Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Gypsy Queen and Heritage

As mentioned a few posts ago, I was out with the family on the day before Easter and we wound up the neighborhood of Maverick's Cards and Comics. I was a bit rushed for time as we were trying to get back to the house for lunch and wasn't able to rummage through some of their bargain boxes as I would have liked. Instead, I took a gander and what packs they had available and lo and behold they had Heritage and Gypsy Queen! Score! I grabbed three packs of GQ and two packs of Heritage. First, the Gypsy Queen ...

My initial thoughts on the design is that it's really cool. I like it a lot better than last year which seemed sort of bland. I also like the fact that it's been streamlined and overhauled somewhat. Gone are the minis in every pack and the relic cards (for the most part). Now it's two autographs per box and the price tag is much less. Last year, I remember the card shops had packs for around $6-$6.50 each, now packs are about $5 each. I can stomach that.

I didn't get any short prints in the packs nor did I get any Reds. I did wind up with these two Indians cards though. I won't complain too much about that.

As for the variations and what have you, I didn't get any of the capless variations, nor did I get the "gum back" variations. I did get this ... whatever "this" is. It's some sort of faded, washed out deal but I couldn't find much info on it. As a matter of fact, Edwin Encarnacion isn't listed anywhere on the list of variations on both Beckett and Cardboard Connection. Both articles mentioned there were "unannounced variations" floating about so perhaps this is one of those.

Remember how I said the relic card were pretty much stripped from the product and autographs were the only hit now? Well this came right out of the first pack I opened. I really like the design and layout on this. Eovaldi has been a pretty decent pitcher the last few years so I'm OK with this hit.

As I mentioned, I also nabbed two packs of Heritage. Showing off the fronts of the Heritage base cards at this point pretty much amounts to beating a dead horse. So I'll spare you that and show you some of the other highlights.

The back of this J.J. Hardy card is notable for two things. The first being that I had forgotten that J.J. Hardy had been around since 2005. The second is the cartoon. One of the best things about Heritage is that it brings back the cartoons on the back and this is the best one of the cards in the packs I opened.

I got an insert in each Heritage pack, at least I consider the All-Star cards an insert. They may as well be with the puzzle on the back. I've always liked the Then and Now inserts.

I'm digging the use of buybacks in different products this year. This is the first one I have from 1985, or the 80s in general, and it's a pretty notable player so it's a welcome addition to the collection.

Speaking of notable players, this Heritage Chrome Clayton Kershaw is pretty nifty. I don't think it's a refractor of any sort, just a standard card and it's going to be set aside to be put in the shiny card collection when I eventually start that up.

I'm pretty happy with these, especially the Gypsy Queen. I'm definitely going to pick some more of that up, be it at the card shop or at one of the big box stores.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Quick PWE From Stealing Home

A while back, Oscar from ATTBATT peppered the blogosphere with some PWEs before the baseball season started in earnest. I was one of the lucky recipients of said PWEs and even though there weren't a lot of cards included, I just now had some time to get them scanned in.

A few horizontals to kick things off. I think the team card and the Bruce might be duplicates but I'll need to double check. I really like the World Series card from the 1973 set.

Here's two cards I definitely don't have. The Larkin card I thought was perhaps an insert card and I spent forever on Trading Card DB trying to find it. Turns out it's actually part of the base set. Card numbers 304-310 in the 1993 Pinnacle set are Hometown Heroes cards that highlight players playing for their hometown team. 

DeSclafani, or Tony Disco as I call him, has had a rough go of the past few years. After being acquired by the Reds in the Mat Latos trade (hey, how well did that work out for the Marlins by the way?), he had a decent 2015 but was injured during the first half of 2016 and suffered a strained elbow ligament in spring training that currently has him on the 60-day DL.

Finally, Oscar threw in two Dennis Eckersley cards to round out the envelope. I always thought Eckersley's cards were really cool, which is the reason I think I started collecting him. His game used and autograph stuff is usually out of my price range so I'm just sticking with base cards to bolster my Eckersley collection. Oh, and these junk happen to be from two of my favorite junk wax sets.

Thanks for the cards Oscar. Sorry it took so long for me to get a post up about these. I've got some Dodgers set aside for you to go out the next time I send out PWEs.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

What's In Your Easter Basket?

Easter has never really been a big holiday for me. When I was a kid, I got Easter baskets loaded with chocolate, candy, and small presents and it became sort of like a mini-Christmas. Over the years, I grew out of Easter baskets as I started working and becoming more independent. This year, the family and I were up at my mom's house with my aunt and uncle visiting as well. We felt the need to get out and about since it was such as nice day (as in 80 degrees outside and not a cloud in the sky). 

While we were out and about, we found our way to Kettering which just happened to be where Maverick's card shop is. I stopped in briefly and grabbed two Heritage packs, three Gypsy Queen packs, and a Pokemon pack for my son. Heritage has been hard to find in my neck of the woods so I definitely had to grab some since I've only been able to open what I found at Walmart while on vacation last month. The awesomeness of Gypsy Queen this year has been espoused on every blog out there and I've yet to open some so that was a given.

My mom surprised us all with a combined Easter basket for the family. I was pretty surprised when I saw this included in the basket. I have yet to dive into the 2017 offerings from WWE so this will pretty fun to dive into.

On the way home, we had to make a stop at Walgreens and thanks to a little birdie (aka AJ from Lost Collector), I heard that the repacks were only $3.99 each. I found a few but they still had the normal price tag on them. A little disconcerting, but I asked the manager about it and he checked on it. It turns out that there should have been a discount tag on them but there wasn't and as long as I had my rewards card, they would be $3.99 each. Score! 

I'm really looking forward to tearing into all these soon and believe me, I'll be writing about them as I crack into them. After getting all these, I'd say it's definitely been a happy Easter.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

And In This Corner ...

You might recall that eons ago I found a mysterious black book at the local card shop which then lead me to write probably the best article I've ever written for this blog. If you haven't read it yet, I'll briefly sum it up. I bought a mysterious black book that was filled with newspaper clippings from the late 1950s and early 1960s of pro wrestling in Cincinnati. A while back I scanned them in and I've been sitting on them since. 

This first clipping highlights Mitsu Arakawa, who was in the early years of a lengthy career. He debuted in 1953 and was billed as a someone who survived the Hiroshima bombing and had a grudge against the United States. It was simple but it worked for the time, especially for someone who was a heel (wrestling lingo for a bad guy). In the 1960s, he worked mainly in tag teams with such people as Kenji Shibuya and Dr. Moto, winning numerous tag team titles throughout the Midwest and in Stampede Wrestling in Calgary. In the fall of 1966, he beat Dick the Bruiser for the WWA World Heavyweight Championship, a title which he held for nearly a year before losing the title to Wilbur Snyder in September 1967. Perhaps his biggest claim to fame though came in 1969 when he and Toru Tanaka were crowned the first WWWF International Tag Team Champions in June of that year. They held the titles until December when they lost them to Victor Rivera and Tony Marino. Arakawa would continue wrestling until 1973 when he retired. Arakawa passed away in 1997 at the age of 69.

The two clippings about highlight at November 21, 1959 card form the Cincinnati Gardens. Shows at the Gardens were promoted by legendary promoter Jim Barnett and featured some of the biggest stars of the day such as Wilbur Snyder, Pat O'Conner, Angelo Poffo, and Bronco Lubich to name a few. The thing I'm most interested in though is the opening bout between Joe Blanchard and Nick Bockwinkle. Blanchard wrestled mainly in Hawaii and Texas, winning titles in both regions, but ultimately became known as the promoter for Southwest Championship Wrestling. An interesting trivia note, SCW was the first wrestling promotion ever on the USA Network and featured Adrian Adonis as its top star in the early days of the promotion. Blanchard's son, Tully, became a star in the 1980s as a member of the Four Horsemen in Jim Crockett Promotions and teamed regularly with Arn Anderson in both the NWA and WWF.

Bockwinkle became one of the biggest stars of the AWA, debuting with them in 1970 and staying with them until 1987. During that span he had won the AWA World Tag Team title three times with Ray Stevens as his partner and the AWA World Heavyweight Title four times. He also fought the likes of Hulk Hogan, Verne Gagne, Jerry Lawler, Curt Hennig, and Billy Robinson among others. He would later join the WWF as an announcer for a brief period and resurfaced in WCW as the figurehead commissioner in the mid-1990s. 

Competing against Barnett's cards in the Cincinnati Gardens was Al Haft's Midwest Wrestling Alliance cards held in Music Hall. The wrestlers on his cards weren't exactly household names but he did manage to secure stars like Lou Thesz, Karol Krauser, and Ruffy Silverstein. The International Championship had an interesting beginning as Thesz was awarded the title on November 1, 1957 by Houston Wrestling promoter Morris Siegel following a controversial finish to a match against Antonino Rocca, which means this particular match again Krauser had to be one of his first title defenses. Thesz would go on to hold the title for 503 days before losing to Rikidozan in Los Angeles. The title would continue until 1988 when it was unified with the PWF Heavyweight Championship and the NWA United National Championship to form the Triple Crown, the top title for All Japan Pro Wrestling which is currently held by Kento Miyahara.

The final clipping I'll show here is one that features a headline match between Magnificent Maurice and Sweet Daddy Siki. I should note that the photos are reversed in the clipping, Maurice is on the right will the top hat and Siki is on the left, staring into the camera. Siki spent the majority of his career in Canada in a regular role with Stampede Wrestling and headlining cards at the Maple Leaf Gardens. While working for Stampede Wrestling, he held their version of the Canadian Heavyweight Championship and the North American Heavyweight Championship. In cards at the Maple Leaf Gardens, people came to see him by the busload and earned upwards of $3,000 per match. He would continue to headline cards in Toronto until 1980. 

Maurice formed a regular team with Johnny Barend throughout the 1960s, holding numerous tag team titles across the Midwest. He also held the MWA Ohio Heavyweight Title defeating Leon Graham for the strap in December of 1961. He also competed for the WWWF facing the likes of Haystacks Calhoun, Pedro Morales, Bill Watts, and even challenged Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Championship. Sadly, Maurice was killed in a plane crash in 1974.

That does it for this round of clippings. I'll post some more of these soon and talk about some of the other wrestlers I didn't cover here such as Chief White Owl, Bronco Lubich, and Yukon Eric. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Back Packs: 1995 Fleer

It's back! 

After a long and unintended hiatus, the "Back Packs" series has returned here on the blog. If you're not familiar with this series, it's where I rip open an old pack of something and reveal what's inside, and this time I've decided to rip into a back of 1995 Fleer baseball. Oh joy. 

If you're not familiar with 1995 Fleer then prepare to have your eyeballs assaulted and possibly every color in the color spectrum violated. With 1995 being the second year of three-division play in each league, Fleer had the bright idea to have different designs for each division. Some of the designs weren't bad, others were just completely outlandish. The other strange thing about this set is that all the players vital stats (height, weight, etc) that are normally on the back of a card are on the front of the card. That's a tad strange if you ask me.

As typical, I'll show the cards in the order I pull them out of the pack. I could just show off the cards but where's the fun in that. So, along with showing off the cards, I'll give a brief synopsis of each players career. Enough rambling, we've got an 18-card card pack to tear into!

#105 Dave Stewart
#48 John Doherty
#30 Tony Fossas

Dave Stewart was on the last legs of his career by 1995, pitching with Oakland. Here he's pictured though as a member of the Blue Jays for whom he had his last good seasons, 1993 and 1994, and won a World Series ring in 1993. Doherty only pitched four years in the majors, mostly for the Tigers, and had a pretty unremarkable run, ending his career with a record just one game above .500 and an ERA over 5.00. Tony Fossas was a journeyman reliever, pitching for seven teams in 12 seasons, however he has one of my favorite baseball cards ever in the 1994 Topps set.

#25 Wes Chamberlain
#71 Steve Howe
#93 Alex Gonzalez

Chamberlain closed out a five year career with Boston in 1995, so I guess you could consider this a sunset card of sorts. Steve Howe was a notorious player who constantly struggled with substance abuse during his career. Despite winning the 1980 NL Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers and making the All-Star team in 1982, he was suspended seven times over a 17-year career, including a ban in 1992. He managed to get the ban overturned and pulled off one more good season in 1994 for the Yankees. He was out of baseball entirely by 1996 and sadly passed away in 2006. Alex Gonzalez (the other one), carved out a successful 13-year career, mostly with Toronto and the Cubs as a decent hitting shortstop.

The design on these first six cards is the design for the AL East. I like it because it's a pretty simple and clean looking design. The color bar on the left makes the cards pop, and the players name, uniform number, position, and team go vertically along the edge of the color bad. I'm not a big fan of having the vitals on the front of the card but it works well with this design. To be honest, if the whole set was designed like this, I wouldn't complain one bit.

#344 Moises Alou
#365 Bobby Bonilla
#386 Toby Borland

Two big stars of the 90s in this batch. Alou was a centerpiece on Montreal teams through the early and mid-90s, made six All-Star teams and played on the 2003 Cubs team that just nearly made the World Series. Bobby Bonilla started the 1995 season with the Mets but was traded off to the Orioles near the trade deadline. Interesting note here is that both Bonilla and Alou won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997. The next year, Bonilla was a part of the trade that sent Mike Piazza to the Marlins (who then shipped him to the Mets 10 days later) and Bonilla was traded back to the Mets during the offseason. Currently, Bonilla is still getting paid $1 million and change per year by the Mets until 2035. Toby Borland had a decent little career as a journeyman reliever racking up a 4.17 ERA in 207 games over 9 seasons.

#309 Mark Lemke
#333 Chris Hammond
#355 Mike Lansing

Mark Lemke anchored second base for the Braves during their glory years in the 90s. I have fond memories of watching the Braves on TBS when I came home from school and I can hear Chip Caray in my head right now saying Mark Lemke's name. Chris Hammond pitched in the majors longer than I thought he did. He hung around for nearly 16 years (despite a four year layoff), played primarily with the Reds and Marlins during his early years then bounced around a bit before closing up shop in 2006 with the Reds. Lansing, much like Moises Alou I mentioned earlier, is perhaps best known for his time with the Expos as a solid infielder during the 90s.

As far as the NL East design goes, it's a little crazy. The discoloration of the backgrounds I'm sure was all the rage back then but now, it just comes off as a bad idea. I liked the secondary logos they used though as only a handful of sets (91 Topps, 92 Upper Deck) used logos like that.

Fleer All-Stars #3 Roberto Alomar/Mariano Duncan
#185 Matt Mieske
#163 Wally Joyner

On the back of the Roberto Alomar card is Mariano Duncan but unfortunately I didn't scan it in. It was the lone insert card I got in the pack. Matt Mieske isn't exactly a household name but somehow this is the second copy of this card in my collection. Originally drafted by the Padres, he was traded to the Brewers along with Ricky Bones and Jose Valentin for Gary Sheffield. While he wasn't exactly a power hitter, he had a few decent seasons for the Brewers in 1995 and 1996. Afterwards, he bounced around a bit before wrapping up his career in 2000 with an 11-game stint with Arizona. Wally Joyner hung around baseball for 16 years, patrolling first base for the Angels, Royals, Padres, and Braves, even appearing in the 1998 World Series with the Padres. Unfortunately, that was the team that just got steamrolled by the Yankees.

#141 Eddie Murray
#120 Darrin Jackson
#197 Rich Becker

Eddie Murray enjoyed a very solid season for the Tribe in 1995 with a .323 average, 21 HRs, and 82 RBIs for a team that made is all the way to the World Series. It's really cool to get a card of a Hall of Famer, especially someone like Murray who was productive all the way up until the bitter end of his career. Darrin Jackson is someone I remember from catching Sox games on WGN in the 90s and also playing for the Padres in 1991 and 92. Rich Becker hung around the league for seven years doing his best work for the Twins from 1995-97. After the 1997 season, he never played a whole season with the same team ever again due to being traded, getting claimed off waivers, or what-have-you.

As you can tell, this design is completely nuts. The players name is really hard to read in the foil print, despite their last name being written behind them at the top of the card. The stats are all over the place on each card and if you look closely, there's even a quick note about the player. It's like the graphic designers said "let's try to make this as busy and unreadable as possible". If that's what they were going for, they succeeded. Luckily, this was the only year of the experiment for different designs for each division. Fleer would regain their senses the next year and release a really fun set.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Opening Some Donruss on Opening Day

It's Opening Day today so it only feels natural to rip open some packs.

Since Panini relaunched the Donruss brand back in 2014, I've always enjoyed it. I've been sitting on these five packs for about three weeks now, so it's finally time to tear into them.

The design this year is reminiscent of 1990 Donruss with the name written in script at the top. Of course, since Panini doesn't have an MLB license, the team names and logos are airbrushed out but that really doesn't bother me since the photos they use usually seem to hide that fact. 

Not only are there current players but there are Hall of Famers and retired stars as well, including players you don't see a lot in Topps products like Dave Winfield and Ryne Sandberg.

Since the 2015 issue, Panini has been doing throwbacks to past designs, this year it's 1983. It's not really my favorite design but it's still neat to get these in nearly every pack.

Variations and parallels are strong with this. The Mike Trout card is one of three different versions of his card and Duke Snider is a parallel "cyan back" card although it looks more pink to me.  Have a look below.

See, pink right? Still really cool though regardless of what color you settle on it actually being.

Here are some of the inserts I pulled. Too bad for Cardinals fans that Reyes is out for the year. I really like the Rated Rookie design this year.

Numbered parallels are awesome. I'm leaning toward using these as a base to officially start my "shiny card" side project.

Oh, I got an autograph as well. I'm not exactly sure who Zack Godley is but his numbers last year with Arizona weren't exactly stellar. As usual, I really enjoy Donruss and this is no exception. I'm definitely going to get more of this as I come across it.

Hope everyone enjoys the games today! Baseball season is officially here!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

'Tis the Season for Gypsy Queen

This will be a just a quick post today as I'm doing some spring yard cleanup (including the digging up of what I'm expecting to be two small but pretty stubborn shrubs). While I'm taking a quick break from that, and preparing myself for a fight with said shrubberies, I figured I'd throw together this post of what I received in the mail recently.

Way back over the holidays (gosh, doesn't that seem like forever ago?), everyone's favorite ChiSox fanatic JediJeff was holding his yearly "Tis the Season" giveaway. I laid claim to a lot of 2016 Gypsy Queen and after a delay of many months, it arrived about a week or so ago. By the time you read this, 2017 Gypsy Queen will also be out in stores and shops and everyone (well, most everyone) will be going crazy for it. I still haven't picked any up as my card budget has yet to recover from my recent splurges at the card show and card shops. So, while everyone is fawning over this years GQ, here's a quick look back at last year's offering.

The lot was mostly base cards. Here are six nice ones and three Reds cards I picked out of the lot. I really like the Endier Inciarte card with the red Braves uniform the the patriotic lettering. With the tan frame of last year's cards, anything red seems to just pop.

Jeff was nice enough to throw in some insert cards as well. I had zero of the insert cards until now. Look at the extension of Pillar on the card on the far left. Votto's card looks like it's from a gloomy day at Wrigley. One thing I've noticed about Joey Votto cards is that he's rarely pictured in the home uniform. Not sure why that is. 

More insert cards, this time of the "Walk Off Winners" variety, including an Omar Vizquel Indians card. 

This was the lone Power Alley insert included and even though I'm not a big Yankees fan, I definitely appreciate seeing legends like Lou Gehrig on modern cards. 

Just like I said, a quick post. Thanks to Jeff for offering these up during the giveaway last year. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have two very uncooperative shrubs to dig up.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Card Shop Chronicles: Lebanon Candy and Sports Cards

It's not often that a new card shop pops up these days so when I heard about Lebanon Candy and Sports Cards at the most recent Nutter Center card show, I knew I had to stop in and check them out. 

Situated right off the main drag through downtown, the place reeks of nostalgia, right up to the signage on the windows. If they were going for a rustic feel, then they definitely nailed it. There are actually two doors as you walk in, the one on the right goes to the card shop, the other to the candy shop.

Here's the view of the main counter. Suffice to say it's absolutely loaded with packs, boxes, blasters, and all kinds of stuff. The shop itself it very small but they've made really good use of the space. According to the guy behind the counter, the place used to be an antique shop and judging by the old display cabinets and the polished hardwood floors, I can see how that would be. 

Besides sports cards, they have tons and tons of gaming cards like Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, etc. They even carry the big Pokemon boxes that Wal-Mart and Target carry.

Here's more boxes and packs. This is more recent stuff including loads of Series 1.

But wait, there's more! You want board games? They got 'em!

Here's a really cool thing right in the middle of the shop. It's an old fire call box that was used to alert the local fire departments. Seeing that Lebanon is an old historic city, it makes sense. As you can see, hidden behind the box is part of their Funko shelf.

Here's just a portion of the Funko's that they carry. They've got everything from Street Fighter to Dr. Seuss to Walking Dead figures. 

I nearly missed these old school motorcycles when I walked in. They definitely add a touch of character to the place, as if it didn't have enough already.

Next door is the candy portion loaded with anything and everything you could think of candy wise. There's a complete wall full of Jelly Belly dispensers, the counter is loaded with chocolate candies of all sorts and there's even a section full of pop culture candies.

Of course, it can't be a candy shop without having pop (or soda if you will) by the bottle. There's craft sodas such as Avery's and Jones Soda along with other brands such as Ale-8-1, IBC Root Beer, and Virgils. The other refrigerator has your standard Coke products but they're in glass bottles!!

Speaking of Coke, look at this awesome old school vending machine. I'm not sure if it's operational but the price on it says 25 cents. Too bad I didn't have a quarter on me to try it out.

As for my purchases, I grabbed three more packs of Donruss racing, two packs of Opening Day, and two packs of the new Pokemon for my son. 

Here's what I got out of the racing packs. I did manage to get two of the nickname variations including a Bill Elliott gold. The best of the packs was the Chase Elliott press proof numbered 23/99.

These were the first packs of Opening Day I think I've ever opened. These Reds cards came out of the first pack. I really, really like the picture on the Billy Hamilton card.

The inserts from each pack, a Brewers Opening Day card and a Jayson Werth Superstar Celebrations card.

This card will go towards my throwback uniforms collection. The 1970s style Pirates uniforms are always a hit with me.

I know this is a parallel but I'm not quite sure what sort of parallel this is as it's not numbered on the back. Regardless, I'll set it aside for my "shiny card" collection.

This is a shop I'll definitely be back to, despite the fact that the card shop portion felt a little bit cramped. The pack prices are more than fair and I love the nostalgia factor and the uniqueness of a card shop and candy shop all in one.