Saturday, May 20, 2017

When Kemp was king

Matt Kemp's been gone from the Dodgers for three years now. I barely pay attention to him, which would be surprising to anyone who read my blog five or six years ago.

I looked up his stats with the Braves this season and he's off to a pretty good start. But he's going to have to keep that going if he wants to match the year when Kemp was king.

That would be the year when the above card was issued. The year 2011.

Kemp put up the best numbers of his career that season and should have won the National League MVP award. Instead it was stolen by a PED creep and don't think that a lot of people have forgotten it. A lot of people won't. I know I won't.

The last couple of offseasons there has been discussion of Braun coming to the Dodgers. Wouldn't that be interesting? Kemp no longer in L.A., but the guy we Dodgers fans disliked so much in L.A? What would you think about that, night owl, hmmm?

I've gotten that question a few times. I won't answer it. You're asking me to talk about rumors. Rumors I don't want to hear.

Anyway, I dredged all this up because I received a few Kemp cards from when he was king, and otherwise, from Kin, who runs the blogs I Feel Like A Collector Again and Bean's Ballcard Blog.

I happen to own the 2011 Kemps already because I was collecting his cards vigorously at the time. But it's always nice to get a second Lineage stand-up card so I can stand one up! And who has too many Kemp first-year cards? Nobody, that's who.

The 2010 Bowman Platinum parallel card, however, is new to my collection. I really wish it did glow that glorious blue color, but sadly that's just the scanner's interpretation.

There were a few non-Kemps in the envelope, too, including several I needed.

You all know this Upper Deck SPX card of Alex Cora from 1999 is very foily and shiny because it scans like crud.

A 1998 Bowman Chrome card from the reprint series from that year. Good luck tracking down the year if you didn't collect then. There is no reference to when it was made anywhere.

And not one, but two 1997 Bowman Chrome Paul Konerkos. You'd think I'd have all the Dodger Konerkos by now. But that's silly thinking because Konerko happened to be a rookie in the late '90s.

Thanks for the cards, Kin!

Friday, May 19, 2017

A pack of goats

I found this pack lying on the side of the road. It was half open and I could tell it had been discarded by someone disappointed by the contents inside.

But I'm not above going through someone else's trash when it comes to cards.

Let's dig in:

Bill Buckner, 1986

Ralph Branca, 1951

Mitch Williams, 1993

Dave Winfield, 1981

Tom Niedenfuer, 1985

Mark Littell, 1976

Donnie Moore, 1986

Dennis Eckersley, 1988

Mike Torrez, 1978

Leon Durham, 1984

That's not a baaaaaad pack (sorry).

Can't wait for Series 2.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cards from 1973 and from 40 years on either side

You ever play that game in which you calculate how many years it's been since you were a kid and then take that total and subtract it from one of those years when you were a kid and come up with a difference that causes you to instantly turn off all the lights in your house and hide in a dark corner of your room?

Yeah, that's not a fun game to play when you start to hit a certain age.

It's been more than 40 years since the 1973 Topps set has been issued. Subtract 40 from 1973 and you're in the Great Depression -- in more ways than one.

The only time when this exercise is fun is when it comes to cards. I am combining two recent packages that I received because each of them feature 1973 Topps (I can't have every post being '73s, as wonderful as they are). The '73s were central to the package. But with 1973 at the center, each package contained a card from either side of the spectrum -- 40 or so years after 1973 and 40 or so years before 1973.

Now that's pretty cool.

One of the packages arrived from David, who's down in Texas. He's sent me lots of nice cards. These fit right in with that.

This is the first 1973 Topps card I ever owned. I'm pretty sure I had it because Grabarkewitz is actually wearing a Dodgers uniform. But I fought the temptation to recolor his hat Dodger blue.

Boots tries to avoid getting the boot on the bases. Boots Day grew up in Upstate New York. I am enormously proud of this.

A few horizontals. It's difficult to say what the star of the show is here. If you put young Bobby in a '70s Padres uniform, you'd have a definite winner.

How about a bunch more? I think I'm at a record number of cards I need to catalog with all these '73s lately. But I'm certainly not complaining.

Dave also sent along this Mike Torrez card and astutely pointed out it may have one of the most unflattering cartoons accompanying it ever.

Why don't we just put a big sign on the back that says "MIKE WAS FAT"?

Dave also sent along another unflattering cartoon, but I'm saving that for a post on unflattering cartoons, which I know you were all hoping to see. Let's just hope that I actually do it.

Then there was this card that Dave sent, which doesn't match with anything else in the package. However it is much appreciated and gives anyone from 1973 time-traveling 40 years into the future an idea of what card now look like. Lots and lots of PINK.

As for the other package, that one came from Mark Hoyle.

I have to say that with all the '73s I've received lately poor Mark didn't stand a chance!

The above three were the only ones that weren't covered by other packages.

But no matter because that's 3 off the want list, and Mark isn't the type to hit you with just cards from a single year. Or even just cards.

How about a 1969 Topps stamp album of the Los Angeles Dodgers, for instance?

Doesn't that just scream 1960s? Has that font been used again since the '60s?

As you can see, someone did my stamping for me. The only stamps that aren't already placed in here are Len Gabrielson and Bill Singer.

All right, if you've been reading along and not just looking at the pictures, you know that I still need to show a card that is around 40 years older than a 1973 Topps card.

I wouldn't let you down. And neither would Mark.

That is a 1939 Play Ball card of Leo "The Lip," the player-manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers at the time. He looks like he's about to chew all of us out.

This is my first card of Leo Durocher from his Brooklyn days that isn't some sort of retro thing.

Mark has been distributing these Play Ball's to various collectors lately and I'm sure glad I'm one of them who received one.

Because I appreciate all eras of baseball cards even if I like that 1970s era better than others.

Just don't remind me how long ago that was.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

All of the bunts!

I finally made it to the store today to confirm what I had been formulating while reading other collectors' Topps Bunt posts.

Yup, this is my favorite card set of the year.

Granted, the competition hasn't been exactly fierce so far. The contenders for the 2017 crown at this stage are flagship (comparable to the 1973 Padres), Heritage (let's call them the 1995 Minnesota Twins), Opening Day (as competitive as the 1986 Milwaukee Brewers), Gypsy Queen (the no-chance 2005 L.A. Dodgers) and Panini Donruss (as good of a shot as the 1899 Cleveland Spiders).

Topps Bunt surges into the top spot.

I like Bunt for all the reasons stated when it came out last year. It's cheap, it's fun, it looks good and it's not impossible to complete. The one thing that I wasn't crazy about with the product last year was the grayness of the cards. Too much gray. Too much generic gray.

Well, guess who listened?

Yay! Topps listened! LOOK AT THAT! Isn't that glorious!

COLOR! Wonderful color! It's come to Topps Bunt!

I can barely contain myself.

In fact, I can't.

I can't contain myself at all. Sorry, you're just going to have to deal.

The above cards arrived today from The Lost Collector. It's now a tradition that he orders up some Topps Bunt and then distributes some cards to fellow team collectors. I was fortunate enough to get a blue parallel of Julio Urias, which is just beautiful (it goes very well with the Dodgers) and looks even better in person.

The Bunt cards are color-coded according to team, much like 2015 Topps flagship, a set I enjoyed so much because of its color that I completed the whole thing. As easy as Bunt is to complete, I don't see myself completing it -- just because I have enough current complete sets that I don't look at -- but Bunt has definitely ensured that I won't buy any other product currently on store shelves. Bunt will take care of that.

In fact, I picked up a couple of $9.99 blasters just this afternoon.

Let's have a look at all the colorfulness from one of the blasters.

Pack 1

#151 - Brian Dozier, Twins
#38 - Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
#163 - Gerrit Cole, Pirates, blue parallel
#I-NS - Noah Sydergaard, Mets, Infinite insert
#11 - Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox
#116 - Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
#17 - Ryon Healy, Athletics

A star-studded pack. That's what you get with Bunt. Several bloggers have mentioned the absence of retired players this year after their inclusion last year. As fun as it is to pull retired players, I get bored with pulling the same ones over and over. So this is OK with me.

Pack 2

#142 - Danny Duffy, Royals
#23 - Yulieski Gurriel, Astros
#128 - Brandon Phillips, Braves
#38 - Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox, blue parallel
#PR-TT - Troy Tulowitzki, Blue Jays, Programs insert
#122 - Kyle Hendricks, Cubs
#65 - Jacob deGrom, Mets

The blue parallels are apparently one per pack. There are odds for all other color variations on the wrappers but none for the blue. The Programs insert was the highlight of all the inserts last year. It's still nice, but I'm not crazy about the design this year, it doesn't remind me of any program I ever saw.

Pack 3

#12 - Matt Strahm, Royals
Bunt free code card
#98 - Daniel Murphy, Nationals, blue parallel
#P-YC - Yoenis Cespedes, Mets, Perspectives insert
#181 - Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
#168 - Kyle Seager, Mariners
#78 - Nelson Cruz, Mariners

There are 3 guaranteed free code cards in each blaster, which mean nothing to me because I don't care about collecting online images. But for $9.99 per box I won't complain about it. The Perspectives insert is a carryover from last year's flagship. It's OK. And free advertisement for the MLB Network.

Pack 4

#117 - Aroldis Chapman, Yankees
#5 - Yoan Moncada, White Sox
#110 - Matt Kemp, Braves
#151 - Brian Dozier, Twins, blue parallel
#I-SM - Starling Marte, Pirates, Infinite insert
#86 - Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
#189 - Brandon Finnegan, Reds

The Infinite inserts just aren't doing it for me. It looks something went wrong with the photo, some exposure issue. And speaking of wrong, the Marte insert came with a silver blotch on it

Pack 5

#19 - Luke Weaver, Cardinals
#124 - James Shields, White Sox
#193 - Carlos Correa, Astros, blue parallel
#PR-AW - Adam Wainwright, Cardinals, Program insert
381 - Johnny Cueto, Giants
#184 - Trea Turner, Nationals
#53 - Justin Upton, Tigers

There are no retired players but Topps will never be able to wean itself off of forcing rookies into the set. Luke Weaver does not belong in a limited-size card set.

Pack 6

#21 - Tyler Austin, Yankees
#126 - Todd Frazier, White Sox
#37 - Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox
#47 - Francisco Lindor, Indians, blue parallel
#I-JR - Jose Ramirez, Indians, Infinite parallel
#155 - Noah Syndergaard, Mets
#67 - David Wright, Mets

Two of my favorite young players to watch arrived back-to-back in Lindor and Ramirez.

Pack 7

#141 - Alex Gordon, Royals
#45 - Joey Votto, Reds
#166 - Buster Posey, Giants (some sort of parallel, not sure what)
#90 - Adrian Beltre, Rangers blue parallel
#P-JQ - Jose Quintana, White Sox, Perspectives insert
#170 - Carlos Martinez, Cardinals
#14 - Braden Shipley, Damondbacks

I don't know what that Posey card is. It could be the black parallel, but I've seen other parallels that are numbered and this one is not.

Pack 8

#59 - Justin Turner, Dodgers
#161 - Maikel Franco, Phillies
#73 - Sean Doolittle, Athletics
#154 - Curtis Granderson, Mets, blue parallel
#PR-PN - Phil Niekro, Braves, Programs insert
#119 - Jake Arrieta, Cubs
#7 - Tyler Glasnow, Pirates

Finally, a Dodger!

Pack 9

#176 - Ian Desmond, Rockies
#82 - Brandon Belt, Giants
Bunt free code card
#182 - Lucas Giolito, White Sox, blue parallel
#I-DK - Dallas Keuchel, Astros, Infinite parallel
#112 - Manny Machado, Orioles
#42 - Ben Zobrist, Mets

For the record, do not trust me with the numbers on these cards. As someone who is younger than me said, the card numbers on the back are TINY. And if he thinks they're small then guess what someone with my veteran vision thinks.

Pack 10

#185 - Carlos Rondon, White Sox
391 - Jonathan Lucroy, Rangers
3194 - Mike Moustakas, Royals
#52 - Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, blue parallel
#PR-AC - Aroldis Chapman, Yankees, Programs insert
#146 - Kenley Jansen, Dodgers
#58 - Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers

I am most pleased about pulling the Jansen card, since I didn't get that from Lost Collector. I sure need to send that Chapman card back to him though. I hate pulling his cards.

Pack 11

#100 - David Ortiz, Red Sox
Bunt free code card
#79 - Felix Hernandez, Mariners blue parallel
#P-MC - Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, Perspectives insert
#160 - Khris Davis, Athletics
#69 - Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees
#172 - Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

And there you are, 11 packs of very colorful cards!

OK, back to normal now.

I acknowledge the design does borrow from TV graphics yet again. And there is no denying that many of these current designs are utilized both because they work so well with online "cards," and because they help remove the backgrounds. As sad as it may seem (and it seems very sad to me) backgrounds are too fraught with danger for Topps these days. Too much fear of who will be shown or what will be shown and whose rights are violated.

That is probably the saddest part of modern-day cards for me.

But at least Topps prettied it up with lots of colors so I don't have to think about serious stuff like that with this set!

Thanks, Topps. And thanks for listening to me.

Also, thanks for the other blaster of Bunt I bought. It was much more Dodgers friendly. Much, much, much more Dodgers friendly!

I'll show that one in a few days.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Here come the '73s!

I hope you don't mind seeing an overload of 1973 Topps over the next few days.

Wait -- was that a groan? Do you have some sort of problem with backgrounds featuring men wearing purple leisure suits?

I didn't think so.

As soon as I announced that I was trying to complete the '73 set, packages started arriving at the door. I have two or three more of them to show, but none of them are as significant as this one. This one package was set by Mark of My Best Friend Collects Chipper Jones. He apparently has completed that set and had, oh, just a few leftovers sitting around in a shoebox.

"Take what you need and send the rest back," he said in a note that accompanied 200 or so '73 Topps!

OK, then. I've taken my needs and it amounts to around 160 (how's that for an excellent percentage?). I'll be sending the rest back hopefully this week or early next week. I really cannot get to the sending portion of this hobby lately.

There were so many cards that I needed that I have to separate them into sections for easy reader digestion.

Let's start with the cards that I previously owned in my collection:

Yes, that's right. There's even more of them that I didn't scan. This is how long I've been doing this blogging thing. There was once a point during the life of this blog that I didn't even consider collecting this set and, heck, let's give these cards to people who are crazy enough to do so!

Now I  have them back and I won't make the same mistake twice.

Here is some of that crazy action that we all love from '73 Topps. American League pitchers running the bases in jackets, Sandy Alomar adjusting "himself," what appears to be a giant beer mug in the background of the Parsons card. Good stuff.

The blue C on these Indians hats never looked right to me, as if someone colored in the C.

All of these feature players that I would come to know from cards of them issued later in the '70s. Most from 1975 Topps.

The beauty of 1970s airbrushing.

Any early '70s set produces players that I never knew. It's very interesting to me how I would arrive on the baseball scene in the mid-1970s and all of these guys had already vanished.

But that's what makes set-collecting so great. I can now get to know these fellows.

Here are some guys that I know more from their '60s cards. The 1973 set marks that key moment when many of the stars of the previous two decades were departing. I think the same holds true for other years ending in three -- 1983, 1993. I'll have to make that a future post.

Mark did not hold back on the stars. There was also dudes I didn't scan, like Tony Oliva, Wilbur Wood, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack.

And while I was happily thumbing through the package for the first time, about two-thirds of the way through I found this card:

What a relief to not have to scrounge around for Clemente's final card! I can now focus on Mays or Ryan.

Of course, I cannot show '73s and skip over one of my favorite aspects of the entire set.


The cartoons!

The '73 cartoons will come up again in a future post. They're really tough to top.

There were many other cards not shown here, league leaders, postseason cards, even a few checklists. It means that I probably need to find a binder for this set sooner than I had planned.

So that's another look at the greatness of '73.

You may now return to your very boring, non-purple leisure suit, present-day lives.