Saturday, December 16, 2017

I have plenty of Matt Kemp cards

I was quietly wallowing in my puddle of life problems this afternoon, full of self-pity and resignation, when the following flashed across the Twitter wire:


It was a sentence of gibberish peppered with entirely familiar names.

Matt Kemp was a Dodger again. And the Braves were taking on most of the troublesome contracts that the Dodgers owned. Sure, Vin Scully Finale Hero Charlie Culberson was gone but, my goodness, we get to go back to 2006-14 and accumulate Matt Kemp Dodger cards again!

However, in these days of instantaneous information, the happy little scenario I had painted for myself in the bubble above my head, vanished the second after I had processed the whole thing. Here came the "yes ... but" tweets.

"You know ... they're probably not going to play Matt Kemp."

"You know ... they'll probably just flip him."

"You know ... he'll probably just be released."

In fact, I feel a little silly even writing about this. I keep checking to see if Kemp is still with the Dodgers.

How about now? Is he still with the team now?


I'm glad the Dodgers were able to make this deal to get under the luxury cap and to have a bunch of money when next year's free agent season commences. But all that financial stuff makes my eyes glaze over and realize that I never wanted to be a baseball beat writer anyway.

My basic hope in Kemp coming back to the Dodgers was seeing him in an L.A. uniform and maybe getting some more cards of the guy. He was always a hoot to collect, one of my favorites.

Right now there's a very slim chance that he does stay with the Dodgers, but probably not.

And that's OK.

I've got plenty of Matt Kemp cards already. Three hundred sixty of them by my last count.

In fact I could make myself my own Kemp Dodger uniform with just these:

In fact, digging out these old memories made me forget what I was so miserable about for a couple of hours.

So that's something.

For as long as Kemp lasts as a Dodger, it's been fun.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Awesome night card, pt. 277: More Panini weirdness

I am behind in almost everything in life. So why not write an Awesome Night Card post? I haven't done one of these since August! So when someone hassles me about what I haven't done I can say, "well I wrote an Awesome Night Card post, so there!"

A round of applause and backslapping will commence.

Anyway, I was perusing the Walmart card aisle the other day, which in terms of baseball product means Update and Gallery and THAT'S IT, MISTER. While scanning for anything else, I spotted a blaster of something called Panini Chronicles Baseball.

I had no idea what it was. I hadn't heard about it -- not that I keep up on that stuff anymore. Since it was Panini, I kept a safe distance away and told myself I'd do a background check when I found the time.

I just did one of those and I honestly have no idea what it is still. The best I can gather is it's some sort of mash-up of Panini brands with a story written on the front and back and with the usual non-logo photo boredom.

This is nothing I will open unless someone mistakenly grabs it for me for Christmas. I just honestly don't understand why Panini has to be so weird when it comes to baseball. Given that Topps flagship has been killing my spirit the last couple of years, there is a wide-open window for Panini to drive right in and steal my heart. But it hasn't. Not in the least.

I got a few cards from Johnny's Trading Spot recently and some of the card needs were Paninis. The above night card is bizarre. I can appreciate the different subject matter -- a player snagging a ball from the dugout or stands as he walks off the field. But what a weird angle! The star of this photograph is Kevin Kiermaier's rib cage area, or armpit. You barely see his face. I appreciate the attempt at something different, but I don't think this photo should have ever appeared on a card.

Let's look at a couple of other Panini needs from Johnny, one from 2015 and another from 2017. The Optic card is almost festive. It's difficult for me to get mad at Optic, even with all the absent logos.

Ah, we've journeyed into logo land. The Kenta Maeda card congratulates me on the back for receiving a canvas collection reproduction. OK, it's a little fancy, but I don't know if congratulations are in order.

Johnny also sent some Dodgers Police card needs, these four from 1983 complete the set for me!

And here's one from 1982 that I thought I had already but apparently didn't. NOW, the '82 Police set is complete -- I think.

The biggest Police need stash came from 1987. Around 15 cards or so.

I'd scan them all, but I'm too far behind on other things to be scanning more than I did.

I am counting the days until I go on vacation so I can at least get something done.

But before that I have several more days at beyond stupid/demanding work.

Maybe I'll mention to the powers that be that I did get something done today -- an Awesome Night Card post.

I'll be waiting for that back slap.

Or maybe it'll be a pink slip.


Night Card binder candidate: Kevin Kiermaier, 2016 Panini Donruss, 1982 insert, #31
Does it make the binder?: No.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

G.O.A.T., the '70s, 10-1

I changed my favorite listening device to Christmas music today.

I'm a big fan of this time of year. I know that doesn't sound like I'm going out on a limb until you read some miserable (yes, this is a noun, this is an entire group of people now) complain about how much they hate Christmas music.

But I think I understand the lashing out. There's a lot of stress at this time and only part of it is created by the holiday. The holiday also happens to land seven days before the new year, so businesses, etc., are always implementing end-of-the-year regulations, issuing meetings that you have no time for, calling you into work for some stupid thing because the government said so, that type of nonsense.

So you've got all that stuff in the middle of all the holiday stuff. Maybe Christmas should be in September. The decorations are up in the stores then anyway.

And while all that is going on, I'm throwing the grand finale of the Greatest 100 Cards of the '70s on you. Sorry about that.

If you have any time at all, give it a read. I'm sure you know all these cards by heart. But because they're the 10 greatest, they're worth viewing over and over.

So find your green 45 of Hall and Oates' "Jingle Bell Rock," pull that cheese log out from the fridge and flip on "The Year Without a Santa Claus".

It's the holiday edition of the greatest cards of the '70s, numbers 10-1:


Reggie Jackson, 1976 Topps, #500

Reggie Jackson's Oakland A's farewell is a titanic tribute to the man.

Perhaps guilt had set in about snubbing Jackson in the 1975 set -- he was an All-Star starter in '74 yet didn't receive a star on his card -- and Topps wanted to make it right. If that's the case, this is as majestic of a mea culpa as you will ever see.

The closeup of Jackson shows him pondering his weaponry and perhaps the damage he is about to do to his opponent. Jackson's ever-present shades add mystery and power to the photo. Best of all, Jackson's golden jersey is as potent as any color display of the '70s. You might be able to heat your car with this card.

This will always be my favorite Jackson card, the last hurrah before he plummeted into the evil darkness of his Yankee years and then basically into a parody of himself through the '80s.

This card is the end of an era, a perfect capper to the Swingin', Swaggerin' A's.


Luis Alvarado, 1973 Topps, #627

If you grew up in the 1970s, you swear you walked past this scene when you were a kid.

Everything about this card -- maybe save for the palm tree branch at the far right -- is familiar to me. The wonderful gas-guzzling cars of the period, the Chevys and Dodges. The metal fence and the concrete wall.

But the most familiar scene is the two players, appearing to play catch, on what seems like a municipal lot. How many times as a kid did you play ball wherever you could find a spot, a backyard, a schoolyard, a paved parking lot? These are two major league players, but they seem like a couple of kids in the group that I played ball with all the time.

Every time I see this card it takes me back to the '70s. I am right there -- not in my room, looking at my cards -- but on that lot, playing ball, with the wide-bodied cars waiting nearby.


Herb Washington, 1975 Topps, #407

All you need to know about this spectacular item that features every color in the rainbow is that there has never been another card like it.

Washington was one of A's owner Charlie Finley's stunts. He employed the former NCAA champion track and field star as a "designated runner." Washington had no baseball experience and never came to the plate.

So how do you make a card out of that?

Topps was up to the challenge. Not only did it feature a photo of Washington doing the only thing he did in a baseball uniform -- roam the bases -- but in a landmark moment, Topps listed Washington's "position" as pinch runner (but had to abbreviate it to "pinch run.")

The stats on the back are just as fascinating. Instead of the typical "AB R H 2B 3B HR BI AVG" on the back of every hitter's card, there is "Games Runs Stolen Bases Caught Stealing". Long before stolen bases appeared as a regular category on the back of Topps cards, it was there on Washington's card.


Eddie Murray, 1978 Topps, #36

Few cards exist that are more bad-ass than this one.

Possibly no rookie cards exist that are more bad-ass than this one.

How in the world do you convey that "bad-ass" vibe as a rookie? What kind of a person can project toughness, swagger, danger all at the age of 21?

Eddie Murray could do that. He gets a little bit of help from the rookie cup in the corner, but that's merely physical confirmation of what Murray already knew: I'm bad-ass and I'm taking a bad-ass photograph.

Murray's swing looks powerful, regardless of how lazy it actually is. His glare -- no one could glare like Murray -- dares you to mention anyone more imposing. Or that his swing is lazy.

It is promise and arrival -- and quirkiness, don't forget the double hat and the Oriole bird -- all in one unforgettable card.


Kurt Bevacqua, 1976 Topps, Bubblegum Blowing Champ, #564

For my money the most memorable and fantastic one-off card ever issued by Topps.

It is the only bubblegum championship committed to cardboard. And like the Herb Washington card, you have to admire whoever it was that came up with the idea to make this a card and his or her abilities of persuasion. "Let's add a card of the bubble gum blowing championship!" And nobody shouted this person off the ledge.

Thank goodness.

Knowing what we know about cards now, this piece of cardboard is even more precious. There is no way something like this would appear as part of the base set today. It'd be an insert, or more probably, a super-short print.

But there is no sense in making baseball's best attribute -- it is fun -- exclusive. Fortunately, in 1976, someone understood that.


Steve Garvey, 1974 Topps, #575

For my generation of Dodger fans, this card holds a presence that I don't know if any of us can describe.

I just know that it bowled me over the minute I saw it, and any other L.A. fan from this time that I've come across says the same thing.

Perhaps it's because this card was being pulled out of packs at the same time that Garvey was becoming a sensation -- the write-in starter at first base in the All-Star Game -- that made it all that more impressive.

Looking at the card objectively as an adult, the action isn't anything special. Garvey may have just walked, or perhaps is turning toward the dugout after striking out. But the artistry of the photograph, the blurred images in the background, provides a "you are there" feeling that I've felt since I was a kid.

I can hear the sounds of the ballpark when I see this card, and hear the roar of the crowd. Garvey is a gladiator.


Oscar Gamble, 1976 Topps Traded, #74T

One of the best parts of the 1970s is how absolutely no one was self-aware.

Some of the fashions, music and food from that time is among the worst that I have ever experienced in retrospect. Yet, nobody knew it at the time. It seemed perfectly fine. Logical, even. Plaid green pants and orange platform shoes? Sure. Singing about someone having your baby? Outta sight.

This is why nobody gave any thought to airbrushing an Over-Afro'd Oscar Gamble into a Yankees cap and jersey. The end result looked perfectly sane, to '70s eyes.

Today, we know that the Gamble card is wonderfully ludicrous. Every time I see this card I think that Gamble has just sat himself into a barber's chair -- the jersey looks like a pinstriped smock -- to finally trim down Oscar's mythical hairdo.

But nobody would ever suggest that in the '70s. It was too awesome a sight to behold.

It's a hairdo that practically stretches from one end of the card to the other!

In the '70s, that's all that mattered.


Mark Fidrych, 1977 Topps, #265

When Fred Lynn was named the American League's Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year in 1975, I thought no rookie could match that combination of accolades.

Mark Fidrych didn't do that, but in the baseball card world, he did something better.

Fidrych is featuring both a rookie cup and an All-Star banner. Each of these items by themselves told you that you were holding a card worth treasuring. Both both? Together? If we put cards in safes back in the '70s, this was the first one going in the safe.

Fidrych's well-known enthusiasm is captured on this card. It is the best card representative of what Fidrych meant to the Tigers, to baseball, in 1976. His career would never be the same after '76 -- it was already on the downswing as kids were pulling this card out of packs.

But we will always have Fidrych's '77 Topps card to remind us exactly how fun he was that rookie year.


Thurman Munson, 1971 Topps, #5

Most of the cards from this countdown I have owned since childhood. They were easily obtainable, pulled out of packs purchased from drug stores, corner stores, grocery stores.

This one was not.

The '71 Munson arrived several years before I started collecting. And by the time I became aware of it, it was out of my price range. Thurman Munson was a well-known star when I first started collecting. Nobody was going to give up such a spectacular card featuring a giant rookie trophy. Especially not where I was living.

This is one of 1971 Topps' best uses of the horizontal format that it debuted for its base cards that year. Topps could portray action with a much fuller impact -- think wide-screen TV -- with horizontal cards. And this is top notch, showing Munson tagging out a diving Chuck Dobson of the A's.

I eventually did obtain this card (and the whole set!). I still sometimes can't believe I have it.


Johnny Bench, 1976 Topps, #300

I've known that this was going to be the Greatest Card of the '70s since before I started this countdown.

It is probably the most awe-inspiring card of my childhood. We held baseball players on a pedestal as kids and this was confirmation that we were doing the right thing.

Johnny Bench, known as one of the greatest players in the game at the time -- right up there with Pete Rose and Reggie Jackson -- is rising from the dust after God knows what. Had he just tagged someone out in collision more fierce than anyone had ever experienced? Had he just punched someone out? Had he just killed someone?

The possibilities were endless. Bench's facial expression doesn't give it away. It seems to be all in a day's work to him. He seems to be saying, "Well. I had to do it."

I miss the way I looked at this card way back then. Bench was 9-feet tall and roaring as he lurched out the mist after a battle to end all battles.

This is the greatest card that I knew in the '70s, one that I'm ever thankful that I own right now.

Not bad for the Krylon Spray Paint guy, huh?

That completes the countdown. I hope you enjoyed.

I'll have one last post in the series to really wrap things up. Then I'll post the countdown on the sidebar like I've done with my other countdowns.

Long live the '70s.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

My favorite card of 2017

This exercise is getting more and more difficult each year.

But P-town Tom has issued another year-end contest challenge and I can't resist a quick post idea. What is my favorite card issued in 2017?


I haven't bought much 2017 product, just a sampling of each brand, basically. And while I won't bag on everything issued this year -- except for you, Topps flagship -- there is almost nothing made available this past year that stood out for me.

I'm a Dodger fan, so it would make sense that in the year of the Dodgers reaching the World Series, my favorite would be related to that. But nothing is jumping out. I probably should have bought a ToppsNow card of the Dodgers celebrating their NLCS win, that would have been smart right about now. But I didn't. Cody Bellinger was rookie of the year in 2017 but my favorite Bellinger card isn't any of the ones with a rookie logo on it. It's his minor league issue card from his time at Triple A Oklahoma City.

That sums up 2017 in cards for me.

So does this.

I seriously considered making this card my favorite card of the year. I can't resist a monkey on a baseball card. If it wasn't for that stupid criss-cross design cutting off a fourth of every photo in 2017 Topps, this very well could be my favorite card of the year.

But there is one card that sums up 2017 for me better than any other as my interest in current cards and, really, current baseball, diminishes more and more.

This is my favorite card of the year.

It's a well-designed card featuring an amazing photo, taken at night, of someone inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.

But I also like it because the photo was snapped long ago. It's an image from 1984.

So it's a 33-year-old photo of a dude no longer playing, in a stadium no longer used for baseball, wearing a uniform of a team that no longer exists.

That sums up where my collecting head is at and 2017 cards for me.

Glad there's someone out there that still remembers the good old days.

Monday, December 11, 2017

So very far to go

I stumbled across Red Cardboard's housecleaning post rather late, and after taking a look at the goodies available, I shot off a panicked email hoping there might be something left for the taking.

I shouldn't have been worried.

I was reassured that there were some items left for me and, oh, by the way, would I be interested in a bunch of 1990 Target Dodgers cards?

Ah, yes, the 1990 Target set.

Those itty bitty black and white cards of bizarre shape and flimsiness that make up a monstrously large set of 1,100, supposedly featuring every player to compete for the Dodgers between 1890-1990.

Sure, lay 'em on me.

I looked at this as my chance to get much closer to finishing off this quirky set. And when the cards arrived, my anticipation grew. There were more than 30 complete 15-card panels, plus a number of other cards that had been separated from the panel in four- and three- and one-card chunks!

Surely I could do damage with this:

I eagerly set up my own checklist and started crossing off numbers.

I used a black marker for the cards from Red Cardboard and a red marker for the Target cards I owned already.

Here is what I found:

I made a dent. But I have a lot, lot more work to do.

Not only did I turn up a number of duplicates, but there is an entire segment, cards 888-1095, that I don't have (the checklist numbers aren't quite right as I found out after the fact that there's some skip-numbering in this set).

I don't think the last group of cards is rarer than the rest -- or at least I hope it isn't.

I'll probably go through the tedious process of posting a want list eventually. In the meantime I have several duplicates if anyone is interested. (I'm a little surprised what some of the star cards go for, given their flimsy nature).

Despite the quality of the cards -- and the fact that they don't fit neatly into any size pages -- this set is pretty cool if you're a Dodger fan. There are many cards of players who never received a card of themselves as a Dodger, from dudes who played way back before the 1900s to prospects who were dealt away.

As for the more reasonable-sized cards in the package, many of the needs were aggravating inserts that seem to make up so much of want list these days.

 And parallels. We musn't forget the parallels.

I was happy to see a couple of base-card needs fall out, too. I think Matt and I are on the same team-collector plain -- we are shocked when base cards arrive that we don't own.

It's possible I actually do have that BoChro Maeda but I'm going to tell myself right now that I don't.

Some of the treats in this package were the old and the oddball. I'm not entirely sure what this oversized TCMA issue is but it is sturdy and awesome.

I requested this card because I love the Fleer Laughlin World Series sets and will own them all someday.

What right-thinking collector doesn't love vintage? Even if it's vintage that I own already.

Look at that OPC rookie pitchers card sneaking in there. That is definitely new.

This is one of those packages that will take quite a bit of filing work -- it already has. I love packages like that.

Yup, I have so very far to go, but it's the best trip ever.