Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pack Rip - 2009 O-Pee-Chee Rack Pack

Here's a quick pack rip of a 2009 O-Pee-Chee baseball rack pack. This is a prime example of why my collection always seems to be in disarray and I never seem to complete many sets despite being a "set collector". I have no intention at all of completing this set, and I've seen plenty of scans on other blogs, so there was no mystery as to what the cards looked like, however I inexplicably found myself unable to walk away from the card aisle in Target without one of these in my basket. I figured at $4.99 for 24 cards it was a good way to at least accumulate a few for trading purposes and maybe even get a Red Sox card or two to keep. Besides, with the impending lawsuit from Topps maybe these won't be readily available in a few months time...

There are no odds on the wrapper but thankfully it ended up being 24 legit O-Pee-Chee cards with no "Target Exclusive" space fillers or anything like that. Looks like you get 23 base cards and 1 black parallel card per rack pack. If you were going for a base set and didn't care for the black parallels, these rack packs would be the way to go. You'd have to buy 5 retail or hobby packs to end up with 23 base cards, which would cost you $2 - $3 more than this rack pack. Let's see what I got...

#105 - Francisco Liriano - Minnesota Twins - Again, I am not covering new ground here by any means, but I am not a fan of these studio shots at all. Almost half of the cards in this pack are boring studio shots. I think I stood in front of this same backdrop for my 8th grade class photo. This is probably the single biggest reason I've decided not to pursue this set...

#123 - Brian Wilson - San Francisco Giants - I will admit that I have no idea who this guy is, but I've included this card to illustrate how a posed shot can be done correctly. Even though it's not an action shot, this is still a cool looking card. Brian's showing off his split finger fastball (I think). Behind him we have actual grass and dirt and sky, much better than the Liriano card.

#357 - Russ Springer - Oakland Athletics - I don't like the close up head shots in this set either, in fact this Russ Springer card might very well be the single ugliest card I've pulled out of a pack so far this year. This card alone was enough to discourage me from chasing this set.

#387 - Freddy Sanchez - Pittsburgh Pirates - I know dayf at Cardboard Junkie and possibly a couple of others have shown this card or one similar depicting a player in front of what appears to be the entrance to a meat locker or something of the sort. I don't get it...

#475 - Hanley Ramirez - Florida Marlins - This was one of only two or three cards that I actually liked, and brings to light another complaint I have...a lack of horizontal cards. In fact, in my 24 card pack this was the one and only horizontal card I pulled. The photography here is pretty bland as well.

#569 - Ricky Romero - Toronto Blue Jays - This was the lone "short print" that I received, and once again it's a boring studio shot. Ricky actually had an excellent game in his last start Friday night, taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning.

#550 - Jonathan Papelbon - Boston Red Sox (Black Parallel) - This is the one card that saved this pack from absolute disaster, and the only one I plan on keeping. I like the look of the black parallels a bit better, and the photograph on this card is actually half-way decent for a change. Jonathan's celebrating his 7th straight save with his signature fist pump as the Red Sox look on from the dugout in the background.
All in all this was a very dull pack. I'm not that impressed with the set, but it was worth the $4.99 to satisfy my curiosity and prevent me from blowing $45 on a hobby box of the stuff. I like the card stock but the studio shots are hideous and the "retro" parallels just being a black variation versus a true tribute to the 1971 Topps/O-Pee-Chee set is a total let down. Had Upper Deck gone with a true retro parallel set like they did for their hockey release, I would be buying this up as quickly as I could find it. For now I'll stay away...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fedorov to Finish Career in Russia

I'm a couple of days late in posting about this but I was bummed out to learn late last week that Sergei Fedorov has signed a 2 year contract with the KHL and will apparently finish his career in Russia. Fedorov was always one of my favorite players growing up when he was a key member of the dominant Detroit Red Wings teams of the 90's.

Fedorov follows in Jaromir Jagr's footsteps as another high profile player to leave for Russia to finish his career. I think it reflects badly on the league when some of it's most recognizable players jump ship to finish their careers elsewhere. It's a shame that we won't see Sergei skate off the ice one final time in an NHL jersey.

What do you think? Does Fedorov's departure make the NHL look bad, or do you not blame him for wanting to return to his country of origin to skate in his final professional games?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Card of the Month - June 2009

1974-75 Topps - #169 - Kansas City Scouts Team Card

For this month's card of the month, I've chosen this beauty from the 1974-75 Topps set symbolizing the entry of the Kansas City Scouts into the NHL. If you didn't realize this team ever existed, it would be hard to blame you. They were around for only two seasons before their owners, nearly 1 million dollars in debt, relocated the team to Denver where they became known as the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies didn't last too long either, and eventually became the modern-day New Jersey Devils franchise.

The Scouts were named after a famous statue (the "Kansas City Scout" obviously) that overlooks downtown Kansas City. Their two seasons in the league were absolutely abysmal. In their first season they lost their final 21 games of the season. In their second and final season they won only a single game out of their final 44 games!

Even though the Scouts are generally seen as an expansion failure, and it's hard to argue otherwise, this card to me symbolizes an unique period in NHL history and is a welcome part of my collection.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Collecting Whalers - 1995 Skybox Emotion Geoff Sanderson

Growing up in Connecticut and playing hockey year round for over a decade as a kid, it was only natural that I became a fan of the local NHL franchise, the Hartford Whalers (I lived in the middle of the woods so by local I mean an hour plus drive from my parent's house). A couple of times each year, my parents would scrape together some cash, pile me and my two brothers into my mom's gigantic Chevy Astro van, and head into the city to catch a Whalers game. This started a fascination with the game of hockey that continues to this day.

Every so often I'm going to show a random Hartford Whalers card from my collection. It could be a certain player I have memories of, a set I like, or maybe a card I feel like showing just because. I'm going to start off with this...

1995 Skybox Emotion - #77 - Geoff Sanderson

I thought of this card when I pulled the Geoff Sanderson from the pack of Pro Set cards that Captain Canuck sent along. In my biased 10-year-old mind Geoff was going to be the next big superstar in the NHL. In some ways, you can't blame me, as Geoff played all 82 games in both his second and third years in the league, eclipsing the 40 goal mark in each of those seasons. He never really panned out though, and once the Whalers moved to Carolina he ended up bouncing around the league, playing for the Hurricanes, Canucks, Sabres, Blue Jackets, Coyotes, Flyers and Oilers. He's not officially retired yet, but is without a contract for the upcoming season so far.

I am more interested in the Skybox Emotion set than the Sanderson card specifically though. I like that Skybox at least tried to do something different when they released these cards, and I seem to remember them being fairly popular at the time. Even though the whole emotion thing is kind of cheesy, I really think the cards themselves hold up even against modern set designs. They're printed on nice thick, glossy card stock that I most closely associate with the mid-90's Flair baseball releases. I think the effect of bringing the player to the foreground and sort of blurring the background and washing it out with a color that fits the jersey of the featured player worked really well. The images are really crisp as well, in fact they look better than a lot of the stuff you'll find on shelves now. I may have to attack this set pretty soon, it would look awfully nice in a binder.

I seem to recall a basketball release of this stuff, and possibly a baseball set also. Does anyone know for sure?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

2009 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductees

Congratulations to Brian Leetch...
Brett Hull...
Luc Robitaille...
and Steve Yzerman...
for being elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Tuesday! The league's selection committee elected the maximum of 4 players this year, and it's hard to argue against any of these 4 selections. On a side note, Brett Hull joined his father Bobby as the only father-son tandem to both be inducted.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Junk Wax from Captain Canuck

When Captain Canuck from Waxaholic sent along the Milan Lucic jersey card that I featured in my last post, he also included some junk wax, which is always appreciated. He included 3 packs altogether, but the 1991 Donruss Series 2 baseball pack was so absolutely awful that there's not one card I think is worthy of inclusion here! I'll show you some highlights from the other 2 packs instead...
First up is a jumbo pack of 1992-93 Pro Set hockey. This is actually the third one of these I've gotten from Brian, and at 31 cards a pack I'm probably 1/3 of the way towards a set by now. I'm embarrassed to admit that I call myself a hockey card collector yet I never owned any of these before I received these packs recently. 1992 was right smack in the middle of my first round of collecting, and I have enough 1990 and 1991 Pro Set cards to stretch from here to China, so I'm not sure how I missed the '92 release...

#63 - Geoff Sanderson - Hartford Whalers - Nice! I was really hoping for a Whaler. Geoff was my brother's favorite player when we were growing up, and I can distinctly remember how fast he was in a few of the Whalers games I was lucky enough to see in person.

#107 - Mark Fitzpatrick - New York Islanders - This certainly qualifies as a common, but I love the horizontal action shot. I've always like horizontal cards, and horizontal goalie cards even more so.

#139 - Mario Lemieux - Pittsburgh Penguins - Another horizontal shot of Mario Lemieux behind the Blackhawks' net (pretty easy to tell this was in Chicago because of the Chicago Tribune advertisement on the boards and the Blackhawks sock that you can see through the net).

#184 - Doug Gilmour - Toronto Maple Leafs - I think Doug has always been under-rated here in the States. Most of my friends who are just casual hockey fans don't consider him much of a star, but he was a great player. I submit as evidence his 1992-93 campaign, where he notched 127 points with the Toronto Maple Leafs yet still won the Selke trophy for best defensive forward.

#232 - Scott Niedermayer - New Jersey Devils - Rookie - Scott is probably one of the few players from this set who is still playing in the league today. There were actually two of these cards in the pack if anyone's interested. Don't everybody respond at once though, I know the demand for 1992 Pro Set Scott Niedermayer cards is through the roof.

#265 - Randy Carlyle - Winnipeg Jets - Milestone - Randy is probably the single player that I associate most with the Winnipeg Jets franchise. 1,000 career games is a pretty impressive mark.

Team Leader 9 of 15 - Nelson Emerson - St. Louis Blues - I believe these team leader cards are inserted one per jumbo pack. I'm a bit perplexed as to why Nelson Emerson was chosen to represent the St. Louis Blues rather than Brett Hull though...
The other pack included was a 1990 Fleer basketball pack. I don't really collect basketball at all, and never have, but that actually made opening this pack pretty enjoyable. I think these are the first basketball cards I've ever shown in a year and a half on this blog...

#3 - Moses Malone - Atlanta Hawks - I really like the photo on this card, those goggles are killer.

#96 - Orlando Woolridge - Los Angeles Lakers - I have no idea who this guy is, but the angle they shot this photo at makes him look like an absolute giant.

#130 - Kenny Walker - New York Knicks - Best haircut in the pack, hands down...

#144 - Rick Mahorn - Philadelphia 76ers - I scanned this one because of Larry lurking in the background.

All Star #2 of 12 - Larry Bird - Boston Celtics - Finally, the best card in the pack and the only one not going onto my trade list. As a Boston sports fan, I was pretty psyched to pull this insert of Larry Legend.
Thanks for the packs Brian, much appreciated!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pack Rip - 2003 Topps Stadium Club

I purchased this pack almost 8 months ago, forgot about it and finally got around to opening it this weekend. Why did I buy it? Well, it was less than 2 bucks, it's a set I've never seen and don't own any of, and Stadium Club generally has pretty decent photography. Only 6 cards in the pack, so I've scanned all 6...

#6 - Derek Jeter - New York Yankees - I like the horizontal card, but the blurred out player in the foreground (who I believe is Jason Giambi) kind of detracts from the overall look.

#92 - Manny Ramirez - Boston Red Sox - This card is staying in my collection, as opposed to being added to my trade list, for one reason and one reason only. It's a Red Sox card that I don't already have. Ugh.

#103 - Hank Blalock - Texas Rangers (Future Star) - Pretty good rookie to get I suppose. He had string of 3 very good offensive seasons from 2003 to 2005 but seems to have cooled off and been bitten by the injury bug.

Royal Gold #43 - Luis Castillo - Florida Marlins - The Royal Gold parallel card isn't a whole lot different from the base cards, just gold foil (which scans better) and it's about the thickness of 3 regular cards. Probably a cheap parallel designed primarily to deter pack searchers.

#41 - Jeff Bagwell - Houston Astros - In 2003 Jeff had a great season, batting .278 with 39 HR and 100 RBI. I'm sure most people wouldn't have predicted he would be totally out of baseball just two years later...

#18 - Johnny Damon - Boston Red Sox - A pretty good shot of Johnny leaping for a fly ball with the Green Monster looming in the background. I wish Topps hadn't cropped in the photo so closely but had instead gone for a horizontal card.
I was pleasantly surprised with this pack. I'm always a little reluctant to purchase a product with only 6 cards per pack, but two Red Sox plus a Jeter and a Bagwell made for a decent pack. Aside from the Damon and Ramirez these cards are up for trade...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bruins Sweep at NHL Awards

Congratulations to Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Claude Julien who all captured awards at last night's NHL ceremony in Las Vegas. Claude Julien won the Jack Adams award for "head coach who has contributed the most to his team's success". I wonder how the New Jersey Devils, who recently dumped Julien as their head coach just before the playoffs began, felt after watching him propel the B's to the #1 seed in the East this year.

Zdeno Chara won the Norris Trophy for top defenseman in the NHL, breaking Nicklas Lidstrom's 6 year streak and joining Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque as the only Bruins to be recognized as the league's top blue-liner.

Finally, Tim Thomas took home the Vezina as the league's top goaltender. I don't think this was a big surprise, as Thomas led the league in Goals Against Average and Save Percentage. The only major knock against him was that Manny Fernandez made a good deal of starts, but Thomas still played 54 games which is plenty in my mind. It was great to see a stand-up guy like Thomas, who has struggled to stay in the league consistently and even played over in Finland for a while, take home the hardware.

Since I usually feel obligated to include at least one scan in every post, here's a Milan Lucic jersey card that just arrived from Captain Canuck. We made a bet a couple of months back on the Montreal Canadiens/Boston Bruins first round playoff series, and thanks to the sweep by the Bruins this Lucic card is now a welcome part of my collection. Best of all, Brian had already added a good scan to Zistle, saving me the trouble!

I also received some junk wax which I will be showcasing soon. I sent him a few packs in return and right now you can vote on which you'd like to see him open first. Thanks for the great cards Brian and here's hoping the Ghostbusters pack wins out!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Completed Set - 2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces Baseball

Yes, the title of this post is correct, and I just finished my 2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces set. For some reason I acquired most of this set, then sort of forgot about it and let it fall by the wayside. While it's far from perfect (I'll get to that shortly), it's definitely one of my top 10 favorite modern baseball sets and I was extremely pleased to finish it recently.

The Good: The paintings are beautifully done. Something about the way they are painted (the slightly exaggerated action shot of Ty Cobb above is no exception) really makes me appreciate the history of the game. The large number of Hall of Famers on the checklist is another plus. Even the canvas-like card stock is just so fitting for these cards. A 90 card checklist and no short prints make this set extremely collectible, even for the casual collector, which is something I really appreciate.

The Bad: I guess the number one debate regarding any set featuring some of the best players from baseball's storied past will always be the checklist. In this case though, I don't think any sane baseball fan would claim that Upper Deck got it right. I think they got sucked into trying to take a gamble on some younger stars to make the set more tempting or to appeal to a more widespread audience, but the set suffers as a result.

I can appreciate that some players were included more for their involvement in a single classic moment that is permanently etched in the minds of millions of people, like Kirk Gibson rounding the bases, than they were for a Hall of Fame career. Here are a few examples I'd love to hear someone from Upper Deck defend...
  • There are NO cards of Hank Aaron. Baseball's true home run king. Yet Hideki Matsui gets TWO cards.
  • There are NO cards of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio or Pete Rose, yet Delmon Young (who is batting .288 with 1 HR and 18 RBI in 42 games this year) is included because he happened to finish 2nd in A.L. Rookie of the Year voting in 2007. The ACTUAL A.L. Rookie of the Year in '07, Dustin Pedroia? Not included.
  • Some of the games greatest pitchers are omitted. No Cy Young, no Warren Spahn and no Nolan Ryan. Kei Igawa, who only two years removed from the release of this set has yet to pitch an inning in the majors, gets a card though...
Anyway, onto the goods. Here are 3 of my favorites and then 2 of the worst...
This has got to be one of the coolest Ozzie cards I've ever seen. While capturing him mid-flip would ordinarily be a bit cliche, I think this card is perfectly done.

This might be my single favorite painting from the set. The Cubs jersey with the baby blue background, the 'fro and moustache, the lighting. What a nice looking card!

A simple pose from Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr. He seems to jump right off of the card.

Prime example of a checklist mishap...

This is the ugliest card in the set hands down. Whoever sat down, looked at this painting, and decided to give it the go-ahead should be fired. The background makes no sense. How about some fans, or the sky, God-forbid a baseball diamond? Any of these would've been preferred over this mess.
You can find scans of all of these cards in the Zistle library.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Where Do You Buy Cards Online?

There really aren't many great hobby shops in my area, and as a result I buy probably 75% of my cards online. All of these online purchases over the last two or three years have come from 3 places...eBay, Dave and Adam's Card World, and Sportsbuy (great for singles and helping to finish sets).

While I've been very satisfied with all 3 of these sites, I'd love to have a couple more options for price comparison, etc. Can anyone recommend any websites that they've used? Thanks in advance for any advice!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pack Rip - 2009 Topps Heritage Buyback

Topps has pretty much lost me when it comes to Heritage. A couple of years ago when I first got back into collecting I thought it was the greatest thing ever, but after two hobby boxes and some odd packs of '07 Heritage I was still so many short prints away from completing a set that I became discouraged. Except for the occassional pack here and there I try to ignore this product, as much as I like it. I know there are quite a few others that feel the same way.

That being said, 1960 Topps is one of my all time favorite sets, so when I saw this buyback card on eBay for under $2 I couldn't resist. I wasn't exactly expecting a Mickey Mantle or Hank Aaron given that you can basically see right through the wrapper, but I was pleasantly surprised to pull this...

Vada Pinson isn't exactly a superstar in most people's minds, but he had a great and lengthy career in the majors. He lasted 18 years and led the National League in hits twice, doubles twice and triples twice. His 2,757 career hits are the most of any eligible player not in the Hall of Fame.

I have to say though, part of me wishes I just picked up a standard '60 Topps issue card of Vinson. I'm not sure I like this trend of Topps branding their original cards with a big foil logo. What's your opinion? Are buyback cards a good way to keep people interested in older cards and the history of collecting, or are perfectly good vintage cards being ruined? I have to say that I like what Upper Deck did with their recent Goudey buybacks much better. Just include the vintage card and skip the foil stamp...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Let's Go Pens!

Stanley Cup finals game 7 is scheduled to start at 8 P.M. tonight from the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, and it doesn't get much better than this if you're a hockey fan (it would be better if it was Bruins/Wings though)!

I hope some of you who don't consider yourself hockey buffs will watch. For casual fans or anyone who doesn't know a whole lot about hockey, this is a perfect chance to introduce yourself. These two teams feature some of the most prolific and exciting offensive players in the league, and the goaltending has not disappointed either.

For my two cents, I'll be rooting for the Pittsburgh Penguins. I've seen Detroit win more than enough Cups in my lifetime, including just last year. I think Malkin, Crosby and the rest of the Penguins team deserves to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup. Not only that, but I would love to seen the Penguins stick it to Marian Hossa for jumping ship to join the Red Wings.

How about you? Will you be watching tonight? If so, who would you like to see come out on top?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

1953 Topps Project - Post #36

#122 - Elmer Valo - Philadelphia Athletics

A quick look at Elmer Valo's career statistics would probably leave you less than impressed. Valo played 20 seasons in the majors, although he did quite a bit of pinch-hitting towards the end of his run, and didn't eclipse the 100 game mark in any of his final five seasons (1957 - 1961). A closer look reveals that he had definitely had a few impressive seasons.

It was the legendary Connie Mack that apparently first saw potential in Elmer, largely due to his ability to reach base. Valo first played in the majors at an incredibly early age, cracking the Philadelphia Athletics' lineup in 1940 at the age of 19. While he surpassed 500 at-bats only once in his career, he made the best of the opportunities he was given, posting a .400+ on base percentage an impressive 12 times. Valo was also the first player ever featured on the cover of Baseball Digest.

A couple of random facts to close things out...Valo was the first American League player to hit two bases loaded triples in the same game. As far as I know, he is also the only player to date to suffer through 2 separate 20 game losing streaks (he lost 20 straight on the A's in 1943, and 23 straight with the Phillies in 1961).

Set Status: 36/274 (13%)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Krejci Signs!

Great news today as the Boston Bruins locked up my personal favorite active hockey player David Krejci to a multi-year deal. While the terms have not been disclosed yet, it's great to know that this talented young player will be a Bruin for the forseeable future. Hats off to the B's management for signing him before he became a free agent later this summer.

Monday, June 1, 2009

1953 Topps Project - Post #35

#15 - Bobo Newsom - Philadelphia Athletics

I'm returning to the 1953 Topps project with a card I picked up a long time ago, Bobo "Buck" Newsom of the Philadelphia Athletics. Bobo's career spanned 20 seasons in the big leagues, which is about how long it's going to take me to finish this project, if I ever do.

Newsom actually put together some pretty impressive career statistics, although the totals are no doubt inflated by the fact the he stuck around in the majors so long. For every good year he had, he had a bad one, or a couple of average ones, and the result is that his career stats are about as bad as they are good.

He amassed an impressive 211 career wins, good for 89th all time and finished with a sub-4.00 ERA. He lost even more games than he won though, dropping 222. Looking at his stats, your jaw might drop when you read that he has 2,082 career strikeouts. You'll see a number greater than 1,700 in the walk column though. He won 20 games 3 times, and he lost 20 games 3 times. I can't help thinking of the Seinfeld where Jerry keeps breaking even and Kramer dubs him "Even Steven".

Sadly, Bobo passed away due to cirrhosis of the liver at age 55, just 9 years after hanging up the spikes.

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