Sunday, January 31, 2016

Signature Sundays - Sparky Lyle

Signature Sundays posts were a staple of this blog over the last few years, but in looking back I haven't done one in over two months.  Between the holidays and being constantly behind in trade posts I guess they've just fallen off the radar.  Let's get back on track with a nice autograph from the inaugural Topps Archives release:

Sparky Lyle made his MLB debut with the Red Sox during the 1967 "Impossible Dream" season after working his way up through the minor leagues in the seasons prior.  He was left off the World Series roster that year, but it was the beginning of a successful sixteen season career.  He'd serve out of the bullpen, often times as the closer, for the next four years before being dealt to the Yankees just prior to the 1972 season.

It was with New York that Lyle really made his mark, becoming one of the most reliable relief pitchers in all of baseball during the 1970s.  Sparky was the most important bullpen pitcher for the Yankees teams that won three straight pennants (and back-to-back World Series titles) in the latter half of the decade.  In 1977 he was so good that he won the Cy Young Award, becoming the first AL relief pitcher to do so.

As the years, and more importantly the innings count, began to take their toll on Lyle's arm, the Yankees brought in Goose Gossage as the new bullpen ace and Sparky found himself dealt to the Texas Rangers.  He clung on for a couple more seasons with Texas, Philadelphia, and even a few games for the White Sox at the very end of his career.

Relief pitchers never seem to command the same respect as starters, but I'm still thankful to have this beautiful, bold, on-card autograph of one of the best of his time for my Red Sox collection.  Especially since it set me back exactly $7.  Gotta love COMC!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

I Like More Than Just Red Sox

A couple of weeks back I was the recipient of a very generous bubble mailer from Tim B of I Love the Smell of Cardboard in the Morning.  It was a great example of the fact that I collect much more than just Boston Red Sox cards. 

For example, almost anything really shiny is going to catch my eye, which is probably why I went crazy for the Chrome Update cards that Topps included in those "Holiday Mega Boxes" last year.  I'm trying to collect the entire 50-card set, and this Noah Syndergaard RC was the biggest name I had left to track down!  In fact, I had a copy in my cart on COMC and was making some offers when this package arrived.  Obviously, Tim hit the nail on the head with this one.

I actually received two others that I was missing in this package as well, shortstop Didi Gregorius of the Yankees...

...and rookie catcher Kevin Plawecki of the Mets.  This is another one I had in my COMC cart.  Thanks to this trio, and another handful I picked up online, I'm now just two cards away from putting this set to bed.

Another collecting guilty pleasure of mine are the buyback cards Topps has been inserting in various products for a few years now.  I can totally understand why the majority of collectors are turned off by these things, or consider it sacrilege to put a foil stamp on a vintage card, but I love them.  This one, from the 2015 Topps Heritage High Numbers set, will pair nicely with the standard version of this card I picked up a few years ago now.

Here's another '66 to go with it, from 2015 Topps Update.  I don't get a chance to add buybacks like these to my collection too often, so this pair is greatly appreciated.

Of course, Tim did include some great Red Sox cards in the package as well...

This Classic Best Gold is from Aaron Sele's time with the now-defunct Lynchburg Red Sox.  Hackenbush just featured a few cards from this set on his blog, and I concur that the design is dizzying to say the least.

I'm normally not much of a fan of logo-less, unlicensed cards, but Panini did a great job with the 2015 Diamond Kings set.  It seems like a lot of collectors, at least those whose blogs I read, were fans of this one and I can see why.

Yet another 2015 Topps flagship Red Sox insert that I was missing!

The 2010 Topps National Chicle set was very hit-or-miss in my personal opinion.  I'd say this Ellsbury is middle of the road, I've certainly seen much worse from this set.

This Wily Mo Pena autograph may be from before his time with Boston, but that doesn't mean I appreciate it any less.  What shocks me about this one is just how different Pena's signature looks from the other autographed card that I have of his.  I also find it interesting that I've always seen his first name spelled with just one 'L', like it is at the top of this card, yet his signature here is Willy with two?  Either way, dude could mash the ball on the rare occasion when his bat connected.

Tim knows I love parallels, and I found a handful of them in his latest group of cards.  From 2015 Topps Update I got both the Rainbow Foil...

...and Gold parallels of Rick Porcello.  With David Price as the clear ace heading into 2016, it would be nice if Porcello could settle in and become a reliable third or fourth starter in the rotation, but we'll see.

I'm grateful that Carlos Peguero made last year's Update set, because the four games he played with Boston last season will likely be the only four he ever plays with the team.  He was signed as a free agent by the Cardinals around a week ago.  For only appearing in four games he ended up with a pretty awesome card too!

Here's a much older parallel, a Silver Script from 2000 Upper Deck MVP.  I've got two of these now, both Red Sox players.

Rounding out the parallels is this fantastic Chrome Refractor rookie of catcher Blake Swihart from Heritage High Numbers.  Serial numbered to /566, this is now probably the best card I have of the young Sox backstop.

Oh yeah, and there was one more non-Red Sox card to be found, and a pretty nice one at that:

Just awesome!  Tim, thanks for another killer mailing.  I'm low on trade material at the moment, but when I do make it back to my local hobby shop I will certainly be on the lookout for some items to craft a return package with.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Quarter Box Quartet - All-Time Greats

While I put the finishing touches on a trade post that I don't want to rush, today you get to experience my inability to stay focused in the form of a quarter box quartet.  As is generally the case, all of these came from the miscellaneous quarter bins at my local card shop.

Pretty timely that I randomly pulled this one from my backlog stack just a couple of weeks after Monte passed away.  I grabbed this one, and any other retired players I could find from this Topps rip-off set during a quarter box dig a long time ago now.  An excellent, classic baseball photo.

There was no way this card was not coming home with me.  For a fan of '90s cardboard, what's not to like here?  One of my all-time favorite players in an obnoxious Mighty Ducks sweater against a backdrop that looks like a bad acid trip.  Oh, and it's shiny.  I really need to get back to this card shop soon, it's been too long.

I dubbed this quartet/post "All-Time Greats", but that wasn't entirely honest as this is the one card of the four that doesn't pass that litmus test with me.  Still, I couldn't pass up a rookie card of a very good pitcher from a set that I love for a quarter.

No questioning this guy's place in the history of his sport.  Is there a hockey collector in existence that wouldn't have grabbed this card if they didn't have a copy already?  For me, the gloves are the highlight.  I really wish Panini would get a hockey license again.  Topps too for that matter.  Two hockey cards in this post, neither of them from Upper Deck.  Just sayin'.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

One Card Post - Bag o' Chips

What:  1976 Crane Potato Chip Discs - Carl Yastrzemski
Where:  Jeff S
How Much?:  Free (Jeff is awesome!)

:  I've really toned down my hobby spending thus far in 2016.  You would think less money spent on cards, thus less new cards coming in, would make the hobby less enjoyable for me.  I'm finding it's exactly the opposite though, as I'm using all the time I'd spend browsing around for new cards organizing my collection and forming a greater appreciation for the cards I already have instead.  Today's oddball is a perfect example.  It was sent to me by one of the most generous traders I've ever encountered, my friend Jeff S, and it's a shame it took me as long as it did to give the card its proper due here on the blog.  Thanks Jeff!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Oddballs & O-Pee-Chee

It's been all hockey here on the blog lately, so let's pause today to enjoy some baseball cards courtesy of my longtime trading partner Mark Kaz of This Way to the Clubhouse.  A week or two ago I received Mark's first PWE of the new year, and as usual he didn't disappoint!  This particular package contained some great oddballs, and a healthy dose of O-Pee-Chee baseball, which is a rarity in these parts.

Before we get to that though, we have a pair of cards of old-time greats to lead things off.  The Jim Piersall above is from a Topps All-Time Fan Favorites set.  These releases, perhaps more than any other, make me regret the decade or so that I took off from collecting.  I would have loved to tear into a hobby box or two of Fan Favorites for sure.  Thankfully I have friends like Mark to hook me up with singles like this one at least.

I haven't officially tallied them up, but I'd imagine this Ted Williams Rarities insert has to be one of the last Red Sox inserts I had left to go from the 2015 Topps flagship release.  Nice crossing this one off the want list!

Alright, time to crack into the oddballs.  I was really happy to find a pair of 1981 Drake's Big Hitters in the envelope, and both of them HOFers to boot!  These might be some of my favorite oddball cards of all-time.  Topps printed these up for the Drake's snack food company, and the design is great.  Accompanying Yaz in the envelope... slugger Jim Rice.  In looking at the first couple rows of fans, it seems to me that the photos on both cards were taken during the same game, which is kind of cool.  I'm such a fan of these in fact that I could see myself going after the entire set at some point, especially since the checklist is all of 33 cards.  The other reason I like these so much is the card backs:

Compared to your average oddball release, these are awesome.  Granted, they're pretty much lifted direct from the flagship '81 Topps design, but still.  The only real difference is the card number and information along the top being shifted a bit to make room for the Drake's logo.  I wasn't alive yet in 1981, but had I been I would have been ecstatic to pull one of these from a box of junk food cakes.

Mark posted a couple of nice '80 Topps Burger King cards on his own blog a while back that he scrounged out of a dime bin, and it looks like he thought of me too while browsing around that day.  Very cool, and much appreciated!

Last, but certainly not least, a quartet of O-Pee-Chee stars.  O-Pee-Chee baseball is not something I come across very often at all for whatever reason, but Mark located some real gems for me.  From the '88 set, the Rocket!

A pair of one of the greatest hitters in team history, Wade Boggs, from the '86 release...

...and one from '84.  The Canadian version of a second-year Boggs card is a pretty sweet piece of cardboard to receive as a surprise in a PWE for sure!

To close out this particular delivery we've gotta go all the way back to the '70s!  Love the O-Pee-Chee logo on the baseball here.  You know you've got an older Dewey Evans card when he's depicted pre-mustache!

Mark, you took it to a new level with this one, great stuff!  I managed to get a return PWE fired off earlier this week and I hope it brings you even half the enjoyment that this one brought me!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I Love the '90s - Wave of the Future

After three straight days of trade package posts, let's take a look at some hockey cards I actually picked out for myself.  Not just any cards either, but inserts from the glorious decade that was the '90s!

Having started collecting in the fall of 1989 as a 7-year-old, the '90s are my bread and butter when it comes to nostalgia in this hobby.  Yes, the cards were overproduced, but this decade in particular is responsible for some of the loudest, shiniest and most obnoxious cards ever to be printed.  Now that the years have passed and most of these can be had for pennies on the dollar, it's a lot of fun to go back and complete some of these insert sets at long last.

Today's post focuses on the Wave of the Future inserts from 1993-94 Fleer Ultra.  These were inserted into Series 2 packs, though I'm not sure what the exact odds were of pulling one.  There are 20 total cards in the set, which as the name implies showcases some of the up-and-coming young talent in the NHL at the time.

The design is straight-forward, Ultra logo in one of the two upper corners with player name and Wave of the Future logo in the two lower corners.  The cards are full bleed, with a ripple effect applied to the background behind the player.

The backs are all about the write-ups, with very little statistical data presented for the subject.  You do get a nice portrait photo though, which differs from the front.  As you'd expect from a set trying to predict future stars, there were some definite hits (even a couple HOFers), some total misses, and just about everything in between.

I would venture to guess that the most "valuable" (a relative term for sure!) card in the set is #2, Marty Brodeur.  The folks at Fleer certainly nailed it with this one, I don't need to waste words telling you all about the impressive career that Brodeur went on to enjoy.  Martin is one of just two HOFers found within the 20-card set.

Of course Alexandre Daigle was going to be included.  Though he's generally viewed as a bust in hindsight, this guy was a big name in the hobby at the time after being taken first overall in the 1993 entry draft by Ottawa.  I would have been ecstatic to pull this card back when it was new, nowadays it's kind of comical.

His younger brother Chris is more well-known, but Ted Drury saw over 400 games of NHL action with a few different franchises after wrapping up his collegiate career at Harvard.

Chris Gratton was taken 3rd overall in the 1993 entry draft.  I actually had no idea, or had completely forgotten, that he returned to Tampa for a second stint in 2007, and actually played in the NHL as late as 2009 with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Here's the first real head-scratcher, Milos Holan.  Milos was taken 77th overall by Philadelphia in the 1993 draft, and played a grand total of 49 NHL games (most of those with the Mighty Ducks) before finishing out his career over in the Czech Republic.

Greg Johnson had been picked up by the Wings in trade from the Flyers not long before this set was printed up.  Sort of an under-the-radar guy, I was surprised to learn that he appeared in over 700 NHL games and recorded an even 350 career points.  Far from the worst career of the twenty guys in this set.

The younger brother of Dmitri Mironov, Boris was a mediocre defenseman who also saw action in just over 700 NHL games before hanging up the skates.  Interesting to see him in a Jets uniform as he didn't last long in Winnipeg; he was dealt to the Oilers towards the end of his rookie season.

Jaroslav Modry was drafted back in 1990, but made his NHL debut with New Jersey in '93-94 which is why he's included here.  Modry was pretty much a stay-at-home defenseman, and really found his groove with the LA Kings, with whom he'd play on again off again from 1995 through 2008.

Markus Naslund is better known as a Vancouver Canuck.  After being traded to Vancouver in 1996 he spent twelve seasons with the club, including eight as team captain.  He's one of the more popular Canucks of all-time, and still ranks third in career points for the franchise behind the two Sedin twins.

Though overshadowed by his older brother Scott, Rob Niedermayer carved out an impressive 17-season career for himself at the NHL level.  He came straight to the NHL without playing in the minors at all, and was a key member of the improbable '96 Stanley Cup Finals Panthers team.  He and brother Scott got to hoist the Stanley Cup together in 2007 with Anaheim, which is pretty awesome!

I recently read an article (though I can't seem to locate it to link it here) that claimed Chris Osgood was one of the more under-rated goaltenders of all-time, though I'm sure some would argue he was the beneficiary of the fantastic teams playing in front of him.  I guess you can make a case for him though, his 401 career wins are still good for 10th best in the history of the league, and he did capture three Stanley Cups with Detroit (two of which he was the starting netminder for).  I will always remember him as being the last NHL goalie to rock a standard player's helmet.

I don't have a whole lot to say about Derek Plante.  He did last a few years in the league, and won a Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999, so there's that...

My obvious (and completely biased) choice for best card in the set is Chris Pronger of my hometown Hartford Whalers.  Chris joins Martin Brodeur as the only other HOFer in the set.  In retrospect, the Whalers clearly knew what they were doing when they selected Chris with the second overall pick in the 1993 draft.  Among his many career accolades, the one I find most impressive is his MVP season of 1999-2000.  He was the first defenseman to win the Hart Trophy since the great Bobby Orr.

It's hard to say any player who lasted 13 years in the NHL is a "bust", but I'm sure the Sharks expected more out of Mike Rathje when they took him third overall in the 1992 draft.  He may have lasted even longer if back and hip problems hadn't forced him from the game earlier than planned.

I've said this a few times now, but I always had a thing for Mikael Renberg when I was a kid.  Aside from playing on those awesome '90s Flyers teams alongside the great Eric Lindros, it was impossible not to be impressed by his 82-point rookie season!

To me, the most surprising name in this set may be Jason Smith.  I had nearly completely forgotten about this guy, but he played in over 1,000 NHL games!  He also served as team captain for both the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers.  A worthy choice for inclusion here indeed!

Jocelyn Thibault was taken 10th overall in the 1993 draft.  He was involved in the trade that brought Patrick Roy to the Avalanche, and went on to be the top goaltender for the Blackhawks for a few seasons there in the late 1990s/early 2000s.  All told, he played in close to 600 NHL games and finished with a career save percentage a hair over .900.

The other big question mark on the checklist has got to be the penultimate card on the checklist, Jarkko Varvio.  If his name doesn't ring a bell, it's probably because he played just 13 NHL games over the course of two seasons before returning to Finland.  I don't think there's any way to put it other than Fleer just flat out whiffed on this one.

Closing out the set is well-known Russian star Alexei Yashin.  Taken second overall in the 1992 entry draft, I'm sure the Senators envisioned he and Alexandre Daigle as the cornerstones of their team for many  years to come.  Alexei clearly eclipsed Daigle as the better player, going on to serve as team captain and even finishing second in MVP voting later in the decade.

I hope you enjoyed this walk down junk wax memory lane!  I'm close to completing a few more insert sets from this era which I hope to post here in the near future...
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