Sunday, August 13, 2017 forget about life for a while: Reflections on a Great and Awful Weekend


That was the message on a wrapper of 1992 O Pee Chee that I recently opened. And it kinda lined up with a thought that was already on my mind about this collecting thing of ours. Hobbies are distractions from real life. Perhaps the most important thing about a hobby is that it is not that important at all. In proper doses, I think it is very important to devote time to matters of little or no importance. Many hobbies, card collecting included, are multi-sensory experiences. You sit and look, you sort the cards by hand, you SMELL that old cardboard (who among us couldn’t tell 1993 Upper Deck from 1989 Donruss by smell alone?). I prefer to do my sorting with a podcast running or in front of ball game on the TV, adding an audio elements to the experience. You let these things overtake you and you can forget about what you need to forget about for a while. Someone getting high – from basement stoners to your grandpa and his old fashioneds – is probably looking for a similar escape.

This was the best of weekends and the worst of weekends. I went on an overnight to Chicago with my wife to see Billy Joel play Wrigley Field, and spent most of yesterday wondering around the city. I had a great time and brought back some great stuff from some awesome little shops we found. But, of course, I had to keep checking the news and Twitter and followed along with what was going on in Charlottesville. Nazis were marching around like the world owed them something and one of them tried to murder a bunch of people with his car just because they had the courage to stand up for actual morality and justice. And the president hardly cares, mumbling some bullshit that the white nationalist crowd took as a yet another embrace of their support. This is heavy shit, man, and it had me down. Even those images of Nazis writhing in pain after being maced didn’t cheer me up. Well, maybe a little.

But the odd thing was that when I got home, all I really wanted to do was write a post about the stuff I’d snagged in Chicago. It was like the world had gotten too real all of the sudden and I needed an escape. I needed my fix. I needed to get HIGH on BASEBALL, even if just for a little while. I’ll stop talking about things that matter now. Let’s spark it up.

BILLY JOEL! I enjoy his music enough but my wife, raised on Long Island just like the Piano Man, is a HUGE fan. It was a good show and I had a good time, but Erika had a straight-up BLAST. We sat up in bleeders at Wrigley, but had a pretty decent view. And it was a hell of stage set-up, with lights, video boards, lasers, fireworks… the whole bit.

We went out to a Wrigleyville bar after the show. The place was so swamped with Joel fans that no one was even paying attention to the Cubs game on the TV. Which was fine by me, since they won that night and my Brewers lost (their sixth in a row).

The next day, we went to the Lincoln Square neighborhood to visit a friend. It was a charming little area. We stopped at Quake Collectables, which had dozens of bins of old action figures for sale. I dug through a Starting Line Up bin for about 20 minutes before coming away with two pieces to add to my small and mostly dormant SLU collection.

First up is Randy Johnson. They had a number of the older, late-80s pieces (lots of football and basketball, too) but they were mostly in pretty rough shape. I was thrilled to find a Johnny Bench, only to pull him out and see that he was missing an arm and most of a shoulder. These newer pieces were pretty well intact, however. This was after SLU upped their game a bit on the detailing. I think this pose is actual one made specifically for The Big Unit.

Next we have Greg Maddux, posing next to the baseball that the actual Greg Maddux threw to me at old County Stadium back in 1998. This one isn’t as convincing. It barely looks like Maddux and his glove, cap logo, and pants stripe are all way too big. At 2 for $5, it was still worth it.

I also snagged this aforementioned pack of 1992 O Pee Chee at the shop, a product I had never opened before.

It was a only a buck!

I won’t go through all the cards, but here is what would probably be considered the star of the pack. Yawn.

Brent Gates played seven years and placed 6th in ROY voting in 1993.

Juan Bell was briefly a Milwaukee Brewer.

Alex Fernandez was drafted in the first round by the Brewers in 1988 but didn’t sign. He was a decent starter for a number of years and won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997.

Here is a backside. This was the first year that Topps went with the white card stock, taking away most of the appeal for the OPC set (which always used white stock) outside of the Canadian market. The backs do have a little extra sheen to them, clearly a different stock than the normal Topps issue. This was the last year before OPC issued their own unique set.
We also stopped at a very cool record shop, Laurie’s Planet of Sound. I wasn’t terribly interested in the records, but they did have a great selection of hard-to-find DVDs. I picked up a couple of sets of old Sexploitations films from the 1960s and 70s – a genre of motion pictures that I absolutely adore. This post is edgy enough for a card blog, so I won’t share any more details.

I also picked up a few non-sport packs of a 1993 National Lampoon set that I had no idea existed. The card market was crazy wide-open back then and this set followed a MAD Magazine set issued in 1992. The cards feature a number of Lampoon covers, including this famous one…

Maybe even more upsetting is this one, a Rockwell-esque scene of some kids trying to set a homeless man on fire…

The set is one of those that you really need to collect in full to understand. The stories on the back don’t always line up with the front image and are continued from card to card. Some fronts also require adjacently-numbered cards to make sense. I pulled the right half of this set first and had no idea what to make of it. Even together, it doesn’t really work…

The writing is also microscopic in some cases. Check this out...

Surprisingly, there were some cards that might fall into player collections. I found this Pete Rose cover from 1988, referencing Rose’s suspension for shoving an umpire.

And then this Reggie Jackson comic from January 1982, the same month he signed with the Angels.

Worth noting that has GOT to be the only Jackson card that shows him getting brained by a whiskey bottle and features the word “fuck.”

Anyway, that’s all I have for now. But I’ve got some fun stuff coming up later in the week, including the continuation of my TTM count-down, a HUGE new addition to my collection, and some of my BFG winnings.

Take care, everybody.


  1. Some wonderful stuff there. I wasn't aware of the National Lampoon set. The folks who worked on that mag had no filter.

    Yes, yesterday was a pretty awful day all in all. I went from laughing at the 'great oppressed polo-shirted nerd boys with tiki torches' to, well, not laughing so much. We finally decided to take meet my son for dinner and a beer and then I went home and organized cards. It helped, a little.

  2. Great post. I never missed an issue of Nat. Lampoon back in the day, but I never heard of the card set.

  3. I love the Lincoln Square area, and I was actually just there this past Saturday for lunch amidst all the National Baseball Card Day hullabaloo (a couple of the card shops are blocks away from the neighborhood). I've passed by that toy shop many times but have never gone in, I think I'll have to now.

    I, too, have spent more time with my cards this weekend, and I think that's at least partially due to what we've been seeing in the news.

  4. Billy Joel played PNC Park last year and my wife had a blast.