Archive for Ichiro

Hectic Days

Posted in Misc. with tags , , , , , on March 30, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

It’s been a whirlwind of a week at Cardboard Icons headquarters. I fretted a good amount about the weather for Opening Day but the rain stay away and we took in a good game in Oakland.

Then lastnight I was lucky enough to see Hamilton the musical in San Francisco. And in a few hours I’ll be off to meet for the first time my girlfriend’s father, who is in town.

And tomorrow starts about six to eight weeks of special training at work, so posts may be a tad more infrequent.

But I’ll part today by showcasing this 2001 Bowman Chrome Ichiro Rookie Card that I picked up a few years back and could not find when I wrote my Ode to Ichiro last week. It’s in my stack that’s been sorta prepped for a BGS shipment. I’m really not sure when I will be sending to BGS — it’s been like 18-24 months since my last submission — but I plan to make a new one at some point.

This card has been reprinted by Topps and even made into a jumbo version that showcased the future Hall of Farmer’s signature. But the original from 2001 was a bear to track down, even though it is neither signed nor serial numbered.

Ichiro’s MLB career spans my adult life as a person and a collector to this point

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , on March 22, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

April 2001. There is a buzz around Seattle Mariners Spring Training camp about the new player, a baseball veteran who had played in his native Japan for eight years before inking a deal with the MLB club. His name was Ichiro.

The name was like none that many of us followers of baseball in the United States had heard. We were intrigued how this player’s skills would translate. About a half decade earlier, pitcher Hideo Nomo had made the transition to Major League Baseball and he did so with plenty of fanfare and success. And a few years later, another Japanese pitcher, Hideki Irabu, signed on with the New York Yankees and didn’t exactly enjoy loads of success. So there was some excitement with Ichiro — especially since he was an everyday player — but there was some trepidation as there wasn’t anything to which he could really be compared.

Of course as history has shown us, Ichiro was better than any of us could have imagined. In MLB he was a premier batsmen, a speed demon on the base paths, and on defense he possessed everything an outfielder could want, including closing speed and a rocket launcher for an arm.

When he came into the league, I was in my third year in college, about to turn 21. I had a lot going in my life. I had just decided that Journalism was the thing for me and I was spending more time at school working as an editor for the college daily paper. My days were long, which left very little time for cards. But that’s not to say that I wasn’t still buying. And if memory serves me right, one of the first Ichiro cards I was able to obtain was the 2001 Upper Deck.

Unless you collected in 2001, there is very little that can compare to the spark that Ichiro and Albert Pujols brought to our hobby during their fantastic rookie season. In fact, I’d say that level of excitement probably wasn’t broached until Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper hit Bowman products in 2010, and maybe again in 2018 with the triumvirate of Ronald Acuna, Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani hit the scene. But still, in its time, 2001 was a special year.

I digress. I remember that first season for so many reasons. That summer I had my first internship, at the Oakland Tribune in Oakland, Calif., and at a convenience store across the street they had a single box of 2001 Upper Deck Vintage. The set design was a play on the 1963 Topps set, but in the set was a multi-player rookie card of Ichiro. As odd as the floating head design of that rookie card was, I still bought pack after pack during my lunch breaks that summer. In fact, I am pretty sure I ended up buying the entire box. Sadly, I did not pull an Ichiro.

This was also the case for so many other products that summer, although it should be noted that a lot of the releases had serial numbered rookie cards. This didn’t stop me from chasing. In fact, it was not until Bowman Heritage, and Topps Update hit shelves that I started to routinely pull — and sell — Ichiro rookie cards. I even managed to hit one of the Topps Gallery rookies, which if memory serves me right, were redemption cards as they were released with both English and Japanese text versions.

What’s interesting to note is that was also driving the Upper Deck higher-end products at the time as relic cards featuring swatches of his Spring Training uniform were also produced, as were a few autographed cards. And it was right about this time we really started to see a bunch of fake patch cards of Ichiro. The most common was the Sweet Spot plain white or blue swatch that often was manipulated to look as though it contained a piece of the Mariner’s logo. Many were sold for big bucks before people started to wonder just how many of them could contain what looked to be the center of the compass logo.

By 2002, Ichiro was continuing to solidify himself as a major player on the field and in the hobby. And personally, he was the favorite active player of a good friend of mine who was living in Oregon, which is in the television market for the Seattle Mariners. That summer I had my second internship, and it was in the same down and the same newspaper at which my friend lived — the Statesman Journal, Salem, Ore. That summer I got to know so much more about Ichiro through talks with my friend and by watching games that summer. I was also lucky enough to see some of the Mariners’ television commercials, which used Ichiro as a comedic crutch. To say they were epic would be an understatement.

The following summer, 2003, I had my third and final internship. Anyone want to guess where? In Seattle, at The Seattle Times. That summer I was immersed in the Mariner’s culture. And if I had the financial means I would have been at Safeco Field every night watching the Mariners — they were a fun team to watch in this era. I did manage to catch two games that summer, one on Aug. 11 — a game in which Ichiro collected three hits and a stolen base (his 615th, 616th, and 617th hits of his career, and his career 115th stolen base). And then five days later, on Aug., 16, I saw Ichiro in person again when he collected his 625th career base hit, and was struck by a Pedro Martinez pitch, the 19th HBP of Ichiro’s career. (Side note, that HBP ball would be amazing to own given that I collect HBP game-used baseballs.)

In the following years, Ichiro was a guy whom I enjoyed watching and from time to time would be the player for whom I would trade. And I would have drafted and traded for him in fantasy leagues save for the fact that one of my good friends — the same mentioned above — had pretty much secured his services from 2002 through the end of his regular playing time as a Mariner.

Ichiro’s signature — as loopy and unreadable as it is — was something I only dreamed about owning. That is until the summer of 2008 when I managed to sell enough other items to afford a 2004 Sweet Spot, a card that I managed to purchase during the infancy of this blog. In fact, the card actually arrived at my home during the first week I began writing here. I was out of town at the time so the card sat for two days in a padded envelope in an unsecured mailbox. Thankfully the card was there when I arrived home. It’s still in my collection to this day.

I’d be a liar if I could tell you I followed or collected Ichiro with the same voracity in which I chased Roger Clemens, or even various rookie cards that eventually came to make up my Hall of Fame rookie card collection. But over the time I managed to acquire a slabbed copy of his 1993 BBM Japanese rookie card, as well as a raw copy of the much-coveted 2001 Bowman Chrome rookie card — note, all of these rookies have a refractor finish — and even a few others, including a 2001 Keebler Mariners card graded a BGS 9.5 that hits on a nostalgic point for me since it somewhat resembles the old Mother’s Cookies cards from the late 1980s and early 1990s.

And while I do not own a Ichiro Hit By Pitch game-used baseball, I do own an Ichiro foul ball that I bought directly from the Miami Marlins last year, used during his career 2,627th game. The ball was used for three pitches during his 9,873rd career at-bat (10,669th career plate appearance) in the sixth inning of the 9/19/17 contest against the New York Mets. Josh Smoker blew a 93.5 mph four-seam fastball past Ichiro for strike one, and then threw a 81.5 mph slider for a ball. Smoker then hurled a 94.4 mph four-seam fastball toward the plate and Ichiro fouled it off, sending the ball back into the mask of catcher Travis d’Arnaud — the ball wound up with two lines on it, presumably from striking the catcher’s mask as the ball went out of play.

The Ichiro game-used ball was the last piece of his that I acquired. And even at the time I struck the deal, I was surprised that I was able to own such an item, given that I figured Ichiro was effectively retired. As it turned out, he wound up playing in 15 games in 2018, and then then returned for the Opening Series in Japan earlier this week.

This has been a rough week for me in terms of dealing with home life and getting sleep, and this Opening Series in Japan certain didn’t make things easier for me as I was determined to catch all or some of these games. I caught the final two innings of the first game, but during the second game I watched along with the world as Ichiro struck out in what looked to be his last at-bat in the seventh inning, only to cheer on the Mariners so that we could see him swing the bat one more time. And in the eighth inning after he grounded out to shortstop, I am not ashamed to admit that I teared up as Ichiro waved goodbye as he was removed from the game in ceremonious fashion, especially when he embraced rookie pitcher and fellow countryman Yusei Kikuchi, whose Topps Opening Day rookie card I happened to pull a day earlier.

We all knew Ichiro had a great skillset, and a was building a fantastic Cooperstown resume. But his style of play wasn’t the type that was going to stoke the flames of baseball passion for everyone, especially not in an era when power hitting and pitching were the name of the game. The one stat about Ichiro that continues to amaze me is that he collected 200-plus hits in each of his first 10 seasons in MLB. That’s an entire decade of consistency; death by paper cuts for opposing pitchers, made more painful by the fact that he was averaging almost 40 stolen bases a season during that same time.

At times it seems as though the last 18 seasons have passed in the blink of an eye. Ichiro’s MLB career started when I was a college kid, and between the time he first donned his Mariner’s uniform to the last time he doffed it as a player earlier this week, I had lots of ups and downs: I graduated college; had three Internships; lived in three states; got married (and divorced a decade later); had two kids; owned a Mustang; started and ended one career and then began another; had a side gig for almost two years as a columnist for Beckett Baseball, the magazine I read religiously as a kid; attended two National Sports Collector’s Conventions (2012 and 2014); and have started this blog, which has now been around for nearly 11 years; watched my team win four World Series, the most-recent of which I managed to watch the clinching game in person, and much more.

Ichiro’s MLB career pretty much encompasses much of my adult life to this point, and it’s going to be weird going forward not seeing him on the field, or as a regular member of our annual baseball card sets.

Bowman Ice, Ice, Baby!

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2012 by Cardboard Icons

So, this is what a 1993 Donruss Elite Series insert and a 1998 Bowman’s Best Atomic Refractor parallel looks like when they get together and make cardboard babies.

Aren’t they stunning?

The 2012 Bowman set has been out for almost two weeks and these Ice parallel cards have not been lost on me.  Hell, they might be my favorite cards of the last five years.

Parallel cards are not often lauded among collectors, partly because they are usually just slight variations of the base card.  These, however, have a nice high-end feel to them without a gaudy price tag.

If these Ice cards were an automobile they’d be a Lexus.

And I applaud Topps for not making them too easy to pull.  The Silver Ice cards are seeded 1 in every 24 packs, so there is a less-likely chance that they will be subject to overkill like the 2011 Diamond Anniversary parallels.

Anyway, over the last two weeks I’ve had some pretty good luck and have unearthed 8 of these gems. Have a look at the ones I’ve pulled:

2012 Bowman Silver Ice Anibal Sanchez #30

2012 Bowman Silver Ice Taylor Green RC #199

2012 Bowman Silver Ice Nick Swisher #2

2012 Bowman Silver Ice Ichiro #176

2012 Bowman Silver Ice Jarrod Parker RC #213

2012 Bowman Prospects Silver ice Andrew Susac #BP97

2012 Bowman Prospects Silver Ice Bryce Harper #BP10

2012 Bowman Red Ice Eric Surkamp RC #208 /25

Panini’s Elite Extra Edition Ichiro Card Makes Me Laugh

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , on March 20, 2012 by Cardboard Icons

It’s very subtle, and unless you spent some time in the Pacific Northwest watching Seattle Mariners baseball, you may not get it.

But this 2011 Elite Extra Edition Ichiro card really is an homage to some of the funniest commercials in baseball.

The card, pictured to the right, features Ichiro in an interesting pose.  We usually see players in action on baseball cards, but with Panini, things aren’t that way.  Because Panini isn’t allowed to use MLB logos, the company use different kinds of poses to shield logos.

On this Ichiro card we get him looking over his shoulder, and it instantly reminded me of the Mariners commercials starring Ichiro. Continue reading

Topps Diamond Giveaway Haul #3: Now with Die Cuts!

Posted in New Addition, Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2012 by Cardboard Icons

This is THE Diamond Giveaway Haul post I’ve been waiting to post.

Over the 10 months I’ve been somewhat busy on the Topps Diamond Giveaway site.  During that time I’d acquired more than 60 rookie cards for my collection as well as some nice Die Cuts.

I’d already taken delivery of two shipments, all of which had been rookie cards.  The posts can be seen here and here.

But alas, the Die Cuts have come home … along with some more rookies of course

We’ll start with the cardboard virgins (aka rookies) because I have to show these badboys off.  Most are guys you’ve never heard of, but some of them have great names.

1956 Topps Bob Nelson rookie

1964 Topps Herm Starrette

1971 Topps Don Hahn

1973 Topps Jim Breazeale rookie

1973 Topps Chuck Seelbach rookie

1974 Topps Bob Gallagher rookie

1974 Topps Gene Garber rookie

1975 Topps Mario Mendoza rookie

1976 Topps Champ Summer rookie

1976 Topps Mike Miley rookie

1976 Topps Jim Umbarger rookie

1976 Topps John Candelaria rookie

1978 Topps Larry Harlow rookie

1979 Topps Bruce Bochy / Mike Fischlin / Don Pisker rookie

1979 Topps Bruce Benedict / Glenn Hubbard / Larry Whisenton rookie

1981 Topps Lamarr Hoyt rookie

1982 Topps Jay Howell / Ty Waller rookie

1982 Topps Jorge Bell rookie

1984 Topps Jeff Russell rookie

And now … the Die Cuts!

We’ll leadoff with the greatest lead-off hitter of all time,  Mr. Rickey Henderson.

2011 Topps Diamond Die Cut Rickey Henderson

Batting second, another great lead-off hitter, Ichiro.

2011 Topps Diamond Die Cut Ichiro

Every team needs and ace.  The leader of my Die Cut staff is Tim Lincecum.

2011 Topps Diamond Die Cut Tim Lincecum

This next one proved to be one of the most popular cards on the site.  Everyone loves a hot rookie insert. Welcome, Mr. Eric Hosmer.

2011 Topps Diamond Die Cut Eric Hosmer

The way I obtained this next Die Cuts is simply amazing.  I turned two common Die Cuts into a 1953 Common, which was then swapped for a 1952 Common.  That 1952 Common was then traded for a Jackie Robinson DDC, which then was traded up for this Cal Ripken … which was also a pretty popular card on the site.

2011 Topps Diamond Die Cut Cal Ripken

And we close this edition of Topps Diamond Giveaway Haul with the man who made this entire shipment free because his card was a black die cut serial numbered out of 60.  Welcome to the collection, Joey Bats!

2011 Topps Black Diamond Die Cut Jose Bautista /60

Now batting

2011 Bowman Chrome retail results (Bryce Galore)

Posted in Box / Pack Break with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2011 by Cardboard Icons

I had the good fortune of getting to a Target on Wednesday just minutes after the vendor stocked the shelves with new items, including 2011 Bowman Chrome baseball.  I tell you, it’s a wonderful feeling to walk through the doors and see from about 100 feet away the sight of new packs.

So I dove in.

I bought a blaster and a few of the Value Pack Rack Packs.

The basics:  The blaster offers eight packs for $19.99 while each Value Pack offers three basic retail packs (same odds as loosies and in blasters) and a single pack of three green xfractors for $8.99.

What’s great about all of these packs is they offer a shot at the same cards that are in hobby packs, save for the superfractors.  This means the basic chrome prospect autos are available in retail packs.  Someone is going to pull a Harper Chrome Auto out of a pack at Target, or WalMart, or Kroger, or whatever. Awesome, right?

One problem:  Autographs fall one in 77 packs. They are one per box (18 packs) in hobby.

Anyway, the price points are obviously a lot more palatable than that of the hobby prices, which I imagine are eclipsing the $5 per pack point in some places.

Anyway, here are the better cards I pulled in my packs.  And yes, I actually hit an auto.

Did you know Bryce Harper is in this product?!

Calm down, I said that facetiously.

I got Bryce from the Past:

(And yes, it is dead center on both sides)

2001 Bowman Throwbacks

Bryce from the Present:

2011 Bowman Chrome Prospect

And Bryce from the Future:

2011 Bowman Chrome 2021 Bowman Chrome Future

Always nice at this point to see Bryce Harper in my packs.  Too bad none of them were covered in ink. That said, I did manage to pull this auto:

2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects Autograph Starling Marte

I know I showed off my Bryce Harper 2001 Bowman Chrome throwback above, but I also puled these two:

2011 Bowman Chrome 2001 Throwbacks Brett Lawrie

2011 Bowman Chrome 2001 Bowman Chrome Reprint Ichiro rookie

The Ichiro is the Japanese version.

But perhaps the nicest card of all came from one of my retail exclusive packs:

2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects Green Xfractor Brett Lawrie

Dead center.  No print lines. No scratches. Just beautiful.

Big Hit, Happy Body: Ichiro’s Japanese rookie added to the collection

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , on March 5, 2011 by Cardboard Icons

Since the days of Nomo-Mania, I dreamed of owning a Japanese rookie card of a player who made the transcontinental move from his homeland to Major League Baseball.

In the 90s, Hideo Nomo’s BBM (Baseball Magazine – Japan) rookie card was all the rage.  In fact, in 1998, Topps inserted copies of that card (as well as those of Hideki Irabu and Shigetoshi Hasegawa) into packs of 1998 Bowman for collectors to own.  The cards seemed damn near impossible to find.  Trust me, I opened my fair share of that crappy product and never pulled one.  In fact, I’venever heard of anyone actually pulling one.

I digress.  The allure of owning the  first Japanese card of a Major League star was intriguing to say the least.  And with the magic of the Internet, it’s pretty easy to find what you’re looking for.  Enter the pictured 1993 BBM Ichiro Japanese Rookie.

There’s no shortage of Ichiro Major League rookie cards of the market.  There’s pretty much one for every price point from the bargain shopper to the big spender.  But make no bones about it, there’s always an asterisk in the hobby with 2001 Ichiro rookies.  Fact remains he was an established star in Japan before he ever set foot into the batter’s box at Safeco Field, and his 1993 rookie has to be mentioned in the conversation about cards to own.  He’s a first-ballot hall of famer, and one of the greatest players of this generation.

One problem does exist with these cards, though: They’re often counterfeited, which is discussed in great length here.  (H/T to Sports Card Info for that excellent guide.)

Anyhow, here’s an image of the back of this card.  Love the mugshot of a 20-year-old Ichiro … also the fact that “Did You Know?” is in English while almost everything else is in Japanese Characters. 

Now that I’ve acquired this badboy, I’ve got to go find a nice 1959 Sadaharu Oh rookie to go with this … oh and one of those Hideo Nomo’s, too.