Saturday, August 10, 2013

I pulled a Puig! I pulled a Puig!

That sounds kinda painful. Not sure I would wanna find out where that muscle is.

Or I could have gone with my original snoozer headline - Whaddya Call 219 Rarely Seen Sea Turtles?

Pro Debut.
Everybody's seen that one I'm sure. But there is baseball card fun to be had in this set. Though I have never ever desired to own a minor league baseball card before this year, I found myself drawn to the possibility of simply finding a great baseball card on the great '13 base design.

I also wanted to give myself a bit of a nudge towards going to a minor league game somewhere, by finding a piece of that cool baseball mojo fun that can only be found in the minor leagues. This will be pretty tough though, and there is only one easy possibility an hour north of me....a Northwoods League (college, non-pro) team that I suspect doesn't even have any baseball cards! Ruh-ro! I might find out one of these days, I hope. Work is chasing me lately me, we'll see.

But let's wander through a nice base set of baseball cards and see what we find.

Hero card # devotees will appreciate this set - here's Card #1 -
Ironically not a #1 draft pick in a set full of them. I'm sure he is likely a #1 on one of those prospects lists that baseball fans are so into these days. Sometimes with some card 'collectors' I wonder if they even care about the Major Leagues any more. Nice Cardinals style red belt though, nice work Memphis.

Card #50 - 
Methinks the Las Vegas 51s used to be a Dodgers affiliate. Now they are the AAA team for the New York Mets, which is strange because this set reveals a strong synchronicity amongst the Mets' major league and minor league uniforms. I would have thought the 51s could have some great minor league goofyness to show off, but Zack is the only 51 in this set. But is still card #50. Hero #s played trump.

Card #100 - 
This card features an Indianapolis Indian. Who will soon be (already is?) a Pittsburgh Pirate, go figure.

Card #150 - 
I'll bet you might not know that a baseball card of this player recently sold for $8,000. Yes, Eight Thousand George Washingtons for a player most of you have never heard of, and has yet to play a game in the major leagues. Or even AAA. And won't this September either, most likely, though Minnesota has little to lose by trotting him out there and making the prospectors all get real, real nervous and excited. Maybe they could make some extra money this year by making team-issued limited edition strange baseball cards of their Most Valuable Prospect baseball card.

The $8K card wasn't this one. It showed even less of the player than this blah entry in the 2013 All-Torso-All-The-Time set. I am kind of burning out on the tastes of the current Topps Baseball photo editor. I think Topps in general is catering to the Prospector nuts, and the Autograph nuts, and the Relic Nuts, just far too much. So many collectors today would take a bit to notice that a sick mojo gu-au /5 piece didn't even have a picture of the baseball player on it, and wouldn't even care. There are such cards I believe. We used to call some images on a card the famous/infamous "floating heads". Now we have card after card after card, whole sets of such cards, that is just a floating torso. Nobody cares, because this hobby is all about the ego these days, and Topps knows how to stroke those egos better than I have ever seen. Not the players' egos silly, pay attention.

So why not crop the image all the way down to just the player's upper body. Base cards just get thrown in the trash anyway.

I will say that Byron Buxton has a great baseball name. Alliterative. Always good for players on cards. You know, like that one guy who played in the 1950s in New York and has some pretty expensive baseball cards, considered classics of the genre. That you could buy in very respectable condition for the same price as a certain card of that non-major-leauger up there. I'm not sure I can do anything but laugh at this hobby sometimes.

OK, OK, I'll shut up now and show you some baseball cards. Lots of baseball cards coming atchya tonight; pull up a chair, crack a brew, cuz you might be flipping through all these cards for a little while. Miguel Cabrera just tied the game in the top of the 9th with a 2 run Home Run when he could walk about as well as Kirk Gibson in a certain World Series some years back now. And he did it off Mariano Rivera. That was exciting. But neither of them have cards of any edition that have ever sold for eight large I don't believe. Makes sense to me.

OK, OK, OK, sorry, here is card #200 - 
I stand corrected on the minor Met uniforms. Here we have kind of a reverse Dodger design. A hockey player name, on a team from Buffalo. But soon to be in The Show, this 'net thing tells me.

And closing out this 2 sheet set @ #220 - 
A player I thought would have gotten the call by now, after the Iglesias trade. Soon to be on his way to the Red Sox, everyone expects. I didn't realize they were that deep in the infield positions to keep him in the minors, but perhaps GMs understand the value of minor league playing time better than impatient baseball card collectors. Another #1 type prospect that was not a #1 draft pick. I believe the international draft is coming to the game soon though.

Those were the "studs" of the set. The players that already have dozens and dozens of variants of Bowman cards printed already. But of course that is not what I decided to collect this set for. I wanted to find some minor league fun, and it only took until card #2 to find it - 
Well done Topps. Get me back into the joy of the cards with a nice bunt card. Nothing says minor league baseball like some athletic tape on the equipment. I'm sure that would be simply scandalous in the major leagues. And a just exactly perfect reflection of the sun setting behind the stadium silhouette on the batting helmet there. A stadium sunset card - rare. I declare this card Gem Mint.

Now these cards are the Professional Debut of these players the box tells me. But as I opened the packs, I discovered players here and there who were already playing in the Major Leagues... 
...although Marcell is already back in the minors, perplexingly sent back down after a decent month or more with that most perplexing of organizations, the Miami Marlins. And then unfortunately injured and out for the season. There's always next year, Marcell, when I'm sure we'll see you on cardboard again.

One player I knew was in the big leagues thanks to baseball cards - 
Empty stadium. Batting pose, minus batting helmet. Touch of a Cloud Card. Light tower sprouting out of the bat. That only-on-a-rookie-pure-optimism expression. Screaming Vintage. And great Lines, Lines, everywhere Lines with the bat, the cap logo, the arm, the bleachers, the flags, Eury's gaze, even the light tower. All Eury needs is a meat ball down the heart of the plate and that ball is Gawn! Plus that minor league treasure I was hunting on that classic shoulder patch there — the Monopoly bankster dude becomes a train engineer becomes a screaming baseball head. Awesomeness all around.

But how did this card tell me Eury has seen the tall buildings? It didn't. This card did - 
OH. I think he's about to pick you off there Eury. Snap out of it. Yes, I know, that is another useless base card from a different Base Set. I have no idea why Topps saluted Perez with cards in each set, though it sure worked out great in Pro Debut. Fairly well there in Series One, too. I'm softening up a little, Mr. Topps Photo Editor. (Ms.?)

I look forward to seeing another now-Major Leaguer play on television. Yep, me, Mr. multi-tasking baseball-on-the-radio aficionado. I hope the announcers shut the heck up when this guy strides to the plate - 
- because whenever I hear his name in the baseball news (now with the Angels), I hear such beautiful music in my head...

...and I can only hope he has the taste to use his namesake's music to walk up to the plate with. Probably though I will just have to enjoy that music up there in my head (it's better than the voices) via his baseball cards, of which this is my first one. Thanks Topps.

I knew from listening to Bob Uecker, as I am doing now, about the next player I already knew in this set, had played in the major leagues because I was listening to Bob Uecker. I love it when Bob has to stay up late and work the West Coast and I get two broadcasts in an evening because I am up late listening to the Brewers play on the West Coast. Miller beer is brewed in Milwaukee, did you know that? I would also note that I am looking forward to buying me some Uesinger sausages in a few weeks when I am working within spitting distance of the wonderful world of Wisco.

Blah blah blah, there's not even a baseball card on my screen now, I hear you. Bob doesn't.
I'm about as lost on how Scooter's nascent MLB career has turned out as he is in that batting helmet there, sorry. Do hitters lose their own jacks in the sun too? I only listen for the old-time stories. Brewer doings sink in much more slowly.

But I don't think Topps put Scooter in this set at Bob's suggestion, though I would love to see a Bob Uecker set of baseball cards. Topps just loves great baseball names, so Scooter made the cut. And there was no way Topps could resist feeding that never ending player collector jones, even in a first pro card set -
Is Topps trying to trick us? Mike Piazza doesn't pitch, every baseball fan old enough to remember when Bowman cards were 50 years old knows that. Don't worry, Topps does clear up the baseball family confusion - "a distant relative of the 'other' Mike Piazza" - on the back of the card, something they only sometimes do in their cardboard baseball directories. Topps seems so excited by the idea of selling Piazza cards, having issued this card after a decent enough (but not rocketing up to the Show) four years in the minors, that Piazza is homeless on the back of his card, which just says Home:

Another no-brainer, must-make-baseball-card appears in the set - 
Eagle-eyed blog readers are probably wondering - is that a Stryker type alien spaceship hovering up there in the northeast corner of the card? Nope, that is the official "Pro Debut" logo seen on the box and the very boring pack wrappers. I don't even understand why we have to have so many wrappers on all the cards any more. Why does this logo suddenly appear on a card, but not all the cards? Who knows. Topps doesn't tell. We're just supposed to buy the cards, not ask questions. At least Topps is nice enough to explain what Trahan's parents were up to naming their pride and joy Stryker, "named after a Burt Reynolds character in a 1989-90 TV series," though you'll have to Google exactly which one on your own time, away from the baseball cards.

Topps knows these great baseball names can't all be famous big leaguers. But I doubt you would cut this pitcher card from a baseball card set either...
...even if said pitcher sported a 2-13 record with a 1.56 WHIP last year. We, and Topps, and the Indians, and sports editors everywhere, can hope.

Just as any baseball fan anywhere will hope this guy makes it - 
BOOM. And though I am not and never will be a fan of the ever increasing segment of the baseball card universe these cards dominate, Topps hooked me up with something almost even cooler than a Rock Shoulders baseball card. A Rock Shoulders autograph card!

But alas what could have been — the card to thaw me on the idea of these cards a little bit after a Dwight Gooden auto did some earlier this year. (I traded the ugly '68 style Denny McClain I pulled for an Al Hrabosky, 'cuz the Mad Hungarian appeared on a '75 style card this year, which only exists as an 'auto'; so I still want a nice Tigers on-card auto of somebody, someday). Unfortunately Roderick Shoulders appears to be a little hesitant to fully write out his great baseball name, the way great baseball players always did a long time ago. A shame.

Of course, being the all grown-up purchaser of a whole box of baseball cards, I was guaranteed two of these cards -
Now I have a good amount of friends from south of the border, and I am very familiar with Hispanic family names. But I don't think the Topps certified autograph witness agent person understands them, or explained American naming styles. I do know from this autograph that Alberto's mother's family's name starts with the letter "B". The rest of those lines of ink make no more sense than any other average ball player's or the crazy values people put on these unreadable lines of ink on truncated baseball picture cards.

But to each their own. I chase interesting baseball cards. Psychedelic empty seat cards are always nice -
And baseball card bloggers always note the night cards - 
Home Run trots look better at night, especially for rookies now banging bombs in the Major Leagues. 

This blogger (the one you are reading currently) in particular likes chain link cards...
...but has probably never before found a chain-link night card, even if it likely escaped from 2009 O-Pee-Chee somehow. 

Now I don't have a complete set of these cards yet, as there is no 'Jumbo' box of these available and the regular box leaves a collector short of a set. I'm not complaining - I pulled a Puig after all - so there might be another undiscovered night card in the set, or this could be the last one - 
Whoa. Baseball players have knees, that come in pairs? I almost forgot. If I see one with cleats on I might get scared I guess.

Now a nice thing about taking pictures of baseball players in the great outdoors is the way the great outdoors can insert our dynamic atmosphere into the image. In other words, I like me some Cloud Cards - 
Even, and perhaps especially, Rain-Delay-later-today type Cloud Cards. But then nothing beats a nice sunny baseball card either - 
I mean, these players smile so genuinely. This guy is just sooo happy to have someone taking his picture for a baseball card...even though he had yet to win a game in the minor leagues. Proof that the big league scowl is learned, not instinctual. If someone were to count the smiling cards in this set as a % vs other sets, my money is on the Pro Debut. And is that Gumby there on his shoulder?

You know I like me some Patch Cards, and the Minor Leagues have some great patches - 
Wait, that's a Major League patch. Yeah, I know, but it's a great on-card appearance of it. I had to scan that one for something else - those Shades! To die for. Greenies. But let's get back to the Patches - 
I'm not sure what an Aqua Sock is. Maybe the little aliens in the Pro Debut UFO thingie wear them. Unless they throw that scary pitch, the Clawball - 
Looks nasty. Hey, who is this coming to my baseball cards - 
That's Uncle Sam, that's who that is. Been hiding out, on a baseball player's shoulder, not in a rock and roll band. A pity this one wasn't cropped to waist level for a better view of what looks to be a neat piece of Americana.

But Baseball is no longer a purely American game, and I have a shoulder patch card to prove it - 
Though what that has to do with a "Fightin" I'm not sure. Maybe it's where the UFO comes from. I think Lisalverto is the grown up version of the skeptical little African kid 'Y-all-for-real? meme I'm too tired to track down right now. But I don't think he is real sure just what that thing is either.

Now say the words "patch card" to a baseball card collector and the vast majority of them will ask "but is it sick?", meaning does their valuable collectible trading card have a piece of a cap or shoulder patch showing a minimum of four colors and some stitching to qualify as 'sick'; and a minority will think of that other type of patch card, the "manu-patch." Is there a worse so-called 'word' in the baseball card lexicon of the 21st Century?

Topps of course loves them some Manufactured Patch cards, and we get two different varieties in this set - a traditional cap patch manu-patch (eww) - 

which still has to be connected to a pointless picture of a baseball player, rather than making a bigger, more attractive patch of a great minor league ball-cap logo. I'm sure there are some gems in this insert set, now specially limited to an edition of /75 for your collecting pleasure! And no, I didn't pull # 4/75 for extra value either, knucklehead.

Now, I like mascot cards. Heck I like mascot stickers too. I stick them on things. And I know minor leagues are full of great mascots that would make awesome baseball cards. So I should be all set up with my first purchase of some minor league baseball cards to get some cool new mascot cards. Instead, we get this - 
Stupid Stupid Stupid. Stupid. Topps doesn't even bother to tell me what team Abner fires up the crowd for. Probably some traditionalist old-time old-school club in the eastern-Midwest / upper-western East Coast baseball heartland with a fanbase full of baseball geeks that get excited by an appearance of Abner Doubleday perhaps. But Topps ain't saying where this not even goofy, just kinda dumb lookin', mascot comes from. Maybe they're too embarrassed, but then they did make a full-on patch of this outfit. And #/d it to /120. Stupid. Especially when we could have had /195 ball-cap super cool minor league logo cards for a little cheaper on the ole eBay instead. Stupid.

I need to get back to actual baseball cards now. I went looking for minor league fun, and I kept finding it - 
I think I would be a little bummed too if I were the one that had to wear that uniform, rather than the one who gets to chuckle when I see it.

Any true baseball fan will likely appreciate this next uni; OK, well, maybe not Giants fans - 

Classy. Puig would have looked good in that one too, though who can not like a team called the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Their mascot must be intriguing.

Whereas this team would have an obvious mascot costume ready to go - 
One can only hope that the Richmond Flying Squirrels one day make it to the bigs and are reunited with Mariner Moose.

Now sometimes I think the big league club could take uniform tips from their affiliates - 
Would look nice there on the island of Manhattan I think, even if Wilmer isn't too excited about life in the Met world, where it appears fly balls are outs, not home runs. He could take lessons from young Matt here - 
I just felt it was time for a little more of that freshly minted professional baseball player cheer, before I go back to bitching at Topps now. 

I do like the basic design of basic Topps baseball cards this year. A big reason I bought this box of baseball cards. And it is fun to see some new baseball iconography, like the Fort Wayne Tincaps stuff pictured here. Though of course you can hardly see their actually fairly clean and simple logo, because Topps doesn't bother to match many of these to the space available - 
Phoning in the details because, of course, the collectors don't care. All they care about are these cards - 

Oooooh, gold parallel, /50. I think I know a Vogelbach prospector fan-boy somewhere, I bet I can get something for that one! Or, I could wait till the big day of his MLB debut and cash out. Such tough decisions these baseball cards present.

But you know that's not why I bought these cards. But I think it is why Topps can sometimes slap cards together, taking potentially great cards... 
...with a great uniform patch, a great batting helmet logo, Pirate colors for a Pirate affiliate with matching batting gloves, sunlight perfectly captured on the uni # (coulda been a contender)...and carelessly crop it down too far making it just another base card to throw away. Which of course would happen to this card regardless of the over-cropping, because there is only one Yasiel Puig, and only one base card in this set.

So Topps can get away with absurdly bad cards like this one - 
Where I see that major league baseball player style of wearing Only One Sleeve has made it to the minor leagues. As has That Necklace salesman - 
Those necklace guys are as good at selling useless gimcrack as Topps itself. Nice card though. It has a baseball on it. Remember those?

An occasionally striking thing about the players on these cards is their basic youth - 
 Frequently making the viewer wonder when they will finish growing into their batting helmets -
and perhaps if the stars can align for one fresh-faced lad to be on his way to New York City to hang out in a diner with his 3 pals all the time - 
One can hope. One thing one can not hope for in this set, amongst more lost-in-the-helmet kids - 
is much in the way of any kind of playfulness on the card backs. The closest we get to any punny word play is on the back of Mr. Lindor's intriguing patch card:

Quite the whopper there Topps. In general these are some of the most detailed and careful card back texts I can recall, with lots of insights into just why a player is included in this set, from thousands of other minor leaguers that weren't included. You might not know that Topps formerly helped sponsor professional organizations for baseball scouts, including attaching their name to the Topps Scout of the Month and Topps Scout of the Year awards, though Google searches seems to tell me this is a thing of the past. But I suspect some actual professional scouts were involved in the writing of the backs of these cards, which are generally a step or three above the "last July ________ hit 3 home runs in a week" type snoozer text.

But of course as a baseball card critic I can still quibble with what I find on the cards. The stat line and text and player info (height, weight, etc.) are all fine and good. But this is one set that could some of the club information only seen on 60s or earlier cards. Specifically, what league are all these minor league teams in? The South Atlantic? The Pioneer? This would give each card a little more context - which of these cards I just bought played against which other cards last year? It would also help immensely to know what level of pro leagues each club is in - Instructional, A, High-A, AA, or AAA. That has rarely ever been on cards, but on a minor league set it would one of the very first things I would look at when it's time to read the backs.

And yes, I know, the pretty baseball cards have done scrolled on off the screen again. Just when you think you have figured out some of these minor league players and their baby faces, humanity throws you a curve ball - 
Nick Travieso there turns out to be one of the youngest players in the set with a birthdate of 1-31-94, two months younger than the previous card, the baby-faced Lindor.

So I enjoyed my baseball card trip around the country and the Major Leagues courtesy of Pro Debut. I was a little disappointed to only pull 2 Tigers prospects - 220 card set - but I am still a couple-three dozen cards short of a set at this point. And too tired to type in the list of what I need tonight; it will appear soon on the trade page. And ditto for naming favorites, least favorites, etc., if you want to know that, you'll have to scroll back up to the top and read all those wordy words this time.

I did get what I signed up for, though I'm not sure I will chase this one next year. I have a big crop of rookies to prospect with those valuable base cards / bulk weights in the card boxes now as some of these players won't step on to the stage of The Show until 2014. All the squeezed logos were very disappointing as well, though to be fair minor league logos aren't designed for instant recognition on television and from a distance and with that brand awareness, etc., etc., the way MLB logos are. I just wish Topps had treated some of those nifty logos with a touch more respect.

You never know what you might find in baseball's minor leagues ...

Look out Michael! Land Shark!


  1. I have no idea what I just read, but I do know it was better than Statistics homework. Not the fun kind of statistics, either.

  2. I love minor league cards, wish I lived near an LCS so I could rip a few packs, I'm not a "by the box" collector yet. Love me some Tincaps cards. Yeah, that sig looks very neat and very not matching to the name below it.