Monday, June 17, 2019

My Trip to Baltimore (or Playing Catch with Xander Bogaerts)

This past weekend the lovely Mrs. Shoebox Legends and I packed and headed down to the city of Baltimore for a little fun and relaxation in the nice summer weather.  I'd never been before, but my wife had gone a couple of times for work and highly recommended it.

Since we only stayed for a couple of nights I sprang for a nice room at the Royal Sonesta, right on the water in the Inner Harbor as you can see from the pic of our room above.  We had a nice large bay window looking right out onto the harbor; a beautiful view and it was nice waking up to the bright sunrise each morning.

I found the city a really fun place to explore, at least for the few days we were there.  It was a great place to explore on foot for sure.  I have a ton of pictures I could post from things like the impressive National Aquarium...

...or the best crab cake of the ones I tried during my stay, at Duda's, which is over in the Fell's Point area.  This is a sports card blog though, not a travel blog, so I'll spare you all of that right now and cut to what you most likely want to read!

Yes, one of the many reasons that we chose this past weekend for our excursion is that the Red Sox were in town for a three game stint against the Orioles.  We got tickets to the middle game of the series, which was a 4:05pm first pitch on Saturday.

Baltimore has some widely-publicized issues with crime and drugs to be sure, but I have to say that the areas around Inner Harbor, Fell's Point and Camden Yards where we spent the majority of our time were truly beautiful.  I'd had catching a ballgame at this park on my bucket list since the stadium was first built in the early '90s when I was a rabid kid baseball fan.  It took me nearly 30 years to cross it off the list, and I have to say that it did not disappoint!

I grabbed this shot of the Babe Ruth statue that stands at the Eutaw Street entrance a couple of hours before game time, before it got very crowded, and as you can see it was a beautiful day for baseball.  Sun was shining, and temps were in the low to mid-80s.

We had a couple of hours to kill before game time, and spent part of that visiting the nearby Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.

My wife had encountered the museum on a previous trip and tried to get me a souvenir or something along those lines (she's the best), but they were closed at the time.  This time we knew they were open, and we followed the trail of baseballs painted on the sidewalk to lead you from Camden Yards to the museum, which is pretty genius.

Along the way we passed the Brooks Robinson Gold Glove statue.  My wife got a kick out of his "Human Vacuum Cleaner" nickname, which she'd apparently never heard before despite living with a sports-obsessed husband for nearly 20 years now.

The museum itself isn't all that large, given that it's housed within the relatively small row house where Ruth was actually born.  There are a few small rooms with some very cool memorabilia, like these MLB game-used bats of Ruth's from the early 20th century.

There were quite a few Ruth autographed balls too, which of course elicited some remarks from my wife about The Sandlot, one of her all-time favorite movies.

A cool experience all in all, probably takes all of an hour to see everything if you're really taking your time and reading into all the items, even less if you breeze through quickly.  I'm glad to say I've been there though, and the cost was a reasonable $10 admission.  Besides, I certainly don't mind donating some money to help preserve baseball history in any way.

I wouldn't travel all the way to Baltimore just to see the Babe Ruth Museum, but if you're in town anyway especially for an O's game it's certainly worth a drop by.  No baseball cards of any sort in the small gift shop there, bummer.

As for the game itself, I had a blast.  Oriole Park at Camden Yards was just as unique and interesting a ballpark as I'd hoped.  As you can see, I got seats on the third base line, just a hair inside the bag and only about 8-10 rows back from the field.  Having lived in the crowded and expensive Northeast my whole life, it's always amazing to me when you can get good seats to a game like this and not break the bank.  I could never even sniff these kinds of seats at Fenway without paying probably 5x what I did for these.  How refreshing.

I chose these for two reasons.  First and foremost, I really wanted a view of the iconic right field warehouse and the city skyline.  Secondly, in looking at a map I surmised that the third base line would likely be in the shade by first pitch.  I've got a lot of Irish DNA and don't exactly tan, what can I say?  The view was exactly what I'd hoped for, and I was indeed in the shade from the very first inning on, so these seats were a win.

As a beer fan, one of the things I liked about the stadium is that they had a couple of taprooms from the Flying Dog Brewery located right in the ballpark among the other concession stands.  While sipping on my IPA before the game I noticed they'd come up with these creative riffs on '80s baseball cards to advertise some of their beers, which of course earned them some major points in my book!

The Truth Imperial IPA is represented on 1989 Fleer...

...and Numero Uno Mexican Lager gets the 1984 Topps treatment.  Love it, though I think an artist at Panini may have commissioned these as they used the same exact photo for the main shot and the small inset (burn!).

The game itself was great for a Sox fan, as they handled the Orioles fairly easily with Chris Sale on the mound (in fact, the swept the three-game series over the weekend).

One thing I did not realize when I bought the tickets is that after the bottom half of each inning the Red Sox players would often toss the game ball from the last play into our section on their way into the dugout. 

At the conclusion of the third inning I had a great experience when my favorite player for years running now, Xander Bogaerts, tossed a game ball into the crowd and I caught it one-handed (didn't pack a glove).  I gave it to a hopeful little kid with a glove next to me, because I'm not a cruel jerk.  Still, really cool as I've never gotten my mitts on a game ball before, plus it was kinda surreal "playing catch" with my favorite player so to speak.  Worth the trip down and the price of admission for that alone I'd have to say!  Wish I'd thought to snap a quick pic before handing the ball off but oh well, I have my wife as a witness.

Xander came up in the next half inning, and I jokingly told my wife that if he scored it would be due to my good karma in giving the ball away to a young fan.  Well, he did get to third (depicted here), so I guess that's something.

So yeah, super fun weekend and I'd highly recommend this city if you live anywhere remotely close by.  It took us 6 hours each way driving from Rhode Island, not bad at all.  After all of the long distance travel we've done over the years it was refreshing to do a road trip for a change and not have to worry about things like security delays at airports, or cancelled flights.

Oh, and since this is a sports card blog after all, here's an appropriate card from my latest COMC shipment, which was waiting for me in the mailbox after work today.  Watching Cal break the streak in the '90s was one of the things that really made me a rabid baseball fan as a kid, and I'm grateful that I finally got to experience the town where he thrilled the fans for so many years.

One more thing, if you do make a trip to Baltimore I cannot recommend the Blue Moon Cafe enough for breakfast.  Apparently they have a crazy long wait at times (there are less than ten tables), but we went right when they opened Sunday morning and made out fine.  That's not a picture from a magazine or anything, that's my wife's actual french toast ("Cap'n Crunch French Toast" at that!), and my greasy skillet of meat and eggs and biscuits and gravy in the background.  Yum.

Yep, Baltimore is pretty great.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Scratchin' that Itch - More Wal-Mart Re-Pack Packs

Let's open a few more packs from my recent re-pack purchase from Wal-Mart's online store, shall we?  If you missed the first two installments you can check them out here, and here.

Today we'll bite off another twenty packs, in groups of five.  First up, couple packs of 2015 Topps flagship, a 2010 Topps Update, that atrocious Upper Deck Future Stars set, and some Allen & Ginter.

Amazingly, given how picky I am, all four products produced one keeper card for me.  I thought the 2015 Topps set was a breath of fresh air, and I picked up way more of it in pack form than maybe any other set since I returned to collecting back in 2007.  Still have a few holes in my casual set build though, and Sean Doolittle plugs one of them!

Here's that UD Future Stars set.  This design does nothing for me, I have no idea what Upper Deck was going for here.  I was fortunate enough to pull a new Red Sox card though, and I'll never turn down one of those whether I like the set or not.

2010 Topps Update produced a Sox need too, in the form of this early Josh Reddick (his rookie card came in the Update set the year prior).  Josh has enjoyed a very solid under-the-radar career, and recently surpassed the 1,000 hit milestone!

The Allen & Ginter pack had something nice to offer as well, with a Cal Ripken Jr. short print.  I know folks get tired of seeing retired players recycled ad nauseam and I do too, but there are a handful (Ripken, Griffey, Nolan Ryan) that never get old to me.

Next group of five seems a little more interesting at the outset with more Ginter, 2013, 2014 and 2017 (Update) Topps, and an older Fleer Ultra pack.  The 2013 and 2014 flagship Topps packs yielded nothing of interest to me...

...but I did pull yet another Ripken card from the Ultra pack, this one from an insert dedicated to Cal.

The Allen & Ginter pack wasn't bad either, as I scored this black-bordered mini of Big Papi.  Ortiz is apparently continuing to improve after that shocking shooting, which is great to hear.

The 2017 Topps Update pack was a perfect one for me, as it yielded two new Red Sox cards with pitchers Doug Fister...

...and Ben Taylor.  These are my first Red Sox cards of either player, and the Ben Taylor is especially cool given that his Red Sox career consists of just 14 appearances during the 2017 season.  If they put a few more cards like this one in the Update set each year maybe we wouldn't all miss Topps Total quite so much.

Lastly, I pulled this Yoan Moncada RC, one of two cards of his on the 2017 Update checklist.

Next group of five, 2010 Topps Update 2007 UD Future Stars and 2017 Topps Update all make a return.  Joining the mix is 2007 Upper Deck and 2008 UD Baseball Heroes, a set I really enjoyed at the time.  I pulled nothing of note that I intend to keep from either '07 Upper Deck or the Future Stars pack.

2010 Update, just like the previous pack, resulted in a new Red Sox card though.  Another somewhat obscure player too in utility guy Darnell McDonald.  These little-remembered Boston players have been the highlight of this purchase for me so far.

Also got this Topps Million Card Giveaway promotion card, which I guess counts as half of a new Red Sox card since it prominently features a '72 Yaz?  To show just how long I've been at this, here's my blog post from back in 2010 when I actually redeemed some of these codes!

The 2017 Update pack strangely enough yielded the other Moncada RC from the set.  He's depicted with Boston here even though he'd already been dealt and played with the White Sox just because this is referencing his MLB debut at the end of the 2016 season.  Yet another new Sox card for me!

Even the UD Baseball Heroes pack was a success.  I pretty much completed the 200-card base set way back when, but got rid of the majority of them over the past six months as part of my mega-purge of cards.  I did hold onto the Red Sox cards though, and I did not have a copy of this Yaz parallel until now.

Last chunk of five for tonight.  UD Future Stars, 2013 Topps and 1991 Upper Deck were all total duds.  Did find one interesting card in the 2015 Topps pack:

I've talked many times about my Pearl Jam fandom on the blog, and I've even got plenty of Pearl Jam cards in my collection, but this is the only MLB-sanctioned card featuring anyone from the band that I'm aware of.  I already had a copy of course, but this card seems to be in demand.  If I asked you to guess what the cheapest available copy on COMC was going for, would you have come up with a number north of $18?  Me neither, but that's the reality...

The '05 Donruss pack might have been the best of this re-pack lot so far.  Though it's post-trade, I'm always happy to add a new Garciaparra card to the collection.

I'm very amused by this one because it has such a '70s feel to it in terms of photo selection.  You just don't see a lot of modern cards with cars or parking lots depicted in the background.

That pair was interesting and all, but the star of the show in this pack was not one...

...not two...

...but three Red Sox cards, all new to the collection!  From a great era in team history as well, as this set hit the shelves mere months after the breaking of "the curse".

I did alright with this batch, 19 new cards for my collection out of 20 packs.  A dozen new Red Sox cards too, which I'm quite pleased with.  Overall that's 50 keepers for my collection at 61 packs in.  I'm not going to retire on anything that's spilled out of these wrappers, but at about 40 cents a pack the entertainment value has been good so far.

I'll be back with another batch soon.  To all you hockey fans, enjoy the Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 tonight!  Go Bruins!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Buyback Franken-set: Shlabotnik Coin Toss

I've got just a small window of free time here before Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals starts.  Certainly nowhere near enough time to scan and post the entire package of cards I received recently from my longtime hobby friend Joe Shlabotnik.  Instead, let's wade in slowly with a mini Buyback Franken-set post featuring the pair that were included with the delivery...

1968 Topps #512 - Grant Jackson

A classic pose, bright vibrant colors, and just enough background mystery to keep things interesting make this '68 Grant Jackson a very compelling card.  I really, really like this one.  As soon as I thumbed across it in the stack I got a big smile on my face.  This card has to make the binder, right?

Not so fast, says Dalton Jones.  A tough call here, as I'm certainly a fan of the quirkiness that is 1973 Topps, and this tilted beauty is a fine example from that release.

At the end of the day though, there's just something about that Grant Jackson card that speaks to me.  Jackson wins out!

1993 Topps #215 - Pat Howell

Pat Howell played well over 1,100 games in the minor leagues, including stints in Mexico and Taiwan.  He did briefly appear with the Mets in 1992 (thus this card in the '93 Topps set), but it amounted to just 31 games, and would wind up being the entirety of his MLB career.  Pat's got some competition for the franken-set as well...

...with Mark Langston's '87 release.  Rough match-up for Howell, as Langston enjoyed a successful 16-year MLB career with multiple All-Star appearances and Gold Glove awards.  Plus, how 'bout that uniform?

That was an easy call.

One card that lost in a route, another that fought its way into the binder.  50/50 is actually good odds at this stage of the project.  Thanks so much for this pair Joe, and sorry it took me so long to post them.

Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy the Cup Finals game tonight hockey fans!

Franken-set Progress: 649/792 (81%)
1990 Topps Buyback Set: 118/792 (14%)
"Rejected" Buybacks: 588
Total Buybacks in Collection: 1,355

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

One Card Post - Classic Griffey

What:  1989 Classic Travel Edition #131 - Ken Griffey Jr.
Where:  LCS
How Much?:  Dollar box

Why?:  Always loved Classic cards.  The brand rose to prominence during the heart of my childhood collecting run, and as a consequence so many of their cards hold some nostalgic value for me.  While I'm not sure it's considered a rookie card proper, I wasn't going to leave this rookie year Griffey behind in a dollar box.  Seems like a solid pick-up, with the cheapest copy on COMC right now listed at over $3...

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Johnny's Trading Spot Red Sox - Part 3

Starting to get a little backed up on trade packages here.  I just received a well-traveled envelope from Angus that I need to get to in fairly short order, and I have amazing packages of cards from Joe Shlabotnik and John Miller still to post about as well.  So, tonight let me finish off the balance of my last package from John at long last!

If you don't follow John's blog (you should!) you may not be aware that he picks up some amazing bulk hauls at card shows.  In fact, the cards in this package were actually the winnings from a contest I won a while back to guess how much he'd spent on one such large lot.

Well, I suspect I was the recipient of some Red Sox cards here that came from one such lot.  That's my guess anyway given the sheer number of 2000 Topps "Home Team Advantage" parallels I received here.

I love an obscure parallel, and in one fell swoop John took care of over 2/3 of a Red Sox team set here!

I received 11 of these in total, which leaves just 5 more to track down.

How did the Red Sox fare in 2000, their 100th season as a franchise?  Well, they finished 8 games over .500 at 85-77, but the Yankees were a couple of wins better and Boston missed the post-season.

For whatever reason this photograph looks nothing like the way I remember Trot Nixon.  If it weren't for the name on the jersey I'd swear they got the wrong player here.

Half a new Red Sox card is just as good as a whole new Red Sox card to me.

If the name Brad Baker doesn't ring a bell don't be too hard on yourself.  He wound up playing in as many Major League Baseball games as I have.

A nice pensive shot of Carl Everett here, showing off the 1999 All-Star Game shoulder patch.  It's visible on a few of these looking back over them, but most prevalent on Carl's card.

That's a wrap for 2000 Topps HTA.

There were a smattering of other assorted Red Sox in the package that I still haven't gotten to though, like this Leaf Limited Jeff Suppan.

Or this Donruss Zenith Johnny Damon.  I'm not knocking this one because I appreciate each and every new Sox card, but I can't imagine this is a design that many collectors really fell in love with?

Ah, much better!  It's amazing to see the contrast in brightness and overall visual appeal across this last pair of Damons.

New-to-me '90s Topps Gallery.

John sent such a great variety of Red Sox cards that there were many from my "dark ages" of collecting (roughly 1997-2007).  Sets I'd never seen before, or had no recollection of if I had, like this Fleer Genuine.

A nice-looking Diamond Kings card here.  Makes me wish Panini had a license for their present-day revival of this set.  End the Topps monopoly!

A couple of minor league cards here from the Trenton Thunder.  I enjoy most all minor league cards, but these are especially cool because I saw the Thunder play quite a few times against the Norwich Navigators AA team back in the day.  Obvious Budweiser sign there in the background.

The other Thunder card features Dernell Stenson, who met a tragic end.

Another release I'm not familiar with.  The folks at Pacific lost me a little with this one if I'm being brutally honest.

Andy Shibilo is another player who never made the show, but got some cardboard regardless.

Pretty sad story here as well with Josh Hancock, some depressing cards in this stack just by coincidence.

Sweet, Topps Total!  A Topps Total parallel no less, and from a time when you could actually buy these in packs, without a computer and an internet connection as a prerequisite.

I love a good oddball, and this package had a nice pair of Topps temporary tattoo "cards"!  HOFer Wade Boggs represents Boston on the first...

...and backstop Tony Armas on the other.  Awesome stuff.

This has been a scan-heavy post here, but we've finally reached the end.  With these added to my growing collection on The Trading Card Database, I'm up to 3,860 unique Red Sox cards and counting!  With the trade packages I still have to get to and the huge backlog of cards that I'm still shuffling over to that site from Zistle I'll be crossing the 4,000 card threshold any day.

John, thanks so much for the great contest win package.  I promise to get to your more recent package very soon here.  To everyone else, thanks for stopping by!
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