Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Hitting the Pause Button

When someone makes mention of a pause button, my mind instantly thinks of a VCR. I think it was because my first introduction to the pause button when I was a kid. I was fascinated with the fact that I could press a button on the VCR and it would stop ... er, pause ... the tape I was watching instantly. The same holds true for baseball cards. As a kid, I thought it was so cool that I could open a pack of cards and see one of my favorite players on the Reds, or even one of the top players of the game, starting back at me.

Time went on and my fascination with the pause button faded as did my fascination with baseball cards. It wasn't until about five years ago that I got back into collecting and just over two years ago when I started this blog. 

Isn't it funny how time flies?

Now, I mentioned this back in my two year anniversary post and I'll mention it again here for those who missed it. In about six weeks, we'll be welcoming a new baby boy into the family. I mentioned in my anniversary post that I wasn't sure if I would be going on a hiatus or not. Over the last week or so, I finally decided what I'm going to do.

I'm going to dust off that old VCR and hit the pause button.

Instead of going on a full-fledged, cold turkey, blogging hiatus now that the new baby is due here in just about 5-6 weeks, I've decided to cut my posting down dramatically. I'll still check in from time to time, like if I get something in the mail from a fellow blogger, but mostly over the next couple of months, I'm planning on cutting way back on my posting. So much, in fact, that this may just be the only one of a handful of posts you see from me in November. Not to worry, I'll still be around on Twitter and I'll be reading and commenting on posts of fellow bloggers.

Once things settle down with the new baby and probably after the holidays finish up, I'll re-evaluate and see about hitting the play button on the blog again and keep on rolling. 

Hitting the pause button like this will allow me to do a few things:

1. I'll be able to focus more on helping my wife with the new baby.
2. I'll be able to come up with fresh new ideas for writing posts
3. I'll be able (hopefully) to get my collection organized in a timely manner. More on this in a future post as it's a complete mess right now.
4. I'll be able to pick up right from where I left off.

After all, isn't that the beauty of the pause button?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Weekend Card Show

Every year as an early birthday present, my wife lets me go off to a card show. Typically, I'd go to my preferred show, the monthly show at the Nutter Center in Dayton but this time I decided to venture down to Sharonville, a northern suburb of Cincinnati, for a show being held at the Clarion Hotel.

I had memories of this show from way back in the day when I used to work for a card shop. On occasion, the owner would send me off with a car load full of stuff from boxes with loose packs to dime boxes to jersey and autograph cards, to set up with at the show. After a while, he just started doing the show himself, I think perhaps because he took better stuff with him, but regardless I still had fun running the table.

Having said that, it's been at least ten years since I've been to this particular show and for once, in the days leading up to it, I wasn't excited for card show day. I'm not sure why. Maybe because the little voice in the back of my head was telling me to wait for the Nutter Center but I was bound and determined to go.

I got a later start than I wanted and pulled up to the hotel about 10:15 for a show that started at 9:30 and the parking lot was already packed. I headed in and over to the giant conference room I remember the show being in so many years ago and yes, there it was. Like it had never left. I knew I was in trouble though as the first vendor I saw in the door had two tables of triple digit vintage. I had a feeling good deals were probably going to be scarce.

I was right.

Dime and quarter boxes were nearly non-existant. I found exactly one true dime box throughout the whole show, the rest were either 50 cent or dollar boxes (which really isn't a bad thing but I'm on a budget here!). Some vendors had boxes out that had no price on them, which should've been a big red flag for me but I dug anyway. I found some gems, managed to negotiate a fair price, and still walked away with a feeling like I'd been had in some instances.

Complaints aside, it was still a card show and I did manage to find some good deals. Let's see what I got.

I'll start off by showing off most of the finds from the only true dime box of the day. While the box was mostly 2017 Topps base, it still had a good handful of miscellaneous stuff including some from this years Gypsy Queen and Allen & Ginter. The dealer running the table mentioned it was the first time he'd put together one. That Randy Johnson Expos card is a short print by the way so seeing it pop-up from a dime box was super cool.

I think the 1987 style inserts are cool so when I found three of them, I set them aside. I almost decided to put the Clemens card back but it'll go good with the "quick stops" cards (aka "short term stops") I have in my collection. The John Goodman card I had my eye on since it came out as I've always been a big fan of his. Plus, he played Walter in The Big Lebowski, which is one of my favorite movies ever.

Some of the Donruss throwback style cards from this years release. Despite the fact that Panini doesn't have an MLB license, that still doesn't stop me from enjoying the fun that Donruss brings to the table every year.

Speaking of Panini, Diamond Kings is always one of my favorite releases of the year. They're a premium style product at not a premium price and you're always guaranteed to get a bit of good stuff. Getting all of these for 10 cents each pretty much made my whole day up until the very end of the show (which I'll get to later). Yes, the base cards are nice but those Heritage Collection inserts, those are just gorgeous.

And a few more things to wrap up the dime box portion. I became a big fan of Scooter Gennett this year as he had a great year for the Reds who picked him up off the scrap heap in Spring Training. 

Moving on from the dime box, I managed to score a few buybacks from a 50 cent bin, however I only paid a $1 for these. 

Aside from the vast selection of football cards, the baseball products that were all over the place included Update and Topps Fire. The Kris Bryant was from a dollar bin (and yes, I realize it's a 2016 card) but the others were from one of the unmarked bins. It's the first time I'd seen these in person and they are awesome. Plus, I wasn't expecting to see a card of Hank Aaron in a Brewers uniform in a modern product. The Willie McCovey card is a parallel I believe.

I'm normally not a big collector or buyer of Chrome but these were too nice to pass up. 

I found these on a second pass through a 50 cent bin that I'd missed on my first lap through the show. I know I'll never be able to afford boxes or packs of products like this so finding cards in the bargain bin is super cool.

Stadium Club was all over the place too and most of them were in dollar bins or vendor were commanding an unreasonable price for bulk singles. I think I'll have to try to get some more of this as  it's just tremendous. The Gehrig card is one of the black parallels but my favorite has to be the Warren Spahn card, just for the fact it includes a ton of old school ballpark ads in the background.

Of course, I can't go to a card show and not come back with some Reds cards. Even though I don't care much for 2016 Topps, I knew I didn't have the Lorenzen and the Diaz. I didn't know Barry Larkin was in A&G this year so that's definitely a new card to add to the Larkin collection. My favorite of the batch though has to be the Johnny Bench Stadium Club card.

Newer cards weren't the only thing I bought. As I mentioned previously, the first table I saw had nothing but high priced, triple digit vintage. I did manage, however, to find someone towards the back corner of the room with a 50 cent bin of late 60s and 70s cards. I spotted these two Pilots cards right away and I'll add them to the Pilots collection. My goal is to get a complete team set from 1969 and 1970.

All five cards above were also in the 50 cent vintage bin. The photo on the George Scott card is just amazing. I think Stargell might be a duplicate but I'm not sure. For 50 cents though, I was willing to take that chance.

Here's a bunch of other baseball cards I got that didn't really belong in any of the other scans above. How can you not like this batch? You've got Reggie as an Oriole and Roger Maris as a Cardinal. Everything else is just cake.

I like to keep my options open at shows so even though I'm not much of a basketball collector, I couldn't really pass these up. Especially for cards of three bonafide NBA legends. The Shaq card I think is one of those special cards given out at the National.

Hockey cards were definitely in short supply. The only person who even had any was the aforementioned person where I got the 50 cent vintage cards. Every card shown above here was only a nickel each. 

He also had a binder full of vintage hockey cards. I took a gander through and came up with these. To be honest, I'm not too familiar with any of these guys and the only one I've heard of is Jacques Lemaire. The Flames cards I got because they'll go well with the defunct teams collection. Phil Roberto I just had to get because honestly, how often do you see pictures of fights on hockey cards?

A few other random hockey cards I managed to dig up, including two of my favorite players to watch from two of my favorite teams to watch.

My best find of the day though had to be at the very last table. Normally, I try to shy away from vintage dealers who have showcases on their tables but I noticed this particular person had really good prices on everything. Now, to be clear, this wasn't the initial vendor I saw. I'll also say that of all the card shows I've ever been to, he was by far the nicest vendor I've ever ran into. Most if not all vendors there would give me a quick "Hi" which was quickly followed by them looking back down on their phones to check their fantasy football teams. Not this guy, he was genuinely interested in helping me find some cards to fit my budget instead of shoving high priced stuff in my face, provided me his business card, added me to his email list, and seemed just happy to be there. That being said, I bought four nice cards from him as my last purchase of the day.

Behold! My favorite purchase of the day! These four cards set me back a mere $12 as the guy gave a me a deal and gave me and extra 20% off the low price he quoted me already. The Sam Mele card is only the second 1952 Topps card I have. The rest are from the 1960 set. Sure, they're a little beat up, the back of the Mathews card has very minimal paper loss, but for three bucks each, it was hard to pass up. The guy I bought these from said he recognized me from the Dayton show as well and would be sure to let me know the next time he'd be back in the area.

My budget going into this show was $50. I came back with $12 left so I think I did ok for myself. What's left I'm going to put towards getting some more storage and organization stuff. Did I get amazing deals? Not really aside from the last four cards. Will I be going back to this show again? Probably not any time soon as I definitely prefer the smaller scale and the selection at the Nutter Center show.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Save The Crew

Last week, the soccer world got a pretty good jolt of craziness. Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt announced early in the week that unless the Crew got a new flashy new stadium in downtown Columbus, then he'd move the team to Austin, Texas in 2019. Needless to say, this pretty much turned the soccer world on its ear and riled up a bunch of the Crew faithful and media in response to it. 

According to the initial article on SI.com, it turns out that the owner of the Crew, who I might add lives in San Francisco, had already been negotiating with the City of Austin months before this news broke. Most of the other articles on the subject have echoed the sentiment that demanding a new stadium and moving the Crew if it doesn't happen is a horrible idea, especially considering that the Crew is one of the original MLS franchises. 

The stadium the Crew has now, Mapfre Stadium, isn't all that old having opened in 1999 as the first soccer specific stadium in the league and seems to be the de facto home of the US Men's National team as it's hosted ten matches from the team since it opened. It also hosts high school football, rugby matches, and concerts. But that's not the point. The point is that the owner wants taxpayers to pony up for a new soccer specific stadium to replace one that seems perfectly useful as it is.

I could go on a whole rant here about how this just irks me to no end but I won't. I'll just say that to me pitting the two cities against each other by a sports team owner is like a kid asking mom (Columbus in this case) for something and she says no. So the kid goes to dad (Austin, TX) and asks for the same thing. It's ridiculous.

As for myself, having never been much of a soccer person I was aware of the Crew and I always though it was pretty neat that Columbus managed to get a major league team in a new, upstart league in 1996. Even though I was aware of the Crew, that didn't mean I knew about the Crew. So, this announcement led me to do a little research on some of the Crew's top players. I googled "top ten Columbus Crew players" and that led me to their all-time stats page. I jotted down ten players from the list, then cross referenced that list for COMC for some cards. Three players didn't have cards so I took them off, thus leaving me with seven. 

So, here's a look at seven notable players from the Columbus Crew all-time leader list with card images taken from COMC. I won't say these are the best players from the history of the Crew because "best" can be a subjective term. These seven players, however, could certainly spark the discussion.

2014 Topps MLS - [Base] #87 - Chad Marshall - Courtesy of COMC.com

Chad Marshall is the Crew's all time leader in a number of categories, games played (253), games started (250), and minutes played (22,220). He was the second overall pick in the 2004 MLS Superdraft by Columbus and spent nearly his whole professional career there before being traded to Seattle in December 2013. In his rookie season with Columbus, he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, helped the team to an 18-game unbeaten streak, and the MLS Supporters Shield, which is given to the team with the best overall record. In 2008, he led the defense on a team that won both the Supporters Shield and the MLS Cup along with being named MLS Defender of the Year. He was named captain in 2011 and then, as mentioned, was traded to Seattle in 2013 where he still plays.

2011 SP Game Used Edition - [Base] #12 - Jeff Cunningham - Courtesy of COMC.com

Jeff Cunningham has the record for most goals (64) and most game winning goals (20) with the Crew. Not only that, but he's second all-time in the MLS for most career regular season goals (134) behind Landon Donovan. I'd say that's not too shabby. Cunningham had two different stints with the Crew, the first being from 1998, when he was the ninth overall pick in the MLS College Draft, to 2004, when the Crew traded him to Colorado for a first-round pick in the 2006 MLS Superdraft. After departing Columbus, he bounced around the league before being picked up again by Columbus in Stage 2 of the MLS Re-Entry draft. 2011 was his last year in MLS before becoming a free agent at the end of the season.

2004 Upper Deck MLS - Stars #ST9 - Edson Buddle - Courtesy of COMC.com

According to the official Crew records, Edson Buddle has the only four goal game in team history. While I was unable to secure the date of the actual game, that's still a pretty impressive feat. Buddle played for the Crew from 2001-2005 but was injury prone most of those years. However, he did manage to net nine goals and five assists in 1,304 minutes during the 2002 season, thus establishing himself as one of the top strikers in the league. Before the 2006 campaign began, the Crew shipped Buddle off to the NY Red Bulls and he bounced around the league for a few years there after, somehow always finding his way back to LA Galaxy for four different stints.

1999 Upper Deck MLS - [Base] #55 - Stern John - Courtesy of COMC.com

Stern John only had two campaigns with the Crew but in that time he managed to become the Crew's leader in hat tricks (5) and multi-goal games (12). He had 26 goals and 57 points in 1998 which was his best season in the league. He was won the MLS Golden Boot and MLS Scoring Champion titles, and was named to the MLS Best XI that season as well. He played the 1999 season with Columbus as well but it wasn't as prolific and was acquired by Nottingham Forest after the season. From there he spent the next decade plus in English football.

2000 Upper Deck MLS - [Base] #25 - Robert Warzycha - Courtesy of COMC.com

The only player on this list to both play for and manage the Crew, Robert Warzycha is the all-time leader in assists (61) and game winning assists (16). Having played mostly in Poland for most of his senior career, he joined the Crew for their inaugural season in 1996 and spent the next seven years with them before retiring in 2002. After his retirement, he stayed on with the Crew as an assistant coach and served as interim coach in 2005 after Greg Andrulis was dismissed. In 2009, he was promoted to head coach and in that first year, the Crew won the Supporters Shield.

2000 Upper Deck MLS - [Base] #28 - Brian McBride - Courtesy of COMC.com

Brian McBride was the inaugural member of the Crew's Circle of Honor in 2011 for his high standard of play. He leads the Crew in shots (460) and shots on goal (206) and was the first overall pick in the MLS Inaugural Draft. In eight seasons with the Crew, he scored 62 goals and had 45 assists. During his time with the Crew, he was loaned to Preston North End and Everton in the Premier League and eventually joined up with Fulham for four seasons. In 2010, he came back to MLS with the Chicago Fire and retired after the season.

2011 Upper Deck MLS - [Base] #38 - William Hesmer - Courtesy of COMC.com

I'll wrap this up with possibly one of the top goalies the Crew ever had, that being William Hesmer. The Crew's all time leader in games played by a goalie (130). At the beginning of his MLS career, he had a handful of appearances with Kansas City and was loaned to Richmond as well. He was selected by Toronto in the 2006 Expansion Draft but was traded to the Crew shortly thereafter where he blossomed. He became the Crew's all-time shut out leaded in 2010, made his 100th league appearance the following year but the injury bug caught up with him and by 2013 he had retired.

So there you have it, a look at seven prolific players from Columbus Crew history. I really hope the Crew doesn't pack up and leave town. They're synonymous with MLS in this region and hopefully there can be a way to #SaveTheCrew.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

You've Got Mail #74: Sportscards From the Dollar Store

It's been a long time ... a very long time since I've had cards grace my mailbox so when a random package arrived from Douglas of Sportscards From the Dollar Store recently, I was giddy with excitement that someone actually sent me cards in the mail!

As always, a package from Douglas has a nice variety. As much as I like the Edd Roush card here, I think I have to talk a bit about the Royce Clayton card. Clayton was at the near the end of his career in 2006 when he was acquired by the Reds from the Nationals in a bonkers trade still questioned by some fans to this day. It was a weird trade where the Reds got Clayton, Bill Bray, Gary Majewski, and one other for Austin Kearns, Ryan Wagner, and another player. To this day, I don't think anyone is sure what the Reds were trying to accomplish with that trade. Clayton finished the year as the Reds shortstop then moved on to Toronto as a free agent after the season.

Getting new Blue Jackets cards is always a blast, especially since they may be the lone major league team in Columbus soon (another story for another day) and I'm hoping I can maybe find some decent priced ones at the card show next week. The top three are from last year's Upper Deck Champs set, which is basically their version of A&G. It was a pretty cool product and it's something I hope they bring back this year. Brandon Saad was shipped back to Chicago after two seasons but in return, the Jackets managed to steal Artemi Panarin in return in a shocker of a deal.

This card was definitely one of the best of the batch and is a fantastic addition to my Brodeur collection. It's a thick card, really shiny, and has an amazing picture on it getting Brodeur in mid-catch to save a goal. 

The other thing I can count on for Douglas to send is lots and lots of Bengals cards, and there were a lot. So I'll go through them quickly. First, there were these neat cards of past Bengals QBs, although many try to forget the Jeff Blake era.

Joe Mixon was the Bengals top pick in the draft this past summer and has seen a lot of action recently, especially since the Bengals dropped Ken Zampese as their offensive coordinator and replaced him with Bill Lazor. The offense that had been sleepy in the first two games, woke up once Lazer was installed, and Mixon seemed to get more carries.

There was also this nice batch of Andy Dalton cards. My collection of his is slowly growing with some quality additions like this.

Same can be said for A.J. Green, one of my favorite players to watch on the Bengals. I'm starting to get a decent collection of cards of his as well.

There were also a nice batch of parallels included in the package as well, these were the best of the batch.

Thanks to Douglas for sending all these great cards over, I greatly appreciate it. I'll try to find some stuff to send back to you at some point.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

That's Just (O) Pee-Chee: A Jumbo Pack of 2017-18 O-Pee-Chee

Retail jumbo packs are always fun to rip open. For about five or six bucks (the price of 1 1/2 or 2 packs in the card shop), you get about 30 cards give or take. This particular pack had 32 cards. I debated on whether or not I should've actually bought it while I was in the store as O-Pee-Chee is primarily base cards. I was fearful that if I did get it then I'd be wasting my money as it'd be base cards of players I probably don't know. I know, the moral dilemmas of a card collector. Before I thought too long and hard about it, I threw it in the cart and brought it home.

I saw a box break video online recently of the Beckett crew opening some of this so I had a pretty decent idea of what to expect. The fronts are nice and simple with some great photos and a pretty decent design, especially with the team logo featured prominently on the bottom left. These are some of the better veteran players I got from my pack.

The backs are clean as well with a simple but old-school sort of feel. And ... gasp! ... career stats!!

Here's a couple of the young stars who saw action last season. The one bad thing about this being an early season release is that it doesn't have the new crop of rookies like Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick in it.

Here are the inserts you can expect in a jumbo pack. It's always great to get a team checklist card. The Sam Reinhart card is a retro design. I've yet to try to figure out if the retro designs are parallels or inserts, regardless I dig them.

The other issue with O-Pee-Chee being an early season release is that it still has players with their previous teams. Mike Smith is now the #1 goalie in Calgary, ironically replacing Elliott who moved on to the Flyers.

Wrapping up the pack, here's a couple of my favorites to watch from my two favorite Canadian teams. Tkachuk if you couldn't tell by the name is the son of former Coyotes and Blues star Keith Tkachuk. He's also got a brother, Brady, coming up the ranks and might be in next year's NHL draft. Larsson was what Edmonton got in return from the Devils in the Taylor Hall deal a few years ago and I really enjoyed seeing Edmonton in their playoff run last year.

Overall, I'd say I was pretty satisfied with my return on investment here. Would I get another jumbo pack for five buck? Probably as I got a good handful of players I like and some fun cards to boot. You can't really ask for much more than that.