Sunday, April 25, 2021

Fan Of Game-Used Dirt

Twenty years ago relic cards were pretty popular.  Half-inch swatches of swatches of bats and jerseys that may or may not have been worn or used by a player during a game.  At some point there was a huge scandal with these cards, which I am not going to rehash in this space, and they have slowly disappeared over the last few years. 

I have boxes full of these bat and jersey cards.  I am not sure what to do with the relic cards at this point, other than to pull them out and look through them.  I don't think they are worth anything and I do not know anyone who collects them at this point. 

Still, there are some of these relic cards that are still really fun and unique. 

One of my favorite all-time relic sets was the Stadium Club game-used dirt inserts, which were in the 2000 set.  Still pretty popular cards, so I understand why Topps has recreated these cards and put them into Opening Day the past two or three years.  

I don't do much with Opening Day, but I really like the dirt relics.  

The player choice was a no doubter, although Jack Flaherty also has a game-used dirt card.  That might be a card that I had to my watch list.  

I am 100% that this game-used dirt was likely never touched by Blake Snell or even his cleats.  I am basing that statement on the disclaimer on the back of the card.  

I am just going to ignore that statement.  I am a fan of the game-used dirt.  

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Old Bulls On New Cards

I am always on the lookout for new cards of Durham Bulls players.  There are plenty of easy and obvious targets out there, but every once in a while there is a name on a checklist that surprises me.  When the 2021 Topps Heritage set was released, I was really happy to see Jake Cronenworth had an autograph in the set.  Unfortunately, that card is also selling for a ton of money at the moment.  Luckily, there was also a surprising name in the mix on the Topps Heritage checklist.  

This guy.  

Phil Regan was a starting pitcher for the 1957 Durham Bulls.  It was a great year for the team.  Future Tigers outfielder Bubba Morton broke the color barrier for the Bulls franchise, and the team won the Carolina League championship defeating the High Point Hi-Toms led by Dallas Green.  It's hard to believe 64 years later, players on the team are still appearing on baseball cards. 

Sure, Regan played on some good teams with the Tigers, Dodgers, and Cubs, but look at the second line of the stats.....

This card is exactly the same as the actual 1972 Topps Phil Regan card.  I never realized that this set had Minor League playing stats for veteran players.  A bit of a rarity, but I checked out a few other former Durham Bulls players and they also had their Minor League stats listed.  Might have to go find the former Durham Bulls in this set at some point.  

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Wizard of Art

Topps has a new art set this year.  I saw the promotional stuff for the Project 70 cards and swore that I was not going to buy a single one.  There are several early cards in the set, which reaffirmed my decision not to spend much time or money of art cards this year.  However, there are a few that have caught my eye along the way.  

You know how these things usually go, so I am going back down this path again this year.  Here is my first card out of the Project 70 set.  

The packaging is similar to the Project 2020 cards.  

This Ozzie Smith was really hard to pass up, great looking card based on the 1990 Topps set.  I love that the picture shows Ozzie doing a flip, which is one of his trademarks, but I do not think it has appeared on many cards.  He had a Stadium Club card a few years back that showed him doing a flip in front of the Hall of Fame.  Is that it?  Maybe.  

Back of the card.  

Same set up as the Project 2020 cards.  Efdot, the artist on this card, was also involved in the Project 2020 cards and I am glad to see him back.  He made several of my favorite cards in that set, probably my favorite artist overall.  I started following him last year on social media and really enjoy his artwork, not just the work he does with baseball cards.  

His work last year had a lot of "Easter Eggs" within the design.  The Jackie Robinson card might be the best example with the Army uniform collar, the sports he played at UCLA in the bottom right corner,  the date he played his first game on the bottom left border, and the Kansas City Monarchs logo on the name plate.  

I am probably missed one or two.  

The Ozzie card does not have the small details included in many of the Efdot cards, like the Jackie Robinson card, but I do love the fact that you can flip the card either direction and it looks right side up.  

Really well done.  

I am sure that there will be a few more Cardinals included in the Project 70 set, so maybe a few more will show up here during the summer.  

Friday, April 2, 2021

Baseball Player, Civil Engineer, Leading Exotic Bird Vet.....

The 2021 Topps Heritage set came out this week and I have bought zero packs, along with zero single cards.  Instead, I spent some time and money buying interesting cards from other Topps Heritage sets.  There were a few former Durham Bulls and Cardinals cards I was missing.  They seemed like a better use of my money at the moment.  I have a few of these types of cards to post over the next few weeks.  

First up is Cubs, Cardinals, and Expos pitcher Rich Nye.  

Nye played 5 years in the Majors, mostly with the Cubs.  His stints with the Cardinals and Expos lasted a combined total of 14 games.  Yet, for some reason, Topps gave him a baseball card in the 2019 Topps Heritage set.  Seemed odd.  What's so great about Rich Nye?  

Here is the card. 


Well, Rich was a smart guy.  He went to Cal-Berkley, played baseball, and earned a degree in civil engineering.  After his baseball career flamed out......

Career #1  - Civil Engineer

Rich used his civil engineering degree to help build the Sears Tower. 


Career #2 - Commodities Trader

Rich switched careers and decided that he would become a commodities trader.  


Back To College

Commodities trader was not very "inspirational", so Nye went back to college at the University of Illinois to attend Vet School.  


Career #3 - Veterinarian

Rich started working as a vet specializing in exotic birds in Niles, Illinois.  


Charter Member and President of the AAV

Apparently there was no professional organization for vets working with birds, so Rich started one.  He also ran the organization as its President.  If you work with birds, it's apparently a big deal. 


Career #4 - Commodities Trader

Not really a career switch, just earning money to start a large vet practice that will be the leading facility for exotic birds in the United States.  


Career #5 - Veterinarian

Nye started the Midwest Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital in Westchester, Illinois.  The practice was the leading research group on exotic birds in the United States.  


Career #6 -Textbook Author

Nye wrote several textbooks on avian medicine.  



Just kidding.  


Career #7 -Nye Wood Turning 

Rich started his own wood turning business and makes rings and wooden bowels. 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

A Kinder, Gentler Post About Panini Cards

Let's talk about Jake Cronenworth.  One of my favorite players to recently appear on the Durham Bulls, I don't talk about him enough on here, but there is a good reason.  

Cronenworth was on the Bulls in 2019 and had a great year.  He hit for average, got on base, showed a little pop in his bat, and even pitched a few innings as a reliever.  Cronenworth had pitched while he was at the University of Michigan, but the Rays settled on making him a position player.  The great 2019 meant that the Durham Bulls made a baseball card of Cronenworth and put it in the team set.  


There are not actually many cards of Jake Cronenworth.  He had a card in the 2015 Bowman Draft set, but outside of that, there are only a few Minor League team issued cards.  Cronenworth got traded to the Padres after the 2019 season and had a great 60 games last season.  No baseball cards during the 2020 season, but Topps put him on their Topps All-Rookie team.  I figured that he was going to get a card at some point.  

He was not in the base Topps set, but has appeared in both the Inception and Topps Heritage sets.  I have spent time looking at his cards, thinking about buying one.  Just one problem.  

This is where I get annoyed.



I should buy another Stan Musial autograph.  

I didn't, because I really wanted a Jake Cronenworth card, but I created a list of reasons why people should not spend $80 or more on a card of the Padres infielder.  

1. He's a 27 year old rookie.

2. He's played less than 60 games in his career.  

3. He hit .183 with a .268 slugging percentage during the last month of the 2020 season.  That's half of his career. 

4. He went to the University of Michigan.  

Seriously, I hope Jake Cronenworth has a great year in 2021.  I would love to see him and Blake Snell get a shot at winning a World Series with the Padres.  I also hope the Padres let him pitch a few innings this year. 

Frustrated at his card prices, I went a bit of a different direction to add one of his cards to my collection.  If you are a long time reader, you know that I am not a big fan of Panini.  Buying a Panini card is usually a last resort.  I love team logos and cards that are actually autographed by the player.  I love when the card says, "Cardinals" or "Padres" and not "St. Louis" or "San Diego".  

Welp.  Here is my Jake Cronenworth card from the Donruss set with no logos and an autographed sticker. 


I did not spend $80 for this card.  

Not even close.  

Hopefully, the prices of some of the other Cronenworth cards come down significantly and maybe one will find its way into my collection.  In the meantime, I wanted to post one more former Bulls player who also appeared in this year's 2020 Donruss set.  

This is where I say nice things about Panini.  

While I pick often pick on Panini, I will say that the company does a good job of getting some different players to sign autographs for their sets.  Topps always seemingly has the same 3 or 4 players for every team in every set.  Panini sometimes branches out and throws in an unexpected player.  

Like this one. 

Who is Josh Fleming?  

Why should you care about Josh Fleming?  

Josh Fleming was on the Rays last season, started a handful of games, before being sent to the bullpen for the playoffs.  He became a starring member of "The Stable", a group of younger, hard-throwing relief pitchers.  Fleming spent the end of the 2019 season with the Durham Bulls.  I was not really expecting Josh Fleming to appear on any baseball cards this year.  Happy to find this one.  Sometimes Panini does something right in my world. 

I actually got to see Fleming's Triple A debut.  If you read the scoreboard, you will see that he attended Webster University, which is in Webster Groves, Missouri.  I have spent a little bit of time running around Webster Groves, Missouri.  My parents worked in that town and I am pretty sure that a large percentage of my mid and late 1980s baseball cards came from the Ben Franklin store there.  I had an apartment in Webster for awhile as an adult.  Nice place to live and right down the street from Webster University. 

Josh Fleming at Webster University.  

Picture courtesy of Webster University Athletics

Sadly, after finding the Fleming card above, I actually found out that Panini made a card of him at the end of the 2020 season.  I should probably be a little nicer towards Panini and pay a little more attention to their cards.  On card autographs and logos aren't everything, right?   I will have to find a copy of the other Fleming card and post it.