Archive for MLB

Thrift Treasures 122: Factory Sealed Iconic Set has a Homecoming

Posted in Thrift Treasures with tags , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t he say he was moving stuff out of his collection?

If that’s what you’re thinking, then you’re half right. I did say that, but the last post also had the following key components: be happy, write more, and hopefully add to the Thrift Treasures. I am accomplishing all of that here.

Saturday was the monthly flea market at one of the local junior colleges. I hadn’t been there in months, hell maybe even a year. But I was free on Saturday (which is rare) and my son was willing to go check it out with me. So we went with low expectations; I explained that this very much a feast or famine situation.

What we found was that there were at least four dealers who had cards in some format. Some had singles, others had boxes for sale — old and new. I call this an “abundance” of cardboard given that sometimes there is literally no one selling these collectibles.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular other than stuff that made me happy or seemed like a great deal so I kept my purchases to a minimum.

The focus of this Thrift Treasures post will be on the items purchased from the final table we found on the way out of the venue.

This vendor had a dozen 1990 Donruss Boxes, some 1990 Topps Vending baseball boxes and some other misc items from that era.

But what stood out to me was this 1991 Topps baseball factory set. I’m close to completing my 1991 Topps Stadium Club baseball set and the 1991 Topps flagship set is one of my favorites of all time. And as I journey through this “Happiness Era” of my collecting journey, I’m realizing that I miss buying stuff that brings joy, not just the newest, flashiest or most valuable. Also, I feel like I’m trying to set a good example for my son in the hobby. And this purchase was going to do just that.

The box had a $10 sticker on it and the seller was literally packing up his van with the other items. I didn’t even bother negotiating. I handed him a $20 and be gave me my change.

I explained to my son how great the set is and that my intention was to put the set in a binder so that it can be enjoyed. The photography and design is great.

These sets are often posted on eBay for $10-$15, but shipping is brutal on a 792 card set and add another $15-$20 to your cost — that’s not a price point I want to be at with these cards.

We were about to leave when I was discussing this find via text with a friend. I’d shown him a photo. I told him how this seller had two boxes of 1991 Pro Set NFL Series One For $5 each. The first inquiry was about the Lombardi Hologram insert. I was reminded those were in 1990 — I should’ve remembered, I have one — but was advised that the boxes offer a shot at Bill Bellichik rookies, which command a premium in top grade.

For the low price tag I couldn’t resist. I told my son what the deal was and explained we could open the packs together later this week when he comes back from his mother’s house.

In addition to the Bellichik rookies, we’ll also be hunting for various variations and errors, which can also carry premiums. And when we’re done scouring the box, we’ll take the left overs (minus anything he might want to keep for himself) and donate them so they aren’t just sitting around my place. I post more about those boxes this week.

Me, being silly with the contents of a Thrift Treasures 122

Total cost of this Thrift Treasure: $20.

You can seen more Thrift Treasures posts here

Kershaw 2018 NLCS Game 5 First Pitch game-used ball added to collection

Posted in Collecting Kershaw, Game-Used Items, Misc. with tags , , , , , on April 19, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

When it comes to sports collectibles, baseball cards will always be my first love.

But in today’s collectibles climate, MLB authenticated game-used baseballs just might be the new hot girlfriend who may be a better partner than the first wife.

And this week, that new girlfriend arrived looking finer than any of the girls that came before.

This week the mailman came through with a massive mailday that contained a purchase I made last week. The contents? THE baseball that Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw used to start Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

Kershaw is my dude. My guy. My favorite active player. And last year I was lucky enough to witness in person an almost improbable collision of worlds when Kershaw faced off against my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, in Game 5 of the World Series.

True, the outcome was not what Kershaw would have wanted. But that did mean that the Sox did clinch a world title in Dodger Stadium while I was present.

But the road for the Dodgers to get there that night was something that I, as a Kershaw fan and collector, would not forget. And his start in Game 5 of the NLCS, during which the southpaw would strike out 9 Milwaukee Brewers over 7 innings en route to his 9th career post season victory (and the last to date), was something that Dodger fans absolutely needed to see from their ace.

The performance in the NLCS helped set LA up for a second straight World Series appearance, and was one that eventually would lead to the aforementioned dream scenario of me seeing my favorite player gave off against my favorite team with all the marbles in the line

I’m not going to kid myself. This newly acquired baseball isn’t the dream ball I’m still chasing. I absolutely NEED to acquire a Kershaw-thrown ball from Game 5 of the World Series. But this NLCS Ball is something I could not pass up when I noticed it up for sale recently.

There had been two other Kershaw-related NLCS balls posted on eBay for sale. One was actually the second ball used during Game 5 against the Brewers and the other was used during the at-bat in which Kershaw walked during a plate appearance against Brandon Wooddruff.

But the ball I bought trumped all of that as it is THE ball that Kershaw used to warm up, then thrown for the first pitch (a 90 mph fastball) and then a bouncing slider to Milwaukee lead-off hitter Lorenzo Cain.

Bryce Harper on the mind … now I want THIS ball even more

Posted in Game-Used Items with tags , , , , , on February 6, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

I have two collecting passions, it’s baseball cards and game-used baseballs. When it comes to the balls, there is a certain niche I began collecting a few years ago and that’s balls used in Hit By Pitch at-bats.

I’ll showcase all those balls in another way later. Rather this topic comes to mind today as we got word of the San Francisco Giants meeting with Bryce Harper this week. Now, ai’m a Red Sox fan but would love to see Harper in San Francisco. After all, the Giants are one of two teams in my area.

I was lucky enough to see Harper play once, and that was on Memorial Day 2017 when I surprised my kids with an impromptu train ride and the game. As it turned out, that was the game when former Giants reliever Hunter Strickland beaned Harper on the hip, and a short fight ensued.

As it happened, my kids and I were walking around the stadium just as Harper was coming up for that at-bat. And when I saw him approach the plate, I pulled out my camera and told my kids I wanted to take a few pictures.

That’s when this happened.

I have several other frames in between and after these images, but these photos tell the story.

It was an amazing sight, something I had to explain to my kids, who were ages 8 and 6 at the time.

I digress, today’s news about Harper’s meeting of course gets talked about locally and this play gets brought up a lot. Also getting discussed is the fact that Strickland — the pitcher — is no longer part of the team so that wouldn’t be an issue.

I feel lucky to have witnessed the play and have document it with my camera, but what I REALLY want is that damn baseball … and you can see it just lying there on the ground in the third photo.

I did acquire a ball from that game — a Matt Weiters single. But I want the ball that struck Harper; it’d go great with the other HBP balls I already own, including ones that struck Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, and the ball that struck Alex Bregman in his very first HBP.

I’ve asked Giants if they have it, and they apparently they do not. I’m hoping it was authenticated by MLB and the Giants that day.

Do you know where the ball is? Have a lead on it? Let me know.

New Year, New Focus: The 10th Anniversary Edition

Posted in Misc. with tags , , , , , , , on July 12, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

It’s a tad bit embarrassing to admit this, but I recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of this blog. It’s weird to say that it’s been a decade since I started writing here; it’s even more awkward since the last few years have been relatively light on posts.

It’s been a turbulent decade to say the least, one filled with the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows both personally and in this hobby. But here, as I start this tenth year owning my own Web domain, I am on an even keel, with a new focus for my collection.

I’ve started to shift gears over the last year — a journey I’ve hinted at and have written about minimally — from straight cardboard to something else. Topps likes to use the slogan “bringing you closer to the game.” But I’ve decided to just eliminate the middleman when it comes to my new focus. The focus of my collecting efforts is now procuring game-used baseballs.  Not small pieces of the ball — which Topps, as a middleman, places into cards for the hobby — but the whole damn ball.

Whether you know it or not, your local (or favorite) Major League Baseball team will sell directly to you: jerseys, helmets, bases and other items — including balls — used in their games.  And most of these are not just generic “used” items. Everything from the teams come with an MLB Authentication holographic sticker and serial number that matches their database letting you know exactly when your item was used and often by whom it was used.

Like many collectors, I was intrigued by game-used memorabilia cards when they started to hit the market in the late 1990s.  And over the last 20 years I’ve owned thousands of the cards, a few hundred of which are still in my collection. But over time, the authenticity of the fabric has been brought into question. Furthermore, the ambiguity with which companies chose to word their certificates of authenticity is off-putting.

Take for instance Topps, which for years has pledged to bring us closer to the game but still uses verbiage to legally cover themselves by making no claim as to which season or year the enclosed item was used. Hell, sometimes they won’t even make a claim as to what the item is. Is that really a piece of bat used by Jackie Robinson or Babe Ruth, or a piece of a seat used at the stadiums in which the legends used to play? It wasn’t until recently that Topps began partnering more often with MLB Authentication to add some credibility (and collectability) to the modern relic cards

And Panini? Please … I don’t want cards with swatches from photo shoots and signing sessions, even if they are very appealing to the eye. I’m glad I don’t collect basketball or football cards as it is common place to see guys dropping hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on breaks hoping to get a signed patch card featuring swatches handled and glanced at once by the pictured player.  BUT, at least Panini is clear on what these swatches … most of the time.

I digress. My point here isn’t to slam Topps or Panini — or even Upper Deck — for what they’ve provided to us collectors. Rather, my point is that what’s being offered these days just doesn’t fit my needs to feel like I own something special, something significant.

Enter: The game-used baseball.

The ball is white, the stitching is red, and in blue are the facsimile signature of the League commissioner and the logo of Major League Baseball. From several steps away — and even just a few inches away — one ball does indeed look just like other.  But if you look closely, none of them are identical. All of them are unique, especially when you take into consideration the way that MLB authenticates their items.

I know I am late to this hobby. But I’d argue that there is no better time to have gotten into this arena of sports memorabilia collecting. Have you see all of the information that MLB includes in their authentication?

It’s no longer about simply assuring you that the ball in your possession was actually used in a certain game. MLB’s Authentication program now includes the player who threw the ball, the hitter who was at the plate, and the fielders involved in the plays. Hell, the program now includes the speed and type of pitch thrown, as well as the launch angle off the bat … or off of a person.

Yes, I said off of a person.

On May 10, 2018, the Minnesota Twins faced off against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. On the mound for the Twins was right-handed 24-year-old pitching phenom Jose Berrios of Puerto Rico. At the plate in the fifth inning was 26-year-old Mike Trout, easily considered the best player in the game today.

Berrios reared back and threw a 92.5 mph fastball to get ahead of Trout 0-1. He then threw a slightly faster pitch (92.7 mph) down the middle of the plate to make the count 0-2.  On the third pitch Berrios lost control of a 92.8 mph fastball — the ninth straight fastball of the night to Trout if you watched the broadcast — and drilled Trout in left arm between the elbow guard and his bicep. Clearly it was a mistake pitch; but that goof created a one-of-a-kind collectable.

That ball was taken out of play, authenticated by MLB, and sold by the Angels.  And after passing through the hands of at least one other owner, the ball that struck generational player Mike Trout for his 57th career official Hit-By-Pitch now sits in my collection as one of the cornerstones for a segment of my game-used baseball collection that focuses solely on balls that struck players.

You see, the Trout HBP ball is not the first ball that I own which has caused a grown man to grimace in pain, or in Trout’s case cause him to turn away from home play, look upward for a few seconds and then flip his bat toward the dugout in disgust before trotting to first base.

This Trout ball is merely the latest of my admittedly odd theme.

My love for these HBP balls began only a year ago when taking in a Cubs game in San Francisco.  After the Aug. 7, 2017, game, I headed to the Giants official store at AT&T Park to buy a ball from the game as a momento, hopefully something with Kris Bryant’s name attributed to it.  Lo and behold the only available ball attributed to Bryant was the one that struck him on the left arm in the third inning — a 2-2 92.6 mph fastball that got away from Giants starter Matt Moore.

The acquisition that night ignited a passion that has now led to me owning nearly 10 pain-inducing baseballs, some of which I shall show off in the future.

Baseball cards have always been my collecting passion. But to say that the thrill is gone would be an understatement. The current products produced by manufacturers by and large just don’t appeal to me. And my goal of collecting Hall of Fame rookie or tobacco cards is one that I’m choosing to take a break– although truth be told, I’ve got the majority of the guys I’d sought many years ago.

And the stars of today? All those Bowman Chrome autos I collected? Yeah … I’m selling.

The crack in the foundation for these Chrome autos came last year when I decided to part ways with my BGS graded 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Mike Trout. His basic autograph from that set had reach an all-time high and the money was just too appealing. Once I sold that card, it decreased the purpose to keep any of the other chromes. And so, as this tenth year of writing here, those Chromes will slowly start to hit the market as they no longer appeal to me.

Just don’t ask about my 2006 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks Refractor Clayton Kershaw. That’s not for sale as Kershaw is one of only two guys I’ve decided to focus my cardboard collecting attention.

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:

img_1992

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.

Thrift Treasures 101: An authenticated signed baseball for under $3

Posted in Thrift Treasures with tags , , , , on December 14, 2015 by Cardboard Icons

I almost missed it.

Last week I took my 5-year-old to the thrift store with me and as soon as we got to the toy section he started doing pee-pee dance.

I did a quick eye scan of the toys as we headed to the restroom on the corner of the store.  I saw nothing that caught my eye immediately.

After the restroom trip we headed back toward the toy section and I initially walked three steps past the stuffed animal section when a small hologram caught my eye. I backtracked and look up to find this:  

I immediately Tweeted the picture to see if anyone else could figure out who signed the ball. My gut said Julio Franco, a fan favorite who played 23 seasons in MLB and even at age 57 is still playing ball in Japan. The signature is in fact that of Mr. Franco.

This is a Braves team ball, one with a slick surface, not like the leather on an official Major League Baseball. When these balls are signed, the ink tends to bleed into the faux leather, which is why the signature looks as it does.

So here’s the kicker. There is no question about the autographs authenticity. How do I know? The ball has been authenticated by MLB!  That’s the hologram that caught my eye.

When you run the serial number on the hologram through the MLB database, this comes up:

  

Not a bad find for a quick trip to the thrift store.

  
Total cost of this Treasure: $2.99.

You can see more Thrift Treasures posts Here

In Memoriam: Darryl Hamilton (Dec. 3, 1964 – June 21, 2015) 

Posted in In Memoriam with tags , , , , on June 23, 2015 by Cardboard Icons