Saturday, April 28, 2018

Halfway to Halloween

For those of you who have been regular readers of mine for a while, you know that my favorite season is fall and Halloween. Sure, Christmas is great and all but Halloween is the only time of year where you can load up your front lawn with spooky and macabre decorations, find a horror movie on nearly every channel, head to festivals and load up on apple cider, among other things. Heck, back in 2016, I did my own mini-"Halloween Countdown" of sorts where for two months I featured posts about nothing else but Halloween and fall related material.

For Halloween nuts like myself, the end of April marks the un-official "halfway to Halloween" point and, judging by early indications, it'll be one for the record books with Lemax already announcing their "Spooky Town" decorations for the season and an October release date for the new film in the Halloween series already set. Hopefully this trend continues. Oh, what I wouldn't give for Burger King to bring back the Halloween Whopper.

Anyway, for those of you like me who can't get enough of the season, here are a four Halloween things you can do right now to mark the halfway to Halloween point and celebrate accordingly.

1. Watch a horror movie.

This is pretty much a given. Every Halloween season should be filled with as many good horror films as possible, anything from the classic Universal monsters like Dracula, The Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc to old school slashers like Michael Myers, Freddy, and Jason. Heck, even throw Ash from Evil Dead in there for some fun! If you're new to this world, a good entry point would be The Fog from 1980, which is a really under appreciated John Carpenter thriller. After that, then maybe check out the original Dracula with Bela Lugosi, George A. Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead or the original Halloween from 1978. If you're not into horror movies, it's all good too. I won't judge.

2. Listen to Art Bell

Friday the 13th was a sad day. That's the day when the long time narrator of the night, Art Bell, passed away. Way back when I used to work late nights and would be driving home in the late night/early morning hours, Coast to Coast AM was there with me working Friday and Saturday nights mostly it was typically Art Bell hosting. I joined the party late when it came to Coast to Coast AM, as by that time (2003), George Noory had taken over as the primary host. To me, those were the best days of C2C, with Noory, Bell, and the amazing Ian Punnett. On my long drives home, that show was there with me. I listened to all of Art's internet projects, including his ill-fated six week run on Sirius XM in 2013 and his return in 2015 with Midnight in the Desert, with great joy as it took me back to that time in my life. So, if you're into UFOs, science, aliens, crpytozoology, ghosts, the paranomal, and anything else in the realm of the unexplained, I recommend checking out the free U7 Radio stream of classic Art Bell content that runs 24/7.

3. Watch a Bob's Burgers Halloween episode.

I'll admit it, when Bob's Burgers first debuted I didn't like it. I though the whole show was annoying and Bob was the only decent character in the whole thing. Now, it's one of my favorite shows on TV and their holiday themed shows are especially awesome. They've done some killer Christmas and Thanksgiving-themed episodes but every year, when I see their Halloween episode on the schedule, I get excited because they know absolutely how to do Halloween right and the best one they ever did was episode 3 from season 6 called "The Hauntening" as the whole plot of the show it to somehow scare Louise as she mentioned that she'd never been scared by anything ever. Sure, they've done other Halloween episodes and most of them quite good such as "Fort Night", "Full Bars", and the most recent one called "Tina and the Real Ghost" but none of them are as good as "The Hauntening".

4. Begin reading a creepy novel.

Most of my reading can be found in the realm of sports history and while I do crack open a novel from time to time, it has to be from an author I know I like, such as Elmore Leonard. A few years ago, I rewatched The Exorcist from 1973 when it was on Netflix and I forgot exactly how violent and frightening the movie was. Suffice to say, I felt at that time that I needed to read the book. I found it at the local library and tore into it immediately. When I finished it a few weeks later, what I read was more terrifying than the movie. So, of course, I went and found Legion, the follow up book and while it borders more on on being a religious crime thriller than a horror novel, there is a decent amount of the supernatural thrown in. Starting a creepy or horror novel now would be ... well .... a novel idea as if you find a good one, it'll start leading you down the rabbit hole of other works and that will keep you well in tune until fall actually arrives.

There's always a bunch more Halloween stuff you can do like listen to Halloween music, watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and other wacky stuff and I could've added more to this list but I'm already getting super wordy in an article that wasn't supposed to be very wordy. However, I've just given you four awesome things to do to keep those Halloween blues at bay until right around the end of August/beginning of September when the Halloween season officially kicks off.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Blog Bat Around: All-Autograph Team

Well, yet another Blog Bat Around has commenced and it's another one I actually have time to participate in. It's a unique one at that, your "all autograph team". I wasn't too keen on the topic at first but after reading a few different entries in the series, I decided to take a stab. Seeing as I'm not really an autograph collector, I fished through my box that has my hits and otherwise good cards in it in the hopes that I might be able to put together a full nine, which I managed to do. Also, while doing so, I realized I really need to "thin the herd" so to speak in regards to some cards I have in there. 

Anyway, here's what I came up with, I've got a five-man starting rotation, a closer, and a full infield and outfield. I didn't bother with a DH for two reasons ... 1) I'm used to National League style ball where the pitcher hits for himself and 2) I honestly forgot to pick out a DH. That being said, here's what I came up with ...

Starting Rotation
Johnny Cueto
Dennis Martinez
Aaron Nola
Bob Tewksbury
Alex Meyer

I'll be honest, my "goodie box" consists of mostly Reds stuff along with some Bengals and hockey stuff, so trying to find some non-Reds autograph cards was a bit of a task but I found some. While this may not be the most impressive starting rotation ever, Cueto and Martinez are definitely a solid 1-2 punch. Nola is there because there should be a youngish veteran in the mix, Tewksbury provides the finesse, and Alex Meyer ... well, he's there because I honestly didn't have anyone better for the fifth slot.

John Franco

Of the options I found at closer, John Franco made the most logical sense he does rank 5th all-time on the career saves list, made four All-Star teams, had two seasons (1988, 1994) where he finished in the top 20 of MVP voting, and one season (1994) where he finished in the top ten of Cy Young voting. Plus, he owns a career 1.88 ERA in the postseason, so there's that too.

Joe Oliver

I picked Joe Oliver for catcher as he was the first Reds catcher I remember and it was always fun to watch him play. Sure, he never mad any All-Star teams or anything of the like but he played the game hard and won a World Series in 1990 with the Reds. As a catcher, he owns a career .989 fielding percentage and could also fill in as a defensive replacement at first base (or DH) if necessary.

First Base
Kennys Vargas

Speaking of first base, Kennys Vargas will manning first for my team. While I'm not too familiar with his exploits, going by the stats on Baseball Reference, it looks like he's been a part-time player with the Twins for the last few years. I found it a little bizarre as well during Spring Training that the Reds claimed him off waivers from the Twins only for the Twins to turn around and re-claim him on waivers two days later. Currently, he's the DH for the AAA Rochester Red Wings and not on the Twins 40-man roster.

Second Base
Jose Vidro

The speedy second baseman for my squad will be Jose Vidro, who made three All-Star squads as a member of the Expos/Nationals franchise. He would be my lead-off hitter as well. 

Francisco Lindor

I had many options for shortstop but I decided to go with one of my favorite players in the game today, that being Francisco Lindor. Also, this particular card is from a National Baseball Card Day pack that I got from one of my favorite card shops a few years back. The Indians have another good looking squad this year I wouldn't be surprised to see them have a decent run in the postseason again this fall.

Third Base
Zack Cozart

I have exactly zero autograph cards of third baseman so I had to improvise a bit here. I went with Zack Cozart, mainly because he was one of my favorite Reds players over the past few years and the best defensive shortstop we had in a long time. This past offseason though, he left the Reds (as expected) and signed up to play third base for the Angels.

Jorge Soler
Rusney Castillo
Mickey Rivers

I went for a nice selection with my outfield. Soler, Castillo, and Rivers should provide a decent amount of both potential power and speed and Rivers could team with Vidro at the top of the line-up to provide some base stealing threats. Soler could hopefully be middle-to-bottom of the order threat for power. As far as who plays where, Rivers with his speed would be in center, Castillo in left, and Soler in right.

Well, there's my team. It may not be the best team ever, but it's what I could come up with on the fly.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A COMC Anniversary Present

The sixth wedding anniversary for my wife and I is this week and every year, she lets me do a little splurge on cards as an anniversary present. She gets video games, I get cards. It all works out. This year, instead of driving 45 minutes up to Dayton for the monthly Nutter Center card show, I decided to do something I haven't done in a long time, that is place a COMC order. I've had a bunch of stuff on my watch list on COMC so I decided to finally cave in an order from it. Since my wife and I have been together for 8 years (married for six), my budget was $80, ten bucks for every year we've been together. Along with stuff on my watch list, I searched around and found a few other neat cards as well.

I mentioned back in my blog bat around post I was thinking of putting together the 2002 Upper Deck Vintage set. While I haven't fully committed just yet, I did buy these six cards as a starting point in case I decided to take the dive. Plus, it's hard to resist cards of Hideo Nomo with the Red Sox, Fred McGriff with the Cubs, and David Ortiz with the Twins all for about 50 cents each.

While I'm on the subject of 2002 Upper Deck Vintage, this particular card was a hot commodity when that set came out. At the time, I was working in a card shop and I was building the set via packs. When I finally got this card out of a pack, I was thrilled. At the time, the Beckett priced it at about $25 because of it being an error card. Since then? Well, less than a buck now.

And speaking of Upper Deck Vintage, here's a random Harmon Killebrew card I bought from the 2003 issue. I'm guessing this design, which pretty much ripped off 1965 Topps, may have gotten them in a bit of trouble. Regardless, it's a pretty cool card with Killebrew sporting the road blues and the Twins flag in bright yellow. I might have to track down more cards from this set as well.

From faux vintage on to real vintage. The Glenn Beckert card was one I needed to put towards my 1974 Topps Washington error cards. I've only got a handful of them left now to complete the whole team set. I also nabbed this 1961 Topps Ted Kluszewski since it shows him in a White Sox hat but lists him as a member of the new Los Angeles Angels.

Speaking of Big Klu and the Angels, I came across this card which was too good to pass up. It's not often that I can get a relic card of his for a decent price, especially considering everything around here is Reds related so finding a relic card of his from the tail end of his career is certainly cool.

Another thing I found while I was browsing through the Upper Deck Vintage cards were the memorabilia cards. I thought the look of them was pretty cool so I added this Randy Johnson card to my stash. I don't recall getting any relic cards out of packs back in the day so I can honestly say this is the first UD Vintage relic card I've ever owned.

COMC seems to be the only place where I can get some decent singles of local teams. Here's a few from the 90s-era of the Cincinnati Cyclones back when they still played in the IHL. These were two of the most reasonably priced Cyclones cards on COMC and I couldn't pass them up. Jaroslav Nedved, while I've heard that name before, I can't remember from where. Going by the stats on, Nedved only played two seasons in the states, one of which was with the 'Clones. Paul Lawless on the other had was a grizzled vet who had seen his last six games of NHL action during the 1989-90 season with Toronto. He resurfaced with the Cyclones during the 1992-93 season and and stayed with the team until the 1996-97 season before he joined the Austin Ice Bats.

One team that used to be around that isn't anymore is the Dayton Bombers. This is the first and only Dayton Bombers card I currently have in my collection. I would like to add more but I don't feel like paying $12.95 plus shipping for a team set on Ebay. I'll just keep my eye out on COMC for random cards to pop up. Anyway, the Bombers were an ECHL team that was in existence from 1991-2009. They decided to fold up and release the franchise back to the ECHL in the summer of 2009 after the IHL Dayton Gems showed up in town. They made the Kelly Cup finals in both the 2001-02 and 2006-07 seasons. 

Shane Doan was one of my all time favorite hockey players to watch. He spent his whole career with the Winnipeg/Phoenix/Arizona franchise and retired at the end of last season. Up until now, I had zero cards of him during his rookie campaign with the original Winnipeg Jets. There were a few different ones available but this was the best looking one, at least in my opinion.

Some much needed O-Pee Chee Cincinnati Stingers cards for my team collection. I definitely prefer the look and the pictures of the 1976-77 cards to the 1975-76 cards as the 75's are pretty basic looking. 

I also grabbed a few cards for my defunct teams collection. First, a card of Gilles Meloche, one of the top goalies for the California Golden Seals. The Seals were part of the NHL's 1967 expansion and they were a troubled team from the start, never drawing well at the gate as they moved from San Francisco to Oakland, was plagued by ownership issues, and ended up in the hands of the Gund Brothers. The Gunds, who were from Cleveland, moved the team in 1976 to their hometown and named them the Barons. After two seasons, the Barons ended up merging with the Minnesota North Stars and remain the last team in the four major sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) to fold.

The one thing I love about COMC is that it's a place where you can get relic cards on the cheap, such as these two goalie cards featuring jersey patches from NHL All-Star Weekend in Nashville a few years ago. I also couldn't pass up the chance to get a nice Devils relic cards in the Ilya Kovalchuk/Travis Zajac dual-jersey card and the Patrik Elias card.

Here's another one of the shiny O-Pee-Chee Platinum die-cut cards I like so much, plus it's Joe Sakic as Quebec Nordique.

I love it when I can find vintage cards of old school stars for pretty cheap. This 1968-69 Alex Delvecchio card only set me back a few bucks. Sure, it's got some paper loss on the front and isn't in all that great condition, but I've never really been a stickler for condition on vintage. Just so long as the card doesn't look like it's been through the wringer, I'm usually good.

I bought exactly one football card, that being this card of John Avery of the Chicago Enforcers of the XFL. A jersey card from a player of a one and done league? That's too much of a novelty to pass up. 

I'll close this out with a batch of some nice basketball cards. Yes, I've said in the past I'm not much of a basketball collector but there are exceptions and Jerry Lucas is one of those exceptions. I tried to get cards of his that didn't feature the same picture over and over, as I've noticed that's a bit of a problem when it comes to Panini and the older players, so I think I did pretty good.

Another player I like to search out from time to time is Oscar Robertson. Again, Panini likes to use the same picture over and over, as evident by the two cards on the bottom, but still these are nice cards of an NBA legend and of the Cincinnati Royals. 

Speaking of Oscar Robertson, here's a card I had my eye on for a long, long time. I waited until the price dropped on it to a point where I would be ok buying it. It was the most expensive card of the whole lot I've shown so far, coming in at $6.50, but at that price, I just had to add it. 

That's a wrap on my giant COMC order. I'd say for my budget I did pretty good. While I still like going to card shows (the June Nutter Center show is on my radar for Father's Day), it is nice to order from someplace different now and then. Now, I have to scour COMC for more cards and update my watch list.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ripping Some Junk Wax Packs

What to do? What to do?

I've got a handful of junk wax packs laying around from repacks I've opened recently and I'm at a loss on what to do with them. Should I rip them and put them in individual posts? Or should I just tear into them and then show off the findings all in one post.

I know, these are troubling times, right?

I think probably for the better part of my sanity, I'll rip them and share the findings all in one post here. I do have some hockey ones as well but I'll save those for another time, these will be all baseball and, boy, do I have some winners here ... 1991 Fleer Ultra, 1991 Donruss Series 2, and 1988 Donruss.

Let's go from least intriguing to most intriguing and start with 1988 Donruss

I have a supposed complete set of this I picked up at the community yard sales last year for a mere three bucks that I have yet to go through. Not even a Danny Tartabull Diamond Kings card can save this batch of five. The borders and posed shots just make this feel dark. Give me the gaudiness of 1990 Donruss over this any day.

Things improve a little bit here with Mike Witt and Juan Samuel. One positive thing I always liked about this set was the use of the team logo in the bottom right.

And the last six of this pack, probably the most interesting batch. Take a close look at Mickey Tettleton, he's got a hung hunk of chaw in his mouth. This batch was very Brewers heavy with Robin Yount, Bill Wegman, and Dan Plesac. I always like the picture on the Jerry Hairston card, even as a kid.

As you can see, not much to get excited about since it's 1988 Donruss. Moving on, one of my personal favorites of the junk wax era, it's 1991 Donruss!

I've said before that I much prefer the blue border series 1 over the green border series 2. However, I'm slowly warming up to series 2 and I like that Donruss tried something new by giving each series a different border color. The photos are also much improved from 1988. The team logo is still there too, albeit in the bottom left corner. I also feel there is more star power here in general, even if the cards aren't worth the paper they're printed on, case in point Dave Justice and Will Clark as the first two cards out of the gate. 

Oh cool, Ozzie Guillen and Curt Schilling cards! Plus, it's Schilling in a bright orange Orioles uniform. 

The final five of the pack and look, there a Mo Vaughn Rated Rookie plus another cool Orioles card of Randy Milligan. That's some 1991 Donruss series 2. Overall, not a bad pack and I got some pretty neat cards. If I'd had opened this pack in 1991, I think I would've been satisfied.

Now, onto the final break, a pack of a product I've never opened before, that being 1991 Fleer Ultra.

So Fleer tried to get into the "premium offering" game in 1991 by debuting Fleer Ultra and I'll admit, I'm a little underwhelmed. Sure, the design is worlds better than the main set that year but the nameplate at the bottom reminds me of 1991 Fleer football and it still feels a little bland.

So far, Kirby Puckett is the best card of the pack. The Barry Bonds card is part of the ten-card Ultra Team insert set. 

Nothing here to get excited about really.

Again, still nothing to get overly excited about although I guess a Rick Aguilera card is better than nothing. There was also a sticker included in the pack although I forgot to photograph it.

So it turns out that the pack I was most excited about was the pack that yielded some of the least fun. In order of worst to best, I'd put these as 88 Donruss, 91 Ultra, and then 91 Donruss as the best. I guess this could be considered a pack war of sorts but I don't see it that way. I just see it as a excuse to rip some old junk wax packs. This was fun though.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

You've Got Mail #85: The Collector

Over the years I've found one truth about card collecting to be evident ... there is no wrong way to collect. What works for one person will not work for another person. Some may be deeply into team collecting or player collecting. Hey that works. Others, like me, may be more scattered around the map where I collect a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Recently, frequent blog commenter and author of the simply title blog "The Collector" Chris dropped me an email about wanting to do a bit of a swap. I agreed and soon there after a rather large envelope was dropped on my doorstep by the completely unfriendly mailman, who I tend to believe collects nothing but sneers while he's making his rounds. While I won't hit on everything that Chris sent, I'll touch upon the highlights for me.

These Topps Finest cards I've never seen before and they're pretty neat cards. The Reds from 94-97 had a pretty formidable team with a solid line-up and some pretty good pitching. I often think that people forget about Pete Schourek and John Smiley being part of that rotation. Eddie Taubensee was a solid defensive catcher as well. 

I always dug Jose Rijo and I thought it was so cool when he made his comeback in 2001-2002. While he wasn't the same power pitcher he was in the early 90s before he got injured, it was still pretty remarkable to see him comeback from all those injuries and pitch another season and a half. Fun fact, he was the starting pitcher for the last game at Cinergy Field/Riverfront Stadium. Speaking of players who came back from injuries, Devin Mesoraco is healthy this season for the first time is what seems like forever. However, he's been supplanted in the depth chart by Tucker Barnhart, who won a Gold Glove last season. 

Old school Reds cards are always welcomed too. 1981 Topps is one of those sets that most people tend to forget about as is falls right in between two really nice sets, 1980 and 1982, and it's one I don't really see a lot of singles available from. I think that might have a lot to do with the fact there wasn't a very strong rookie class with Tim Raines, Harold Baines, Kirk Gibson, Fernando Valenzuela, and Bob Walk being the top RCs available. This particular card was not one of the top rookie cards in the set as none of these guys would up being ... um, well ... household names. I'll be setting this card aside to do a standalone post on it one of these days.

This is my first experience with 1991 Fleer football and I'm not fully convinced that it's an improvement over it's baseball cousin. Sure, the bright yellow border is replaced by a green border but there is nothing in the background except for a generic sunset color. The name plate on the bottom looks like it was done on a typewriter.

On the flip side, these are some pretty awesome looking cards. The photography on these Fleer Ultra cards is just phenomenal, especially for 1992. The Bengals themselves were not good in 1992, their first season under Dave Shula. Tim Krumrie recorded 4 sacks that season along with 97 tackles and Tim McGee had 35 receptions for total of 408 yards on a Bengals squad that finished 5-11 that year, good enough for dead last in the AFC Central.

One of my side collections is "shiny cards" and do these ever fit the bill. I don't get the chance to buy much O-Pee-Chee Platinum, mainly because singles are impossibly hard to find around my area, but I do love getting them in trades. There's really no good reason I haven't added Mike Smith to my official hockey player collection, I think that might have to change here soon. The card that really takes the cake of these in the Jaromir Jagr team logos die-cut. The picture just really doesn't do it justice.

Chris also hit upon two of my main hockey player collections. First, these two cards of a young Shane Doan. This past season was the first season is as long as I can remember without Doan at the helm of the Coyotes as captain and I think they felt it, finishing with 70 points (29-41-12 overall) and the second worst record in the league. They do have a nice foundation with Clayton Keller, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Max Domi along with Derek Stepan at center and Niklas Hjalmarsson on defense so it'll be interesting to see where they go next year.

Long time readers will know that Martin Brodeur is my top hockey player collection. His cards make up about half of my Devils cards alone and these are some really awesome adds to the collection. While I'm not out to get every card of his ever, I'll keep getting cards of his until I feel I have a decent amount. That's pretty much the way I manage every mini-collection within the collection, once I feel I have a decent amount of a certain thing, then I ease up.

One of the final aspects of my collecting is teams, both old and new. I like collecting defunct teams because it tells the history of the sport through cards. Such as these 1991-92 NHL Pro Set cards of the  long gone Hartford Whalers. While I'm not too familiar with these particular players, I'll be looking them up at some point.

As far as current hockey teams, the Devils are definitely my favorite. They made it into the playoffs this season as the first wild card but got assigned the buzzsaw known as the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. As much as I would like to see it, I don't think they'll get past that round. Here we've got a few Devils past and present with Cory Schneider, Adam Henrique, and Joe Nieuwendyk to put the bow on this trade package.

While there was a ton of other stuff Chris included that didn't necessarily make the cut to be featured here, I appreciate all that was sent and it afforded me a nice amount of quality quiet time to sort these. Thanks for the trade Chris!