Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Hall of Fame Collection - 1933 Goudey #134 Sam Rice

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Sam Rice:

I came across this card on the Bay of E whilst hunting down a more familiar "variation" card from the same set.   With all of the buzz earlier this spring regarding card variations in both flagship and Heritage, I geeked out and dove into the dusty days of hobby yore to see if I could find some real genesis-esque examples of this modern-day hobby excitement.

On a relatively reasonable budget, of course - which is hard to do when you start looking back in hobby time.   That being said, I was able to find one of the cards I was looking for AND while deciding if I was going to scoop up said ancient variation......I found Mr. Rice.   Once the thought of combined shipping gets into my brain, I start to doing crazy, out-of-the-box and many times DUMB things when it comes to my collecting.   But being dumb can be fun, too.....

Anyways, this '33 Rice caught my collecting eye and so I needed to educate myself.   Washington Senators....okay, don't really collect them in particular but they are always a welcome addition due to their baseball heritage.   A quick review shows that the Senators won the American League in 1933, though!   I like THAT connection with this card.   They lost the Series to the New York Giants in five games.

Let's see, Sam only hit ONE home run in 1933.   It came on August 27th off of Clint Brown, a solo shot.   It looks like Sam's career was winding down in '33.   He only had 89 plate appearances but turned out an impressive .294 average.

1933 Goudey.....I don't particularly collect 1933 Goudey's, but this is because cost is usually prohibitive for me.   I mean, would any of us be able to truly say that we don't collect T206 cards?   He was in the Hall of Fame, Veterans Committee class of 1963.

Wait, WHAT?!?!   Hall of Fame?!?!?!   I double-checked the starting bid price for this graded card and even ran a sanity check via PSA's SMR Report.    Out-of-the-box it is!

I added this card to my list of bids and won without a fight.   Perhaps I misjudged the perceived deal?   Now that I have Mr. Rice safely in my collection - I would argue that notion to the end of my days.

Here's the back:

I love old card backs and these Goudey's never seem to disappoint!   As you can see, Sam broke into baseball as a pitcher....but would wind up in the Hall of Fame as an outfielder?   How did this happen?   Well, we should start from the beginning.

Edgar Rice grew up on a farm in Indiana, married at the age of eighteen in 1908 and had two kids by the age of twenty-two.   While running the family farm, though, he had a dream to play baseball and would continuously try out for clubs in the region.   During his travels for one such tryout in neighboring Illinois, Mrs. Rice and the kids set off one day to spend some time with her husband's family in a neighboring Indiana town.   Unfortunately, severe weather set in and a tornado decimated the Rice Family farm, killing Edgar's wife, his two children, his mother and two younger sisters.   A week later, his father passed away from his injuries, too.

Are you kidding me?

Somewhere in the midst of his grieving, Edgar decided to join the United States Navy - another great connection for me with this player and this card!   He would serve aboard the USS New Hampshire (BB_25) and play on the ship's baseball team, finding a way to keep his dream alive.   Here is a picture of the New Hampshire:

  At some point in 1914, Edgar Rice tried out for a professional baseball team in Virginia, which makes sense as BB-25 was based out of Norfolk, Virginia.   Edgar made the team, owned by "Doc" Lee, and had a very successful campaign as a pitcher, going 9-2.

Here is where fate intervened, in my opinion.   Doc Lee owed a debt to Washington Senators owner, Clark Griffith (Griffith Stadium?), so Doc offered up Edgar's contract as payment.....folks, it was a $300 debt!   But Griffith ended up with a pretty good deal, I'd say - he accepted Edgar's contract as payment with two interesting conditions.   First, Doc Lee had changed Edgar's name to "Sam" and second, Lee convinced the Senators to allow Sam to play in the outfield.

There you go, a Hall of Fame outfielder named Sam Rice is born, a mere six years after the crushing loss of his entire family.   AMAZING!

As the card explains, through 18 seasons in the "Big Show" (love it!), Rice recorded a batting average over .300 in 15 different years, barely missing the mark in 1916, 1922 and 1927 (.299, .295 and .297 respectively!).   He led the American League in 1920 with 63 stolen bases, with George Sisler way back in 2nd place with 42 (Ty Cobb 15, Babe Ruth 14, if you were wondering!).   Goudey couldn't have known at the time, but Sam would end his career with 2987 hits, just thirteen short of the 3,000 milestone.   A couple of years after Rice retired, his old boss Mr. Griffith actually approached him and pointed this fact out, even offering the opportunity for Sam to return to the game, if just to collect those 13 remaining hits.   His 'salt of the earth' roots really shone through, as he admitted to Griffith and many more that he really wasn't aware of his hit total, nor was he interested in making a comeback to chase the mark.

But what about the line on the back of this card, "And, boy, can't he go and get 'em in the outfield!" could be referring to Game 3 of the 1925 World Series, Rice and the Senators were leading the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 in the 8th inning.   For some reason, Sam moved over to right field from usual spot in center.   As luck would have it, with two outs, the Bucs' catcher drove a ball in Sam's direction, heading over the fence as a would-be home run until Rice snagged the ball at the last  moment, toppling over the fence and disappearing from view.   Sam eventually stood up, showing the ball in his glove, at which point the umpire declared Earl Smith the final out of the inning.   The Senators would win that game, and the next, before dropping three in a row to lose the Series in seven games.

But did he make the catch?   Sam wouldn't discuss it much with the press, often only reminding them that the umpire had called the batter out.   The intrigue persisted, though, which is amazing to me since the play would have only resulted in Smith tying up the game at 4 runs a piece with an inning to go.   PLUS, the Pirates ended up winning the Series anyways!   But hey, this is why I love baseball.   And how could this story get any better?   Well, Sam Rice penned a letter that was to be opened upon his death, which occurred in 1974 at age 84.   The letter explained his account of the controversial catch in the '25 Series and ended with his emphatic statement, "At no time did I lose possession of the ball."

Well played, Sam!   I'm sure you''ll understand when I say it is an honor to bring this Sam Rice Goudey card into my collection.   It is graded "GOOD 2" by PSA and, while it does have some staining and discoloration along the front borders and back, the front image of Rice is very sharp with strong coloring that is very nice to look at.   The corners are well-rounded and the edges have been "nibbled" on by time.....but these facts don't detract from the card's overall appearance (or enjoyment) in my opinion and the centering is solid.

I'm so glad that I stumbled upon this card in my search.   I learned a lot about Mr. Rice and now have some great stories to accompany this grand old card of a very interesting Hall of Famer.

Thanks for reading and keep collecting!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Rizzo Collection - 2010 Bowman Draft Prospect Autographs

I love cheering for Anthony Rizzo.   

After learning that his ancestors hail from the same slice of Sicily that mine do, I will always feel a reasonable connection with the lefty slugger.   The revelation came out of nowhere, discovered by yours truly (no sleuth) during a previous World Baseball Championship.   Rizzo's presence on Team Italia got my wheels turning.....and the rest was history.

The great thing about cheering for Rizzo is that it has its good days and bad days.   He was a star prospect and held the hopes and dreams of the Padres in his hands before he was sent to the Cubbies in the Andrew Cashner deal.   Cashner is pretty good, serving nicely as the Friars' staff ace int heir cavernous ballpark.   Rizzo, on the other hand, is still a young player for Chicago about which the Cubs would VERY much like to build their organization.    Starlin Castro just hasn't quite panned out and the likes of Baez, Almora, Bryant and others are still just a teeny, tiny bit into the future.....

It's Rizzo's time to grab the reigns, if he so chooses - and I sure am hoping/cheering that he does!   SO far, he has had a quietly successful 2014 campaign, in my opinion anyways.   I know that Cubs fans yearn for more from the well-paid lad, but Anthony is batting .283 with a K:BB ratio of 1.   I believe this shows some pretty decent discipline.....he is also on pace for 24 HRs, 75+ RBI and nearly 100 runs.   Keep it up, Anthony! 

Either way, I will be a fan forever and always.

In the meantime, I've managed to add a few nice cards of Rizzo to my PC.   Here is one that I really love!   I know that it does not technically qualify as a 'rookie card' (bowman draft prospect cards are considered inserts), but I am calling this my gem mint Rizzo rookie.   Take a look:

Sticker auto, but I'm over it.   The card is flawless - with the exception of that awful uniform....but let's focus on the good :)   This card garnered a total 9.5 grade from BGS with all 9.5's in centering, edges and surface.   The one "9" subgrade was awarded to the card's corners....and I suppose you can detect a 'touched' look on the lower two.   No worries!   I love the card and the autograph is really bold, too (validated by the 10 auto grade, I suppose).

Absolutely thrilled to add this Rizzo to my collection, and for the price of a blaster, I think I got a pretty good deal.   I believe it is $10+ for a BGS submission by itself?

This also marks the second graded or "slabbed" card that I've featured here on the blog as a new addition to my collection.   There are several more that I've added that I can't wait to share with you.   If you remember, I last showed my 2001 Pujols rookie card, which was graded by PSA.   Do I have any consistency with my graded card acquisitions?   Is there a plan?

For the most part, yes.   I read a lot about card grading, tracked graded card pricing online and discussed the topic ad nauseam with many of you fellow collectors.   I've decided to, whenever possible, pursue PSA-grading for cards in my collection prior to 2000 and then BGS-grading for cards thereafter.   I am still working out the finer details of what my preference is for any pre-war cards (Goudey, T206, etc.) that I might be FORTUNATE enough to hold in my hands.....PSA and SGC will be the two options for me.

Because I'm a nerd:

 PSA/SGC <-----> WW2  <----->  PSA  <----->  2000  <----->  BGS

Now, if you've been keeping track, you'll notice that I already violated this strategy with the 2001 Bowman Gold Pujols.   The price was right and I decided to act - and those kinds of occurrences are A-OK for me.

I do appreciate the craftsmanship of the BGS 'slab', though.   The gold label with subgrades make for a very attractive and professional presentation.   The slab itself is much thicker and heavier than PSA, too.   But I'm okay with either one.   What do you guys prefer?   A great discussion and hobby debate, for sure.

Thanks for reading and keep collecting!


Saturday, May 24, 2014

My HOF Collection - 1959 Topps #212 "Fence Busters" Hank Aaron & Eddie Mathews

Am I building the 1959 Topps set?!?!?!?!

I didn't mean to start.   I can't afford to, can I?   How could I ever be, bold?

EH, to heck with it.  I'm a collector and a set-builder at that.   It may take me 40 years, I may never finish it....but nothing can stop me from starting a list, right?  Right.   Let's add this one to my short, but growing stack!

I picked up this card for less than $8 if I remember correctly.   A deal, if you ask me!   It's got the all too frequent snow of the 1958 and 1959 Topps sets, but when that snow gently surrounds the gathering of two Hall of Fame players like Mathews and Aaron - you just don't care!

"Fence Busters" indeed, this card pays homage to the HR and RBI category totals for the two sluggers during their 1958 campaign.   30 and 95 for Hank......31 and 77 for Edie.   The blazing yellow sun centered between the two players keeps the design consistent with the rest of the set, though this disk was where the player's photograph was inserted for the base cards.   For card #212, it creates a slightly bizarre, almost spaghetti-western kind of sunset effect....but this intimate portrait of two great ballplayers and teammates bests any grievances from the design or background color department. 

The card is in fairly decent shape, too!   Centering can be tough for '59's, but the white border is shared well by all four sides of the card.   The corners aren't too badly rounded either.   Here's a glance at the back:

The back is in great shape, with no stains or marks to impede appreciation of another gem of a vintage card back from Topps:

"...a terror to opponents when World Series time rolls around..." Ha! Until the Yanks in '58!

"...belted a torrid .393 with 3 homers and 7 Runs Batted In..." - I need to use "torrid" more often!

"...last year...posted a .333 against the Yanks..."  - wait, WHAT?   :)

"Eddie is the best bunter on the Braves."   - (sad trombone sound)

Not the best highlight for a "Fence Busters" card but, hey.  We're all about reporting the facts.   Mathews did more fence busting in '58 than Aaron, but is clear where the majority of the hobby and fandom zeal was aimed.   No problem!   It is at is always will be....Interestingly, as a side note, the cartoon baseball player at the bottom of the card doesn't depict any fence-busting, either.

Nerd-details aside, this is a great card and I am thrilled to add it to my HOF collection as well as my infant 1959 Topps set.   Keep your eyes peeled for a NEEDS List, my friends!

Thanks for reading and keep collecting!


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Vintage Stack: 1965 Topps #266 Bert Campaneris

Let's dive somewhere into the middle of that mystery vintage stack, shall we?

Is that a vintage spring training photo I see?!?!  BONUS

Oh baby, do I like the looks of this '65 Campaneris!   Bert Campaneris is one of those baseball names that you hear a lot, for some reason.   There are some VERY good reasons for that, as we'll discuss in a moment.

First of all, the card is very nice to look at.   The corners have been well loved, but the centering is pretty stellar and the colors are bold, which is key for '65's.   Easily one of my favorite designs, Bert's card is a great example.   The color combinations a re a bit odd here (blue, yellow, red, black, white) but it works for me.   The vintage Athletics elephant logo on the team pennant is really cool.   I have a soft-spot for the KC A's in my heart after reading so much about them in all of my Yankee research.   For so many years, Kansas City just seemed to exist as a conduit farm team for the Bombers....

ROOKIE CUP!   Most of us love the rookie cup and these 60's versions are the thoroughbreds of the rookie cup images.   This thing towers beside Bert, from chest to nostril, which may offer a clue for Campaneris' "who farted?" look - did the Rookie Cup guy break some wind?   So weird.

To the back:

These Carolina Blue card backs are great.   I love these original versions and they are a big attraction for me as I work my way through building the 2014 Topps Heritage set.   Check out my NEEDS List if you get a chance!

This is a great write-up, you guys.   It describes Bert's amazing feat of slugging two bombs in his first major league game.   That placed him in a tie with Bob Nieman, who pulled it off in 1951, however, I wonder if Bob can say that he ripped the very FIRST pitch that he saw for the first long ball?   Can anybody confirm?   Three players have accomplished the same feat since but it didn't happen again until 1999!

The other part of this card back that I love is the mention of Campaneris' nickname, "Campy".   Most of us think of Roy Campanella when we hear "Campy", but I just can't see how there's any way around this for a guy with a name like Campaneris, can you?   Does "Campy" make any of you think of Campaneris instead of....Campy?

1965 would be a GREAT year for Bert.   He would lead his team in batting and lead the junior circuit in triples and stolen bases (51).   The 51 swipes was the most by an Athletic since this guy swiped 58 back in 1914:

Hall of Famer Eddie Collins....and a kick-ass elephant!
Seriously, how cool does Collins look?   I'm going to make a mental  note to add Eddie to my list of players to explore and learn more about in my baseball pursuits.....

But back to Bert.

Not only did Campy's 51 bags total the most in 37 years for the club, but it also ended Luis Aparicio's streak of nine years as the American League's stolen base leader.   Way to go, Bert!

Another solid piece of baseball history from the 'vintage stack'.   I am very excited about where the stack might take us next and I hope you are enjoying this exploration as much as I am.   This cardboard appreciation is one of my favorite parts of our hobby.

Thanks for reading and keep collecting!


Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Vintage Stack: 1977 Topps #152 Gaylord Perry

After showing some love for the oldest card in my Bay of E vintage stack of mystery, I believe it would only be appropriate to now check out the newest card in said stack.

Hello, Mr. Perry!

OH, where to start?!?!

The card is in pretty good shape.   Touched corners and a little low in the centering department, but overall the card looks great to me.   The colors are really vibrant and it is easy to forget that this card is nearly....wait for it......40 years old.   Dude?!

How about that ball cap?   The huge billboard-worthy front & bill give you the feeling that Perry is ready to:

- catch some bass
- clean his gun
- hurl a complete game
- kick someone's ass and steal their woman
- flip his hat, go "over the top", and drive away in a 16-wheeler
- all of the above

Glorious.   The giant "T" logo is superior and I only wish we could see more of the "TEXAS" scrawled across that baby-blue jersey.   How about the 'burns and hairdo?   I never noticed it before, but Gaylord could easily strut out into the middle of Fenway and belt out some "Sweet Caroline"...and I don't think anybody would be worse for wear.   A dead ringer for Neil Diamond!   But what really makes this card for me?   The subtle 4-seam grip that Mr. Perry is displaying so non-nonchalantly while he chuckles for the camera.

Here's the back:

Hello, giant font.   I don't have alot enough 1976 Topps in my collection.   In fact, my current set-building quests end much too abruptly in 1978.   However, please take a quick glance at my NEEDS list for '78 here.   As you can see, I'm nearing the end!   And what better way to extend the set quest than by simply rolling back through '77 and '76.....what do you think?

Anyways, GAYLORD PERRY is definitely the player on this card.   We have the usual bio-data below....6'4"!?!   Another great tidbit that I wasn't aware of regarding Mr. Perry.   Tall drink of water, particularly back in those prime Neil Diamond years.   My word, 2.91 career ERA after nearly 15 years.   That's eye-popping, almost as much as the 2670:999 K:BBB ratio.   Perry could certainly set them down, and a quick glance up his SO column show that he had 5 seasons of 230 or more strikeouts.   Another stat I like to review with these old pitchers are the IP totals.  Check it out -

- 12 seasons with 200+ innings for Gaylord.
- Eleven in a ROW when this '77 card was showing up in local drugstore
- SIX seasons with 300+ innings pitched, FOUR of those continuous from '72 - '76

My word.   Can you imagine?!?!

As a side note, the cartoon on this card might be one of the most depressing that I have ever seen.

"You okay, Darrell?"


Another great card from the mystery stack!

Thanks for reading -


Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Vintage Stack: 1952 Topps #194 Joe Hatten

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a batch of vintage cards that I was able to pick up off the Bay of E for slightly more than the price of a couple of blasters.   I was able to to finally sit down and dig through my new treasure stack.   Here were the breakdown statistics [year and (# of cards)]:

1952 (one), 1954 (one), 1955 (one), 1959 (nineteen), 1961 (one), 1962 (eleven), 1963 (one), 1964 (sixteen), 1965 (twenty), 1967 (two), 1971 (three), 1972 (one), 1974 (one), 1977 (one) and one 1978 football card.

Kind of an interesting breakdown, right?   Heavy on '59, '62, '64 and '65.   Fifty-two cards total, which means I'm at about 84 cents per card.   I would say that most of the cards top out around 'VG', condition-wise.   No big tears or paper-loss, so I should be able to read and appreciate each one.   Hmmm.....for vintage, I'm pretty much okay with this already - but let's see what we have.

First up - the oldest card in the stack: 

You can never go wrong with a '52.   This is THE set for so many of us, so any example is typically a great card.   Joe's card appears to have some staining issues along both edges but is actually very well centered.   The vintage Cubs logo is terrific but I am not so sure what the glowing bands are above Joe's follow-through pose.   I am assuming that we're staring at the upper roof line of Wrigley behind home plate?   Is that the home uniform worn by Joe?   In '51/'52, should the "C" be there on the front?   Hopefully a Cubbies fan can help me out!   Regardless, it looks to either be a beautiful sunset in Chicago or Hatten is about to be beamed up by aliens.


Joe Hatten played in the majors from 1946 until 1952.   It looks like this may have been his last card?   I can't find anything from Bowman or Topps for Joe in 1953.   Mr. Hatten was a fellow Navy man, serving during WW2 (beginning in 1942), so this card is already highly coveted in the Ryan's Pitch Collection.

Upon returning home from war, Joe hooked up with the Brooklyn Dodgers and pitched for them until 1951.   During that time, he was their Opening Day starter twice -  in 1947 and 1949.   He went 6 innings against the Boston Braves on 4/15/1947 but ended up with a no-decision.   In 1949, he opened up against the New York Giants and tossed a complete game, beating the Giants 10-3 on 4/19.   Way to go, Joe!   His finest season came in '47 when he went 17-8 and he even started one game against the Yankees in the '47 Series - it was Game 3 and he would unfortunately (fortunately) give up 6 runs in only 4.1 innings....though the Dodgers would eventually win the game.

Joe was traded to the Cubs in 1951 and as you can see below, he was slowly losing control of his pitches:

I love the middle name, Hilarian!   The back of this card is in pretty good shape, too.  Most importantly -  I can read everything, so everything after that is icing.   The extra 1/2" on Hatten's height listing caught my eye and made me chuckle a little bit.   I don't know if I've ever noticed a "1/2" denotation before....but I'll probably be on the lookout for them from here on out.

The career BB:K ratio isn't looking so hot here, but out of a total of seven years in the big leagues, the back of this '52 denotes the ONLY losing season that Hatten ever had, his 3-6 campaign in 1951.   Not too shabby, Joe.

As you guys know, I love these old cards.   Each one tells such an amazing story, branching off into a million other baseball tales.   The fact that my first card from the E-Bay vintage stack is a WW2 veteran is a good sign.   I think I have some enjoyable cardboard appreciation on the way and this Joe Hatten gets us off to a great start.

Glad to add you to my collection, Joe.

Thanks for reading and keep collecting!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Some 2011 Gypsy Queen Help from the Daily Dimwit!

Sam over at The Daily Dimwit was kind enough to send over a few cards that I needed for my 2011 Gypsy Queen collection.   Sam and I both share a love of that set, the very first of the Gypsy Queen releases.   It holds a special place in my collecting heart as THE first cards that purchased when returning to the hobby after a 20+ year hiatus.   If only I had stashed away a few more blasters......

Sam has an AMAZING close master set of 2011 Gypsy Queen.   Relics, framed mini's, mini's, parallels, autographs.....ALL OF IT.   He lacks only a couple of white whales, and by that I mean cards like the Koufax autograph, Hank Aaron auto, etc.   It's incredible and a true testament to the set-builder and collector that Sam is.   Sam's also just a good of the first that welcomed me into our modern hobby digital community.

I made the mistake of not holding on to all of my mini cards.   I still have a bunch, but as I was not quite sure how to handle these odd-sized micro cards (no such thing existed in my previous collecting life?!), I sent off many of them to good homes in the form of trades or goodwill packages.

That being said, I was all about the insert sets and SPs.   In fact, I wasn't even quite sure what a "SP" was, but I think this may have worked in my favor.   Kind of an 'ignorance is bliss' sort of event.   I never got frustrated over how challenging it was to find these 50 cards, I simply kept hunting as a happy, numerically and linearly-inclined set-builder.

Man, those were the days!

Anyways, I still need a couple inserts and SPs but thanks to Sam, I can now cross these off the list.   Thanks, Sam!

OH, did I leave a glare on Buchholz's card or is that just a foreign substance?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Lost Collector - PWE SpecOp Extraordinaire

AJ over at The Lost Collector has a penchant for dropping sweet little PWE's in the mail when you think he's getting ready to welcome a new Little Lost Collector into the world.

Sure enough, my good friend managed a few weeks ago to pass along two Anthony Rizzo's that I needed for my Paisan Collection.   The blue Wally-World parallel is a really sharp looking card with an attractive color scheme and the ever-tantalizing rookie cup.   Ahhhhhhhhh......

The Prizm card is a tough-looking metallic Panini special with a raised image of Anthony that's pretty darn cool, too.

Two great cards from a great fellow collector - THANKS, AJ!   And more importantly, congratulations on the new addition to your clan.   So very glad to hear that all are well.

Cigars all around, fellow collectors - thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

New Shiny Toys - 2014 Bowman #BP17 Jose Abreu

I couldn't help myself and picked up a blaster of 2014 Bowman the other day.   It's been a lot of fun to check out everyone's reaction to the product on twitter since last Wednesday and there have certainly been some incredibly profitable cards pulled out of packs.

Bowman is, as we all know by now, a rookie & prospects product.   It's the roulette table of the hobby world where the odds seem reasonable with minimal skill required.   What I mean is, every team has prospects & rookies.   And every team has a quantity of collectors out there.   Combine those two facts with baseball's version of the movie trailer phenomena (everybody's going to be great!) and you have a highly desirable product.   I don't consider myself a rookie prospector but, by God, I can't lose, right?! Even if I don't pull an Abreu or a Tanaka or a Bryant.....I'll pull a prospect that SOMEBODY's going to want to collect.   And it will probably be a SP parallel, too!

Topps has to be smiling ear-to-ear with the timing of this product's release coinciding with a VERY extraordinary start to the season for White Sox rookie and Cuban Sensation 2.0, Jose Abreu.   My last check on the Bay of E revealed that "base" Abreu autographs, the one that everybody and their mother seem to be pulling....are gong fro no less than $250.

$250.   My God!?

Don't get me wrong - what Abreu is doing in the Windy City is very comparable to the shot-to-the-arm Mr. Puig provided for the Dodger faithful last season.   Lots of power with an eye-popping HR total at this point in the season that easily multiply into historic season totals.   It will be exciting to watch and see if Jose can keep this up!

In the meantime, I really wanted to pull a card of his for my collection.   Sure, I would have loved to have pulled one of those amazing autographs.   It would have been fun to see what I could have turned it into, from a vintage perspective.....but I'm still a baseball fan and baseball card collector.   I'm not DEAD, but I do possess the out-dated appreciation for a simple rookie card.   Abreu's got a card in this set?   It's #17, you say?   Oh, I'd really love to pull one!

Blind squirrel, meet nut:

It really is a fine card!   The dichotomy between the amazing White Sox throwback uniform (even the batting helmet!) and the fact that Abreu is only a tad more than one month into his MLB career is something I can appreciate.   The card is extremely bright, crisp and white - and it draws your eyes directly to Abreu's powerful follow-through. The Sox logo, name and position are stacked in perfect symmetry with the two reminders on top that this is Jose Abreu's BOWMAN CARD and it is his FIRST one.

Here's the back:

I always appreciate card-back authors who utilize the "old hobby English" with terms like "loop", "circuit", "offerings" and "Campaign".   Never let these things die, Topps!

SO, there you have it.   I also pulled a prospect autograph card, a Bowman 100 insert and a #'d Kershaw parallel.   Overall, it was actually a really solid blaster.   I even pulled a Kimbrel base for my PC!   But above all of that, I pulled an Abreu rookie card....the card I was hoping to pull (other than Masahiro-sama).....and I'm pretty happy about that!

Thanks for reading and KEEP COLLECTING!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Oh, To Be Set Build'n Again: 2014 Heritage Edition

Thanks to a great trade with @SWLVguy via twitter, I'm able to add this nice stack of fabulously thick-card stock to my initial '14 Heritage blaster hauls:

Alright! Thanks for the great swap, C.......

If anybody has any extra Heritage base (or SPs) that they don't need for their own collections, I would be very interested.   Please check out my NEEDS/FOR TRADE page and let me know if we can help each other out.

Thanks for reading and keep collecting!


Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Hobby Discussion and One of My Favorite Cards: 2001 Bowman Gold #264 Albert Pujols RC

As I've alluded to a couple of times before, graded or "slabbed" cards are becoming a larger part of my collecting habits.   It's something that I continue to wrestle with as a collector - what exactly do I collect?   Who do I collect?   How do I collect?   Why?

It's a different answer on different days - and that's okay.   It's one of the glorious things about our hobby, the fact that we have so very much to choose from.   Well, maybe a blessing and a curse...but as long as I continue to narrow my focus on what I enjoy the most, the plethora of options can only be a good way to start.  

And right now, I really enjoy several aspects of graded cards.   As a collector, I appreciate the beauty of a card that is in good condition.   Whether it's a 1940's Bowman that has survived in "Excellent" condition or a 2001 Bowman that is an indisputable "Mint" - there is much to be admired and appreciated from a collector's standpoint.   Do I still love old, beat-up and well-loved cards?   Do I still love the way the smell of a 1960 Topps card can take me straight back to my grandparents' house?   You bet.   ALL of the above. 

But for me, there's also the aspect of value and investment when it comes to my collection.   I know, this is a hot topic for many of us and one that I have found myself to be on both sides of.

"You should collect for fun, not value!"

"Greed and money is ruining the hobby!"

"Kids can't afford it anymore!"

These are all valid concerns and discussions that should take place to ensure the hobby stays vibrant, relevant, fun, viable and accessible.   For me, personally, I have come to realize that I value my money and want to preserve as much of it as I can while using it to provide for my family - whether that preservation takes place when buying clothes, buying medicine, going on vacation, grabbing lunch, paying the phone bill or card-shopping on the Bay of E.   As we all know, it's all about the things we need in combination with some of the things we want.   Heaven knows, there isn't enough of it [money] for everything.   

I also know that I really, really, really love baseball cards.   They are something I will always want but will never need.   Well....truly need.   They're a luxury; a hobby.   So sometimes, the two ideas of money and my baseball card hobby conflict with one another.   It is very easy to exchange a lot of money for a lot of baseball cards but sometimes it is a challenge to do so and maintain the same value - though "value" in a hobby is very subjective!   My 1986 Topps Doug Corbett is priceless to me, for example.

SO what kind of value am I talking about?   Whether we like it or not, there is a definite market for our hobby that dictates and assigns a relatively well-known and, though sometimes INSANE,  agreed upon value to the cards we all love and collect.   Some are a lot and some are.....junk.   But they all matter as bricks in the foundation of our cardboard heritage.

I'm slowly discovering a method by which I can pursue and collect cards that I value from a collecting standpoint and that can also have a chance to maintain value from the hobby's market perspective.   Or, more simply put - cards that could be sold in the future by myself or my family, should our financial needs outweigh the collecting needs.   I hope it never does.....but you never know.

Does this stream of conscience make sense? 

I'm going to stop there for now, but this is certainly a topic that I mull over frequently as my hobby and collecting evolution continues.   Don't worry, this topic doesn't stress me out.  In fact, I rather enjoy it and would love to know what you guys think! 

Right now, let's enjoy this particular card.....which also happens to be a card graded by PSA:  

I picked up this Pujols rookie card a couple of months ago.   I had been considering players of today who seemed destined for permanent status in the game as being "great" players, perhaps even destined for enshrinement in Cooperstown.   Hall of Fame players are a cornerstone of my collection, a portion of the sport's history that I enjoy reading about, learning about and researching.   This enjoyment manifests itself in my collection in the form of pictures, books, cards, autographs and more.   While the majority of my HOF-related focus has been on players already enshrined, I've begun to consider taking a closer look at prospective inductees who are still trotting the base paths after mammoth home runs or taking the mound for additional strikeouts.

Enter Albert Pujols.

I am not a Cardinals fan and I do not collect Albert Pujols in particular, but the guy has had an amazing career.   A powerful slugger, he collected many titles and trophies in St. Louis before acquiring the spite of Cardinal Nation for heading to Anaheim in free agency.

It happens.

And while the titles and trophies have continued for the Cards, Albert has seen a decline in his production as a Halo.   He's had some worrisome injuries, as most players eventually encounter....but he was still working towards the 500 HR milestone that he eclipsed about a week ago.   It was a major feat and one which I was lucky enough to be watching live on TV with a good friend.

I believe Albert Pujols will one day be in the Hall of Fame and I believe he belongs in that group of "best sluggers" of the game.   Some have their doubts and suspicions....but I can appreciate the guy's talent.   Heck, I still admire the prowess of Bonds and McGwire - but I respect the fact that not everybody feels this way.

Back to the card!

I love this card of Pujols!   It comes from that hobby ice age for me, between my collecting years.   It is a gold version of his 2001 Bowman rookie card.   The design is simple and symmetric which I really love.   he facsimile autograph is centered right there beneath the photograph and it even says "rookie card" in gold foil in the top corner.   I love that!   Best of all, though, I love the picture of a younger Pujols in a majestic follow-through....perhaps a home run swing, perhaps not......but the swing captured is THE swing that has now clubbed at least 500 home runs and almost assured that one day I will be able to add this card to my HOF collection.   Here's home run swing #500 for comparison:

I think that's pretty cool.   Yes, the card is "Mint" and I did obtain a copy of the card in that condition on purpose....but it in my hand, as I appreciate it as a card and a piece of history, it feels like a collection treasure and a historic memento of the game more than a simple investment.

And if that memento happens to have the potential to preserve its value?   Just in case?

That's something I can enjoy, too.

Congratulations, Albert!   Thanks for the memory and welcome to my collection.

Thanks for reading and keep collecting!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

My Mattingly Collection - 2014 Topps Framed Rookie Reprints

We've all seen it a million times.   It's one of the most iconic cards from the 80's and a must-have for any Mattingly fan, Yankees fan or collecting-baseball fan from that decade.   It's the 1984 Topps Don Mattingly rookie card, presented in a "framed" and serial-numbered format courtesy of 2014 Topps Series 1.

I had to have one and it's pretty cool.   The colors and graphics are bold, as they should be for a modern-day reprint.  This particular copy is #19 out of 99....I will never get tired of looking at this card, my favorite card of my favorite player!

Here's a look at the back - it was printed in the "bleached" out fashion of the old traded sets, so it is not consistent with the original design, but it certainly provides some pop for this most recent rendition:

And just to give you an idea of what these framed cards are like, here is a side shot of the Mattingly for a sense of thickness.   They are substantial, rigid and much heavier than a standard card.  Since I scooped this one off the secondary market, I have no idea how they are packaged in with normal packs.   I can only imagine the excitement of pulling one, though, as you must certainly know that you have something special just based on weight and feel alone!

How do I store this thing?!?!

I'm slowly but surely starting to add post-playing days cards of Mattingly to my collection.   I should really try and focus more effort on that part of my collection as there was a lot I missed out on during my hobby hiatus from '94-2011.   I'd be interested in any of them if you have any for trade!

Thanks for reading and keep collecting!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Coffee's on in Toronto! Paging Marcus Stroman...

A couple of months ago, I struck up a Twitter trade with @MrsClooney32, who is part of the #BravesFam group of complete strangers that I banter back and forth with about all things Braves.

It's a lot of fun and an easy way for you to get annoyed with my Braves-related play-by-play tweets on your timeline.

Anyways, MrsClooney32 is a big time Chipper fan and was interested in a grey swatch relic card that I had of 'ol Larry.   In return, I caught an unusual case of the "fantasy baseball pitching prospect autograph desire" disease and was interested in a Team USA autograph card of Blue Jays' young hurler, Marcus Stroman.

It was a one and done swap - thanks, MrsClooney32!

Here's the Stroman:

Apparently, Marcus sat beside Wil Myers in autograph class........

It's a another slick Team USA card from Topps Chrome.   It's sharp looking despite the fact that the autograph is on a sticker.   You see, I have a strange affinity for Team USA cards.   In fact, I bought a whole box of Team USA cards earlier this year.   More about that in a future post.   Here's the back of Stroman's card:

I love the American flag in the background of these card backs - Topps really did a nice job!   It's even numbered out of 199....something I didn't notice until JUST now, actually.   That's funny.

My favorite stat about Marcus?   No, not that he went to Duke (which is pretty cool)...he is 5'9" but can bring some serious heat.   We all know the quick fate that can be served to young prospects when they come up, but you can't help but root for this little guy, can you?   Man, would I love to see a pitching duel between Stroman and Yankees' giant flame-thrower, Dellin Betances (6'8").   That would be awesome!

Wait a second.   I don't have any autographs, or much cards at all, of Betances.   What the heck is wrong with me?   Note to self.....

I'm posting this today because the Jays' Dusting McGowan is struggling a bit and rumblings out of Toronto signal an imminent call-up for Mr. Stroman.   He's been quite successful in AAA Buffalo thus far, avoiding the long ball that often plagued him last year, posting a 2.18 ERA with a 29:6 K:BB ratio.

Not bad, and I wish him the best - just not against my Yanks!   A no-no against Boston wouldn't hurt my feelings.....

Keep collecting!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

The 2014 Masters - My Wednesday Par 3 Experience!

A few weeks late but I've meaning to give a quick re-cap of my 2014 Masters experience.

As many of you know, I'm an avid golfer (as much as a father of two can be!) and fan of the game.   For most golf fans, including myself, the annual return to Augusta National is often considered to be the pinnacle event.   It is extremely tough to win passes for tournament rounds or practice days through the club's lottery, so any opportunity to attend is a cherished moment of fortune for me.

Luck was shining very brightly on me this year as my old man won 4 passes to Wednesday's practice round.   He's a BIG fan himself, but he's also a righteous dude who loves his kids.....and subsequently gave two passes to my wife and I and the other two to my sister and her husband.   The date was set!   My wife was not able to make it that day (something I must correct asap!), but my little brother was more than happy to take her place. 

While Wednesday is still a practice day and many might think that this is less desirable than an actual tournament day, it is actually one of the finest professional golf experiences you can have as a spectator and fan.   You can spend the morning on the grounds of Augusta National, chomping away on $2.00 pimento cheese sandwiches, relaxing beneath the swaying Georgia pines as you watch players work their way around the course....but come early afternoon, you'll want to make your way over to the Par 3 course positioned on a great little piece of property behind the guest cabins that line the left side of #10's fairway.  

As a tradition, this Par 3 tournament is held every Wednesday during Masters week.   It affords players a relaxing and fun environment in which they can let their guard down just a bit and have their families join them for 9 holes of some pitching & putting.   Wives and children (and even fiances, in the case of Rory McIlroy) often "loop" (caddie) for their husbands and dads which can lead to some comical and/or memorable moments.   The players will also joke with one another and interact with fans more than at any other time.....simply put, it's terrific.

A few years ago, in 2009, I attended the Masters for the very first time.   It was one of the most memorable sports memories of my life.   Laying eyes upon the grounds of that course would have been enough - but I also enjoyed what will probably be the most epic, in-person autograph experiences that I will EVER have.   It occurred during the Par 3 tournament and was completely unexpected...

I'll save that story for another time :)

I think back on it often, and have always hoped for a chance to recreate that with another shot last month, I stuffed a few mini-sharpies in my pocket, eagerly pick up another Masters flag and kept my fingers crossed for some good fortune.

As with most things - the good deals never last forever.   ESPN was having difficulty in recent years making sure that they could get ample TV coverage of key player groups during their telecast time slot.   The reason?   Players were spending too much time between holes interacting with fans to sign autographs or simply goof around.   I was told this quite candidly when I reached my lucky spot from 2009.   Flag in hand, I found a great spot along the ropes and in the shade, where I pulled out my sharpie and prepared to hope for the best....until a couple security guards walked up and asked that I put the pen away.   They also asked that I not ask the players for an autograph, even though the spectators' guide specifically said that autograph seeking was allowed on the practice facility and during the Par 3 tournament.

I complied, of course.   But I respectfully asked the guards about the discrepancy between the two sources.   They pointed out that there were two areas on the Par 3 course where autograph seekers were allowed to post up, but that these were reserved for patrons 16 and under.   Uh oh.

"What's an old golf fan like me supposed to do?" I asked.

I received a few shrugs but one of the guards stayed behind to try and save the moment, "I know, sir. It kind of stinks, but these are the marching order we were all given this year.  Look, try and find a spot along the ropes out there where the players walk by and where there's not a bunch of us or official Augusta Marshals hanging out.   We can't make players stop signing if they start!"

Challenge accepted.

My brother and I tried here and there among the slithering Par 3's.   We took our time, being sure to balance our quest for ink with enjoying the day and watching some great golf shots.   We hiked up the hill along the left side of #6, towards the tee box.   There were some open spots along the rope, right where the players were making their way from #5's green to #6.   Fantastic!

We got comfortable and gave each other a reassuring nod.   No, we hadn't managed to get any autographs but we were now in a GREAT position to watch tee shots on #6 from about 20 feet away.   Success, but it only got sweeter as the very next threesome that came through began working their way down the rope straight towards us, signing autographs!

I looked around but didn't see any security rushing in to usher the player forward or chastise the patrons for pestering the pros......I glanced at the #6 tee box, looking for the Augusta Marshall to see if they cared - WHOA!   No, she didn't care, but more importantly, SHE was one of the first two female Augusta members, former US Secretary of State (and fellow Notre Dame grad :) Condoleezza Rice.   Regardless of politics aside, I always relish opportunities to see/greet/meet political figures in person.   It's usually an interesting experience, is rarely what I think it will be like, and always memorable.   Would I be able to avoid security detection and interact with Secretary Rice?

For the next two and a half hours, my brother and I had a wonderful time.   We managed to collect a few autographs and speak to some of the world's finest golfers.   We had some good laugh at our own expense and caught some unique moments between the pros and their families.   For example, while Jim Furyk was absentmindedly signing my flag, he was whispering to his daughter (who was caddying for him), letting her know who Secretary Rice was and, as only a father can do, letting her know that she WAS going to introduce herself and shake her hand.   That made me smile.

One of my favorite golfers is Miguel Angel Jimenez, "The Mechanic".   The guy is known for puffing away on Cuban cigars at all time, enjoying fine wine and possessing one of the finest skinny-guy-beer-guts in professional sports.   I spoke with him back in 2009 and I'm pretty sure we had the EXACT same conversation this year:

"Thank you for signing my flag, Mr. Jimenez.   What are you smoking today?"

"Cohiba." he grumbled in a thick accent, before blowing out a huge cloud of smoke and moving on down the rope.....


Awesome.   Love that guy.   I also had a pretty cool moment with Jose Maria Olazabal.   He won Green Jackets in '94 and '99.   He's one of the finest players to ever play the game but is truly more 'famous' in Europe than he is to American golf fans, particularly the younger generations.   I can remember watching him as a kid, though, and recognized him immediately as he walked off of #5's green.

"Good luck this week, Mr. Olazabal!" was all I could think of, but it caught his attention and he immediately flashed a warm smile and walked over to sign my flag.   He was very nice but seemed a little distant.   A moment too late, I recalled a conversation that my brother and I had earlier that day.   We realized that it was Seve Ballesteros' birthday.   A fellow Spaniard and 2-time Masters Champion, Ballesteros (who died in 2011) and Olazabal were close friends and perhaps Jose had his friend on his mind that day....I wish I had shared mine and my brother's remembrance of Seve.   I think it would've been appreciated by Mr. Olazabal.      
This post is dragging on, so let me get to the point.   A great day was had, and I left Augusta that day with many more great memories and a 2014 flag with a few signatures on it.   Here is the final result:

Starting in the upper left corner, there is newcomer Jonas Blixt (in red ink) who had a terrific showing this year!   The Mechanic added his unmistakable circled signature right above the red flag icon with Rory McIlroy's bizarre collection of loops immediately to the flag's right.   It looks like a child's rendering of the Olympic Rings to me!   Olazabal is the slick-looking slanted signature in black to the right of Rory's.

I thought that Aussie Jason Day would make another good go of it this year, but he struggled over the weekend.   I can say that he was absolutely fantastic to speak with and extremely nice/friendly.   As a side note, his wife is completely gorgeous and had a very real, endearing moment by our spot when their toddler began crying and was whisked away by a nanny.   Mrs. Day was obviously concerned for her child and looked torn as to whether or not she should stay with her husband (she was his caddie) or chase after their young one.   I can certainly appreciate that!   Mr. Day's signature is cool-looking "loopy" one in black ink, off the east coast.

Just south-by-southwest off of Florida's southern coast is the phenom, Jordan Spieth.   He turned pro last year and doesn't turn 21 years old until July!   If you caught any of Sunday's final round, you know that it began as a great exchange of "punches" between Jordan and eventual winner, Bubba Watson.   Spieth showed INCREDIBLE moxy throughout the week and undoubtedly has a lot of winning in front of him.   I am ecstatic to have his signature in my collection!

One of the more heartwarming stories from this year's Masters was the first father-son playing duo of Craig and Kevin Stadler.   The Walrus (Craig) was the '82 Masters Champion and is pretty well-known for his immense presence and Rollie-rific mustache.   He announced that this will be his final time playing in the tournament as he stayed on this long with the dream of one day playing with his son, Kevin.   Dream realized - it makes me tear up just to think about what THAT must have been like for them!  Kevin's signature is to the right of Spieth's.   I was unable to have the elder Stadler sign this y ear, though we shared a very comical interaction in 2009.....

K.J. Choi, a crowd favorite, is south of Texas.   To his left, in order, are Sandy Lyle ('88 Champion), Jim Furyk (2003 US Open Champion) and another favorite, Boo Weekley.   Boo attended the same High School as Bubba Watson who I played against throughout my competitive golfing career.

You guys had to know I'd throw that in there, right? :)   Glory days, my friends......glory days.

Unfortunately, I was shutout again in obtaining a signature from my old nemesis.....but one day.   I haven't spoken to Bubba since the Zurich Classic in '07, when I thought it would be real dorky of me to ask for an autograph from someone I used to play against.   Smooooth move, dork.   Moving on!   Above Boo's signature along the left edge is Lucas Glover (2009 US Open) in green, followed by Ian Poulter.

Other names on the flag are Thongchai Jaidee, Ken Duke, Lenny Melnyk, Mike Weir, Marc Leishman, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Mike McCoy, Jamie Donaldson, Steve Stricker, Graham DelLaet, Steven Bowditch, Joost Luiten, David Lynn, Chris Kirk, Peter Hanson and Derek Ernst.  

Now whatever happened to Madam Secretary?   Throughout our time at #6's tee box, Secretary Rice would mingle with the crowd quite often.   I had donned a Notre Dame hat that day and offered her a quiet "Go Irish!" as she walked by.   Luckily, this caught her attention and she came over to shake hands and chat for a few brief moments!   We talked about the Lady Irish getting pummeled the night before in the NCAAW Basketball title game.  I asked her if she was enjoying her first Masters as a member.....don't think I could have gotten much more rhetorical than that, but hey - what are you going to do?  

She wouldn't sign autographs while the tournament was going on, but she told me, for a fellow ND alum, she would if I could wait until after the last group.   Which I did, of course!   And she kindly obliged - that's her signature in green, to the west of the Mississippi River.

It was a another great day at one of my favorite places on the planet.   The tournament was a blast to watch and I was even fortunate enough to go BACK in person for Friday's round!   I followed Bubba as much as I could and watched as he rolled off the 5 consecutive birdies that propelled him in front of the pack, on his way towards his second green jacket.   What a great way to top it off and I believe the picture below sums it up nicely.

Thanks for reading (whew!) and keep collecting!