Sunday, June 30, 2019

And Stay Outta Woolworths

Remember the scene in O Brother, Where Are Thou where George Clooney gets kicked out of Woolworths? Well, that's what popped in my head when I was researching these cards that were simply called "1986 Baseball Champion Superstars". It turns out these cards were available at Woolworth stores (which is why the random scene from O Brother popped in my head).

Here's the catch though, there are two different Woolworth stores. There's F.W. Woolworth's, which is the original chain of "five and dime" shops in the U.S. (which just so happens to be the store George Clooney gets kicked out of) and there's Woolworths Group which was a goods and general merchandise chain the U.K.

If you look at the bottom of the back of the box, it should hopefully give you a hint as to where the cards were distributed. Look closely and you'll see these were distributed by "Topps Ireland" and printed in Northern Ireland. So, it's entirely possible that these cards were only available in the Ireland branches of Woolworths. Like the Hills cards I've shown over the past few weeks, this is a 33-card set and features some of the top players in baseball.

I can't say I was expecting bright yellow cards to greet me when I opened the box but they did. The photos have the 1962 Topps deal going on with the lower right corner peeling up to reveal the words "super star".

For the most part, I'm seeing lots of posed photos but that's fine with me. Al Oliver looks like it's a picture from either Spring Training or batting practice. Plus, it's a short-term stop and a sunset card all in one as Al Oliver spent his final season in 1985 with the Jays.

I'm liking the variety of players that are featured so far. Yes, there are stars like Gary Carter, George Brett, and Mike Schmidt but there are also players like Al Oliver and George Foster who were on the backside of their careers.

Oh, look, two Reds ... neither of them look too happy to be included. Wille McGee also looks rather sleepy.

Last batch and it features probably my favorite card of the whole set with "Stormin" Gorman Thomas preparing to swing his shillelagh while donning a Mariners uniform. I honestly didn't know Thomas was a member of the M's but according to Baseball Reference, he clobbered 43 homers over parts of three seasons with the M's.

Also, here's what the back looks like. I like the fact it actually has stats and it's just the basics like average, HR, and RBI. That's pretty much all you need for a set like this. Much like the Hills sets, I put these in order and then put them in my oddball sets binder.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Hit Me

In my last post, I showed off some cards in a box set from the old Hills department store from 1989. Well, the next year, Hills came back with one of my favorite oddball sets ... Hills Hit Men (not to be confused with the "South Side Hitmen" of the 1977 Chicago White Sox). Like its predecessor, it's a 33-card set featuring some of the top sluggers in baseball at the time. 

Here's the back. I have to say this box is in much better shape than the other one. It was still in the shrink wrap too. Remember, this was only a buck from the April card show. Here's the cards as they came out of the box.

Starting off good with Cal Ripken, Kevin Mitchell, Eric Davis, and Eddie Murray. The design on this I think is pretty eye-catching with the Hills logo, a baseball bat featuring the words "Hit Men" and the yellow name-plate at the bottom.

Really the great thing about these sets is that you never know who you'll actually find. Fred Lynn is a good example as 1990 was his last season.

As I mentioned with this sets counterpart, I'm planning on putting this in order and sticking it in my "oddball sets" binder as I think it will just look tremendous when paged up.

More good stuff here, including Dave Parker with the Brewers.

The last batch of nine. It's good to see most teams get representation but the Angels and the Indians didn't have anyone in the set. Yet the Padres had three (Joe Carter, Jack Clark, Fred Lynn). I love the Andres Galarraga Expos card, that blue just pops out.

Somehow I also wound up with and extra of the Kevin Mitchell card so that will be going in the trade bin. I figured I would at least get some use out of it and scan the back.

If I had one complaint about this set, it'd be the back. It's very minimal and only features the career stats and a formula for figuring slugging percentage.

Anyway, that's another set of Hills cards. I think these two were the only retail sets that Hills put out through Topps. Next time I go to a card show, I'm definitely going to be picking up more retail sets like this as these are a blast to go through.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Hills Have Eyes

I picked up some of these box sets for a buck each at the most recent card show I went to back in April. Since then, they've been sitting around waiting to get explored. I thought now would be a good time to do so.

This is a Hills Team MVPs set from 1989. It's a 33-card set of some of the top names in baseball at the time. I love these old retail oddball sets from defunct retailers like Hills, Kaybee Toys, Toys R Us,  K-Mart, Revco, etc. There's just something about them that speaks to me. 

Here's the back of the box. I love the fact it's still got the original price on it ($1.97) and the checklist.

Now, as far as Hills goes, I grew up with a Hills store that my grandparents would go to occasionally. My grandma mostly went there because of it being a department store and she was able to get sewing supplies like pins, needles, fabric, etc. I remember going there a few times looking at video games and toys. Ames took over Hills, which was having financial trouble, at the end of 1998 and lasted until 2002 when they met their demise due to money troubles of their own.

This is what the local Hills store looks like now. Over the years, since Ames closed, it's housed numerous discount outlets. I'm not sure if the store itself is still open as I haven't been by there in a long time. 

Anyway, enough reminiscing, here's what the box of cards contained. I'm showing these in the order that they came out of the box.

Some pretty good names here with Orel Hershiser and Dennis Eckersley ... Johnny Ray seems out of place but judging by the stats from the 1988 Angels club, he lead the team in batting average so I can see why he was included.

Oooh! Fred McGriff in the all blue Blue Jays uniform! Yes please!

In regards to the cards themselves, I like the design a lot. The banner at the bottom, the giant Hills logo at the top left of the card. The pictures are pretty good as well. This batch features Andres Galarraga with the Expos and Joe Carter with the Indians, which are always a pleasant find.

Next to last batch here. I love the photo on Mike Greenwell's card with the Green Monster looming in the background.

Final batch here. Only one Reds player in the whole set, that being Danny Jackson, who probably would've won the Cy Young in 1988 had it not been for Orel Hershiser's scoreless inning streak. Jackson won 23 games in 1988, with 15 complete games.

If you're interested, here's the back of the card. Not very impressive if you ask me as it only has the player's 1988 stats with vitals and a brief blurb about their 1988 season.

This was a really cool pickup for a buck and I've got another Hills set to go through, this time from 1990. I think every team had at least one player in the set as well, which is another plus. It'll look even better once I put them in order and page them up in my "oddball sets" binder.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Topps Big League ... Target Acquired

So Topps Big League has been all the rage recently and I decided to bite and grab some from Target during a recent excursion. I could've honestly come up with a witty title for this as well but I think most of the good ones have been claimed already.

Last year's debut issue was nice but I thought some of the pictures were a little dark, as if they were taken on an overcast day or something. That's just me though. This year though, I really like the design. It kind of combines the 1965 Topps flag design with the 1987 Topps wood background. The team logos look tremendous on the flag, although if I had one nitpick, it'd be to use a different color flag on those logos with darker backgrounds (like the Braves logo).

Of course, the allure of Big League is a "bargain priced" set but that's not to say that you won't find some gems. The photos on these cards are worthy of Stadium Club in my opinion. Also, the yellow cards come one per pack, much as they did last year.

Here's some cool horizontal cards as well. I can't get enough of Justin Verlander Astros cards.

With Big League being an in-season issue, there will be cards of players in new uniforms. This one will fall into the "short term stops" category with Jay Bruce having recently been shipped to the Phillies.

Here's another short-term stop and the main card I wanted from this set, especially when I saw that Matt Kemp was jettisoned from the Reds after only 20 games in favor of Nick Senzel. With the Reds, he hit .200/.210/.283 with only one home run and 5 RBIs.

More Reds cards. Scott Schebler was sent down to Triple-A when the Reds called up Nick Senzel and released the aforementioned Matt Kemp. Votto is slowly starting to come around and Jesse Winker has been a great as the everyday left fielder this year. 

Here's a bunch of dudes in old school style uniforms, which is one of my mini-collections. I think my favorite of these is Yonder Alonso in the mid-80s White Sox uniform.

I also got a fair amount of inserts. These are the two insert sets I really like. I didn't care much for the inserts with the caricatures. I set those into the trade box. The "Wall Climbers" set is really cool.

Since I bought a blaster, I got a bonus four-card pack of blue parallels.

Also, I managed to get one of these shiny parallels from both the blaster and the fat pack. The scanner doesn't do justice as to how cool these cards are.

All in all, I really really like this year's Big League offering. Lots of fun inserts, cool photography on the base cards, dudes in new uniforms, dudes in throwback uniforms, short-term stops, and more. I'll definitely be buying more of that.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Diamond Kings of Swing

Leading up to Memorial Day weekend and through part of the weekend, I was down and out with a horrible stomach virus. I was sick from the Wednesday before Memorial Day all the way through the majority of that Saturday before the holiday. I wasn't able to eat real food and I pretty much survived on oyster crackers, Gatorade, and water. 

By that Sunday, I was finally feeling better and able to get out of bed (and actually able to eat food) so the family and I decided to run some errands. As a treat to myself for surviving said affliction, I brought some extra cash and picked up some cards at Target. Topps Big League was out, so that's mainly what I was looking for. I grabbed some but also picked up a couple jumbo packs of Panini Diamond Kings, just for something different.

As is the case with Diamond Kings, there is a healthy mix of legends, current stars, and future stars. Here's some of the legends cards. I've always like the artwork on the cards and the feel of them. They have a "high end" feel for a lower price, plus you get neat cards of old school players.

More legends cards. I think I might have to add Walter Alston to my list of collections. He's from Darrtown, Ohio which is just a hop, skip, and jump away from where I live.

Yes, I know Panini doesn't have an MLB license. As long as the cards are of somewhat decent quality (like Donruss was this year), I'll buy a pack or two. Also, we've got dudes in new uniforms as in Machado with the Padres and Goldy with St. Louis.

There's always a healthy dose of rookies as well in Diamond Kings. I honestly didn't know any of the players on the rookie cards I pulled. These are the four I liked the best.

Obligatory Reds content. That Johnny Bench card is a thing of beauty.

Each jumbo contained a healthy dose of inserts as well as a framed parallel each. 

These are really some cool inserts and they kind of throwback to the old Donruss sets. The Honus Wagner card especially as it's a callback to the 1983 Donruss Hall of Fame Heroes design.

Here's a few other inserts that I got as well. I'm kinda meh on the Masters of the Game cards but I like the Brendan Rogers "squires" insert if I really had to pick one of these.

So that's two jumbo packs of Diamond Kings. Is it a great product to break? I liked the base set cards and the Hall of Fame Heroes Wagner the best. There is something to be had about opening packs and getting legends that you don't see in Topps cards. I'm not going to go buying any more packs of this though, I'll rummage through bargain bins the next time I go to a card show for more.