Friday, July 20, 2012

It's Great to Have That Feeling Again

It happened.

I've mentioned several times on this blog how I yearn for the collecting days of old when we were all excited to pull plain old cards - the cards we now refer to in our after thoughts as "base cards" - of the best players of the day, rookies or our favorite teams.

Granted, what you feel is completely within your own control so I feel somewhat silly saying that I miss feeling a certain way...but you guys probably know what I mean.   As expensive as cards are nowadays and as exciting as the 'hits' and inserts can be to pull, it's tough not to feel a tad bit shorted when you manage to avoid pulling anything beyond what's promised to you on the wrapper.

Forget that - check out this sweet card I pulled from an Allen & Ginter blaster!


I'm not even a Cubs fan but I am really excited to add my first card of Anthony Rizzo to my son's collection.   I'm building the base set for him (please see NEEDS & FOR TRADE list in the side bars) so I would have come across this card anyways - but we all know there's something special about pulling a card you were hoping for from a pack.   There's no signature.   There's no swatch of jersey.   But I still dig this card.

I had been following Rizzo, his minor league offensive numbers and his potential call-up to the parent club all season.   You already know I'm a Yankees and Braves fan.   Am I a prospector?   Nah, but I AM playing fantasy baseball for the first time ever.   And loving it!   It has caused me to have some strange feelings:

"Okay.   Soriano just gave up a run.   That's he's eligible for the Save."

Twisted, right?   Yeah, it's weird but I'm enjoying the depth to which I've taken a dive back into the sport as a fan.   I haven't had a knowledge of current MLB players and their skills this comprehensive since I had recess five days a week.   And it feels great.   Mike & Mike in the morning on the drive to work?   Not new friends are Scott, Adam and Cory - every morning on XM 87.   They fuel the statistical and fantasy sports fire.   The Roto Experts they're called.   I'm pretty sure Mrs. Ryan's Pitch thinks my brain has gone a little "roto"....but such are the tests of champions (wink).

WHOA - I've gone off course.   Let's bring 'er back.......

So I managed to pick up Rizzo in one of my two leagues as the moment approached for his call-up.   He came up and has really been a much-needed source of joy for Cubbies fans everywhere.  He represents the future and potential greatness: key ingredients as north-siders and Cubs fans everywhere await redemption.   For me, he's helped out my fantasy roster when I've dropped him into the line-up, so the guy's become a favorite for me as well (as long as it's not against my Braves!).

So I knew about him, followed him in the news and was aware that he had cards in this year's sets.   I hadn't seen one yet......but then, there it was!   Seriously, an actual "SWEET! A Rizzo!" escaped me as I thumbed through the freshly busted pack.    AH, sweet cardboard time machine.   Again - no ink, piece of clothing or fractorization required.

This Rizzo base card will probably not put my kid through college (cause it will be HIS after all, big daddy - duh).   There will be millions of them in gem mint condition in 40 years.......but for now, I am really stoked to have this card of a great ball player who may become an enduring star for the Chicago Cubs.   Oh yeah - here's the back!

Card #270: "Batting One Hundred Forty One" - Not Anymore.

And THAT is what this hobby is all about for me.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Friday, July 6, 2012

What is "iconic"?

That was one of the topics du jour in the twitter-sphere of Ryan's Pitch, today.

Rick Klein (@rickklein) put forth a great discussion piece on Cardboard Connection that cited his desire for Topps to return to its roots with the flagship release.   With no frills or parallels or inserts or whatever, Rick channeled his childhood roots as he cited this phenomena when explaining his stance:

"For all of baseball card history, until the 1990s, the star cards were the chase cards. You pulled a Willie Mays, a Nolan Ryan, a George Brett, a Ken Griffey Jr., and that was the value in your pack. They made the pack or the box worthwhile."

I tend to agree, for the most part, and I have found myself suffering through the same thought process as I've torn through wax for the past year or so.   I would fight an inner struggle to thumb quickly past base cards (ANY base cards) in the hopes of finding that strikingly rigid relic card or seeing some beautiful ink surface from behind the preceding, boring base card.

Seriously, self?!

Then, of course, I would feel the shame and return through the piles to pay my respects to the cards upon which the foundation of our hobby is built - the base cards.   "We are cards, too" I can almost hear them screaming.   And they're RIGHT.   Turn them over when you get a chance and just READ.   Even if it's one of the simpler designs like Gypsy Queen, read what's there.   The stats, the facts and, if you're lucky - the cartoons (Archives, Heritage).   read the words, gain the knowledge and behold - there's the value in your baseball card.   Flip it back over and look at the front design.   Is the picture cool?   Do the colors work?   Can you find an airbrushing or printing error?   Enjoy it.   Critique it.   Share it.

And now...........collect it.   Trade it.   Put it on a dart board (Red Sox).   Check the number off your list and add it to the others.   Send it to the player in a TTM request or slide it gleefully into a 9-card page.   There's the value in your baseball card.   You might not be able to flip it for your car payment on the Bay of E - but you can get something out of it.

Let me get back to the twitter conversation...........

SO, Rick, along with several other collectors, industry players like Beckett's Chris Olds and even Topps themselves (@ToppsCards) bantered back and forth about how Topps might be able to satisfactorily meet Rick's request.   It is a healthy debate and very logical, too, as all seem to respect the fact that Topps IS a business and would need to be profitable while heeding Rick's recommendations.

What is iconic?

Rick made another excellent point in his article, referring to the Topps designs of years gone by, albeit mostly from the years of our (us 30 somethings +) youth along with those wonderful vintage editions.   He cited how easily all of us could recall the designs in our minds, with specific cards for certain years and how those designs thrive today in our collective hobby conscious as "works of art" and artifacts of sporting sentimentality.  

How much of this is due to our own hearts and memories clouding our judgment?   Have we simply not allowed enough time for current cards to achieve the same status in our mental display cases?   Perhaps....but then again, the obvious excitement surrounding this year's Archives release is undeniable.    I am a victim myself!   I vowed to stop at the flagship and Gypsy Queen releases this year but fell like a middle-schooler for Erin Andrews when I picked up a few 'sample' packs of Heritage and Archives.  

Now a "Fox" in more than one way...

Yes.   Gratuitous........

I've said it before - well done, Topps.   So, what is it about seeing today's stars in yesterday's designs that makes it all so exciting?   Is it the gimmickry of it?   Is it the allure of 'something new as something old'?   We may never know.   But ask yourself this - would you be as stoked to see McCutchen in the 2002 design vice this:

....or this?

Oops.  An insert......okay, score one for Topps.   But hang with me!

So, what do you think?   What does iconic mean to you?   Will the 'surfboard' design of 2012 flagship develop into an iconic design - eventually?   Have we, as a hobby, lost our ability to appreciate beautiful designs if they aren't accompanied by the chance to pull on-card autographs, jumbo relics or maple syrup glaze parallel SSSSP's?

Perhaps, but in the meantime - here's my two cents:   I don't believe iconic designs are behind us.   The iconic designs of my youth are exactly that - the iconic designs of my youth.   The '87 mini inserts from this year's release made me tear up a little while they very well might cause a 12 year old kid today to mutter, "What the heck is this?"  It's true, fellow geezers.   The iconic designs of the golden age and beyond are iconic for the legendary players they picture, I believe....and they're just old....and can be kind of tough to find.   2012 base cards will be old one day and probably hold some value for collectors who are riding bikes today that will remember watching Pujols or Cano or Kershaw as children.   One thing that WON'T be the same, however, is the scarcity.   We may never see that phenomena associated with present-day releases so I think that is a unique contributor to the allure of designs and plain old base cards from vintage (50's and 60's) releases.

For the record - here's MY iconic:


Where was I 6/24/83?!? I don't know.....

And THIS.....this just doesn't seem epic to me.   Not yet.   But perhaps one day?

Golden Mouuuuus

Overall, this is a great question and a healthy debate.   Topps truly can't stand to lose too much from trying to find an answer, either.   There will probably be a 'swing and a miss' from time to time, yes.   But they might as well try, though.   You KNOW that we will all be there to at least pick up a few packs!

Let me know what you think and thank you for providing the discussion point, Rick.

Thanks for reading and before I forget - GO YANKEES, BEAT THEM SOX!!!!!!!!!!