Last Tuesday, January 6, I was at the RBC Center in Raleigh watching the Carolina Hurricanes beat the New Jersey Devils, 3-2. Later that night, I received an email from John, the blogger behind the awesome Old School Breaks blog and NJ Devils Cards. He asked me about the game and then he said “I was going through a tradebox and came across something sick that I think would look nice in your collection. I really want you to have it.” There’s no way that I’d ever turn down something “sick” for my collection, so I enthusiastically sent him my address and eagerly anticipated the arrival of this mysterious card. I received it in the mail from John today, and here it is:
That is an authentic game-used glove card from the best player in the history of the Hartford/Carolina franchise, and NHL Hall of Famer, Ron Francis! It’s the first game-used glove card that I’ve ever seen. The back of the card reveals that the glove is actually from Francis’ tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1990s. The card is from 2003 Upper Deck SP Game Used Edition and it’s serial numbered 72/99. This is an AMAZING card for a Hurricanes fan like me, and it immediately becomes one of the best hockey cards in my collection!
Simply stated, Ron Francis is one of the very best hockey players of all time. Although he doesn’t get the same attention as a lot of his contemporaries, he is 4th on the all-time NHL scoring list, only behind Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and Gordie Howe. That’s some pretty good company! He’s #2 all time in assists (behind Gretzky), and #3 all time in games played. He also won 2 Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh and led the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2002.
Ron Francis was by far the best player in the history of the Hartford Whalers, the team that eventually moved to Raleigh and became known as the Hurricanes. He played for them from 1981 to 1991, when he was traded to Pittsburgh. I always admired him and followed his career closely when I was growing up because I was born in Connecticut (though I moved to Rochester, NY when I was three weeks old). After the Whalers moved to North Carolina in 1997, they brought their former captain, Ron Francis, back to the franchise one year later in 1998. I moved down here in 2001 and started following the Hurricanes, and Francis quickly became my favorite player. He retired in 2004, and joined the Hurricanes front office in 2006. A little over a month ago, he was named the “associate head coach” and most fans assume that he’ll eventually replace Paul Maurice as the head coach. Simply stated, Ron Francis is the man for the Hartford/Carolina franchise!
The more that I think about it, the more it irritates me that Upper Deck didn’t include Ron Francis in the Legends Masterpieces set. There were many lesser players who have multiple cards in the set. Francis seems like a glaring admission. Just like in his playing days, he doesn’t get the respect that he deserves.
Anyway, I thank John a ton for sending me this card! I am on the lookout for a good Martin Brodeur card to send to him in return. John also sent a few other cards…
First, a card of Eric Staal, my favorite current Hurricane, from 2005-06 Upper Deck Ice:
The surface of the card looks and feels like ice that has been skated on. The card looks awesome. I’m not sure if the more recent Upper Deck Ice sets are similar, but if they are, then I might have to consider making it the second hockey set that I’m collecting (after Masterpieces).
Of course, John also threw in some “old school” Devil Rays, from sets that I missed during my years away from the hobby. Here’s former Devil Rays pitcher Ryan Rupe from 1999 Fleer Mystique:
The card is serial numbered 1934/2999, and even though you can’t really tell from the scan, it has a very shiny surface.
Next is Kevin “I was traded for Bobby Abreu” Stocker from 2000 Pacific Paramount:
It’s serial numbered 49/50, so obviously it is worth a ton of money today! The foil stamp also informs me that the card was produced on January 19, 2000, which apparently was the “premiere date” for this legendary set!
And finally, here’s Vinny Castilla, on a “United Nations” insert card from 2000 Upper Deck SP Authentic:
Castilla was a very good player for his entire career, with the exception of his stint with the Devil Rays (in 2000 and the beginning of 2001) when he completely tanked. This card is also shinier than what you see in the scan. Interestingly, Castilla is now the manager for the Mexican baseball team in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
Last month, I was captivated by a great post on the Fleer Sticker Project blog about oddball sports cards and sports-related items that could be found at the grocery store in the 1970s. I was only alive for final few months of the 1970s, so I don’t remember the decade at all, but the post was so well-written that it was like taking a trip back in time to that great era.
One of the items mentioned in that post was RC Cola cans that featured images of baseball and football players. This was fresh in my mind when I made a trip to my neighborhood Harris Teeter (a ubiquitous North Carolina grocery chain) earlier this week and picked up some 12-packs of pop that were on sale buy-one-get-one-free. I picked up some Diet Pepsi for me and Diet Mountain Dew for my wife.
When I got home and loaded the cans into the refrigerator, I noticed something awesome. The cans have pictures and facsimile signatures of Carolina Hurricanes hockey players! You can see my favorite player, Eric Staal, on the Diet Pepsi can and Ray Whitney on the Diet Mountain Dew:
This was a wonderful and unexpected surprise after reading about the RC Cola cans on Fleer Sticker Project. I assume that these cans are only available in the Triangle (Raleigh – Durham – Chapel Hill) area in North Carolina. I’m curious if anyone else in other parts of the country has seen athletes pictured on cans of pop recently. If you have, I encourage you to take a picture and post it on your blog!
Another question: who calls it pop and who calls it “soda”? This was always a huge debate when I was in school at Penn State. The kids from Western Pennsylvania, Western New York (where I’m from), and the Midwest rightfully called it pop, while the kids from Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, the New York City area, and New England misguidedly called it “soda”. My wife used to call it “soda”, but I’ve trained her to say pop instead. There’s no way that I could’ve married someone who calls it “soda”! She grew up in North Carolina, so I think that’s what most people here call it. But there are so many transplants from other parts of the country around here that I know a lot of people here who call it pop too. So what do you call the carbonated beverages in your part of the country, pop or “soda”?
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.
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…
I haven’t bought many new cards recently, mostly due to a lack of interest in the releases that have come out over the last month or so. But I was in Target today and decided to buy some packs of cards that looked interesting to me. Here’s what I got and my opinions on each…
- Two packs of Upper Deck Legends Masterpieces hockey cards. These were the first packs of hockey cards that I’ve bought in about 15 years. With hockey season starting soon, I’ve been tempted to buy some hockey cards, and I figured that Masterpieces would be a great set to try. It’s the same concept as the baseball Masterpieces set, except that all of the cards are of retired players. I think that makes sense because the set is really more appropriate for retired legends than current stars anyway.
I’m definitely not disappointed with the cards. The retail packs are priced at $2.99 for 4 cards. They’re the same high quality as the baseball Masterpieces, and I got what are probably the two best cards in the set: The Great One and Super Mario:
I’m not sure if I’ll decide to buy any hockey card sets that feature current players, but I might want to try to build a set of Masterpieces. And I’m definitely excited for the release of the 2008 baseball Masterpieces set at the end of this month.
- Two packs of Upper Deck X baseball cards. Yeah, I know that this set has been getting horrible reviews and is being ridiculed throughout the baseball card blogosphere. I knew it would suck. But the packs were really shiny and were only $1.99. Plus, I knew that there’s an Evan Longoria card in the checklist and a Longoria autograph. I figured I’d buy a couple of packs just to see the cards for myself.
Well, everyone is pretty much right about these cards. They do suck. The base card design is boring and seems to be the result of an Upper Deck card designer’s unhealthy obsession with the letter X. Maybe “X” was the “letter of the day” on Sesame Street one day and Upper Deck just went with it. Or maybe they think it’s still the mid-1990s when any reference to “Generation X” was cool. It’s a really bad concept and the cards feature pretty much all of the same 100 guys who have been in every Upper Deck release this year. Here’s Manny’s base card. I’m starting to like him a lot more now that he’s out of the American League:
In each pack, you get 4 base cards, a die cut card, and an insert card. The die cut cards are pretty lame. They look like someone literally took a scissor and cut along the lines of the X on the regular cards. On top of that, apparently they’re not all fully cut, as evidenced by this Carlos Beltran card. Take a look at the top center and bottom center of the card to see what I mean:
I did, however, like the insert cards. They’re called X-Ponential, and there are apparently four varieties: X, X2, X3, and X4. I got an X of Magglio Ordonez and a X2 of David Wright. Here’s the Wright card:
Upper Deck really should have made all of the cards like the inserts and canned the crappy base set. I don’t think I’ll buy any more packs or boxes of this product, but I’ll try to acquire the Longoria cards on eBay or through trades.
- Two packs of Bowman Chrome baseball cards. Although I haven’t blogged about it yet, I did pick up a hobby box of Bowman Chrome when I stopped at Dave & Adam’s Card World (their actual store, not their web site) in Buffalo last week. I like Bowman Chrome, but I really wish that I hadn’t bought any of the regular Bowman set earlier this year. The Chrome checklist is almost identical to regular Bowman with a few additions and exclusions, and the Chrome cards look much, much better. Not only are they on Chrome stock, but they have white borders instead of black. In the hobby box, I got a typical assortment of Chrome cards, Chrome prospect cards, and refractors. My hit was an Andrew Lambo autographed card. JV from Treasure Never Buried got a redemption for this card a few weeks ago, but I got the actual card. It turns out that Lambo is a pretty decent prospect. Check out his numbers as a 19-year old in the full-season Single-A Midwest League this year. Here’s the card:
OK, back to the retail packs that I bought today. While the hobby packs contain 4 cards, the retail packs contain only 3 cards for $2.99. But I actually pulled something good. Not great, but good. I never pull anything good from retail (and rarely from hobby packs, for that matter). I’m not lucky enough to pull a Jackie Kennedy hair card or the rare Hillary Clinton Upper Deck card, but I did get a blue refractor autograph #/150 of someone named David Kopp:
Based on his stats, Kopp doesn’t appear to be much of a prospect, but hey, it’s more than I was expecting from a retail pack! I guess the pack searchers hadn’t visited this Target yet.
So Bowman Chrome is a cool product. Next year I’ll skip regular Bowman altogether and just wait for Chrome to come out.
I know that it’s week-old news by now, but I was very happy to hear that the Carolina Hurricanes signed their best player (and one of the best forwards in the NHL), Eric Staal, to a 7-year $58 million contract extension.
The ‘Canes are the only major league sports franchise in the Raleigh-Durham market, and I’ve become a huge fan of the team since I moved here in 2001. We have multiple college basketball powerhouses (Duke, UNC, and NC State) and minor league baseball teams (Durham Bulls and Carolina Mudcats), but the Hurricanes are the team that really unites all of the sports fans around here. Staal has been my favorite player since he was drafted in 2003, and it is great to see the ownership make the financial commitment to keep him in Raleigh for at least the next 7 years.
I have a modest collection of Eric Staal autographed cards, along many other Hurricanes players, and I’ll probably be building my collection during this hockey season. Who knows, maybe I’ll even decide to buy a hobby box of hockey cards…
It’s hard to believe that hockey season is only a few weeks away now, but I am looking forward to it. I usually go to about 15 games per season. The RBC Center in Raleigh is a great place to watch a game. Hopefully the Canes can return to the playoffs for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup in 2006. I still can’t believe their epic collapse in the final couple of weeks to miss out on the playoffs this spring.
Check out Staal in the awesome new black alternate uniform that was recently unveiled: