly showing up all over the field and lineup card.  He literally played everywhere for the team, but ended up spending the majority of his career as the backup shortstop to Ozzie Smith and started at second for a time too.  

His two big claim to fames, outside of playing everywhere, were his series clinching home run in the 1987 National League Championship Series.....

and also his fight with Will Clark.  Ozzie Smith, Candy Maldonado, and Bob Brenly also figured prominently in this one. Really underrated baseball brawl.  

Help Us Meat Hook, You're Our Only Hope...

There is a little overreaction taking place in certain corners of the internet by Cardinals fans regarding their probable second place finish this year.  Maybe they will get caught by the Pirates and finish third.  Over the past twenty years or so the Cardinals have not had too many down years.

A few in between the 1996 National League Central Champs and the 2000 National League Central Champs, with a whole lot of McGwire home runs keeping everyone entertained, and a few years in between the 2006 and 2011 World Series teams.  During the second stretch Cardinals fans got to watch the best player in the game at the time, Albert Pujols, while they were finishing behind the Cubs and Brewers.

Welp, there is a chance that 2016 is going to end without a playoff berth.  It will be the first time since 2010 that the team has missed the Postseason.  How bleak is the future in St. Louis?

  • Adam Wainwright is pitching like a bottom of the rotation starter
  • Matt Holliday is likely done in town after an injury plagued year
  • Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, and Mike Leake are all having the worst years of their careers
  • Mike Matheny is employed as the team's manager
While that all seems really bad the team also has:

  • Aledmys Diaz, 25, finishing his first season with an OPS+ of 136 with a slash line of .309/.375/.518.  He's hit 15 home runs, 23 doubles, and chased home 59 RBIs.  
  • Randal Grichuk, 24,  has hit 7 home runs, 7 doubles, and a .576 slugging percentage during the past month after he was sent to Memphis to straighten out the wires that Matheny crossed in his head.  For the season Grichuk has 22 home runs and 25 doubles. 
  • Stephen Piscotty, 25, has 21 home runs, 33 doubles, and 81 RBIs in his first full season 
  • Carlos Martinez, 24, is one of the better starting pitchers in the National League this year.  He's in the top 10 across most of the major pitching statistics in the National League
  • Luke Weaver, 22, has made 7 starts during the second half of the year and is averaging more than 11 strikeouts per 9 innings.  
  • Alex Reyes, 21, has made a few starts and also appeared out of the bullpen.  He throws 100, will be starting next year, and is averaging 10.5 strikeouts per 9.  

Let's take a depth breath.  

A lot of the worry and panic about the state of the Cardinals can be whisked away with just a few baseball cards.  Back in the mid 1990s, when the current ownership of the Cardinals took over, the franchise was in rebuild mode after years of low budget teams and indifference from one of Auggie Busch's kids.  I scanned through my mid 1990s Cardinals cards checking out the prospects that the team's rebuild centered around.

There were some real duds in the stack like Luis Ordaz, Mike Busby, and others who went on to be decent players like Matt Morris and Braden Looper.  

Not many collectors were ever busting down the door for cards of players like Luis Ordaz.  I am pretty sure that his cards can be found in the dollar bin and I am pretty sure that they have been there for a long time.....

The crown jewel of the Cardinals system was infielder/outfielder Dmitri Young who was taken fourth overall by the team in the 1991 amateur draft.  The Meat Hook arrived in St. Louis at the end of the 1996 season after posting a .333/.378/.534 slash line with the Louisville Redbirds along with 15 home runs, 8 triples, and 31 doubles.  Dmitri had a huge triple that helped the Cardinals win a game in the 1996 NLCS.  

Many Cardinals fans were pretty excited that The Meat Hook was going to be a key cog of the franchise for year's to come.  As a Cardinals collector one of my favorite cards around this time was the 1997 Bowman Autograph of Dmitri Young.....

This Bowman autograph was sort of a hidden gem.  Cardinals fans were excited about Dmitri, but I think that there were more highly touted prospects in this Bowman product around this time like Miguel Tejada, Lance Berkman, and Aramis Ramirez.  Beyond the Bowman autograph there were all sorts of cool cards out there featuring Dmitri.....

In the end Dmitri struggled during the 1997 season, the Cardinals traded for Mark McGwire, and The Meat Hook for shipped off to the Reds at the end of the season for Jeff Brantley.  While I love Dmitri, and he was a solid player throughout his career, he was never the franchise player that many Cardinals fans envisioned he would be during the mid 1990s.  His best season came with the 2003 Tigers, who lost 119 games, when he hit 29 home runs, 34 doubles, 7 triples, 85 RBIs, and a slash line of .297/.372/.537.  

Nice season.  

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Our Old Friend ETopps

Topps has had a few different products that have been sold directly to their customers this year.  Finest, Throwback Thursdays, Ginter X, and ToppsNow were all sold somewhere on their website to mixed reviews.  At times the quality of the cards has been poor, biased selection, terrible packaging on the cards they mail out, and a widely held feeling that Topps should not be in the business of selling directly to customers.

Back in the day Topps actually did dabble in direct sales to customers.  They did some different things with The Pit which is some sort of stock market for sports cards and they also had eTopps.  The latter worked a lot like Topps Now.

Cards were available for a limited amount of time online, customers could buy the cards, and then either keep them in a portfolio or pay a little extra to have them mailed out.  Some of them were even based on specific events during the season, such as the top vote getters in the All-Star Game, or Postseason games.

I have a few eTopps cards from the early 2000s, but I mainly just picked them up if they featured Albert Pujols.  I also had them mailed out, but I really abandoned that scene at some point in the mid 2000s.

I guess I could go back and fill in the Cardinals cards that I missed from that era, but I am not sure it's a real priority.  In the meantime, I picked up a copy of a former Durham Bulls who was featured in the 2007 set on a 1985 style card.  Basically cost me a whole lot of nothing, so I couldn't pass it up...

Elijah Dukes was on the Durham Bulls around the time that I first moved to North Carolina a little more than 10 years ago.  Tremendously talented player, but he had a lot of off the field issues which eventually caught up with him and basically ended his baseball career.  

I collected Elijah Dukes cards a few years back before he had run himself out of the league and had some really cool parallels of him out of sets like Finest and Triple Threads.  I missed this one back in the day, happy to add it to my collection. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Minty Big Cat

This is seriously a card product that people buy?  5 cards for $1,250?

That's steep, so the cards have to be incredible right?  Absolutely.  I love how they look.  I also love the fact that I bought one of a really good player for $9.99.  Considering you have to average $250ish per card to break even I am not liking the odds of getting anywhere close to your money back if you buy a box of "The Mint"

Sounds kind of snooty.

Well, the cards are really really good looking at least.  This is my $9.99 autograph.

There is a little chipping on the bottom of the card, but for $9.99?  I am really happy with this card.  I know in yesterday's post I promised an autograph of Andres Galarraga in a Cardinals uniform which this is not, but I promise the next time I write the words Andres Galarraga and autograph in the same blog post it will be accompanied by a picture of an autographed card of him wearing a Cardinals uniform.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Venerable Old Card Part 29

Last year I picked up a "pack" or box of Topps Archives Signature while I was at a card show in Raleigh.  I pulled an Andruw Jones autograph that just happened to be a 1/1.  Sounds pretty cool, but it was not a card of Braves Andruw Jones.  Nope, it was the worst version of Andruw Jones you could possibly imagine:

Dodgers Andruw Jones.  

I know a few Dodgers fan and I feel pretty safe in saying that Andruw Jones is a four letter word to most of them.  So, in spite all of the great things this card has going for it:

  • It's an autographed card of Andruw Jones
  • It's an Allen & Ginter card
  • It's a 1/1
  • Have I ever mentioned that Andruw Jones has a very nice signature?

Throw out all of those positives.  The correct answer for teams that Andruw Jones can have a card for are: Braves, Yankees, and maybe the White Sox.  Although the White Sox one feels like a bit of a stretch too.  Which brings me to this week's card.....

I went looking to see what Cardinals cards were available in the Archives Signature set after it hit the card shops a week or two back.  After scouring the trade groups on Facebook and the auctions on Ebay I have are Dennis Eckersley, Eric Davis, Andres Galarraga, and Mark Mulder.  

If you are not a Cardinals fan that sounds like a decent list of names.  If you are a Cardinals fan and remember the contributions of those players you probably feel a little bit let down.  This is actually the second year in a row that Cardinals fans have had a list like this to choose from in this product.    

A quick run down:

  • Eric Davis- I love Eric Davis, but he was at the end of his career as a Cardinal and was only a part time player at that point.  1999 was a bad year, 2000 was really good with a .303/.389/.429 slash line.  Still, he had a lot of other good years that Topps could have used that would probably be a bigger draw to collectors.  As a Cardinals fan, I have a bunch of Eric Davis autographs.  They are all Reds cards and I am cool with that.  
  • Eck - He was also at the end of his career.  The two years he spent in St. Louis were his worst as a relief pitcher and he was upset at the fans towards the end of his time since they booed him for blowing saves.  
  • Mark Mulder - He won a World Series ring with the team in 2006 by sitting on the bench after his shoulder fell off.  Not his fault, but the Cardinals traded for him and he never made a serious contribution to the team winning.  
  • Andres Galarraga - The Big Cat was brought over to be a power hitter for the Cardinals post Whiteyball era.  Manager Joe Torre and hitting coach Don Baylor supposedly knew what had caused him to regress in his later years as an Expo and were going to turn him around.  He broke his hand in the third game of the season, played poorly during the first half of the season, but well enough for Don Baylor to take him to Denver when the Rockies hired him as their manager.  
Every team has players like these.  Good names with good careers, but for whatever reason they never worked out in that place.  As a Bulls fan, Rays fans will shake their head with approval over this name being in this category, I often think of Hideki Matsui.  

After some contemplation I have decided that it would actually be pretty cool to own a few more Cardinals cards of one of these players.  I am pretty sure that all four of them have appeared in this space at different points over the last few years, but more than likely they were cards of them wearing the uniform you'd most likely associate them with: Eck and Mulder with the A's, Davis as a Red, and Galarraga as an Expo and Rockie.  

I have to say though, I have always really liked Andres Galarraga and have a pretty nice run of his cards in my collection.  In fact, one of my favorite 1990s autographs is his Stadium Co-Signers card with Larry Walker.....

two former Cardinals with really nice signatures.  This is just an awesome card.  There are other cool Galarraga cards around my boxes of cards outside of this one, but almost none of the cards I own of Galarraga feature the Big Cat with the birds on the bat.  

I know he has about a dozen Cardinals cards in all.  The first card of his that I ran across when I started writing this post was this cool 1992 Bowman card.  

I am not sure what is going on with the wind breaker, but I am sure if his arms weren't going across his body there is probably a Cardinals logo or something there somewhere.  Those pants are weird considering the team had abandoned the polyester uniforms at the end of them 1991 season in favor of the button up unis.  Pretty much the same thing they wear now.   Since there is a batting cage in the background perhaps Andres wore some old pants around the ballpark pre-game.  

Not sure that Galarraga in a Cardinals uniform is as cool as say Piazza in a Marlins uniform, but I am going to track them all down.  Some of the standard sets that I collected every year in the 1990s like the Topps base set are already somewhere in my collection, but there are several other Galarraga Cardinals cards that were in other sets that I did not touch.  I need an autograph too.    

So, here's to a few more Andres Galarraga cards in a Cardinals uniform

Duff Man. Oh Meh.

The Rays picked up Matt Duffy from the Giants in the Matt Moore trade and promptly sent him down to the Durham Bulls on an injury rehab assignment.  Since he is on the Rays I considered picking up one of his cards, but since he played in Durham it ended up on my to-do list.  

Now, I would much rather have an autograph than a relic card, but Duffy appears to be one of those players whose on-field performance and hobby prices are a little misaligned.  Don't get me wrong, he had a solid year for a player under 25 in 2015 going .295/.334/.428 with 12 home runs, 6 triples, and 28 doubles.  However, he's also not Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado.  The 2016 season has seen a step back from Duffy, but his autograph prices seem to be in the $10 to $15 range for a lot of the cards for sale on Ebay and sites like COMC.  

I'd rather have a Matt Carpenter autograph for that much.  

After spending a few scrolling through Matt Duffy cards, I ended up finding something that looked pretty sweet on my computer screen, and still even looks pretty good sitting in front of me on my desk.  

This is also my first Strata card of the year.  If you remember last year I found a bunch of these cards, really liked them, but marveled at how anyone broke even opening up these cards.  Really, I'm still enjoying my Steven Souza autograph from last year.  Rodon and Kluber too, I just didn't pay anything for any of them.  

Same with Duff-Man here.  

Of course, the best part of getting a Strata card is typing in the little code on the sticker to found out when and where the player wore the jersey.  Off to the MLB Authentication site I went and this is what my Matt Duffy jersey back as....

I saw the date of the game, went to Baseball-Reference, and typed in the date for the box score.  I was hopeful when I saw that the Giants won the game 8-0 on a complete game shut out by Mad Bum.  Then I clicked the box score.  Sigh.  

It seems like every Giants player in the line up did something to contribute to the eight runs except Matt Duffy.  A giant bagel.  So, lets stick to the positives for a moment:

I now own a cool card of a player who appeared in a few games this year for the Durham Bulls.  

Let's also point out a few other details surrounding Matt Duffy.  Like I said earlier, Duffy is having a down year.  He did little to change that after coming over to the Rays in the trade.  I am even more skeptical about the fact that the Rays have decided to play him at shortstop.  I get Evan Longoria, but then let's trade for a usable part.  

To re-work a Simpsons catch phrase: Duff Man.  Oh Meh.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

First Hallmark, Now Topps

Sometime in the spring of 2004 I took a little bit of time out of my Saturday morning to drive to 1,000,000 Baseball Cards in the western part of St. Louis County.  It's been one of the more successful sports cards shops around that city, many other stores have been shuttered over the last twenty years.  On this particular Saturday I was going to check in on the dime and quarter boxes of Cardinals cards, along with any new wax that might catch my eye.

Surprisingly upon walking into the store I was handed a stack of cards and told it was National Trading Card Day.  There were an assortment of football, basketball, and baseball cards in the stack with cards from all the major brands of the day.  I'm not going to say that I was jumping up and down over the free cards, but free cards are free cards.

My favorite card out of the bunch has to be the Donruss Albert Pujols.

I never added National Trading Card Day to my calendar and I have not celebrated it since the day I was told about more than a decade ago.  I have run across the group of cards celebrating the "holiday" a few times over the years, but I don't give them much thought.  

Until this year earlier this summer.  

A few weeks back I was hanging out doing the things I do in a day: Working, driving to work, probably doing something around my house, and hanging out with my wife and kids.  It might have actually been kid when this took place.  Out of the blue, half of the card collectors on my Twitter feed, like literally half of my Twitter feed, and every Facebook card group I belong to started stammering about National Baseball Card Day. 

Naturally, I had to dig out the boxes with my set from 2004 thinking that National Trading Card Day and National Baseball Card Day were the same thing.  They were not.  National Trading Card Day has apparently disappeared, but never fear Topps invented National Baseball Card Day.   

Just like we can count on Hallmark to give us National Secretary's Day and National Office Assistant Day and Office Staff Appreciation Week, we now have card companies making up holidays.  Personally, I am hoping that National Baseball Card Day goes the way of National Trading Card Day and quickly disappears.  

However, it appears that Topps did give out cards or packs of cards.  I am not sure.  I personally received absolutely nothing from them.  I blame the airbrushing article, or maybe I was just not aware of how to receive the cards or packs this year.  

Anyhow, I ended up with a National Baseball Card Day Baseball Card.  They appear to be nicer than the cards that were given away for National Trading Card Day.  

Albert Pujols cards are nice, but Stephen Piscotty autographs are better.  As much as I like the idea of having Stephen Piscotty cards, especially the autographed variety showing up in my mailbox, I am still not thrilled with the idea of having a holiday for baseball cards that Topps somehow invented to promote snazzy and shiny cards.  

I actually made a post on National Baseball Card Day before I knew that shiny cards were being showered on collectors and that said "holiday" was created by a large company who happens to be in the business of baseball cards.  Initially I thought that it would be more of a holiday (no quotes-real celebration) that celebrated cards in general.  Collectors could share out cool stories about cool cards in their collections, non-collectors can tell you stories about how they used to collect, and others can just look at you crooked because you're thirty something and still collect baseball cards.

Just me?  

I am happy to have a nice Stephen Piscotty card, but he has had nice cards in almost every Topps set this year.   Just my opinion, but if we are going to have a card company created holiday, perhaps Topps should shower some kids with cards and not adults who turn around and sell and trade the cards to other adults.  After all, if they truly want the "holiday" to stick around and combine it with free stuff, perhaps there would be no better place to start than sparking a kids interest by giving them something cool that can be a good moment to share during a future National Baseball Card Day.  

I.O.U. - Farewell J.P.

Monday marked the end of the season for the Durham Bulls.  On Sunday night the Bulls played the Norfolk Tides and catcher J.P. Arencibia helped the team win with a home run and three RBIs.  After the game J.P. was named Player of the Game and was interviewed on field.  During that interview J.P. announced that he would be retiring from baseball following the Bulls final game Monday afternoon.

Chris over at Watching Durham Bulls Baseball wrote up an excellent piece on J.P. Monday morning that is worth a read.

I spend time in each of my articles writing about baseball, but for me there is always the baseball card side of almost each of my blog posts.  I spend a lot of time on the Durham Bulls in this space, yet my last two Farewell posts have felt a little bit incomplete simply for the fact that I did not spend much time writing about Desmond Jennings, and we are in the same spot here with J.P. Arencibia.

Arencibia has now been on the Bulls for two years and had a significant impact on the team.  Yet, I have not devoted a single post to the veteran catcher.  Last season he played 99 games with the Bulls, hit 22 home runs to lead the International League and drove in 65 runs.  After spending the first part of the season with the Leigh High Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies) he came back to the Bulls.  For the year he hit 16 home runs, 16 doubles, and 49 RBIs in 89 games.

In my 10 years living in Durham I have seen more than a few older players pass through town in hopes of reviving their careers.  Players like Kevin Witt, Chris Richard, and Dan Johnson all had a huge impacts with the Bulls and helped make them one of the most successful Minor League franchises over that time.

Many were rewarded with a cup of coffee at some point with the Rays.  J.P. was no different.  Last season he played 24 games with the Rays hitting 6 home runs in 73 plate appearances.  Sounds pretty good.  The Rays still have games this year, but it would seem that J.P. is not getting the chance to play a few in Tampa this year.

As for the baseball card side of the post.  Well, I have done a really poor job of finding J.P. cards the last two years.  I know sometimes I get cards and never write them up into a post.  That's not even the case here.  I just don't have many cards of him.  After digging through my shoeboxes of autographed cards I came up with one.....

That's it.  Usually I can come up with something good.  I don't even have the Topps Opening Day card with him and Orbit with the "J.P. Arencibia Double Dips" sign.  I don't even know where or when I got this Topps Chrome autograph.  Probably back in 2011.  

Anyway, this is not really a good Farewell post in terms of cards.  After checking out the J.P. cards that I could I own, I have come to understand that almost every cool card of his, minus a very select few, could be had for less than $5.  I am going to go ahead and say that I owe J.P., and all of the people who read this blog for cards of Minor Leaguers, a big I.O.U.  I will give you a good J.P. post with cool cards. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

A Venerable Old Card Part 27

1989 was a good summer to be a Cubs fan.  The team led by Don Zimmer ended a four year run of alternating Mets and Cardinals division crowns which started in 1985 when both teams won over 100 games.  The Cubs had won the division in 1984, come within a game of the World Series, but missed out.  The Cubs took a few years to rebuild jettisoning players like Dennis Eckersley, Steve Trout, Leon Durham, Gary Matthews, and Ron Cey.

The team kept Ryne Sandberg through it all, added 1987 NL MVP Andre Dawson from the Expos, and added a good core of homegrown young players.  Daytime watchers of Cubs games on WGN were treated to the stylings of Mark Grace, Jerome Walton, Dwight Smith, Joe Girardi, Mitch Williams, and Greg Maddux.  

The Cubs won 93 games that summer leaving the Mets 6 games behind and the Cardinals 7 games behind.  The team ran into the Giants in the National League Championship Series and promptly lost 4 games to 1, but the future seemed bright for the Cubs.  

One of the brighter young stars on the 1989 Cubs was NL Rookie of the Year Winner Jerome Walton.  Amongst kids in middle school who collected baseball cards he was awesome, second on the food chain behind the Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck card.  

My favorite Jerome Walton card was his 1989 Topps Traded card.  Most of the summer was spent in search of his Fleer card, but that was left in the dust once the traded set came out later in the year.  I have a few of these cards in my collection.  The 6th grade version of me was stock piling them for whatever reason.  

I still love this card.  The 1989 Topps set is absolutely worthless and can be bought in bulk for next to nothing, but I still flip through these a few times a year.  Topps used this design a year or two ago for the mini insert set in the packs of base cards.  I was a little peeved that they cut off the white border, but I still collected them.  

I am curious what this card actually sold for in hobby stores back in 1989.  As a middle school kid, my valuation of the card was something like this: No I won't trade Will Clark, Bo Jackson, or Jose Canseco for Jerome Walton, but I would give you a Bobby Bonilla or Wally Joyner.  Don't knock late 1980s Wally Joyner.  

I spent a few minutes actually looking up what Jerome Walton did to win the Rookie of the Year Award in 1989.  Why didn't Dwight Smith win the award that year?  Clearly not really into looking too much into the stats back then.....

Plus, Dwight Smith sung the National Anthem a few times before Cubs games.  Greg Harris looks like a pretty solid choice too and Andy Benes only played two months and his WAR wasn't far behind Jerome's.  Perhaps all of the middle school kids in St Louis County should have been all over this card instead....

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Trading Card Co-Op

It's been awhile since I have had a chance to visit a local card shop here Raleigh.  It's been almost a year and half since the area has had a shop.  I have enjoyed hanging out at the card shows that are at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds during the hiatus.  There are always plenty of good cards at those shows, and it's fun to meet and talk to all the different collectors, but I have still missed having a card shop to call my own.  

A few of the collectors, who run some of the booths at the local card shows, have been working on a plan to bring back a card shop to the area.  After a lot of planning and hard work their shop, the Trading Card Co-Op, opened this weekend.  Sure, there was a tropical storm lingering around North Carolina during the beginning half of the weekend, but that was not going to stop me, and a bunch of other collectors, from making a trip out to the Grand Opening.    

If you live in the area, or are visiting the Raleigh area, the shop is in the Royal Building on Hillsborough Street across from Meredith College.  It's in the same building as The Brickhouse restaurant and Ben & Jerry's.  A convenient location, just a stop light down from 440.  

The shop has a really cool feel and has a little bit different set-up from other card shops.  The store is inside the building and collectors are welcomed by a glass facade, which makes up two of the four outside walls of the shop, and a nicely designed store logo on the front door.  

The inside of the Trading Co-Op has a really cool concept and feel.  From the outside doors it looks like any other card shop:  Boxes of new products on shelves, tables with boxes of cards, display cabinets, etc.  However, once you get inside the front door and start looking at the store's inventory and talking to the owners you will see why this is a unique and must see hobby shop.  

When I first visited the store I spent some time talking with Jimmy, who ran Big D's Card Shop and was also a fixture at many of the local card shows, along with James who is also a fixture (and organizer) at the local card shows.  There are several other collectors who frequent the local card shows who have also an interest in the Trading Card Co-Op, which is really where the shop takes on its flavor.  

The Trading Card Co-Op has much more of a card show feel than a card shop feel.  The display cabinets are each stocked by one of the steak-holders in the store.  There is literally something there for everyone.  When I visited on Saturday morning, I had a fairly busy day planned, and can honestly say that the forty-five minutes to hour that I spent in the store were insufficient to take in everything that I would have normally done on a visit to a card shop.  

Again, a stand alone brick and mortar card shop might be doable in that amount of time, but a good card show?  You can't pass up a good table, I have been there.  Only, at the Trading Card Co-Op you are looking in the standard card shop display cases.  

I started out with Jimmy's cabinet since he always has some Durham Bulls goodies lurking inside for me.  You can't see it too clearly from the picture, but there are some nice Blake Snell cards on the bottom shelf.  Jimmy is also the resident expert on the Carolina Hurricanes and always has a nice mix of hockey cards.  

I had actually done a little work with Jimmy on a few cards the week before the store had opened and picked up two nice cards, one Cardinal and one former Durham Bull. 

 Cardinals player first:

I have a bunch of the Cardinals autographs out of the Past Time Pennants set, but did not have the Gibby autograph.  Always a nice signature, plus he is wearing his trademark jacket underneath his jersey.  Jim Edmonds rolled like that for awhile too.  

Durham Bulls player:

I have not done much with memorabilia cards this year, but this one was too nice to pass up.  The card has the authentication sticker on it that Topps started using last year with the Strata cards.  I am typing this post while holding a baby, that's been most of my day, so I still need to look up the code to see when Archer wore this jersey.  

So, this is where the card shop feel kicks in.  After finding a pair of nice cards from one seller, I moved over a cabinet and found a few more nice things around the shop.  I picked up an Aledmys Diaz Optics rookie card from James.....

who had a stocked cabinet filled with all sorts of great baseball, football, and basketball cards along with some great autographed memorabilia.   If my budget had been a little larger I could have had a pretty fun time picking out some of the cards in here.....

Really I could go on and on about each of the different sections of the store, but I am not writing a dissertation here.  Let's summarize it this way:  The inventory is really strong in each of the cabinets and the collectors running the store are very knowledgable.  Here's a look at some of the other cabinets......

This is one of the cabinets (above) that I could have spent some more time on.  I see that Rodon on the top shelf.  Let's hope its there next week.  Some very nice hockey and football stuff in here too.  

This cabinet (above) was baseball heavy with a lot of nice modern stuff on the top and some vintage stuff underneath on the bottom two shelves. The vintage cards looked sharp.  The cabinet below had some great basketball autographs and cards, a little soccer, and a nice Piscotty card on top. 

a cabinet of autographs......

and more...


They even have a cabinet with gaming cards. 

If I had spent another hour or two at the store I could have sat down at each of the cabinets and done a write up on each of them and had a lot of material for my post.  I feel that way moving from table to table to table at a card show sometimes too.  I picked out a few cards, but could have easily bought something from each and every cabinet in the store and the pieces would have been strong additions to my collection.  

There is even a section in the middle of the store with boxes sorted out by teams for collectors looking for some more inexpensive single cards.  I found a cool old Pacific Darryl Kile parallel numbered out of 70...

The store also sells packs and boxes, which is the direction I went, since my time was limited and I have been a little behind on my 2016 cards.  I missed the basketball, football, and hockey boxes, but in the picture at the bottom you can see the shelves wrap around most of the store.  They also post collectors opening boxes and their hits on their Facebook page

I decided to work on Stadium Club and Finest.  I know the post is getting long at this point, but everyone wants to know what came out of the boxes.... 

 Let's start out with the Stadium Club.  

The base set probably deserves its own post, or two, which it will get in the coming days.  I pulled two autographs out of the box.  First up, is Reds catcher Kyle Waldrop.

Waldrop has been in Triple A with the Louisville Bats for the last few years.  The Reds had him up the last week or two, but I believe he's been sent back down to the International League.  The Bats are out of the playoffs, so I am guessing that he might be done for the season after this weekend.  

Which brings me to my other autograph....

which belongs to Rangers pitching prospect Luke Jackson.  Kind of a different looking card, so I had to flip over to the back which revealed that I pulled.....

a 1/1.  While Jackson has not spent a ton of time with the Rangers this year, the former first round draft pick, is still rated by most publications as a Top 20 prospect in the deep Texas system.  In fact, several have him ahead of Michael Matuella, former Duke pitcher, who once was considered a candidate to go first overall in the 2014 draft.  

and the Finest.  I will do more pictures, less words....

all very nice, so the two autographs had a very strong Durham Bulls flavor to them.  First up is Andruw Jones.  Always a very nice looking signature....

and the final autograph was my favorite card I landed from the first weekend of the Trading Card Co-Op: 

This is just a great looking cards.  Not sure it needs a lot of explanation.  

Overall, I had a great time during my brief stop at the Trading Card Co-Op, but I am looking forward to my return visit in the very near future.  There is so much in the store and it is such a cool concept to have a card show set up and feel.  If you live, or have the chance to visit, the Raleigh area I highly recommend a visit.