Weigh-In #56: It’s The Most Fattening Time Of The Year…

The same thing happens every year around this time… You’re in the store, and you see all kinds of new stuff that looks like you might enjoy it, so you try a little bit of this and a little bit of that, sampling something every time you go to the store until the next thing you know, you’ve got this extra flab that you just can’t shake and you wonder “How the heck did I get to this point?”

Oh… did you think I was talking about something other than my collection?  New product comes out, and it’s try a hanger of this, a blaster of that, a few packs here and there, and before you know it there’s a couple of tall stacks sitting on your desk that seem to have come out of nowhere.

So I’m a couple of weeks late for my quarterly weigh-in, but the general idea of it is to post my collection’s status to see if I’m making any progress in my quest to get rid of the dead weight, the stuff I look at and think “Why do I still have that?”

Before I get into that, I’m going to touch on some of the pseudo-goals I’d set for 2017, and how it’s working out for me.

Keeping a box of recent acquisitions in my car:

This was a solution to two problems. Problem #1 is that I impulse-buy too many cards. Problem #2 was that I don’t spend any “quality time” with a lot of the cards I buy, they just pile up on my desk. The solution was taking the cards in questions (nothing vintage or valuable, of course) and keep them in a box in my car so that I can thumb through them when I’m having a crappy day at work and the urge to buy cards comes at me. Having the box on hand has worked out pretty well, because there were many days when taking a “cigarette break” in my car and going through the cards would take the steam out of the pack-buying urges.

Making 1990’s Frankensets and getting rid of the resulting unwanted cards:

One of the ways I’m combating bloat in my collection is by creating Frankensets for particular years in the 1990’s, organized by team and player. By organizing my cards this way, I can find out when I’ve got more cards of a player than I really want or need, and I can feel comfortable getting rid of those extra 1992 cards of Roger Clemens because I’ll still have at least one nicer card to represent that jerk – I mean, Roger – for 1992.

I had thought I would go for the low-hanging fruit and make a 1995 Frankenset, given that I consider 1995 the worst overall year from my 40+ years in the hobby. The problem is that the fruit was hanging a little too low; Because I don’t like 1995, I didn’t have all that many 1995 cards in the first place, and there wasn’t much “body fat” to shed.

So, for 2Q 2017, I’ll be a little more scientific about it and work on the year for which I have the most cards. I ran a query on my database, which I’ll now show you in graphical form:

This is my collection in terms of cards per year, from 1968 to 2017.  Those tall red bars in the middle are 1990 and 1991, the beer belly of my collection.  Do I really need 3,800 cards just from 1990?  I think it’s time to work on my core.

BTW, the black bar is 1995, the “low-hanging fruit” I talked about.

OK, on to the “Weigh-in” part. To remind everybody of what these are about… Much like weight-loss programs will have you weigh-in on a regular basis to keep track of your progress, I find that posting updates on the organizing and streamlining of my collection helps me in a number of ways. It gives me an opportunity to look at the big picture, and helps with both motivation (if I do well) and guilt (if I don’t).

To add to the visual appeal of something which isn’t the most exciting information, I’ve included a number of cards I’ve been meaning to post.

First I’m going to document the changes since the last Weigh-in on January 2nd:

Net change in the collection: +587 (591 added, 4 purged)

Net change to the # of cards in the house: +1,117 (1,163 in, 46 out)

It’s amazing how this stuff builds up.  While I did buy a wax box of 2004 Topps Total, that was only 360 cards.  The other 757 cards came into the house in bits and pieces –  a blaster here,  a repack there… before you know it, you’ve acquired 1117 cards in just over 3 months.

Next, the totals since I started tracking this stuff on 10/16/2011.

Total # of cards purged from the collection, to date: 12,139

Net change to the collection, to date: +840

Total # of cards which have left the house, to date: 48,905

Net change to the number of cards in the house, to date: -25,646

Number of individual cards tracked in my Access database: 55,419

Number of cards that make up the sets flagged as completed in my Access database: 16,890

…which means I’ve got at least 72,309 cards in my collection


Total Bust, Total Box, Local Shop

Going into this past weekend I found out about a “collectibles show” being held by a regional comic convention group.  The show was a 30-40 minute drive away, cost $10 to get in and was mainly about comics and toys, neither of which I collect (I read comics, but I don’t truly collect them).  The email I got did mention cards and vinyl, however, and when it comes to shows I’m in a “beggars can’t be choosers” situation, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

Walking on to the show floor, it quickly became clear that this show was going to be a bust for me.  I finished off with a comics dealer I’ve known for years who was clearing some wax boxes out of inventory… nothing that completely jumped out at me, but as I wanted to justify the trip and support this dealer, I walked away with a pretty good price on this Hobby wax box of 2004 Topps Total:

I understand that fearuring Barry Zito, Dontrelle Willis and Mark Prior on the box made all kinds of sense in 2004, but today it seems like a cautionary tale against betting too heavily on young pitching.

(Oh, and before I get too heavily into talking about the box, I’ll mention that there is more to this post than just this box.  Thank you.)

Being a devout fan of the four-year run of Topps Total, I already have 783 of the 880 cards in the 2004 base set… so this box is mainly about completing the set, having fun busting packs, getting some potential trade bait and possibly getting some “hits”.

Nothing coming out of this box is going to equal a car payment, but just for the sake of getting some value, I’m hoping that I pull a Felix Hernandez rookie…

…or a Yadier Molina rookie…

…perhaps a Printing plate or a signature or two, preferably more impressive than this pull I made 13 years ago:

No offense intended, Brandon Claussen, I fully understand that you’ve got 16 career wins more than I do.

So I left the show thinking that this box wasn’t much of a haul for the $10 admission and the $5 I spent in gasoline.  That’s when it occurred to me… There was a card shop relatively close to this show I was leaving.  It’s not the greatest card shop I’ve been to, but it’s better than what’s near my house (i.e. nothing), so I went and checked it out, and dropped another $5 on some oddballs and other acquisitions. Nothing earth-shattering, but it made the day a little more fun.  The following aren’t in any real order, but I saved the best for last.

I normally don’t like base cards from sets like Topps Co-Signers where they obviously leave space for a sticker, but I kinda like this Johan Santana.

It’s hard to read the foil, but this is a 2009 Upper Deck Team USA card of former Met Matt den Dekker.

After two years with the Nats, Matt is playing with the Marlins’ AAA team in New Orleans, no doubt listening to rival fans shouting things like “Nice catch, Baby Cakes!”  I try to be open-minded about minor league team names, but New Orleans Baby Cakes is… well, let’s hope the trend starts to shift back towards sanity from here on out. Sound good, Baby Cakes?


This 2010 Heritage card doesn’t really have a role in my collection, but damned if this isn’t a nice card.

If only all Heritage cards could be this nice and “vintage-y”.

I couldn’t bypass a mascot card, even if it’s Mariner Moose.

Hey, Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!

Speaking of the Mariners, I also grabbed this Bowman Chrome card of Edwin Diaz, the M’s closer. More than one Fantasy Baseball expert recommended Diaz as a sleeper this spring, so I took a chance and drafted him. He’s not been what I’d call “lights out”, but it’s early yet.

…That actually has nothing to do with why I bought this card. There’s an empty slot in my A.L. West roster binder that’s been waiting for an Edwin Diaz card.

This is one of those Donruss throwback cards from 2015. I like the design enough that I wish they’d stuck a little closer to the original. I think they may have finally learned their lesson this year.

My usual source of Topps Pro Debut cards dried up and I haven’t made much of an effort to replace him, so this is my first 2016 Pro Debut card. I was surprised to find that, unlike Flagship Topps, only the player and the team are glossy, the rest of the card front is matte.

…Which doesn’t really help the crappy 2016 design, but I thought it was interesting.

I enjoyed these World Series Program inserts back in 2004, so I couldn’t pass by this one…

…even though I may already have it… or may not. I’ll find out at some point.

As I was thumbing through the box on the counter, I ran across this Ryan Klesko oddball.

I don’t like the Braves and I don’t have any sort of attachment to Ryan Klesko, but the card evoked two reactions from me:
1) Hey, that’s pretty nice.
2) What the hell is it?

The back didn’t give a whole lot of clues:

Even when I got home, it took me a good 15-20 minutes of Googling before I found a post on the now-dormant Card Chop blog which clued me in to what I had.

For those who don’t want to follow the link, this is from a small set put out by the Atlanta-area Boy Scouts, one card each year from 1992 to 2004.

According to the small print on the back, only boys who are members in good standing of the Boy Scouts of America are eligible to receive this card. I hope that a 50+ year old former Boy Scout will suffice.

So that was my Saturday.  Far from ideal, but it worked out OK in the end.

Cherry-Picking The 30 Day Challenge: “A Card Of A Common Player That Always Seemed To Elude You”

One thing I’ve come to appreciate about the 30 Day Challenge set up by Tony over at Off-Hiatus Baseball is that when I give thought to some of the topics, it often spurs me to write about something I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time.

When I finish the post about “A card you spent more than $10 to get”, you’ll read about a set I completed just over a year ago, and that last card was one which is on many people’s wantlists.

This post isn’t like that.  This post is about the first set I’d ever completed, 1975 Topps.

Now if someone were to tell you today that they just completed the 1975 set, they’d probably tell you that their last card they needed was the rookie card for George Brett, Gary Carter or Robin Yount.

But I completed 1975 Topps back in 1975, before I even knew that cards could have any kind of monetary value.  The evasive last card of the set wasn’t missing because it was expensive, it was missing because I had simply never run across it before.

The last card I needed was #73, Ed Sprague.

Ed freakin’ Sprague.

None of my friends had this card, so I had to fall back on the “secondary market”, which at the time meant garage sales and a flea market that the local high school occasionally held.  I was looking for this card for what seemed like a very long time, all while wondering who the heck Ed Sprague is.

When I did find the card, it was a mix of “Yay, I completed the set!” and “Yay, I can stop looking for Ed Sprague!”

If you’re wondering who Ed Sprague is…

Edward Nelson Sprague was coming off of what was probably his best season, going 7-2, 2.39 in 20 games as a reliever and spot starter.

Two of Ed Sprague’s more notable achievements:

  1.  As a scout for the Orioles, he signed Mike Mussina.
  2. He’s the father of Ed Sprague, Jr., who played 11 seasons and was an All-Star with the Pirates in 1999.

Ed Sprague has a very spotty baseball card history. His rookie card was a 1969 Hi # which showed him with the A’s. His second card was in 1972 Topps (Reds). His third card is the one above, and his final card is from 1976 SSPC.

1976 SSPC: Phil & Joe Niekro, Tony Perez

Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro was only 37 in 1976.  For anyone else, that would come across as trying to be funny, but Phil was still over a decade from throwing his last knuckleball.

Phil went 17-11 with a 3.29 ERA… and that’s for a Braves team that lost 92 games.  According to baseball-reference.com, he was the last active player who had been born in the 1930’s, the last active player to have played for the Milwaukee Braves, and the last pitcher to win 20 and lose 20 in the same season.  In that 1979 season, Phil Niekro went 21-20 and lead the league in games started (44), complete games (23) and innings pitched (342.0).

For what it’s worth, when I got this Phil Niekro card off of COMC, it completed my Braves team set.  The only other complete team set I have from 1976 SSPC is the Orioles, and I bought that as a team set on eBay (The original lot I bought had no Orioles in it).

Phil’s brother Joe was only 31 in 1976, and went 4-8, 3.36 for his Astros team.  In that same 1979 season where Phil Niekro went 21-20, Joe went 21-11.  I’d have to think that’s a record for wins by brothers and decisions by brothers in a single season, but you never know.

I never knew that Joe Niekro was a first-year Padre.  He started 1969 with the Cubs, and appeared on his 1969 Topps card as a Cub.  On April 26th, 1969, he was traded to the Padres in a deal for Dick Selma.  That December, the Padres traded him to the Tigers, and it is as a capless Tiger that he’s shown on his 1970 Topps card.

Hall-of-Famer Tony Perez didn’t win 20 games at any point, and never played for the Padres, but he was an All-Star in 1976 and helped The Big Red Machine become World Champions in 1976 before being traded to Montreal for 1977.

I love the composition of this photo… it’s not unusual to see a player fake-swinging with the end of the bat up in the camera, but fake-bunting?  It’s not something one sees often.

All three are at Shea.
Shea: 72
Pretty sure it’s Shea: 13
Can’t tell: 20
Not Shea: 9

1970’s Census: Keeping track of all the instances of 1970’s trends
The Niekro Brothers have the sideburns going for them.
Total Cards: 113
1970’s Sideburns: 65
Fu Manchu: 4
Mustache other than Fu Manchu: 36
Afro: 2
Perm: 2
Aviators: 8
Long Hair: 27

Cherry-Picking The 30-Day Challenge: “A Card Bought In Person And The Story Behind It”

Several weeks ago, Tony over at Off-Hiatus Baseball cards came up with a 30-day baseball card challenge, and a lot of bloggers have been joining in. I’m not going to do all 30, but I’ll definitely cherry-pick some topics… like today’s:

Day #7: A card you bought in person and the story behind it.

This story goes back to 1991 – I was 25 years old at the time – and involves this autographed hockey card.
1990-91 Topps Derek King Autographed
I was at a card show on Long Island and Derek King, who was a New York Islander at the time, was the show’s autograph guest.  More importantly for someone like me who isn’t much of an autograph collector and doesn’t like the Islanders, he was the FREE autograph guest.

I thought it would be nice to have his signature on something other than an index card, but at that point it had been 5 years or so since I’d actively collected hockey.  I looked around the show and didn’t find any cards I was willing to pay the inflated prices for, but one dealer was selling packs of that year’s Topps hockey cards.  I bought three packs and started to open the packs while chatting with the dealer about how I was hoping to pull a Derek King so I could get it signed.  Much to my delight, I pulled the card above out of the second pack, and even though it was a common, it was still one of the more exciting pulls I’d had out of a hockey pack in a long time.

With card in hand, went and got in line to get Derek King’s autograph… and the experience made me grateful that I hadn’t paid anything for the sig.  Without looking up or saying anything, he took my card, signed it, and slid it back across the table to me.  I thanked him, turned away, rolled my eyes and went back to the show.

I realize autograph guests are not obligated to interact with the collectors, but this always stuck with me because getting the item to be autographed was far more exciting than actually getting it autographed.

Has anybody else had any encounters with Derek King?  I’ve always wondered if he was having a bad day, or if he was generally unpleasant.

2017 TSR: The First Official Pack

“If I could produce my own card set, what would it be like?”

That’s the question I ask myself every year when I create my virtual TSR set (…which is called ‘TSR’ because I used the initialism of “The Shlabotnik Report” as a placeholder name and then couldn’t think of anything better).

The succinct answer to that question is that my ideal card set would include managers, bench players and relievers… it would have a few inserts but still be about the base set… and most importantly, would have an original design which would look like something produced in the 1960’s, 1970’s or 1980’s.

Furthermore, such a set would be issued in four 198-card series and work as a ongoing document of the season in progress… Something which falls between the static “This is where a couple of hundred players were in early January” and the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time (or money) For This” beast that is Topps Now.

This is what I generally strive for, and was what I was striving for in the previous five TSR sets.

Last week I featured some “promo cards” from my custom set because I was ill-prepared for the “official release” – such as it is.  Thanks to a poopstorm at work, I’m still not completely ready, but…

Anyway, Let’s get to the wax pack, which is a true wax pack wrapped in wax paper, oh, yessirree Bob, you’d better believe it!

After all, there are no relics, autographs or 1/1’s in this set, so there’s no need for high-tech tamper-resistant stuff.

First card…

One of the things I noticed with last week’s “promo cards” was that the drop shadows which looked cool and seemed to make the lettering “pop” on my laptop sometimes just served to make the lettering look blurry when viewed at smaller size, like on a phone. Certain color combos look worse than others, so I might end up taking a cue from 1968 Topps and tweaking the design for the second series.

Here’s the first subset of the year, a Highlights card featuring the Braves new ballpark. I feel like Topps Now has supplanted proper “Highlights” cards to some degree, but it’s interesting that there wasn’t a Topps Now card for a new home field. Granted, a new ballpark is not a once-in-a-generation event that it used to be, but still…

From what I’ve seen SunTrust Park has opened to positive reviews, which I view as something of a disappointment because the Braves and their “Screw the fans, we’ll go where the money takes us” attitude is little too NFL for me.

I don’t believe that Jerry Blevins has appeared on cardboard since 2014, which means he hasn’t been shown in a Mets uniform yet… despite making 73 appearances last year with a 2.79 ERA and 11.1 K’s per 9 innings.

…But he’s a reliever with only 2 saves, so clearly nobody cares about him.

Rick Renteria puts me in a rooting bind. I’d like to see him do well because he was let go by the Cubs solely for the reason that Joe Maddon became available.

…but I really don’t like the White Sox and generally enjoy seeing them suffer. Sorry, White Sox fans… it’s not you, it’s Jerry Reinsdorf.

Wrapping up with Eric Thames, who played with the Blue Jays and Mariners before going to Korea for 3 seasons where he hit 124 homers and became Korea’s first 40-40 guy.

The Brewers signed Thames to a 3-year contract and cut Chris Carter loose to make room for Thames. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. So far he’s panning out pretty well with 5 homers and 10 RBI in 10 games.

That’s the end of this week’s pack.  We’ll see what innovations and design tweaks come in next week’s pack!

1994 Capital Cards Miracle Mets Postcards, Part 6

Quick recap of what we’re looking at here… The cards in this post come from a 1994 box set of 32 postcards which commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1969 “Miracle Mets”. The postcards feature paintings by Ron Lewis.

…And for anybody saying “Oh, no… not these again!”, this is the last post about this set.  (And there was much rejoicing… Yaaaaaaaaaay…)

Tommie Agee is most famous for Game 3 of the 1969 World Series, where he hit a homer and made two great catches.

During the regular season he lead the club in runs, homers and RBI. In 1966, while with the White Sox, Agee was the A.L. Rookie Of The Year

When I first talked about this set, I’d mentioned that one of the postcard was signed by the player depicted….

Not the biggest hit I could get, but I was happy because Duffy was still with the Mets when I became a baseball fan in 1974.  He was a backup catcher and pinch-hitter for his entire 14-year career, and caught a John Candeleria no-hitter in 1976.  His only appearance in the 1969 postseason was in Game 1, pinch-hitting for Tom Seaver (and he grounded out against Mike Cuellar).

One of the highlights of Dyer’s career came in the 1975 NLCS with the Pirates;  The Bucs had their backs to the wall, down 2-0 in the best-of-five series and losing 3-2 in the ninth inning.  With the bases loaded and two outs and the entire season on the line, Duffy pinch hit for pitcher Dave Giusti and drew a walk to tie the game and send it into extra innings.  Unfortunately for Duffy and the Pirates , the Reds would win the game in 10 and the series in 3.

Here’s the Certificate of Authenticity for my signature.

…Just in case anybody’s interested…

It was accidental that Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee are in the same post, but it’s fitting as they grew up together in Mobile, Alabama.

Cleon hit .340 during the regular season, which was 3rd in the N.L. and stood as a Mets team record until John Olerud hit .354 in 1998 (and that currently stands as the team record).

Tug McGraw was, of course, a well-known reliever and during the 1969 regular season he went 9-3 with a 2.24 ERA and 12 saves.  He also got a 3 inning save in the NLCS, but never pitched in the 1969 World Series. He’d get his time in the World Series later in his career, first with the Mets in 1973 and then with the Phillies in 1980.

Here’s a Tug McGraw fact I never knew… Sandy Koufax beat the Mets 17 times and only lost two to the Mets.  Both losses were weeknight games at Shea, and and both were started, yes, started by Tug McGraw.  On 8/26/65, in Tug’s rookie season, Tug pitched 7.2 innings and the Mets beat the Dodgers 5-2.  Just over a year later, on 8/30/66, Tug gave up 2 runs on 4 hits in 1.1 before leaving the game, but the Mets broke it open with 5 runs in the 3rd.  Koufax faced 5 batters in the 3rd without getting an out before being replaced by Joe Moeller, and the Mets would go on to win 10-4.

Ron Taylor was a relief pitcher who had a 2.72 ERA and 13 saves during the regular season, and pitched 5.2 scoreless innings in 4 postseason appearances.

Taylor, who is from Toronto, is in the Canadian Baseball Hall Of Fame.  Even though he made his fame as a reliever, he had a notable MLB debut starting for the Indians in 1962;  in that first game he pitched 11 shutout innings against the Red Sox before giving up a Carl Yastrzemski triple, two intentional walks and a walk-off grand slam to right fielder Carroll Hardy.  Red Sox pitcher Bill Monbouquette pitched a 12-inning shutout for the win.

After Ron Taylor’s playing career, he went to medical school and would later become the Blue Jays’ team physician.  He’s currently listed as “Physician Emeritus” on the Jays’ website.

And so, after four months and six posts, this series is at an end.

And there was much rejoicing.