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.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Brewneverse Update!

The deadline has now passed for making a guess at the "How Big is my Crewneverse?" contest, which will give out a fine prize package for whoever can guess nearest to the total number of unique Brewers cards in my collection. 

Here are the entrants and their guesses:

Laurens – 2,200
Angels in Order – 4,444
Sportscard Collectors – 4,444
Doug Hoback – 6,500
Mike Matson – 6,700
Gavin – 6,969 (nice)
Bo – 7,676
GCA – 7,955
Trevor P – 8,100
Adam Kaninger – 8,750
EP – 9,009
Nick – 9,219
Rob 792 – 9,482
Jon – 9,700
Fuji – 9,887
Adam Sanders – 10,100
ARPSmith – 11,111
The Lost Collector – 12,224

4,444 was a popular guess and I supposed I should think of some kind of rule to deal with a tie. However, since I am sitting at 1,719 having just finished the E's, I'm sorry to say that both Angels in Order and SSC (as well as Laurens) will probably come in a bit short. 

I have yet to make much more progress in the count, which involves sorting, weeding out doubles, ordering by year and brand, and entry into the trading card database. I was planning on using my birthday off-day (today, wheee!) to get through the F's and G's, but I sliced off a tiny, tiny piece of my thumb last evening while chopping food (no fooling... lotsa blood, but I'm fine) and the resulting band aid has made my card-flippin' thumb pretty much worthless. So, I'll need to wait until I can go bare-thumbed to get back at this. Anyway, the longer this contest goes on, the more fun stuff I'll add to the pot. So there's that. 

And how about some more for the pot?

How about these? That's a 1995 TSC Clear-Cut Leaders card of Len Dykstra that was the big hit from my recent Goodwill pack find. And a deck of hologram stickers from a 1991 factory set. Clear! Shiny! It's got something for everyone!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go injure myself in another remarkably stupid way. Perhaps I'll set myself on fire trying to blow out a birthday candle...

Friday, March 30, 2018

A Call to Revolution!!! (or How I'll be spending my Summer Vacation)

I tell ya, everybody, I have been PERCOLATING these past few days. And it's not just because of the start of the baseball season. I've come up with a fairly awesome idea that - if it works - could create this year's greatest set of baseball cards.

First off, Topps Live and Topps Now are pretty good ideas... good IDEAS. The execution leaves a lot to be desired, especially for small market fans. But I really dig the idea that a set could be a living, active thing, being a document of a season. This was attempted, in a way, in 2009 Upper Deck Documentary. That set, however, was neither really a good idea or an example of good execution. When sorting my Brewers Fs this past week, I found the card for Game 162 of the Brewers 2008 season - when they beat the Cubs on a Ryan Braun homer to break a 26-year playoff drought. It was one of the most exciting and memorable games in franchise history. And the UD Doc card features the same picture of Prince Fielder at Wrigley Field (the game was in Milwaukee) that 30 other cards in the set use. Barf city.

What I wanted was a living documentary set that features only the Brewers and isn't overly expensive and features ALL the Brewers and has fun pictures and cool backside copy. Since no one is going to do this for me, I guess I need to do it my damn self.

There is a custom card app called "Rookies." I've used it once before, to order a set of cards featuring our pet rats for my wife for last Christmas. I had a "eureka" moment a few days ago when I realized that, using this app, my dream set could become a reality. 

So I started playing around with it. The app does have limitations. You must use one of their pre-designed templates and color selection is limited. The backside designs are.. not great... and leave a kind of limited space for text. The cards themselves are pretty nice... sorta of like early 90s O Pee Chee, if you can remember those. They're not Stadium Club stock, but that's not what I want for this set anyway.

This is the look I've chosen for my base cards. It's actually a pretty great design, in my opinion. It would fit right in with anything Topps made 1971-1982. I added some of my own touches, like the lower case team name. I would have liked a blue/gold color scheme, but had to settle for this orange/blue instead, but the more I see it, the more I really like it. And here we have what probably no Topps issue will have this year, a dual-position card for new part-time first-sacker Ryan Braun. And a pretty cool pic, too. 

So yeah, the backs are not as great. But not awful. I can fit about 50 words in the middle, with another 20 or so in the "fact box." Still, far more text than anything you'll find in 2018. Plus, I really have fun writing these. 

Rookies sells cards in multiples of 20 ($13 plus shipping). So, I envision this set being probably 5-6 series of 20 cards each. The Brewers used about 50 different players last season, so I am thinking the set will be a pretty even split between players and these season highlight cards. These are the Topps Now part of the thing, and what I'm really looking forward to when I flip through these cards again in years to come. Did you know the Brewers won the Cactus League this spring? It's not a big deal, but it'll be a nice thing to remember. 

I went with a different backside for these. The can take more text, but it comes out in tiny, tiny print. Anyway, I get to have fun with that, too. 

Did you see the Brewers' Sandlot video? It was a hell of a lot of fun, and I think this team is going to be a lot of this year as well. And I think it needs a card to commemorate it. Another limitation of the app is that you can't alternate between vertical and horizontal lay-outs. They have vertical templates, but they're all kind of lousy and wouldn't match the rest of the set. This picture (i had to trim out poor Hernan Perez) would have been much better sideways. 

And how about coaches' cards? Hell yeah! My set will have them. Here, I borrow the old 70s "as player/ as coach" thing from Topps. 

And if you happened to catch the Brewers yesterday, you know they won in exciting fashion, aided by Ji-Man Choi, the last man to make the team and the the guy who probably won't be with the team in a few days (they'll be adding another pitcher or two after the coming off-day). Ji-Man's heroics get the honors of the first regular-season highlight card... with a picture from actual event!

This format also gives me the freedom to use photos from this season as I put the regular player cards together. I hadn't planned on doing a Chase Anderson card in this first series, but then he face-planted "sliding" into home plate yesterday afternoon, which resulted in this great photo. How can I not use this totally unflattering image on his card? 

My goodness! I haven't been this excited about a set in maybe forever. 

Of course, there are some possible snags. First, the quality on these images might not translate real well to the printed product. I'm trying to use pics of as high resolution as I can find, but I am kind of anxious to see how they look IRL. Also, Rookies might not print cards using MLB images and real players. The app is marketed as something to make personal cards using images and likenesses of which you have ownership over. But I've known some other collectors who use the app to make cards of real players (mostly older guys for All-Time Team sets) and have had no issues. But I think if I'm just ordering one card of each (so it's obvious I'm not reselling them) they'll probably let this slide. After all, they're really just a printing service. (UPDATE - Browsing the Rookies Twitter feed, it seems that they have no issue printing cards of real ballplayers. WHEW) But still, I'll be a lot more excited about this project when I get those first cards in my hands. 

There was some chatter on twitter about other collectors doing the same treatment for their favorite teams.... anyone else wanna join me? If we could get 30 people doing this, we could create a massive, 5,000 card all 1 of 1 master set of the entire season! Middle relievers would be recognized! Aaron Judge would get as much attention as Whit Merrifield! Variations would be eliminated! The RC bug would be a thing of the past! We shall write our own sell sheets! We shall insert, not be inserted upon! We shall boom while others break!


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Down on E-Street: A Crew-neverse Update

This is going to take a lot longer than I first thought. I guessed about a month, but that's probably a pipe dream. Anyway, there is still time to get in on the contest to guess how many different Brewers cards I have in my collection. 

Visit THIS POST to get an idea of what I have and enter your guess. And since it has been slower going than I anticipated in doing these updates, I will give everyone an extra week to enter... so make your guess by 11:59 central time on April 3. 

And I promised prizes for this great guess-off, to be reveled as we go merrily along. Here is the first item from the bundle the winner will take home:

That's a TTM autograph of Tom Selleck on the (sorta) famous 1992 UD SP4 card promoting the film "Mr. Baseball." That movie was ok, nothing fantastic. But not awful.

As for the update on the count, I am now through the "E" pile in my sort. My scoreboard tally is 1,719 different Brewers. The Mayor of E-Street is pitcher Cal Eldred, who runs away with the title with 82 different cards. It really wasn't even close, second place was Johnny Estrada with 13. Overall, Eldred's card tally is as impressive as his workload as a starter - he ranks #2 so far behind Ryan Braun, who continues to lead the pack with 178 cards.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

How Large is My Crew-neverse? A Contest!

I've been a bit off the blog grid recently, for various reasons. So, I wanted to take a moment to reengage by working my latest project into a GRAND AWESOME and STUPENDOUS contest... I call it the "How Large is my Crew-neverse?" contest!

At the moment, I am in the midst of my Big Brewers Sort - organizing ALL of my Brewers cards by player and entering the results into the Trading Card Database. I have made it through my A and B players so far, which has yielded 932 different Brewers cards. 

UPDATE - I should say that this number also includes those stupid 2009 UD Documentary cards, which I entered all at once. 

The contest is simple... guess how many different Brewers cards I will end up with once I am all done with the big sort. To give you a general idea of what I am working with...

Here is monster box number 1. You can see the remnants of my previous Brewers sort in here.

And monster box number 2. This one has the start of my new sort.

And this box...

...which contains C and D players I am in the midst of sorting. 

And my All-Time Brewers binder...

...can't forget these! (I should also mentioned that this does include Pilots cards)

Now, some of these cards will undoubtedly be duplicates. Those I set aside and do not count. I also posted recently about my confusion over whether or not to count certain cards as Brewers. I am still working on that, but there are so few instances of these cards I don't think it would really affect anyone's guess. I am ONLY counting what is seen in these images towards the final tally, however (for purposes of this contest, anyway). So if someone sends me a pair of 500 ct boxes next week, those will be set aside for right now. 

So make your guess! The nearest to the final total wins. The prize package is yet to be determined, but I have some ideas of what I am going to include and will be dropping some previews of the final haul as I complete the sort. I am also thinking of holding off on a "centerpiece" item for the package until we have a winner and try to tailor the big prize to whomever happens to guess closest. But this will be a pretty sweet package overall.

I am going to get crazy and give people til the end the day (central time) on March 27, the last day before the regular season starts April 3rd, to enter a guess. I will be posting updates as I make my way through the letters on twitter (@mjpmke) if you want to follow along. I imagine the sort will take me probably another month to complete and once I get all the entries I'll do some kind of leaderboard post so everyone can follow along.

Comment on THIS post to enter your guess! And good luck!