The Brians My Wife Got At The 2012 National

No, she didn’t go to Baltimore, but I’d mentioned in an earlier post that every time I go to a show, I try to buy cards of her two favorite players, Brian Roberts and Cal Ripken.  Here are the Brians which came from The National.

This is the “Brian Roberts lurking in a dark basement” card, also known as the 2010 Wal-Mart black border parallel.

“I couldn’t even lurk anymore.  I’d hear ‘Who’s that lurking over there?  Isn’t that Brian Roberts?’ ”

This 2006 SP Authentic card is pretty good looking;  it would be nicer if the image looked more like Brian… it’s slightly off, almost like Brian Roberts after cosmetic surgery.

Hopefully Brian will be able to make more than a cameo appearance in 2013.  It’s a lot of fun to follow the Orioles this year, but I know Mrs. Shlabotnik would enjoy it more if Brian were part of it.

Everybody Loves The Pilots (Except The Brew Crew)

There’s never a shortage of Seattle Pilots collectibles at the National… Yearbooks, schedules, cards, pennants, jerseys… How affordable those collectibles are is another matter, but just because something costs 200 times as much money as I brought to the show doesn’t mean I can’t blog about it. I promise there’ll be affordable stuff mentioned down below as well.

First, we have a Dick Bates home jersey;  Bates entire Major League career consisted of pitching in one game on April 27th, 1969, hurling 1.2 innings in relief.

I had to play some games to get the above image to appear correctly;  for some reason I’d have an image that looked OK on my computer but got rotated 90 degrees when I uploaded it to WordPress.  I could not for the life of me figure out why this was happening, and I ended up getting around it by rotating the image the other direction on my computer and then uploading that image.  If anybody has any clue what the heck is going on with that, please leave a comment.

Getting back to the uniform, here’s an interesting detail you never see in baseball cards;  I never realized until this past weekend that flannels – or at least 1960’s flannels – had eyelets sewn into the armpits.

Looking for something more affordable?  How about this Seattle Pilots pennant for $90?  No?  OK, fair enough.  For some reason, the pennant company took the lower case “p” and “o” in the wordmark and made them larger, presumably to make it fit better on the pennant.  Looks a bit goofy, though.  I’m sure they would’ve sorted that out in 1970, if only they’d had the chance.

Here’s a John Morris road uniform… Morris pitched in 6 games for the Pilots, and also pitched for the Orioles, Phillies, Brewers (naturally) and Giants.  I love the combination of blue and yellow used in the Pilots (and early Brewers) uniforms, and I think that the yellow lettering on a powder blue uniform works nicely.  Maybe someday the Brewers or Mariners can revive something like this.

Here’s something that’s affordable:  A $40 pocket schedule for 1970, the season that got played in Milwaukee.  One would expect a second-year schedule to be more visually appealing than this, but perhaps that was emblematic of the financial struggles of the team at that stage.

Allright, enough of the bank-breaking stuff.  What did I get for myself?  Well, I completed my 1970 Pilots team set (the team set I had thought was complete until recently) by getting this card of a hatless Rich Rollins in a Twins jersey.  Rollins was an All-Star in 1962 as a Twins rookie, and he was an All-Star in BOTH All-Star games that year… I’d forgotten they used to play two games.  Good thing that doesn’t happen anymore.  I can just imagine the “Both of these count!” hype that would surround them.

Going into the show, I saw that there was a Seattle Pilots card in the 1969 Deckle Edge insert set, so I added that to my wantlist.  My reaction to this card is best if, when you read it,  you mentally hear a disappointed Homer Simpson voice:  “Ohhhhhh…. I wanted a Pilot!”  This is a disappointing card, but I bought it anyway.  Technically, it’s a Seattle Pilots card, even though the words “Seattle” and “Pilots” are nowhere to be found on the card, the uniform looks like it might be an airbrushed Dodger uniform, and it’s all in black and white.  But it’s from 1969, Tommy Davis was on the  Pilots in 1969 and all of his cards from 1969 are considered Pilots cards, so….

Much more fun than that (both for me and the original owner) is this 1970 Topps Scratch Off Game featuring Pilots first baseman Mike Hegan on the front.

The Scratch Off “cards” are really little gatefold cards;  here’s what a scratched-off card looks like on the inside

And here’s the “back”, complete with the final score that came from all the scratching.

…And the Pilots scored 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th to beat California 6-5!  Woo-hoo!  Thats worth the $1 I spent right there.

National Show & Tell: They’re Not ‘Lesser Grade’, They’re Well-Loved

A lot of my bigger “gets” from the show were vintage star cards which were somewhat lacking in… shall we say “Gradeability”?  No pristine pieces of cardboard entombed in the grading service shells of death, just well-loved cardboard which you know were handled, perused, examined, memorized and, in one case, somewhat abused.

…Like this 1966 Jim Hunter, his second-year card.  It looks like someone made a big yellow highlighter “L” on the card (it looks worse in the scan than it does in person).  I saw this card in a box, it was obviously damaged, but how else are you going to get a 46-year-old card of a Hall Of Famer for $1?  It’s not even a card I would normally collect, but I had something of a “Charlie Brown Christmas” moment with this card… I looked at it, and I thought “I think it needs me”.

So, what else did I get?  Say hey, everybody!  Take a look at these!

One of my somewhat last-minute goals of the show was to try to get some well-loved stars from the 1972 set, and Willie Mays certainly falls into that category.  If I also decide to go forward with completing the first two series of 1972 (something I’ve all but committed to doing), then I was going to need these two.  I would also need Mr. Joe Morgan…

…but Willie McCovey falls into the third series, so buying him is either a case of being proactive regarding possible future goals, or just me saying “WTF”.

And finally, so you don’t think I was fixated too  much on 1972, here’s a lovely Brooks Robinson All-Star from 1970.

The total damage for these cards?  $16.  For less than the price of a blaster, I got 6 vintage cards featuring Hall-Of-Famers.  I ask you, how can you beat that?

National Stuff: Seaver & Seaver

One of my goals for the National was furthering my Hostess collection, but it didn’t go too well.  This Seaver card is the only card I came up with.  If I had more than one day I probably would’ve found dealers who had them, but that’s the way it goes.  I did find someone who had a $1 panel of three cards, and I briefly considered buying it and cutting it down to three individual cards, but I decided it went against the Hostess-cratic Oath:  First of all, do no harm to panels.  If I cut up a panel, that’s not really different from taking a “Rookie Infielders” card and cutting it into individual mini cards; it might serve my purposes, but it ruins a collectible for someone else.

Another one of my goals was working on my Mets teams sets from 1962-1972, and here’s a card that brought me a little bit closer to my 1972 team set… Those high numbers are going to be a challenge (Thank you, Captain Obvious).
Here’s a sweet 1967 Seaver jersey at the Heritage Auctions booth. For what it’s worth, this is the picture I was taking when Tommy Lasorda passed by me (see the previous post for info on that).

Just in case I have to clarify this fact, I did not buy this jersey. I’d have to sell my car… and my wife’s car… and my neighbor’s car… and…

Celebrity Sightings And Other Random National Notes

Like William over at Foul Bunt, I had something of a run-in with Tommy Lasorda at the show (although my encounter wasn’t as exciting as his)… I was taking photos of a jersey in an auction house’s display case when someone near me said “It’s Tommy Lasorda!”  I thought there was a Lasorda jersey in the case, but I quickly realized that he was talking about Tommy Lasorda himself.  I looked around just in time to see Lasorda walking right past me… Could’ve reached out and touched him.   By the time I’d gathered my wits enough to remember that I was holding a camera, he’d gone well past me, but I caught up with him enough to take this picture.

Later on I also saw Don Larsen walk past;  again, I was tipped off by someone saying “Hey, It’s Don Larsen!”  I’m normally too oblivious to notice people passing by.


Naturally, I went to look at the Black Swamp find.  C’mon, you HAVE to see the Black Swamp Find, even if only so you can say you saw them.

You know what’s really odd about these cards?  If I didn’t know better, I would think they were reprints.  They are THAT pristine.  Bright white card stock, sharp corners, it’s really odd to look at them and think that they’re 100 years old.


This is as close as I got to the autograph pavilion.  I’m not much of an autograph collector, and most of the players who I would like to meet are ones who wouldn’t be at the National to start with (and would generally not have long pavilion lines either.)

I did hear some people on the floor using their cell phones to coordinate their pavilion activities with people in line… which reminds me of a public service announcement I’d like to make:  If you’re at a show and get a call on your phone, please be considerate and find a corner to move into, don’t just wander slowly and haphazardly through the narrow aisles and get in everybody’s way.

Thank you.


This is my confession:  I’m amused whenever I see anything referring to “Iron Joe” McGinnity, because it makes me think of “Iron Balls McGinnity”, a throwaway joke in the Steve Martin movie “The Jerk”.  You know how a joke is sometimes funnier when you feel like you’re one of the few people in on it?  That’s how I felt about “Iron Balls”.  Oh, sure, everybody got the part about it being a bad idea to kick a guy named “Iron Balls” in the groin, but I don’t know how many people get the “McGinnity” part.


After seeing countless Topps versions of Turkey Red, it was cool to see a real Turkey Red cabinet card.

I really need to come up with better adjectives than “cool”, “neat” and “awesome”.


That about covers the National experience in the abstract… I’ve got more posts about specific things I saw and/or bought, but they’ll have to wait for another post.

Today Is Declared To Be A Day Of National Reflection

So, I went to the National yesterday.

I went for one day, and one day only.

I was not a VIP.

I did not set foot in the autograph pavilion.

I did not take part in any wrapper redemptions.

I did not achieve most of my goals for the show.

And you know what?  I had a really great time.  One of the great things about the National is that you could easily spend an entire day just walking around looking at all the awesome stuff there was.

Conversely, one of the things I don’t like about the National is that the stuff is often a little TOO awesome for a collector like me.  While I found some excellent lesser-condition stars at one table, I had trouble locating the specific lesser-condition cards I was looking for.  One dealer made a face when I told him what I was hoping to spend for a 1973 Schmidt rookie (Yes, I’m talking rough condition, I realize that… but I’ve got a budget).

…But that’s just quibbling.  I spent quite a few bucks, no doubt.  I made some excellent acquisitions, got some fun stuff, and even got to cap off my day by digging through dime boxes.  I’ll be posting more about what I saw and what I bought after I’ve had time to sort thing things, scan cards, crop photos and organize my thoughts.

One of the things that helped me yesterday was that I had a strategy that largely worked for me.  I’d gone to the 2010 National (also in Baltimore) and the two mistakes I’d made at the time were 1) letting the enormity of the show overwhelm me and 2) Spending too much time looking at recent cards that I could get at any card show.  This time, I stopped for “brunch” just before arriving to the show, wolfed down some food, made sure I used the “facilities”, and because of that, I was able to work the show floor for 7+ hours straight – no lunch, no drinks, no bathroom breaks.  While at the show I tried to pace myself, prioritize things and, in some cases, scribbled notes on paper to come back later if I had time  (and I did).

I have to admit that the tip of my right thumb is a bit tender after spending the entire day thumbing through cards.  What can I say, I’m out of shape.

Could I have spent a second or third day at the show?  From a fanboy perspective, absolutely.  From a financial standpoint?  Wellllllllllllllllll…  Maybe.  Not being a VIP, I would’ve paid another $20 admission for the second day, and if I didn’t stay in an Inner Harbor hotel, I would’ve paid another $10-20 for parking… not to mention that Sunday wouldn’t have been another 7 hour day because of the show closing earlier and dealers packing up.  I made a decision to make it one maxxed-out day, and I’m totally cool with that.

By the way, for those people who had never been to Baltimore before… Conway Street doesn’t normally look like this:These crash fences are being put in place in preparation for the Baltimore Grand Prix on Labor Day weekend.  But it was kind of cool looking… and I’ll admit, I made vroom vroom noises while driving down the street.

…and for those of you who haven’t been to Baltimore at all, that’s the Camden Yards warehouse at the end of the street, and the Convention Center on the very right-hand edge of the photo.

Quintessential Baltimore

I’m off at the National in Baltimore today, and I thought it would be appropriate to feature this 2002 Upper Deck Vintage card.  What could better symbolize Camden Yards-era Orioles baseball than Cal standing on deck, with the Warehouse in the background?

While I’m at the show today I’ll be taking photos and taking notes, and I’ll do my best to share the one-day, non-VIP National experience with you.

National Wantlist, Part 7: Take Me To The Pilots

I’ve been a Seattle Pilots collector since I read Ball Four in high school.  The book got me interested in the team, and the idea of a “one and done” Major League team just intrigued the hell out of me.  I started off by collecting the Topps cards from 1969 and 1970, and I’ve been branching out to the oddball stuff since completing the team sets.

Among the vintage stuff I’m looking for is a 1970 Kellogg’s Don Mincher and a 1969 Deckle-Edge Tommy Davis, I’m also on the lookout for more recent stuff like the Pacific Legends cards or the 1983 Renata Galasso Seattle Pilots set.  I don’t know if anybody would  have anything like this, but I’m always on the lookout for a nice Pilots t-shirt.

One unexpected addition to my wantlist came as a result of discovering a feature of  Even though the card information they show doesn’t include the team name, you can search on “Seattle Pilots” and find everything which is tagged with that keyword.  When I did this, I saw an unfamiliar 1970 Topps cards and realized that my Pilots team sets are not as complete as I thought;  I need #652 – Rich Rollins.

National Wantlist, Part 6: Seventy-Seven? Oh, Peachy.

Another thing I’ve been working on lately is 1977 O-Pee-Chee baseball.  For those of you who don’t know (and who don’t follow the very informative “O, My O-Pee-Chee” blog), the 1977 OPC baseball set is based on 1977 Topps, but featured a number of differences to make things interesting.  It’s the one year they made a significant number of changes which go beyond text lines telling you that a player was “TRADED TO YANKEES”.  Not coincidentally, 1977 was the first year for the Toronto Blue Jays.

I’m not collecting the entire 1977 OPC set, but I am picking up any cards which have different photos, are airbrushed differently or just don’t exist in the Topps set to begin with (i.e. “Expos Coaches”).  That’s still a fair number of cards.

Here are some OPC Expos I picked up at a show in March, along with the Topps equivalents:

National Wantlist, Part 5: They Might Be (1964 Topps) Giants

I’ve been working on the 1964 Topps Giants set since the late 1980’s, and all along I’ve been bewildered as to why this set isn’t more popular.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I must be the misguided one concerning these.  There’s no reason why anybody would want these cards.

Look at this Hank Aaron card… Who would want such a big portrait of Hammerin’ Hank in a Milwaukee Braves cap?  C’mon, Milwaukee?  Team hasn’t existed for over 45 years.

The cards are oversized, and don’t fit into 9-pocket pages.  Nobody likes oversized cards, right?  You all want minis!  MINIS, I TELL YOU!

The cards are generally cheaper than their 1964 Topps counterparts, meaning that they’re not a good investment.  Stay away from them.

There’s no foil, no refractor parallel, no stats on the back.  These barely qualify as baseball cards.

Oh, did I mention short prints?  Nearly 12% of the set is short printed!  TWELVE PERCENT!  Outrageous!

Look at the checklist!  Gary Peters?  Bob Bailey?  Chuck Hinton?  Dick Farrell?  Camilo Pascual?  Wayne Causey?  Galen Cisco?  What’s with all these guys?  Where are the Hall Of Famers?  This set has hardly anybody of interest in it, only Aaron and Koufax and Kaline and Mantle and Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson and Spahn and Marichal and Killebrew and Gibson and Yaz and Mays and Santo.  Maybe a couple of other guys.

And where’s Roberto Clemente?  You’d think he’d be in this set, but there’s just some guy named Bob Clemente.  Probably some guy they included just so that the Senators would have somebody in the set.

This set is hardly worth anybody’s time, especially you dealers at the National.  I see this set’s value being ready to tank, and I highly recommend that you discount all of your inventory of 1964 Topps Giants.

Especially the short prints.  And Bob Clemente.