Monday, May 11, 2020

Pollard Throws No-Hitter May 11, 1978.

    There are a few of you raising your eyebrows right now trying to remember a major league pitcher named Pollard who threw a no-no 42 years ago today.  Well, that's not quite the headline I am angling toward here.  The Pollard in question here is Robert, the ultimate lo-fi pioneer, lead singer of Guided By Voices (along with a couple dozen other off-shoots), Uncle Bob to a bunch of us music nerds. One of the things that made me want to start blogging again is that Goodwin Champions included him in their set last year and I went a little crazy...
I have a 1/1 printing plate waiting for me in COMC to join these colorful wonders.






































Okay, how do I explain Robert Pollard and GBV in baseball terms?  Well, if the Beatles are Mickey Mantle (or Willie Mays?) and Nirvana is Bo Jackson (or Sandy Koufax?), then Bob would be Rocky Colavito (or Eddie Yost?) - the under the radar, out of the ordinary but similarly brilliant superstar for which there is a small but intensely devoted following.  Maybe Tim Raines would also work here or perhaps Tony Mullane (or even Ichiro?).  You get the idea.  His music is classic rock but somewhat alien.  It is timeless yet also fixed permanently in the British Invasion vibe and the DIY punk ethic of the early 80s.  Bob once defined his vision for the band as if the Beatles never stopped making music and what it would sound like.  He knocks out dense melodic songs by the score and most of them are under 2 minutes (though they have gotten a little longer as he's gotten older).  He puts out 2-3 albums a year with GbV and half a dozen EPs and side efforts and it is dizzying to keep up with but ultimately very rewarding.  The fans are also insanely devoted and encyclopedic in their knowledge.   Baseball fans and music fans are a mostly round Venn diagram that way when you think about it.  To me, these cards are the wonderful overlap of those two classic obsessions of mine. 

Last year I bought a huge lot of the base card, made a page, and then sent the rest to the fans.






































Bob Pollard is a fascinating dude with an outrageous story.  He was a regular guy who went to college, played baseball and basketball, became a teacher, and seemed like your normal law-abiding citizen from Dayton OH.  But he always loved music and one day in the early 80s he just decided he was going to be in a band and make rock music and he didn't care what anyone thought of him. So he and his buddies started recording songs in his garage on a boombox and they just kept doing it.  They would play local shows and they became this eclectic local oddity but when people listened to the songs, they realized this guy was actually pretty good.  They were the underest of underground the indiest of indie. But word spread and legends grew and by the mid-90s when this dude was going to college, he discovered their music through a friend who saw I loved the Beatles and thought I should give them a listen.  I have been a fanatic ever since.  And even with a retirement 15 years ago (like most premature sports retirements, it didn't stick), they have come back and are still going very strong. I was looking forward to seeing them  for the seventh time this year, but, well, you know. GbV usually does epic 3 hour shows with a 40+ song set list (they do 100 songs on New Years) but mind you, Bob also comes out with a cooler of beer and drinks and sings until he can't the lyrics so it's usually a glorious train wreck.

My favorite legend of the man, though, is the no-hitter he threw in college - 42 years ago today.  It is just a strange wrench thrown in the machine of a quirky rock and roll story.  If you go to one of their shows, you will see plenty of t-shirts that commemorate this perfectly non-historic but wonderfully odd phenomenon. 





















Did Bono or Sting ever throw a no hitter (or the UK equivalent?) I doubt it. Jon Bon Jovi never scored four touchdowns in a game and I am certain Bob Dylan never scored 100 points in a basketball game.  But my ultimate rock hero once pitched a no-hitter in college.

So here are not the five "best" songs but the most indicative.  If you like any or all of these, you have a fighting chance to join the club and be a Guided By Voices covert.  One of these songs is even responsible for my eBay screen name.  Give them a shot, go on, I'll wait. Or don't, I'm not a cop.



If any of you took the time to listen, let me know what you think. And even if you didn't, I know the crazed nature we all collect cards with and for me it definitely is similar with music and I figure if anyone can understand the excitement when two of those worlds collide, it's you guys. Seeing trading cards of the front man of your favorite band (when 98% of folks have never even heard of your your favorite band) was the absolute highlight of my 2019 collecting. Plus the man is a sports legend, he threw a no-hitter!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

We All Could Use A Reason To Smile.

      In a small adjoiner to my rambling post the other day about Julio Franco and his ancient record-setting home run, today is the four year anniversary of another old man home run mark set by one of the great elderly pitchers of recent time, Bartolo Colon.





































Big Sexy put all his weight into this swing and became the oldest player to ever hit his first home run.  It is also one of the most joyous and unbelievable things I have ever seen. It's like watching Santa Claus win the lottery and give all the money away to orphans. If you have never seen it - or listened to Gary Cohen's amazing call - please do so now...


Wherever Bart may be right now, I hope he is laughing and enjoying a nice meal knowing he put a smile on my face today remembering that day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Drunk Post: Who Wants It?

      As promised in my last post, I have been drinking. A lot. So it's time for a drunk post!!!  And I am going to ask a question I haven't asked in a while...who wants it? 

No, not my tacos, they are already in my belly...




























...and they we're fucking delicious.  No. I am giving away some really great cards here.  Like, how about a 1952 Mickey Mantle!

























Okay, not really.  This is actually a hilarious card.  This is a bootleg copy of the 1983 Topps reprint of the 1952 Topps set.  I bought two of these thinking they were the actual 1983 versions, which were 100% issued by Topps and were pretty much the first faux-vintage they ever made.  But on first glance of the back, I knew things were a tad wonky.  The front looks pretty good but the back looks like it was done on a Canon copier in 1983.  It is even clipped on the bottom by the bit that reads "1952 Reprint Series" One of these is in my Mantle pages as a great example of a copy of a copy of a copy (think the Michael Keaton movie Multiplicity).  But if you appreciate such horrors of ineptitude, all you have to do is say you want it.  I don't run contests or ask you to follow me or wax my car or anything. But you might want to wait a moment because I am also giving away...

A 1979-80 Topps Wayne Gretzky rookie card!
You miss 100% of the shots you don't make and this card missed 100%



























In the toploader in low light after your third or fourth margarita, this card actually looks kinda good.  The colors of the front are on target and then you turn it over and quickly notice that the texture of the back is all wrong because this was printed on the photographic paperboard they used to include with digital cameras back in 1998.  Unauthorized reprint is a really nifty term for counterfeit but this card has all the presentation of a $100 bill with Benny Hill on it instead of Ben Franklin.  But it is still worth owning if you aren't going to try and fool your blind neighbor into buying it along with your dead parrot.  It can be yours for the asking price of nothing because it is worth less than nothing - but is still a cool copy of one of the cornerstone cards of any hockey collection.  So who wants it?  Just drop a comment or an email or a smoke signal and which card you want (you can only have one) and I will send you a fantastic (copy of a copy of a copy of a) 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle or a (painfully fake) 1979-80 Topps Wayne Gretzky rookie.  Like any good bar, first come, first served.  Now, who dares me to eat the worm!?!?

Monday, May 4, 2020

I Have a Bad Feeling About This.

      A quick look at the date means I should be saying "May the Fourth be with you" and post some Star Wars cards but I just can't do it.  I know you all feel the same way but it has hit me hard this week:

Dear god, I miss baseball so fucking much!!!

Yes, I am shouting and I don't care who hears me.  I rode out April in quarantine just kind of imagining it was a second February.  February is long painful month most years - it's cold, the holidays and football are over, baseball only begins to emerge from the winter - let's face it, February sucks.  This April was February part 2, just an awful fate for what is usually a wonderful month.  And now it seems we are all dug in and the virus is going to stick around all summer and it is seriously beginning to look like we are going to get little to no baseball at all this year.  There is only so much radio replays of world series broadcasts and twitter posts about what happened on this day I can take. Even during times when I was trapped inside due to depression or unemployment or sickness or some combination of those things, there was baseball to look forward to in the evenings to pass the time and distract the mind.  But the weight of our collective situation is hitting hard: we might not have baseball to get us through this.  And for any foreseeable future, the next couple months definitely won't have baseball.  Just writing this rambling paragraph is driving me crazy and pissing me off.   I am going through the entire Kübler-Ross in 250 words or less.  *sigh*

I have been dealing with my lockdown by spring cleaning.  And I mean capital-C Cleaning.  The whole house has never looked better.  So many things have been organized, thrown out, or scrubbed.  But I am running out of things.  I am doing the big parts of the baseball collection and saving the actual sorting of cards for last.  After that, well, I don't want to think about that.  I do a lot of reading in general, both online nonsense and actual books, and I have been diving into more baseball history than any of the virtual seasons that some websites have been running.  Today, on what is usually a Star Wars-centric day, I read a fun TDIH baseball thing and I will now bring everything together and focus on that.  This month is my birthday month, I will be 45 on the 27th.  On May 4, 2007 Julio Franco hit a home run (what would be his last) at the age of 48 years and 254 days.  This is the record for the oldest player ever to hit a home run.
This home run is on the card in the lower left; rare that I have the exact moment on hand.






































Even more fun?  That home run was hit off of Randy Johnson, who was 43 years old at the time (and 239 days).  That is 92+ years of pitch and homer!  This is obviously the record for that obscure mark and I imagine it is one that will stand for quite a while.  This little fact has made me feel both very old and surprisingly young at the same time.

In fact, this is as good a time as ever to start a series called Players I Like For No Reason.  PILFNR - it just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?  Julio Franco is a great example of a PILFNR.





































Actually, we are off to a bad start because there is a very clear reason I have liked Julio Franco for basically his entire 400 year career - he has the coolest batting stance ever.  Like a lot of kids on the playground and in the batting cage, I liked to copy major leaguers and their stances.  Hell, there is a lovable doofus who turned this into an entire shtick. Alas, I was just an amateur and never saw the future in mimicking the likes of Eric Davis, Gary Sheffield, Don Mattingly, Howard Johnson, Darryl Strawberry, Mickey Tettleton and the like.   But my favorite by far was definitely Julio Franco.  In case you are unaware, you can clearly see his stance on four cards on this next page...






































The man stood up basically straight, turned his hip inward, and held the bat over his head back at a 270 degree angle pointing to the pitcher.  And it was actually weirder than I just described.  And somehow it worked! He used the fastest wrists I ever saw to turn the bat, whip it though the hitting zone, and terrorize pitchers until he was 50 years old.  He was amazing and unlike anyone before or since.  I enjoyed the hell out of watching him at the very end of his career on the Mets but he will always be one of those players I always dug way before his association with the blue and orange.

Okay, that bit of giddiness over Julio Franco has made me feel a little bit better, sorry if this post was a little all over the place.  I am going to go watch the despecialized version of the original Star Wars and plan on my tacos and margaritas for tomorrow.  Stay safe and sane everyone.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Well D.A.M.

    Looking at today's date, I knew it would be pretty easy to do a post today.  And sure, anyone could throw up a Brandon Puffer or Jung Bong (or Tobi Stoner or Josh Smoker) and call it a day, but I decided to go in a direction few would expect from me, I am going to praise a Yankees player as today is the 59th birthday of Donald Arthur Mattingly.






































Mattingly takes up five pages in my retired player books, which is pretty much the most of anyone I can think of who doesn't have a dedicated player collection.  I think I might also have five pages of Mark McGwire and Nomar Garciaparra but I'd have to check on that.






































I respected the hell out of Mattingly as a player when I was a kid, his prime years were right in the middle of my childhood obsession with all things baseball plus I was living in New Jersey surrounded by Yankees fans so it was impossible not to know all about him. From everything I could see, he was a good dude with a sweet swing who made the most of his chance with the team since he was one of the few young players the Yankees didn't trade away in the early 80s for washed up veterans.  So seeing his cards is like a time capsule of all those great designs and oddball issues; he was one of the big hits you got when opening a pack.  Plus Donnie "looked" like a ballplayer.  I mean, you don't get a name like Donnie Baseball for nothing.  The mustache, the flowing hair, the pinstripes, it all adds up to a perfect mystique.






































I always refer to Mattingly as The Reverse Koufax in that he had five or six amazing seasons followed by five or six mediocre seasons punctuated by a career shortening injury.  Koufax was exactly the opposite.  His first seven years were mediocre at best and then he had five or six of the most amazing seasons you ever saw and sadly had to retire due to injury.  Koufax's career numbers aren't that much different than say Johan Santana or Ron Guidry's and yet the only way they will ever get to Cooperstown is by buying a ticket.  If Koufax hadn't built his legend and left us wanting more, he would never have had the unbelievable awe around his name.  Mattingly's numbers are similar to another player, Kirby Puckett, who also left early due to injury.  Puckett is in the Hall of Fame, first ballot no less, and Mattingly isn't.  It is one of the rare times a Yankees player has gotten shafted by the system and by our memories.  If you reverse his career trajectory and have him build that amazing resume peaking at his 1985 or 1986 season and then leave at 34 with a back injury, he's in the hall no doubt.  This isn't me arguing that he should be in Cooperstown, mind you, but it is a major part of his legacy that isn't always talked about. It is one of the more undeniable examples that perception is reality.






































Alas, the one place Don has not acquitted himself is as a manager.  The Yankees passed over him for Joe Girardi so he went to Los Angeles and there, he made less out of more for five seasons and after they got tired of him, he's gone to Miami where most old people go to rot and done less with less.  The less said about all this, the better.   

If you care to notice, this page is nothing but fielding photos of Donnie Baseball.






































The other important thing about Don Mattingly that always gets talked about was his defense.  He won nine gold gloves and I can recall more than a few big arguments, both in my childhood years and adulthood, about who was better, Keith Hernandez or Don Mattingly.  There is no denying that Mattingly could pick it at first base about as good as anyone and I am not going to disparage his play.  But Keith redefined defensive play at first and Mattingly then fit into that definition. There is something to be said about setting defensive standards; it is why Ozzie Smith is in the Hall (and Bill Mazeroski for that matter).  Mattingly played like Keith and in most ways as well as Keith at first base but Keith was the first and best one to play the way he did at first.  That is why I always say Keith Hernandez deserves to be in the Hall even more so than Mattingly despite his offensive numbers being lesser.  There is something to being the first one to do something.

***

Some further reading on the subject here.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Old and New Business on a Pretty Good Good Friday.

   First things first, you will have noticed that the header has changed, I figured the blog could use a spruce and little more color plus the other photo was not a good example of social distancing.  While I am not sure if the new one has the guys 6 feet apart, it is still a better graphic for this day and age. 

A couple packages have come to Starting Nine central recently, one was from a new reader eager to share; Tom from The Angels in Order looked at one of my my wantlists and satisfied some missing base Mets, especially from series 2 of 2018 Topps, from which I purchased exactly zero packs:





































One of the last posts I did before I disappeared was a harsh yet fair critique of the 2018 Topps design (and what they could have done about it).  I stand by my thoughts 1000% though I must say, those vertical photos of d'Arnaud and Thor looks great regardless of their borderless nature.  I never did get to say what I thought of the 2019 look, but I liked it more than most; 1982 Topps is one of the first sets I remember and it definitely invokes that look.  Anyway, I have a bunch of Angels stuff to go out to reciprocate these so thanks Tom!

The other came from Nate of The Bucs Stop Here, who read about my glut of 2020 Heritage and wanted to trade.  I sent him the Alvarez/Aquino rookie I had and he sent me some Mets that will be far more appreciated around here:





































It may not look it, but that Granderson is shiny foil and rookie cup cards are always appreciated especially when needed. My completed trades column to the right has been updated.  Thanks Nate!   Also in the right column, you will see the "followers" and "blog roll" - if you aren't following me, you may as well click on the button now and rectify that.  Also, if you want to be on the blog roll, just let me know and we'll do the old quid pro quo (and not even get in trouble for it).  I usually don't worry about such things much, but with the blog being dormant for so long, I figure I'd like to see more readers and know who they are, especially if they're new.  Hell, I have now posted more in the last month or so than in any of the last four years.  I am also pleased to see that one of the few bright spots of this current lockdown situation we all find ourselves in is that a few blogs that had gone down have started up again.  Let's hear it for the blogosphere!!!

***

A few belated thanks need to also be delivered to some altruistic displays of cardboard giving.  Last November, Jeff from 2 by 3 Heroes sent a random email to me verifying my address.  This email had no other information whatsoever but I told him I hadn't budged, address-wise.  A few days later, a package arrived full of goodies:





































I am pretty sure it was this long forgotten post that inspired his delivery, but full of Firefly cards it was.  He even gave it an international header card.  There was also a bunch of Mets cards in there too and it is rare that they are relegated to second tier in a scan, yet here we are.  Firefly is streaming on Hulu right now and we all have nothing but time on our hands, so I suggest highly that if you have never seen it to go watch it.  And hell, now is as good a time as any to watch it again if you have seen it.  (belated) Thanks Jeff!

While I was irregularly (then not) blogging, one person I kept trading with was venerable veteran Night Owl Cards.  We have probably sent 40-50 packages to each other in the last 10 years or so and because we know what each other collect so well, we just kept doing it regardless of online status.  At one point last year I scanned this batch:
Matt Harvey?  Sheesh, this is old.  Remember that guy?






































These are some fabulous Mets cards and inserts, then there was this vein of oddities (from NO at least):





































The note answered my questions when it said "I didn't suddenly become a Bo-Chro collector, the cards just kind of landed in my lap."  It is probably the strangeness of the rookies in there and the gloriously dismissive abbreviation that made me scan them for future use in the first place.  Well, thanks as always Night Owl, I already have plenty in my pile for your next package.  I even looked at your wantlists for a change.

And speaking of piles, lastly I need to clear up a few unresolved trades.  I keep the outgoing cards on my bookshelf close to my mailing stuff and right now there is a bunch of things I need to figure out.





































A few, like those Orioles and Blue Jays, I just need to verify addresses before I send them out.  But I also have a rare Barry Larkin insert that I can't recall whom I was going to swap with.  I also have a bunch of blue parallels, do you collect blue parallels?  Let me know, I think those are for you.  I also have a couple of 1990 UD Marquis Grissom rookies that I know there is a blogger who wants to collect 1000 of them or something but I can't remember who it is.  Is it you? Do you know who it is and if he's done collecting his grand of Grissom?  Please leave a comment or drop me a line. 

So now it's back to the grand Spring Cleaning, in between playing with stuff I find of course...

Monday, April 6, 2020

RIP Mr. Tiger.

Al Kaline 1934-2020

       I was having a very good day, since I have very little to do right now I decided to get high and sort baseball cards this afternoon (who said the lockdown is all bad?) But my good mood is ruined with the word that Al Kaline has died.
This is one of my favorite hall of famer pages; I love the symmetry.






































You have to be pretty good to be Mr. *team here* and Kaline earned his Mister moniker with a great career spent all in Detroit.  He was the youngest batting champ in history, hit 399 homers (so close!), collected 3007 hits and went into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.  More than that, not only did he lead the Tigers to a World Series win in 1968 I literally have never heard anyone say a bad word about him as a man or a player.  My real issue is why he wasn't known as "Battery" or "Basic" to everyone?  Godspeed Al.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Foolish.

     I think we all could use a genuine laugh these days, so I think you should all see this 50th Anniversary box topper from this year's Heritage. It is my new favorite card:






































I'm pretty sure everyone except Denny Riddleberger will think this is funny.

You might be wondering what my old favorite card was?  Well, that's easy...





































It's right there in the middle of that page.  Happy birthday Phil Niekro!

Friday, March 27, 2020

RIP Toy Cannon

      James Sherman Wynn 1942-2020






































I recently wrote of my decades-long dislike for the Houston Astros but I will always make an exception for a great nickname and they don't come much better than The Toy Cannon.  A vastly underrated ballplayer way ahead of his time in terms of on base percentage and power, he routinely cracked 20-30 homers out of the Astrodome at a time when most of his teammates had trouble hitting double digits. He only hit .250 but walked 100 or more times a year six times (sound familiar? told you he was ahead of his time).  He bounced around the league in his 30s to the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees, and Brewers but he was so good for the Astros in the 1960s that they retired his #24 in 2005.  Godspeed Jim.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Dilemma.

       Well, I have been home from work for the last 8 days.  I spent the first two exactly how one would expect when they have been furloughed from work indefinitely: I sat around in my pajamas and watched movies and did little to nothing.  And while that certainly sounds ideal, after a while, it gets a bit boring.  So I then dove into my collection and really started working on things; a full spring cleaning.  I did a little documentation of it and it will no doubt show up on a later blog post, but right now I have a specific situation that I was hoping to get some advice on.   

I found in a pile of cards with these two autographed beauties.  A 1972 Carlton Fisk rookie done in ball point pen at a card show in the 1980s and a 1983 Fleer Superstar Special of  Fisk and Gary Carter with the Carter signed in blue sharpie.  I am not a big autograph collector but I am a huge Carter guy and a big Fisk fan so it makes sense that I own these two cards.  So what's the issue?

























I put that 1983 Fleer aside a long time ago to send to Fisk to hopefully get his autograph on it.  I believe this was right after Carter had died.  I decided not to for two reasons: I don't want to lose the Carter card and Fisk asks for a $40 donation to a cancer charity for him to sign through the mail.  I am not keen on either thing.  This is not to say I am a fan of cancer (I mean, who is?) but I am not big on paying for autographs, even if it is a donation to charity (I did check on the charity and it is legit and highly rated).  And obviously, the Carter card is not easy to replace since he is dead.  Carter was a prolific signer so I have seen it before but this is one of my favorites and it is a very tight and clear signature.  I can mail the card certified or insured or whatever to make sure it gets to Florida at Fisk's address but things do get lost.  Plus, sometimes when you mail something to a famous person, it gets misplaced or you get a different card back, or it gets lost on their pile of things never to be seen again.  I have seen my stacks of mail so I can only imagine what a hall of famer's looks like.  

I mean, I own a Fisk autograph (above) so it's not like I need to have one.  I own several other Carter autographs on cards, balls, photos, etc. so it's not like I will be losing the only one I have.  But it is a risk and a charitable investment.  I can afford $40 (for now) so cost is not the biggest problem, only principle.  So, what do I do?  Do I take the chance and mail the Carter card to Fisk and hope it gets there and hope he signs and returns this card to me.  Or do I forget the whole thing and enjoy my collection as is and do nothing.  This is not a binding poll or anything, but if you have an opinion or any advice, please leave a comment or drop me an email. And I hope you are staying safe and sane if you are stuck in the house for a while or worse, if you are out in the world dealing with people.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Love In The Time of Corona.

       Last Monday morning, I went to Costco and Target and it was a very quiet, uneventful trip.  Little did I know that in the next few days, going to the store would become something like a cross between old Woody Woodpecker cartoons where the women kill each other, bridal day at Filene's Basement, and the Road Warrior.  Lucky for me, I am a slight hoarder at all times and don't need soap, sanitizer, or toilet paper any time soon.  Also, I did stop in the card aisle in Target and grabbed some Heritage packs (they had no blasters) and impulsively grabbed a blaster of Star Wars Skywalker Saga cards while looking in vain for Heritage blasters.  This would prove very fortunate and unfortunate but not in the way I thought.  Kind of like how most of our weeks went.





































I rarely buy single retail packs of baseball cards because I find all you ever get are base cards and maybe an odd parallel but very rarely do you ever get something of substance.  I figured since all I wanted was some examples of the Heritage, I would just grab 6 packs and go about my business.  These might have been the luckiest six packs of retail cards I ever bought.

One thing I collect in totality is Topps rookie all stars.  I love me some fancy trophies on my baseball cards and I got five of them in these six packs, including two short prints.  The two short prints I got were Pete Alonso and Vlad Guerrero Jr., the two cards I figured I'd have to pay through the nose for on eBay if I ever wanted them, and here I got them in back to back retail packs.





































I even got one of the two Alonso league leader cards and three of the postseason cards.  And we are just getting started.

I got five inserts.  That's practically one per pack but it didn't quite come out that way because I got two Tom Seaver Flashbacks stuck together in one pack.  I also got another Flashbacks insert, Rod Carew, and two Then and Now cards - one of them also with Tom Seaver.  Look him up, kids, he was pretty good.  I did get one other base double in the five packs - it was Michael Conforto, a Mets player.  This never happens.  I always get doubles of San Diego Padres or Milwaukee Brewers.





































There was one other Met and one other league leader card.  Not too shabby. 

I am pretty sure the 1971 set is in my top five all time designs and the Topps people really nailed the look of it.  The colors, the lower case ee cummings style names, and the random action photos - which were new in '71 - are all here.  Even the random rookie cards and odd position designations are here.  I didn't scan the backs but the backs all look right with the head photos and esoteric write ups. They even have SSPs of the OPC backs, which are some of my favorite OPC variations.  Alas, I did not get one of those.





































I also love poses where the hitters are swinging and pointing the bat at your face, I got three of them in three different styles.  I saw that the Alvarez/Aquino rookie card is hot.  I am not one for hot rookies, so if anyone wants to trade for this thing, let me know.

This is the page I ended up piecing together from the five packs, I think it looks great.





































I went with just about all posed shots but got a variety and the one action shot is decidedly inactive (I picked a Luke Voit action shot for the vertical example, that's on the back, the back I didn't scan).  I chose a few teams that didn't exist in 1971 just for a little timely juxtaposition.  I was thrilled with my choice to lower myself to retail packs.  I know it will never turn out this good again.  If anyone is putting the set together and has a wantlist, drop me a line and I'll see what I can fill before these go to ebay or Listia.

On the other hand, the Star Wars cards were...underwhelming.  The blaster had 10 packs and 60 cards but no indication on the outside what they looked like; this seems to be on purpose.  The design is very staid.  I prefer a little color and whimsy in my Star Wars cards and all I got here is some stars from a NASA chart or something off of a Battlestar Galactica poster. 



























The photos and subjects seem to cover all eight movies, I assume this set was leading into the ninth.  All the cards are vertical and none of the captions are puns or anything.  I am falling asleep just looking at them.

I scanned a second group to continue the monotony.  Not even Natalie Portman can make these more exciting.



























Though I gotta say, I do love that middle card, it is a great shot from the climax of the Force Awakens.  Lightsabers and snow, more of that please.  One out of 60 is a very bad ratio.

Each pack had a parallel base card where, oooo pinch me, they changed the color of the thrilling border to a rusty orange or a royal blue.  I suppose the blue is a slight improvement but I got two of those and eight of the rusty orange.



























Seriously, the write ups on the front and backs of these cards is more boring than my write up here.

Each pack also had an insert.  These were at least a little more interesting, if slightly repetitive.





































Five of them were from the Path of the Jedi set, which were almost exactly the same as the style and substance of the base cards.  I do like that Han Solo card because the highlight of the seventh movie to me was the fact that Harrison Ford didn't mail in his performance as he has in a few of the other movies he's done in his old age (I'm looking at you, Indiana Jones 4 and Blade Runner 2049). So that's 2 out of 60.

The blaster's special insert was a manu-patch and I got A Princess Leia.  I actually have a use for that card so it is staying in my collection.  I might cobble a page of these together but it will hardly find a place of honor in my Star Wars book. 





































That was the other Path of the Jedi card, which looks like the other one on the other page.  The best looking card in the whole blaster was the advertisement card with that borderless shot from the first movie.  If anyone wants to use that 10% off code, be my guest.  It really had been an odd week indeed.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Life of Pie.

      Things have gotten a little, um, weird, this week for most of us.  But really, is there anything going on that can't be solved with a hot cup of coffee and a beautiful slice of pie?  Alas, my love of Twin Peaks will have to wait for another time (my best friend got me this for Christmas and all that will show up here eventually).  I also was going to post my American Pie sets but I checked and saw that I did already.  That left me with the very obvious choice of Hall of Famer Pie Traynor.





































Long ago I made a threat to put together a page of ol' Pie here and in the subsequent five years, look, I actually did.  Pie Traynor, despite his wonderful nickname, is one of those hall of famers that I don't know much about.  I know he was considered the best third baseman in history until Eddie Mathews and then Mike Schmidt and George Brett came along...and that's about it.  I couldn't even tell you his real name (Harold Joseph Traynor).  So a little bit of card back reading and SABR and wiki research has made a ten minute expert in the life and times of Pie. He was considered a wizard with the glove.  He only hit double digits in homers once and hit just 58 in his career.  He did, however, hit 164 triples and while that is a ton, it doesn't crack the top three in Pirates history - Honus Wagner, Paul Waner, and Roberto Clemente all have more.  In fact, those 164 would lead all but five teams in MLB history, including some very old ones (The Yankees and the Giants to name two - I also learned that Lou Gehrig leads the Yanks with 163, a number I wouldn't have come close to guess for him). He is the only player to steal home in an All-Star Game.  He was a player manager for a time and resigned as manager after the Homer in the Gloamin' (one of my favorite event nicknames in all of sport) ruined his confidence in himself and the team.  I also learned that he grew up in Somerville MA (a town I know well) and his nickname came from a grocer who called him Pie Face due to his...love of pie.  I am not sure what I was expecting from a nickname like that, but hey, that'll do. 

Happy Pi Day everyone!

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Pain in the Astro.

         My glorious lazy Sunday will consist of me (still) in my pajamas, a huge Dagwood sandwich, and the Mets spring training game.  And, oh look, they are playing the Houston Astros this afternoon. I wonder what's been going on with them lately?





































Obviously, that is a bit of shade and sarcasm since this off season saw some major shit hit the fan with a scandal over sign stealing and trash can banging and video taping and maybe buzzers?  It is all a bunch of nonsense that if you have listened or watched anything about sports in the last two months you have heard about it ad nauseum.  Now, full disclosure.  I am not an Astros fan.  I have never liked nor will ever like the Astros.  In fact, if I were to do the 30 Teams lineup that is a wonderful tradition of Night Owl, you would no doubt find the Astros in the bottom ten and maybe in the bottom five.  I am still mad and bitter about that 1986 NLCS (more on that later) which explains my historical animosity towards the Houston nine but also just scratches the surface over why I cannot remotely get worked up at all over this latest bit of endless overreaction and pearl clutching by the media and fans. 

Let's start by making sure we have a common ground of understanding, so let's jump into the WABAC and go to the turn of the century when the Patriots started winning Super Bowls.  Remember that? Remember when there was a time when they didn't win anything at all?
Forget ice cold nerves of steel, the only reason Tom Brady won six times is cheating.






































A lot of folks will try to tell you that the reason the Pats started winning is that they are a bunch of dirty cheaters.  That they were filming the signals of the Rams on the sidelines during practice.  You know, something every other team in the league did at the time in one way or the other.  And then the commissioner's office told everyone to stop filming the sidelines of opponents practices.  Some teams did and some teams didn't and the Pats, well, they didn't. And somehow millions of fans and hundreds of media idiots decided that this is the reason for the Pats sustained two decades of success.  Not having a brilliant coach, not having a hall of fame quarterback, nope, it's because they cheated (there is also something about deflated balls, but the less said about that, the better).  Do you want to know what everyone harps on the Pats and their cheating?  Because they win, that's why.  Off the top of my head, the Falcons, Colts, Raiders, and Browns also were fined for various infractions of rule breaking but no one ever constantly beats you over the head with that.  Do you know why, because the Falcons, Browns, and Colts never win anything!  Okay, the Colts won a Super Bowl recently, only after their quarterback complained about everyone and everything and had all sorts of rules changed in his favor - including one where the quarterbacks were allowed to handle the game balls before games.  Hmmmm....  Anyway, the point is, everyone looks for an edge, every team pushes the envelope, and yes, your football team cheats.  A lot. 

That brings us back to the Astros.  The Astros sin here is that they were stealing signs.  Okay, I am going to assume that if you are reading a baseball card blog that you follow baseball.  Chances are you even played baseball.  I seem to remember that once we got out of the tee ball and little leagues and into the pony and travel leagues and high school and such, one of the first things the coaches taught us is to look for the other teams signs.  And steal them.  When you were on second base, you better be looking at the catcher and you better be relaying to the batter where he was lining up or if he was calling for a fastball or a curve.  You did this with your own signals, where you put your hands on your knees, etc.  Baseball and signs and sign stealing is an elegant dance.  Heck, there's a reason why there are signs in the first place.  So you don't let on what you are doing.  And it is your job to figure out what the other team is doing.  And if you get caught, you might get a fastball in the ribs.  But that is the (in)famous unwritten rules of baseball.  And it is one of the things that make the game wonderful to play and watch. 
Jose Altuve is one of the few Astros players I have ever liked and rooted for.






































I played no higher that division III college (and I was terrible) but once you get to the big leagues, you can not imagine how high the stakes are. You need to find every advantage you possibly can.  I don't blame any team for looking for some corner to cut or some rule to bend.  The Astros used live video to try to gain such an advantage.  So did a lot of other teams and (and this will sound familiar) eventually the commissioners office told teams to knock it off.  Most teams did and some teams didn't.  The Astros didn't.  They had a glorious system in place that included the height of technology (live HD TV feeds in the clubhouse) and the lowest of low tech (banging on freaking garbage cans).  They also won the World Series doing it in 2017.  And that is why everyone lost their minds.  Remember a few years ago when the Cardinals hacked the entire Astros scouting computer system?  You vaguely do, and do you know why?  Because the Cardinals didn't win anything when they did it.  Everyone got fined and folks lost their jobs but it all got quickly forgotten.  Yet here the Astros have become the poster boys for baseball malfeasance and for one reason and one reason alone.  They won the damn series. And every single media member has seemingly tried to outdo themselves with what should happen to them.  Even though they were fined the maximum amount of money ($5 million) and the manager and GM both got suspended and lost their jobs, that's just not good enough for some people.  In the grand tradition of the Patriots and turning a speeding ticket into first degree murder, I have heard everything from the players should be banned for life, the Astros should give back their trophy, they should lose their charter in the league, if Jose Altuve was wearing a buzzer, he should be brought up on fraud charges.  I swear, sports media people fall all over themselves trying to one up the morality chain, completely forgetting that sign stealing in baseball is not just done, it is expected.  It doesn't even fall under "if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying" it is literally part of your job as a player.  That the Astros crossed an imaginary line seems to be besides the point of everyone trying to out opinion everyone else.  Perspective, both historical and current, is completely lost.  So let's try to put some of this into better perspective than we already have. 

Scene: October 3, 1951.  Not only was Mrs. Winfield in labor, great things were afoot at Coogan's Bluff.  The Dodgers and Giants were playing for the NL Pennant and with the Dodgers winning in the bottom of the ninth, up came Bobby Thomson and hit what I am sure you know, is The Shot Heard 'round The World.  The Giants won the pennant (though eventually lost the series).
I hate having to use this page for this shit and not on October 3rd.






































What time eventually told us and most of us seem to have completely overlooked is the Giants at the time had an elaborate sign stealing system in place in the Polo Grounds.  They had spotters in centerfield with binoculars who then used buzzers to relay the information in real time to the dugout.  This was 70 freaking years ago.  And there is little to no doubt that Thomson knew exactly what Ralph Branca was throwing and where when he took that mighty hack that won the Giants the pennant.  Why aren't these same people demanding the Giants give back their National League pennant from 1951?  Why aren't they demanding Willie Mays and Leo Durocher and Monte Irvin be removed from the Hall of Fame?  Or maybe such sign stealing has been romanticized over the years as just one of those things teams did to get an edge.  Maybe this kind of scandal and cheating has always happened.  Maybe on the very first pitch in 1869 someone signaled what they were throwing and on the second one, someone was trying to steal that sign. 

I am not one to Judge...





































...pun intended, but the most horrible and egregious reaction to all the Astros hullabaloo was by Yankees fans and players.  Somehow, as usual, they felt very offended that some other team won besides them in 2017.  And, lordy lordy, they might have cheated to do it?!?!? How dare they?!?! How dare some other team cheat the great and mighty Yankees out of their birthright, which is winning the World Series every single year.  I cannot think of a group of people with worse perspective or short term memory than Yankees fans.

Somehow, they can't seem to recall, all the way back 11 long years ago, to the last time they won the Series that the major star of the team was this man. 





































Gee, I think I want to list the players who have lied about using PEDs and then gotten busted for it twice after that.  But really, that list would be very short because it begins and ends with Alex Rodriguez.  Say anything you want about the use of steroids and their effect on the game but by 2009, there were some very set and strict rules in place about them and Arod eventually ran afoul of them to the tune of losing his entire 2014 season.  If the Astros have to give back the 2017 title, then we should only start with giving back the 2009 title for the Yankees.

Let's also think about giving back those 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000 titles too.  Remember who was the star pitcher on two of those teams?  This guy:





































Not only was Roger Clemens on the 1999 and 2000 Yankees teams, but Andy Pettitte was on all five of the most recent Yankees World Series winners and he's one of the few guys who has admitted to using PEDs and apologized for it.  Being contrite, however, does not remove responsibility for your actions. Pettitte at the time might have just been trying to heal or he might have been trying to get an edge. Either way, his guilt is unquestionable and it is only fair that if the Astros need an asterisk, then all five Yankees winners need one too. You can even give it elegant pinstripes if you like.

One other moronic argument I have heard, and you hear this usually when any baseball scandal happens, is What About Pete Rose? Isn't it time to forgive him?  The answer to this, as always, is no.
I get 3-1 odds that Rose defenders will always chime in when you talk baseball scandals.






































Say what you want about steroid cheats, or sign stealers, or baseball scuffers (such as Mike Scott of those aforementioned 1986 Astros, who basically cheated his way to the Cy Young and the 6th game of the NLCS, why aren't people demanding he give back his award?!?) or cocaine users, or computer hackers or any other of the myriad of ways there is to cheat in baseball: at least they were trying to improve themselves and help the team win.  Pete Rose bet on baseball, which is the one absolute no-no deal breaker rule baseball has.  Even though he has said that he always bet on the Reds to win, it is also a fact that he didn't bet every day.  That means every day he didn't bet on the Reds to win, he was betting on them to lose.  His betting no doubt affected the way he managed the team both on days he bet as well as on the days he didn't.  He ruined the integrity of the game in the worst way imaginable.  Gambling is the only one of those sins that has a negative outcome to the sport - which is why it is the cardinal sin.  So every time I hear someone bring up Pete Rose during any of these baseball kerfuffles, I roll my eyes and shake my head at the complete lack of understanding.  And say what you will about Roger Clemens (and my tag says it all) but he was a hell of a pitcher when he was juiced up.

Okay, so is there anyone here who does have a beef?  I will sort of reluctantly say the Los Angeles Dodgers.  They lost that game seven of the 2017 series to those Astros although they did it at home, which means the Astros weren't using their magical sign stealing system at the time. And lord knows what the Dodgers were or weren't doing to steal signs.  After all, no one is going to investigate them because they didn't win the series.





































Plus, if Clayton Kershaw had started that game, the Dodgers might have won, given his four scoreless innings after Yu Darvish blew up earlier in the game.  The 2017 postseason was the best one he's had (which isn't saying much considering his overall record in the playoffs is, well, not good).  The point here is, as with all things in sports, you can't go back and change what happened, only put it into perspective what did for both the present and the future.  The present is not being very kind to the Astros and I hope future baseball fans will be able to get their heads on straight and understand that they weren't cheating, they were just cheating better than anyone else at the time.  Now that I have spent an hour and a half ranting all this, I am going to finish my beer and watch the rest of this baseball game and hope to never have to bring up this sad, sorry subject again.