In Memoriam: Jose Fernandez (July 31, 1992 – Sept. 25, 2016)

Posted in In Memoriam with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

When I stop to post something on a baseball player who has passed away, I typically will show their rookie card — or something close to it — and leave it at that. Today, I will do something more.

img_0245By now you’ve heard the news, Marlins ace pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed early Saturday in a boating crash. He was 24.

I repeat, TWENTY FOUR.

People come and go in our real lives, usually not at or before the age of 24. And if by chance they do pass at a young age we all stop and call it unfortunate. This case, albeit involving an athlete, a budding superstar, a guy paid millions to play whats been called  kid’s game, is no different.

The death of Mr. Fernandez has struck me like no other athlete’s has struck me in recent memory. Muhammad Ali passing a few months ago was big, but didn’t punch me in the gut this way because Ali lived a full life. Besides, by the time I came to know Ali he was already in retirement; I was only living with the legacy that he’d already built.

When Dave Henderson died in December of 2015 that hit me a bit because growing up I watched him play in Oakland AND two of his twin nieces were in my fourth and fifth grade classes. They  brought a signed bat of his to class for show and tell once. Even then I merely posted  picture of his 1982 Topps rookie card and moved on.

When Cardinals top prospect and super rookie Oscar Tavares died during the post season of 2014, the card world mourned because he was supposed to be THE guy. Collectors bought into him heavily hoping to reap financial benefit, but they all wound up dumping his cards post mortem for mere pennies on the dollar. Personally I was saddened as usual, but wasn’t really affected — I hadn’t had a chance to see him do much of anything on the diamond. Also, the suspicion that he was driving while reportedly being intoxicated kind of changes the tone a bit.

And then there is the sad case of Angels super prospect Nick Adenhart, who died after his car was struck by a suspected drunken driver on the morning of August 9, 2009, just HOURS after Adenhart in his one and only MLB start of the year. I repeat: His car was hit by a suspected drunken driver; Adenhart was not the party who was intoxicated. A bright future was there for Adenhart, but again, he had a lot to prove at the Major League level.

Now lets come back to the present as it pertains to Mr. Fernandez, the bright, smiling face of a Marlins organization that comes and goes as it pleases in baseball with almost no real foot print. True, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is the longest-tenured Marlin with the club and sure-fire Hall of Famer Ichiro recently joined the land of baseball immortality with his 3,000 hits, but neither of them in my mind was as big of a star for the Miami club as Mr. Fernandez.

He was all of 24, but everything he showed us in his four seasons in Major League Baseball lead us to believe he certainly was flirting with greatness.

During his age 20 season, he went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts en route to capturing the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year honors.

Elbow injuries shortened his 2014 and 2015 seasons, but even when he was playing he still maintained his dominance to the tune of a 10-3 record over 19 starts during which he struck out 149 batters in 116 1/3 innings.

And this year he was dominating his opponents to the tune of 12.5 strikeouts per 9 innings. At the time of his death he’d struck out 253 batters in only 182 1/3 innings of work. He had 16-8 record and a 2.86 ERA over the course of 29 starts. In his final outing on Sept. 20, he went 8 innings against the eventual National League East champion Washington Nationals, allowing only three hits while striking out 12 batters — just another typical Fernandez outing.

I took a liking to Fernandez during his rookie year. His stuff was electric and his style — even his hair — reminded me a bit of Ricky Vaughn from Major League the movie. There was just something about the guy that made you watch the game. I made it a point to own the above pictured 2011 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Refractor autograph and when it came to keeper fantasy baseball leagues, he was mine — forever, just as Clayton Kershaw shall be.

img_0239Oddly enough the news of Mr. Fernandez’s death came to me through a push notification from Yahoo Sports.  There I was using the restroom when a bell rang on my phone. I’m in the semi-finals of my league’s playoffs, a day away from entering the championship round, so I was intrigued by this seemingly odd notification that Fernandez’s status was changed from “healthy” to “day-to-day.” I clicked on the link and boom: the news hits me like a ton of bricks. And not because he was a part of my team, but because he was a hell of a talent and because he was just a kid.

He was 24. What were you doing at age 24? For me. I had graduated from college a year earlier and was only a few months into my career as a professional journalist. The Marlins, oddly enough, had defeated the Yankees in the 2003 World Series and in 2004, my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, had completed an unbelievable comeback against the New York Yankees during the American League Championship Series and then went on to win club’s first World Series in 86 years.

By the time I had turned 24 I hadn’t been married yet and was still five years away from having the first of my two children. At age 24 I was just becoming an adult. Sure, Mr. Fernandez had talent, fame and fortune that most of us could only dream of, but I’d imagine that when all of those material things are stripped away, he wasn’t that much different that most of us at that age. He was enjoying the life of a young adult, but still had many real life milestones ahead of him.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Fernandez. May there be nothing but called third strikes for your pitching career in the afterlife.

 

 

 

 

Thrift Treasures 108: The cards of my childhood are worth less, but not worthless.

Posted in Misc., Thrift Treasures with tags , , , , , , , on September 23, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

Imagine that for one year of your childhood you ripped packs open chasing the rookie card of the hottest player in the game. And then three decades later that player is inducted into the hall of fame and his rookie card can be found for less that $1.

If you are a collector of at least 35 years of age, you know this exercise well. We grew up during the great card boom. We saw packs rise from mere pennies to half a dollar, and then venture well past that. We lived the transition of packs filled with base cards to packs filled with promise and hope that it may contain some shiny treasure we came to know as the chase card.

We also know what a hot rookie card can do to a product. Insert Ken Griffey Jr.

griffeyrrGriffey is far from the first rookie to hit the market and create waves, but in my youth, there was none bigger. Yes, Mark McGwire’s rookie home run chase generated heavy interest in his 1985 Topps USA card and his various 1987 releases. And a year later the card world gravitated toward can’t-miss New York Mets prospect Gregg Jefferies and Cubs first baseman Mark Grace. Although neither became hall of fame material, both wound up with fantastic careers. Jefferies played 14 years, collected almost 1,600 hits and tallied a career batting average of almost .290.  Grace stuck around for 16 years, racked up almost 2,500 hits while maintaining a batting average above .300, and earned four Gold Glove Awards.

A year later, however, both were trumped by Ken Griffey Jr., The Kid, the phenom in the Seattle Mariners system who was the son of a Major League outfielder still bumping around the Bigs.

Griffey’s history in our hobby has been long documented. His face is emblazoned on perhaps one of the top three iconic baseball cards in history. But for those of us who could not afford to chase that 1989 Upper Deck cardboard icon, we found other ways to chase The Kid, we ripped 1989 Donruss hoping to find his Rated Rookie.

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George (Ken) Kenneth Griffey Jr. We hoped to open our wax packs — literally, they were sealed with wax — and see that full name on the yellow backs of the card. Or we hoped to see that blue, black and purple top border and then the Rated Rookie logo that graced the front of a handful of rookie cards in the 1989 Donruss set.

True, the Griffey Donruss card never even approached the popularity of the Upper Deck, but it was one of only two Griffey rookies aside from the UD card that were available in packs.  The Topps Traded and Score Rookies and Traded were available only in boxed set form.

Packs at the time for Donruss ran about 50 cents or so each; a full box of 36 packs usually retailed in shops for about $18. And the way collation worked you’d be lucky to see one Griffey in each box.  Nonetheless, for those of us working on small collecting budgets — much of my money actually came from collecting bottles and cans –Donruss was our option.  The other pack-released Griffey was in the Fleer product but the Billy Ripken “Fuck Face” obscenity card and subsequent variations drove that product’s price through the roof.

I owned a few different Rated Rookie Griffeys in my youth I pulled one or two, traded for others, and won a few in games of black jack and other silly games my friends and I would play.

In recent years I’ve found a few in bargain bins at shows for a buck or two, and I usually picked them up based on principle. Demand for the card has fallen so much — because everyone wants the Upper Deck first and the Topps Traded second — that the Donruss Griffey can routinely be found on COMC.com for under $1.

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Now fast forward to Thursday.  I took my kids to school and decided to do a little thrift shopping. During one of my stops I walked in and saw a mound of red boxes emblazoned with the words “Baseball Cards.” These boxes were very typical for the late 1980s early 1990s. I recall seeing these and green versions at various retail outlets such as K-Mart and Toys R Us. And I believe I had seen them in various catalogues and advertisements as well.

When I find these boxes in thrift stores they are usually filled with bulk lots of 1990 Donruss or Topps, or other sets that were part of the mass produced card era. If there was one key rookie card in any of those boxes they still wouldn’t be “worth” the purchase if the store wanted more than $5.

I opened the first box on the shelf and immediately I saw a lot of five 1990 Topps Sammy Sosa cards. A decade and a half ago this would’ve been a small fortune. Those cards were selling for $8-$15 each at one point. I combed through that box hoping to find a similar size stash of Frank Thomas rookies but there were none. I closed the box and kept moving.  I went through another dozen boxes or so until I came to one that housed 1989 Donruss cards.

By now it was clear that the owner was a set builder. They had built entire sets and then placed all of the other cards in numerical order in all other boxes.  If you were looking for a certain star card it’d be easy to find a half dozen or so of them in these boxes. I was hoping to find a good size lot of Griffey or Thomas rookies. And then it happened.

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I grabbed a handful of 1989 Donruss and skimmed through the Bonus Card
MVPs and the Diamond Kings before I hit the Rated Rookies. There were five Sandy Alomar rookies (card #28), four Steve Searcy (card #29), seven Cameron Drew (card #30), five Gary Sheffield (cards #31), four Erik Hanson (card #32) and … SIX of card #33, George (Ken) Kenneth Griffey Jr.  A smile came across my face and my instinct was to buy immediately for I had uncovered a jackpot.  Then I remembered the price on the bottom of the box. This Goodwill wanted $10.24 for the box.

I hesitated for a minute or two.

Did I need these Griffeys? No.

Was it a deal to buy six Griffey Donruss rookies for $10.24? Nope.

I closed the box and put it down on the shelf.

I took two steps away and stopped.  I turned back and grabbed the box.

What was I thinking? My rationale for NOT buying the box was the exact reason this hobby is so screwed up. Because we tend to worry about what cards are “worth” and don’t spend enough time enjoying the journey. Besides, the cost for this treasure I had unearthed wasn’t unreasonable.

So I placed the box under my arm and headed for the register. I paid for the item and sat in my car and pulled out the stack of Griffeys.  The sight of those six in my hands is one that made me happy. The cards were in good shape and these six Griffeys until this moment had been abandoned; their fate uncertain, which is a sad but true state of our hobby.

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Griffey is perhaps the finest player the game has seen since the days of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. All of those feelings the younger collectors get these days with Mike Trout, those are the same that came when you thought of Ken Griffey Jr. in his youth.

Truth be told, I lost money or could barely break even on this deal.  Six Griffeys could net me $5-$6 on the open market if the right buyer came along.  And even though there were three Rated Rookie cards of fellow Hall of Fame member Randy Johnson and five of Gary Sheffield, a member of the 500 Home Run Club, it would take a special buyer to hand me a crisp $10 bill for the entire lot.

But as you know this hobby isn’t just about money. It’s about the memories and feelings that come with tracking down a White Whale for your collection. It’s about the stories you have that are tied to specific cards. It’s about reliving our childhood in an instant with a glance of a player’s face on a piece of cardboard.

The sight of those Griffey’s in my hands made me happy. It made me smile. It made me remember sitting on the brick planter box in front of Brian’s Books in the Food Farm Shopping Center in Santa Clara, California, talking about nonsense with friends while thumbing through our cards.

It made me remember the aroma of the pizza being cooked and ultimately sold by the slice at the pizza parlor across the hall. It made me think of the aquarium and fish store that was next door and flooded one time, causing Brian’s Books to close for a day or two. It made me remember that in addition to baseball cards, I also enjoyed purchasing pieces of Laffy Taffy, water balloons and cap guns at the drug store just a few doors to the north.

Yes, the cards of my youth are worth less than what I paid for them. But they are not worthless. In fact, they are priceless.

Total cost of these Treasures: $10.24.

You can see more Thrift Treasures posts Here.

MLB Network host returns autograph; gives scoop on upcoming set

Posted in TTM Success with tags , , , , , , , on September 9, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

When 2016 Topps Allen & Ginter came out a few months ago one of the first cards I pulled was that of Heidi Watney, the Fresno, Calif. native who currently hosts “Quick Pitch” on MLB Network. It’s no secret that the television network is my favorite. So one of my goals was to get this card signed.

img_1991Moments after I pulled it I posted a picture of the card on Twitter and tagged Heidi, asking her if she’d sign the card.  Much to my surprise she answered the question — and it was in the affirmative.

Before I penned my letter to Heidi I managed to acquire another copy of the card so I felt it right to send one for her to keep and one that I hoped she would return inked.  And along with the cards I sent to the Network address a letter asking her about cards focusing on the Network personalities.

You see, the Network had a soft launch in late 2008 and then went full boar in January 2009. I was right there from the beginning.  My daughter was born in January 2009 and in the days before her birth and in the weeks after I spent many a night and early morning with my eyes clued to the TV network. Heck, I wrote this piece titled “Dear MLB Nework, I Love You” on Jan. 1, 2009, after I discovered that an item that I picked up at a flea market months earlier was the object being showcased in an original commercial shown during the full airing of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Check out the post if for no other reason to see some cool baseball nostalgia.

In the years after the Network’s launch I contact a few different people at the Network about a baseball card set that may or may not exist featuring some of the personalities of the early days of the network.  I still have not pined down if the set exists.

Nonetheless, when I wrote my letter to HeidI I let her know that I was a fan of the Network and wanted to know if she had any information about the rumored set. On Friday I received my return envelope with the above shown signed card and this hand-written letter on MLB Network stationary giving me a scoop:

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So, while the mystery still remains about the rumored existing set, apparently there IS one on the way. (It should be noted I haven’t confirmed this with Topps.)

Thanks to Heidi for the autograph and for the hand-written note.

The Joy of Sets

Posted in Box / Pack Break, Kid Collectors, Misc. with tags , , , , , , , on September 7, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

We did it. My son and I completed our first baseball card set.

There is something special in this hobby about a parent collector who is able to pass down the hobby to their child or children, and at times I wondered if my children would ever be into the same hobby that i have enjoyed for almost 30 years.

I mean my kids (ages 7 and 5) have always been around my stuff, and at times they’d ask about why I collect cards, but when I’d offer to buy them sports cards they often pass, or ask for some cartoon cards, comic cards or something else.  It’s cool; I get it. I’ve always been of the mindset that if my kids didn’t enjoy my hobby then I would not force it upon them. But I’ve always been willing to support whatever hobby they decided to take up.

And then just a week ago my son asked me about baseball cards. He wanted to know more. He wanted me to buy some. He wanted me to buy some for him.

insert tear drop.

img_1851Without hesitation I bought a blaster of 2016 Topps Bunt. He enjoyed it (and so did his cousin). I told him about Hank Aaron — one of the first cards he pulled — and how at one point Aaron had the most home runs in baseball. And when I said the name he remembered a conversation we had a few months ago about a signed 16×20 photo of Hammerin’ Hank that I have hanging on the wall. “That’s him!” he said pointing to the photo and then looking at the card.

So yeah, proud Dad moment for me. Anyhow, a day after we ripped into those packs, we went to a different card shop to pick up some supplies and he asked me about buying a few more packs of Topps BUNT.

For my readers who don’t know much about BUNT, it’s a price-friendly product that features a great 200-card checklist that mixes old and new players.  In my opinion it has been Topps’ greatest effort to bring in the new collectors as the set is based on the popular Topps BUNT digital trading card app.

Anyhow, I looked at my son and he was genuinely excited. At that moment I decided just to buy an entire 36-pack box as it was only about $30.  I figured it’d be something we could open together and maybe put the set together.

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It took us a few days to open all of the packs, even with the assistance of his cousin. We could have rushed through it, but I wanted to take time and look at each card and read the player name and the team, in a way I was hoping that I was laying the ground work for future endeavors and the foundation of baseball knowledge. So when he started to get tired of opening or reading, we stopped for the day and later picked it up.

After a few days we finished going through the box. We separated all of the base cards from the inserts and then separated the code cards — which can be used to unlock packs of digital cards in the phone app.

The next step was to see if we had a complete set. I grabbed a stack of 9-pocket Ultra Pro binder pages and used a black marker to number each of the pockets. I figured this would be a simple way for my son (and his cousin who helped us at times) to see where the cards go. In a round about way this was another school lesson for them as they are in kindergarten and still learning some of their numbers.

img_1745And so we spent maybe a total of three hours over two days taking turns reading the card number and then finding its location in the binder. And by the end we had a complete 200-card set with 22 cards left over.

I’m sure some of you — if you’re still reading — are wondering what the entire set is worth. Honestly, not much in terms of actual money. I mean while there are some big names in here and some decent rookie cards, the set could probably be bought in its entirety on eBay for about $20. And yes, it’s easier to just buy an entire set, but what’s the real fun in that?

While not worth much money, this product just got my kid into the hobby, gave him a task to complete — which didn’t involve pixelated pick axes (yes, I’m speaking of Minecraft) — taught him some organizational skills;  involved reading words, names, logos and numbers; involved hand-eye coordination as we placed the cards into binder pages, AND was definitely quality father-son time.

Never again will I call a low-priced baseball card set worthless as it can be priceless for others.

Thanks, Topps.

 

David Ortiz’s last trip through Oakland a must see; ends with purchase of historic item

Posted in Baseball Games, Game-Used Items with tags , , , , , , on September 6, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

bag1I am a Red Sox fan. I have been one for nearly three decades. My fandom started with admiring Roger Clemens (as a player), continued with the dominance of Pedro Martinez and youthful impact of Nomar Garciaparra, and was taken to another level when Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz combined to become an offensive powerhouse that would eventually lead to the franchise’s first championship in 86 years.

I watched Ramirez and Ortiz dominate in person for years when the Red Sox would travel to the west coast and play against the Oakland A’s. Some of my fondest baseball memories are watching those two characters do their thing against the Athletics. I was there when Manny hit a towering shot to left field and stood at the plate with his hands in the air as the ball approached the seats, only it never got there and Manny was met with a rousing round of heckling boos. I also recall sitting behind the third base dugout and watching Ortiz from a profile drill a pair of homers over the wall in right-center, two of several I’d seen Ortiz hit in Oakland, and then slowly trot around the bases in only the way Big Papi does.

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David Ortiz warms up before an at-bat on Sept. 9, 2016.                         Photo: Ben Aguirre Jr./Cardboard Icons

And when it comes to specifically Ortiz, who says he is retiring at the end of the season, I have been able to see him play in five different stadiums. Not only in Oakland, but I saw  him in San Francisco at AT&T Park a few years ago; in Seattle on back to back nights at Safeco Field  in 2003, in New York at the new Yankee Stadium in May 2010 and two days later in Boston at Fenway Park. Ortiz’s presence on the field has brought a smile to my face on numerous occasions so I felt obligated to see him one last time during the Red Sox most recent trip through Oakland.

 

Because of my work schedule I was only able to make it to one game, Sept. 3, and I decided to go to the game alone. I usually get decent tickets for the games I attend but on this occasion since I was going alone and I decided to look for the best seat possible. And as luck would have it, the best seat available for me was behind the plate. Hey, it was a special occasion for me and my premium ticket was still less than I had paid for tickets to a few Giants games. (side note: By comparison, tickets to games in Oakland are sometimes almost half the price as one in San Francisco – the trade-off of having a losing team and a dilapidated venue.)

And so I worked all day and then took the train to the stadium. My intention was to enjoy the game, take some pictures and ultimately buy a game-used ball at the stadium, one of the newer traditions I’ve started to do.

THE GAME

I arrived just before the game started, so I was able to soak in the National Anthem, watch the ceremonial first pitch thrown by Oakland A’s legend Jose Canseco, who was one of the guys I really enjoyed watching as a kid. Remember, I grew up in the Bay Area – true, I was a Red Sox fan, but the A’s were still the best game in town for my taste. I still remember rushing home on Wednesdays after school and turning on 560 AM KSFO and listening to announcer Bill King read off the lineups and call homeruns from Canseco and Mark McGwire during those getaway days early afternoon games. I digress.

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David Ortiz rips a double to left center during the first inning.                Photo:Ben Aguirre Jr. / Cardboard Icons

Everything about this night felt special to a baseball fan. And the way the game started just continued that notion. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia led off with a single, and two batters later Ortiz came to the plate with much fanfare and then ripped a double into left-center. And then a batter later MVP candidate outfielder Mookie Betts stepped to the plate and doubled to left-center which drove home Pedroia and Ortiz, giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead before their starting pitcher Rick Porcello even took the mound.

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Red Sox rookie third baseman Yoan Moncada at the plate just before his first Major League hit.                                                                                           Photo: Ben Aguirre Jr. / Cardboard Icons

 

The score remained 2-0 into the third inning where A’s pitcher Daniel Mengden — he of the atrocious ERA but legendary handlebar mustache and knee-high striped socks — faced Ortiz and Betts again and got them both to ground out, making way for what seemingly was going to be a smooth inning for he and the A’s.  But as you know by now, things didn’t go so well for Oakland. First baseman Hanley Ramirez drilled a solo homerun to left-center, and then catcher Sandy Leon doubled and outfielder Chris Yound walked.  Super-rookie Yoan Moncada, the Cuban third baseman who had made his MLB debut the night before, then came up and notched his first major league hit, a double down the left field line. As is tradition, the ball hit during the play was taken out of play and put away as a souvenir for Moncada. I would not be surprised if MLB immediately stuck one of their authentication stickers on the ball, something the league has been doing for more than half a decade now, to ensure the authenticity of game-used items.

 

The Red Sox wound up batting around in the third inning, which included another Pedroia single and a second Ortiz double, this time just inches away from being a homerun to center field. In all, the Red Sox added another seven runs in the inning to make it 9-0 before the final three hitters of Oakland’s lineup even had a chance to step the plate for the first time. In fact, Boston’s Porcello held a perfect game through the first 16 hitters (5 1/3 innings) until Oakland outfielder Jake Smolinski doubled to left field to end the run at history.

By the time the fifth inning had rolled around, I had gotten my fill of taking pictures of Ortiz so I decided to video record his fourth at-bat of the night, which resulted in a broken-bat single up the middle. It wound up being his final at-bat of the game as he was relieved for a pinch hitter when his turn came up in the eighth inning.

I have a basic philosophy when I go to games by myself: Once I sit down for the beginning of the game, I will not leave my seat or row until the game is over unless certain circumstances merit my leaving. So by the time the bottom of the ninth inning rolled around the Red Sox had a 11-2 lead and I decided that if I was going to purchase a game-used baseball from this game then I should go and get it before others decide to do the same.

GAME-USED

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Based used on 9/2/16; photo by friend J.R.

Behind section 120 at the Oakland Coliseum (or whatever corporate name they have on the place at the time you actually read this) there is a stand where they sell game-used items – jerseys, bats, balls, etc. On this night I inquired about balls and they didn’t have any. The lady told me they didn’t receive the usual stash because Porcello had a perfect game going and when significant events like that are unfolding all items from that game are held back. If Porcello had completed the perfect game odds are all game-used items from the game which typically would have been offered for sale by the A’s likely would have wound up in the hands of Major League Baseball, which then would have sold the items at a premium via their auctions. I digress.

With no balls from this game available – by the way I was quoted $40 for a random ball, which isn’t bad but I prefer the ones in San Francisco that are priced based on what play the ball was involved in – I asked if there was anything from the current game that was for sale. The clerk then directs me t the show case where there are two bases sitting there, one from the present game (9/3/16) and one from the previous night’s game (9/2/16.)

I looked at the two bases and they were priced significantly different. Both were much more than I intended to spend but base was priced more than three times as much as the other.

For those unaware, bases are used for three innings at a time and then switched out. So a base is used for innings 1 through 3 and then removed from play and then replaced with one used for innings 4 through 6, and then finally with another for innings 7 through 9. And there are three bases that are switched out. So in all there are nine used bases per game, three for each location on the diamond. And in case you’re wondering, home plate does not get removed.

The base from the 9/2/16 game was listed as being the base used at first base for innings 4 through 6. And along with the base was a card that read six plays in which the base was used, including two Ortiz at-bats. Regardless of the plays shown, I didn’t want that base – it wasn’t from the game I had just watch. So I focused on the other, cheaper one.

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This sticker indicates that this base was used as first base for innings 1 through 3 during the Sept. 3, 2016 game against the Boston Red Sox.                                      Photo: Ben Aguirre Jr. / Cardboard Icons

This base, which was from the game I watched, didn’t have a list of plays.  It only had a price tag and small details that read (1B, 1-3, 9/3/16). This means it is first base used for innings 1 through 3 on 9/3/16.

 

I looked at the base and thought about the game I’d just seen. I knew that I had seen David Ortiz double twice, Dustin Pedroia single twice, Hanley Ramirez smash a home run AND that rookie Yoan Moncada notched his first major league hit – all before the end of the end of the third inning.  And if this were the base actually used as described then this is the one that all of these players – and others – stepped on during the moist active part of the game.

I looked at the price tag and asked the clerk to physically hand the base to me to I could inspect it.  When she handed it to me I inspected the price tag for a hidden zero as surely this base was not just more important to me, but more historically significant than the other that was priced much higher. I looked and looked and looked.  There was no hidden zero. I knew at that moment that the item I was holding was going home with me.

So I reached for my wallet and refused to hand the base back to the clerk before the transaction was completed. I feared that at any moment some manager would come over and realize that they hadn’t appropriately priced this item. Heck, it was probably an item that shouldn’t have even been made available to the public in my mind. Moncada is the top prospect in baseball — which is a big deal — and to have an item that was used when he collected his first hit is something that shouldn’t have happened. As noted earlier, this item probably should have ended up with Major League Baseball, or at the very least be priced much higher than any other items used in recent games.

All my anguish was for not.  The transaction went smoothly until I asked for something to wrap the base in and they had nothing for me. At that point I knew my trek home would be an interesting one.

I’M HEADED HOME

As mentioned earlier I took public transportation to the game and carrying the dirty cumbersome base – which is still mounted to its metal post and weighs close to 10 pounds – was going to present a challenge. I weaved my way through the concourse traffic and headed for the ramp to the BART train and avoided any and all contact with anyone. During the 10-minute speed walk from stand to the train platform I had heard several people mumbling stuff about my new treasure but I managed to duck all inquiries. That is until I got to the platform.  I found a decent place to stand so as to keep the base mostly covered but two guys saw me before I found my spot. One of the men asked me how I got the base, and then asked how much it cost me.  I responded with a lie out of fear that I was going to get robbed – remember, I was in Oakland and I was carrying not only this base, but also my DSLR camera. People have been robbed of lesser valued things.

Moments later a gentleman in his 80s and his adult daughter inquired about the base. This time they wanted to touch it – they had never seen or touched a real base before. I allowed them to do so, but tried to keep the actions fairly concealed because I didn’t want to start this trend.

Luckily for me my train arrived just minutes later and I found a seat by myself and was able keep the base out of view from more onlookers. And aside from a 10-minute delay in the middle of the tracks for some relatively minor repair, the trip back to the station where I parked my car was pretty uneventful.

A short while later I had arrived at home and the reaction when I walked through the door was priceless “What the (expletive)? Is that a base from tonight’s game?”

Yes. Yes it is.

THE BASE

Bases have come a long way since the game started. In the early 19o0s the bases resembled square sacks filled with what looked like flour or other soft material. Now they are rubber molded over a meal frame. And for almost a decade now they have been putting special badges on the side of the bases to signify what series or game the base was being used – likely just a marketing plot to help in the sale of such equipment.

Sometimes when bases are offered for sale they have already been cleaned off completely, or sometimes only partially cleaned off, and for the most part the bases are removed from the post which helps affix the base to a peg that is buried on the field of play to keep the base in place.

But the base I purchased was literally fresh off to field – mud still smeared in places on the bottom and on the peg, and lots of dirt and cleat marks still on top.

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SIGNIFICANCE

As noted earlier, this base isn’t just like all the others used on the field during this game on Sept. 3, 2016. There is probably only one 0ther base from this game that has more significance – second base used during the first three innings. That base would be more significant because both of Ortiz’s hits were doubles and Yoan Moncada’s first MLB hit was in fact a double. However, that base was not available for sale when I visited the stand and I do not know if it was even made available to the public.

What I do know is that the base used at first base for those first three innings was available and now it is in my collection. And by my account, this base was involved in the following plays:

*Yoan Moncada’s first Major League hit.

*David Ortiz career hits 2,445 and 2,446 (which were also his 627th and 628th career doubles)

*Dustin Pedroia’s career hits 1,651 and 1,652; also his 566th career walk

*Hanley Ramirez’s 230th career homerun

*Mookie Betts 410th career hit

Xander Gogaerts’ 503rd career hit

*Jackie Bradley Jr’s 278th and 279th career hit

*Sandy Leon’s 104th career hit

*Also of note, no Athletics safely reached first base at the time this base was on the field; a perfect game was in effect into the sixth inning.

VALUE

The value of such items are volatile as they are rare and are really only worth what a person is willing to pay for them. And demand for bases is not what it would be for used balls, bats or other pieces of equipment. That said, the value to me is priceless because of the fact that it is from a game I attended and involved a Red Sox legend. However, the long-term value could be significantly higher if Moncada turns out to be a legitimate star. At this point he is still considered a highly touted rookie/prospect who has yet to prove his worth at the major league level. And in most cases top prospects rarely turn into the stars to which they are compared. But for collectors the market for items used in events deemed significant to a star player’s career can fetch lots of money.

NOW WHAT

So what does one do with a full base. Well, display it of course. But therein lays an issue that collectors always face: how does one display their items, specifically a base? I’ve seen people mount them on walls, but that’s with bases that are no longer attached to a metal post. At this point I’ll have to put it on a book shelf, but long term I am thinking of getting a vertical display case to not only show off this item, but also other stuff such including a pair of authenticated game-used baseballs thrown by Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner during his one-hitter on July 10, 2016, against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Reach me via e-mail at cardboardicons@yahoo.com; on Twitter at @cardboardicons, and LIKE the new Cardboard Icons FACEBOOK page

Target run reminds me WHY I collect

Posted in Box / Pack Break, Misc. with tags , , , , , , on September 2, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

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I made a brief Target run late last night to grab some necessities and made the obligatory stop in the card aisle. There wasn’t anything “new” to buy, but there was a Fairfield repack 20-pack box that intrigued me. There were a handful of 2014 Prizm Draft Picks packs inside, some 2015 Topps Series 2 packs (Think Kris Bryant rookies) and what was clearly two 1991 Stadium Club packs, along with other stuff.

I’ve opened my fair share of 1991 Stadium Club, but I was still feeling nostalgic about cards at the time. You see this week I think I finally got my son into the hobby; earlier in the day we went to the card shop and he had a blast. (*Side note: A big thank you to Kevin at Stevens Creek Sports Cards for the stack of free commons you gave to my son. He loved them.) I digress.

The Prizm packs, the jumbo 2015 Heritage and Topps Series 2 packs seemed to make the box worth the price, but the two 25-year-old packs really set the hook in me.

For the uninitiated, 1991 Stadium Club was quite possibly one of the finest card sets released in it’s time. Sure, we remember 1989 Upper Deck for the premium Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.  And we recall 1990 Leaf for having another iconic rookie card in Frank Thomas, as well as dozens of other rookie cards of stars from the time. But 1991 Stadium Club was THE premium baseball card. Every card featured full-bleed photographs, gold foil and high gloss that got you high (read:not really, but if you opened this stuff as a kid, the scent is one you’ll never forget. Packs were several dollars each upon release and star cards — not rookies — were in high demand. Griffey and Thomas were each well over $20 for a while.

My guy at the time was Roger Clemens, the flame-throwing perennial Cy Young award candidate. I couldn’t afford these packs when I was a kid, but I distinctly asking my dad for $5 and then riding three miles on my bike to the local card shop to buy one card — the Roger Clemens 1991 Stadium Club that had been sitting in the show case of Brian’s Books  in Santa Clara, Calif.

Flash forward to last night.  I worked late and then made said Target run.  When I got home I took the above photo, opened all of the packs save for two — the 1991 Stadium Club. Whatever lurked inside these packs was surely worth nothing more than a few pennies. But the nostalgia is everything and that can be priceless. I tore opened the first pack, flipped card by card and then it happened — the second last card:

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There is Clemens is all his glory. That pose. That glove. That spring training uniform. Just like I remember it. True, I could probably get a brick of 500 of this exact card for like $10 because no one cares about him or this card anymore, but none of those would be as valuable as just this one card, for at last I had pulled something I could only dream of as a kid.

Someone asked me recently: WHY do you collect baseball cards?

This is why.

It’s not really about the money. It’s not really an investment because cards rarely appreciate with time under normal circumstances.

It’s about the memories. It’s about how in an instant single worthless card can transport you back a quarter of a century to the moment when you asked a parent for money and trekked clear across town to buy a card of your childhood sports hero.

I have other reasons for collecting what I do. And sometimes I can’t fully explain it. But THIS is probably the strongest reason why.

Topps BUNT blaster stocked with Trout; creates fun break for kids

Posted in Box / Pack Break, Misc. with tags , , , , , , on August 30, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

My kids know the drill.  When we need something, anything, for the house we’re making a Target run. And the first thing we do there is make a b-line for the baseball card aisle.

IMG_1490Tuesday was no different as my son and I went to gather some items for he and his sister’s school lunches. And when we got to the card aisle, my 5-year-old son pointed to a blaster of Topps BUNT and said,”Look, Daddy!”  He remembered the packaging from a few packs of the product that we bought last week at our local card shop.  In all honesty I wasn’t planning to buy the blaster, but I’m not going to say no if my son is showing an interest in my hobby.

So he picked the blaster as we carried one with our shopping.  When we got home, he and I started opening packs, and then my nephew of the same age came over so I let him wrestle his way into a few packs. No, seriously, look at that effort! (I got his parent’s permission to turn it into a meme.)

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It was fun watching the boys work their way into these wrappers. I’ve opened thousands of baseball cards packs in my near three decades in this hobby. I miss the old wax packs as they really weren’t a problem at all. I even remember the Sportflics brand that had wrappers similar to those used on Pop Tarts — the noise those wrappers made was weird. Upper Deck’s foil wrappers were always a treat because in their early days, the product was considered premium. The worst by far was Score — it was like someone took a plastic shopping bag and just heat-sealed a stack of 15 cards inside. I digress.

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The kids seemed to get a kick out of opening the packs. My son has a little experience with this but it still learning. But he figured it’d be best to put his knowledge to use and he tried to teach his cousin: Pinch at the top with your left hand, used your right thumb and index finger to pinch the flap and pull.

Now once the wrapper was started, the process got a little more tricky. The kids seem to think it’s cool to open the wrapper like 20 percent of the way and yank the cards out of the packs.  A few corners did not survive, but I looked to change that behavior real quick. And but the time we got through the 11 packs (remember, it’s 10 packs plus ONE bonus pack for $9.99) the boys had it down pretty good.

We went card by card; naming the player and the team. We also kept tabs of “special” (insert) cards and the code cards, which I explained were for the app on my phone. And when they hit a big name, I explained who they were/are and what that have accomplished.

My nephew managed to pull a Ken Griffey jr., a Roberto Clemente and Kyle Schwarber insert in his packs — as well as a Babe Ruth that somehow got stuck to another card and I didn;t see until I sorted the cards later. And my son reeled in a pair of keeper-size Mike Trouts, the base and a sweet “Unique Unis” insert as well.  He also nabbed a Corey Seager rookie, which was cool to see.

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I’ll be honest: I love this brand. I bought a blaster for myself about two weeks ago and knew that it was a perfect set to share the collecting experience with my kids. It’s cheap, has a loaded checklist of current and legendary players, and offers a super long shot at ink, which is appealing in that when/if you hit one it’ll be akin to finding a Elite Series insert in those early 1990s packs. I see many more packs and/or blasters of this and more in their futures.