Archive for Major League Baseball

Lance Armstrong is, and always will be, `Dope’

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , on August 23, 2012 by Cardboard Icons

The calendar says 2012, but with all of this Performance Enhancing Drug and “Doping” talk over the last two weeks, I swear it feels like 2010 … or 2008 … or even 2006.

1992 Impel US Olympic Hopefuls “rookie” card

Haven’t we been here before?  I know I am not the only one sick of this stuff.

Last week San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera received a 50-game suspension after testing positive this season for high levels of testosterone.  Two days ago, Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon was hit with the same suspension for the same type of violation.

And on Thursday, news came out that Olympic Champion and Cycling Legend Lance Armstrong essentially gave up his fight against allegations that he “doped” during his career.  Armstrong maintains that he has been clean, but says the fight is taking a toll on his life and he doesn’t care what people say.

My stance?

I’m not sure I can say it more simply than this:

I DO NOT CARE IF THEY DID ANYTHING.

My stance on this issue of performance enhancing drugs or related activities has been the same since Day One.

Athletes didn’t physically hurt anyone other than themselves.

I still enjoyed their performances in the moment.

I’ll still remember their performances even if their names are stricken from record books or appear with an asterisk.

My personal views are mine.  That’s how I process all of this information and cope with the way this dope stuff has affected the way we view sports.

I understand and respect the opinions that are in contrast of mine.  I get that people are outraged, that athletes themselves are upset, especially those who did it “the right way.”

But sports have changed. Period.

It’s no longer one person against another in a pure battle of strength or wits.

People don’t compete simply for the love of their sport.

I choose to enjoy the performances for what they are in the moment.  Sure, I’d like to compare the stars of this generation with those from the past, but that can’t be done accurately in any sport for various reasons. The sooner we come to terms with this, the quicker we can stop focusing on the negative aspects and just enjoy these sports as forms of entertainment.

Want good, clean sporting competition?  Watch Little League Baseball.

Oh, wait…

One of the greatest baseball days ever …

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , on October 7, 2011 by Cardboard Icons

My neighbors must think I have split personalities.  One day they see me wearing a Red Sox shirt, the next day it’s a Giants shirt.  And on Sept. 7, they surely saw me wearing an A’s hat.

Such is the life of a baseball fan who chooses an east coast team as his favorite, yet grew up watching — and supporting — local baseball teams, specifically the A’s.

One of my favorite memories s a kid was going to my first baseball game.  I was 8.  My father took me to an Orioles-Athletics game in 1988.  I have two distinct memories from that game — Cal Ripken hit a screaming homer run to left field, and my father bought me an A’s hat, which I wore to sleep.

Being a father of two now, I’d been contemplating taking my own kids to their first baseball game.  But I didn’t want to take them when they were too young to remember.  Lots of kids go to their first games when they still have pacifiers in their mouths.  Being a baseball fan, I know how special that first game is.  And I want/wanted each of my kids to remember their first experience.

Well,  Sept. 7, 2011, was the day … for my daughter, anyway.

My daughter is almost three.  She’s still young and impressionable.  She still tells me that she loves me, and she’s not just saying it to get into my wallet.  Does she love baseball?  No … well not yet, anyway.

But that Wednesday seemed like the perfect opportunity.  The Oakland Athletics run a ticket special for many of their day games where they sell tickets near Mt. Davis for $2 each.

Are they “good” tickets?  No.  Are they tickets to a Major League Baseball game for the same price as a pack of 2011 Topps Baseball?  Yep.

So the decision was made.  We would ride BART to the game and soak it all in.  The goal was to expose my daughter to baseball and show her that it was a fun time — the outcome of the game really wasn’t all that important.  Plus, I bought her a puppet of the A’s team mascot Stomper about a year earlier and we played with it just the night before the game.  I sold her on the idea that we might see Stomper.

Just before leaving the house, I posted on my Twitter account that I was headed to the game with my daughter. I mentioned that it was her first.  Within minutes, I got a message from the Oakland A’s twitter account asking where I was sitting.  I sent a message back, not really sure why they were asking.

So we ventured out … we caught a train in Fremont, Calif. and started the journey to the old, dilapidated facility that is the “O.Co Coliseum.”  My daughter was excited not only for the game, but her first train ride.

When we arrived at our destination, my daughter was excited to be there.  We quickly found our seats to catch a few moments of the A’s and Royals players stretching.  And then we ventured to the concession stands to grab some treats — popcorn and a hotdog.

When we returned to our seats, my daughter dove into her helmet full of popcorn.  Seconds later I was greeted by a representative of the A’s.  They said they heard it was my daughter’s first game and presented her with a certificate commemorating the occasion.  And then they upgraded our seats from the foot of Mt. Davis to field level seats near the A’s dug out.

With the game underway, we made the trek to our field level seats.  And let me tell you, it’s not easy totting around food and a 2-year-old at a baseball game. By the time we got to our seats we missed an inning of baseball and my arms were dead, but I knew it would all be worth it as we surely would get to see Stomper from our new location.

And just minutes later we did …

“Look, honey, it’s Stomper,” I told my daughter.

She grabbed her puppet — which we brought to the game — and stood up.  I offered to take her to see him up close, but she froze.  She didn’t want to go.

For several minutes she watched him from a distance … and then he was gone, moved to the other side of the Coliseum to meet other children.

About 5 minutes later I received a direct message on Twitter from someone who knew I was at the game.  That person showed me a Tweet contest from Stomper. 

When I received the message, I could see Stomper clear on the other side of the stadium.  I thought about grabbing my daughter and racing to him to say the phrase.  But my daughter was reluctant to see him when he was nearby, so I didn’t want to scare her off.  I figured if he came back to our area, I’d hit him up then.

We watched a few more innings of baseball and then I heard a magic phrase …

“Daddy, I need to go to the bathroom.”

My blood pressure went through the roof because I knew we had to gather everything up and find a somewhat sanitary place for my daughter to do her deed.

Needless to say we made it to the restroom in time and she was relieved.  But as we exited the bathroom, who do you think we saw?

This was our chance.

I raced over to the mascot, who was posing for a picture with some fans.  When he was done, I said the phrase …

“Zazzy!” 

He pointed to me and his handler handed us our prize. We’d won the signed hat … and my daughter got to meet Stomper, all at the same time.


With the loot in hand, we returned to our seats for another inning or so, until my daughter seemed to be running out of steam.  It was the sixth inning and Guillermo Moscoso had a no-hitter going, but none of that mattered. We’d had a good day and I was not going to have it ruined with a public toddler meltdown in a baseball stadium.

So we packed up our stuff, got back on the train and headed home.

It’s been a month since that day.  The season has ended, the League Championship Series are about to begin and Fall has arrived.  But even to this day,  my daughter still says a magic phrase to me:

“Daddy, remember when we went to the baseball game?  I got to meet Stomper!”

Of course I remember, honey.  Of course I do.

Celebrating Alex Rodriguez and his impending entry to the 600 HR Club

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , on July 25, 2010 by Cardboard Icons

Say what you will about Alex Rodriguez, but he is no Sammy Sosa.

When Alex Rodriguez bashes his next home run, it will be his 600th. The mark has become synonymous with some of the game’s greats as only six other players have reached the plateau in Major League Baseball.

But while in years past an achievement like this would bring out the red carpet, a visit from Bud Selig and perhaps some sort of celebratory lap around the field and a speech, this time it surely will have a muted tone.

I understand the A-rod bashing. I know people don’t like this guy as a person, and his reputation as being the game’s best player has been sullied by his admission of steroid use.

But there is one fact that rings true, Alex Rodriguez is and always has been a hell of a ball player.

If you look at the list of players who have slugged 600 homers, all but one are mentioned among the game’s greats. Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and Ken Griffey Jr. are all held in high regard. Yes, even Mr. Bonds, because before he came under the cloud of suspicion, he was a truly talented player who was a Hall of Famer before breaking the single-season and all-time home run records — both of which are now considered tainted.

But the one name on the list that really jumps out at you is that of Sammy Sosa, who was a mediocre ball player until he and Mark McGwire went on their slugging tour of 1998. Sosa then proceeded to hit 60 or more home runs in three out of four seasons. And while that achievement would be considered an amazing feat, it like many other recent happenings, is marked with a proverbial asterisk.

Sosa, in my eyes, has never been regarded as one of the games’ best all-around players. And it is his inclusion on the list of 600 Home Run hitters that casts the biggest shadow.

When A-rod enters this elite club, it will without a doubt come with its share of mixed reaction. But it’s important to remember that A-rod’s legacy is more than that of a half-cocked admission of performance enhancing drug use. Whether you like him or not, he still should be considered among the greatest players the game has ever seen.

LIVE Opening Day Blog 2010

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , on April 5, 2010 by Cardboard Icons

It’s here. It’s here. It’s finally here. I feel like a 5 year old on Christmas morning. Damnit, I love baseball.

Opening Day has been a personal holiday for me for the last 16 years. I have been following the game since 1987, but in 1994 I started a tradition that I have continued almost every year since: I’ve taken the day off work or school just to watch baseball. Call me silly. Call me immature. Call me what you want. But I do it because I love the game.

And after spending the last six months without the greatest sport on earth, is there really a better way to get back into the swing of things than to completely submerse yourself in it? And so I am here, on the greatest day of the year, chronicling damn near every minute of the day.

I started doing Opening Day blogs in 2007 and wrote them for three years for the now-defunct The Baseball Stars fantasy baseball blog, and will continue the tradition here. I pondered scrapping the idea, but The Jon, my co-writer from the site, talked me into it. Probably because we’ll be spending the day together, and he wanted in on the fun. He hasn’t written anything for publication in more than a year, but The Jon will be joining me on this occasion. If things go well, maybe he’ll contribute to this blog in the future.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the greatness of the 2010 Major League Baseball Opening Day blog as brought to you by Cardboard Icons. All times posted are Pacific.

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10:20 p.m. And a sign of the times — I learned from MLB’s Twitter feed that the Angels has just closed out the Twins to complete the day. That’ll do it for the 2010 Opening Day blog. Thanks for reading.

9:58 p.m. Seattle just shut the door on Oakland, leaving only one game remaining on Opening Day. Putting it on MLB Network for the first time today. My friend’s house didn’t have this channel, and I was going through withdrawal.

9:17 p.m.: Horrible state of affairs developing in the blogosphere. I run a three-week contest to give away a 1958 Topps Hank Aaron / Mickey Mantle vintage card and get 32 entries. A Cardboard Problem is running a contest for a $5 blaster of 2006 ultra and they have 48 entries in two days. Pathetic, people. Pathetic.

9:08 p.m. So Travis Buck’s Walk Up music is  Triple H’s theme song. Booooooooooooooooo.

9:05 p.m.: So I’m watching Felix Hernandez pitch in the seventh inning … I owned this guy in my primary keeper league for about a week in the off season before dealing for Hanley Ramirez. Just realizing that it’s not as fun watching pitchers.

9:03 p.m. Is Eric Chavez growing out his hair to look like Andre Ethier?

9:02 p.m. Looks like Duke won the National Championship tonight. Should be noted that I have not watched a single minute of the NCAA tournament. I just don’t care about college basketball.

8:51 p.m. Just settling back in for the remainder of the two games on the slate. This day has flown by. Seriously. I feel like I need to rewind and view this again.

5:09: I think I’m going to call this thing off early. MLB late-afternoon schedule is not jiving with my real-life responsibilities. Thanks all for ready. I’ll post once more later tonight to wrap things up.

4:53: The Jon: Lull No. 2 with only one game to watch. The loser of the day? Rotowire.com. This what the cheerleaders wrote about Placido Polanco:

Polanco went 3-for-5 with a grand slam and six RBI in Monday’s Opening Day romp over the Nationals.

Recommendation: The grand slam (off Jason Bergmann in the seventh) was the second of Polanco’s career, but the six RBI marked a new career high for the second baseman. After posting double-digit homers last year for the first time since 2004 and topping 70 RBI for the first time, his mini power surge seems to have picked up right where it left off.

(Rotowire.com)

So where is the recommendation? Pick up Polanco because he had 6 RBI and that will herald a 10 homer, 70 RBI season for a second baseman? If he gets the obligatory interview from the ugly blond, The Jon will be on board.

Rotowire.com. Herbs.

4:25: The Jon: The winner of opening day so far? Tony Womack. The Arizona guys love him. They’ve been showing him every two minutes and even sent the obligatory ugly blond female reporter over to talk about his glory day (key word being day). Womack hasn’t been that close to a female since Mark Grace took him to Applebees in 2004. Oh, the Giants are on?

4:23 p.m. Just want to say that I wish MLB would do a better job of spreading out the games next year. I hate having like eight games early, and then two in the afternoon and then two games at night. Spread them out evenly.

4:20 p.m.: We’ve been sending text messages to PoiDoig all day with fake box score information. I just now told him we’ve been screwing with him. His response: “You Scoundrels.”

4:09 p.m.: So it’s been brought to my attention that the Jason Heyward Red Refractor I just wrote about has been relisted by the same seller who is now asking for $15,000. People are crazy.

4:00: The Jon: So Mark Grace has moved up to the echelon of Hawk Harrelson in commentating skills. This Arizona game is brutal. Did the doze off and am sadly looking forward to the Giants game because as a the D’backs play-by-play guy said,

“If there is no pitching, there is no baseball.”

3:55 p.m. So, yeah. Jason Heyward Mania is live and well. His gem mint 2008 Bowman Chrome Red Refractor just sold for $5,000.

3:47 p.m. The Jon and Crazy Johnny were just discussing the ridiculousness of the Padres having the Hairston Brothers. “You put them together and you still have a s**** player,’ The Jon says. Crazy Johnny responds: “Yeah, that’s like a negative.”

3:46 p.m. Diamondbacks broadcast is doing an in-the-stands interview with the not-so-great Tony Womack. They wanted him to analyze Stephen Drew. During said discussion, Womack says his 11-year-old son will be better than he was. Womack was horrible.

3:44 p.m.: Jason Heyward was just welcomed into the 3,000 hit club, 500 Home Run Club and Hall of Fame in the eighth inning of his Major League Debut.

3:21 p.m. Small discussion about Eric Hinske has broken out. Dude looks like Karim Garcia.

3:18 p.m.: Braves still putting it on the Cubbies, now 12-5. Dumbass Braves announcers talking about Atlanta scoring 1,600 runs this year.

3:15 p.m.: Pizza guy showed up a little while ago, he had to call to confirm the address. Should be noted he had a porno mag in his back seat. Guess who didn’t get a tip.

2:38 p.m.: We need to break out the ‘We Want Pizza” chant.

2:35 p.m. Diggin the Ultimate Warrior theme music playing at Kauffman Stadium IN THE MIDDLE of Scott Podsednik’s atbat.

2:32 p.m.: Afternoon baseball is slowing dowj; watching the Royals/Tigers. Good pitching duel.

2:04 p.m.: Just doing a quick check of eBay for Jason Heyward rookies. A lot of 100 Bowman Chrome rookies (like the one shown here) just sold for $1,400.

2 p.m.: We ordered pizza a while ago … worth mentioning they said delivery would be 1 hour and 20 minutes. I know it’s Opening Day and all, but this is some Super Bowl Sunday wait times.

1:58 p.m.: Official Jason Heyward rookie card count: 2 Bowman Chrome, 3 Bowman Draft and 2 Bowman Draft Gold. Word.

1:50 p.m.: Braves just scored their seventh run against Carlos Zambrano, Guy No 3 (Crazy Johnny) is not happy. AND Brian McCann just hit a solo shot. This is awesome. Good night, Carlos.

1:44 p.m. First set of games are starting to end — Rangers Jarrod Saltalamacchi just hit a walk-off single. Ranger announcers just crapped their pants. Rangers just won the World Series.

1:41: The Jon: The Jon calls dibs on reporting Heyward’s homer. And yes The Jon has just had a bathroom moment with Heyward. Thanks three-run homer.

1:40 p.m.: Jason Heyward is now a trending topic on Twitter.

1:32: The Jon: Love seeing another Carlos Zambrano meltdown. Crazy Johnny is starting the guy who loaded the bases with cheap flares. Heyward is up and yes that is a homer and yes he is The Jon’s rookie keeper.

This is followed by Crazy Johnny telling Zambrano to:

“Keep your composure d!ckhead.”

1:25: The Jon: PoiDog being the degenerate he is is texting for fantasy updates, so The Jon and Newspaperman are sending him bogus updates. Josh Johnson for 8 earned in 1.2 innings sounds about right. Corn.

1:15: Jason Heyward just made the first catch of his Major League career. I’m worried I might jinx him. I’ve live-blogged only one other rookie debut in recent years. The player’s name: Alex Gordon. Ugh.

1:08 Getting ready to order some pizzas … I suggested we play the Back To The Hotel music in the background while The Jon places the order. He does not like that song.

12:56: Quick check of Fantasy Team A: four homers already — Two for Pujols, and one each for Wright and Lind. LOVE it.

12:49: The Jon: Almost had a bathroom moment with Braun. Looks like a homer, oh great RBI double. You suck Braun.

This Rockies/Brewers game is turning out to be the game. Two young pitchers finding their game, Ubaldo Jim enez doing what he was supposed to be doing three seasons ago. Yovani Gallardo giving it up, but pitching well with nasty stuff.

And Nelson Cruz ties it up against Marcum. Screw you Mike.

12:48 p.m.: “Man, f*** Shaun Marcum. He’s gonna lose now,” says Guy No. 3

12:47 p.m.: seeeeeeeeeeee. And just like that, Shaun Marcus has returned to his non-important status.

12:43 p.m. Flipping around EVERYONE is talking about Shaun Marcum’s no-hitter … He’ll blow it here.

12:30 p.m.: The Jon: Lull time after the alcohol and sugar high. The Jon is still miffed about these Topps cards. The Jon was one of the best designers on the planet and The Jon has to see cheesy bright, flowery design on Topps cards. Where’s the job, man.

And MikeOz in our league picked up Shaun Marcum and his no-hitter  through six innings.

The Jon likes Toronto’s arms. A lot of young guys that can battle. The Jon got to know these guys following Halladay.

Let’s just say there is a lot of grumblings about this kneejerk pickup of Marcum. You know, whether it is valid and is the true essence of our league rules. We are losers. Yes.

12:20 p.m. We’re just now noticing how dominant Roy Halladay has been today … actually, every day.

12:03: So Ryan Braun is putting the up the o-fer. It hurt with two guys on base with no outs. C’mon Braun, how come Newspaperman gets all the beater moments in the bathroom with Wright and Pujols hitting homers.

Braun, The Jon wants a beater moment too.

12:02 p.m.: Warren Spahn is now following me on Twitter. Made me laugh.

noon: Quick recap of the 2010 Topps Opening Day blastern box we busted: two blue parallels (Jake Peavy and Troy Tulowitzki),  two mascots (Bernie Brewer and Fredbird), two Topps Attax Foils (Arod and Josh Beckett) and a Yankees Celebration card. Bunch of base cards obviously — Yankes go to TheJon, Red Sox to Me, and Angels to the other guy.  forth guy may come by later — he’ll get the A’s.

11:53 a.m.: Flipping channels, back to the Nats /Phillies. Can’t believe it’s the sixth inning here already. Day is flying by.

11:40 a.m.: Holy crap. just realized Garrett Jones has two homers today. Long Live Tuffy Rhodes!

11:32: The Jon: OK, Halladay is ripping it up. Gallardo is in trouble. And Crazy Johnny has the quote of the day replacing Newspaperman’s “I would wipe the sweat off of David Wright’s baseballs.”

So here’s the quote, “Mickey Mantle, rest in peace. More alcohol for me.”

11:27 a.m.: Three of us are sitting talking baseball cards. LOVE IT. I am the only current collector of the bunch. We’re having fun opening a Blaster of 2010 Topps Opening Day. The Jon loves his Yankees. I’m all about my Red Sos and the other guy is an Angels fan. I just pulled two Angels in one pack — good day for Guy No. 3.

11:15: The Jon: So lost in all of the overload of baseball is The Jon has not seen The Jon’s favorite pitcher Roy Halladay pitch. It’s tough when you have five opening day starters going on today.

The game of the day so far? Brewers and Rockies. Two loaded teams that are fun to watch. And Peace to Crazy Johnny coming over with the Pacificos. There goes me quitting drinking. It was four days not well spent, knawmean?

11:08 a.m.: New guy just showed up carrying a 12-pack of Pacifico.

10:59: The Jon: The Jon does not flip out. Padilla is your opening day starter? Yeah Dodgers are not doing anything this season. Especially with Padilla giving up dongs to jones.

So Newspaperman is forcing me to open baseball cards.  He wants some guy from Topps guy to link to CardboardIcons. I got some type of Purple Lips insert. Man, I’ve been out of cards for about 15 years and they still have the same crappy computer neon graphic look? Man these cards suck. Oh, The Jon means wow, Alex Rodriguez insert. It looks great! (Thumbs up).

10:56 a.m. The Jon just flipped on the Pirates/Dodgers game — we just had a good laugh at Vicente Padilla being the Opening Day starter for Los Angeles. Should started Kershaw.

10:55 a.m. The Jon just broke out the hard stuff: Henry Weinhard’s Vanilla Cream Soda. The Best.


10:43: The Jon: PoiDog is still here talking about the only thing he knows about: Pro Wrestling which brought up Alex Wright:

Let’s just say PoiDog started his Iran Shiek impression where Newspaperman said:

When you leaving PoiDog.

And Michelle: Newspaperman makes his own thongs. He’ll be doing a raffle later on this week at this site.

10:39 a.m.: And now some odd wrestling talk — dude just brought up Buff Bagwell. Ugh.

10:35 a.m.: Sitting here recapping some of the off-season fantasy baseball trades I made, getting an earful about trading Dustin Pedroia.

10:25 The Jon: Newspaperman went to the bathroom again. He just got out with tears on his face and muttering “This is special.” We are having a TheBaseballStars reunion over here with PoiDog who just called and yelled at his kids because Josh Johnson gave up the homer to Wright.

Now y’all know Newspaperman doesn’t have Grady Sizemore right? If there is enough interest I’ll tell you the story behind it. With behind being the key word.

10:21 a.m.: Holy crap, this must be my day. David Wright hit a two-run shot for the Mets.

10:14 a.m.:  The Jon: Newspaperman gets his first hard on of the day. Pujols is at bat and hits a homer while I am typing this. Newspaperman has just gone into the bathroom. There is a lot of banging noises going on.

10:08 a.m.: Gotta give  a quick plug to the Topps Blog, which started today.

10 a.m. Just sitting down with The Jon to watch the first round of games. Getting off to a slow start, but we do have a 10-pack blaster of 2010 Topps Opening Day to open throughout the day. Looks like we’ll be watching the Cardinals v. Reds first.

12:40 a.m.: OK, turning in for the night. Will be back in a few hours. Will stop at Target to buy a few packs of 2010 Topps Opening Day so that The Jon and I can bust them on Opening Day. Games start at 10 a.m. Pacific, we’ll be back live probably about 9:45 a.m. with a little banter before the first pitches across the league.

11:45 p.m. (Sunday)

So I had to watch the Red Sox / Yankee Opening Night game on DVR because my wife and I were entertaining family early in the night. As I watched the game, I absolutely had to take a screen shot of this two-run sixth inning triple Kevin Youkilis hit into right field. Love the reaction from the fan in the blue, giving the one-finger salute to Nick Swisher. Chris Olds of Beckett probably loved this moment. Olds is a big Swisher honk.

As everyone knows by now, the Red Sox went on to win the game 9-7. I gotta say, I LOVE that Major League Baseball decided to open the season with a rivalry game. I feel like its August already. I already hate the Yankees that much.

Also, big ups to Mike Cameron for his “Walk Up” song.

Opening Day Archives: 2009 // 2008 // 2007

Cards of Little Leaguers are cool, but of babies? Not so much.

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by Cardboard Icons

When I was a Little Leaguer, I thought the coolest thing in the world was to have my own baseball card. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, my league didn’t offer such things in the picture package.

But in 1991, thanks to a Donruss and Milk Duds promotion being held at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum (home of the Oakland Athletics) I finally got my own card, and the good folks hooked me up with Dave Stewart’s awesome 1990 statistics. I was legendary! OK, not quite. Nonetheless, I loved this card. I cherished it. I placed it in a hard case and displayed it with some of the best cards in my collection at the time, most notably my 1985 Topps Mark McGwire rookie.

At the time I was only about four years into the hobby and thought what a cool idea it would be to have cards of present-day stars that showed them when they were my age. I wanted to see what my heroes looked like as kids. And then lo and behold that same year I found a book called “Little Big Leaguers” and it came complete with a sheet of tear-out baseball cards, including this Tony Gwynn, which still sits in my collection.

Over the next two years, Donruss took this concept mainstream and placed in its “Triple Play” set a subset called “Little Hotshots,” which, as you can guess, showed Major Leaguer players as Little Leaguers. Check out this scrawny young Mark McGwire wearing, ironically, an A’s uniform. He actually kind of looks like Kelly Leak from “The Bad News Bears.”

The reason these cards are so cool is that when some kid looks at these, they get to see that all Big Leaguers got their start as kids. None of them came out of the womb with huge muscles and the ability to hit 70 home runs as Mcgwire did in 1998 or hit .394 like Gwynn did in 1994. They had to learn the game, hone their craft and be a kid.

So when Topps came out with the 2010 Topps “When They Were Young” insert set, I was again intrigued because I knew the set would show modern players as kids. The first couple cards I pulled were pretty neat, even if they were of mediocre players.

But then I snagged two cards that really gave me the creeps, those of Alex Rodriguez and Russell Martin.

What on Earth was Topps thinking when it made these two cards showing these pro players as babies? It’s bad enough the baseball card collectors get a bum rap for “collecting pictures of men,” but now we’ve added pictures of babies to the spectrum.

I know there already are cards (1993 and 1994 Classic) that show Alex Rodriguez as a high school player, but why even include him in this set if you’re not going to show him doing something baseball related. Although I will say that we did learn something from the A-Rod card: he ALWAYS had the purple lips.

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Shameless plugs: Don’t forget to vote for Cardboard Icons in Upper Deck’s Best Blog contest. Also, sometime this week I’ll be giving away an AUTHENTIC 1958 Topps Hank Aaron/Mickey Mantle card. See details here.

Did Topps put the final nail in UD’s baseball card coffin?

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , on March 3, 2010 by Cardboard Icons

Without a doubt you’ve heard today that Major League Baseball Properties and Upper Deck have reached a settlement in their pending lawsuit. In a nutshell, UD cannot produce baseball cards in the future showing any MLBP logos without permission. This means no action shots with jersey logos or team names exposed. It also means that any release that UD had already in the works cannot be sold.

But what I am wondering is how this settlement was influenced by Topps announcement earlier in the day that it now owns the exclusive rights to produce baseball cards of Team USA Baseball.

For nearly a decade, Upper Deck was the exclusive producer of USA Baseball cards. With Topps now taking that license away from them (indirectly) it almost seems as if Upper Deck really had little to fight for, and thus we have the settlement.

To me it seems as if UD could have used the license with Team USA to produce cards of hobby phenom Bryce Harper and other youngsters and inserted those cards into any of the unlicensed sets to give them some appeal to most collectors. But since they are no longer able to produce such cards, there really was little that UD had to offer in the sport other than unlicensed cards.

Now it is entirely possible that the two issues have nothing to do with one another, but I find the timing of all of this kind of odd. Thoughts?

He sure as hell aint no Nolan Ryan …

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , , on October 21, 2009 by Cardboard Icons

You’d be hard-pressed to find a pitcher from the 90s who didn’t spend much of his youth looking up to Nolan Ryan. And who could blame them. Ryan was the epitome of a power pitcher. He’d throw you in high and tight, and then break you off with a fastball on the outside corner. Kerry Wood loved him. Todd Van Poppel thought he was his son. And Roger Clemens tried to pattern his career after the Ryan Express, and to some extent he was better that his idol.

But what about Rick Helling?

Whomever decided to let Helling wear "34" should have been fired.

Whomever decided to let Helling wear "34" should have been fired.

On his 1993 Score card — which is NOT his rookie, see 1991 Topps Traded for that — Helling is touted for hurling a 91 mph fastball and a “nasty” slider. But what intrigues me the most about this card is that Helling is pictured WEARING RYAN’S JERSEY NUMBER. What the Helling is up with that? Don’t the people in Texas know that number is sacred. I don’t care if Helling is supposed to be the second coming of Walter Johnson, good ol’ 34 is not to worn by anyone, especially if the originator of “34” (Ryan) is still playing with the ball club.

Helling may have had a low 90s fastball and a “nasty” slider, but he sure as hell aint  no Nolan Ryan, and his career numbers showed that. Helling did wound out with a pair of World Series rings and managed to play with six ball clubs throughout his 13-year career, but posted an ERA near 5.00 while doing so. So what is Helling up to these days? He’s a special assistant to Major League Baseball Players’ Association leader Donald Fehr.

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