Archive for MLB

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:

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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.

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

  

Thrift Treasure 81: MLB Showdown ASG finds a home

Posted in Thrift Treasures with tags , , , , , , on February 18, 2015 by Cardboard Icons

I’ll say this up front, I am not a big card game guy.  I never got into Magic.  I never played Pokemon. I don’t hate it.  I don’t dislike people who play such games.  I, personally, have never felt the need to sit down and learn or play those games.  They are games of strategy; I prefer to apply my knowledge — the little that I have — to my hobby, where I acquire real things. That’s just how I operate.

IMG_9512Having said that, I do find some intrigue when I find card game cards at thrift stores.  I have a little knowledge as to what is “worth” money, but I can say that I have not cashed in on anything card game related.  This post, I suppose, follows in those foot steps.

So, in the early 2000s, Wizards of the Coast, makers of the Magic The Gathering cards, produced a series of baseball strategy card game that spanned the course of four of five seasons I believe. The game had a mild following. I don’t recall the cards ever being scorching hot.  And every now and then I find them in thrift stores, usually mixed in with some typical baseball cards. I usually pass on them unless I see an absolute reason to buy:  Multiple foil cards, many “first edition” cards, multiple stars, quantity for little money,  etc.”

On this occasion, I happened to find this box (shown here) sitting in an aisle of photo albums.  It must’ve been mistaken for a photo box, but I knew what it was immediately. When I opened it, I got a bit excited because while the bx itself makes for a fun display, it had a fair amount of cards. I was even more exited when I learned that the $3.99 price tag on it was incorrect for on this day, this item was half off.

IMG_9513So for $1.99 everything in this picture came home with me.  And while I won’t strike it rich with this find, it turned out to be a bargain.

The box contained 5 foil cards …

IMG_9543A bunch  of cards, albeit it a 4:1 ratio of strategy cards to player cards

IMG_9545Some neat team — and other subject/set — dividers

IMG_9546and … 50 2002 All-Star Game cards, which is the whole set.

IMG_9544The funny thing is the 2002 All Star Game is infamous for having ended in a tie, which ultimately led to then-Commissioner Bud Selig to the ASG “count” in subsequent years.

Total cost of these treasures: $1.99

To see more Thrift Treasures posts, click HERE

Newest Hall of Fame autograph has arrived (Thanks, Topps!)

Posted in New Addition with tags , , , , , , on September 7, 2013 by Cardboard Icons

RickeyIt pretty much goes without saying … WE ALL DISLIKE REDEMPTION CARDS.

Notice I didn’t say Hate.  It’s too strong of a word.  I think dislike is more apt because I think deep down there is some joy that some of us get from these cards.

While we’d all like to have the card fresh in-hand from the pack, redemption cards do present a great opportunity to those who are willing to wait out the redemption process.

On Saturday I received my 2012 Topps Five Star Rickey Henderson autograph card, which was the result of a redemption card I purchased on eBay about a month ago.  The good news was when I bought the redemption card, there was already word that the cards were already live, so I figured I wouldn’t have to wait that long.  From start to finish, it took about three weeks to turn the redemption card into the live card, which is shown here.  In the end, I saved roughly $35 and received a gorgeous card.  Thank you, Topps.

Icon-O-Clasm: 1990 SI For Kids Ken Griffey Jr

Posted in Icon-O-Clasm with tags , , , , , on August 13, 2013 by Cardboard Icons

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