Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Highly Subjective Definition of "Vintage" with Completely Arbitrary Collation

Ok, what do you consider to be "vintage" baseball cards? Pre-war/pre-Topps? 1960s/70s? 1995? I was curious about Rollie Fingers' definition of vintage when he put his name on this box in 2004, promising "7 Vintage Cards Per Pack."

A Brief Video Interlude of the first 2 packs...

This was an impulse purchase - I wanted to bust open some packs and I was looking at a wall of uninspiring 80's and early 90's offerings when I spotted this box all alone for $10. 

This is a typical pack - there's no vintage there, at least based on most accepted definitions. I would say "vintage" should be 15 - 20 years old, at least. Technically 2003 to 1983 works, but to me that should be the most recent card. The definition of vintage today is generally 1979 or older-- the offerings from the 1980's and 1990's are rarely placed in vintage bins or boxes at card shows.

The "vintage" definition aside, after opening a few packs, patterns began to emerge.

It was borderline comical! P.S. there were no Rollie Fingers cards in the box, though he was still in the league in the early 80's.

Ha, joke's on you, Rollie! Technically those two shades of red on the '91 Topps logo represent variations! So you didn't give me 6 identical Tom Glavines, instead there were 3 each of the two variations. Don't know if it counts, but half of the Kent Hrbeks had printing smears on the front, the other half did not...

The oldest card in the whole box? 1980 Topps Hosken Powell. The newest? 1995 Pacific Omar Olivares. 1995?!?! Less than 10 years old when it was placed in the box. C'mon, man!

The best thing in the box was in the very first pack (I'm thinking this is by design?) - a 1983 Starline Sticker of Mickey Mantle. You can find a copy on COMC for around $5, so I can say that I spent $5 to get this sticker, and I paid another $5 for some very elaborate packing material.

Monday, July 8, 2019

1993 Topps All-Star Rookie Catcher - Mike Piazza

I started profiling the 1993 Topps All-Star Rookie team all the way back in March, and now we come to the end of the line - 1993 NL Rookie of the Year Mike Piazza. The burly catcher is the only member of this roster to make the Hall of Fame, but was famously the last one drafted.

The story goes that Piazza was drafted by the Dodgers as a favor - Mike's dad was a long-time close friend to Dodger legend Tommy Lasorda. The next chapter was all about Piazza struggling to succeed as a first baseman in the minors. Piazza even left his team briefly and if not for the encouragement of family and coaches, would have retired from baseball as a largely unknown player.

After returning, and after some very hard work to convert to a new position behind the plate, Piazza began to flourish in 1991 with Bakersfield. His 29 homers were a revelation. By the end of 1992, Piazza would climb three more minor league levels and make his MLB debut in a September call-up just a few days shy of his 24th birthday.

Once he made it to the big leagues, Piazza became a star. His Rookie campaign included an All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger, a 9th place finish in the MVP race, and of course Rookie of the Year honors. He hit .318 with 35 homers and 112 RBI his rookie season. His 7.0 Wins above replacement was 2nd only to MVP Barry Bonds among position players.

This debut, coupled with the bright lights of Hollywood, made Piazza a frequent subject of insert sets in the crazy card world of the 1990s. The various card companies would work overtime to devise new ways to show Piazza's Prodigious Power.

Piazza spent his first 7 seasons with the Dodgers, hitting .331 with 177 homers. Good things don't last forever, and in 1998 the team and Piazza were at an impasse in negotiating a new contract. As often happens, newspapers spilled vast amounts of ink about player loyalty, and questioned Piazza's motives. For his own part, Piazza responded to criticism with scorn of his own- for the writers, for Vin Scully, for the Dodgers. In what could have been a life long, mutually beneficial relationship, the Dodgers and Piazza could not find common ground. Whether you want to blame the player or blame the owners, either way it was an unfortunately end to his time in Los Angeles.

It led Piazza to spend 5 bizarre games with the Florida Marlins. Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga was ready for a firesale, acquiring Piazza (and Todd Zeile) for Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Jim Eisenreich, Bobby Bonilla, and Manuel Barrios. Florida essentially traded all of those guys (and Piazza) to get Preston Wilson and Ed Yarnall from the Mets. Piazza went 5-18 with a triple and 5 RBI for the Marlins before going on the move again.

He didn't know it yet, but the Mets would end up being the most significant stop in his post Dodgers career.

The two things that come to mind most readily about Piazza with the Mets are the 2000 Subway Series, and the Mets' games immediately following the events of 9/11. Piazza had a pair of homers in the Subway series, and his deep fly ball in game 5 was the final out. It would turn out to be the closest the team would get to a championship with Piazza. The next season, the Mets were disappointing but they saved their best work for the end of the season. After 9/11, it was Piazza who punctuated the Mets' return to NYC with a walk off home run.

In 8 seasons with the Mets, Piazza had over 1,000 hits, 220 homers, and 655 RBI. He'd make 6 All-Star squads and win 4 more Silver Slugger awards as a catcher with the Mets. 

As the wear and tear of catching limited Piazza's playing time and production, he would return to West Coast to finish off his playing career. He'd reach 400 career homers with the Padres, and his final appearance as a catcher. He'd finish his career with 83 games as the A's DH, platooning with lefty Jack Cust.

He is the all-time leader for homers by a catcher, and his 10 Silver Sluggers are also tops for the position. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Being Thrifty at the Card Shop

I took a trip to the local card shop today, as I was in need of more 9 pocket pages to complete my 1959 set, as well as all the rest of my still incomplete binders. I could order online, but why not productively waste an early afternoon?

I have a fairly small hockey collection, but the vintage cards and the Stanley Cup collection has been languishing in a box instead of in pages. The shop had a table full of used binders, and I found this decent looking hockey binder. A little dusty, but no rust and no cigarette smell . . .

So what was inside? Mostly 1989-90-91 Hockey.  I went from pages like this:

To a page like this:

Or a page like this:

To a page like this!

Much better. But I know you're curious about what was in the binder, so here's a sampling of the sets, courtesy of the North Stars:

There were 36 North Star cards, and most of the rest of it will be available for trade, just let me know if you are interested in a particular team or cards from a set, I'll let you know what was in there.

There were 4 "art" cards

A handful of prospect / rookies (these were the biggest names).

A few fun things. Brad Marsh is one of the last NHL players to skip the helmet. The bottom two cards are the hockey equivalent of a bat rack card.

speaking of mini collections - gcrl has a "tatooine" collection of all-dirt baseball cards. these could be "hoth" cards? I think I might hang on to these.

And a small number of interesting shots...

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Series La Tor-2-ga

Series 2 has been out for a hot minute now, and of course the card I have the most interest in is the rookie card of Willians Astudillo, media darling.

He just went on the injured list today after crashing into the right field wall to make a leaping catch during Tuesday night's win. Since being recalled, Astudillo has played Left Field, Right Field, 3rd Base, 2nd Base, and Catcher.

Last year, he even pitched! The is the Short Print photo variation, and I assume it would confuse a few people to see this guy on the mound with "C/3B" as his listed position. It wasn't a great pitching appearance, going one inning and allowing 5 runs (2 homers), but he finished the game, saving the bullpen to fight again another day.

Topps caught on quickly to Astudillo's appeal, and he's in a ton of different sets now. They also had him sign for the 1984 design inserts, and I was happy to add this one early on.

He also signed some cards with the Chrome treatment, again sporting the 1984 design, but 2 different photos. The main picture is from his 1st to home dash that put him on the map of internet memes and into our hearts.

Topps made just 149 of this Astudillo auto, I was happy to get my copy at a reasonable price. I haven't added any base parallels yet, I know there will be plenty to choose from.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Putting Your Best Stamp Forward

Nick of the World Famous Dime Boxes Blog reached out last week to confirm my address, then sent over this stuffed plain white envelop overflowing with Twins.

Most impressively, all of these cards were sent with just one stamp! Let's Get It On. What's Going On in this PWE?

Max signed a contract extension during spring training with the Twins, and he's been tearing the cover off the ball all season long. He's on the bench tonight after taking a fastball off his elbow, but he'll be back soon.

As always, Nick combines new cards, vintage cards, junk wax, stars, legends, etc in every trade.

Some great finds from 2019 Big League, including the fan favorite Willians Astudillo, who recently returned from a temporary stay in AAA. He's primarily a catcher, but tonight he's playing in left field. Jake Cave will be his opposite number in Right Field, with Buxton still recovering on the IL. Cave was tearing up AAA himself, and is getting another chance to stick with the big league club for the moment.

Shifting gears was this oddball of should-be Hall of Fame hurler, the 16X Gold Glove winner, Jim Kaat. This is a 1969 Milton Bradley card from their baseball themed board game. Johnny's Trading Spot recently found the game itself, if you're curious what the board and some more of the cards looked like.

Continuing on the vintage theme, Nick added these three Twins (triplets?) to my collection. The note in the envelope asked me to be sure to check the backs:

sacré bleu ! O-pee-chee!

Here's 4 more Unusual Twins, taken from the 1990 and 1991 Baseball Card Price Guides / Magazines.

I didn't know that Harper was a converted pitcher! Learn something every time you trade with Nick. If you're counting, that's 17 cards in one envelope! One Stamp! Thanks very much Nick, these were a blast to go through.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A Proud Heritage of TransAtlantic Triple Breaks

Matt Olson is fired up because it's time for another Transatlantic Triple Break! We've been doing this since November 2015 and it's still a big hit at the 'ol Arbitrary. Along with Matt from Bob Walk the Plank, and Kevin from The Card Papoy, every few months or so we take turns getting a hobby box and splitting it three ways. We roll the dice looking for autographs / relics and short prints, but more than that, it's an opportunity to keep a round-robin trade going. This time, Matt busted open a box of 2019 Topps Heritage.

The backs are all super bright compared to the 1970 Topps cards in my collection, but they retain all the design elements that marked the original set.

We divvy up the cards by division- I went out West panning for Gold(schmidt) and hooked a Trout!

We also keep our home teams, Twins for me, Pirates for Matt, and Blue Jays for Kevin.

Just like the original set, the playoffs get their own subset.

New Age Performers - Heritage has been running this insert annually, merging the Heritage style with a modern touch. Khris "Khrush" Davis was the MLB home run leader in 2018. The back makes that point and compares him to Johnny Bench, the 1970 MLB HR leader. Neat!

The 1970 Topps set had this insert as well, a scratch off game to play with your friends.

Rules on the back - play nine full innings! The rules are the same as baseball, but do they have a DH or not? Is Instant Replay allowed?

Here's a handful of my favorite base cards from the break.

Matt also tossed in some extras in trade, and per usual they were stunners. This Bonds card is numbered to 66, a 2003 Leaf card that kinda sorta resembles Exhibits.

Glen Perkins is a local hero, coming from Brooklyn Park / Park Center and attended the University of MN. He got the save in the last All-Star game hosted in MN and played his entire career for the Twins. He drops in every now and then to the Twins' booth pre-game and post-game.

Kennys Vargas checks in with a Gold Signature - Kennys is having himself a rough one across the Pacific, he was demoted to the Chiba Lotte Marines' minor league affiliate. His last appearance in the Japanese major leagues was on May 30th. It's early, he's got time to work it out.

I always save the best for last - this card, like Kennys, is also numbered to 25, and includes an autograph of Hall of Fame Twins' legend Harmon Killebrew! The scan is a little blurry as I didn't want to take the card out of the one touch holder.

Thanks again, Matt, for another successful Triple Break! I'll be on the lookout for our next box.