Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Playoff Brothers.

       Hey, we're back. That last few weeks of silence was Marcel Marceau's newest hit single, "Walkin' In The Wind." And now, here are the playoffs.  I am sure you are all sitting on the edge of your seat wondering who I am going to support this October.  The last couple of years, my choices have been the kiss of death, but I would feel remiss if I didn't share my usual insane thought processes.  This year, three of the teams that made the AL playoffs also happen to be the three teams who won the three World Series directly before the Mets did in 1986 and, much like the Amazin's, haven't won it since.  This wonderful bit of convolution is the key to my choices.

The Kansas City Royals won the Series in 1985 and sadly, stupefyingly, and horrifyingly haven't even been to the playoffs since.
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That team starred a veteran George Brett at third and first base.  After winning the AL west like a million times between 1976 and 1984, the Royals the shocked the Cardinals in 1985 - with a little help from Don Denkinger, of course.  It is a long shot, but I would love to see KC take the title after a 29 year drought.

Everyone remembers the 1984 Detroit Tigers.
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They were the team that just steamrolled everyone through the whole year, kind of like a baseball version of the '85 Bears.  They led wire to wire in the regular season and then lost only one game in the playoffs while taking the title.  Everyone remembers Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson from that team but no one ever remembers Lou Whitaker.  1984 was just another in a long line of gold glove silver slugger all star seasons from their second baseman.  Everyone has spent the last decade arguing about whether Jack Morris should be in Cooperstown when the real travesty is the fact that Whitaker got less than 5% of the vote early and dropped off the ballot when he (and Alan Trammell) should be in the Hall - probably more so than Morris.  Detroit has since seen a few horrible teams and a few playoff teams, even going to the Series in 2006, but they haven't won it all since that magical 1984 season.

Then in 1983, you had the Baltimore Orioles.
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The Orioles in '83 were led by a young MVP shortstop named Cal Ripken.  You may have heard of him.  The 31 years since that title have seen more dark times than not for Baltimore.  The mid 90's team was a juggernaut that never quite got to the Series and since then, it has been all dark.  But this year they finally won the AL East title for the first time in 17 years.   I jumped on the O's bandwagon two years ago - mostly to stick it to the Yankees - and they immediately tanked.  So this time around I am putting them third on my love list, hoping that a little reverse psychology will help them out.  Of course, now that I have mentioned that out loud, it is a certain jinx.  I need to learn to keep my mouth shut.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


O say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
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On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
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And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
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O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

- Francis Scott Key, first printed September 17, 1814

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Football '14 Week 2: Uniformity.

       Last week, the Saints lost a heart breaker in overtime to the hated Falcons.  Most people would find blame for the loss in the red zone interception Drew Brees threw in the second half or perhaps the crushing fumble in overtime by Marques Colston.  My mother, however, found all the blame to be with the fact that I didn't wear my game jersey. 

This, of course, is the gamer: a white 3X #9 Drew Brees Saints model 2011.  I only had my Sir Saints tee shirt on, so obviously, it is all my fault the Saints are 0-1.

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Since most of you come for the cards, here is Drew wearing a similar jersey.  Mine, sadly, does not have the nifty captain's C patch. 

If I feel like mixing it up, I also have this baby:

A retro #8 Archie Manning.  I like wearing this to live games, it gets the best comments.

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The only real issue with it is that it is not a throwback, like you see in this gorgeous autographed card.  I love the Saints throwback jerseys and the old school gold color and all the stripes.  Modern football sleeves are so boring. 

I recently acquired this one as well:

This is a 2010 #88 Jeremy Shockey.  Shockey was a polarizing figure with the Giants, but he was a good solider with the Saints and even caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl.  When the opportunity to pick this up for $17 came, I took it without thinking twice.  Eventually, it will be a dandy throwback.  

My next jersey purchase will definitely be of a different tight end:
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I think Jimmy Graham will sign a long term deal with the team and therefore, his black #80 will be a good addition to the wardrobe. 

We have to go to the back of the closet to find my last black gamer:
You will notice the Mets jerseys are already in the closet...

Yes, I do wear those shirts into public, why do you ask...

My #25 Reggie Bush was a prized possession for a long time. 

This badboy was a second skin for games for five years.  I bought this right after he was the second pick in the draft in 2006.  Sadly, business is business and he has played with Miami and now Detroit since 2011. 

Wow, Max, you own a lot of Saints jerseys.  You haven't seen nothing yet.  This is just the laundry pile...

I wore the short sleeve Sir Saint last week; this week is a little more chilly, so I could go with the long sleeve:

Sadly, that is faux-vintage.  I could go with vintage-vintage, this shirt is pretty old:

I could go hard core vintage-vintage.  I bought this in a thrift shop in LA, so I have no idea how old it is.

I could also go new swag:

I got this at a game last year from a booth run my the lottery commission.  You bought $20 worth of tickets and they gave you a bunch of Saints stuff.  My inner gambler and lover of free stuff couldn't resist.  Of course, I think I won $2 on the tickets, so really, this shirt cost me $18.  So I guess it isn't swag at all...

I also have one tee shirt jersey, you probably have seen it before if you read the blog:

This is my Steve Gleason #37.  It also has a faux-vintage look to it.

Of course, there is my absolute favorite t-shirt:

When the Saints won the Super Bowl, the first thing I did Monday morning was go online and order these for myself, my mother, and anyone else in the family who wanted one.  I had them delivered overnight so I was wearing this on the Tuesday after they won.  I try not to think of how much this shirt actually cost, but really, it is priceless.

It is Sunday, so the choice to remain in my pajamas is there, and believe me, it will be optioned:

Hell, the pajamas I have on right now are Saints branded:

Yes, I know what you are thinking, I am the NFL's wet dream with the amount of team merchandise I own, but believe me, being a Saints fan living in New Jersey, I like to wear my fandom literally on my sleeve.  And on game day, I suppose am superstitious enough to think that if others think I am not pulling my weight, then I should wear more.  I am going to wear the Manning jersey with the black pajama pants.  I have done my part, now it is Drew and the boys' turn to go out and win one on the road.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Football '14 Week 1: Shakin' in the Sixties.

       Football!  Football is back. With the Mets being so terrible for most of the year (and with no love whatsoever for Derek Jeter or his day), I have been aching in anticipation for the return of the gridiron where at least one of my teams might not suck.  To open up this year's weekly Sunday spectacular, I figure I would do a nice "What I Did Last Summer" review.  Now, I have done decade breakdowns before, one of them - the 1970's version - is the second most viewed post on this site.  This summer, I focused on building nine pocket pages, via ebay and shows, for the decade of the 1960's, the NFL's big turning point decade.  How did Topps cover this turbulent decade?  Let's take a look...

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I covered the first two years of the 60's back on that 70's post, but for the sake of continuity, I will cover them again.  I kinda like the '69 design, it is simple and effective with little quirks.  The most striking quirk is that some of the backgrounds are full bleed and some of them are white-bordered.  I haven't quite figured out if there is a pattern to that, but it is definitely hard to miss once you realize it.  Perhaps I would find a pattern if I had the whole set in front of me, alas, building a vintage football set is not in the cards for me.

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I stand by my earlier analysis that these cards totally look like time-release capsules.  It reminds me of an old commercial where they would split the capsules and all the little dots of medicine would spill everywhere and my OCD, even as a child, would just start screaming "nooooooooooooooo!"  Anyway, this was the first year in a few where both the AFL and NFL were seen together.  I guess when they merged the leagues, they saw fit to have only one card maker. 

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In the decade of drugs, this is as psychedelic as it gets.  Sad.  We'd have to wait until 1972 baseball to get pure colorful explosions.  For the Summer of Love, these aren't the grand Lucy In The Sky artifacts they could have been, more like staring at your gramma's cameos after a single hit of blotter acid. 

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Topps went all TV set in 1966 and they even synchronized the hockey and the football designs but I guess they didn't feel like aping the 1955 Bowman baseball design.  This was a much more effective design for hockey because they used the fun rink backgrounds and here you just get head shots and blue sky.  But really, Topps had already done the perfect horizontal card, which we will get to in a moment.

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Tall boys!  Now these cards are the ones I picture when I think of the 1960's.  I don't think I saw a 1967 Topps football card until I was at least 20 years old but these are ubiquitous in their familiarity.  Sure, their size makes them annoying but man, who cares, just look at those.  The colors, the photos, it all works.  It helps that probably the iconic football card of all time is in this set - the equivalent to the 1952 Mantle.

And look at these amazing backs:
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The extra real estate makes room for an enormous cartoon.  All the players get a long write up. The pink and black on off white make them very easy to read.  Topps tried to reprint these in the regular size two years ago, which misses the point.  I really wish they would do a separate throw-back Heritage set in this size and design.

If the size of these bugs you, there is always 1965 Philadelphia to soothe your soul.  You will also see that the Fleer cards (Philadelphia was the name of their football sets) of the era had the NFL and the Topps cards had the AFL.  This was true from 1964 to 1967, probably the last time there was any real friction in the card world between leagues and the only time between 1955 and 1981 Topps had any real competition in any sport. 

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A while back I wondered why Topps didn't use the stars they use on their printer's sheets as part of a design, completely forgetting that the 1964 football cards exist.  I must say, my musing that this would make a good border was a proper one, these look great.  Plus, if the 1970's was the decade of the ribbon, the 1960's is the decade of the solid color background.  No less that 4 of the sets use it, plus 2 others have a majority of the cards with the sky as the background. 

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I would really like to know if the dude who designed these also designed the 1975 baseball because, whoa, colors.  Twelve years before that seminal set, these were the obvious prototype: greens, reds, blues, yellows everywhere.  My favorite thing about this page, though, is the position on the center card, you just don't see that anymore in the age of specialization. 

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Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the best sports card design ever.  Not just football, not just horizontal, but the best period.  I will not accept any other applicants.  I will fight you if you disagree with me.  This is it, this is the pinnacle.  It has been a slow decline ever since.  The large square color portrait. The small black and white action shot.  The blast of color with the text box.  It is perfect composition.  It is all very De Stijl; they are of its age but timeless.  The black borders tie the whole thing together, keeping everything in balance.  Topps has been doing baseball cards in older past designs of other sports, I would kill to see them do a baseball set like this. My love of this set is very violent.  I take it back, I might build a vintage football set after all and this one would be it.

Okay, let's calm down and look at the backs.
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The only thing that isn't perfect about this set is that they backs are "eh.."  I mean, the cartoons are nice and big but the write ups and stats leave something to be desired. Not to mention the red is also too drab.  I guess you can't have everything.

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Between this and the baseball set, 1961 could very well be the most dull year ever in terms of set design in Topps' history.  I mean, a simple text box on the bottom can be very dynamic if you want it to be, but let's face it, this is not.  All black backgrounds, all yellow text.  Yawn.  No wonder they had to step up their game in '62 on both fronts.  I will try not to fall asleep before I finish the last year.

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See?  This set proves that simple doesn't have to be boring.  The texture of the photos are reminiscent of the 1957 baseball set and I believe this is the first appearance of the "chubby football" element I am so fond of that Topps uses from time to time.  I do like how the simplicity of the '60 and '69 sets nicely bookend the decade.  Plus, look at that helmet Middleton is leaning on in the bottom center card, is that a leather helmet?  In 1960? No wonder all these guys died in their 50's.

Speaking of the 50's, I have precious few Topps cards from that decade.  If I am going to do a 1950's version of this post, I am gonna have to step up my eBay purchases.  Luckily, the first Topps set from that decade didn't happen until 1955, so I only have to do half the work I did here.  Heck, I don't even have all the 1990's sets covered in full nine pocket page form, so that one is gonna have to wait too.  For now, you will have to be satisfied with this glorious post and the return of football.  Really, what more do you need?


And 64 silver dollars if you got the post's title reference...

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Chrome Is Where The Heart Is.

       People use the term "house-bound agoraphobe" so loosely these days.  One would think while one has been kind of cooped up in the house for a month (by choice) that one would have all sorts of time to blog about his hobby.  Yup, you would sure think that, wouldn't you?

Anyway, I have these packs to open this evening...
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One would think I made a trek to Target to get these - but one would be wrong - I nabbed these off of Listia.  Didn't you even read the opening sentence to this post?

I have quite the love affair going with Chrome; it is one of the few brands I have a complete run of pages for.  Here you can see the page that has been devised from these packs:
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Some great facial expressions going on here, though I am not sure that is what Chrome does best.  Also some very colorful uniforms, which pop off the chrome even better than you can see in the scan. 

So of course I keep nine cards for my page, what else is gonna stay?  Well, funny you should ask...
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I pulled three of the Rookie Cup cards, which is always a plus.  I got one (1) base Mets card, Wilmer Flores, who more and more does not look like shortstop of the future.  The one X-Fractor I got was Raphael Montero, which makes this a more than successful pack ripping for Mets rookies.  Also there are some cards I have put aside for other bloggers, though I already found out the Dodgers are not needed, so those are up for grabs.  

You are supposed to get a refractor in every two packs, so let's see if I came out ahead:
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With the x-fractor above, I came out way ahead.  In terms of players, meh.  Any and all of these five are up for trade if you want them. 

The bonus to these packs are the three orange refractors included.  This means I have nine, a perfect page maker, if I so choose:
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The orange works better with some teams than other but I think it looks great with Mets players.  Plus, that photo of Curtis Granderson is 1000x better than the one they plastered on the base set.  And I must say, pulling Mike Trout and Jose Fernandez in the same pack was quite nifty.

And to pull the old Gilligan's Island Theme on you, here's the rest:
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Derek Jeter and Stephen Strausburg might thrill some, but not me.  There are a dozen other players here that I have no use for.  If you do, feel free to drop me a line and we can work out a deal.  I am gonna go hide under the covers and wait for football to start for real tomorrow.