Monday, March 31, 2014

Opening Day!

Today the Red Sox kick off the 2014 season in Baltimore with a 3pm EST start. It's no surprise that Jon Lester is the Opening Day starter, let's see if he can shut down Chris Davis, Manny Machado and the O's...

To celebrate the start of the season, here's a slick looking red hot foil (aka "blood rain") parallel that pays homage to Lester's second of two wins in the World Series last year.  After the way this guy performed in the post-season (2-0 in the Series with both wins coming against St. Louis' ace!) I really hope the team can sign him to an extension during 2014...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rules Are Made To Be Broken, Right?

I'm usually very regimented when it comes to my card purchases.  If you've checked in here even semi-regularly over the past couple of years you've heard me drone on and on about staying away from busting wax and instead using my hobby funds to focus on cards I know will fit my collection.  For the most part I've stuck with this philosophy, and it's paying off very nicely.  In fact, I've stayed committed to this so strictly that if my records are correct the only retail wax purchase I've made in more than 6 months was a single (underwhelming) blaster of 2014 Topps Series 1.

Well, on Friday I decided to reward myself for a long week on the road for work.  I needed a few things at Target and while there grabbed a single 20-card jumbo pack of Heritage.  Feels good to scratch the itch every so often.

Would I pull a Real One autograph?  No.

How about a Target exclusive colored parallel?  Negative.

My hopes were the same as they are whenever I take the rare opportunity to open a Red Sox cards, anything else that satisfies my random collecting interests, and hopefully some trade bait.

Before we get started, I have to say that the value in these hanger packs is better than I expected.  $4.99 for 20 cards works out to a quarter a piece which isn't too shabby by modern standards.  At least that's what I told myself.  Alright, here's the top half...

A hat-less Rick Porcello starts things off.  Yay.  This guy is certainly durable with 5 straight seasons of 27-plus starts before age 25.

At this point, just two cards in, I'm already starting to think this wasn't worth the five bucks.  Don't recognize either of these two, and I'm an AL guy.

Alright this is slightly better, only because it's kind of comical.  I'd seen this one posted on roughly 700 blogs before pulling it.

Don't recognize these two either...

Okay here's where the pack got much better.  This is a Chrome Manny Machado, which looks pretty slick in person and is numbered to 999.  As a Red Sox fan I've had the pleasure of seeing this guy play plenty of times and he's definitely going to be a star for many years to come.  I think I'll hold onto this for now unless someone's got a Red Sox chrome parallel to offer up.

Here's my lone insert.  I'm a big Marichal fan, and Colon has certainly had a lengthy and sometimes successful career, but I'm not generally a fan of combo cards that mix current and retired players.  This one is off to the trade pile.


Second former Red Sox player in this pack. Mark's 2012 season with Boston was rough to say the least, so it was nice to see him rebound so well with the Bucs last season.

I can't stand this guy's stupid "arrow shooting celebration" after a save.  Something about the Tampa Bay Rays on the 1965 Topps design just seems wrong to me.

We finish it off with a Mets 2014 Rookie Stars card.  At least I can send this off to The Card Raven or This Way to the Clubhouse.  Halfway home and, at least for this collector, I've got a dud other than the Machado.  The second half of the pack turned things around though...

Good omen right off the bat, my best card from the first section in base form.  I'll be hanging onto this one as well for now...

Here's a guy for whom many are predicting a dramatic decline in 2014...

Hackenbush, yours if you want it!

I kind of like the classic batting pose on this Adam Eaton, but not enough to save it from being relegated to the trade box.

Definite trade bait...

Man, I really got an Orioles hot pack here.  The Machado, Machado chrome, and now this Chris Davis, which is a short print:

Part of me wants to keep this one just because of the amazing season Crush enjoyed last year and the fact that that's reflected in the stats on the back.  I'd be willing to part with it for a Sox SP though, or if it's needed by anyone I trade with (Douglas, Mark?).

Score!  17 cards in and I land a Red Sox card.  It is definitely going to be interesting to see how Pierzynski does in Boston this year, but if he has an average season he should have no problem putting up comparable numbers to what the Sox got out of the position in 2013.  I was happy to pull this one because I think it's the first card released that has A.J. with the Red Sox.

A card only a set collector could love.  Trade bait.

This one really sealed the deal in terms of making the pack a win.  Two Red Sox out of 20 cards is about all I could ask for.

Finishing things off, a great shot of an under-rated player.

In the end, that turned out decent after all.  Maybe I should try a pack or two a little more often...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Signature Sundays - Three Hall-of-Famers from the '50s!

I'm starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the 2012-13 Panini Classics Signatures autographs, which means the few cards I have left to show are relatively big names.  This week I'm featuring three players who all began their NHL careers in the 1950s, and who are all members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

After playing a few games with the Rangers in the two seasons prior, Andy Bathgate joined the team full time for the 1954-55 season.  Andy was a star at right wing, regularly ranking near the top of the league in points scored.  He was always in that upper tier of points but seemed to come up just shy of leading the league year after year.  The closest he came to capturing an Art Ross Trophy was 1961-62 where he tied Bobby Hull for most points in the league, but lost in a tie-breaker due to the fact that Hull had more goals.

After many successful individual seasons with the under-performing Rangers, Bathgate was dealt to Toronto in '63-64 and won his only Stanley Cup with the Leafs that season.  He did capture a Hart Trophy as league MVP in '58-59 when he reached the 40-goal plateau which was quite a feat in that day.  Later in his career he spent a couple of seasons in the WHL, where he won two championships and was named MVP of that league as well.  He even came back and played a handful of games in the WHA before hanging up his skates for good.  Bathgate's sweater hangs above the rafters at Madison Square Garden, and he was enshrined in 1978, before I was even born!

Next up is Norm Ullman, whose card has one of my absolute favorite photos from this set.  I love everything about this shot of a helmetless Ullman with brown gloves circling in front of the referee, with the unique lighting and shadows spilled across the ice surface.  Norm began his NHL career with Detroit in '55-56.  He was able to rack up a ton of points, in part I'm sure as a result of playing on a very talented Red Wings team (centering a line with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay couldn't have hurt).

Ullman never captured any individual hardware like Andy Bathgate did, but he was just about a lock for at least 20 goals a season and he did once pace the league in goals scored (1965).  He scored close to 500 career goals, which is insane given the era he played in, and was nearly a point-per-game player over the course of his NHL career.  Norm was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982, the year I was born.

Last but not least, we have Pierre Pilote.  Pierre began his NHL career in '55-56, same as Norm Ullman.  He was a stud blue-liner, and during his prime he was consistently in the running for the Norris Trophy as league's top defenseman.  He finished runner up for the award in 1962 (the year he was named Blackhawks team captain), then won it for three straight years from 1963 to 1965, before returning to runner-up status in '66 and '67.  You could make an argument that Pierre was the top defenseman of the 1960s.  I kind of think of him as bridging the gap between Doug Harvey and Bobby Orr in terms of best D-man in the NHL.

Pilote's #3 was retired by the Blackhawks (he shares the number retirement with Keith Magnuson), and he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.

Although many modern day NHL fans may not be familiar with these names, and although all three players hung up their skates long before I was born, I applaud Panini for including these guys on the checklist for this set.  These three gentleman were important contributors to the game's long and glorious history, and I'm honored to have these on-card autographs call my collection home.

These are the 96th, 97th and 98th autographs I've been fortunate enough to land from this fantastic set.  Believe it or not, I've still got a few more left to come in future Signature Sundays posts...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

With Friends Like Mark, Who Needs Heritage

Recently Mark from This Way to the Clubhouse reached out to me out of the blue.  I've been enjoying his blog for at least a year or two now so I was happy to hear from him, and I was even happier to hear that he had some Red Sox cards looking for a good home.

2014 Topps Heritage has consumed the blogosphere in recent days.  I haven't looked around for any, not sure if I might pick up a pack or two down the line just to see the cards in person.  In the meantime, I got my '65 Topps retro fix in the form of this fantastic 2003 Upper Deck Vintage No-mah.  This beauty was staring right at me from the top of one of two team set bags chock full of Sox that spilled out of the bubble mailer.

Even the back is very well done.  This is my first card from this set and it sure makes me want to grab the other Red Sox to complete my team set.

This package hit on a whole bunch of team sets that were in sore need of help.  When it comes to '80s and '90s junk wax I do have a lot of the Red Sox cards, but there are always more.  I'm getting to the point with some of those sets where I have more than I don't, so sending me cards from this era can be risky.  Mark took the time to look at my collection on Zistle before sending his package though, and as a result I needed every single card in this first team set bag save two.

Early '90s Finest is the best.  I've got a complete '93 set, which I really should get around to scanning and posting one of these days, but did not have this '94 Sele.

Here's one I needed from Upper Deck's last-ditch baseball effort.  A wise photo choice that really masks the lack of logos well.

Whoops, John got separated from his '88 Score counterparts in the scanning and cropping process!

This Roger Clemens Mini Leaders was on my want list, as it was the final of the four Red Sox cards I needed from this set.  Team set complete.

I really haven't bought much in the way of new product the past couple of years, but Mark was kind enough to get me right up to speed on a number of sets.

With last year's Archives set, I picked up the four Red Sox autographs and that was it.  Now I have some base cards to join them.

Any new Ted Williams card is a good card, period.

Speaking of firsts, my first 1997 Topps card featuring some guy named Pavano.

A great card from what is easily one of the best sets Upper Deck churned out during its time with a baseball license.

Here's one from a less memorable Upper Deck flagship set, my first card from the 2003 release.

This guy was basically a giant bust in Boston, although to be fair injury played a large part in that.  He'll be in pinstripes this coming season.

Traded to Arizona in the summer of 2012.  Has since played with the Indians and is back with Houston, the team with which he began his MLB career, for 2014.

Dealt to the Rockies (where he also began his MLB career) this past off-season.

I'm not sure what it says about the Red Sox that none of the four players on the 2012 Topps cards I received in this package are still with the team.  I guess that's just 21st century baseball.

One of the best names in Red Sox history, Gar Finnvold.  Sadly Gar played just a handful of games early in 1994 before injury, then the player's strike, ended his season and his career.

Another set I had none of (other than the three cards I claimed in Thorzul's 'Trade Me Anything') is 2013 Topps Update Series.  Mark was kind enough to send me my first three...

This guy's an example of how not to handle free agency.  I'm hearing the Tigers now.  First Iglesias and now Drew, Detroit sure likes our former shortstops.

Hey, a guy who's still with the team!

Aside from the Garciaparra that I led off the post with, this might be my favorite card from this portion of the package.  Bradley is one of three younger guys (Middlebrooks, Bogaerts) that the team is expecting big things from if they're going to succeed in 2014.

In closing, some Heritage.  Mark was kind enough to send all these cards (and more which I'll be featuring later) without asking for anything in return.  As you know, that's not how we operate in this hobby so I've already got a return package started that I hope to have in the mail before the weekend.

Mark, keep up the great work, I thoroughly enjoy reading all of your posts, and thank you for the awesome Red Sox cards!
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