Archive for MLB
I’ll say this up front, I am not a big card game guy. I never got into Magic. I never played Pokemon. I don’t hate it. I don’t dislike people who play such games. I, personally, have never felt the need to sit down and learn or play those games. They are games of strategy; I prefer to apply my knowledge — the little that I have — to my hobby, where I acquire real things. That’s just how I operate.
Having said that, I do find some intrigue when I find card game cards at thrift stores. I have a little knowledge as to what is “worth” money, but I can say that I have not cashed in on anything card game related. This post, I suppose, follows in those foot steps.
So, in the early 2000s, Wizards of the Coast, makers of the Magic The Gathering cards, produced a series of baseball strategy card game that spanned the course of four of five seasons I believe. The game had a mild following. I don’t recall the cards ever being scorching hot. And every now and then I find them in thrift stores, usually mixed in with some typical baseball cards. I usually pass on them unless I see an absolute reason to buy: Multiple foil cards, many “first edition” cards, multiple stars, quantity for little money, etc.”
On this occasion, I happened to find this box (shown here) sitting in an aisle of photo albums. It must’ve been mistaken for a photo box, but I knew what it was immediately. When I opened it, I got a bit excited because while the bx itself makes for a fun display, it had a fair amount of cards. I was even more exited when I learned that the $3.99 price tag on it was incorrect for on this day, this item was half off.
The box contained 5 foil cards …
Total cost of these treasures: $1.99
To see more Thrift Treasures posts, click HERE
Notice I didn’t say Hate. It’s too strong of a word. I think dislike is more apt because I think deep down there is some joy that some of us get from these cards.
While we’d all like to have the card fresh in-hand from the pack, redemption cards do present a great opportunity to those who are willing to wait out the redemption process.
On Saturday I received my 2012 Topps Five Star Rickey Henderson autograph card, which was the result of a redemption card I purchased on eBay about a month ago. The good news was when I bought the redemption card, there was already word that the cards were already live, so I figured I wouldn’t have to wait that long. From start to finish, it took about three weeks to turn the redemption card into the live card, which is shown here. In the end, I saved roughly $35 and received a gorgeous card. Thank you, Topps.
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.
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.
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.
When news came out Wednesday that Nomar Garciaparra was announcing his retirement, I echoed the sentiment that many others had — didn’t he already leave the game?
Fact is Nomar Garciaparra has been a shell of his former self for much of the last decade, thanks in large part to a string of injuries that led him to be bounced around the league. It seems like forever since we were discussing Nomar in the same breath with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Oh yes, those were the times. The holy trilogy of 1990s shortstops, the three baseball youngsters who were going to bring the sport into the new decade.
I’m going to say thing right now: Nomar’s career numbers are not overwhelming. But when you look at a six- or seven-year window, Nomar was a very dominant offensive shortstop.
From 1997 to 2003, Nomar collected 1,260 hits (his average was better than 190 hits per year if you eliminate the 2001 season that ended after just 21 games), 174 home runs, 674 RBIs and a .320 batting average that reached .357 in 1999 and .372 in 2000.
A basic year for him would have been at least .320 average, 25 homers, 95 RBIs and about 105 runs.
His career accolades include: American League Rookie of the Year (1997), runner-up for Most Valuable Player (1998), six all-star selections, a silver slugger award and two American League batting titles.
Is that not enough to get into the hall?
And before you answer and say no because his numbers pale in comparison to Alex Rodriguez; you must consider that Rodriguez is a no-brainer Hall of Famer, regardless of the steroid use. To compare A-rod and Nomar is like comparing a Rolex to a Citizen watch — both are of good quality, only one is considered head and shoulders above the rest.
By no means am I saying Nomar is a first-ballot kind of player. Hell, I don’t even think he is a fifth-ballot kind of guy. But somehow, someway I think Nomar gets into Cooperstown. And I think the fact that much of his achievements came with one of the most beloved franchises in the game will only help him.
Damnit. Damnit. Damnit.
Every February I say these very words to myself because Topps really knows what they are doing. Just when baseball fans are craving the sport the most, the New York company releases its second product of the year, Topps Heritage, and sends the market into a frenzy. The set is always enticing to card collectors. Whether your fishing for a big hit, or trying to build a set, this product offers a little something for everyone.
This year’s design mimics the 1961 Topps set, a design that some collectors have said is bland. Personally, I am a fan. The design is clean and linear, and the different color boxes for the player and team names add a little something to the card, but not too much. The card backs are also great as they offer a wealth of information and a cartoon. Also, the subset cards within the set look great; love the manager, team and league leader cards.
The hobby version of the product hit many store shelves on Wednesday with the typical $4 per pack price point; retail versions will likely start hitting WalMart and Target stores in about 10 to 14 days, but I would not be surprised if a Blaster was found sometime this weekend at either big-box store.
I tried something different this year, something more in-line with my new philosophy on cards. I’ve decided NOT to buy a hobby box, rather just purchase a few packs to satisfy my appetite and curiosity. Also, I feel that not every collector out there can afford to buy a box and will be picking packs from an already-opened box. So one could argue that this is a legitimate break and review … for the basic collector.
Anyhow, the purchase was seven hobby packs and the pulls included two short prints, three chrome parallels, three Babe Ruth Chase inserts, a New Age Performer, a Flash Back and two Then and Now inserts. Not so bad.
The basic shortprints are easy to distinguish from the more common cards. Not only are they the last 60 to 75 cards in the 500-card set, but they are also printed with white backs, whereas the commons all feature brownish backs. My SPs were Carlos Lee and Raul Ibanez “Topps News”. What remains to be seen is whether or not (we all know they did) create super shorprints where they tinkered with something, perhaps a interchanged logo, wrong player picture or something.
On a possibly related note, I spotted a few “oddities” on a few of my base cards.
1) This American League Leader Wins (#48) card is missing the Topps Heritage logo.
2) Mark DeRosa and Akinori Iwamura are pictured (airbrushed) with their NEW teams, the Giants and Pirates.
3) Pablo Sandoval is picture with braces on his teeth.
As for inserts, it looks like Topps is going to murder Babe Ruth’s cardboard reputation with these horrible Chase ’61 cards. While I understand the premise of the set, I think Topps missed an opportunity here to really flesh out this 1961 Home Run chase.
By now you are already aware that Roger Maris slugged a record-breaking 61 homers to eclipse the 60 homers Ruth hit in 1927. During the record-setting year of 1961, Maris and Mantle went back and forth. What would have been more interesting to me is to have cards featuring Maris and Mantle, and Ruth. Maybe take the concept and do a running tally sort of set, not unlike the Home Run Record cards Topps has put out over the years.
Instead, what Topps has given us is a 15-card set featuring pictures of Ruth with a bunch of text on the back discussing Ruth’s record-setting feat and some Maris and Mantle chatter. And to make matters worse, it appears that the same cartoon and caption is used on ALL of the Ruth Chase cards. This insert set is a nightmare, and set collectors will be crying foul — if they have not begun already — because these lame inserts are taking the place of another base card, common, SP or otherwise.
The Chrome parallels are pretty uneventful, although the finish of the cards seems exceptionally slick which is a plus. In past issues, I’ve had issues with my chrome parallels being a bit “pitted,” for lack of a better term. The cards are seeded one in every five packs; I got three of them: Chipper Jones, Johan Santana and Kendry Morales. These cards are serial numbered to 1,961 copies.And other Topps Heritage insert anchors New Age Performers (Albert Pujols), Flashbacks (Candlestick Park), and Then & Now (see below) have returned and are just as they have been in past years. In fact, they look damn-near identical, with just a few tweaks. Go figure.
I do take issue with the two Then & Now inserts I pulled. BOTH cards feature Whitey Ford; one has him paired with 2009 MLB strikeout leader Justin Verlander, and the other has him with 2009 MLB ERA leader Zack Greinke. My beef? Whitey Ford didn’t lead the league in either category in 1961. He was third in strikeouts, behind Sandy Koufax — who had 269, exactly as many as Verlander — and Camilo Pascual. And Ford finished 14th in ERA behind a bunch of other guys. In fact, Ford’s ERA (3.21) was more than an entire run higher than Greinke’s (2.16).
There are a slew of other types of inserts, including autographs and relics — which fall one per box — that I didn’t pull from my packs, but the sample size was rather small. From what I’ve seen though, the cards are what they are with few exceptions.
Overall, Topps Heritage appears to be as we always expect it to be — an ginormous money pit that will give us much satisfaction in the short term, and cause heartache for many more as they try to build the set. To build the master set is a spectacular feat.
So is the product worth buying? Of course. There are some awesome on-card autographs, some easily obtainable relics and a shot at a multi-relic and autos featuring Ruth, Mantle and Maris.
But know what you’re getting into as it pertains to building the set. You will not even come close to completing the run with one box, or for that matter, a complete case. If you’re looking to build the set, know that retail packs may be a better option given the fixed, cheaper prices and similar odds for shortprints.
*Addendum: I’ve written a review of the Topps Heritage bubble gum, you can see it HERE.