Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Blog Bat Around Doubleheader

A little late to the table here, but I do want to join in on Zippy Zappy’s Blog Bat Around and present my all-autograph team.

I had planned to do this for a while, and I’ve actually waited so long that ANOTHER Bat Around topic has been floated – this one by Diamond Jesters – which references some comic book movie-picture I haven’t seen and have no interested in seeing. The movie is called “The Infinite Wars” or something like that and evidently involves things disappearing. From this concept, there emerge two questions to the collecting community. I’ll answer both of these before moving on to my all-time auto team.

1. With a snap of your fingers, you receive a complete set of your choice. This set is in mint condition. However, half of your collection as it stands now fades away into nothingness. You have no idea what cards will disappear - junk wax, autographs, relics - all are fair game. Would you do it? What set would be worthy of such a heavy price?

I mean, wouldn’t you have to do this? A complete mint 1952 Topps set would sell at auction for millions of dollars. And a mint t-206 set would be perhaps the most sought-after auction item in the history of the hobby. Still, I’d be a contrarian about it all and snap for a mint ’71 Topps set, because it’d be the most beautiful thing in the whole collecting world.

2. With a snap of your fingers, you legally obtain every known copy of one card in existence. Just think, all of those T206 Honus Wagners could be yours to do with as you please! However, you must name a player. That athlete will have all of their collectables erased from history. The player and their career is not affected, they just lose anything associated with them. Set completionists will curse you for all eternity, as these cards will forever leave gaps in their sets. What card do you covet most? Who among the cardboard faces will never be in a PC collection?

Again with the finger snapping! I remember back in kindergarten it was a mildly big deal when a kid learned to snap their fingers. It was like a divide among the class – some kids could and some couldn’t. I recall one kid, the first day in class after he had figured it out, going around and snapping his fingers in everyone’s ears. Just to rub it in, I guess. Anyway, with this one, I think I’d go for all of upcoming Ohtani Topps series 2 RCs. Just to screw with people. And as for the vanisher… Kobe Bryant. You all know why.

Anyway, on to the squad…

Catcher: Bob Uecker

Ok, so Ueck might not be the greatest catcher in my collection, but he was a solid defender and could easily become the heart and soul of an otherwise stacked lineup. I score this one via TTM a few years ago.

First Base: Miguel Cabrera

It’s kind of easy to forget how great Miggy was just a few years ago. Last season was the worst of his career and he’s on the DL again this year, but between 2011 and 2015, he won four batting titles, two MVPs, a Triple Crown, and played in the World Series. He’s under contract with the Tigers for at least another five years and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of role he plays in their rebuild. It’s also worth noting that in another couple of seasons, if he stays healthy, he should make a run for 3,000 hits and 500 homers. I got this card cheap on eBay a few years back. A seller had multiples of this card listed all at the same time, so I managed to pick it up for about $15 in a diluted marketplace. It was more of a steal then and now, but still a good deal.

Second Base: Lou Whitaker

Beats out the HOFer Ryno for this spot with his 75 WAR and career .276/.363/.426 slash line. Sweet Lou actually best those numbers over the last five years of his career, a period in which he ran up a 134 OPS+ and struck out just 225 times.

Third Base: Adrian Beltre

Like Sweet Lou, I nabbed this one via TTM. Also like Lou, Beltre has saved some of his best play for the twilight years of his career.

Shortstop: Ernie Banks

I should mention that I am not including any Brewers on the team, just as an added challenge to myself. This certainly would have been Rockin’ Robin Yount’s spot, but Ernie isn’t a bad pick either. Mr. Cub had a phenomenal seven year run as the North Siders’ SS, averaging 37 homers a season while batting .290. This was part of a lot of ‘Home Run Heroes’ autos I got a few years ago in one of those groupon-type offer things.

Outfield: AL Kaline

A TTM send-back, Al Kaline made 13 straight All Star teams between 1955 and 1967. In that same period, he placed in the top ten in MVP voting NINE times. He was a regular at 19 and won a batting title at 20. Not bad.

Outfield: Stan Musial

I got this one cheap a few years ago, part of a set issued after Musial’s death. I read somewhere that in the last months of his life, he signed thousands of stickers in an increasingly shaky hand. These stickers have since shown up in all variety of cards, including just pasted onto some of this vintage stuff. It’s an ignoble end and some the autos from this period look really bad. It’s sad, really, but I couldn’t pass up the change to own a Musial sig. Still, I feel kind of conflicted about it.

Outfield: Barry Bonds

Speaking of conflicted! Sure, he’s one of the five greatest players ever, but he’s also probably not a very good person. And this doesn’t even consider the PEDs.

DH: Frank Thomas

This is one of those Best Company autos that they used to sell blind at Wal Mart in the early 1990s. I got a deal on it and really dig the colorful artwork and the bold sig. When I was a kid, the Big Hurt was THE MAN. And looking back, his stats really hold up. I’d place him in the top His career OPS+ is 156… 26 points higher than Ichiro recorded in any single SEASON.

Right Hander Starter: Roger Clemens

The other half of the PED elephants in the waiting room to the Hall, Rocket Roger signed this one for my TTM in exchange for a donation to his charity. It’s tough to find another righty who was as good for as long as Clemens.

Left Handed Starter: Warren Spahn

Another TTM return, Spahnnie is not only a local hero, but also the winningest lefty of all-time. He also won a Purple Heart in WWII and was awarded a battlefield commission. He was an effective pitcher into his 40s and in 1967 at age 46 pitched a handful of innings for the Cardinals AAA team in Tulsa.

Closer: Brien Taylor

Yeah, this is just an excuse to show off this card, which I paid all of a dollar for. I have price guides from the early 1990s that list this beauty at over $100. For those who don’t recall, Taylor was taken by the Yankees #1 overall in 1991 and was considered to be the greatest high school pitching prospect of all-time. He immediately became the top prospect in baseball and – this being the boom days of the card market – the frenzy for this stuff was downright Ohtani-esque. He pitched his way to AA by 1993, but in an off-season fight he fell on his shoulder, badly injuring it. He missed all of 1994 and struggled mightily in five more minor league seasons, topping out at A ball, before retiring. For purposes of this team, of course, I’m taking 1992 Taylor, jumping him and his electric fastball to the bigs to become our fireman. In real life, Taylor went to work as a bricklayer after his career ended and later spent three years in prison on a cocaine trafficking conviction.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Getting Excited Again - 9 Cards at a Time

Oh. Hello there.

You might remember me. I used to blog pretty regular here. But then I went back to school like an idiot and had no time for my fun little endeavors like this. Well, the semester is over, suckas! So, here I am again.

I am a creature of habits, good and bad. I get into habits, like running (I used to do thirty miles a week) or model building (I got really into this for a while) or card blogging (like I mentioned above). But just as running is a habit, NOT running is a habit, NOT building, NOT blogging. TO be honest, these are much easier habits to keep up with. Cheaper too.

Anyway, I’m going to spend this summer trying to correct some of my habits. Like Forrest Gump in the desert, I’m afraid my running days is over (posterior tibial tendonitis saw to that), but getting back into blogging is an achievable goal.

And also sorta of back into collecting. I’ve been recently in a kind of down period as a collector. I just haven’t been overly excited about anything in a while. This, with the time constraints, has made me a bit scarce in the online collecting community the past few months. So I wanna recharge that! I wanna make some swaps! I wanna do some fun stuff! Summer’s a-coming and my team is winning. It’s the nature of the season!

The one thing I have been keeping up with is my 2018 brewersNOW set. As I said in one my last posts, I was THRILLED with how these cards turned out. I have since gotten another order of 20 and am working on the backside copy for another order of 20. So, about one-fifth of the way into the season, I am sitting on a set of 60-plus cards.

I have also recently put my brewersNOW cards into some 9-pockets. I’ve always felt that in order to properly gauge a set of cards as a SET, you need to see them nine at a time. It just gives you a different perspective on them. For example, recent Topps flagship sets have looked OK on their own, but just don’t really work in pages.

For example, take a look at 2017 Topps, which was a design that – on its own – I kinda liked.

But look at a page of these. It’s just a mess.

But then look at this page of 1992 Topps. It’s artful in a way I cannot really describe.

So I was just as excited to check these cards out in some Ultra Pros as I was to see them in real life in the first place. And….

I think they play really, really well.

And I ended up being very pleased with my decision to do the “team” set and the “highlight” set separately.

I’m not sure that the highlight cards look as good in pages – I’m not as wild about the design of these – but having the big headlines in the upper left with each one give a nice sense of order to the set.

And looking forward, I managed a couple of really cool cards commemorating Freddy Peralta’s amazing debut today in Colorado.

So, that’s where my excitement index tops out at the moment. I’m going to try to get back in to habit of posting and sharing what I’m getting into and hopefully that will lead to me getting back into my old ways and getting excited about new things.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sometimes There's a Man... I Don't Want to Say 'A Hero,' cuz What's a Hero?

It’s been a pretty decent couple of days here in Milwaukee. The Brewers have finally started hitting – CRUSHING – the ball, the snow is melting, and last night our neighborhood movie house ran The Big Lebowski at midnight.

And this afternoon, a package arrived at my box from my twitter pal @alltimebrewers. ATB has a nearly-complete collection of Brewers autographs, missing only a few players joined the team this season. Of course, I have my own all-time Brewers autograph collection. I never really set a goal of completing the damn thing, although it’s a bit inspirational to know that someone out there actually has… takin’ it easy for all us sinners.

A week or so ago, ATB posted something about some “upgrade” cards he had added and it finally dawned on me that me might have some spare autos to trade. So we swapped a few messages and he got a package together, which arrived today.

And holy heck. I’ve been in the blogosphere for over a year now, and in the card twittersphere  for a bit less than that and I am still amazed at how generous collectors can be. Case in point:

Look at that stack! Far out, man…
Most of these were his own cut custom cards. These are really well-done. I was actually thinking about using some kind of custom cuts for my ATB collection, particularly with guys who never appeared on a Brewers card.

And this is about as nice a custom as I could ever dream of being able to someday, after a lot of practice, be able to almost make. They really tie the collection together.

Most of these are of mega-obscure players, many of whom never even had a real MLB card. Some though, like Tyler Houston and Gerardo Parra, are more prominent, but tough to find signed on Brewers cardboard.

The only drawback with these is that most are blank-backed. I might get creative and try making my own custom backsides for these, with stats, etc. This is not a First Amendment thing, man.

Meanwhile, some of them do have printed backsides like this…

He also threw in some custom on-card autos.

Again, featuring players that most people outside of Brewersnation (or inside, for that matter) will remember. But what do you do when you get cut by the Brewers? You turn in your library card? Get a new driver’s license? STOP being a Brewer?

He also included some traditional signed cards, including many sigs I’ve been chasing for a long time.

A number of these were minor league cards. My very favorite of the bunch might be this old-ass Doug Loman TCMA Vancouver Canadians card. I dig his style, man…

I also dig this Neal Cotts, which has a transaction “bubble” on it mentioning that he had been promoted to Visalia. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that on a minor league card before.

All told, he send me 46 (!!!) signed Brewers cards to add to my collection, jumping me to 412 different signed cards in my collection – 48% of the all-time roster. With a batch of TTMs about to go out this coming week, I might actually be able to hit the half-way point before the All Star break.

Having a signed card of one of every two players who ever appeared with the Brewers?

That had not occurred to us, Dude.

Friday, April 20, 2018

2018 brewersNOW is LIVE and In-Hand!

It’s been a heck of a thing to see my fun little idea (or call to revolution, if you took my hyperbole to heart) about creating a custom living set for this year’s Milwaukee Brewers inspire fellow collectors to try the same with their favorite teams. Nick Vossbrink did a very nice SABR blog piece on the idea, which included some of my mock-ups, as well as of those of Battlin’ Bucs, who is doing a set of front-only Pirates UD Documentary-style cards in a beeyootiful 1960 style, and Nick’s own set of 1993-inspired GiantsNOW cards.

Lacking the design skills of … well, anything beyond MS Paint, my idea was to use the Rookie App to build my cards in one of their pre-made templates. I had a lot of fun just playing around in the app, but I was a little worried about the end product. First off, I wasn’t sure if they’d let me do it, what with copyright stuff and all. Second, I wasn’t sure how these cards would look as a finished product, especially in terms of photo quality. The first of these concerns was eliminated earlier this week, when I got a notice that my order had printed and would soon ship. Whew. Good thing I went ahead and secured permissions to use all of those photos, eh? Yeah…

The second issue was solved today, when I got my first pack of 2018 brewersNOW (a title that just kind of happened… not sure how I feel about it) in the afternoon mail.

The cards come in a faux-wax back, which is a nice touch. And when I finally tore this sucker open, I was very happy with what I found.

The photo quality was excellent, as good as I could have hoped for. I might need some help from Nick on the terminology here (maybe I’ll send him one to examine), but they look a lot like junk product from the 80s or early 90s, with the images that certain kind of grainy. Personally, I think they look fantastic. I was worried about pixelization, but there was none of that to be found.

The colors are bright and sharp on this Pat Murphy card, one of my favorites from this first bunch.

And how about this oddity... a "pinch hitter" card. Ji-Man had one PA before being send down this year. So I went with his primary position thus far. 

Here is as nice a close-up as my phone camera would allow. You can see that the stripes in the design have a bit of back-drop to them… not a design element I would have used, but overall, I really dig how these look.

In the true spirit of 1980s Topps, I even ended up with a mis-matched color scheme, with blue and orange repping the blue-n-gold Brewers. I know I’ve complained about this in the past, but I think it works here. Yellow was not even an option on this particular design, and I think it would have come out too light anyway.

The cards have a unique “feel” to them. Not like anything from the 80s that I can recall. The fronts are matte, but still pretty slick. The nearest product I can think of is 1994 O Pee Chee, but even that isn’t really correct.

The design templates have some limitations. Here, I had to go horizontal on the photo to make it fit. I don’t hate this, but I’ll probably try to avoid as I build the set.

And yeah, we’ve got some errors. Here, you can see that I used the tag “2018 Highlight” on the first two cards of the highlight series and “2018 Season Highlight” on the rest. This works OK, considering the first two are Spring Training cards and the rest are regular season. So I can live with that. But shame on me for dropping the T on that card on the top.

Speaking of which…

Who wore it better? I got the first (and probably only) Topps Now card I’ll get this year earlier in the week.

Personally, I think my copy is better, even with the typo.

I decided on making the players and the highlights two different sets. I was having fits trying to figure out the numbering for these, so breaking them into series was the easiest solution. For the Highlight backsides, I went with this 87-inspired look. I have room for about 74 words of text, a quick linescore and a big-ass brand name.

About that type… it’s tiny. Yeah, I’m not crazy about that.

The backs of the player cards are much easier to read. I added a uni number space to the heading and a vital info line just below. These offer room for about 50 words of copy and a single-sentence “fun fact.”

Overall, I’m thrilled with how these turned out. I’m working on the next “series” right now, with about 12 cards designed. I’m eager to get some more of these but, at around $16 per 20 card series, I am aware that this endeavor could get pretty pricey pretty quick. But screw it. If the Brewers keep making highlights, it’ll be worth it.