Sunday, January 14, 2018

Top Five: Steve Garvey

My grandfather passed away last week.

The news hit myself and the rest of the family hard. My grandfather was a big part of my upbringing, and in addition to being a Vietnam vet, was just a great person who'd always treated me with nothing but love and respect.

While I don't believe my grandfather was ever huge on sports, he and my grandmother lived in San Diego for a few years in the '80s, and it was there that my grandmother became a big Steve Garvey fan. She's acquired several pieces of mostly Padre-centric Garvey memorabilia over the years, a fair amount of which she's since passed down to me.

It's mainly because of my grandmother that Steve Garvey sits near the top of my player collection hierarchy, and in honor of her and my late grandfather, I'll be taking a look at my Top Five Garveys on the blog today.

#5 -- 1982 Fleer #5 Steve Garvey

Although bat-barrel shots are one of my mini-collections, I'll admit that they have a tendency to get redundant.

This Garvey, however, is anything but: it's one of the cards that reminds me how great bat barrels can be.

#4 -- 1988 Score #225 Steve Garvey

This is Steve Garvey's only true sunset card -- almost every company passed on including him in their 1988 checklists given that Garvey played in just 27 games with the Padres the year prior.

Score was the lone brand to give Garvey a proper farewell, and they did so with a terrific mid-swing action shot that anyone would be proud to have grace their sunset card.

#3 -- 1974 Topps #575 Steve Garvey

Surrealist masterpiece or vintage classic?

I vote both.

#2 -- 1973 Topps #213 Steve Garvey

This has remained a cornerstone of my Garvey collection for many reasons:

1) You don't often see post-homer congratulations featured on baseball cards.

2) As others have noted, it's almost like Topps was using this shot as a metaphor for the Passing of the Torch in Dodgerland. Wes Parker was nearing the end of his career while Garvey was beginning his at the time, and it wouldn't be long before Garvey replaced Parker at first base for the Dodgers, thus beginning a long road of fame for the young superstar.

3) It's a perfect example of the off-kilter beauty that is 1973 Topps: the photo is about 70 percent Wes Parker and 30 percent Garvey, but yet it's Garvey who gets the card.

#1 -- 1971 Topps #341 Steve Garvey RC

I've mentioned it before, but this remains one of the most nostalgic cards in my collection for the sheer fact that my grandmother passed it down to me when I was a young baseball fan.

I was probably about ten years old at the time, and I couldn't quite process the fact that I owned a rookie card of someone as famous as Steve Garvey (part of me still can't). It was one of the first "big" rookies I ever had, and it remains as such to this day.

There are so few cards in my collection I can point to and say -- Now THAT'S one of the reasons I'm still collecting today. This is one of those rare items, a sacred cardboard portal that has always seemed like so much more than a simple baseball card to me.

RIP, Grandpa -- you and my grandmother have impacted me (and my collection) more than you'll ever know.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

But I did go to a Holiday Inn card show last weekend

I've stayed at a hotel maybe a half-dozen times in my life.

My family never traveled much when I was growing up, and hotels always made me a bit uncomfortable on the rare occasion we did. Even just last weekend, as I roamed the hallways of a suburban Holiday Inn, I could sense some of that old reluctance creeping through me. I can't put a finger on what exactly it is about hotels that makes me feel the way I do, but it's still there.

Given all that, you ask, what the heck was I doing driving to a Holiday Inn on a cold Sunday morning in the first place?

Three words: HOTEL CARD SHOW! 

I'm lucky enough to live in an area where hotel card shows are still a thing, and my local monthly one is held at a Holiday Inn about a half-hour from where I live. With a good amount of Christmas cash in my pocket and a Sunday to myself, Dad and I decided to make the journey this past weekend.

It's a smaller show, so you're not likely to secure any gigantic finds. Case in point: until the dying minutes of the day, the whopping $2.50 I paid for the Stephen Wright Heritage black refractor (numbered to a mere 67 copies) at the top of this post was the most I spent on a single card all afternoon.

And the only reason I pulled the trigger was because, as you see above, I've sort of stumbled into building a Wright rainbow -- I now own the base, chrome, chrome refractor, purple refractor, and (now) black refractor versions of it.

For reasons I've detailed in the past, these smaller hotel card shows are easily the best fit for my quiet, introverted collecting personality.

It's well-attended but not too well-attended to the point where people start throwing elbows at you. Most of the cards are affordable. The vast majority of the dozen-ish vendors are regulars, and I've been going to this show long enough to recognize most of them by now (a couple even wished Dad and I a Happy New Year).

And here's the biggest draw of the Holiday Inn show: almost every table has a dime box (and even a couple nickel boxes), and with a little digging, it's easy to find stacks and stacks of great cards like these.

To put it in perspective, I came home with about 700 cards over a good three hours at the show -- and remember, this is just one small hotel banquet room we're talking about here.

While the finds largely skew towards newer stuff, that doesn't eliminate the possibility of a Card Show First: somehow, these are the first singles I've found from the online-only years of the Turkey Red brand (which was always a favorite of mine).

And like I said earlier, not one cent I spent came from my own pocket: the whole thing was funded by holiday cash I received from relatives.

There's no greater feeling than coming home from a card show that didn't put a single dent in my bank account -- not even these high-end goodies, which, aside from the Aparicio (a dollar), were all dime box finds.

Dime box minis remain a supreme card show joy.

A couple fun dime box randoms: despite what my scanner is trying to tell you, that rookie card of switch-pitcher Pat Venditte is actually a foil parallel, and no, I have no idea what's going on with that bottom card, either.

I know going into this show that vintage isn't much of a possibility, so I'm not disappointed that the vast majority of what I took home on Sunday was comprised of cards issued within the last few years.

It's always fun knocking out needs from recent sets, and that goes doubly so for (now-former) Dime Box Dozen needs like that Stadium Club Spahn (dig the vintage billboards!).

Better yet, Sunday proved to be an introduction to a few current brands I'd probably never see without box-busting vendors like the ones I've gotten to know at this show.

The Upton comes from this year's Chrome Updates which either my Target never stocked in the first place or sold out of within days of its release, because I checked multiple times and found exactly none on the shelves. I like the colorful Bowman's Best design a whole lot more than Topps Gallery, but both the Darvish and Springer were easy buys at a dime.

The Benintendi is from something called Topps On Demand(?), and while it seems to be a blatant Topps Now ripoff, I couldn't resist adding one to my binders for a mere two bucks.

Also present was my first look at the new Panini Chronicles, which are butt-ugly but have one major plus going for them: they actually show trade-deadline guys on their new teams.

The train-wreck that was 2017 Topps Update meant that guys like Bruce and Frazier never got cards in their new duds, but at least Panini kinda managed to pick up the slack there (also, bonus points for the Bloody Mary Indians throwback).

I know a few fellow bloggers who would've been in heaven at this show, because at least half the tables there had a considerable amount of cheap buybacks for sale.

I did pick up a nice stack of 'em to distribute among my fellow blogging buddies, but these top-tier player collection hits are staying with me -- including local hero Tom Gorzelanny and a beautiful '75 Vida Blue (sorry, Greg).

This show may lean heavily on the latest-and-greatest stuff, but that doesn't mean there aren't goodies from years past to enjoy.

A quartet of pure dime box fun here: the Nuke LaLoosh is really the only card I wanted from last year's Bull Durham inserts, and if you look closely, that Remlinger is autographed (and I actually collect him!).

Also, in this edition of Card Show Education, I never knew Easton issued baseball cards, and apparently Upper Deck distributed stamped team sets for the expansion Rockies and Marlins in '93.

The more you know.

Horizontal shiny!

Vertical shiny!

'90s Dufex shiny!

(That Mondesi may be one of the greatest cards I've ever scanned in the history of this blog.)

Come on, guys, were you really expecting to slip framed GQ parallels past me at a dime a piece?

Examples of the great cards Panini can produce when they put their mind to it.

One of the regular vendors always has a large all-retired dime box, and it remains among my most enjoyable card show experiences.

These are just four of the hundred-plus cards I plucked from the guy's inventory (with the Satchel Paige probably being my personal favorite).

In taking a page from a couple other bloggers, you may have noticed I've added a second want list to the sidebar of this blog with "Keep Dreaming" cards that are most assuredly not Dime Box Dozen commons.

It's more for my own reference than anything (though if you have a spare '58 Maris or '63 Musial, by all means...), and I sure as heck wasn't expecting to hit anything from it at the Holiday Inn this past Sunday. But then, just as things were wrapping up, there it was: an '83 Fleer Ryno, the very same card I'd just added to my inaugural "Keep Dreaming" want list!

The vendor had it priced at $10, but I managed to talk him down to $7 -- not the Steal of the Century or anything, but a small price to pay for a card that completes my Ryno Rookie Card Triad (Topps, Donruss, and Fleer).

And somehow I initially missed the card sitting right next to Ryno the whole time: an '83 Donruss Tony Gwynn rookie...also from my "Keep Dreaming" wants!

Like the Sandberg, this Mr. Padre was priced at $10, and again, the vendor took $7 for it. And like the Fleer Ryno, this was the card standing in the way of completing Gwynn's Rookie Card Triad.

And so with a bag of over 700 baseball cards in my hand -- including a pair of "Keep Dreaming" cards I no longer had to dream about -- I bade adieu to the suburban Holiday Inn and walked out into the winter afternoon, feeling somehow warmer than I did when I'd entered the automatic doors just hours before.

Maybe hotels aren't so bad after all.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Top Five: George Brett

By the time this post goes up, I'll either be at or returning from my first card show of 2018 (wish me luck!).

Whenever Card Show Day comes around, I start thinking about where I'd be without shows. In addition to simply giving me specific afternoons to look forward to on the calendar (which are especially treasured in the winter months), card shows are where my collection forms and takes shape before my very eyes.

It was largely thanks to card shows that I realized I was omitting adding '80s and '90s stars to my binders. I started to see more and more Tony Gwynns, Ryne Sandbergs, etc. in dime boxes before it finally hit me a couple years ago: Hold on, why am I not collecting these guys?

My collection of George Brett, for instance, has more than tripled since I came to this realization, and as a result there's no shortage of material to choose from for this week's Top Five.

#5 -- 1982 Fleer  #405 George Brett

It's always a treat to see the game's greatest hitters flashing the leather on their cards.

#4 -- 1976 Hostess #114 George Brett

I can't tell you exactly why, but George Brett and Hostess just seem to mesh perfectly in my mind -- he's one of the few guys whose Hostess cards appeal more to me than his Kellogg's.

The '76 Hostess design is my favorite of the bunch, and thus this one gets the nod for inclusion in the Top Five.

#3 -- 2015 Stadium Club #210 George Brett

An iconic "autograph" shot of Brett, and one that inspired a chart-topping song a few years back (though not a tune I particularly liked).

#2 -- 1994 Topps #180 George Brett

This might be my favorite card of the '90s -- I don't think I need to explain why -- and for just about any other player, it'd top this countdown.

#1a & 1b -- 1975 Topps #228 George Brett RC (washer-used & standard)

I'm not sure, but there's a good chance that my "washer-used" '75 Brett rookie has been shown on this blog more times than any other single card in my collection.

It's just so perfect for the type of kooky stuff I often write about here, and in some ways, it might be responsible for my decision to start the blog in the first place. I dug the bedraggled Brett out of a 50-cent bin at a show just a month before I launched "Dime Boxes," and perhaps my fascination with it is what convinced me to sit down and start writing about the off-center beauty of such cards, ones that often get ignored in today's money-centric hobby.

While I did later acquire a standard Brett rookie -- a near-pristine one, I might add -- it's the washer-used copy that continues to be tops on my blog and in my heart.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

This year's post, last year's trades

This was probably the least eventful New Year's I've ever had -- I worked until 10 at night, didn't watch the big 5-4-3-2-1 countdown, and went to bed shortly after midnight.

I've never been one for resolutions, especially when it comes to my cards. My collection really isn't structured in much of a goal-oriented way and it doesn't make much sense to start now. Any of my hopes for 2018 mainly come via this blog, and one of the key mandates is something I'm addressing in my very first post of the year: catch up on my trades, dammit!

Packages like this one, which I received from none other than Greg of the hallowed "Night Owl Cards," have been sitting in my trade folder for several months now, and that's just egregious.

It's not that composing trade posts feels like a chore (they're actually among my favorites to write), it's just that they get lost in the shuffle after a big pickup or card show haul or whatever else sometimes.

And although they might seem like old news to some by now, I was still thrilled to check off several recent insert needs off my want lists with this quartet from Greg (who, ironically, just yesterday posted some cards I recently sent him).

I bought more Archives than any other 2017 brand, but these both managed to slip past me while I was pulling triples and quadruples of other cards because of the dreadful collation.

Unlike 2016, my box of 2017 Topps Bunt didn't yield a complete base set, but thankfully people like Greg are around to help me close the gaps.

I've been trading with Greg for about six years now, and he's always been one of the deadliest forces when it comes to my want lists.

Also among Greg's attack on my want lists was this page of A&Gs, including a handful of "What A Day!" inserts which, from what I can gather, not many people besides myself liked.

But Greg's trading talents don't just come from want list takedowns.

This Gatorade shower/pie-in-the-face/interview (wow!) Josh Donaldson is a coveted photo-variation SP and instantly takes its place near the top tier of my player collection of his.

Greg knows a quick way to my heart: left-of-center shots from early Fleer.

I've flipped through stacks of '81 Fleer on countless occasions, but even now, I still always manage to find great cards that have passed me by all these years (and that's perhaps the most epic Green Monster cameo ever on the Wortham).

And here's an even quicker way to my heart: vintage!

This one card single-handedly captures so many things I love about old-timey cardboard -- a posed bunt, a gloriously large Rookie Cup, and a nice, basic Topps design without bells and whistles. And don't sleep on that "& SS" written under Johnson's "2B" designation, pencilled in (or, in this case, penned in) by some unknown young collector who I like to imagine was a baseball nut not unlike myself.

I don't believe I'd ever seen this '67 Davey Johnson before Greg sent it to me, and if I had, I stupidly passed it up. Just goes to show that sometimes my trading partners know me better than I know myself a lot of the time.

So here's to 2018, a year which I hope goes down in history as one where I did better by the many people who were generous enough to beef up my treasured baseball card collection.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Top Five: Bob Gibson

In an effort to keep the game even more alive in my mind during the offseason, I've recently started reading the first baseball book I've picked up in a while: Summer of '68 by Tim Wendel.

The book, as you might guess, is about the '68 season, and though it centers around baseball, it provides a wide-ranging look at the year as a whole, everything from Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination to Joe Namath to the Democratic National Convention. These time-and-place books are the non-fiction I most enjoy, and it's been a solid read so far.

But of course, I'm most interested in the baseball aspect of it all. The book's heart is set around the Tigers-Cardinals World Series matchup, and specifically, Bob Gibson, whose mind-boggling 1.12 ERA in '68 is still the lowest in modern history.

For that, I've decided to take a look at my five favorite Gibson cards this afternoon.

#5 -- 2010 Topps National Chicle #216 Bob Gibson

I rather enjoyed the one-and-done National Chicle brand, and though it provided some of both the ugliest and most elegant cards I've ever seen, this one definitely belongs in the latter.

#4 -- 1967 Topps #210 Bob Gibson

This is my oldest standard Topps Bob Gibson card, and I somehow found it for a whopping 75 cents at my otherwise lackluster LCS.

These days, that card shop doesn't seem to have anything priced under fifteen bucks, which made such a score all the more surprising.

#3 -- 1970 Kellogg's #71 Bob Gibson

I don't own a ton of cards from Kellogg's inaugural-year set, but this might well the best one I've been lucky enough to add to my collection.

#2 -- 1968 Topps #100 Bob Gibson

Here it is: Bob Gibson as he looked in the Year of the Pitcher.

Since I've started the aforementioned book, I've become disappointed that such a historic year for baseball was documented on arguably the worst vintage Topps design. For every one person who likes the burlaps, there's probably ten or twenty (like myself) who don't.

That said, I do enjoy this card quite a bit -- I get a bit spooked just looking at that glare here almost 50 years later, and I can't imagine how batters who actually had to face the guy must've felt.

#1 -- 1971 Topps #450 Bob Gibson

But although Gibson's '68 Topps card is probably his most famous, it's actually his '71 issue that remains my favorite.

I thank '71 Topps with every fiber of my being for reintroducing action shots to the hobby, and Gibson was granted one of the classic ones that year (and it'd actually wind up being the only action photo he'd receive on a standard Topps card).

Here, we see Gibson in the quaint moments before presumably uncorking a 150-MPH fastball at some poor hitter. And what's more, we get the elusive fielder-ump-crowd combo in the background.

Put it all together, and you get what is, and will probably always be, the best card of Bob Gibson.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Cards of the Year

With 2017 limping to an end, the time has come to put together my annual Cards of the Year list.

This has been a yearly tradition of mine since I started the blog, though I certainly don't mind getting an entry into P-Town Tom's contest out of it. More than any other year I can remember, it was a bit of a struggle to cobble together a Top 10 list here in 2017 -- there simply weren't many memorable cards to choose from.

I did, however, manage to scrape together a group of ten without any of the nominees feeling like much of a stretch. The only rule I imposed on myself was No Cubs World Series Stuff: one of those was already my Card of the Year for 2016 and the inclusion of any on this list would just feel repetitive (though I'm certainly no stranger to being repetitive on this blog).

So, without further ado, here they are: my Cards of the Year for 2017. 

#10 -- 2017 Topps Archives #255 Reggie Jackson

Because any new card of Reggie as an Oriole is enough to get me unnaturally giddy.

#9 -- 2017 Stadium Club #151 Tim Raines

As usual, Stadium Club plays a leading role in my Cards of the Year list, starting with Tim Raines here.

It's a heroic shot of the new HOFer in old Olympic Stadium, one Raines apparently liked enough to slap it on the cover of his own autobiography (which was also released this year).

#8 -- 2017 Topps Archives #210 Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts juggling on the '92 Topps design?

Mookie Betts juggling on the '92 Topps design.

#7 -- 2017 Topps Now #507 Bartolo Colon

This was one of just two Topps Now cards I bought all year (the other being a Cubs World Series card I promised I wouldn't include on this list), and the only reason I found out about it in the first place was because of a post on Brian's blog.

I mean, it's Bartolo Colon in goofy solar eclipse glasses -- with a picture of said eclipse on the back -- and, if that isn't enough, it's my only card of Big Sexy with the Twins since Topps dropped the ball and didn't include him in their Update checklist this year.

If there was ever a lock to make my Top 10, this was it.

#6 -- 2017 Topps Opening Day "Superstar Celebrations" #SC-21 Giancarlo Stanton

I have absolutely no idea what's going on here, but it makes me smile every time I see it.

#5 -- 2017 Topps #520 Andrelton Simmons

Topps produced a grand total of 1,000 different base cards across their three Flagship sets this year, and this was the only memorable one of the lot.

#4 -- 2017 Stadium Club #53 Anthony Rizzo

Wall catches on baseball cards: as if you needed another reason to be a fan of Anthony Rizzo.

#3 -- A&G Dudes!

I'm cheating a bit here, but let's face it: there's no way I could single out just one Dude from the whole lot of Dudes, so they all make the list.

I usually don't include non-baseball subjects on my Cards of the Year countdown, but 2017's A&G Dudes were just too glorious to ignore. I haven't made much of a dent in the checklist as of yet -- I own just eleven Dudes from the 50-card set -- but they're enough to convince me that this is not only the best insert set of the year, but one of the best insert sets of my collecting lifetime.

Conductor Dude, Artist Dude, Egyptian Sultan Dude: ALL HAIL DUDES!

#2 -- 2017 Stadium Club #277 Billy Hamilton

Every year, there seem to be one or two cards which pretty much everyone agrees are just damn good.

Judging from what I've read on the blogs, this seems to be 2017's version of that consensus pick, and it's easy to see why: card backs can rave all they want about Billy Hamilton's speed, but Stadium Club remains the only one to actually show it to us.

#1 -- 2017 Topps Update #US-223 Sandy Koufax SP

I fell in love with this card the minute I saw it, so much so that I went out and bought a copy just hours after Topps Update was released.

Trouble was, that meant I paid over three times what I could've eventually gotten it for, since it took a few days for everyone to realize how common the photo SPs were in this year's Update.

But you know what? I don't regret it. One bit. What I paid was still, in my mind, a bargain for what turned out to be the pinnacle of 2017 cardboard: a masterful shot of Sandy Koufax pointing out his second no-no in the gloaming for all to see. I'd never seen this particular photo before, and it came as even more of a treat since Koufax, like many retired stars, suffers from the epidemic of having the same images recycled on many of his cards.

I still feel a bit weird about giving a photo-variation SP the top spot on this list, but there's no way around it: this is my Card of the Year for 2017.