Sunday, August 20, 2017

C.A.: 2016 Topps Steve Johnson

(Greetings on the last week of relative freedom in the workplace. After this week, it's the steady drumbeat of school sports until the end of June. And to think I thought I was done with this when I graduated from high school. Time for Cardboard Appreciation! This is the 261st in a series):


This card is a piece of work.

For starters, I'll bet Johnny could peg the shape of this shadow in his sleep. A Tyrannosaurus rex or a beetle maybe (sorry, I'm not very good at it).

But there's something even more interesting than that.

Steve Johnson is shown pitching for the Texas Rangers. And that is a boldfaced lie.

Johnson never pitched for the Texas Rangers.

Take a look at the transactions:


He was released in spring training a month after he was signed. Three days later, the Mariners signed him. Yet, there he is in Series 2, pitching for the Texas Rangers.

Now let's see the rest of Johnson's career transactions:


That's a lot of packing and unpacking, huh?

This brings me to what I found interesting about the card in the first place.

When I was tallying this card in my "database," if you want to call it that, I assumed this was Johnson's first card. But when I got to "Steve Johnson," there were some cards listed there already ... from 2005.


There he is. Johnson was signed as a Dodger.

I actually have three versions of this card because, of course.


So, when I saw the 2005 Bowman cards listed under Johnson's name, I assumed that the Texas Ranger Johnson (who didn't really play for the Texas Rangers) was a different Steve Johnson.

I turned over the Texas Rangers Johnson card to double check, and I was hit with this:


Wow, that's a lot of talking on the phone.

The back confirms it that this Johnson and the Bowman Johnson are one and the same. You can see Johnson was drafted by the Dodgers and started for the Dodgers' Gulf Coast League team in 2005.

It struck me how many years had passed between the time of the first card that I have of him and the most recent card I have of him. Eleven years.

I quickly looked to see if Johnson had any other card between 2005-16. After all, he did briefly appear with the Orioles in 2012 and 2013.

But the answer is: "no, not really."

His main cards are from 2004 (Bowman), 2005 (Bowman) and 2016 (Topps).

That 11-year gap between cards from one single player is probably the biggest in my collection. It's only two years shorter than Minnie Minoso! (Minoso appeared in the 1964 Topps set and then again in the 1977 set when he pinch-hit at the age of 50).

Johnson, who is the son of former Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson -- who won 13 games for Baltimore in 1990 -- is still at it. He was acquired by the White Sox from the Orioles a couple weeks ago and pitches in Triple A (Dad and son, collectively, spent two decades in the minors).

I'm kind of hoping Steve Johnson returns to the majors so he can get a Topps card in his correct uniform.

Because if he does, it will be his first.

After at least a dozen years of waiting.

Friday, August 18, 2017

It's a wonder any cards end up in our collections

Earlier today, The Lost Collector posted about a card package sent to his old address that somehow made it to his new address three months later.

I happened to send that package. Sorry about the wrong address, I just can't keep up.

It's interesting that the cards did end up making it to him anyway and underlines the chaos that's going on in our lives -- or at least my life -- as we have the audacity to try to send cards to people and the gall to actually believe that they're going to end up in those people's collections while the world is swirling and spitting at us 24 hours a day.

So I have my own "the cards almost didn't make it" story.

A week ago, I posted about some cards that Justin of The Hopeful Chase sent me. A bunch of minis, mostly Dude minis.

That -- I thought -- was that. I gathered up those cards, put them in the "to be cataloged" stack on my desk and threw the mailer into the recycling bin. There the envelope sat for days and days as other stuff was piled on top of it.

Then, the day before garbage day I tended to the recycling bin. It was overloaded as my wife cleaned a bunch of stuff out of the garage. I couldn't get everything into the bin so I was taking some items out when a few papers fell out, including Justin's envelope.

I picked it up to put it back in the bin and, gosh, it sure seemed heavier than a normal empty mailer.

I poked around on the envelope. Yeah, I think there's something in there!

I reached in and wedged at the very back was a toploader with four other cards in it. They were hours away from being recycled!

Here they are:


OK, this probably should have been destined for the garbage truck. Not once has anyone wished they could have a 1991 Topps card with a random stamp on it. Everyone who has needed to discover 1991 Topps has discovered it.


An Allen & Ginter team need. Joc Pederson does just enough to avoid getting sent down. (EDIT: Pederson sent down the very day after I wrote this. My timing is impeccable).



More A&G goodies. For a second I thought this card was celebrating his first start -- like the Topps Now card -- in which he did not do well. Fortunately, A&G is a little more reasonable.


And a relic. I almost threw a relic of Adrian Gonzalez in the garbage.

Honestly, I have no time for this hobby.

Perhaps some of you remember a time when new items were created and advertised proudly as time-savers. This was the big selling point. This device, that piece of technology was going to save you time. Life would be easier.

We now know that is a joke. The biggest time savers turned out to be enormous time sucks.

I'm working on that. I'm slowly backing away from Facebook. In a year or so, both of my set blogs will be finished and I have no intention on starting another one. That will open up at least a little more time for me.

I mean this was the red flag: when I'm throwing out cards that I actually want, it's time to take action.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The most exciting seasons


There was a time, back in the first year or so of this blog, when I'd post about the Dodgers' current state of affairs pretty regularly.

It was the result of posting on this blog twice a day (back before I added set blogs to my itinerary) and the need to represent myself as a Dodger fan. So I rambled about the highs and lows of the season. It didn't get a lot of response, but did get some.

About a year or two in, though, that go-go Dodgers stuff fell by the wayside. I never thought I was particularly good at that (I don't understand how team-oriented blogs keep the interest and words going) and had much more to say about cards anyway. But every once in awhile I'd throw a "Yay Dodgers" post in and no one would read it. So that was that.

However ...

I'd feel like the worst Dodger fan in the world if I didn't dedicate at least one post about the team's current performance.

To put it bluntly, I have never seen my team so unbeatable. Never. I've been watching the Dodgers for 40 years. Nothing has come close to the sustained will that the 2017 team owns where -- it sounds like a cliche -- you never feel like the team is out of it. Last night was just a repeat of what I have seen 10, 20, 30, 40 times this season. A comeback that looked impossible in the eyes of an impartial observer. This isn't a week or a couple of weeks. It's been more than two months of this. It's like they're playing a video game.

The Dodgers will win more games this regular season than ever in my lifetime. They've won 100 games only once since I've been alive (1974) and I wasn't watching games then. Their winning percentage at this stage (.714) is unheard of in all-time team history. They are now the favorite to win the World Series.

Except ...

Say it with me: the postseason is a crapshoot.

I fully expect to be disappointed in the postseason. I'm not Yasiel Puig and proclaiming them a lock for the World Series. I'm sorry true bluers, that's just the way I was built. Somebody needs to prove me wrong.

And that's why, even though this by all indications now is the most exciting Dodgers season of my lifetime, I cannot rate it as the most exciting Dodger season of my lifetime now. Ya dig?

There are five other Dodger seasons that I'd say are the most exciting since I started following the game. Here they are in reverse order of total heart palpitations:


5. 2013

The year of ManBearPuig. The rookie sensation of the baseball world and the card world was finally a Dodger. And for a month or two, the team road him to victory. Probably the most exciting June for my team since the mid-1970s (and I saw Pedro Guerrero go nuts that month in '85). The season fizzled at the end thanks to the smelly Cardinals. But at least they beat the Braves!



4. 2008

The year I started a blog was also the year the Dodgers --- wuuuuuuuuuuut? -- also acquired Manny Ramirez in a stunning, exhilarating three-team trade that propeled L.A. into the postseason. The Dodgers made it all the way to the Championship Series for the first time since 1985 before losing to the smelly Phillies. And then Ramirez got busted the next season. But, yay, 2008!



3. 1977

The first year I fully paid attention to those baseball games taking place on the television. The first year I watched NBC's Game of the Week every Saturday. And I was rewarded by the Dodgers advancing all the way to the World Series. The 1977 postseason was the first time my mother demanded I stop watching the game and come to dinner (but, MOM, the Phillies are about to blow it!!!!). It was the first year I started really despising teams (the Yankees) and players (Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson). And all of it was great fun. It was theater. It was excitement. I had found my place.


2. 1981

If it wasn't for Fernandomania during the first half of the season and the Dodgers' championship during the second half of the season, I would rank 1981 right there with 1994 -- one of the worst baseball seasons ever. The strike really screwed over a lot of teams and fans. But the Dodgers weren't one of them. I remember almost every moment of the postseason more vividly this year than any other. The dramatic moments -- Rick Monday's home run, Ron Cey's catch, Pedro Guerrero's coming-out party -- will stay with me forever.



1. 1988

One thing that eases my mind -- that helps me think with some modest amount of confidence that the Dodgers can do it -- is that many of the Dodgers' World Series seasons were preceded by exceptional performances during the regular season. I've seen that in 2017 and I definitely saw that in 1988, particularly with Orel Hershiser's consecutive innings scoreless streak. The Dodgers' 1988 postseason more closely resembles the way the Dodgers are winning games now than anything I've seen in prior Dodgers seasons. And that makes me feel good, too. (There were actually signs of this last year, little did I know that it was just a prelude).

If the Dodgers do end up winning the World Series, I'm almost certain 2017 will rank as the most exciting Dodgers season I've ever seen, or at least tied with 1988.

But I'm not in any hurry to get there because I'm enjoying this season far too much.

(Hello down there, Giants).

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Preparing for a world of pain


A few weeks ago, Robert from $30 a Week Habit sent me an email asking me if I was still planning to build the 1967 Topps set.

I sent him a return email that said I am planning to do nothing of the sort. I am not insane. Please find whoever told you that scurrilous rumor and correct them immediately. The whole idea is preposterous.

Heh.

OK, I actually did admit to "planning" to build the '67 Topps set. But when I say "planning," I'm using all kinds of air quotes and saying it very sarcastically so you don't know whether I'm attempting to collect it or not.

And there's a good reason for my actions.

I'm afraid of the 1967 Topps set.

It's scary. It's mean.

Not only is the set 50 years old and filled with legends like Clemente, Mays and Mantle, but the high numbers are about as sadistic as they get. I've completed the 1971 Topps high numbers and the even tougher 1972 Topps high numbers and neither are as intimidating as the '67s. Do I want to pay 75 bucks for a Red Sox team card? Fifty dollars for a Tommy John? Have I mentioned that Tom Seaver's rookie card is a high number in this set?

No. No, I am not planning to build this set. I've taken the quotes off now.

Now do you believe me?

Robert didn't believe me.


He sent a stack of 80 or 90 cards from the '67 set instead.

Guess who's planning to build the '67 set!

Oh, boy, am I in for a world of pain.

I've never considered trying to complete a set from the '60s basically because those sets were before my time (and unlike the 1956 set, no one gifted me a bunch of cards from any of those sets when I was a teenager). Consider the '67 set. I was crawling around in diapers when kids were collecting that thing. I mean who are these guys?


Really. Who are these guys? I'd never heard of any of them until pulling them out of the envelope.



Not these guys either.

I've got some research to do!


But the reason I want to build this set is because it's the ideal set for getting to know '60s ballplayers. (All of the above guys are very '60s, by the way).

I ranked this set in the top five of Topps sets ever made and one of the reasons was that it gives collectors a window into '60s baseball unlike any other set. The design is simple (yet colorful) with more room for '60s backgrounds than any other Topps set.

Yeah, it's guys I don't know a lot about, but this set makes me want to know 'em.


Yeah, it'll be a world of pain. But it'll also be a world of Yankees I've never heard of. How is that possible? I thought New York trumpeted the name of every pinstriper as if they were God's greatest gift. What a weird time '67 was.



A world of players I only know as managers.



And managers I didn't even know were managers.



And stadiums I'll never visit.



And World Series I'm glad I never saw.



I'm learning that '67 knew how to do two things very well:

Turn a Summer into Love and make a checklist that's damn collectible.



So who cares if I knew these guys ...



... when they were these guys (OK, so Woody/Woodie looks the same).

I'm jumping into this strange '67 world.

It will be a long time before you see a want list for this set.

And it will be a long time before I go on one of my online shopping sprees and consciously pick up '67 cards.

But I think I'm finally ready for this world of pa ... er, world of fun.


With cards like this, resistance is futile.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The best Dodger card for every year I've collected


Here's a fun exercise if you don't mind scanning and cropping until your eyes bleed.

As a team collector, I have been accumulating Dodgers from the Topps flagship set each year for 42 years, with a few breaks here and there (in light of that, the post for this title should read "The best Dodger card for every year since I started collecting" -- but that isn't nearly as punchy).

Every year, whether consciously or without really thinking about it, I select my favorite Dodger card from that particular year. I figure that it's beyond past time to post each of those cards here.

This goes back to 1975, the first year I actually collected cards. And I'm limiting it to Topps flagship, both for sanity reasons and also because for the first six years that's all there was. I'm also trying to preserve history as much as I can by posting what my favorite card was back then when the set came out. No revisionist history here even though I'm sure my views have changed for some of the sets issued back when I was a kid.

OK, so here is the 42-year rundown:

1975

1976

1977

1978

1979

1980

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

1988

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017


OK, now for some notes and explainers for each year, if I have something.

1975: Duh.
1976: I was also particularly in love with the Andy Messersmith card from this year, but Marshall won out because the action was so tremendous I could barely stand it.
1979: The start of my rookie obsession.
1980: Cey edged out Rick Sutcliffe as rookie obsession was still very strong.
1981: More rookie obsession.
1986: Pedro Guerrero is the only player to show three times as my favorite card.
1989: Only night card in the set.
1992: Only Lasorda could make a manager card the best card of the year twice.
2000: Not a great card, but so happy Hershiser was back with the Dodgers.
2002: The period from 2000-07 is pretty awful. A lot of sameness with every card, and very difficult to pick some years. Thank goodness there was a night card this year.
2007: The worst year of all. Maddux, in a photoshopped Dodger uniform mind you, is only there because I was so thrilled to see Maddux as a Dodger.
2010: The start of the horizontal era.
2016: Puig is my favorite because it's the card that's the most effective at negating the smoke factor.

In somewhat of a coincidence, my favorite players show up the most often.

Pedro Guerrero - 3
Ron Cey - 2
Orel Hershiser - 2
Clayton Kershaw - 2
Raul Mondesi - 2
Hideo Nomo - 2

And, of course, Tommy Lasorda - 2

So that satisfies yet another curiosity of mine.

Feel free to do this with your own favorite team. Although if you've been collecting as long as I have, you may want to block out an afternoon.