After more than two months, 95 posts, and 8000 hits, I decided that it was time for a change. The WordPress theme (which controls the layout of the blog) that I had been using was actually the default theme, and I liked it, but I was beginning to feel that it made the blog feel a bit shoddy and undeveloped. So I changed the theme tonight and gave the blog a facelift. What do you think of the new look?
Yes, that is Cal Ripken in a Tampa Bay Rays jersey! He threw out the first pitch at Tropicana Field yesterday. He was in town to announce that his company, Ripken Baseball, had purchased the Rays’ Single-A affiliate in the Florida State League, the Vero Beach Devil Rays, and they will be moving the team to Port Charlotte next year to play in the newly renovated stadium that the Rays will also use for spring training.
I absolutely love this picture. Cal Ripken has always been one of my favorite baseball players, and he’s probably my favorite non-Yankee who played during my childhood. I liked him because he was a former Rochester Red Wing (I grew up in Rochester), a great all-around player, and had an unbelievable worth ethic that was exemplified by his streak of playing in 2,632 consecutive games. He was an outstanding role model.
I’m sure that Baltimore Orioles fans will find this picture to be blasphemous, but I think Cal looks great in a Rays jersey. One inconvenience in being a Rays fan is the lack of history and tradition for their fans to reminisce about. So when we feel nostalgic, it’s great players from other teams that we think about. Although I’m a former Yankees fan, I still greatly admire most of their legendary players. I also like the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Of course, the closest tie to historic greatness that the Rays franchise has is Wade Boggs. He played his final two seasons for the Devil Rays and notched his 3000th hit for the team in 1999. Boggs is the only Hall of Famer with “TAMPA BAY, A.L.” etched on his plaque. I also believe that Fred McGriff deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame when he is eligible. And many baseball fans don’t realize it, but the Rays also have a tie to the great Ted Williams. Williams established the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame and Museum in Citrus County, Florida, and it was permanently moved to Tropicana Field in 2006. It features the best collection of baseball memorabilia that I’ve ever seen outside of Cooperstown. I believe that just getting free admission to the museum is worth the price of a ticket to a Rays game.
The only picture that could top the picture of Ripken in a Rays jersey in my mind would be Don Mattingly in a Rays jersey. That would be an unbelievable dream come true…
This is my first post of the week. What has kept me away? I’ve spent my nights glued to the Democratic convention on TV. And next week, I’ll be glued to the Republican convention. For a couple of weeks, baseball and my baseball card collection will take a bit of a back seat. I’ve been almost as interested in our country’s political process as I have been about baseball since I was young. I still remember debating the merits of my favorite Presidential candidate with my fourth grade classmates in 1988, and I remember watching all of the conventions since 1992.
Whether or not you’re a supporter of the party that is holding a convention, I think it’s great entertainment. The conventions are basically overblown pep rallies, just like the Friday night football pep rallies that I used to attend at Penn State. Each party brings out all of its stars to talk about how great they think their candidate is and how horrible the other party’s candidate is. Along the way, you can learn a lot about the differences in the policy positions and priorities of the two parties. It’s great stuff.
I think it’s funny to see how similar the people who follow politics closely (I call them political junkies) are to sports fans. Almost everyone picks a party that they support almost unconditionally and they’ll support the candidates from their favorite team party no matter what. People who are independents are just like sports fans who don’t have a favorite team. They don’t have a favorite party or team because they don’t follow it closely enough.
So what I’m getting at is that politics in the United States is just like sports. Most people choose a favorite team and support their team’s players. They keep score (polls) and it all leads up to the championship game (election). You even have a preseason (primaries), Opening Day (conventions), and playoffs (debates). It’s fitting that Barack Obama’s speech tonight will take place at a football stadium.
And that this year’s candidates are featured on so many baseball cards…
If you were a casual baseball fan who never followed the Devil Rays or the Rays closely (which includes about 99% of the readers of this blog), you probably wouldn’t have much of a reaction to Rocco Baldelli’s home run yesterday, which led a comeback victory against the White Sox (not to be confused with today’s comeback victory against the White Sox). As a Rays fan, I can tell you that Baldelli’s home run, his first since May 2007, is a very big deal. I have a huge amount of respect for Rocco Baldelli. In fact, if I had a son, Rocco is the one player on the team who I would want him to look up to as a role model. I’d like to share with you why the comeback story of Rocco Baldelli is so inspirational.
Let’s go back to 2000. Rocco Baldelli was the 6th pick in the first round of the MLB draft, out of a high school in Rhode Island. He joined the team’s 1999 first and second round picks, Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford, in the Devil Rays’ dream outfield of the future. Baldelli broke out in the 2002 season when he made a meteoric rise from Single-A to Triple-A in one year. After leading the Durham Bulls to their first Governor’s Cup (as champions of the International League) and being named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year, the hype surrounding Rocco surpassed the hype of Hamilton and Crawford. This led the Rays to make the very unusual decision to trade their All Star center fielder, Randy Winn, to Seattle in exchange for the rights to negotiate with their manager, Lou Piniella.
Trading Winn created a vacant spot in center field for Baldelli. In spring training of 2003, Lou Piniella decided that the 21-year old was ready for the Majors and named him the Opening Day center fielder. The media made comparisons to another young rookie who was once given a chance to start by Piniella, Alex Rodriguez.
The hype only intensified from there. Rocco started his career with a 13-game hitting streak, which ended when he faced Pedro Martinez. After that game, he went on to get a hit in 10 more consecutive games! Through the first two months of the season, the rookie center fielder was hitting .340. At this time, it was common to hear Rocco compared to the legendary Joe DiMaggio because they were both center fielders, both wore uniform #5, both were Italian-Americans, and of course, they were both prolific hitters.
These were my early days as a Rays fan. I quickly decided that Rocco Baldelli was my favorite player. I remember attending a Rays vs. Orioles game at Camden Yards that spring and telling my dad that he was watching a future Hall of Famer when Rocco came to the plate. He laughed and reminded me that I had once made bold proclamations like that about Kevin Maas and Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens. The road to the Hall of Fame would not be an easy one for Rocco…
Baldelli eventually cooled off, but he finished with some very impressive stats for 2003. He hit .289 with 11 home runs, 78 RBI, and 27 stolen bases. He finished third in A.L. Rookie of the Year voting behind Angel Berroa (remember him?) and Hideki Matsui. Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford were now the faces of the franchise and they were expected to lead the team to a winning future.
Rocco was steady in 2004, posting very similar numbers to 2003: .280 batting average, 16 home runs, 74 RBI, and 17 steals. He was also one of the top defensive center fielders in the American League.
And then a constant stream of misfortune befell Rocco Baldelli.
- In the fall of 2004, Rocco tore his the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee while playing baseball in his parents’ backyard with his kid brother, Dante. He was expected to return to the Rays around midseason 2005.
- When preparing to return to the team on a minor league rehab assignment, Rocco injured his elbow while making a throw from the outfield. He needed Tommy John surgery, a rarity for a position player, and missed the rest of the season. He never played a Major League game in 2005.
- Rays fans thought that at least they’d be getting a fresh Rocco Baldelli for 2006. But that was not to be. Rocco suffered a hamstring injury in spring training that caused him to be out until June.
- After finally returning, Rocco proved himself to be one of the top hitters in the American League. In only 92 games, he hit .302 with a .872 OPS. He hit 16 home runs and had 57 RBI. He did miss several blocks of games as his hamstring injury recurred.
- The pesky hamstring injury continued to plague Rocco in 2007. He played in only 35 games before going on the D.L. for the rest of the season.
- After the 2007 season the Rays traded Delmon Young to the Twins, and Baldelli was counted on to help fill Young’s slot in the outfield and replace his strong bat. However, he suffered more misfortune in 2008 spring training. He felt fatigued after any physical exertion, and he was diagnosed with a rare mitochondrial disease. It was believed that Rocco’s career could be over.
When the Rays began to emerge as a legitimate contender for the first time ever this year, Rocco Baldelli, the one-time centerpiece of the franchise was a forgotten man. The front office even declined the remaining option years on his contract, meaning that he’ll be a free agent after this season.
Rocco admitted to the media on several occasions how difficult it was to have to watch the Rays’ success from the sidelines, unable to play a direct role in it. But even when the team seemed to have given up on him, Rocco persisted in his rehab and was able to find medical treatment that limited the effects of his mitochondrial disease. He quietly began a minor league rehab assignment at Single-A Vero Beach earlier this summer, but he only managed to hit .216 there and he could only play the outfield for a few innings at a time. He moved up to Double-A Montgomery at the All Star break, and showed signs of improvement, hitting .345 with a 1.079 OPS there. He began to play more innings in the outfield.
The 2008 trading deadline came and went, and the Rays were unable to add a right-handed power-hitting outfielder through a trade. Instead, they turned to an old friend. Rocco Baldelli was activated on August 10 in Seattle when Carl Crawford was placed on the D.L. In his first Major League game in a year and half, he had an RBI single and made a great diving catch in right field, showing glimpses of his former greatness. Since then he’s played mostly against left-handed starting pitchers. Last night, August 22, his 8th inning home run was pivotal in the Rays’ comeback win against Chicago.
It remains to be seen whether Rocco Baldelli can finally fulfill the vast potential that we saw in 2003, 2004, and the second half of 2006. He’s still only 26 years old and if he is able to permanently limit the effects of the mitochondrial disease, the sky could be the limit for him. I am definitely one of his biggest fans right now. It’s amazing to see someone come back from as much adversity as he has had to face. It is thrilling to see Rocco finally being able to play on a winning Rays team and making plays to help them keep winning. I can’t wait to see him shine in the postseason!
I want to share two Rocco Baldelli cards from my collection with you. The first is one that I bought in 2003 when there was just as much hype about Rocco as a rookie as there is about Jay Bruce and Evan Longoria this year. I tried to find the most valuable non-autographed Rocco Baldelli rookie card and I ended up buying his 2000 Bowman Chrome card, graded PSA 9. Believe it or not, I paid about $70 for the card. In 2008, I could buy the same card for only a few bucks.
The second card is the only autographed Rocco Baldelli card that I own. In early 2008, I began to stock up on autographed cards of Rays players. I only bought one Baldelli autographed card because I didn’t know if he’d ever be able to play again. Now that he’s healthy, I’ll be on the lookout for more. Here it is, from 2004 SPx:
This is Part 1 of a series of posts with free advice for Topps and Upper Deck about how to improve their baseball cards to make collectors happier, which will in turn help them to achieve their primary goal of making more money.
Relic cards. Memorabilia cards. Game-used cards. Jersey Cards. Or bat cards, glove cards, hat cards, pants cards, batting glove cards, or jock strap cards. No matter what you call them or what’s inside of them, you have to admit that the first time you saw one, you thought they were the greatest thing to happen to baseball cards since, well, cardboard. The idea was revolutionary, and it was very cool. It’s funny how we take these cards for granted now, but think about it, most of us as collectors own pieces of jerseys and other items that were worn and used by some of the biggest stars in the game, and if we’re lucky, some of the greatest stars of all time.
But the reality in today’s hobby is that relic cards have lost a lot of their luster. Although it was thrilling for me when I first bought game-used Don Mattingly cards and when I first pulled cards of other players in packs, now I treat most relic cards with little more respect than commons. And I believe that most collectors have gone through a similar change in attitude over the years. Let’s face it, when you can buy memorabilia cards of All Stars, and in some cases Hall of Famers, for a buck or two on eBay, something seems terribly wrong.
There are many reasons for the lack of interest in today’s relic cards. One reason is that there are simply too many of them. They’re too easy to find in packs, not rare enough, and as a result, less desirable to collectors. A simple conclusion is that relic cards would be better if they were more rare. But that’s certainly not the only thing that can be improved.
Take a look at this 2008 Triple Threads card of Scott Kazmir, Jake Peavy, and Johan Santana that I recently bought:
The card features “relics” from three of the best pitchers in baseball today. It’s also a visually appealing card, and it’s numbered to 27 (though with different parallel versions, there are more than 27 cards like this). So, judging by what we see on the front, the card is great. Now take a look at the back:
THIS CARD CONTAINS AUTHENTIC GAME USED RELICS OF JAKE PEAVY, SCOTT KAZMIR, AND JOHAN SANTANA.
Notice how Topps uses the word “relics”. They don’t tell us if the “relics” are pieces of a jersey, pants, or heaven forbid, something else. It’s left to our imagination. I’m sure that we’d all like to believe that the relics on cards like this are pieces of a jersey, but with all of the single-colored relics that you see on cards, I believe it’s likely that they’re pants. But Topps knows that “pants cards” would be less popular than “jersey cards” so they decide to be vague and call them “relics”. We’ll never know what exactly they are.
Now check this out:
THE RELICS CONTAINED ON THIS CARD ARE NOT FROM ANY SPECIFIC GAME, EVENT OR SEASON.
Say what? This statement opens the doors to all kinds of possibilities. Topps is covering their behinds here. Notice that Topps doesn’t even assure us that it’s been used in a Major League game. By saying this, the “relic” could be something that the player wore in spring training, the minor leagues, college, high school, or little league. And if it was worn in the majors, there’s no guarantee that it was with the player’s current team. It doesn’t seem like such a great card anymore, does it?
Let’s see if Upper Deck does any better. This is from the back of a Chipper Jones memorabilia card from 2008 Goudey:
You have received a Chipper Jones Game-Used baseball card. On the front of this card is a piece of memorabilia that has been certified to us as having been used in an official Major League Baseball game.
Well, that at least makes me feel better than the Topps disclaimer. At least we know that it was used in an “official Major League Baseball game”. I suppose it could still have been used in spring training, but that’s at least better than other possibilities. We still don’t know the season that it was used, or if it’s a jersey or pants. I’m not sure that I like the “certified to us” wording because it seems like Upper Deck is trying to protect itself if the memorabilia is ever found to be not authentic. Who exactly is doing the certifying? Are they not getting the memorabilia directly from MLB or the teams? If they aren’t, then why not?
Now, let me show you my favorite relic card in my collection. I bought it about a week and a half ago at a card show. It’s of the great Willie Mays:
I was able to buy this card for $15. For a guy who is definitely one of the top 5 players in history, I think that’s a great deal. The card is from 2002 Topps American Pie. I’m not familiar with American Pie since I wasn’t collecting in 2002, but if this card is representative of the quality of the set, then it must have been great. Here’s what I like. The card clearly states that the relic is from 1973 and the picture on the card is from Mays’ 1973 Topps Card! It’s brilliantly straightforward. Granted, a game-used Willie Mays Giants jersey from the 1950s would be even better, but I love the fact that I know exactly what season it was used. 1973 happened to be Mays’ last season, so when I look at the card, I can picture the old, grizzled veteran putting on his uniform for one last chance at glory. This is much better than having no idea what season it’s from.
And the back of the card:
YOU JUST RECEIVED AN AUTHENTIC GAME WORN UNIFORM CARD FROM 1973 OF WILLIE MAYS FROM AMERICAN PIE SPIRIT OF AMERICA.
We still don’t know if it’s a jersey or pants, but it’s from a uniform that was worn by Willie freakin’ Mays, so I can’t complain. Also, I like that we can see both sides of the relic. That is a good idea for all relic cards.
So in summary, here is what the companies can do better:
- Tell us what exactly the relic is. If it’s a jersey, that’s great. If it’s pants or something else, tell us that. Yeah, the pants would be less desirable, but doing it this way would make the relic cards that we really want (jerseys) more rare. We’ll like the cards better if we know exactly what it is that they contain.
- Only use relics from regular season Major League games. All Star games or postseason games are fine too. I could also live with spring training relics if they’re marked as such. Then in the disclaimer on the back, boldly proclaim that the relic was used in an official Major League baseball game. Eliminate the vague and ambiguous wording.
- Be as specific as possible about when the relic was used. Seriously, you should at least be able to tell us the season. I know that the same jerseys are used in multiple games, but if you could give us some idea about what month or time period in the season it was used, that would be great.
- Get the relics directly from MLB and the teams. Do not buy them from third parties except for a retired player. That’s the best way to ensure that they are authentic.
- Don’t be afraid to show both sides of the relic on the card, like the Mays card shown above. Showing both sides makes the card better.
- Match the picture on the front of the card to the relic that is in the card. In other words, use a picture of the player in the type of uniform that you’re putting into the card. Don’t show a picture of the player wearing a different team’s uniform. If the relic is from a home uniform, show a picture of the player in a home uniform. Do the same with road uniforms.
There you go. If the card companies choose to take my advice, the relic and memorabilia cards that they produce will be much more highly in demand from today’s collectors.
I might have hinted at it before, but now I want to come right out and tell you all, I love Topps Heritage. 2008 Topps Heritage has been hands down my favorite baseball card product since I got back into collecting about six months ago. Yeah, 2007 Goudey was the first product that I bought, and it revitalized my interest in new cards, but when I first opened Topps Heritage, it surpassed Goudey in my eyes.
Heritage was the first Topps product that I had bought in over 13 years. At the time (March), I really considered myself to be an Upper Deck collector. I wasn’t impressed with Topps’ base set at all, but since I loved the design of 1959 Topps and liked the idea of retro sets, I bought a hobby box of Heritage to see if I’d like it. And it blew me away. I thought that Topps did a great job of replicating the 1959 design with today’s players. I loved the rookie and All Star subsets, the inserts (New Age Performers, Then & Now, Baseball Flashbacks, and News Flashbacks), the retail-only inserts (Dick Perez cards at Wal Mart and mini T205 cards at Target), the chrome cards, and most of all, the refractor cards. Can you believe that the first refractors that I ever pulled from a pack were from this year’s Topps Heritage? That’s what happens when you’re not collecting for 13 years…
The thing that I like the most about Heritage is how fun it is to build a set. I love that there are 500 cards and all of the inserts to collect. It reminds me of the days of my youth that I spent building 1987, 1988, and 1989 Topps sets. Anyway, I went through three hobby boxes, about five blasters, and I was buying individual packs almost every time I walked into Wal Mart or Target for about two months. I’ve also made a bunch of trades and a few purchases. Mostly I had to buy a bunch of the short prints. Today I’m still 28 cards short of the base set. See my Trading Corner to see if you can help me out with the cards that I need.
For a while, I’ve held off on buying any new packs or boxes of 2008 Topps Heritage since I was so close to completing the base set. I figured that it would be more efficient for me to buy or trade for the cards that I still needed. So, I had been eagerly anticipating the day in early 2009 when the next Heritage set would be released. I even bought a box of 2007 Heritage to quench my Heritage thirst, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as the 2008 version.
So, as you can imagine, I was thrilled to find out about the upcoming “Topps Heritage High Numbers” set. It is awesome that there will be 220 more 2008 Topps Heritage cards to enjoy, including one of Evan Longoria, and even a “Rookie Performers” insert of the Longlorious third baseman:
As great as I think the new set will be, I am miffed about one detail. Topps is going to make the set more difficult to complete by putting two 2008 Topps Updates & Highlights cards into each pack. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make any sense. Why would you insert cards from a completely different set into Topps Heritage High Numbers? I know that I have no plans to collect Updates & Highlights (except for Longoria’s card), and now when I buy Heritage High Numbers, I’ll end up with a bunch of cards from that set that I have absolutely no use for. I really don’t understand this idea. Is the inclusion of these cards supposed to make more people want to buy Heritage High Numbers? I don’t think so! The set should be able to sell based on its own merit.
Despite the useless Updates & Highlights cards, I will definitely be at the front of the line to buy 2008 Topps Heritage High Numbers when it comes out! Heritage is the set of the year so far in my opinion.
I’ll finish with some free advice for Upper Deck – how about an annual Fleer Heritage set? Start with the 1981 Fleer design, skip 1982 because it sucked, and then go from there. Sets based on 1983 and 1984 Fleer would be hugely popular! If you do it right, collectors from my generation might like it better than Topps Heritage because the designs would be from the glory days of our collecting in the 1980s. You might as well do something with the Fleer brand…
One of the things that I did during my week off from blogging was watch David Price pitch in his Triple-A debut at Durham Bulls Athletic Park last Wednesday, August 13. Price, as I have mentioned before, was the #1 overall pick in the 2007 MLB draft, is considered to be the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues, and is property of the Rays. It turned out to be one of his weaker starts this year as he gave up 3 runs in 4 innings, allowing 7 hits and no walks with 6 strikeouts. Part of the problem was poor defensive play behind him, which was likely due to the wet field conditions that day. I estimated that 3-4 hits would have been outs if the Rays defense was behind Price and the game was played at climate-controlled Tropicana Field.
Here are some pictures from what I hope is a short stay for Price with the Bulls:
One of the great things about the minor leagues is how easy it is to get close to the players and the action. I was only one row away from Price and catcher John Jaso when I took these pictures.
With the Rays’ rotation filled with Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, and Andy Sonnanstine, all of whom are having terrific years, it’ll be interesting to see how the Rays make room for Price and Wade Davis, their other pitching phenom who is currently in Triple-A. The rest of the A.L. East should be very scared!
I love the Tampa Bay Rays. No matter what the odds are, you can never count them out. I lost track a while ago of how many amazing comebacks they’ve had this year. The trend continued tonight…
I turned the game on in the 8th inning. The Rays were down 2-1 to the Angels after a great pitching duel of James Shields against Ervin Santana. The Angels brought in their reliable setup man, Scot Shields (no relation to James), to pitch the 8th. I knew that they’d bring in K-Rod to pitch the 9th. I foolishly didn’t believe that the Rays had much of a chance. Then Shields walked Gabe Gross. Jason Bartlett bunted and Jeff Mathis threw the ball into the outfield, putting Bartlett on second and Gross on third. Then Aki Iwamura walked. Bases loaded! Now I’m starting to believe. After B.J. Upton strikes out on a terrible called third strike, Darren Oliver comes in to replace Scot Shields, and he walks Carlos Pena for the tying run! Then Cliff Floyd strikes out. I’m still not sure why Joe Maddon left him in there to face a lefty. Tonight’s hero, Willy Aybar, then came to the plate and singled to score Bartlett and Iwamura. Rays are up 4-2! They win after Dan Wheeler pitches a 1-2-3 9th inning for the save.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Tampa Bay Rays now have the best record in major league baseball (tied with the Chicago Cubs). While the Red Sox and Yankees can’t figure out how to beat the Angels, the Rays are now 6-2 against them this year, including 5-0 at home. This could be a great omen for the playoffs. It seems that the Angels can’t win at Tropicana Field. I can’t wait for the series finale tomorrow night!
Aybar has done a tremendous job replacing the injured Evan Longoria at third base. He’s hitting .333 with a 1.129 OPS in his last 7 games. Acquiring him this offseason was one of many astute moves that Andrew Friedman has made to build this team.
Alllllrighty then … it’s time to finish up the posts on my 2008 Goudey case break. When we left off, I had broken the first 10 boxes. I had completed way too many sets of the base cards (1-200). I had collected 72 out of the 130 short prints (comprised of regular short prints, President cards, 1936 Black & White cards, and Sport Royalty cards), 15 out of 30 Berk Ross Hit Parade of Champions inserts, 46 (out of 6661!) Yankee Stadium Legacy cards, 53 red back mini cards, 22 blue back mini cards, 9 green back mini cards (#/88), 5 black back mini cards (#/34), 2 taupe back mini cards (#/8), 9 jersey cards, 1 bat card, 8 regular autographs, 2 Sport Royalty autographs (supposed to be one per case), one Yankee Stadium Legacy jersey card (one per case), and a partridge in a pear tree.
I’m still waiting for an original 1930s Goudey buyback card and if God really loves me (or if my case got mixed up with the one that Upper Deck meant to send to their buddies at Beckett), there might be a cut autograph waiting for me too. Are you ready to discover the joys hidden within the last two boxes? It really doesn’t matter if you’re ready or not … Derek Jeter says it’s time to get it started:
- 117 base cards in this box. This is a nice looking set, but daaamn, once you’ve seen the same card for the 10th time, you kinda get sick of it. I have enough Andrew Miller cards now that Mario from Wax Heaven could fill up his bath tub and bathe in them!
- Short prints of Al Kaline (#211), Steve Carlton (#225), and Willie McCovey (#227). Sweet! I needed all of these cards. My grand total of the short prints is now 22 out of 30. I have to tell you that Steve Carlton is one of my favorite players of all time. I can’t wait until time travel is invented so that I can go back to 1972 and watch him pitch. The dude won 27 games for the Phillies that year. His entire team won 59! And check this out – he completed 30 out of his 41 starts and pitched 346 1/3 innings with 310 strikeouts! His ERA was 1.98. In his career, he won 329 games, had 4136 strikeouts, and won 4 Cy Young Awards. And his cards are dirt cheap compared to guys like Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan.
- President card of James K. Polk (#246). Yes! James K. Polk! The man who’s on everyone’s short list of all-time greatest Presidents! But he was born in North Carolina, so he has that going for him. Anyway, there’s only one President card in this box but it’s one I need. Up to 13 out of the 20 Presidents now.
- 1936 Black & White cards of Chase Utley (#255) and Ichiro (#260). Utley is sporting a slicked back haircut reminiscent of the sleazy Benjamin from Wayne’s World. I hope he doesn’t steal my wife and sign her to a record contract. And I think A-Rod should introduce Ichiro to Madonna. They’d really hit it off with their common dislike of last names. I needed both of these, bringing me up to 16 out of the 20 Black & White cards. Good box so far.
- Sport Royalty cards of Albert Pujols (#272), Tom Seaver (#274), Magic Johnson (#299), and Michael Johnson (#316). Does Magic Johnson still have AIDS? That’s a serious question. You never hear about it anymore, and he seems to be in good health. The good luck with the box continues since I needed all 4. I’m now up to 31 out of the 60 Sport Royalty cards.
- Berk Ross inserts of Derek Jeter (HPC-8), and Kobe Bryant (HPC-14). Both are doubles for me. My good luck takes a break. I still have 15 out of the 30.
- Yankee Stadium Legacy inserts of Babe Ruth (558), Joe McCarthy (750), Johnny Mize (2149), and Roy White (3851). Johnny Mize is trying to eat his bat. Johnny was trying to decrease the supply of his future game-used bat cards to make them more valuable. 50 of these so far in the case.
- Red back mini cards of Kevin Youkilis (#30), Billy Williams (#32), Miguel Tejada (#82), Joe Mauer (#110), Matt Cain (#160), and Orlando Cepeda (#162). Mauer and Cepeda are doubles. I’m up to 57 out of the 330.
- Blue back mini cards of Freddy Sanchez (#147) and Ryan Church (#199). I’m up to 24 out of 330.
- Green back mini cards of Billy Wagner (84/88), and Jimmy Rollins (17/88).
- Chipper Jones jersey card (M-CJ). Somewhere in the Peach State, Cardboard Junkie is salivating. He and I definitely need to work out a trade sometime. I just hope he survives that attack from Russia…
- Sport Royalty autographed card of track and field star Sanya Richards. I’ve never heard of her, but apparently she’s competing in the current Olympics. So this is now the third Sport Royalty autograph in the case. There’s only supposed to be one per case “on average”. I wonder if I really beat the odds or if there really are three in every case. The others were Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Dan O’Brien. None are selling for above $20 on eBay. Even during the Olympics. So even though I got three, there’s not much to get excited about.
- No buyback card, so it must be in Box 12, right?
- 117 base cards in this box. This is a nice looking set, but daaamn, once you’ve seen the same card for the 10th time, you kinda get sick of it. I have enough Andrew Miller cards now that both Mario and Tatiana could bathe in them together!
- Short prints of Fred Lynn (#206) and Willie McCovey (#227). I needed Lynn but just got McCovey in the last box. Seriously though, Fred Lynn? Is he really worthy of inclusion with the all-time greats here? I think not. Upper Deck is pandering to the Red Sox Bandwagnation. My grand total of the short prints in the case is 23 out of 30. I have 10 doubles to trade for the ones that I need.
- President card of James Monroe (#234) and Calvin Coolidge (#241). I needed Coolidge but not Monroe. So the case yielded 14 out of the 20 Presidents with 6 doubles to trade.
- 1936 Black & White cards of “Benjamin” Utley (#255) and Johan Santana (#262). Both are doubles. The final count is 16 out of the 20 Black & White cards with 8 doubles to trade.
- Sport Royalty cards of Tom Seaver (#274), Julius Erving (#288), Magic Johnson (#299), and Kerri Strug (#310). I’ll bet that “Dr. J” cured Magic of AIDS. I mean, he is a doctor and all. I only needed Erving and Strug here. Final tally is 33 out of the 60 Sport Royalty cards and 12 doubles. I have 23 of the 30 cards numbered 271-300 (and 9 doubles), and 10 of the 30 cards numbered 301-330 (and 3 doubles). So you can see that the cards numbered 301-330 are only found about once per box. They also have green backs, while 271-300 have black backs.
- I have a total of 86 out of the 130 overall short prints and 36 doubles. It shouldn’t be too hard to finish the set.
- Berk Ross inserts of Yogi Berra (HPC-20) and Tom Brady (HPC-29). Both are doubles for me. Final count is 15 out of the 30 with 9 doubles to trade.
- Yankee Stadium Legacy inserts of Waite Hoyt (207), Tony Lazzeri (318), Lou Gehrig (590), and “Old Reliable” Tommy Henrich (1472). I’ve always loved that nickname for Henrich. It makes me want to be friends with him. Final count is 54 out of 6661 in the case! If I bust about 123 more cases (or about 1500 boxes), I could get the whole set!
- Red back mini cards of Melvin Mora (#16), Eddie Murray (#18), Paul Konerko (#42), Billy Wagner (#120), Alex Rodriguez (#122), and Scott Rolen (#172). Awesome; I needed all 6! By the way, if you haven’t noticed, Melvin Mora recently mutated into the best hitter in baseball. Grand total is 63 out of the 330 red back mini’s in the case. I have 45 of the 200 base cards, and 18 of the 130 short prints. I also have 8 doubles. My desire to build a full set of these was a major reason for buying the case. Seriously though, Upper Deck really should put more of these in each box and case. Having only about 1/5 of the mini’s after busting a case is ridiculous. I’ll still try to put together a full set somehow.
- Blue back mini cards of Aramis Ramirez (#37) and Jimmy Rollins (#141). 26 out of 330 in the case. No doubles. 15 base cards and 11 short prints. I’m not going to try to build a set of these and I’ll probably use them as trade bait.
- Green back mini card of Randy Johnson (69/88), and Black Back mini card of Jeff Francoeur (01/34). OMG! The first one made! It’s total Francoeur-Jo! It’d probably sell for a buck on eBay. So, in the case I got 12 green back mini cards (#/88), 6 black back mini cards (#/34), and 2 taupe back mini cards (#/8). I’ll probably use these as trade bait too. The Andre Dawson taupe back has already been sent to Charlie.
- Mark Buehrle jersey card (M-MB). I cannot even begin to explain what a thrill it is to own a 1/2 inch of a jersey that was once worn by the legendary Mark Buehrle. I’m amazed that Upper Deck was able to obtain such an amazing artifact; I would have thought that all of his jerseys go directly to the Hall of Fame. Yes, my sarcastic talents are fully on display tonight…
- Autographed card of John Maine. OK, so I got 12 autographs in the case. 9 regular autographs and 3 Sport Royalty. Jeff Francis is apparently a short print (less than 100 exist). His cards are in high demand in Caslan, Alberta. At least one person will get that reference. Anyway, let’s recap. Aaron Harang, Billy Buckner (the pitcher than no one cares about, not the star of the ’86 World Series), Brandon Phillips, Jeff Francis, John Maine, David Murphy, Nick Swisher, Steve Pearce, Vince Coleman, Dan O’Brien, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Sanya Richards. I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t hoping for better out of the case. Phillips is the biggest star, Swisher has the most interesting signature (like the alien writing on the ship that crashed at Roswell), and Coleman makes me question why Upper Deck would go out of their way to get a guy like him to sign. Jackie Joyner-Kersee was a huge star, so getting her autograph was pretty cool. And all of the autographs are on-card, “hard-signed” autographs. You know that I wouldn’t be doing my job as a card blogger if I didn’t extol the virtues of these over sticker autographs. Seriously though, I don’t mind stickers.
- Original 1930s Goudey buyback card of … nobody. That’s right, no one-per-case buyback card in my case! This was a huge, huge disappointment for me. I know that the cards that they insert are in poor condition, and I wasn’t going to get a star player, but there’s just something about opening a pack and finding a card that’s 75 years old that would have been totally awesome. I remember seeing one pulled in a 2007 Goudey video box break and thinking about how great it would be to pull one of them. So I bought a case thinking that I’d guarantee that I’d get one, and a Sport Royalty autograph that would be worth a ton of money (I got three but their value isn’t even close to what I thought it would be), and a good start on filling out the set of short prints and red back mini’s. I did get what I expected out of the short prints and mini’s, but that’s it. If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t have bought the case.
Anyway, about the lack of a buyback card. I called Upper Deck customer service the day after I opened the last box. I wasn’t sure what to expect from them, but the guy on the phone was reasonably friendly and understanding. He told me to write a letter, and include the UPC code from the case, to their Quality Assurance department. They may not be able to send me a buyback card, but he told me that they’d send “something” to make up for me not getting a buyback card. I’ll let you know what happens with that. Has anyone else been in a similar situation? If so, let me know what your experience with the Quality Assurance department was like.
I was hoping to do some significant blogging tonight, but I’m way too tired. Just got finished watching the Rays beat the Angels to move within 1/2 game of having the best record in baseball. In tribute to Phil Rizzuto, I’ve just got to say Holy Cow! Even without Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, and Troy Percival, this team just keeps on winning. This season has been more special than I ever imagined possible.
Anyway, in my week away, I’ve gotten to reflect on my first two months of blogging and where I want to go in the future with the blog. I can assure you that there will be some great stuff coming up. It’ll all get started tomorrow.