Sunday, March 30, 2014

Opening Opening Day on Opening Night

Seems like the perfect time for a blaster of these.

I am fortunate tonight to be around a cable television and be watching the first game I've ever seen at PetCo Park.

I am also fortunate that I finally picked up a blaster of Opening Day recently. I grew to enjoy this set quite a bit last year — let's see if I like some more of these baseball card image products, for children.

I am always a sucker for 3D cards. They activate pleasant memories in my brain of eating industrially processed wheat coated with a yummy twinkling white sugar solution. Mmmmmm-mmmmmm. AND I get a baseball card? Yes, please. Methinks a certain solely licensed manufacturer of imagery products of Major League Baseball® players, which also happens to be a manufacturer of candy, is missing out on some sales possibilities from activating such long buried memories. I mean, once you reach a certain age, it's easy to go back to indulging your natural human urges, such as your sweet tooth. I if I could just get baseball cards along with a sugar fix, ahh, just think how much money I wouldn't save on such a product…

The 3D cards in this year's Opening Day are no exception. I will be chasing these:

I love designs that use a team's color. I like seeing the star motif like this. I liked last year's versions of these, though Topps didn't exactly move the needle much from the year before. This year, it sure moved a lot, and so did my scanner as these thick cards made it work for a living:

I've only pulled 2 … 23 to go I would imagine. I'll spare you any more poor scans of them though…let's just think about these baseball cards, not these scans.

Since Opening Day is mostly just cards from Series 1 & 2 I know I will be owning otherwise, the main appeal are these alternative insert sets. So let's hope they are appealing:

In case you have ever wondered what happens when the Twins mix their blue and red solid color alternate uniforms in a load of laundry with their home whites. Which doesn't explain how the Mariners uniforms turn pink on these inserts as well. Overall, not for me. I think these will be popular with Player Collectors a few years from now, when they have mostly been packed way in collections, and they become just slightly scarce. Though I don't plan to own a set of the Breaking Out cards myself, I don't think one could say Topps is playing conservatively with these particular children's products. 90s-esque, unique amongst inserts of recent years. Go for it, Topps.

Which they did not do with the Superstar Celebrations. I pulled 2 of those, but must have found them too blah to set aside into the Scan-These pile. I liked a few of the Celebrations cards last year, but this year's model is of course zoomed in to floating torsos, at least on the two I pulled. With no baseball park context, they just don't work.

Another 90s-esque, take-chances-to-entertain-the-kids design, are the Fire Up inserts:

Whoa, Hanley is so fired-up his batting helmet has caught fire?

Nah, of course that's just Hanley's personal batting helmet tradition. If I were writing his card back, I would surely call him or his agent and get a direct quote on this. I just watched his first At Bat of the season … the batting helmet already looked like this. Should I have watched the first Spring Training game to ever see him in a minty fresh batting helmet? If only time were my friend, I would blow hours of it scouring the Dodger fan blogs for all the details. Feel free to post a link to anyone who has ever figured out the mysteries.

And beyond the unique inserts, Opening Day has more fun cards, like the Mascots:

Have you ever wondered what kind of shoes fantastical polyfoam baseball creatures wear?

Well now you know. Topps, Always Bringing You Close To The Game.

These days of course, there can be no Base Cards without a Parallel:

Mostly a pleasing card actually. After looking at the Chrome sets and various other Topps sets the last few years, I'm unclear on what is a refractor and what is a foil card. I think these are technically a Foil. But they are a multi-color Foil, like last year's Spring Fever set. These cards also have a certain heft to them, as they are thicker than  the regular cards. It's almost like they are made out of . . . cardboard.

But ultimately this parallel confirms to me why the 2014 Base design causes people to just think "Blah." A basic element of the Opening Day cards is a lack of foil printing, though that is technically a different iteration of the word 'foil', as it applies to baseball cards. Stick with me now, try and keep up. So the Wave or whatever that thing is on the bottom of the card is now just grey ink. And it's on these blue parallels that you really notice this. Just imagine if the Sea Turtle cards from last year all featured a grey Turtle. Yawn.

Notice how the small bits of Mets orange grab you, especially on a blue card featuring a player in his blue alternate uni? It's almost up to the image on the card to supply some color highlights, since Topps mostly refused to do it, as on this really nice base Rookie Card:

Opening Day is also an interesting rip to see what the Topps photoshop wizards have mocked-up to report last winter's personnel moves of Major League Baseball.

Some of those are easy. A catcher in road greys has got to be the easiest, as long as someone remembers to call up the Yankees to check on the new uniform #, which Topps tightened up on here, getting it 100% correct. (Unless we have a fresh picture from early February?). Or perhaps a player moving from the Cardinals to the Angels is the easiest:

And then some players have bigger canvases to work with of course:

Other times, these projects can be a bit challenging I guess:

Yes Doug, I would be pretty mad if I was handed a road grey top and home white pants to wear as well.

But ultimately, I like Opening Day cards to help feed the ultimate jones of all baseball card collectors: new baseball cards. By Opening Night, Series 1 cards are so last year already. Probably, some of those photoshopped cards will never be seen anywhere else. And it is fun to get a glimpse of Series 2 as well:

You generally expect Topps to homer it up a little for the New York teams, and that is fine. But lately, they sure do seem to love the Oakland Athletics. I bet they had a tear in their eye at the end of the movie Moneyball too.

Topps did pick up some propps earlier this year for issuing a few tribute cards of retired stars, definitive Sunset Cards with final statistics. At least one of these players is honored again in Opening Day, for the kids:

Now I did find a card I think I haven't seen yet, though I haven't been able to stay awake long enough to finish collating / binding / absorbing Series 1:

Thanks Topps. Now I'll never ever be able to keep these 2 pitchers separate in my mind until next year's baseball cards come out.

Plus, those cards make me claustrophobic. That adjective just should not be in play when rambling about baseball cards. Please, Topps, stop with these.

But thankfully, buying packages of baseball card images from the Topps Chewing Gum Company and opening them is always ultimately about the simple joy of finding a brand new one that is pleasing to look at. I like horizontal cards. I like baseball cards with pictures of baseball players obviously playing the game of baseball. I like Austin Jackson. It's Opening Night. A new baseball season awaits. Ready. Set. ACTION!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

While you await your irregularly scheduled Topps products

Please enjoy these other Topps products.

I have been waiting patiently to dive in to Heritage this year. I want to mostly purchase blister packs from Target, for those cool black parallels only available inside. Topps sure knows how to push my buttons, I must admit.

But Excell, the subcontractor for Topps over Tar-jhey way (a fine French store, oui?), is pretty slack sometimes. So I have been in Target admiring the fine scenery several times the last couple weeks, awaiting Christmas morning, errr, the arrival of some 2014 Heritage.

Instead I ended up with this year's stickers. Which sated my jones at least a little. Lately I hear Opening Day has hit the shelves. Except of course, at the Target I have been driving by of late (and today's Wal•Mart for that matter).

And also except I haven't always been driving much. What better excuse not to blog than … my truck was hit by lightning. Yep, while I should be on my way north to suave life in hotels for a few nights, I am instead still stuck in a mostly internet-less condition for several more days. Except when I borrow my friend's car and park down the street by the hotel, so I can hang with yous guys at least a little bit, and forget about the hopeless task of trying to source a used PCM for a 2000 F250 7.3L for a little while.

And I also must admit I did finally get into some Heritage, courtesy of my #1 winter-time Friendly Local Card Shop. But my scanner, baseball cards, laptop, and brain are having difficulty all arriving at the same location in the evening, thanks to that lightning strike.

Luckily for you I did scan in some of my new stickers. Let's take a look.

On that one you can just about hear the announcer say "cocks the bat high up over his right shoulder…"

Now, I frequently whine about Topps' fetish of late for cropping their images to a never-ending series of torso shots. Which would make an astute reader wonder just why in the heck I would want to fool with Heritage, a set in which for the mid-60s styles, a torso shot is like pure Action Jackson compared to all the straight-up head shots. I think I'll answer my complaint on that soon, when I can wander you through what I have found so far in Heritage.

In the sticker set, Topps has every reason to use simple torsos only. It's not like they have the full regulation 2.5" x 3.5" to work with after all. So torsos can be just fine on these stickers, which are of course, supposed to be for children. Right?

In the end, it all depends on the photo the Topps editor selects. Some somehow really do work well:

Such a nice sense of motion on that one. And he doesn't even look fat yet either.

And upon further review, i.e. editing my boo-boos after I post the first time, I discover this mystery image:

WHAT's THIS!?! Topps you fiendish Fiend. A sticker short-print. Of course my immediate first thought is - hey, maybe I pulled a Puig short-print and the rest of you kids will get this one I just downloaded from Cardboard Connection. Or maybe that second one is a pre-release mock-up that didn't make it off the drawing board (or out the Back Door in an employee's pocket, hmm?). Don't worry, Base Set will be on the case. Eventually. Work base is still pretty intense right now.

Anyhow, generally the non-pitchers are shown at the plate; I'm thinking fielding shots might be a little more rare this year, though they do exist:
Perhaps these are rare because the usual subjects of fielding shots in baseball player image products are the more light-hitting players, and what kid wants a sticker of players from the bottom of the line-up? But then Zobrist did sort-of make the All-Star game last year, so he has to have a sticker this year.

Pitchers can get just as repetitive as hitters when it comes to torso views. But even with pitchers (who don't often make the sticker set), gems can still be found:
Topps seems to like Yovani, or he has very good luck when a photographer is pointing a camera at him. He had a sweet, to-be-featured-here-eventually card in Series 1 last year, and also one of my favorite stickers in 2013 - it made it into my permanent collection, stuck right to the cover of a binder of baseball cards.

Of course the sticker set includes at least one All-Time Great for each team, and they frequently come off well, as well:
Run, George, Run!

That one has just a hint of this somewhat frightening sticky image of another All-Timer:
Be afraid, Willie, be very afraid. I'm not sure just what the high-end photo software at Topps HQ is up to either. I think I'll be saving this scan for some more photo critique later.

And at this point I must apologize for the so-so scans I'm presenting. My Neat-O mobile scanner isn't really worthy of such Topps masterpieces as this one:
A photo Topps likes so much they've already used it twice. Is there a statue of limitations, err, legal limit,  for these? Though Chris has a long way to go to catch Ted Williams in this department, among others.

The sticker set also wouldn't be the kid-centric set it is supposed to be without the mascots. Topps added an odd wrinkle to them this year, up there in the right corner:
That odd bit of illustrated-mascot-logo-thingie has pushed a button once again as now I absolutely must find out what Paws looks like in a small drawing, for some reason I'm thinking only my readers here might possibly know, because I sure don't.

I even got a kick out of my first Photoshop score of 2014:
I just love this one. It makes me laugh. When I look at it, I can't help but sing this song in my head -

You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful uniform
You may tell yourself, that is not my beautiful wife
and You may tell yourself, my God, What have I done?

So I have to give out mad props to a 15¢ product that makes me pleasantly jumble up lyrics to a pleasantly jumbled-up classic song. And I do look forward to picking up some more of these, because who knows what song they might make me sing next, and because I am ALWAYS on the hunt for this one, which Topps absolutely positively should repeat every single year:

Because, you know, I like to get the lower half of that one … and stick it on things.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I thought I had a card for Today

Today should be a great day for baseball card photographers to get some unique shots. A lot of teams wear today-only Special Uniforms: green ones. Considering some baseball cards were printed in Ireland, I believe, they could be a nice tip o' the hat.

I thought I had such a card; I've been saving this one for nearly a year, just for today. I figured a light hitting utility/reserve infielder who has toured our country extensively on the rosters of probably several dozen minor and major league teams (currently in camp with the Rangers, hoping to "catch on" as they say), with a rare card hiding out in the Update set, might be a perfect candidate for Topps to feature with a St. Patrick's Day card.

But doing my blog posting homework I discovered the Devil Rays wore green uniforms for several years. Green Rays - who knew? At least I have a green entry on their slowly building Patch page, to go with blue, and white. I'll be needing a card from their really odd technicolor teal years I guess.

Those were during my years in the baseball card wilderness, purchasing just a pack every year until finally the 2011 cards picked me up and shook me back to enjoying the little pieces of cardboard. One of the minor details that had me reunite with cards was probably the colors of the uniform. The announcer I listen to the most, Dan Dickerson for the Tigers, would start each game with a description of the team uniforms that day. Frequently of course this would be a simple "…and the Tigers are in their road greys with the block Detroit across the front…"

But other times, on those Special Uniform days, I would wish I could see them through my radio somehow. Baseball cards fixed that problem right up for me. And so does my brand new little mobile scanner, for, uhhh, scanning receipts for proper self-employment business tax calculations, of which I have thousands, yeah — that's the ticket. It works for baseball cards too? Who would have guessed that? That this Neat new little scanner doesn't get along with foil, agh more's the pity. Maybe I'll just have to go back to collecting only cards without foil. That will brighten my days.

Now there was a great St Patricks Day card issued last year. I would have loved to pull one, and even participated in a Group Break of the set it appeared in with some hopes for a shot at such a variation. But of course, gambling very rarely pays off with your exact desires. I pulled the final spot in a hit draft, and the break yielded just one short-print variation, Matt Kemp I believe, which went very quickly in the draft. So today I really wish I actually had this card in hand:

But since Topps Chrome short-prints are heavy on the word "short", and for a superstar player, I think I will be content to just collect this one digitally. I have been thinking to make a little screen saver folder of favorite baseball card images, whether I own them or not, and at a current single Buy-It-Now price on eBay (and none on COMC) of $35, seeing this one shuffle onto my screen once in a while will keep me happy enough.

Unless of course, a dear blog reader were to have one of these with little idea of what to do with it aside from looking for some sort of middle-end trade, say for a rare Shin-Soo Choo 3D card perhaps.

But while doing my homework, I did discover the cards I was looking for today, via Bob Lemke's excellent blog. I hadn't thought there would be enough of these cards to even make a pretty binder page, but when you start with a few hundred thousand unique baseball cards to search in, they can be found. Look here for some great examples:

I'm not sure I'll ever find one as I have no plans to invest in bulk quantities of 1990s baseball cards, as enjoyable as that would be. It's like a classic joke o' the day, today:

An Irishman walks past a bar…

Hey, it could happen.

Apologies to anyone offended by stereotypes. As my name is Brian and I was born with red hair, I've been taken to be an Irishman for many years of my life, and one of my better friends in the world could well be the subject of the previous joke, which would make him laugh. But this is a baseball card blog, so if you want to hear my story of getting kicked out of an Irish bar for ordering a Car Bomb, well laddie you'll have to buy me a drink.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A pleasing way to peruse baseball cards

I struck out on scoring some early Heritage cards tonight. I had my hopes…but it will probably take a few days to find some. I haven't even been able to get any purple cards from Series One yet either. I want just a few to make a single binder page of the color possibilities this year.

Anyhow, I am looking forward to 2014 Heritage. I have never owned a single 1965 Topps card. Living in rural areas, I never had much access to baseball card shows and shops. So cards older than the packs I could rip (i.e. older than 1975) generally had to come from - Older Brothers. And I never traded with anyone that had a card that old.

I'll take a look at the cards here soon. I hope. Work seems like a 24/7 experience of late.

I do know that I will build '14 Heritage in the traditional way - by ripping packs and hopefully trading some. Even though I now know all too well how much this costs, I want to do a Heritage set that way for a non-economical reason. And it's not the gambler's itch of buying lottery tickets, hoping to hit some "hit" card I can flip.

No, I am very much looking forward to the new Heritage cards because they are just simply pleasing to put in stacks….to paw through that stack… arrange in various ways. This is because they are made of actual CARDBOARD. Hooray!

I have been putting Series One in binder pages. It is a chore. I hope to find some neat cards to share with you, but haven't yet.

For Heritage, I won't be using binder pages at all. Because this is just simply a pleasing sight:

Monday, March 3, 2014

This Card Has Gone On Some Trips

I had an outstanding mail day today, courtesy of my temporary home away from home. Although I have been hoping to pull a "buyback" from a pack, I must confess I purchased the sweet one pictured above. I love pondering where all this card has journeyed over the last four decades. A buyback is a well traveled baseball card - perfect, for this one.

It doesn't look good for me to ever pull one from a pack. Because that card came with a hand collated 2014 Series 1. Yes, I bought a set of baseball cards. My resistance to the idea is fading quickly.

The economics are inescapable. Buy cards in packs for 14¢ each and struggle with doubles/dupes of base cards you can hardly give away, perhaps make some trades for $2.07 in postage for a few dozen cards or 66¢ for 3 or 4 cards ... or just buy them all at once for just 6¢ each. Delivered.

I probably found a motivated seller I suppose. I even helped him out as much as I could, by purchasing a partial Series of 315 cards. But then I had already ripped into 150 or so of the cards from First New Baseball Cards Of The Year Day (if you are reading this blog, I know you celebrate that holiday right with me every year), among other recreational ripping the last few weeks. So I will probably need about 7 cards from the Series. I'm not too worried about scrounging up the two bucks that will likely cost me.

Why would I buy a partial hand collated Series? Because of that Ellis card. It was on offer from the seller as well. So, you know, to save on shipping, etc., I picked up my Series 1 for the year simultaneously.

But what a card! I have always loved the "In Action" cards. In fact I will be launching a new collecting project with this card. All of the 1972 In Action cards will be a nice way to ease into collecting the 72 set. I plan to do the same with the Hockey Stick In Action cards too. In other words, the 1982 varieties. I already have most of those, from my real collecting days - when I still rode a bicycle to purchase baseball cards.

I have always preferred Action cards. These 72s aren't the first such cards of course, though I believe they are the first to shout out their Action-ness. The 56 set has plenty of flyin-dirt action too. But though my career is keeping me happy, it isn't keeping me in enough extra happiness to start buying all the 1956 baseball cards I would like.

And again what a card! I did not know Dock had an "In Action" edition. It will also fit another new collecting project - a Dock Ellis PC. Hook me up. I need them all. Except this one.

Oh, that card! Primal red. A pleasing swoop and rounded corners all through the design. An image full of lines. Horizontal lines. One vertical line. Diagonal lines. And so apropos for a Dock Ellis edition, some loop-de-loop lookin' lines. 

And a base. I always like seeing a base on my baseball cards. Keeps me grounded. If you can just reach base, everything will be OK. 

We also get a perfect outfield lurker. Two twinkling little stars. How do I know they are twinkiling? Trust me on that one - they twinkle. Without even being short-printed. And then we have shadows. Dark shadows. Baseball, and contemplative journeys, are not all sweetness and light. Is there a second Dock Ellis lurking here too? The one from dimension #39? And what is happening in those stands above the distant outfieder? Is there a jungle starting to grow? What IS happening? Am I starting to hallucinate?

Could this card be from THAT game? How perfect would that be. Let's ask the back of the card.

Oh yes Topps, I am reliving a 1971 exciting moment, some 42.5 years later. A flashback? No, I missed it the first time around. My love of ... pop culture enlightened me.  But you are such a tease, Topps. I don't think 1972 Series 4 had a card for Dock's No-No that makes lots of Todd Snider fans all say Yes-Yes these days. Who's that you ask? Ask the Google. Type all four names in this post into their magic window. You'll be glad you did.

I wish my forensic baseball card photo skills could align the two twinkling little stars until they told me what game this was from, but it appears this is beyond the capabilities of my tricorder, err, my telephone, not to mention my completely lost memories of the back walls of early 70s baseball parks.

Oh well. The only thing that could make this card better, would be if it was perforated, and then arrived in a mailbox for me. Because I just love Ellis, D In Action.