Sunday, April 30, 2017

You've Got Mail #68: Night Owl Cards

Photo: Wikipedia

As anyone who followed this blog last fall knows, I'm a big fan of Halloween. As such, today is the official "halfway to Halloween" point on the calendar. The official name for this is Walpurgis Night, which is a celebration observed in Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, Czech Republic and other countries in that region to usher in the start of summer. This night is said to be the final time witches and other evildoers to cause havoc before spring woke up the land. To ward off evil spirits, citizens would burn bonfires, sprinkle holy water, and put blessed palm leaf in their homes. 

While the card blogging world does not have and evil spirits (at least none that I know of), there is a resident nocturnal creature we all know and love as Night Owl. Last Monday a nice little package showed up on my doorstep from the Owl and as usual, it was stuffed with some pretty neat cards.

As I mentioned, Walpurgis Night is a time to celebrate the start of summer. However, in these parts, the start of summer the beginning of baseball season. When I saw that this card was in Opening Day, I knew I had to have it. Luckily, Night Owl was nice enough to throw it in. 

Speaking of evil things, I used to think minis were evil and I would immediately throw them into the discard pile. However, my stance has definitely changed on them and I'm building up as many of them as I can. These definitely helped bulk up my stockpile.

Of course, any trading package coming my way includes Reds cards and these are definitely ones I didn't have. These are from the 2006 Topps release, of which I opened a pack recently for my ongoing "Back Packs" series, a look at which will be coming up shortly.

There was also a good amount of miscellaneous stuff thrown in from another Eckersley card for my collection, to some Bengals cards, and even a completey random Jake "The Snake" Roberts card, of which I will not complain.

The majority of the package though was loaded up with these 2015 All-Star Update cards. I still need to add my want list for these to the blog but there were about 14 cards included in the package that I needed. I'm getting close to halfway on completing the run of these in 2015 Update and these additions were much appreciated. 

A big thanks to Night Owl for sending over these cards and helping ward off any evil spirits that will hopefully stay away all through baseball season.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Retail Repack Adventures #10: Return to Walgreens

I told myself that I wasn't going to buy anymore of these. 

After the last two packs being less than stellar plus loaded with duplicates, I had sworn off of these for an undetermined length of time. However, thanks to a heads up from AJ over at The Lost Collector, the card blogging world was notified of a sale on these for $3.99 each. Never have I wanted to go to Walgreens so bad. When I stopped by there were three of these on the rack, I grabbed two, mainly because the cover card on the other pack did nothing for me. Curiously, they were the regular price. I asked someone who appeared to be managerial about it. Turns out there was an error and the price was wrong but was promised the right price would show at checkout. It did and I brought the packs home ready to tear into them.

Here's the cover card, a 2002 Fleer Focus Jersey Edition Alex Rodriguez. I've never understood the point of calling cards "jersey edition" or the like if they don't actually have a piece of a jersey in them. Regardless, this will go with my 2000-2009 cards for now. I'm not sure I like the way my cards are sorted though, but that's another story for another day.

As with any repack, it's rife with 2012 Topps. These are the best of the lot. A few things to check out here, first there's James Shields in a Rays uniform, a team I'd forgotten he played for. Second, look at the celebration on the Neftali Feliz card. I'm not sure what game it's from but it's definitely a keeper.

There were a ton of 1988 Score cards, nearly 20 to be exact. Again, these are the best of the batch. My favorite here is the Steve Bedrosian, simply because of the way everything just seems to fit perfectly. Plus, it's a night card so that works in its favor too.

1989 Topps ... yay. Interesting little side note, how strange was it that the Twins had a player in the late 80s named Greg Gagne and the AWA, which was based out of Minneapolis, had a wrestler during the same time named Greg Gagne. I wonder if they ever got confused for each other?

As with any repack, it was loaded with junk wax and commons. These four are the best of the junk wax pile that was in the middle of the pack. I'm still baffled as to why Lee Smith isn't in the Hall of Fame. He ranks third all time in saves (478), was a 7-time All-Star, holds a career ERA of 3.03 and appeared in over 1000 games in 18 seasons. Perhaps the fact he was a career reliever might be a strike against him but then again, so was Bruce Sutter and he's in. So why not Lee Smith?

Ah yes, minor league cards. For the longest time, I didn't think twice about these and either added them to my trade box or my discard box (for donations and misc stuff). For some unknown reason, these just spoke to me and I think I'll have to start adding them to my binders. For a fun exercise, I though I would explore the careers of three of the four pictured, the exception being Jon Woodworth because he's listed as a trainer.

Ken Greer - Spent 10 seasons in the minors with various teams. He did make it to the majors though. He only appeared in 9 games combined over the 1993 (Yankees) and 1995 (Giants) seasons. On this particular card, he's featured with the Ft. Lauderdale Yankees, which was the High A affiliate for the Yankees in 1990. During this particular season, he was 4-9 with a 6.45 ERA in 38 games.

Keith Schmidt - Played 6 seasons in the minors from 1989-1994, never advancing above single A ball. Here he's pictured with the Bluefield Orioles, the Rookie League affiliate of Baltimore. That particular season he had a .278/.356/.462 slash line in 55 games.

Larry Walker - No, not that Larry Walker, the other one. I didn't know there was more than two. This particular Larry Walker got into 79 games with the Greensboro Hornets of the South Atlantic League in 1990 hitting .230 with one homer and 15 RBIs. Two years later, he was out of the game, only playing six games at any level above high A.

Two more cards to show off here. First this Sportflics Eric Davis card. I think this might be the first Reds Sportflics card in my collection. I was pretty thrilled when this came out.

Dave LaPoint isn't normally someone I would think about showing cards of, mainly because I'm not familiar with him but this isn't any ordinary 1988 Donruss card. It's from the 1988 Donruss Baseball's Best set. I'm not sure what the distribution method of this set was but I really dig the orange borders. 

The back is nice too as it presents the career stats in an easy to read format with a lighter color and a different orientation that the regular 1988 Donruss cards. 

Had this repack not been on sale, I wouldn't have purchased it as I prefer the 4-pack, 50-card repacks found at Target. However, this wasn't a complete waste as I got a few fun cards and some trade fodder.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Back Packs: 2001 Donruss

I consider my "lost years" of collecting to be in the neighborhood of 1997-2011. During that time, I collected barely any, if at all. Right in the middle of that time period around late 2002 through 2003, I started doing a little more collecting, mainly because I was working two jobs (one of which was at a card shop) and had some disposable income for the first time in my life. So despite this Donruss pack being from 2001, I have no knowledge of this product whatsoever. The pack touts this as being the "20th Anniversary" which technically would be correct, even though this was the first Donruss release since 1998. 

This pack isn't exactly a behemoth, clocking in at only five cards and one "2000 Retro-Active Pack" all contained within one foil wrapper. Speaking of the wrapper, it definitely screams "Texas Rangers" with A-Rod being the cover boy, red as the primary background, a blue star smack in the middle, and small silver stars vertically on each side. 

#1 Alex Rodriguez

Each card has a border around it matching the team's primary color. Also, each card is stamped with a "20th Anniversary" stamp. Something I just noticed as well, each card has stars throughout the background and along the white inner border in each team's secondary color. The logo and nameplate at the bottom have a very similar look to 2000 Fleer Impact. As for this particular card, I'm guessing this was one of A-Rod's early Rangers cards as it's just him against a black background.

#10 Jeff Bagwell

2001 was the first season since 1997 where Bagwell's batting average dipped below .300 and he would finish the season with a .288/.397/.568 slash line along with 39 HRs and 130 RBIs and finished seventh in the MVP voting. The card stock its worth noting feels pretty flimsy. Also, this picture seems a bit off, almost like the image of Bagwell following through on his swing was super-imposed on a background with a Cubs catcher.

#49 Adam Piatt

Perhaps the least notable name I pulled out of this pack of five, Adam Piatt only lasted four years as a back-up outfielder in the majors, the majority of which where with Oakland. The most action he saw in a season was 61 games split between Oakland and Tampa Bay. In the 2001 season, he only logged 36 games and put up a .211/.300/.284 slash line.

#204 Chipper Jones FC

At first I though this was some type of insert card but come to find out, it's actually part of the base set. Cards 201-220 are part of the "Fan Club" subset. The design is quite different in that the photo is cropped to fit inside a home plate. The stars in the background are gone, replaced with vertical lines in the primary background and two stripes with the primary color of the player's team on each side. This particular card has a red 20th anniversary stamp on it unlike the normal base cards that have a silver stamp. I'm not really sure that makes much of a difference though.

#111 Chuck Knoblauch

After orchestrating a trade from the Twins to the Yankees in 1998, Knoblauch was on the downhill side of his career come 2001. Primarily a second baseman, he was moved to left field when his defense started to slide and he developed problems throwing the ball to first base. 2001 would be his last year in the Bronx, hitting a meager .250 with 9 HRs and 44 RBIs in 600 plate appearances. 

Here's the aforementioned "retro active" pack. Since this was a retail pack, it contained one card labeled as Donruss 2000. Hobby packs contained cards labeled as 1999 Donruss. Regardless, there's only one card in here so it's tantamount to opening a one card pack from a cereal box. Anyway, here's what's inside ...

#2 Alex Rodriguez

And wouldn't you know it, another card of A-Rod, this time representing the Mariners. The design on this isn't bad and I like the concept of getting cards from the "lost years" but maybe those could have been insert cards instead of a bonus pack. I'd say this was a nice comeback effort from Donruss but it felt kind of generic and heavy on star power (and I don't mean star players). Donruss would hang on for a few more years, putting out one final release in 2005 before MLB limited their licensing options. Panini would eventually acquire the brand in 2009 and it would stay stagnant until a third relaunch under the Panini banner in 2014. 

For 50 cents, this was a fun rip but I wouldn't really pay any more than that for a pack.

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

You've Got Mail #67: All Trade Bait, All the Time

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.