Upper Deck captured the fun of the ballpark in 1992

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2021 by Cardboard Icons

A few weeks ago my son and I opened a pair of 1992 Upper Deck baseball boxes in search of one of the legendary Ted Williams certified autographs. While we did not pull any of the signed cards, we did complete a full Baseball Heroes insert set (sans the short printed Header card) of the Splended Splinter.

Over the last two weeks, the boxes of base cards had been sitting around and earlier today I decided to take another look at them before putting them into another box I’ll likely donate. While checking the contents, I started to noticed that 1992 Upper Deck captured something other brands from the era seemed to routinely gloss over. Upper Deck captured various fun moments at the ball park, specifically the interaction with fans and players signing autographs.

This is not to say that other sets didn’t even capture this. But Upper Deck’s design allowed for two photos to be used per player, the dominant image on the front, and the one on the back. And while looking at the fronts and backs, enjoying various images I came across 18 different cards from the boxes that showed this pre-game interaction between fan and players, and I couldn’t help but wonder if this type of thing would ever be common place again given the way COVID-19 has changed the world.

What’s sort of fun in these images is to see which players were captured signing, what items were being offered and in one case it looked like someone was trying to give a $1 bill for a signature.

We start with a pair of Hall of Famers in Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.

Ripken was still about three of so years away from breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak, but he was an established star and on the front of his card he is shown signing a large poster that’s been rolled up and brought to the ball park.

The front of Tony Gwynn’s card is a action game image, but the back is where we see Gwynn signing for fans, several of whom appear to be offering an Upper Deck promotional piece.

One could argue that Dale Murphy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame however he still remains on the outside looking in. But if there was an autograph HOF, Murphy would be a first-ballot member as his flowing, loopy signature is a favorite among fans. Here we see Murphy signing autos with his left and — which is opposite of his throwing hand — and there is no shortage of demand. My favorite person here? The person in the center in the Hard Rock Cafe shirt, totally geeking out as he looks to be placing his signed card back inside his binder page.

At the start of 1992, Darryl Strawberry was still a major star in the game, coming off a 28-homer performance in his first season as a Dodger. On the rear of his card, he’s shown signing a few autographs down the right field line. It’s worth noting that Darryl appears to be signing baseballs with a black marker, which is not really the preferred method. But would you complain? Not I.

The following 14 cards showcase MLBers who weren’t exactly of the same caliber of those mentioned above, but it’s worth noting that fans are fans, they’ll seek a signature from whomever is in uniform offering to ink their collectibles. The first seven will be cards with signing occurring on the front, while the second set will show the interaction on the backs.

Here’s Brewers pitcher Chris Bosio signing what appears to be a baseball.

Former prospect Ben McDonald is shown on his card conducting an interview while signing a baseball in blue marker. What’s comical here is the fan shouting in the background and the Diet Pepsi logo in the foreground as it was on the side of what looks to be a promotion Orioles baseball cap.

Phillies pitcher Mike Hartley is shown here signing the underside of a Phillies cap with some sort of marker.

Mets pitcher Anthony Young appears to be signing some sort of flat — probably a card — as it rests on the wall along the first base side of the field.

Angels reliever Mark Eichhorn appears to be enjoying himself as he signs for several members of the US Military. I wonder if those guys ever learned they were featured on a baseball card.

Braves reliever Marvin Freeman took his signing session to the next level and sat on the dugout pregame signing for fans using the ever popular blue ballpoint pen to make memories.

White Sox pitcher Melido Perez is shown signing autographs, specifically what looks to be a game-day lineup sheet from a Program. What caught my eye here is the fan in the background holding a $1 bill. It’s not clear if the fan is offering to pay him for a signature or if they wanted him to sign the money.

Blue Jays star pitcher Dave Stieb looks to me making friends as he sits on the tarp at what I believe is Angels Stadium.

Brewers closer Doug Henry is shown on his card preparing to sign a glove with a collectible team ballpoint pen.

Cubs catcher Rick Wilkins is pictured using a purple Sharpie to sign a program. It’s worth noting that the autograph probably turned out upside down.

Phillies shortstop Kim Batiste was captured signing autographs at Spring Training.

Cubs starter Frank Castillo is shown signing before a game at Dodger Stadium. A couple fun things of note: Castillo is going to sign a baseball with what looks like a scented (blueberry?!) blue marker and someone is holding a poster featuring Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan, possibly offering for that to be signed by Castillo.

Orioles relief pitcher Todd Frowirth was captured pausing between signatures at the old Memorial Stadium … and there are those pesky Diet Pepsi logos again.

And lastly t here is veteran outfielder Mike Deveraux returning a hat after signing it. And given by the looks of things, it is probably one of those promotional Diet Pepsi/Orioles hats. Fitting.

I don’t own every card of this set, but that seems to be a lot of fan interaction for the 72 packs that my son and I opened. It’s an 800-card set so there’s probably more that I’ve missed.

Have one from this set that I missed? Leave it in the comments, or share it over on Twitter.

“Hey, I brought the binder…”

Posted in Memory Lane with tags , on December 18, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

About three months ago a co-worker asked if I could evaluate some cards he had since childhood. It’s COVID Time so we did what everyone else does: He shared pictures of what he had.

Only the binder pages were visible, and for the most part the binder had some basketball cards from mid 1990s, but no Jordans and none of the snazzy inserts. I broke the news to him that they weren’t worth but maybe $5-$10. He said I could have them if I wanted. I accepted the verbal invitation, adding I’d give them to my son.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. No cards were brought to work. I’m not the guy who is going to hound anyone for a freebie. Really it was no big deal; it didn’t change my opinion of him at all.

Then today he sees me in the parking lot.

“Hey, I brought the binder!” He says.

We walk to his car and from the back seat he presents me with this classic Topps binder; original crusty Topps branded pages and all.

I geeked out.

“Oh damn, you didn’t tell me it was THAT binder.” I said, overly joyed to be giving this a new home.

The content of the binder hadn’t changed – there was no baseball within. And there were some basketball Hal of fame players so it’s a perfect addition for my son.

But the binder? That is a treasure. It needs to be cleaned up a bit and is usable, but at this point its days are best suited as a display piece. I mean look at all those glorious cards in the cover.

Funny note I added one of these to my collection five years ago after finding it in thrift store for $19.99. (see Thrift Treasures 93).

Thanks, Greg for the awesomeness. It will present will among my collections

The dilemma of gift giving as a collector parent with a child hobbyist

Posted in Collecting With Kids with tags , , , , on December 12, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

I always dreamed of having at least one child who followed me into this hobby, and thankfully that has come true.

Having a 10-year-old boy who understands this hobby as best as he can for his age is pretty awesome. It’s gives me someone with whom I can sit and crack a blaster with, talk about the ups and downs of the hobby, and truthfully, gives me a new appreciation for the collecting experience.

There is one side effect though: It’s the gray area that exists when making a decision to give cards as a gift.

For the last year and a half I have noticed myself buying cool potential PC pieces and some sealed blasters under the premise that they are for him to be given as a gift, only when the time comes to give it, I’ve found I’ve bought too much and complicated the situation.

It’s sort of began in the summer of 2019 when I started picking up certified autographs of Oakland A’s players for my son. He’s a fan of the green and gold and I had this vision of getting autos of the top 5-10 stars and giving them to him for either his birthday or for Christmas, which are about seven weeks apart.

Well, those A’s autographs are STILL sitting in a box because I keep finding other things to buy for him, namely blasters of products I know he likes — last year it was holiday versions of a Topps baseball and Hoops basketball, and this year it’s a Mega Box of Prizm Draft Picks basketball and a blaster of Topps Gallery baseball.

But here’s the thing. It doesn’t stop there. In the last month I also acquired the original artwork used for the 2020 Topps Gallery Matt Chapman card, a fantastic collectible in my opinion. Chapman is my son’s favorite player.

I bought this the same day that I purchased my Clayton Kershaw from 2019; the idea was this Chapman would be his Christmas gift for 2020.

But here we are two weeks before the big holiday and the Chappy is sitting in a drawer — and the A’s autographs are still in the aforementioned box — because I purchased the 2020 products for him.

All of this made me start thinking about this habit I’ve got: Did I really buy them for him, or did I acquire them for me only under the guise that they were for him?

I can honestly say that my intent was and still is to give the Chapman and the A’s autographs to him but I also realize I complicated things by purchasing the sealed product for him.

I’ve still got a week and a half to change my mind and still give him the A’s items as his gift. But part of me knows that much of his hobby enjoyment in this time also includes opening packs, and the blaster and mega box might give him more joy.

Do any other parent collectors deal with dilemmas like this?

Cautionary tale of jumping back into the hobby – a quick “L” for a returning hobbyist

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , on December 11, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

I was sitting in my car the other day when I received a text message from a relative who wanted to put me in touch with someone who needed some direction in this hobby.

I’m always down to help of course so I offered my assistance. And within seconds I was linked up to a 30-something who like many others collected during their youth and for one reason or another left the hobby but now find themselves coming back.

He’s into football and basketball and loves Panini products, which of course is no surprise given products for those two sports are produced by that company.

During the course of our conversation this person told me he was interested in more information about the current state of the hobby, and told me just a night prior he had already made his first purchase.

“I’m into the autographed stuff,” he said as he sent me a picture of his buy – two boxes of Panini “One on One” basketball from his LCS. The allure of a big-ticket auto of course came with a whopping price tag of $1,700 for the pair.

I cringed. I had a feeling it didn’t go well. What did he get for his money? Four cards highlighted by a Jarrett Culver rookie patch auto and a signed Mike Conley relic card.

What a brutal break. I joked that his return was about $17 in cards, which of course isn’t completely accurate but it’s not too far from.

I told him I wouldn’t blame him if he just walked away from the hobby after that kick to the groin, but alas here we were talking about the hobby and he was as interested as ever.

I schooled him up on some basics and got permission to share this story as it seemed like a good cautionary tale for new comers or folks returning to the hobby. It’s a lesson that spending big money will not always get you a big return, or even cards that you’re pleased with.

Not everything is going to yield a card worthy of TMZ reporting. Please seek information before spending money, especially if it’s going to be a significant purchase like those two boxes. Yes, the market on those specifically is hot, but the contents as you can see can be frigid.

Here are five quick tips for people returning to the hobby:

-Identify WHY you’re coming into this hobby. Do you like cards, the gambling aspect, or just want to revisit some old feelings? None of these are wrong. Just identify your purpose and then figure out how to chase success.

-Compare prices online versus your Local Card Shop (LCS) to make sure you’re at least in the right ball park if you decide to buy something today. Cost at the LCS will almost always be more since there is overhead and of course the convenience factor, among other things.

-Seek information: Who is actually in the product? Wondering why there are no Michael Jordan cards in Panini? A quick internet search will tell you about his Upper Deck exclusive.

-Pace yourself. This hobby can be exciting, but it also has addictive qualities, especially if you’re info opening packs and boxes. There’s a constant chase of the euphoria felt when opening a package of promise. Once you get a taste of it there’s often an urge to again meet or exceed the feeling. This feeling probably will never go away.

-Find a trustworthy ally who can help when you have questions, and preferably someone who is not trying to make money off your decisions. Card shop employees can be great sources of information, but remember their job is to sell product in the store and I’m sure some of them work on commission so realize there could be an ulterior motive.

Sour card experience by day; hobby redemption by night – the story of my Wednesday.

Posted in Misc. with tags , , , on December 10, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

A 40 year old man walks into a Target on Wednesday morning after running an errand. As a card collector it’s almost a habit to stop at whatever store nearby sells cards.

And so he does what he does: He sets the vehicle in park, dons a mask due to COVID-19 protocol and heads into the store hoping there will be something to buy.

He’s a baseball collector and dabbles a bit in basketball these days, but this time it’s mid December and neither of those sports are in season. The cards at the front of folks mind these days are those of football, a sport the man abandoned as a true collector almost a decade and a half prior. But here he is, two weeks before Christmas, walking into a Target, grabbing a hand basket and heading to the card aisle.

The collector sees two heads already over there, which of course piques his curiosity. It was only a year or two earlier when the only heads seen in that area were those of kids or others of his kind. Now the collector contends with young adults half his age, more wise to technology, mostly there seeing an opportunity to profit. The collector had stopped at Target out of habit because that is what he knows. As it turns out the two heads he spotted from a distance are really three, and all of them were here because they heard in a Facebook group that new cards were being stocked today at this Target and there was an opportunity to double or triple their money.

The collector walks up with a basket in hand, and from the left the card vendor shows up with a half dozen boxes of promise, or so it seems anyway.

As the vendor eyes the shelf to make room for the newest product, one of the three heads who’d been waiting wheels his shopping cart out of hiding — it is already full of new product that draws the ire of the vendor and his other two Facebook partners.

“Did you get those from here?” The perplexed vendor asks, motioning to the seemingly sealed boxes of product he had been sent there to stock.

The man with the shopping cart plays dumb, saying a female employee had placed the cards out earlier and he grabbed them all. But all standing there already knew the fix was in; the man with the shopping cart had an insider with whom he’d been working. The game was unwinnable for all others who were there to play.

There were a dozen of one box, two dozen of another, and yet another row of unknown product beneath that. The man with the shopping cart had already won the lottery and he stuck around to press his luck a bit more.

The collector was at a crossroads. Does he stick around to see if he can get some of the leftovers — assuming the other two heads even agree to share — or does he walk away in frustration, resigned to the fact that the old ways of his hobby are antiquated to a degree?

After a brief moment of internal struggle the collector decides to bow out knowing it is not in his nature to argue in public over the ability to purchase baseball cards. After all, what exactly was he there for anyway? Certainly it was not the heartache and frustration this seemingly spontaneous trip was beginning to cause.

***

The story above was my experience on Wednesday and I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that this situation really put me into a funk for a good portion of the day. Sure, part of it was the actual happening, but majority of the depressive thoughts were due in part to the fact that the sharpened hooks of FOMO and hobby addiction had again become sunken deep into my cheek and the barb wasn’t allowing for a simple catch and release.

Realizing this, I had to step away from Twitter for much of the remainder of the day. And instead of sharing here, I’d honestly still be wrestling with this internally if it weren’t for something I saw later that night.

For one reason or another I realized that Greg of NightOwlCards was going to be on the About The Cards podcast. I’d been following Greg since 2008 when I found his work in the infancy of this blog and remarkably this east coast native made time to be on the only podcast I consume regularly, one that doesn’t start until 11 pm on his side of the country. I listened to Greg talk for about 45 minutes and he reminded me of times gone by and really about how much I used to enjoy writing here about my experiences in the hobby.

I realize that my experience in this hobby is very specific to my situation; hell, much of this is true for all of us save for the the cards themselves, those are the ties that bind us.

That said, Greg’s appearance on the podcast really hit home for me in a time when I sort of needed something to bring me back to center; that is why I chose to share the entirety of my Wednesday experience and thoughts here instead of in a format built for stream of consciousness sharing. Maybe I need to revisit this writing thing and not just condense all of my thoughts into snippets every time something pops up – after all, writing IS part of my hobby experience which I realize I’ve been neglecting.