Wednesday, December 30, 2015

You've Got Mail #10: Bob Walk the Plank

Just before Christmas I received an envelope from Matt over at Bob Walk the Plank in exchange for the Christmas cards I sent him. I waited and opened it on Christmas morning with all the other presents under the tree. Let's see what Santa Matt included in my first ever envelope from him ...

Devin Mesoraco is always a great way to start off a trade pack, especially if they're hits. The Bat Kings card is really cool and I'm pretty sure it's the first bat relic I own. Here's hoping that he can have a bounce back year after hip surgery last season.

I never really though of myself as a Johnny Bench collector until recently as I somehow keep acquiring cards of the guy. The one with yellow on it appears to be some sort of Leaf insert or oddball, not exactly sure. The cardboard gods must be trying to persuade me to start up a Bench collection.

Finally, to close out this envelope, we've got Tony Perez. It's not just any Tony Perez card, no ... it's numbered 1/10. How cool is that! I know that's the first card I have numbered 1 out of anything. 

Thanks for the great cards Matt! We most definitely need to trade again soon.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Goodies!

I hope everyone had a good Christmas! My in-laws came and went, Christmas Eve was a blast with 14 people at the house and my uncle and I making and emergency run to the liquor store for Limoncello. Today was the day that my wife and I exchanged gifts to ourselves and judging by the above pictures, I'd say I made out pretty good.

First off, I got this box of 10th Anniversary Allen & Ginter from my family. It came along with two bonus packs. I'm really excited to crack into this soon.

My wife got me a bunch of packs and blasters from Target, including Allen & Ginter, WWE Heritage, two of the Topps Update holiday boxes, and two jumbo packs of Panini Prestige football.

With some of the money my in-laws gave us, I picked up this Panini Contenders blaster during a post-Christmas Target run.

Finally, to store all of my "good stuff" (autographs, relic cards, vintage, and stuff I just generally like), my wife got me this awesome Reds themed storage box.

I go back to work tomorrow and am working 8am-11pm for the next three days but I'll be breaking into this stuff soon. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Break: December 22nd - December 27th

Much like I did with Thanksgiving, I'll be taking some time off for Christmas ... December 22nd to December 27th to be exact. This year, things will be very crazy, my wife's family is coming in from all over the country, my family is coming in a few days before Christmas and we're hosting Christmas Eve for the second year in a row.

Hope everyone gets lots of cardboard and cool stuff for Christmas, I'll be back after Christmas with something new!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me!

My birthday was yesterday which means lot of fun! My mom stopped by and we all went out for lunch at one of my favorite places, Paxton's Grill, in Loveland.

As an appetizer, we got their pretzel nuggets with homemade queso sauce. These are always a great decision.

The main course for me was the "Big Paxton" which is a 10-oz burger topped with bacon, american cheese, and swiss cheese on a kaiser bun. The waffle fries that come on the side are amazing, better even than Chik-Fil-A.

After lunch, we came back home and I tore into the blogger packages that had come in over the past few weeks. In the interest of space, I'll feature my favorites. First up, a nice batch from Angus at Dawg Day Cards ...

This was my favorite out of Angus's Christmas card. It's an Anthony Munoz scratch and win card from McDonald's in 1986. 

This batch of commemorative Wayne Gretzky cards was really cool too. Judging by the back of them, it looks like they are some sort of oddballs from Kraft. Angus also threw in some Bengals stickers and a couple other random cards for a nice PWE.

Next up, a package from Julie of A Cracked Bat that I thought got lost in the mail! She contacted me the day before Thanksgiving offering up some of Reds throwbacks from the Update set and sent along a nice assortment of Reds!

These are the Update throwback cards that sparked this whole thing. Since the Reds don't do a whole lot of throwback days, these have to be from the game last April celebrating the 1990 World Series team.

Tony Perez cards are always welcome!

These two are absolutely beautiful cards. Triple Threads is a product that is always out of my budget so these are the first cards I've ever gotten from that particular product.

Diamond Kings are my favorite cards from 2015 and these framed parallels are just another reason why. These cards have great artwork and I'm completely fine with the fact that Panini can't use team names and logos.

Next up, a package from Tony at Off Hiatus Baseball who contacted me via Twitter about sending me a few things.


These are a few of the oddballs that were included. The Mathews card is from Circle K (and I had zero clue that gas stations had cards) and the Vic Davalillo coin is from the 1960s.

There were also a bunch of Indians cards from 1984 Topps that will help out with my set build. Any extras will go towards my Indians collection. Yes, I collect Indians cards as well as Reds cards now.

Being the Brewers fan that he is, Tony included some Brewers from both 1980 Topps and 1982 Donruss, both being sets I'm working on. 

Last, but not least, is a package all the way from France, courtesy of Kevin at The Card Papoy!

First up, this Aroldis Chapman memorabilia card which I was not expecting at all but was completely welcome.

I always dig mid 90s releases and these are really cool.

Kevin also sent a ton of 1994 Upper Deck cards, which is one of my favorite sets from the mid 90s. Some highlights from the stack are below.

A big thank you to Angus, Julie, Tony, and Kevin for sending these and making my birthday that much better! Hope everyone has a great Christmas week!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Mysterious Black Book of Cincinnati Wrestling

A few years ago I stopped by the local sports card shop while I was out one day. The place itself is a hole in the wall type place, no signage or anything from the roadway and if you didn’t know it had been there for the last 20 some years, then you would drive right by it. As I was digging through some old baseball cards, I noticed a little black book with the word “autographs” embossed on the front in gold letters randomly sitting on top of a pile of junk underneath the table. Curiously, I picked up the book and thumbed through it not expecting to find anything of much value. However, I found quite the opposite. Inside this book were newspaper clippings of old wrestling results and articles from what had to have been the 1950s. Couple that along with what looked like legitimate autographs from Wilbur Snyder, Hans Hermann, and the Bargain City Kid and I scored a gold mine. I asked the clerk at the counter what the price was. He wasn’t sure so he called the shop owner who threw out a random amount of $20. Twenty bucks for a beat up old autograph book with a bunch of newspaper clippings of old Cincinnati wrestling matches? Sold! I brought my prize home and looked at it more detail.

Looking through the book when I got it home, I discovered that the clippings were from late 1959 and early 1960. I recognized some of the names too. People such as Roy Shire, Buddy Rogers, Nick Bockwinkel, Bronco Lubich, Dick the Bruiser, and Wilbur Snyder among others. There were also a number of names such as Mitsu Arakawa, Bargain City Kid, Fritz Von Goering, Chief White Owl, Don Eagle, and Hans Hermann that I was not too familiar with. Something else that I found interesting it that not only were there shows promoted at the Cincinnati Gardens, but there were also clippings from shows at Music Hall. This was quite the revelation as I had no idea that there were two opposition territories running shows in the same town during the same time. Apparently, Jim Barnett was running one territory and a promoter named Al Haft was running the other. First though, I had to know more about this guy who called himself the Bargain City Kid.

Bargain City Kid (right) and Willie Thall
After doing a quick search online, turns out that the Bargain City Kid was named Hyman Ullner and was the owner of Rink’s Bargain City department stores. The chain was local and had stores in the Cincinnati suburbs of Mt. Healthy and Pleasant Ridge, along with locations north of the city in Milford, Hamilton, Lima, and Middletown among other places. I remember hearing about the Middletown store as my grandmother used to work there as the manager of the fabric department until she retired. In the 1950s and 60s, Ullner was a co-host of Shock Theatre and Big Time Wrestling on WCPO-TV with Wille Thall of Midwestern Hayride fame, who also owned a marine sales business on Route 4 in Hamilton down the street from Rink’s. Thall and The Kid would hock merchandise from Rink’s and do skits with the wrestlers in studio, such as the time when Gene Kiniski broke a fishing rod and reel in half. There was also a notable commercial where Thall was filming a live spot in a boat attached to a truck. As he was talking, Fritz Von Erich climbed into the truck the boat was attached to and drove off taking the boat with him while Thall still in the boat talking.

WCPO featured matches from the Barnett-Doyle syndicate based out of Detroit that was run by legendary promoter Jim Barnett and Johnny Doyle, a veteran booker. The first televised studio show from the Barnett-Doyle group in the Cincinnati market aired on December 27, 1958 that featured Angelo Poffo winning the United States Heavyweight Title from Wilbur Snyder. This all built to the first arena show at the Cincinnati Gardens which took place on January 23, 1959. Less that two months later, the all time attendance record for a sporting event at the Gardens was set on March 7, 1959 with 15,299 people and amassing a $25,402 gate with a show headlined by Bronco Lubich and Angelo Poffo teaming against Wilbur Snyder and Yukon Eric, a record that still stands to this day. On August 18, 1961, Buddy Rogers defended the NWA World Title against The Sheik in a match that Rogers won by using his vaunted figure-four leglock. Barnett would later sell his Ohio/Michigan territory to Sheik for $50,000 and move to Australia. Sheik would continue to use Cincinnati as a regular stop in his territory through 1980.

A women's wrestling tournament ad.
At the same time as Barnett was running shows at the Gardens, Midwest Wrestling Alliance promoter Al Haft ran competing cards out of Music Hall. Haft, based out of Columbus, Ohio, was one of the first to enter the NWA and had founded the Midwest Wrestling Alliance in 1931 as a vehicle to promote a John Pesek/Joe Stecher match in Columbus. In the early 1950s, the WLW Television title was established as well as a National Women’s Television title that saw Nell Stewart, Kathy Starr, and Kay Noble as titleholders. Haft’s matches would air on Crosley/Avco TV stations WLW-T in Cincinnati as well as WLW-D in Dayton and WLW-C in Columbus. In Dayton, matches for TV were held at converted skating rink in the suburb of Moraine, and featured a fan called “Bouncing Beulah” who would be ringside cheering passionately and sometimes pounding on the ring apron.

Going back and thumbing through the brittle, yellowing pages of the book, I noticed the amount of talent that was appearing in the area from both promotions. Barnett’s roster consisted of established national stars such as Pat O’Connor, Bronco Lubich, Wilbur Snyder, Dick the Bruiser, and Angelo Poffo along with mid-card stars such as Mitsu Arakawa, The Shire Brothers, and future AWA world champion Nick Bockwinkel. Alternatively, Haft had a roster of mainly younger regional stars like Ruffy Silverstein, Johnny Barend, Chief White Owl, and Magnificent Maurice but occasionally he would also have major stars like future NWA world champions Buddy Rogers and Lou Thesz, whose paths would cross in a controversial match in Toronto in January 1963 where Thesz beat Rogers for the NWA title. Going into that match, Rogers, who was booked out of the WWWF office in New York run by Vince McMahon, Sr., was the NWA World Champion at the time. However, when Thesz won the match and subsequently the NWA title, the switch would not be acknowledged by the WWWF and soon after Rogers was named the first WWWF World champion, the same title which is now known as the WWE World Heavyweight championship.

Roy Shire
Roy Shire popped out to me as one of the most interesting stories. Teaming with his supposed “brother” Ray Shire, known more famously as Ray “The Crippler” Stevens, the two were involved memorable feuds as a team and even won the Chicago version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship from Dick the Bruiser and Angelo Poffo on August 6, 1959 in Indianapolis. In the early 1960s, Roy was sent out to San Francisco by Jim Barnett to open up the territory out there. “Barnett set up Shire in San Francisco and Shire leased his original talent through Barnett's office," according to wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer in an email. "Barnett had the connection to the TV and a sponsor but didn't want to leave his Indy/Detroit/Louisville/Cincinnati base so sent who he thought was his smartest talent in Shire and set him up.” Some of Shire’s original talent would include a number of stars who competed in Cincinnati. The San Francisco territory, based out of the legendary Cow Palace, would become one of the top territories on the west coast for a number of years before closing down in 1981.

Getting towards the end of the book, the clippings suddenly stopped and aged, blank pages filled the remainder of it. It made me wonder what happened to the person who was putting this together. Did he lose the book? Did he lose interest in keeping a scrapbook of clippings? One thing is known for sure, while Cincinnati may not have been a major territory, it certainly has its own sense of wrestling history. A history that should not be overlooked and forgotten.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

2015-16 Upper Deck Hockey Series 1 Tin

I've been patiently waiting for a while now to get my hands on some of the new Upper Deck Hockey (not that I'm chasing the Connor McDavid card or anything). While the family and I were at Wal-Mart getting some groceries a few weeks ago, I stopped by their miniscule card section and found a few of the new tins stuffed behind a bunch of discounted football and baseball blasters. So, since my birthday is next Saturday, as an early birthday present for myself, I forked over the cash for one and brought it home ...

The Winter Classic is one of my favorite games of the year to watch and this particular box came with a Winter Classic box topper of Corey Crawford.

Here are the inserts the that came in the box and all of these are super cool. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd say the UD Canvas cards, but the portraits series comes in a close second.

Horizontal goalies! The Crawford card is just spectacular and speaks to the awesomeness of Upper Deck's photography.

A couple nice cards here of Rick Nash and Flyers captain Claude Giroux. I still think of Nash as a member of the Blue Jackets.

Some more of the stars I pulled out of the tin including another Toews, a Tuukka Rask, and a Pavel Datsyuk. A nice group of players here.

Oh, I bet you're waiting anxiously to see what Young Guns cards I pulled, right?

I didn't wind up with the McDavid card, but I did however get a nice Young Guns canvas card to go along with the others from earlier. I'm not familiar with any of these guys to know if this is a good lot or not, so any of the hockey gurus out there, help me out please.

For a retail purchase, this wasn't bad and I'd probably go out and get another one of these at some point, provided they all haven't been snatched up by now by people chasing the McDavid card. If I get one of those in a future tin, great. If not, that's fine too. Remember, I'm in it for the fun of collecting ... plus I got a nice storage tin for my "good cards" now too.