Archive for sports

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.





Target run reminds me WHY I collect

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


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:


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.

Cardboard Icons author in video interview about hobby, collection

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , on August 26, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

Late last week Patrick at hit me up about doing an “on-camera” interview with him about the hobby. I paused initially because for years I was the one asking questions, not the one answering them. And for so long I had this phobia of being in front of the camera. But after some thought I decided to do the interview. And I’m glad I did.

It’s a 30-minute video, edited down from our hour-long discussion,  The audio on my end starts out low but does get better. We touch on my history in the hobby, why I collect what I do, some discussion about the state of our hobby and so forth.  Give it a watch (or listen) at your leisure. It was a lot of fun to do.

And if you’ve never seen Radicards, take an opportunity to check it out.  There are dozens of interviews like mine sitting there waiting to be watched, which is somewhat unique because we don’t often get to see people talking about the hobby other than when they are busting wax.

Thanks for reading (or in this case watching),

Ben, Cardboard Icons.

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


Lifetime of memories made during National Baseball Card Day 2016

Posted in Misc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

I decided to take my kids to the National Baseball Card Day event at South Bay Sports Cards (Sunnyvale, Calif.), where the shop — like many others across the country — was giving out packs to customers on this special day. What wound up happening was something that will never be forgotten.


This story doesn’t end with some card worth a small fortune. But it does end with smiles.

I told the kids about the day and how they were giving away packs at the shop to promote the hobby, a fantastic move by the way. Topps is the company with the exclusive Major League Baseball license so they are the makers of the cards given away on this day. Such events have been around for at least a decade, and have over the years included cards from other companies, including Fleer, which is now an Upper Deck brand.

My son’s comment: “I LOVE opening packs!”

For the record, neither of my kids have been completely bitten by the  card collecting bug.  I actually didn’t start collecting until I was 7, almost three decades ago, so it’s still early.  My daughter collects American Girl dolls and Shopkins. My son has learned the joy of opening packs from sharing in the ripping of my packs when I buy them, and his own Skylanders Battle Cast cards. Gotta start somewhere, I suppose.

So we went and along the way we started talking about baseball cards, and even some Olympic cards, which I had recently purchased from Target. I told them that we might buy some more at the store, it just depends on how much they were.

Personally, I didn’t “need” anything. But I’m always down to see my buddy at the card shop — for the record he wasn’t there today, which I didn’t know until we got there — and I wanted the kids to get their free packs. That was what this trip was really all about.

I checked out the stuff at the shop and decided on three baseball packs and then opted for a “blaster” box of Topps Olympics cards. These “blaster” boxes are the same as those sold at Target and Walmart, 8 packs for $19.99. I figured let’s have a little fun. The kids were talking about Gabby Douglas in the car anyway.

So I made the purchase and the guy at the shop — whom I do not know on any level other than being a repeat customer — grabs three random packs from his stash of Topps National Baseball Card Day packs, and then grabs three of the Kris Bryant cards — which appears to be the last card in the set — and puts the Bryant cards into magnetic holders for us, all free of charge.

Outside the shop I snap a quick selfie of the three of us in front of the store with our free packs. I wanted to tweet at Topps and subsequently enter the MLBPA Twitter contest for additional stuff.

My daughter grabbed a pack with Nolan Arenado on top, my son snatched up the one with Joe Mauer on top, which left me with Clayton Kershaw, which was the one i was hoping the kids would leave me. Kershaw is my favorite active player; he’s No. 2 all-time behind Roger Clemens on my list of favorites.

My son ripped his:


His cards: Joe Mauer, Ichiro, Sonny Gray, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Joe Abreu


My daughter then ripped hers and immediately says, “Oooh, Daddy!”


You see, during our conversation about Olympic cards in the car I was telling them about game-used cards — those containing pieces of shirts, uniforms, caps, etc., worn or used by players and athletes.  I also told them about autograph cards.

Out of the middle of her stack of six cards was one with ink. She spotted it instantly.


That’s injured Yankee Greg Bird’s autograph, serial numbered 062/165. The rest of her cards: Bryce Harper, David Price, Yadier Molina, Luis Severino and Nolan Arenado.


She was so pumped that I was super happy for her. It really didn’t really matter who the autograph was, but she was so surprised that she actually pulled an autograph.

“It’s like everything we talk about comes true,” she said.

My day was already made. The Kershaw card already made my pack a winner, but now I was curious if more ink would be found. There was none in mine, but it was a solid pack: Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Zack Greinke, Salvador Perez, Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Lindor.


I purchased three loose Topps Chrome baseball packs in addition to the blaster.  Shiny, yet fairly uneventful.  I did pull the Kent Maeda rookie, which is a plus.

We decided to open the Olympics blaster box at home.  There was some discussion about doing a video, and we agreed to do it for fun but my phone ran out of memory. As we got through the first six packs, there was nothing of significance. We pulled three Aly Raisman cards — which my daughter liked — but still no Gabby Douglas.  And then it happened.

In pack seven, a base card of Gabby Douglas.


About two minutes before we got to Pack 8 I told the kids about the memorabilia cards in this product and how they were worn by the athletes and then cut and placed into the cards. I also explained how the cards were a little thicker than the others.

My son opens Pack 8, the last one in the box and says, “Dadddddddy!”


Ryan Lochte memorabilia card.


“Oh my god, Daddy, it really is like everything we talk about comes true,” my daughter said again.

I realize these cards aren’t worth a fortune in terms of money, but the memories of how they were acquired are priceless. And before you start asking, neither the Bird autograph or Lochte memorabilia card are for trade. They belong to the kids.

This card adventure ranks right up there with the memory of my daughter’s first baseball game, which I wrote about here almost five years ago.

A dozen new HOF relics added to collection; Jackie Robinson for trade/sale

Posted in Hall of Famers, Newspaperman with tags , , , , , on August 2, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

Yesterday I stated a new page on this site called the “Hall of Fame Hits.” The page is designed to house the relics and autos of baseball hall of famers in my collection.  One reason is to show them off; another reason is so that I don’t obtain too many duplicates.  RobinsonJackieNTUNISome sets I really like and will acquire the relics from that set regardless of whether of not I already have a game-used card of that player. The same goes for cool-looking swatches. I added another dozen to the site this morning — highlighted by 2001 UD HOFers Frank Robinson auto relics and a sweet National Treasures Carl Yastrzemski swatch featuring stitch holes from what looks like his jersey number — and I should be all caught up until my newest shipment from CheckOutMyCards arrives. As the title of the page suggests, autographs will also be shown here, but they are not ready to be uploaded quite yet.

On a side note, while uploading I realized I have a second Jackie Robinson relic card that I’d be willing to move for something nice for my collection.  The one for trade hails from 2015 National Treasures and is serial numbered 25/99.  The card is somewhat unique because it features a swatch of flannel whereas most of the other Robinson’s feature a slick blue fabric presumably from a jacket worn by Robinson.

Have something to offer? You can reach me via e-mail at or on Twitter @cardboardicons

Cardboard Icons Turns 8

Posted in Misc. with tags , , , , , on July 3, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

WeaverBagIt all started here eight years ago today with a little post about an iconic 1951 Bowman Phil Rizzuto card. And what has become Cardboard Icons the blog and the opportunities this site have provided for me are things I never could have imagined.

When I started this blog in 2008 I had few connections to other collectors.  The Beckett Message Boards (the old ones, if you remember them) was my favorite way to communicate with other hobbyists. And when the company reformatted its Web site the message boards lost their steam and some collectors went looking for other places to talk shop.

For me, I decided to try my hand at blogging. After all, at the time I wrote for a living and had collected baseball cards for more than two decades (I’m actually coming up on three decades now). I was pretty much as qualified as anyone else to write about the stuff. And so Cardboard Icons the blog and persona were born.

I’ve always maintained that this site is really nothing more than a chronicle of my journey through this hobby. Sure, there were times early on after gaining some readership through connections that bigger ideas started to enter my mind, but many of those never really came to fruition. And honestly, probably for the better. Because what ended up happening was really  far beyond any of those “big” ideas that had entered my mind.

This blog started just about the time Twitter was starting to take off, and so I now had two platforms to share my stories and experiences, especially my passion for not only collecting, but also hunting sports cards and memorabilia through second hand stores, flea markets, etc. To this day the signature feature of this blog is the “Thrift Treasures” series.  The blog in an of itself was doing relatively well by my standards for the first few years. And then in late 2011 I discovered in a thrift store an item that would take the game to a whole new level for me — a 1977 game-used jersey of Hall of Fame Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver. Such items being found in such fashion are almost unheard of.

The discovery of that jersey ultimately aided in me fulfilling a dream of mine — being published as an author in Beckett Baseball magazine, a publication I had been reading since I was just 8 years old.

My first-hand account of finding the Weaver jersey opened more doors for me. It led to more writing opportunities for the magazine, which led to a trip to the annual National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore in 2012 where I got to meet Weaver just months before he died.  This journey was also picked up by Yahoo Sports’ Big League Stew, where author David Brown wrote: “A collector named Ben Aguirre must fancy himself a real, live Indiana Jones of sports memorabilia after recently finding not one, but two game-worn Baltimore Orioles jerseys — including one that used to belong to legendary manager Earl Weaver — at a Bay Area thrift store.”

In the following years I was able to assist in the creation of content for two special baseball magazines through Beckett Media and authored a monthly column for Beckett Baseball for almost two years. The column ended during the summer of 2015. And no, I am not bitter about it. The timing was right.

And so here we are.

By the standards of some of the larger and more popular (and way better, I might add) blogs, my near half-million page views aren’t special. But for a guy who really just started this as an extension of his own journey through the hobby that’s pretty remarkable. And I thank you all for contributing to the success I have enjoyed thus far by your continued reading and viewing of content on this blog.

Thank you,

Ben Aguirre, aka. Cardboard Icons.

In addition to this blog, you can also follow me on Twitter and on Instagram.


Congrats to Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza on their HOF selections — 89 UD, 92 Fleer BGS 9

Posted in Hall of Fame Rookie Cards, Hall of Famers with tags , , , , on January 6, 2016 by Cardboard Icons