Sunday, June 4, 2017

14 years.

We were fourteen years old at the time. Maybe 13 depending on birthdays. The year was 2000. We were alive, young, stupid, and somehow found some change kicking around in our relatively poor, rural hideaway in Central New York.

We loved baseball, but cards were getting boring. Running $3 or so per pack, the industry had to show us something different to get our hard-earned birthday and Christmas monies (we were fourteen, of course we didn't have jobs.)

Then something new came along. Shiny. With pre-prima donna Alex Rodriguez is still-hot Seattle Mariners gear on the foil package. Sleeveless jerseys, the color teal. All of the rage, packaged into one ten-card pack. It was the golden age of shitty, over produced baseball cards, and the 2000 release of Skybox Metal led the way like a flamboyant Richard Simmons. 

We chased the stuff like some illicit drug approve by our parents. 

"The Nice-n-Easy by my house is out of it." James would say. "But the one on the way to Rome has a few left." 

"Man, Fastrac by the high school has it. Have you checked there? But they're $3.50 each. We'll never get the whole set with all of these doubles."

We didn't know it then, but we were the kids in all of those 50's movies chasing Roger Maris cards for our bike spokes. Of course, you'd have to replace Roger Maris with Vladdy Guerrero and bike spokes with hard sleeves in our baseball bags (I still carry an Eric Gagne card to this day in mine...)

Of course, we thought we were different. Metal made us feel different. We didn't bother showing our dads the blasphemous cards inside - they'd never understand.

"Those aren't baseball cards! Why are they so shiny? What's that swirling pattern? Why isn't it flat?" They'd lose themselves in memories of clean-cut Mickey Mantle gazing into the distance of a Spring Training like the idol he was. Flimsy stock, rounded corners, creases everywhere but the face. The rubber band indents. "..and they only cost $.15."

The cards have changed, but the chase remained. Three hundred cards in the base set and three friends chasing them through the whole county. Every Monday before study hall, we'd compare. 

"Bunch of base cards...Emerald Brad Penny." "Do you have Penny?" "No, I'll give you my Eric Munson PROSPECTS for it, though." *sigh.* "Okay."

"Is that a Nomar Platinum Portraits?" "Yeah. You can have it."*

Who was chasing what, no one remembers. Except the ultimate goal. The World Series of our age 27 collecting season. 

1:288 packs they fell. The stores would hold about 20 retail packs at a time. We never bothered calculating the odds of pulling one in - mostly because Doug was the only one good at math - but as optimistic as we were, we were realists. Poor teenagers with a bit too much time between baseball practice. 

Metal stuck around the shelves of retail stores for about a year. There was no 2001 Skybox Metal - likely because us idiots couldn't sustain the truly awful set contributing $3 a week to a rapidly-ebbing industry. We didn't know any better. We also didn't have ebay accounts, debit card or bank statements - our only chances at completing the set and chasing the Ultimate Goal were ripping foil and begging for someone to drive us to card shows for a preposterous mark-up. The latter never happened, so we were stuck.

That summer, James and I were lucky enough to make the trek to Cooperstown for the induction of Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield. My mom brought us down, along with a family friend (who was a big Kirby Puckett fan) and we camped out at a KOA well out of town, avoiding the fees of the Cooperstown hotels. The weekend was hot as hell and mostly uneventful, aside from a brief glimpse of the legendary Yogi Berra outside of Mickey's Place and James getting leveled by a souvenir seeker in the stands down the left field line of Doubleday Field - back when the Hall of Fame Game was still a thing. 

Of course, that was until our last day, when sifting through the sleeves at Pioneer Cards, James tapped me on the shoulder and said "There's one here."

For the sake of poetic justice I knew just what he meant. Back to the front of the store we went, and there, in the bottom corner of a display case,it shined:

Erubiel Durazo, failed prospect. But we had found our Holy Grail. Cut deep into that thick holoboard insert, in someone's theoretical 288th pack, was a Base Shredder. At this point in the weekend, I was broke, but James wasn't. Forty American Dollars, less than the cost of a hobby box of Metal but a fraction of what it would take to find one, was dropped on the counter, and we were in awe.

We had won.
Starting around 2010, I would guess, I started chasing the Base Shredders again. I was an adult with an eBay account, a vastly overpaid substitute science teacher job, and time. Their prices had dropped dramatically, with what is likely every pack of 2000 Metal being ripped, countless base cards curling in countless shoe boxes. Slowly I picked away at the 18 that constituted the set, knocking off the duds. 

Ben Grieve. Eric Munson. Ben Davis. Michael Barrett**. Tony Clark. Miguel Tejada. Rafael Palmeiro. 

And then the middle range, or underappreciated players in the set.

Mo Vaughn. Manny Ramirez. Matt Williams. Troy Glaus. Larry Walker. Todd Helton.

And eventually the Heavy Hitters, all Hall-of-Famers, or damn close to it:

Robby Alomar, Pudge and Vladdy Guerrero. All players I've chased at one point or another.

But there was always a whale, that one I could never obtain, until all came full circle in the summer of 2014. That summer, I made my return to Cooperstown's Hall of Fame Induction with a Braves faithful friend to watch the inductions of Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Craig Biggio, Tom Glavine and, Bobby Cox. 

Just before leaving for the long weekend, the eBay alert came. A new posting.

Tony Gwynn 2000 Metal Baseshredders 1:288 packs RARE

Frustratingly dipping in and out of cell phone reception at Glimmerglass State Park and throughout the Village of Cooperstown and down the roads at Council Rock and Ommegang Breweries, I obsessively watch that auction, and probably foolishly considering the bid that I had in place. I forget to length of the posting or the cost of the final sale, but the final stone was laid on the path to a complete insert set of that holy grail we chased as mere teenagers in the summer of 2000. When on a hot, sunny July afternoon, returning to camp from the induction ceremony, I was finally the owner of this:

Tony had died just six weeks earlier. Baseball was still morning one of the greatest hitters of all time, but others of us were celebrating his life in whatever was we could. For me, it was this 1:288 pack gem, this little slice of meaningless rubber painted up in holoboard, thicker than any card I had ever seen. 

Lately I've been extremely critical of the hobby. I assume that this cynicism will stay and I'll continue to bitch and moan about exclusivity, gimmicks, parallels, the amount of Yankees in a high-end set, and the general crummyness of the local card show. So for that, I apologize in advance. 

But if just one kid and a group of friends like myself and those around me in the summer of 2000 feel the thrill of the chase like we did, I'll be more than happy to sit back with my cold beer, listen to Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler babble on about how great the other team is, and flip through thousands and thousands of baseball cards. Just because. And maybe even rip a few packs of Topps. 

*I was lucky enough at the time to be trading in Yankee Country. Red Sox were treated like toilet paper - Yankees like ginseng in the arthritis apocalypse. 

**Michael Barrett received plenty of criticism for his play, but mostly for being a hothead. This card always reminds me of one of my favorite baseball moments, which you can click to in that link.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Resurrection (2017-)

It's been a while. The last post published here was executed in 2014. I finished graduate school in May of that year, and moved "home" against my better judgement. I'm still there.

The cards have come in, but new cards in the house are a rarity. This isn't due to a lack of interest, but the time had come to lurk in the background, occasionally hijacking Night Owl and Junk Wax Twins' twitter threads, usually complaining about the Topps exclusivity. This isn't going away, and though I am now resigned to this development, my criticisms will remain.

Right now, I have no direction for this blog, but there will be a resurrection. Do not expect posts every day, or massive mail day posts or big contests. If that's not your style, cool. For those of you who joined post-December 2014, feel free to introduce yourself. From what I can see, there's been plenty of expansion in the community since I left, which is great. It is a great community, and I'm ready to come back.

Stay hard. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

i checked out my cards

Every black friday (I refuse to capitalize it and acknowledge this day as an American holiday) I take advantage of the sales and free shipping over at Check Out My Cards. This year I had been building since early summer or possibly late spring, and only managed to walk away with about 40-50 new cards. Nothing spectacular, but hopefully you'll find some nice commentary on this page today.

First off, as you can see, was Jose Fernandez. He's kind of a dreamboat. Here's some more of him:

This year's Bowman was a little cluttered, but the International parallels came out nice. The blue? Well, it came cheap.

This year's Prizm was just fine, once you get past the ghastly mirror base cards. Here's a camouflage parallel...which was kind of disappointing in-hand. It is paired with the 2014 effort of Topps' Spring Fever...redemption set? Which is exactly the same as 2013.

Good 'ol Topps.

On November 17th I went on a COMC spree for Russell Martin cards, becuase of course I did. He's been a long-time favourite of mine except for two years he spent with The Evil. These cards were had for surprisingly cheap. I've been collecting the Bowman Sterling WBC for a while, now, and this is my favourite so far. Also, DIRT.

He'll be catching baseballs from this guy a lot in 2015:

He's good. But on to some past Blue Jays for a while.

He was really good. Aside from Ken Griffey Jr., he's the only other favorite of mine who I've seen hit a home run in person. And it was a doozy. But here he is, fielding for some reason:

I had never seen a TSC Matrix card before, and in hand it's a strangely mis-struck, digital holofoil that scanned poorly. Of course I love it. DIRT.

Not enough dirt here to acknowledge, but a player who's uniform always seems dirty from great defense - whether or not your defensive statistics say so or not. I was aiming to pick up some Alomar Padres cards - and managed just this one. I collect Robby in all uniforms, though the orange ones from the Mid-Atlantic bother me deeply. Also, 1993 Leaf might be the best set ever.

Pt Borders was only a starting catcher for about four years of his 17-year careers, but two of those are 1992 and 1993. Those were very good years if you'll recall, and it's hard to ignore Pat's impact on those Blue Jays teams.

He's also a TEAM USA guy, from before they were awful.

Okay. No more Blue Jays. 

Oh, Pedro. Being awesome signing a 1996 Expos programme and being awesome...for the ladies. 

And Pudge. Being a huge badass in the Gold Medallion on the left, and a huge creep in the Rangers Studio on the right. My lawwwd, that mustache. It's even worse on the back.

We'll end with some Rock Raines, terrible mis-cut in his 1981 Donruss GEM. I didn't realize how poorly both were cut until I had them side-by-side. In real life, Rock is a 100% Hall-of-Famer and not in any way mis-cut.


Love, Salvador Perez.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

2014 Stadium Club Blue Jays Team Set

2014 Stadium Club was too expensive. Topps, in general, is too expensive. 

There. I got that out of the way.

Yet when it comes to base cards, we can always wait a few months and take advantage of disappointed case breakers and prey upon junk, worthless, common cards. The nerve Topps has putting base cards to fill up these packs and waste time getting to these ultra mojo hits. The nerve, indeed.

For a couple weeks I perused ebay, waiting for a reasonably priced (read: offensively cheap) Blue Jays team set.

$3.49 later, I was rewarded. Sort of.

You see, the cards look great. Every thing that made Stadium Club great: great photos, nice color, a good sheen and no borders.

Except Topps decided to put all their energy into the mojo, and in turn printed these cards on fortune cookie paper.

So it goes.

I'll start with Robert Allen Dickey, the knuckleballer. Dickey is a cool dude, but I'll be supremely disappointed if he starts Opening Day again in 2015. He's league average now. But well above replacement in terms of style with that baller Canada Day jersey and high socks. I'm pretty sure he got smoked that day, too.

Rule #45 of card blogging" always show the backs. Someone out there cares. Edwin is a good player for this chore - if nothing else you can appreciate those numbers that so few non-Blue Jays folks see day in day out. The backs look good, too, but you'd better be careful you don't stick your finger tips through the cheap card stock. 

Any post on this page is incomplete without my boy Marcus Stroman, who should be the Blue Jays ace. In a way he already is, but we don't need to place that label on him already. This is a pretty generic pose, though, and a weak effort from Topps. That said, I'll still be chasing his autograph in this set - pretty much the only Blue Jays insert to be found.

Gone, but never forgotten. I'll miss Brett, but Josh D. is an overwhelmingly better baseball player. This is a great shot - one I'd like to cal a pitcher shot - as its zoomed in close enough to give you the feeling of being on the mound while Brett makes a routine throw across the diamond which inevitably sails into the sets behind first base. 

Quite possibly the greatest Blue Jays card of all time. At least 2014. Jose Reyes. DIRT. I love dirt. I miss dirt. I miss Jose. I miss baseball.

But it's's not the best baseball card of 2014. It may be number two, but number one is so far ahead.

So far ahead, so far away. There was never a competition. 

Its this.


Dad jeans and all. 

Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the background. 

Struggle face. 

The faintest glimpse of a smile.

The very heart and soul of every one of the Blue Jays faithful. In one baseball card. 

A Blue Jay for one last day. One last pitch. 

Thank you for everything, Roy. 

Love, Roy. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Card Shows

The October card show is always supposed to be the best here in CNY. I don't know why, but that's always the way it seems. Maybe it's because two of the other ones are in January and April, months notorious for near-death winter driving situations and the blossoming of a new baseball season.

Either way, I always manage to make it to the October show. Winter and Spring be damned. So rather than be a pessimist about the state of the hobby, I rolled on down the road fifteen minutes and walked in to Collectorsfest.

We'll start with a nice black wave refractor of young Dodger Julio Urias. Black waved aren't particularly rare (they're not even numbered) so this plus another black wave, the Harper and Abreu you'll see later, and a few others were landed for eight bills. 

Could have been worse. It was evident right away that no one was really looking to give cards away today. Card dealers with prospects are just getting more and more greedy, it seems. 

Needless to say, I heard the term "book value" way more times than ever necessary today. I'm walking away if you bring up book value. Get the net, bro.

Oh my, these cards seem to have melted. Landed for $0.50 each, I also grabbed Javier Baez and Oscar Taveras. Might go after the whole set.

Sadly, this Jose Fernandez sparkler looks like it could have been taken at the moment his delicate ulnar collateral ligament shredded earlier in the season. I'm looking to add Jose Fernandez to my collections. I enjoy the players with personality and brightly coloured uniforms.

So send me some, I'll send something back.

A lot of folks were placing a large emphasis on the Kershaw-Wainwright match up Friday night, pegging it as the best possible starting pitcher match up in the National League. Not so. It's Fernandez versus Kershaw, and it's not even close.

Get well soon, big guy, We miss you.

Oh, Salvador. 

Salvy is getting worked like a dog right now. The Royals have a perfectly capable backup in Erik Kratz. Give him some playing time.

The swatch here is actually off-white, almost cream. I'll have to do some research to find out when the Royals ever wore jersies like that.

My Salvador Perez collection is doing good, but I am up to further developing it.

The Perez was a $1 throw-in to the following Jake Marisnick card. I could have had a matching refractor of Zach Walters, but some mouth breathing basement dweller hovered for a good 10 minutes over that one. So I had to settle on the base autograph, which was only two bills.

LeVon Washington only set me back $2. I unloaded pretty well on one guy who's head was firmly planted up his Yankee-worshipping ass. I mean, how else could you let this slip by in a $2 bin?:

That's numbered 04/10. TEN. 

Roberto came from the same box. Like shooting fish.

Kevin Siegrist auto? Sure, why the hell not. What else?

Salvador Perez goodies kept coming. Only fifty of these made, and that's probably for the best. The silks were nice for one year. Now, whatever.

How about some Nationals?

The aforementioned Zach Walters and a Bryce Harper. After watchign Zach in Syracuse for two seasons, he was finally called up in 2014. Then  swiftly traded to the Cleveland Indianes.

So it goes.

Ugggghhhhhhhh. Drew Storen.

A mini! Since blogspot popped this in  about the same size as the rest of the card, I shrunk it. It's my first Byron Buxton, mostly just to say I have a mini Byron Buxton.

And a nice Gavin Cecchini pick up. Not a Cecchini collector, but loved the orange swatch from this insert. Looking for both blue and orange version of AJ Jimenez.

Of course, it taked until the end of the post to show a Blue Jay, which is just how it goes at card shows nowadays. And probably all of the days before. I could have had this one many times, but decided to add it in to the pile with the old friend who sold me the black wave refractors.

And finally, RED, WHITE AND PUIG

Friday, October 3, 2014

will there ever be a rainbow

Yeah, I'm still here. I still have baseball cards, still like baseball cards and especially baseball itself, and am still collecting. So, no worries there.

But things change. Priorities move around, budgets are crunched, hobbies are malleable. So while not posting with anything resembling regularity, I'm still here. Just quiet.

And kind of angry. Mostly angry because Stadium Club is back, and Topps absolutely whiffed on their own concept for a set. But that's a post for another time. This post is about young baseballers and chasing rainbows. 

Other bloggers are rather sore about the rookie card, and even base cards for that matter, rainbows. And that's fine. They all like Allen & Ginter's, which is a totally bullshit gimmick set. So to each their own. 

I like the rainbows. They indeed are something to chase, and I've got some in the works.

These have been easier to come by than I originally thought. You're looking at the refractor and the base chrome of Aaron Sanchez.

Aaron Sanchez is very good at throwing baseballs.

So is this guy, and they just so happen to be very good friends:

Stroman cards have blown up in pricing of late. It's pretty disappointing. His cards were super cheap until he debuted and smoked the competition. Marcus has plenty of enjoyable facial expressions, and this card captures that quite well.

Roberto Osuna has sort of been lost in the Blue Jays' young pitching armada, and that's fine. He had Tommy John surgery in 2013, so he's fallen a bit behind. Pretty sure he's only about 20 years old, too. Also - 2014 Bowman Inception is a beauty.

2014 Sterling, however, was some hot garbage. Knee deep in rapidly dissolving refraction. Mondesi is even younger than Osuna. Look it up

So that's where I am. I needed to start somewhere. So I did.

See you soon.