Monday, August 28, 2017

A Night to Remember

After going all in on Red Sox Topps NOW cards during the inaugural season last year, I vowed to stay away in 2017.  I've managed to stick to my guns, but I did make an exception a few weeks back.

On June 23rd, the Sox retired David Ortiz's #34.  It's not every day that your favorite franchise retires a number, and the team did a nice job with the ceremony.  There were plenty of former greats on hand for the proceedings, and Mother Nature cooperated and provided a beautiful summer night for the celebration as well.

Love the shot on the back of this one, featuring Ortiz as he emerged from the dugout to 35,000-plus appreciative fans.

As I mentioned, there were many former Red Sox stars in the house, including Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, Yaz, and of course Pedro Martinez.  Pedro spoke for a while, and the two really seemed to be enjoying the moment.

Of course Topps, in their infinite love for all things David Ortiz, decided to make not one but two Topps NOW cards commemorating the event.

So what was it about this pair that caused me to break my self-imposed Topps NOW ban?  Well, this is the first time a Topps NOW card has been issued for a game that I actually attended!

Here's a picture I took from our seats during the number retirement ceremony.  You can click for a larger image, but this was taken during Ortiz's speech.  You can see the retired stars branched out on either side of the podium, the #34 cut into the center field grass, the Green Monster and iconic Citgo sign, and the very early stages of a sunset.  Not bad for an amateur photographer with an iPhone, helped by the fact that we had really solid seats.

My best friend of 25 years and his longtime girlfriend joined my wife and I for the game.  The Angels were in town, but we did not get to see Mike Trout play as he was out with his thumb injury at the time.  The Sox got up early and never looked back en route to a 9-4 trouncing of LA.  Throw in some post-game celebrating around Boston, capped off with some really late-night pizza, and it was a night to remember for me.  Thanks to Topps I will do just that any time I see these two cards...

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Pair of PWEs from Longtime Friends

I've got a pair of PWE trades to share with you on this sunny Sunday, both of which actually arrived a few weeks back now.

First up is longtime friend of the blog Mark Kaz.  Mark isn't keeping his own blog any longer, but he's still collecting away and accumulating as many Mets cards as he can get his hands on.  We've been exchanging cards for literally years now, and his latest envelope certainly did not disappoint!

We start off with a couple of starting pitchers from the past with a nice X-Fractor of Dice-K...

...and a logo-less, yet still very shiny, card of the great Pedro Martinez!

How about a crazily die-cut insert of Blake Swihart from Bowman Chrome.  Blake saw his playing time decrease markedly in 2016, and this year he never even made the big league roster.  Will we ever see him in a Red Sox uniform again?  Who knows, but I like this busy insert nonetheless.

Here's a nice Pudge from the 2001 Upper Deck Hall of Famers set.  We've seen this photo on quite a few different Fisk cards over the years, but to me it never gets old.

Jon Egan was a "can't miss" prospect with home run power in the mid '00s.  Unfortunately he did miss, and was out of baseball after just a few seasons of minor league ball.  Mark appears to be slowly turning me into an Egan super-collector, as he sent along the base version of this Bowman card a while back, and now the Gold parallel to accompany it!

Ah, Will Middlebrooks, what could have been!  Will clubbed 32 home runs in his first 169 games with Boston over 2012 and 2013.  He hit just 11 combined from 2014 through 2016 with three different teams though, as his batting average all out plummeted.  He's likely played his last Major League game at this point.  A nice refractor here of his Topps Chrome RC.

Of course we have a new Nomar card.  Without the facts to back this up, I'd have to guess that Nomar is right up there with David Ortiz in terms of the sheer number of Red Sox cards produced featuring his likeness.  I don't mind at all though given that Garciaparra was my favorite player when I was at a very impressionable age as a baseball fan.

Mark knows my collecting interests well, as illustrated by the two non-Red Sox cards in the envelope.  First, a card from my absolute favorite parallel set of the '90s, 1994 Pinnacle Museum Collection.  Mark my words, someday I will collect this entire set!

1986 Topps #103 - Luis Salazar

Lastly, Mark was kind enough to include a 2017 Rediscover Topps buyback.  Will Luis Salazar make the franken-set in slot #103?  Judging by the photograph, he doesn't look too confident.

Biff Pocoroba (and a random trailer!) is already in slot 103 though.

I feel like I've been saying this a lot lately when it comes to the franken-set, but the background made the difference here.

Thanks for the killer PWE Mark!  Sorry it took me so long to get it posted.  I'm pleased to report that a return envelope is headed your way as of yesterday's mail pick-up!

Franken-set Progress:  464/792 (58%)
"Rejected" Buybacks:  303
Total Buybacks in Collection: 767

The other envelope I have to show off today is from Brian of Highly Subjective and Completely Arbitrary.  It had been some time since Brian and I exchanged any cardboard, so I was surprised and excited to find this waiting in my mailbox just before I left for Portugal earlier this summer.

Brian started things off with a couple of very red Red Sox cards too.  From 2015 Topps Update, a Daniel Nava Rarities insert...

...and from 2014 Topps, a nice Red Foil parallel featuring Joel Hanrahan signing for the fans.  Joel never pitched in 2014, or any season thereafter.  Turns out his 9 appearances with Boston in 2013 were the final of his MLB career.

I'm normally not much of a fan of the Triple Play releases, but the Hall of Fame subset at the end of the 2012 release doesn't look too bad.

Michael Chavis has made it as high as AA Portland within the Red Sox farm system, but didn't fare all that well and finds himself back in A-ball in 2017.

Here's my first MLB Network insert from 2017 Topps.  Kind of a weird insert set, but I do DVR the network's show Quick Pitch every single morning during the season.  They do a great job with the show and it's a convenient way to keep up with news and highlights.  Obviously Brian chose to include this one due to Lowell's success in Boston as a player.

I was collecting in 2009, however I barely even knew that this Bowman Sterling set existed.  I'm guessing this was a hobby-only release.

At first I was confident that this Wade Boggs insert from 2016 flagship was a dupe, but then I realized the one I already had was a Silver Foil version, and this one is Bronze Foil.  Boggs count increases by one after all!

Here's a Pedroia from 2013 Pinnacle.  I love the dark look of these cards, very true to the original Pinnacle baseball and hockey releases I'm familiar with from the early '90s.  If this set were licensed I'd probably seriously consider going for it.

Final Red Sox card for today, a 5 Tool insert of HanRam from 2017 Topps flagship.  These are awfully busy, but I think they kind of work.  Last I checked though only two of the five tools involved swinging a bat, and there are three photos of Ramirez swinging here.  I'm nit-picking though.

To close things out, Brian also included two TTM/in-person autographs of former Hartford Whalers!  A Topps Premier Jocelyn Lemieux...

...and a Score Canadian John Cullen!  What a thoughtful inclusion, as I lacked autographs of both of these guys prior to receiving this package.  I especially like the Cullen given that he's wearing the glorious all-green get-up of the '80s/early '90s.

Hockey season is just around the corner, perfect timing for these autos!  In fact, I need to make a concerted effort to get some more hockey cards posted here.  It's been all baseball lately, as tends to happen over the summer, but I've recently picked up some really amazing hockey cards too that have yet to see the light of day here.

Brian, thanks so much for remembering me and my little corner of the card-collecting universe after all this time!  I managed to get a return PWE to you in yesterday's mail as well, look for it this coming week.

Despite getting five trade packages from this summer scanned and posted here in the past couple of weeks, I've still got a few to go.  Next up is a first time trader who reads the blog and took the time to reach out to me and send me cards just because.  Card collectors sure are a generous group of people.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Buyback Franken-set: '87s

Today's round of buybacks all come courtesy of 1987 Topps.  Arguably the most over-produced set of all time, and with a design that's been recycled to death by Topps in recent years.  Will any of these make the binder?  Let's find out...

1987 Topps #2 - Jim DeShaies

An '86 Record Breaker card is in the lead-off spot.  Jim DeShaies certainly earned this card, striking out the first eight batters of the game in his start against the Dodgers on September 23, 1986.  An impressive feat for sure, but...

...can it compete with 5,000 career strikeouts?

Nope!  As someone who heavily collected 1990 Topps as a child, Nolan Ryan rules the first page of my franken-set so far.

1987 Topps #403 - Jerry Royster

Here's a Jerry Royster.  The most notable thing about this one is the RAK patch there, which the team wore on their sleeves from '84 through '86 in honor of owner (and McDonald's mogul) Ray A Krok.

Another tough match-up here.  Typically I despise cap-less ballplayers on my cards, but this out-of-control hairstyle just cracks me up.

Yup, Miller's runaway hair is enough to win out over Royster.

1987 Topps #125 - Bob Brenly

Next up, catcher Bob Brenly.  We're really starting to develop a pattern here three cards in, as Bob has a real uphill battle to make the franken-set as well.  Here's his competition:

Ouch!  Quite a smile from George Scott here on one of my favorite Red Sox buybacks.

Brenly never stood a chance.  In fact, this card has already lost out to Scott once before.  That was the bronze foil version, this one is silver foil.  Different stamps, same result!

1987 Topps #504 - Mickey Hatcher

Mickey Hatcher was actually no longer a Twin in 1987.  The team released him just days before the season began, and he signed on with the Dodgers.  He lasted four years with LA as sort of a utility infielder, which concluded his MLB career.  I did not have a #504 buyback previously, so Mickey makes the binder!

1987 Topps #643 - Ron Shepherd

Ron Shepherd looks awfully suspicious here.  I guess he should be, as he never played an inning in 1987, or ever again.  I'm fairly certain this is the lone Topps card of the man who played with the Jays for parts of three seasons.  As unlikely as it is, Ron here makes the binder as well in the absence of another #643 buyback.

1987 Topps #109 - R.J. Reynolds

What a great card.  The crazy Pirates hat, the smile, the green-painted concrete dugout.  This one certainly makes a strong case for franken-set selection.

Unfortunately it's matched up against one of my absolute favorites with this '69 Jim Lonborg.  I'm not sure there's a #109 out there that can oust this card from the binder.

Certainly not R.J. Reynolds, anyway.

1987 Topps #556 - Angels Leaders

I always thought the team leader cards looked a bit awkward in 1987 Topps.  In this case, the background makes it look like these guys are chatting in front of a circus tent.

Dave Campbell's '74 Topps issue was already in the binder in slot 556.

And so it will remain.  For now.

1987 Topps #69 - Lonnie Smith

You wouldn't know it based on the smile here, but Lonnie Smith was going through a pretty rough stretch in his life when this photo was taken.

This '73 Phil Gagliano is blocking Lonnie's entrance to the binder.  I wouldn't say either card is particularly noteworthy to me personally.

The photograph on the Gagliano is infinitely more interesting though.

1987 Topps #250 - Teddy Higuera

Coming off of a 20-win season in 1986, Teddy Higuera couldn't quite replicate that in '87.  He still had a solid year, going 18-10 for the Brewers, but his ERA increased by over a run.

As we've seen only recently, #250 is a tough number to try to crack the franken-set at, as Fergie Jenkins' '76 release has a solid foothold.

Once again, Fergie crushes his competition and remains in the binder.

1987 Topps #33 - Andy Van Slyke

Last card for today.  Van Slyke was on the cusp of greatness in 1987, turning in a solid .293 / 21 / 82 stat line with an OPS of .866.  Beginning in 1988, he'd earn some combination of Gold Glove/Silver Slugger awards or an All-Star selection for six consecutive seasons.

A Heritage Rookie Stars buyback featuring fan favorite Sal Bando stands between Van Slyke and the binder, however.

Tough loss for Andy.

Well, I got two new numbers for the project out of this anyway.  Hope you've had your fill of wood-grain for the weekend now.  Thanks for stopping by.

Franken-set Progress:  464/792 (58%)
"Rejected" Buybacks:  302
Total Buybacks in Collection: 766
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