Some vintage Devil Rays from a true saint (of the cheap seats)

November 28, 2008 at 1:54 am | Posted in Blogs, My Cards, Rays | Leave a comment

I’ve made a few trades over the last couple of months with Dan from the Saints of the Cheap Seats blog.  Not only does he have a very interesting blog, but he lives in my hometown of Rochester, New York.  Anyway, we’ve helped each other with a few sets that we’re both building.  Recently, Dan told me that he had a bunch of older Rays cards and he wanted to know if I was interested in them.  I’ve received just about every Rays card from the last couple of years in other trades, but I don’t have many from the early years, from 1998 until about 2005.  I really like getting (Devil) Rays cards from that era for two reasons.  It’s a good way to reminisce about the former players, and it familiarizes me with the card sets that were made in the years that I wasn’t collecting.

Dan told me that he’d send the cards to me sometime after Thanksgiving, so I was surprised when I received a package from him in my mailbox on Tuesday.  In the package, I found 47 Devil Rays cards, and almost all of them were cards that I didn’t have.  The players included Tony Saunders (the first pick in the expansion draft), Fred McGriff, Rolando Arrojo, Wilson Alvarez, John Flaherty, MIguel Cairo, Greg Vaughn, Joe Kennedy, Randy Winn, and Roberto Hernandez – all guys who were on the team when the thought of Tampa Bay reaching the World Series was just a ridiculous joke.  The cards were from a variety of sets that are now defunct, such as Donruss Fan Club, Fleer Authentix, Fleer Game Time, Fleer Genuine, Fleer Platinum, Fleer Tradition, Fleer Triple Crown, Pacific Aurora, Pacific Paramount, Pinnacle, Royal Rookies, Skybox Autographics, Skybox Dominion, Topps Total, Upper Deck 40-Man, Upper Deck MVP, and Upper Deck Ovation.

Here are some of my favorite cards from the package:


This is an insert checklist from 1997 Fleer, the year before the Devil Rays first season.  From the back of the card:

“The Tampa Bay Devil Rays will begin play in the American League in 1998.  The Devil Rays will play in 45,200 seat Tropicana Field.  Tampa Bay’s 1997 Minor League affiliates include St. Petersburg (Florida State), Charleston (South Atlantic), Hudson Valley (New York-Penn), Princeton (Appalachian), and St. Petersburg (Gulf Coast).  Durham (International) will be added as their AAA affiliate in 1998 while Orlando (Southern) will become the AA affiliate in 1999.  Highly rated prospects include pitchers Matt White and Bobby Seay, and outfielder Paul Wilder.”

I guess that means they didn’t have a Double-A affiliate in 1998, which is strange.  Paul Wilder was the team’s first ever draft pick in 1996.  White and Seay were drafted by other teams in the first round, but because of a loophole, they were able to sign with the Devil Rays instead.  Bobby Seay was the only one of these guys to reach the majors.

1998 Pinnacle

1998 Pinnacle

This card is from the last year of Pinnacle and the first year of the Devil Rays.  I wonder if this was one of the cards that you could get from a can.  I actually bought a Devil Rays can of cards on eBay earlier this year when I first heard that they existed.  I never opened it though.  It’s sitting on my desk as a paperweight.

1998 Pacific Aurora

1998 Pacific Aurora

The Devil Rays picked a future superstar in the expansion draft, Bobby Abreu.  Unfortunately, they traded him that same day to the Phillies for the guy you see here, Kevin Stocker, who never accomplished much in Tampa Bay.  I have to say that this Pacific Aurora card looks absolutely horrible.  If this isn’t the ugliest card design ever, I don’t know what is…

1998 Pacific Paramount

1998 Pacific Paramount

This Pacific card at least looks half-way decent.  It features the current bench coach of the Rays, Dave Martinez.  I predict that he’ll become a manager in the major leagues someday.

2000 Upper Deck MVP

2000 Upper Deck MVP

This is a nice looking card of the Crime Dog, who I’m hoping will be the first player to wear a Tampa Bay hat on his Hall of Fame plaque.  I have a feeling it’ll probably be a Braves hat though.

2002 Fleer Tradition

2002 Fleer Tradition

Yes, that’s the same 1934 Goudey design that was used for Upper Deck’s 2008 Goudey set.  I had no idea that it had been used by Fleer in 2002.  The 2008 Goudey cards look a lot nicer and they’re closer to the original design.  Sadly, Joe Kennedy passed away suddenly at the age of 28 about a year ago.

2004 Fleer Platinum

2004 Fleer Platinum

Wow, if I had realized that these cards were made in 2004, I definitely would have collected them.  1984 Fleer is one of my favorite card designs of all time!  Not only did 1984 Fleer include a Don Mattingly rookie card, but they were the first non-Topps cards that I ever saw.  I remember seeing some of them in a friend’s basement in the mid-1980s and being shocked to find out that another card company existed.  I lost a lot of respect for Huff in his last couple of years in Tampa Bay when he was constantly complaining and sulking rather than showing any leadership.  He then became a Rays killer after he signed with Baltimore.  However, I regained some respect for him when I found out that he bought tickets right behind the Rays dugout at Tropicana Field for some of this year’s playoff games so that he could support his former teammates.

2004 Fleer Authentix

2004 Fleer Authentix

If nothing else, this is a unique card design – a baseball card that looks like a ticket.  This one says “Game 1”.  I wonder if there were parallels with other game numbers.  I’m sure that someone can fill me in.  Baldelli is a free agent now and I have mixed feelings about whether or not I want him to return to the Rays.  I’d hate to see him in any other team’s uniform, but his contributions are very limited by his mitochondrial myopathy.  I guess if he’s signed to a short-term contract with a lot of incentives, it couldn’t hurt to bring him back.

2005 Upper Deck ESPN

2005 Upper Deck ESPN

I’ve seen some of these cards before, but besides the ESPN logo on the card, how are these cards related to ESPN?  At least they could have included quotes from ESPN analysts on the back of the card or something…

2006 Upper Deck Ovation

2006 Upper Deck Ovation

I really like this card design and it’s one that I think could be successful today.  You can’t really see it in the scan, but the stitches on the baseball actually feel like real stitches on the card.  I think it looks great.  Why is Upper Deck putting out crap like Spectrum and Upper Deck X when they could be making cards that look like this?

2006 Fleer Tradition

2006 Fleer Tradition

Here’s a Fleer card made after Upper Deck bought the company.  It’s a nice looking card and it makes me wish that Upper Deck would do something with the Fleer brand name again.

Thanks to Dan for sending these cards.  I’ll be putting together a package of Indians cards to send his way.  And maybe I’ll meet up with him at a card shop the next time I visit my family in Rochester.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2008 at 1:34 pm | Posted in Holidays | Leave a comment

Today is Thanksgiving, and there’s no better card to celebrate with than my 1992 Don Mattingly Mr. Turkey Superstar card!


Seriously though, Thanksgiving is a time that I usually think about all of the things that I’m thankful for in my life.  Here are a few:

  • I’m thankful for the many great baseball card blogs that I have enjoyed reading this year, and for all of the readers of my blog.  Blogging about cards has been a very fun experience, thanks to the great blogging community that we have.
  • I’m thankful for everyone who I’ve made trades with this year, including Dan from Saints of the Cheap Seats, Adam from Thoughts and Sox, and Larry from YouTube (check out his channel here).  I received packages from them on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I’m working on some posts to show what I received from them and packages to send out to them.
  • I’m thankful for the Tampa Bay Rays for having the unbelievable season that they had.  It was more fun to be a baseball fan this year than ever before.  I’ll never forget how amazing it was to see them win the A.L. East, beat the White Sox in the ALDS, beat the Red Sox in the ALCS, and reach the World Series.
  • I’m thankful for the Philadelphia Phillies for winning the World Series.  Yes, you read that right.  Honestly, it wouldn’t have felt right for the Rays to win it all in their first season of being a decent team.  The Phillies fans have been waiting for a championship for much longer.  And now, the Rays still have one more goal to achieve – winning the 2009 World Series.
  • I’m thankful to the Penn State Nittany Lions for their incredible 11-1 season.  I’m not so thankful for the Iowa Hawkeyes.  I really believe that PSU could beat any team in the nation this year, and it’s a travesty that they can’t prove it because college football has its asinine bowl games instead of playoffs.
  • I’m thankful to Topps, Upper Deck, and Donruss too, for the cards that they’ve produced this year.  Some have been great and some have been horrible, but without all of this year’s card sets, what would we have to blog about?  And how else would we be able to entertain ourselves?
  • I’m thankful for my wife, my cat, all of my family, my friends, my health, my job, my house, and all of my baseball cards.  I’m thankful to be a citizen of the United States of America and the state of North Carolina.
  • And I’m thankful that I’m spending Thanksgiving at home this year instead of traveling.  We’re going to my wife’s grandmother’s house this afternoon, which is only 20 minutes away.

So Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there.  I’ll be back tomorrow.  And oh yeah, I’m happy that Santa Claus will be coming to town in less than a month!

My 1056th Don Mattingly card

November 26, 2008 at 1:13 am | Posted in My Cards, Upper Deck | 2 Comments

I received my 1056th different Don Mattingly card in the mail today.  It’s a special card because it’s one of the 13 cards that I needed in my quest to own every Mattingly card from his playing days.  I hadn’t found any of them on eBay, or anywhere else online, for the last couple of months.  When I found this one on eBay recently, I bought it in a heartbeat.  The card is a “gold signature” parallel card of the “Traditional Threads” subset of 1996 Collector’s Choice:


I really liked the way that Upper Deck did the parallels for Collector’s Choice.  They had two levels of parallels with facsimile signatures on them.  There were silver signature cards and gold signature cards.  You can correct me if I’m remembering incorrectly, but I believe that the silver signatures were inserted in every pack and there was one gold signature inserted in every box.  That makes the gold signatures tough to come by, especially 12 years later.  In fact, this card hadn’t shown up on eBay in at least the last six months!

Speaking of Collector’s Choice, I’d like to see Upper Deck revive the brand.  Collector’s Choice would certainly be a lot better than First Edition as Upper Deck’s entry-level product.  Anything that has a different design and different photos than Upper Deck’s flagship set would be a huge improvement over First Edition.

Anyway, you can check out the list of the 12 Mattingly cards that I still need on my Don Mattingly Collection page.  If you can help me find any of them, I would be extremely grateful!

A bunch of cards from Upper Deck Timelines

November 25, 2008 at 9:34 pm | Posted in My Cards, Rays, Upper Deck | 2 Comments

Upper Deck Timelines is kind of a strange product.  It features a 100-card base set, which seems to be the standard for almost all Upper Deck products, but there are a bunch of extra subsets that are based on designs from past Upper Deck products, for a grand total of 385 cards.  I guess it’s Upper Deck’s answer to Topps Heritage.  You can check out all of the different subset designs on Upper Deck’s web page for Timelines, available here.  I bought a couple retail packs of it recently, and I got many more base cards than subset cards, so it seems like it would be pretty difficult to build all of the subsets.  This set looks horrible for set builders.  I’d prefer to see Upper Deck choose one design from its past and make an entire retro set based on that (the groundbreaking 1989 set would be a good start).  On the other hand, Timelines can be fun for player collectors.  For instance, it contains a ton of Evan Longoria cards for me to collect.

With that in mind, I checked eBay recently to see what Longoria cards from Timelines I could find.  I was fortunate to find a 5-card lot that I got for only $6.27.  Here are the cards:

"1992 Minor League"

This is my favorite of these cards.  Upper Deck says that it’s based on their 1992 Minor League set, but the design is pretty much identical to their 1992 Major League set too.  The 1992 set is one of the nicer designs from Upper Deck’s early years.

"1993 SP Rookie Card"

This is another nice design from the first year of SP, which competed with Topps Finest and Fleer Flair among the “super premium” sets.

"1994 SP Rookie Card"

This one replicates the 1994 SP design.

"1995 SP Rookie Card" Die Cut

I’m a big fan of this card.  It’s a really great picture and I love the die cut.  I wouldn’t mind seeing more die cut cards being made today.  Of course, I’d rather they look like this card than the die cuts in Upper Deck X.

"1994 All-Time Heroes"

I was still collecting in 1994, but I don’t remember “All-Time Heroes” at all.  Anyway, this card is based on that design.

These cards all make nice additions to my Evan Longoria collection, which is now up to 53 different cards.  However, I’ll be steering clear of buying any more packs or any boxes of Timelines.

2008 Upper Deck Legends Masterpieces Hockey Hobby Box Break

November 25, 2008 at 3:43 am | Posted in Hockey, My Cards, Upper Deck, Video | 7 Comments

If you’ve checked the Fielder’s Choice YouTube channel over the last few days, you may have already seen these videos.  Yes, I am breaking new ground here by opening a hobby box of hockey cards on a baseball card blog.  This is actually the first box of cards from another sport that I’ve ever bought.  Hockey and football are my favorite sports besides baseball.  I was very intrigued when I first heard about the Upper Deck “Legends Masterpieces” hockey cards.  As you know, Masterpieces is one of my favorite baseball card sets, so I thought that the hockey version would be fun too.  All of the cards feature legendary players and classic moments, so it’s a great product for all hockey fans even if they’re not usually hockey card collectors.

I had trouble managing my time when I was opening the box.  First, I originally thought that there were only 12 packs in the box, like 2008 Masterpieces baseball, but there were actually 18.  So I wasn’t pacing myself properly.  Second, the time on my video camera didn’t seem to be working correctly, so I couldn’t even tell when I hit the 10-minute mark, which is the maximum length for a YouTube video.  The video ran just over 12 minutes, so I divided it into two videos.  You’ll notice the lack of a transition between the two, but it worked out because each video includes 9 packs.  I definitely recommend watching these videos, if for no other reason than to listen to the great hockey songs in the background.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Here’s the breakdown of what I got:

  • 67 base cards (including 2 duplicates) – giving me 65 out of the 87 cards in the set
  • 2 black border parallels – Patrick Roy and Glenn Anderson
  • 1 red border parallel (18/25) – Bob Baun
  • 1 jumbo box topper card – Willie O’Ree
  • 2 “Canvas Clippings” memorabilia cards – Steve Shutt and Wendel Clark
  • 1 black bordered “Brushstrokes” autograph card – Bob Baun
  • 1 green bordered “Brushstrokes” autograph card (15/35) – Ron Sutter

Here are some scans of my favorite cards.

Wayne Gretzky holding up his L.A. Kings jersey right after he was traded by the Oilers in 1988.  This was without a doubt the biggest and most shocking trade in any sport during my lifetime:


Mark Messier hoisting the Stanley Cup for the New York Rangers in 1994, after the most exciting Stanley Cup Finals that I have ever witnessed.  It was the first Stanley Cup for the Rangers since 1940:


Ray Bourque lifting the Stanley Cup while with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001.  Bourque was the greatest defenseman of his generation, but he had never won the Cup in more than 20 years of playing for the Boston Bruins.  The Bruins traded him to the Avalanche in 2000 so that he could have a shot at winning the Cup before he retired.  Bourque’s wait to win a Cup was longer than any other player who had ever won the Cup for the first time.  Seeing him finally pick up that cup was probably the most emotional moment that I’ve ever seen in sports.  It almost brought tears to my eyes:


Here’s the Steve Shutt memorabilia card.  It’s actually an “event-used” card, which takes a lot of the luster away from it, but the blue jersey piece does look nice.  Shutt is a Hockey Hall-of-Famer who was a forward for the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970s and early 1980s:


The Wendel Clark memorabilia card is actually game-used.  However, I don’t think that the white memorabilia pieces look very good with all of the white on these cards.  You can barely tell that the memorabilia piece is there.  Clark played for a bunch of teams, most notably the Toronto Maple Leafs, when I was a kid.  He always seemed like a good, but not great player:


Here’s the Bob Baun autographed card.  I hadn’t heard of Baun before I opened this box, but it turns out that he was a great defenseman for Toronto in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s.  According to “eastenderticats14” who commented on the video: “in the stanley cup final he broke his leg, but just thinking it was injured he went on playing later and scored the game winning goal in overtime!!!”  That’s pretty amazing, as is the neatness of Baun’s autograph:


And finally, here is the Ron Sutter autograph numbered to 35.  Sutter is most notable for being one of six brothers to play in the NHL at the same time.  He’s another guy who was pretty good, but never great, when I was a kid:


So I was pretty happy with this box.  There are four hits per box “on average” and most of the breaks that I’ve seen on YouTube contain one autograph and three memorabilia cards, so I was lucky.  The product is just like 2007 Masterpieces baseball – with 4 “hits” per box, a jumbo card in each box, and no short prints.  2008 Masterpieces baseball has only 2 hits per box, no jumbo card, and 30 short prints to make building the set more difficult.  I much prefer the configuration of 2007 Masterpieces baseball and 2008 Masterpieces hockey.  Hopefully Upper Deck won’t change next year’s hockey set to be more like the 2008 set for baseball.

Like I said earlier, this is a great product for any hockey fan.  It’s possible that I might buy another hockey card product, but it’s unlikely, mostly because it’s hard enough to keep up with all of the baseball card sets that come out.  Plus, I’d really only be interested in Carolina Hurricanes cards.  I wouldn’t mind getting autographs or game-used cards from guys like Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin, but I’m sure that the odds of that are astronomical.  So I’ll probably stick with baseball until next year’s Masterpieces hockey set comes out.  Maybe I’ll even give Masterpieces football a try…

You won’t believe what I got from a Stadium Club blaster!

November 24, 2008 at 1:23 am | Posted in My Cards, Topps, Video | 9 Comments

A few days ago, I wrote a post to showcase a few new Evan Longoria cards that I had gotten from eBay auctions.  One of the cards was a Topps Stadium Club autograph card.  I commented about what a ripoff the Stadium Club hobby boxes are.  You pay around $200 for 12 really crappy autographs.  On the other hand, the base cards are very nice, featuring some great photography, so I thought that I’d pick up a retail blaster or two if I saw them for sale.

Then, on Friday morning, I was in Target and decided to check out the cards.  Sure enough, they had Stadium Club blasters, so I bought one and took it home.  I thought about doing a video box break of the blaster, but I decided against it.  I’ve never video taped a blaster box break, and I wasn’t sure that anyone would be interested in watching it.  So I opened the packs in solitude.  Everything was going as expected until I got to the 7th pack out of the 8 packs in the blaster.  It was in that pack that I pulled an Evan Longoria autograph card – the exact same one that I had purchased on eBay!

I was absolutely elated.  This was by far the best card that I’ve ever pulled from a retail pack, and it’s even better than just about anything I’ve pulled from a hobby pack!  Longoria is pretty much the best autograph that you can get in Stadium Club, and on top of that, he’s my favorite player.  It would’ve been even nicer if I didn’t already have the card, but now I can sell my extra copy on eBay.

After the thrill of getting the Longoria autograph in the blaster, I headed back to Target to buy a second blaster.  I did film the second one and posted it on YouTube:

As you can see, there wasn’t anything nearly as great in the second blaster.  Still, I really do like the Stadium Club product.  The base cards are very, very nice.  Topps did a great job with the photography on the cards.  It was the excellent photography that made the original Stadium Club cards stand out in the early 1990s, and that was the main reason why Ryan from Trader Crack’s Card Blog started the campaign to bring back Stadium Club earlier this year.  I think that if collectors stay away from the overpriced hobby version of Stadium Club and stick with the retail version, they’ll be very happy with the set.  I just wish that there were more than 150 base cards to collect!

By the way, each $19.99 blaster contains 8 packs with 5 cards per pack.  Each hobby box contains 12 packs with 5 cards per pack.  So unless you really want 12 mostly worthless autographs, it’s easy to see why the retail blasters are a ridiculously better value.

Here are some of my favorite cards besides the Longoria autograph from my two blasters.

First, a “First Day Issue” parallel of Evan Longoria.  I absolutely love the photo on this card:


Here is the “Photographer’s Proof” parallel card of Torii Hunter, numbered 30/50.  Did you ever notice how Torii Hunter looks almost excessively happy on his cards:


Here’s the base card of B.J. Upton.  I really like this card for two reasons.  It shows the strange thing that B.J. does with his left leg right before he swings, and it’s one of the few cards in any set that features a photo that was clearly taken inside Tropicana Field:


And finally, you gotta love this amazing photo of Roberto Clemente in his prime.  It almost looks like it could’ve been taken this year:


Bottom line: Stadium Club rules, but it’s one of the very rare sets (this year’s Topps Chrome is another) where buying retail gives you more value than buying hobby!

One more thing – in the video, I mentioned that I had read on a blog that the photo on the Manny Ramirez card was actually taken at Fenway Park and it was Photoshop’ed to look like Dodger Stadium.  I want to give credit to Cardboard Icons for that.  You can read the post about it here.

Mailday from Connor

November 24, 2008 at 12:40 am | Posted in Blogs | 1 Comment

I recently received a thank you note and package of cards from Connor of Treasure Never Buried in return for the birthday package that I sent for his 5th birthday.  You can check out Connor’s package break here if you haven’t seen it yet.

I made the mistake of integrating the cards that he sent into my collection before I posted this, so I can’t tell you specifically what I got, but there was a good mix of Rays and early 1990s Yankees, which brought back some good memories for me.  The highlight was an Evan Longoria die cut card from Upper Deck X which I needed for my Evan Longoria collection.

Here is the thank you note from Connor.  He included some of the Fleer stickers that he got for his birthday on all of his thank you notes.  Since the Rays didn’t exist when Fleer was making stickers, he wisely substituted the Yankees, who were my favorite team back then:


It’s great to see kids like Connor and Lucy from Dinged Corners enjoying the baseball card hobby.  I’m hoping that someday we’ll get to see Grady Motherscratcher collecting cards too!

Finally, you can check out another item that I received from Connor in the past here.

The Trading Corner is finally updated!

November 22, 2008 at 12:14 am | Posted in Trades | Leave a comment

As I’ve been promising, I finally finished the update of my Trading Corner page tonight.  Although I had been updating my list of needs and list of doubles for the sets that were already there, I hadn’t added any new sets since July.  Here’s a summary of the changes that I made:

  • Added the list of 2008 Topps Heritage refractors that I need.  I’m trying to see if I can complete this set.  They’re all numbered out of 559, so I think it would be a huge accomplishment.
  • Added the list of 2008 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee inserts that I need.  I really like this insert set and I’ve been quietly building it this year.  I currently have 45 of the 50 cards.
  • Added 2008 Bowman Chrome.
  • Added 2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces.
  • Added 2008 Upper Deck Goudey.  This is a huge addition.  Since I bought a case of this, I have many duplicates of every non-short printed base card to trade.  I have a bunch of short print doubles too.  I’m hoping to complete the short print set, the Hit Parade of Champions insert set, and the red back mini set (which might be a crazy goal).
  • Added 2008 Donruss Threads.  I only need two more cards to finish this set.
  • Added a list of 2008 Rays cards that I need.

Please check out the new trading page and contact me if you want to propose a trade!

With your help I can complete some sets that I’m very close to finishing.  I only need 8 more cards from 2007 Allen & Ginter, 2 more cards from 2008 Allen & Ginter, 12 more cards from 2008 Topps Heritage, 7 more cards from 2008 Topps Chrome, and 2 more cards from 2008 Upper Deck Series 2.

Goodbye, Mike Mussina

November 21, 2008 at 11:48 pm | Posted in Baseball | 1 Comment

It was with sadness that I learned that Mike Mussina retired earlier this week.  He walked away from the game after one of his best seasons, finally winning 20 games during the last season of his career.  It’s not often that athletes retire while at the top of their game.  Many hang on too long, and years later the struggles that they had at the end of their careers tarnish their legacies.  Yes, David Cone, I’m talking about you!

Mike Mussina was a player that I always liked, even though he was an Oriole who always pitched well against the Yankees when I was a Yankees fan, and then a Yankee who always pitched well against the Rays when I was a Rays fan.  He always seemed like one of the truly nice guys in baseball, and he was consistently a great pitcher during his entire career.  I think he’s a borderline Hall of Famer.  He finishes with 270 wins and a 3.68 ERA (I was surprised to see that it was that high).  He never won a Cy Young Award, but he was one of the best pitchers in the American League for 17 years.  I think that he’ll get in, but after a few years on the ballot.

I was lucky that I got to see Mike Mussina pitch at the very beginning of his professional career.  He was a first round pick of the Orioles in 1990, and he reached Triple-A Rochester, where I grew up, that same year.  He made 2 starts for the Red Wings in 1990 and 19 starts in 1991 before he was called up to the majors and never looked back.  Mussina was actually overshadowed by Ben McDonald when he was in Rochester.  McDonald was the #1 overall pick in the 1989 draft, and everyone thought that he’d be a future ace.  There was always a mob of kids at the old Silver Stadium waiting to get his autograph.  I remember that McDonald seemed to have a cocky attitude and seemed annoyed by the attention from the fans.  Mussina, on the other hand, was far less hyped, but much friendlier to the fans.

Mussina’s retirement prompted me to look for an old photo album that I filled with autographs in the early 1990s.  In those days, I went to a ton of Red Wings games and got autographs from players on notebook paper.  When I’d get home, I’d cut the autograph from the notebook paper and put it in my album.  I had pages in my album for almost all of the teams in the International League.  It was either 1992 or 1993 when I first started getting autographs on baseball cards. Anyway, here’s the page in my album with Mike Mussina’s autograph.  He’s right in the center of the page:


Surprisingly, everyone on this page reached the major leagues.  Johnny Oates managed the Orioles and Dick Bosman was his pitching coach.  The other players on this page are Brady Anderson, Leo Gomez, Ben McDonald, Chris Hoiles, Jeff Tackett, Arthur Rhodes, Jack Voigt, Tim Hulett, Mark Williamson, John O’Donoghue, Jeffrey Hammonds, and Mark Parent.  Now that I think about it, I might have purposely filled this page with players who reached the big leagues.

I also looked for my old Red Wings baseball cards, but I couldn’t find them in my attic.  So you’ll have to settle for this image that I found online.  I’m pretty sure that I have this card somewhere:


Goodbye, Mike Mussina.  You’ll be missed!

My at-bat in the “Blog Bat Around”

November 21, 2008 at 12:55 am | Posted in Blogs, Personal | 1 Comment

I’d like to thank Gellman from Sports Cards Uncensored for contributing yet another great idea to the sports card blogosphere.  By now, I’m sure that you’ve heard about the Blog Bat Around.  This post is my contribution to that effort.

Gellman asks us to identify what type of collector we are.  Whether you’re a player collector, team collector, set collector, first world, or second world collector, it’s not hard for most of us to label ourselves.  So what am I?  I’m still figuring that out.  For now, I think I’m all of the above.

Most of the participants in the “Bat Around” have written about their personal history of collecting to explain how they got to where they are now.  Here’s my story.  For even more details, you can check out my very first post back in June.  Basically, my formative years in card collecting were from the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s.  I remember looking through Beckett price guides when I was a kid and wanting to own every single card that was ever made, which was a lot more feasible back then than it is now.  I spent almost every cent that I earned on buying cards.  Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Score, and Upper Deck – I collected it all.  I also collected vintage cards (which I define as anything that was produced before I was born in 1979), and eventually I focused my collection on the New York Yankees, especially Don Mattingly cards.  By the early 90s, the number of sets produced each year started to grow exponentially, and eventually I couldn’t keep up with it anymore.  You can read about all of the reasons why I left the hobby in this post.

The second stage of my collecting life occurred between 2001 and 2007.  After I graduated from college and began a full-time job, I had some disposable income, so I decided to continue building my collection of Don Mattingly cards.  I also began to buy some PSA-graded vintage cards that I thought would hold their value through the years, ensuring that I’d have some valuable cards to pass down to my kids one day.  During this period, I totally ignored new cards, except for a few relic and autograph cards of Mattingly that intrigued me.  I’d check out eBay every couple of months and make a couple of purchases at a time.  Then I’d think very little about my card collection until the next time I had some free time and cash, and I’d head to eBay again.

In 2008, I unwittingly began my third stage of collecting.  It started when I innocently began searching eBay for some autographed Tampa Bay Rays cards.  I bought a few and when I received them, I became very intrigued by a 2007 Goudey Graphs card of Carl Crawford.  The idea of “retro” sets was new to me, and I was curious enough that I bought two retail boxes (I didn’t know the difference between retail and hobby at that point) of 2007 Goudey baseball cards on eBay.  These were the first new cards that I had bought in 14 years.  Opening the packs of cards brought back many happy memories for me, and it wasn’t long before I started reading card blogs to get information on the current state of the hobby, watching video box breaks on YouTube, and buying more packs and boxes of cards, as well as single cards of my favorite Rays players.  I was hooked on the hobby like never before.  Less than four months after opening those Goudey boxes, I began this blog.

Throughout this year, I’ve been in the process of educating myself about the hobby.  I’ve bought a ton of cards, and I’m only now starting to really discover what I like and don’t like.  I’ve also continued to build my Mattingly collection to the point where I now have over 1000 different Mattingly cards, I’ve added to my graded vintage card collection, I’ve started a big collection of Rays autograph, relic, and base cards, and I’ve bought way too many packs and boxes of cards.  I even bought a case of 2008 Goudey, which I now consider to be a waste of money and a mistake.  I’ve completed a few sets and I’m close to completing a few others.  I’m trying to figure out what my main collecting goals are, but at this point I am all of the following:

  • A set builder.
  • An addicted hobby box breaker.
  • A Tampa Bay Rays team collector.
  • A Don Mattingly player collector.
  • An Evan Longoria player collector.
  • A collector of autograph and relic cards.
  • A collector of base, insert, and some parallel cards.
  • A collector of “first world” products like Topps Heritage and Upper Deck Goudey.
  • A collector of “second world” products like Upper Deck Ballpark Collection and Sweet Spot.
  • A collector of Topps, Upper Deck, and even Donruss products.
  • A collector of graded vintage cards.

As if that wasn’t enough, when I’m not collecting or organizing my collection, I’m blogging about cards.  That’s quite a transformation for a guy who barely gave a second thought to cards one year ago.  At least I’m focusing on just baseball cards and not other sports.  OK, so I did recently buy a hobby box of hockey cards, which you’ll be reading about in a few days.  But that’s a one-time thing.  Or at least I think it is…

My biggest goal as I continue my life as a collector is to try to identify what types of cards I really want to focus my collection on.  This “Bat Around” actually comes at a good time because it makes me think about that.  My Mattingly collection and my graded vintage card collection are here to stay.  If I knew that my house would be destroyed by a bomb in five minutes, those would be the first cards that I’d grab.  Next would be my Evan Longoria cards and my Rays autographed cards.   So those are all my top priorities.

At this point, I’m having so much fun opening hobby boxes and building sets, that I know that I won’t be stopping those activities any time soon.  However, now that I’ve seen a full year of 2008 products come out, I know what I like the most.  In 2009, I’ll know what to buy and what to stay away from.  I won’t hesitate to buy Topps Heritage, Allen & Ginter, Topps Chrome, Bowman Chrome, Upper Deck flagship, Goudey (if Upper Deck continues it), and Masterpieces.  I’d have to see some great reviews and video box breaks before buying anything else.

So that brings me to a pretty good point that I can make with this post.  What constitutes a set that I want to collect?  For me, it has to have great base cards.  If I don’t like the base cards, I’ll simply look for the hits of the players that I collect on eBay and I won’t buy any packs or boxes.  The base cards must be well-designed and have a substantial checklist.  I hate 100-card base sets.  Give me something that actually takes some effort to collect.  Short prints are fine, but they should never make up more than 10-20% of a set’s checklist.  2008 Goudey is one example of a set that went way overboard with its short prints.  Parallels are fine if they’re chrome, refractors, or mini cards.  Anything else is boring.  And avoid having too many types of parallels.  In general, I’d like to see one type of parallel that is seeded one per pack or one every two packs and one that is rare (maybe one per box).  Different variations of the rare parallels are OK only if they’re refractors.  Throw in at least some autographs and relics of good players to add some extra fun to the product.

Keep in mind that I’m a “second world” collector too.  However, I rarely buy second-world packs or boxes because the value of the cards that you get is usually much less than what you pay for the pack or the box.  One exception this year was Ballpark Collection.  It contained 12 hits per box, including many desirable players, for a reasonable price.  Compare that to Topps Triple Threads, which provides only two hits for a similar price.  The key to a good “second world” set is to give collectors a good value for the price that they pay.  They should only contain genuine star players and top rookies.  Base cards are not important in second world sets, and I wouldn’t mind if they were completely eliminated from them.

So, to conclude, my biggest challenge as a collector this year has been that I haven’t been able to focus or narrow down on any one type of card or even on a few types of cards.  I’ve just been throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks.  I’m slowly starting to see what’s leaving a permanent brown spot on the wall and what’s sliding off without a trace.  Check back with me in six months or a year, and I’ll probably be a lot more focused in my collecting habits than I am now.  Until then, keep reading my blog and enjoy the adventure with me!

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