July 29, 2014

Cards From The Box #2: The One Autograph In The Box

**In this series we examine cards from my first era of collecting [1987-1995] which I haven't since 1999. You can find the origin post of this series here.** 

As my collection has grown I've become more and more focused on collecting autographs and relics rather than building complete sets. Sure, I'll collect an Allen and Ginter insert set or mini sets from the Topps flagship set but mainly I'm autographs, relics, and single vintage cards. Back when I was collecting the cards that make up "The Box" pulling an autograph from a pack was next to impossible. There was the possibility in the Upper Deck Heroes sets but I was having a hard enough time pulling a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie or Derek Jeter rookie to ever realistically think I might find an autograph in my pack. And my collection bares this out as there was only one autographed card in the box and that was of Tigers great Alan Trammell. This came from a card shop or card show as the "offer" sticker was still on the plastic protector. It is a great looking signature and just as bright as the day it was signed...that's what happens when your cards don't see the light of day for 15 years. It is without question one of my favorite "re-discoveries" in going through the box again.

1984 Donruss #293 Alan Trammell Autograph

July 27, 2014

Cards From The Box #1: A Odd Rookie Obsession

**In this series we examine cards from my first era of collecting [1987-1995] which I haven't since 1999. You can find the origin post of this series here. **

Looking through these cards again I was surprised that I was quite the prospector. Unfortunately I collected during just about the worst possible time with so many cards being produced each year chances are much of my collection will never command high prices. I had hopes that I would find several copies of one of the few cards that has gone up in value, Derek Jeter rookies from 1993. I would be happy with Topps or Upper Deck, hell, I'll even take Score. But alas, no Jeters were to be found in the box. There were many, many, many other rookies cards for prospects that I was certain would be great [and we'll go into a lot more detail on that in future posts]. 

I would say 90% of the cards in the box were cards I pulled from packs myself. In my hometown of Eau Claire, WI we did have a card shop in the late 80's located in our downtown but they soon shuttered their windows about a minute after baseball cards popularity dropped in the early 90's. Other than packed pulled cards and a few from the card shop my other cards would have come from trades with friends and some thrift sale pickups found by my Dad. 

Long story short, having looked at my cards it's definitely an anomaly that I have three copies of Alfredo Griffin's rookie card. Who knows how I got them as I certainly wasn't busting packs in 1979...let alone alive. Card That Never Were did an interesting take on what Griffin's rookie card should have been.

1979 Topps #705 Alfredo Griffin/Tim Norrid/Dave Oliver

July 25, 2014

My First Card Collection

Long story short I started collecting baseball cards around 1987 and collected pretty actively through about 1994 when I switched over to comic books as my main vice. I put the best cards of my collection into this huge box and essentially since then it has been sitting at my parent's house in Wisconsin. 

Even when I started writing this blog back in 2008 and really began to get back into sport card collecting again I've never had my entire childhood collection with me. During my last visit home I had plenty of space in the car and so I grabbed this box and brought it home to combine with my other collection.

Of course there weren't too many places to buy supplies back in the late 80's so I had my own hand-made cardboard card dividers.

As I still do to this day I had my cards organized alphabetically by player.

Inside I found a lot of great cards I really had no memory owning so I'll be starting a regular series showing my collecting highlights and lowlights from the first few years of my collecting. 

So that being said, let's start with our first card...a penny sleeve. Or is it? A huge amount of the cards from my box had this think penny sleeves that looked like they could have been cut from a larger 9-card page. Is it possible they were?  They are certainly not made by Ultra Pro...I know that much. Does anyone out there have an idea who put these thicker penny sleeves out?

July 24, 2014

Milt Pappas and Roger Maris

The last time I was at the Bob Feller Museum I wanted to pick up an autographed baseball from their vast library of signatures and this time it needed to be someone other than Bob Feller. I have several Feller autographs already and wanted to expand my autographed baseball collection. I was interested in a few items but the inscription on this one in particular won me over.

"I Gave Up #59 To Roger Maris" signed by Milt Pappas.

And according to Milt himself he threw nothing but fastballs at Maris during that at bat on September 20th, 1961. He wanted Maris to break Ruth's record and not have an asterisk behind the record as that had been announced by the commissioner. 

I've got a few Pappas cards but his 1958 Topps rookie is my favorite. 

1958 Topps #457 Milt Pappas [Rookie Card]

July 22, 2014

Joy Of The Completed Set: Man's Best Friend Minis

I think I've had this set completed for quite a while but I never put the cards all together in their proper place. This 20-card set comes from 2012 Allen and Ginter and you could find one of these cards in every five packs. My favorite card in the groups is the pug although I don't know if I could ever own one myself...their breathing would give me an asthma attack.

Keith Olbermann On The Trimmed Honus Wagner Tobacco Card

A segment from tonight's Olbermann show:

July 21, 2014

Best Single 9-Card Binder Page in the 1971 Topps Set

This is always a fun experiment to do as I don't imagine that Topps thought we would be looking at their sets in groups of nine cards encased in plastic pages when they originally made these sets.

As far as all out fire power goes, nothing compares to card #64-70. You're getting three stars per page on each card with many of them Hall of Fame inductees. But I consider this sort of cheating in determining the best possible group of nine.

Look at all those wonderful stats! These cards are the only easy way you would ever be able to find who was the 20th best in RBIs or 17th in strikeouts.

As I flipped through the pages there were no obvious amazing pages and this is mainly because Topps used to spread out the star players giving them the nice round numbers of 100, 200, 300 and so on. So what you are hoping for is an established legend with some rookies or prospects that also eventually had great careers. So there are two main contenders that had at least two Hall of Fame inductees as well as other significant players. 

First up we have cards #244-252 with two Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and Hoyt Wilhelm. You also have Twins fan favorite Jim Kaat and the rookie card for Royals great Paul Splittorff who you may not have realized won more than 160 games and over 15 games in four seasons. 

The other contender is the group of cards #523-531. This page's Hall of Famers, Ernie Banks and Carl Yastrzemski, together are of a higher caliber than Bench and Wilhelm. Sandwiched between two other rookies you'll find Bill Buckner's second year card. Hi actual rookie card was the year before when he was featured in the same type of "rookie stars" card. It is also important to note that Tigers fan favorite Mickey Stanley is in this group.

So which nine-card grouping do you think is best?  

July 19, 2014

R.I.P. Uncommon Sports Cards and Jeff's Sports Cards

Over the past week I discovered that two of my favorite local card shops have closed. When I was visiting family back in Minnesota I found that Uncommon Sports Cards near Minneapolis had shut its doors. Every LCS has it's good and bad points but Uncommon had a huge section of storage materials and toploaders. They also had great blind lots that they would sell for $5.00 a box. It had been a few months since I had been able to make it back to the Twin Cities so I'm not exactly sure how long they have been closed but the store will certainly be missed.

Yesterday I called over to Jeff's Sports Cards to see how late they would be open and the number came back as being disconnected. Not a good sign. I was going over to Topeka anyway so I drove over to see if my worst fears were true and sure enough there were empty windows.

When I first moved to Lawrence back in 2008 the shop was called Al's Sport Cards. 

Al had owned it for many years and sold it to Jeff who logically changed the store's name to Jeff's Sports Cards. They of course had a great selection of Royals and Chiefs [as well as my central location for former Kansas State Wildcat Jordy Nelson cards] and it was certainly the most well organized sections for singles searching. Everything was divided by teams and everything was priced...it really was a model of how cards shops should operate. 

It's sad to see both of these shops close their doors and it shows how even in larger cities the baseball card and sports card markets are finding it harder and harder to make a profit. These shops didn't have the obvious problems that some shops have such as owners that don't offer good customer service or poor pricing. I always found a deal whenever I made it into the shop. I'm afraid it's just the reality that physical card shops are finding it harder and harder to compete with online sellers.  

Episode 4 Of The Breaks Is Up

July 18, 2014

My Favorite 1971 Topps Action Cards

Having recently completed my 1971 Topps set I'm going to start posting collections of various '71 cards that are my favorites and we will start with my favorite action cards from the set. The '71 set was the first to use action photos in their regular base cards. This led to the creation of some of the most memorable Topps cards ever...such as this Thurman Munson.  This is card #5 of the set and so when putting your set into a binder it's in the middle of the page literally right at the center of your attention. 

#5 Thurman Munson
These next two were chosen based on the facial expression of those featured as Casey Cox looks like he might have a ball hit right back at him. 

#82 Casey Cox

You just know Piniella foul tipped this one right back to the pitcher. 

#35 Lou Piniella

I like this one for two reasons. First, I like how everyone in the stands is looking at where Jerry Grote hit the and not at the runner while that is the center of our attention. And secondly, this is one of the rare Topps cards that doesn't actually feature the face of the player featured.  

#278 Jerry Grote

I can't quite tell if Rudy is wearing shades but I hope he is. I also love the big signature that is clearly written by a lefty.

#318 Rudy May

This is one of my favorites because it is so striking when you first look at it you aren't really sure what exactly you are looking at.

#331 Brooks Robinson

When was the last time you got a four players in a single card, plus an umpire, plus a Nolan Ryan bonus card [that's him wearing #30]? And for the uninitiated I use the term "bonus card" when one player because a part of another players card. This is particularly notable when that person is a Hall of Famer and it gives you a bonus card to collect if you are trying to complete a player's checklist.

#355 Bud Harrelson

Speaking of bonus cards these next two feature Thurman Munson nearly getting Vada Pinson out at the plate...

#275 Vada Pinson

...or catching a pitch with George Spriggs at the bat. This was of course in the days before batting helmets were required.

#411 George Spriggs

I choose this one because the '71 Topps set was the last year to feature one of my favorite uniforms in baseball history, the Chicago White Sox blue and white jerseys. The 1970 White Sox lost 106 games and so in the 1971 season they put out the blue and red jerseys synonymous with the mid-70s.

#520 Tommy John

July 16, 2014

Touring Lambeau Field

Back in June I got to take a tour of Lambeau Field for the first time. I've been to the stadium many times either just to take photos or to visit the Packer Pro Shop but I had never taken a stadium tour before. I had also hoped to visit the Packer Hall of Fame but it turned out that this summer it was temporarily relocated away from Lambeau as they are doing construction on a new Hall of Fame and Packer Pro Shop.

Here's some of the construction you can see while walking into the stadium. The construction should be done by the start of the season.  

Before the tour I stopped by the Pro Shop and saw this great display of Cheeseheads. Do a little research later I was surprised to find that the origin of these hats comes from the Milwaukee Brewers rather than the Packers

On to the tour which turned out to be exactly as I had hoped, run by two retired old guys that really really loved the Packers.

We go to go up to one of the high-priced executive boxes to view the field from above. While we were touring the ground keepers were mowing the field which is done every two days.

I entitled this photo "The loneliness of a Green Bay Packers groundskeeper."

We also go to go into the bowels of the stadium..."Player Entrance" this way...

...the home locker room is behind these doors. We didn't get a chance to see it for ourselves.

Players come out of the locker room and down through this hall to directly out on the field.

And as we walked onto the field they played recorded crowd cheers and the announcer's voice announcing the team's arrival onto the field. It was amazing to be able to be on the field after all these years. Well, we weren't on the field as really on the side of the field. If our guides mentioned it once, they mentioned it 10 times, we couldn't walk out onto the field.

They had these signs to remind us as well.

But while we were checking out the acoustics of the stadium by chanting "Go Pack Go" and listening for the echo all of a sudden someone started walking across the field. Our two guides looked at him and started making a move to intercept him and I imagined both of them tackling him like Clay Matthews in the middle of the field but thankfully they realized that that was the groundskeeper we saw earlier in the day mowing the lawn.

And of course it wouldn't be a Packer tour without poking some fun at the Vikings...although they are going to have to change this when the new Vikings Stadium which will have a fixed roof rather than a dome.

July 15, 2014

Wittenberg, Wisconsin's Packer Mural

In the middle of Wisconsin, in the town of Wittenberg you'll find Hanke's Sentry Foods...

...and on the side of that grocery store you'll find a wonderful Green Bay Packers mural. I noticed it as we were driving through town headed towards Nueske's, the great local meat market.

There's a lot to take in there so I'll break it down into smaller sections. First we have Don Hutson in the original navy blue and gold jerseys which founder Curly Lambeau borrowed from his alma mater Notre Dame.  

Next we have Curly Lambeau with his curly hair and the statue of Vince Lombardi this is in front of Lambeau Field. 

Cheeseheads and Jordy Nelson make an appearance. 

Next we have a Packers center with a strategically placed security light. 

Next we have a giant sized Donald Driver doing the Lambeau Leap along with what I think is another Donald Driver wearing the away jersey. 

The last section highlights the long standing tradition of having Packers players ride kid's bicycles as they go back and forth between the training facilities and Lambeau Field. Here's a great collection of photos showing Packer greats borrowing mountain bikes through the years.