One Man's Thoughts on Sports Card Collecting

Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Feature - The Strat-o-Matic Game of the Week


And now, on to the post.

A couple years ago I saw a copy of Strat-o-Matic baseball at a local hobby store.  Somehow, despite being both a huge fan of baseball and a huge fan of board games I had never owned a copy of the game as a kid.  Since this version had the 2008 Brewers team that made the playoffs I figured it must be fate.  I bought the game, and immediately I saw why it has inspired such a loyal following for 50 years!

I decided it would be fun to incorporate the game with my other favorite hobby here on the blog, since it's all a celebration of the great game of baseball!  So here's the deal - I bought the newest set of Strat-o-Matic cards, and I plan to pick one Brewers game per week and play it out in advance using the actual starting pitchers and lineups (or as close as I can get with what I have).  By the end of the year we'll see just how true to life this game is.  If this idea proves to be popular, maybe I'll take some requests to use other teams! 

Last night I played out today's Opening Day matchup, pitting Yovani Gallardo and the Crew versus Edinson Volquez and the Reds.  Here are the game highlights:

1st Inning

The Brewers got off to a fast start.  Rickie Weeks led off with a double, and after a Carlos Gomez strikeout Ryan Braun homered in his first at-bat of the season, giving Milwaukee a 2-0 lead.

2nd Inning

Jay Bruce tripled with one out, however the Reds failed to get the runner home.  Still 2-0 Brewers.

4th Inning

Prince Fielder led off the inning with a walk, and he moved to third on a ringing double by Casey McGehee.  Brewers shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt followed with a productive out, bringing in Fielder on a groundout to the first baseman.  Mark Kotsay (starting in place of the injured Corey Hart) came through with an RBI single, increasing the Brewers lead to 4-0.

Yovani Gallardo was absolutely dealing to start the game, retiring 10 of the first 11 batters he faced.  However that came to a halt in the form of a booming solo home run from reigning National League MVP Joey Votto.  4-1, Brewers still in the lead.

6th Inning

Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce banged back-to-back doubles, cutting the lead to 4-2.

8th Inning

Ryan Braun led off with a walk, and advanced to second on a groundout by the Prince.  With 2 outs, Betancourt came through with a clutch single, scoring Braun from second.  Brewers 5, Reds 2.

The Reds offense came to life in the bottom of the 8th.  Brandon Phillips got things going with a single, and after a Drew Stubbs strikeout, Votto walked to put runners on first and second.  Scott Rolen came up with his second double of the game, scoring Phillips, with Votto forced to hold at third.  An RBI groundout from Jay Bruce cut the Brewers lead down to a single run, and the tying run stood at third in the form of Rolen.  At this point Milwaukee called on closer John Axford to put out the fire, and he came through with a huge strikeout of Jonny Gomes to end the rally.  Brewers 5, Reds 4.

9th Inning

After the Brewers failed to bring in an insurance run in the top half, Axford entered the 9th still protecting a 1-run lead.  Trouble started immediately, with Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan leading off with a double.  Fortune than smiled on the Crew, as Paul Janish popped up his sacrifice bunt attempt, leaving Hanigan at second.  Pinch hitter Miguel Cairo then moved him to third with a groundout to Weeks.  With the tying run 90 feet away, lead off man Phillips stepped to the plate.  He promptly ripped a line drive that was CAUGHT by Casey McGehee, and the Brewers hung on for a 5-4 victory!  (It was actually quite dramatic, Phillips' result required a second die roll where I could see it was either gonna be tie game or game over).

Final Box Score:
For the Brewers - 5 Runs on 7 Hits, no Errors, and 7 Left on Base
For the Reds - 4 Runs on 7 Hits, 1 Error, and 6 Left on Base.

Winning Pitcher - Gallardo (6 IP, 2 Earned Runs, 4 Hits, 2 Walks, 6 K's)
Losing Pitcher - Volquez (7 IP, 4 Earned Runs, 6 Hits, 3 Walks, 11 K's)
Save - Axford (1 1/3 IP, 1 Hit, 1 K)

Offensive Star: Ryan Braun - 2 for 4 with a Walk, a HR, 2 RBIs, and 2 Runs scored
Offensive Goat: Jonny Gomes took home the sombrero, going 0 for 4 with 4 Strikeouts

I can only hope the real game this afternoon works out so well!

Previous Trivia Question:

In July 1993, Ken Griffey Jr. tied a big league record by homering in 8 consecutive games.  What other 2 players also accomplished that feat? (hint: one of them just became the manager of a major league team)

Answer - Don Mattingly (in July 1987 with the Yankees) and Dale Long (in May 1956 as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates)

Today's Trivia Question:

What Hall of Fame pitcher tossed the only Opening Day no-hitter in baseball history?

Monday, March 28, 2011

It Came From the Card Closet~!! - Part 1

With my Mom trying to sell her house I've had to finally go through my old closet full of baseball cards.  Among the piles and piles of 1992 Donruss, 1988 Topps, and 1993 Score (along with plenty of other junk wax sets) I've come across some interesting stuff that I had forgotten I even had.  I plan to put up a series of posts chronicling the forgotten, cool, and in some cases just plain odd things I find as I get everything into something resembling order.

Today, I have the first of a few different sets of cards I got as fan giveaways at Brewer games years ago.  This group of 4 marked the opening of the Brewers Walk of Fame that now lines the sidewalks around Miller Park.  They began with the 4 players that have had their numbers retired by the organization:

Hammerin' Hank Front
And Back
Since starting with Aaron, Fingers, Molitor, and Yount they have added over a dozen  others, including fan favorites Cecil Cooper and Gorman Thomas, legendary broadcaster Bob Uecker, and also Milwaukee Braves greats Warren Spahn and Eddie Mathews.

Previous trivia question:

The original Milwaukee Brewers, one of the American League's 8 charter franchises in 1901, eventually turned into what current big league team?

Answer: The original Milwaukee Brewers left town after just one season, becoming the hapless St. Louis Browns.  After 52 seasons in St. Louis the team moved again, and they became the Baltimore Orioles in 1954.

Today's trivia question:

In July 1993, Ken Griffey Jr. tied a big league record by homering in 8 consecutive games.  What other 2 players also accomplished that feat? (hint: one of them just became the manager of a major league team)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Newest (Oddball) Addition to the Griffey Collection

I stumbled across these at my local card store, selling for just a buck each:

Yes, they DO still have the cereal in them.  Says "best by November 18, 1999".  Think I should try it?  :)

To add a little extra fun to the blog, from now on I'm going to end each post with a baseball trivia question.  So here is the first one:

The original Milwaukee Brewers, one of the American League's 8 charter franchises in 1901, eventually turned into what current big league team?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sweet Yount Card from eBay

It's been a hectic few weeks, and I apologize for the blog being a little light on posts recently.  However, I've got a whole bunch of cards scanned in and ready to go now, so there is going to be a lot of good stuff coming over the next couple weeks.  I'm also going to debut a new feature for the blog this week to coincide with the start of the 2011 baseball season (hint: it's going to involve Strat-o-Matic Baseball), so be sure to tune in!

For today, I have a really cool card my girlfriend Jo found on eBay:

Stadium Club Member's Only from 1992-93
An awesome card capturing one of the great moments in Brewers franchise history.  I still remember when the Brewers came home to County Stadium and Yount was sitting on 2,997 hits, and my Mom telling me I could pick just ONE game to go to.  As an optimistic 10 year old, I of course thought Yount was fully capable of getting 3 hits in one game, so I chose to go to the first game.  Unfortunately "The Kid" only got one hit that night, and I missed my chance at witnessing history in person.  Looking back I don't feel too bad about it, because while my older and wiser self wouldn't have picked the game when he was 3 hits away, I would have gone the next day when he was only 2 hits away, and he only got one hit that game too.

On a side note, it's funny looking at the extremely old school County Stadium scoreboard on this card when we are just 10 days away from debuting a brand new, state of the art scoreboard at Miller Park.  We've come quite a long way since that old black and white board!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Griffey List Finished & RING OUT AHOYA~!

Just finished the list of my Ken Griffey Jr. collection (see link on right side of blog).  Final tally - 645 unique cards~! Thank God that's finally done.

Also, GO MARQUETTE!!  Sweet 16 here we come!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Ken Griffey Jr. List is Live!

At long last, I am posting my "have list" of Ken Griffey Jr. cards!!  I've actually got about another 50-60 to go but I wanted to post what I've got so far, which is already 575 cards deep!  You'll notice there is now a new permanent page on the right side of the blog that will track all the changes.  I plan to add a running total to the title of the page once I have the exact number.  If you scroll to the right on the embedded page you'll also find the card numbers and serial numbers listed as well.  It's funny - 575 cards listed so far, and only about 100 are from the year 2000 on.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Great Insert Sets of the '90s

The 1990s marked the birth of the insert set.  I believe the very first one ever was the Reggie Jackson Baseball Heroes insert set in 1990 Upper Deck.  That set also included what I believe were the first ever autographed cards and serial-numbered cards in packs.  Who knew just a few short years later we would be saturated with countless inserts in every set produced??  Here are my picks for some of the best inserts to come out of the 1990s.

1993 Score Select Chase Stars

Might as well get this one out of the way right away.  As I just recently posted when I got a few more of these on eBay, this may well be my favorite insert set of all time.  The combo of my favorite color (dark green, which is not used nearly often enough on cards) and one of my favorite design effects (dufex) makes for a fantastic card.

1992 Topps Gold

The parallel set that started it all.  Purchasing a factory set of 1992 Topps Gold is currently near the top of my to-do list.  I still remember vividly the surprise and awe I felt the first time I pulled one of these from a pack.  I didn't even know these cards existed! - I guess I didn't spend a lot of time looking at the side of the box, where it was advertised.  But to my 10 year old mind, it felt like I was holding actual gold in my hands!

What's that you ask?  You want to know what player I pulled that got me so worked up?  Well let me show you:

Oh yeah.  FEEL the excitement!

1995 Flair Hot Numbers

This was one of the inserts that I knew I wanted to collect the instant I saw one.  It's probably due to my being such a stat nerd that I would love a set design that covered the card with gold foil numbers.  Also, at the time the super glossy finish and thick card stock was still a pretty new phenomenon, adding to their appeal

1993 Upper Deck Then & Now Holograms

Holograms are almost always a hit with me, and these were the best.  The Then & Now set combined a color picture of the player from their rookie days with a hologram picture from today, with a background of their team's city.  (I believe the background of Yount's is Milwaukee's harbor/Third Ward area).  I was lucky enough to find a complete set of these selling at a great price on eBay, and I snatched those up in a heartbeat.

1998 Pinnacle Epix

After holograms, super shiny, colorful cards like these are the other group that always works for me.  I won't spend much time here, as I've discussed these on other posts, but I'm getting close to a full set of Griffeys from this fantastic set (9 out of 12 thus far).

1998 Pinnacle Spellbound

Pinnacle did good work in 1998.  I believe this was the first to introduce the "spell a player's name" theme, and it was just a couple months ago that I finished off my Griffey set.  I mentioned earlier that I love me some Dufex, and these cards make great use of it.

1998 Upper Deck Blue Chip Prospects

The highlight of these cards was that the picture was on a film-like surface, which was a first at the time.  As you can see from the pictures above, you can see right through the picture of the player.  Die-cutting and bronze foil complete the attractive package.

1999 Upper Deck HoloGrFx Starview & Launchers

I put these together, because while they are different inserts they look very similar.  Dark green? - Check.  Super shiny, holograph-y foil? - Check.  Parallel versions (gold and silver foil)? - Check.  Yep, no surprise these would make my list.

Multiple Years - UD Collector's Choice You Crash the Game Inserts

This was a truly cool and innovative concept.  On the off chance that anyone reading this doesn't know how these worked, if the player hit a home run on any of the dates specified on the card, you could send in the card to get a special edition card of that player.  It was really cool to follow your cards all during the season, praying for a homer.  Ironically, the one time I DID win, I forgot to mail in the card on time!!  :)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, since there were just so many insert sets that you can't possibly consider them all, but these definitely account for most of my favorites.  I'd love to hear from others which sets from the '90s would make your lists!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

2011 Topps Heritage - Some Thoughts

One thing has become abundantly clear just a couple months into 2011 - I REALLY miss Upper Deck.  Or at least I miss what they represented, that being the last competition to the Topps baseball monopoly.  Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed Topps Series 1, but since I pulled a full base set out of my first day jumbo box it left me with little incentive to buy additional packs (not that I haven't bought a couple anyway).  With no other baseball card companies out there I've had just one big, boring lull to sit through until the next Topps offering comes out......

The good news is, at least the next Topps set is one I do indeed want to collect, and not just because I have no other options!

Let's start by looking at the design for the 500 card base set, a callback to 1962 Topps:

2011 Topps Heritage Miguel Cabrera Base Card

Love it, love it, love it!  Frankly I can't believe they didn't use this design for a Heritage set already, it would have been one of my first choices.  In my opinion there aren't many card designs from way back when that still hold up when making an honest comparison to modern designs, but this is one of them.

I do however have a bone to pick with Topps about the base set - there are 75 Short Prints.  As a set builder I've always been torn on the idea of SPs.  I understand that it encourages people to buy more packs and Topps is after all a business, but look at it this way - I couldn't find an official listing of how rare the SPs will be for Heritage, but let's assume that they are 1 in every 3 packs like they were for Topps Magic Football.  That means that even if you bought 2 full boxes (24 packs, 9 cards per pack) with pefect collation, you'll still be missing about 12% of the base set, or about 1 out of every 8 cards.  To me that seems wrong.  I think maybe 40 SPs would be a more reasonable number.  I would be interested to hear other people's take on this subject.

As far as the hits, you gotta love that all of the autographs in this set are on-card autos, no stickers!

2011 Topps Heritage Flashbacks Autograph Al Kaline Card

The one negative is that there are an awful lot of players on the list of autos for this set that I've never even heard of.  I guess that is to be expected, particularly in a throwback set, but I've always been of the mind that I would rather Topps put out fewer autographed cards in total, but make the ones they do produce all really mean something.

Next up, the Clubhouse Collection relics:

2011 Topps Heritage Ernie Banks Starlin Castro Clubhouse Collection Dual Autograph Relic Card

2011 Topps Heritage Evan Longoria Clubhouse Collection Autograph Relic Card

As far as what you are getting, these are great!  But from a looks standpoint, my immediate response was "yuck".  Memo to all card companies - if your card design involves large portions of the card being plastered in banana yellow, you are going the wrong way!  I thought we learned this lesson decisively 20 years ago....

I think we all knew this picture was coming.

Finally, the '62 Mint Cards:

2011 Topps Heritage Jackie Robinson '62 Mint Coin Card

I think I'll have to reserve final judgement on how good these are until I actually get to see one in person, but I'm definitely intrigued by the idea.  Each player has 5 variations, and what I like most is that the variations aren't just the coin involved, but also the info about the player:

  • 1962 Silver Half Dollar - Hall Of Fame Induction
  • 1962 Quarter - Baseball Highlight
  • 1962 Dime - Personal History
  • 1962 Nickle - Rookie Debut
  • 1962 Penny - Happy Birthday
Depending on exactly what info they have on the card backs you could end up with a nice little synopsis of your favorite player's career all contained within this set of 5 cards, which sounds like a really fun collectible to me.  I'm already considering going after the Warren Spahn cards!  :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Catching Up - Trade Bonanza~!

Man, it's been a really busy couple weeks - I caught that damn virus that's been going around (the uncontrollable shivering even while under 3 blankets was the best part) and it knocked me on my ass for almost a week, and I've been playing catch-up ever since.  I have a whole slew of trades to post on, so let's get to it!

(For those I've traded with, if I make any mistakes about who sent me which cards please forgive me. I tried to keep them all separate but then they ended up getting mixed together by accident, and I THINK I'm remembering who sent what correctly...)

First up, I had an exchange with Charlie over at the Lifetime Topps Project.  I really like the premise of his blog - he is trying to collect every Topps base set since he was born.  In this case I sent him a handful of 2010 Topps cards, but the bulk were cards he needed for his 2010 Upper Deck set.  In return, he sent me a stack I needed from 2010 Upper Deck (which I can't post a scan of because they are already in my set binder!), and also a handful of Griffeys:

Thanks Charlie.  As I continue to pick my way through my old card closet I've found lots of doubles from some of the 1990s Topps sets, and I'd be happy to send some your way in the future!

Next up, I had a small exchange with AJ at The Lost Collector.  AJ found my blog and saw that I was looking to trade for Platinum Diamonds, so I sent him a couple of Yankees from different sets from last year and he sent over a couple 2010 Topps Chrome cards I was missing plus this sparkly version of Mr. Borbon:
Thanks AJ, glad you liked the Posada refractor!

Next, I had been talking with Justin over at Justin's World for a couple weeks about a trade for the Starlin Castro Topps 60 Jersey Patch I pulled from my box.  He ended up sending me a couple more Platinum Diamonds, a couple Griffeys, and a few assorted Topps inserts:

This is one of the reasons I'm really glad I started this blog.  In the past I would have pulled the Castro, said "meh," and put it in a box forever.  Now I'm able to send that card to someone who really will appreciate it and get some cool stuff in return.  Thanks Justin!

And finally, I had an exchange with Matt over at Heartbreaking Cards of Staggering Genius (easily one of the best blog names I've seen so far).  This trade had a really unusual start - I had just happened upon his blog one day, and looking around I noticed one of the things he collects is the old Donruss Diamond King Puzzles.  I made a mental note because I had gotten all of the pieces of the Duke Snider puzzle a few months before from a random box I purchased at the local card shop (I believe it was 1984 Donruss Champions & Legends), and I figured I could set up a trade.  Then about a week later, in a really bizarre coincidence, I went to my card store and while perusing the table full of random old boxes of wax packs and assorted oddball items what did I find but 2 other complete Donruss puzzles from the mid 1980s! I snatched them right up, contacted Matt, and soon after had these lovely Griffeys waiting for me in my mailbox:

Thanks Matt!

Whew!  That's everything.  I really need to not get a backlog like this again.