Friday, April 17, 2015

Food-Issue Friday: Grilled Cheese

Sometimes life just isn't fair. An artist has an inspired moment, but has no brush, nor paint. A musician has a melody- but is far from his piano. I have an idea for a custom faux food-issue card and my photoshop software says there's a licensing issue and the free on-line pixl editor sucks.

Now had I had the proper tools, my card would have been a Kraft Singles card celebrating grilled cheese and new Braves closer Jason Grilli (his nickname is Grilled Cheese). After all, who doesn't like grilled cheese? If you don't, you might just be missing out- at least according to a new study on the love lives of those who eat the popular sandwich. So instead of offering up some fresh grilled cheese, I guess I'll just have to serve left-overs.

Grilli has pitched really well so far this season, and while the Braves aren't expected to win very many games, should they do better than expected and Grilli save a lot of games... You might just see a baby boom in Braves Country.

Let's hear it for Grilled Cheese!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Appreciating Vintage Cardboard

I am many things: husband, father, employee, boss, sports fan- but one thing I'm not is a wine connoisseur (in fact, I don't know if I'm much of an expert in anything. Braves baseball and baseball cards, perhaps). I was reminded of this a few years ago when some friends invited us over to their house for a wine tasting party. Her cousin, who works for a distributor, got her a good deal on the fruit of the vine and was there to assist in the 'tasting' as the experts call it. And so there I sat, like a fish out of water, trying my hardest to look like someone I'm not, pouting because the only food available was sushi- and I won't eat anything raw. Well that and the fact that it was release day- meaning I had two fresh packs of 2011 Topps 1 in the car waiting for me to open.

What if we, as card collectors, had such parties? Would it be the 'vintage only' snobs and no one else; or, would there be some of those who are anathema to the hobby purists: those who collect modern stuff. What would one such party look like?

Appearance: Observe it- notice the colors, the use of line, photo selection. Anything about the subject stand out? How is the centering? Are there any flaws or defects from the printing process? Turn the card over- read the stats, familiarize yourself with the players biography. Is the card number easily identifiable? Notice the crude little drawing? We call that the comic.

Smell: Musty, as if it has been stored in the basement for 50 years. Perhaps it had been in a shoe-box, or maybe even some type of photo album. If you're lucky there's no distinguishable smell, as if it were pack-fresh.

Feel: Pull the cardboard out of its plastic case (we call this the top loader) and gently- GENTLY!!- run your finger over the front of the card. Notice the embossed-like crease in the card, feel the rough corner where the card was torn? Notice the slightly rounded corners, the frayed edges. You may also have a wax stain on the front or back (real- not contrived! WE DO NOT ALLOW CONTRIVED ERRORS!!!), so be sure to check closely for those.

Finish: Place the card back in its holder, re-examine it and contemplate the pure joy you just experienced. Live by the motto: Cardboard Life- Smell It, Feel It, Live It!

Of course, this card would never, ever be approved by the 'Purists'

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Base(ball) Oddity #32: Endangered Species

Once a common stadium giveaway promoting safety and public awareness, the team-issued Police sets have become an endangered species. While the 80's to 90's (and even into early 00's) were fraught with sets, I've only seen two team sets (Milwaukee and Minnesota) released in more recent years.

If you own- or have seen- any of these great oddities, then you are familiar with the words of wisdom each player (supposedly) has to say to the youth of America: Don't Do Drugs; Stay Out of Gangs; Stay in School; Report Burglars. et al.

Today's sets, were they to exist (or if?), would probably be heavy on the anti-bullying messages, domestic violence (while police officers have a much higher rate of domestic violence issues than the general population, but I digress) and anti-texting and driving messages. With the hit that the law enforcement community has taken in the media over the past nine months or so (whether it's fair or not. And I'm not trying to make a political statement), I have to wonder if we won't see these oddball sets making a comeback. Get re-connected with the community, ya know?

I never knew of this set's existence until I saw it on COMC a few weeks ago. The Avery card is the only one I know of and I haven't been able to find any information on this particular set. Can any fellow Braves fans out there in Braves Country pass along a good word regarding the 1992 PAL set?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lucky Ed Halicki

My first encounter with today's card was accompanied with snickering. Lots of it.

It wasn't the gangly pitcher for the Giants that caused the giggles- it was his name. As you can see, it rhymes with hickey. And 'dickey.' You'll have to excuse me. I was between 10 and 11 years old at the time and things like that brought laughter. And... it reminded me of the line from the 1978 blockbuster film Grease, when Jeff Conaway's character says, "A hickey from Kenickie is like a Hallmark Card: When you care enough to send the very best." More laughter.

Halicki, who was a bit of a malcontent, was just as quotable as the Conaway character. Speaking about Giants GM Spec Richardson, the 6'7 righty once said, "I heard Spec was sick. Well, we have something in common. I'm sick of being in a Giants uniform." Geez, with an attitude like that, he could have been wearing the black leather T-Birds jacket.

The ten or eleven year-old ChopKeeper wasn't aware that Ed had once pitched a no-hitter during the 1975 season. No-Hitter? Who's got time for that?! This guy's name rhymes with Dickie!

The no-no was the first one in the National League since the 1973 season. Afterwards, the triumphant pitcher attributed it to luck: "A no-hitter has got to be luck. If it were skill, guys like Tom Seaver, Bob Gipson, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan would have 20." No skill involved! Ha! I told you, a laugh a minute.

I'm guessing that the disgruntled hurler never sent a Hallmark Card to Spec when the GM was ill. Had he cared enough and wanted to send the very best, then surely a copy of this Topps card would have been sent instead.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Murphy Monday: Secondary

The recent fiasco with the Topps Tribute "Smudge Gate" and the subsequent product recall caused me to have a change of heart in regards to collecting this year's offering. I initially wasn't going to bother picking up any of the Dale Murphy cards from the set, but realized I might miss out on a card that could be difficult to find down the road. And for $1.94, I couldn't pass this beauty up.

Tribute has not been one of the brands I've chased over the years, but I have grown somewhat fond of this one since receiving it in the mail. It reminds me, even if ever so slightly, of the earlier Flair baseball line.

Another recent purchase- a 2005 Playoff Prime Cuts Dale Murphy card, numbered out of /449. I was out of collecting from 2002-2009, so much of what came out then is foreign to me. I know nothing of this product, but was struck by its design. My policy on post-playing career Murphy cards is if it grabs my attention, try to buy one. Primary cards are from his playing career, all else is considered secondary and thus not must-haves.

Haters gonna hate, so get it out of your system, ya'll. I dig it, even without logos, no team nickname and with its plain gray swatch.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Food-Issue Friday: Food Issues

I was listening to Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio while driving to work yesterday and just happened to catch an interview with Michael Kay, Play-by-Play guy for the Yankees on their YES Network. The subject of the discussion- at least the part that I caught (I have a very short drive to work)- was food. Well, food issues of Kay's, to be exact. He's got some, um...quirky eating habits, I guess you could say. Kay claims to have never eaten a banana, any kind of fish, jelly, coffee, condiment, salad dressing or soup. Being a picky eater myself, I'll reserve judgement, but I will say that when it comes to cardboard I can be pretty picky or quirky in my collecting habits- except when it comes to food-issues. I consume any and every food-issue I can get my hands on.

I recently received an extremely generous surprise package from a collector whom I've often thought of as a picky collector- "Mr. Wallet Card" himself, TJ- also known as The Junior Junkie. Look at his blog and you will see that TJ collects a little more than his moniker would indicate.

Most of the goods in this latest package were of Tom Glavine and Dale Murphy but TJ also started a food fight in the middle of the whole thing. What did he throw at me? Well, let's take a look...

1993 Jimmy Dean #16 Nolan Ryan

The last person I'd want to get into a food fight with (and the first I'd want on my team) is the Ryan Express. Can you imagine him hurling an apple your way? The man might be closing in on 70, but he can probably still bring the heat.

1991 Post #29,   1990 Wonder Bread Stars #6 Don Mattingly
Are there even teams in food fights? I've lived a sheltered life and have never participated in such shenanigans, so I honestly don't know the answer to this question. If there are teams, I want to see Don Mattingly managing the opposition. Every. Single. Time. You know he'd save the soggy noodles for his best arm.

1990 Wonder Bread Stars #10,  1993 Hostess #7 Darryl Strawberry

What would a food fight be without a fruit? Enter Mr. Strawberry.

Like Mattingly, I wouldn't want Straw to be on my side of the cafeteria. He'd probably throw something at me, gorge himself on candy, or complain about the way he was being used.

1990 Post Cereal #21 Cal Ripken, Jr.

If Nolan Ryan is first on my food fight draft list, this man would be second. Cal would show up every day and get the perfect attendance award, he would revolutionize the way the fight takes place, and he would (*wink*) never ever take part in any hazing of teammates.

1990 Post Cereal #12 Mark McGwire
I honestly don't know where I'd stand on the inclusion of this Bash Brother. No one likes a cheater- but he might just be able to find alternative means of gaining an advantage over the opposition. Plus, he could launch Taters or Salamis farther than any human being.

Besides, if the principal called Mark into his office, you can be sure that Big Mac wouldn't want to talk about what happened- only that he was looking forward to being a positive influence in the cafeteria.

Thanks again for all the cards that were needed for my collection, TJ. Do you think Michael Kay has ever tried that staple (cardboard) that's common to our daily diet?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

'F' Words

 I try to keep a tamed tongue, lest I am somehow viewed as an 'unintelligent individual with a small vocabulary' (not really, it has more to do with convictions), but there are times when a four-letter word is the only one to get my point across, or to convey how I feel. I'm specifically referring to the 'F-Word'- or F Words.

Freddie Freeman

With a lineup that has undergone a major face lift, most prognosticators wrote off Atlanta before the season even began. Well, the Braves surprised a lot of folks by beating the Marlins 2-1 on opening night- and doing so without Craig Kimbrel. Freddie went 1-4 against the Miami, whom he struggled against mightily last year, and followed that up with a 3-5 performance with 2 doubles and 2 RBI. Perhaps after last year's struggles, Freeman finally let out a, "F***!!"


I kind of took a flyer on this Freeman Dominator card- getting it and Freddie's Donruss base card for 99 cents. And while I've never been much of a fan of superfractor x-fractoralidocious type cards, I have to admit that this thing is pretty nice in-hand.

Face of the Franchise

After Heyward and Kimbrel were traded, the 'Face of the Franchise' fell to Freddie- whether he wants it or not. 

Fan Favorite

Not only did the franchise lose its face, it also lost three fan favorites with the trade of not only the aforementioned Heyward and Kimbrel, but also El Oso Blanco, Evan Gattis. Freddie, with all his hugs and on the field production, is probably the most popular current Brave. After all, it's hard not to like a fun guy!

FIVE (5)

By wearing the Number 5, Freddie has some pretty big shoes to fill. Former #5's include Bob Horner and Ron Gant.

First Baseman Flashing Fine Leather

The saber geeks would have us believe that FabFreddie5 is a horrible first baseman- but those of us who watch him know better. His range may not be among the elite, but the glove is- and has saved a large number of runs over the years.

Finest Freshmen

The only thing that prevented Freeman from winning the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year was teammate Craig Kimbrel. A slugging percent of .448 with 21 home runs at the age of 21 was the perfect foreshadowing of Freddie's career. In fact, it's only gotten better.

Franchise Flashback

Thankfully, the back of this card gives us some context: "On August 16, 2014, Freeman and his teammates donned cream colored jerseys and solid navy hats- uniforms reminiscent of those worn by the 1914 Boston Braves. That memorable club started just 4-19 before storming to the 1914 World Series title." We don't get context on cards very often.

Fever- Spring, That Is

Not only will the Braves be moving into their new home in Cobb County come 2017, but their spring training lease in Orlando expires that same year and it's probably a given that the team will relocate its spring training base. They could probably move to the Grand Canyon and #5 would still be hitting 'free-bombs.'

Speaking of dingers....

First Home Runs

I just received this card yesterday from Brian at Highly Subjective & Completely Arbitrary (along with some '88 Donruss). It's from this year's Topps set and commemorates Freddie's first career homer- which came on September 21, 2010 against Roy Halladay and the Phillies. 

Thanks, Brian, and remember folks...

There's nothing wrong with a well-timed F-Bomb (or, Freddie Bomb)!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

From One Braves Collector to Another

I saw a much needed 2015 Topps Hank Aaron card on Johnny's Trading Spot recently and, seeing that it was available for trade, worked out a deal with John. It was our first trade, but certainly won't be our last.

2015 Topps Baseball History 7B

I have always enjoyed the Flashbacks insert sets from the Heritage line, and I thought it strange that Topps would include the Baseball History insert set in this year's Series 1 set. With so many other insert possibilities, the idea of putting out a set that puts baseball in a more historical context seems like it would be more at home in Heritage. That being said, I do like this 15- well, 30- card set.

Although I probably won't collect its counterpart, I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention card #7A, which commemorates the premier of the iconic American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. The radio program, which continues today with host Ryan Seacrest, was just as much a part of many our lives as was This Week in Baseball or that 25 cent Topps wax pack. I don't know if there was any mention of the Home Run King on that week's countdown, but there was another King who had a hit in the Top 10 that week- Elvis.

Thanks again, John, for the trade, and remember... Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Yes, It's from the 80s

As we were driving my daughter to youth group the other night, a song by Tears for Fears ("Head Over Heals") began playing on Bob FM- the radio station that shamelessly plays everything. As she is wont to do, my daughter asked the question, "is this song from the 80's?"  It's a curiosity that I think is rooted in a part of our lives that she would like to connect with; a mystery, of sorts. Or, she just associates a certain sound with certain decades.

The next song our daughter heard ( a little over an hour later) was met with the same question. Only this time it was met with a different answer. The song? Kansas' "Carry on Wayward Son" from 1976's Leftoverture. To my ears, this song does not sound like something from the 80s- although I guess one could confuse a heavy riff-based song with something from early 80s rock.

I wish our little inquirer would show an interest in the distinctions of 1980's baseball cards. I could point out things such as:

Spring Training Shots

Ahh...there's nothing like watching the Expos and the Braves on an early March afternoon at West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium, spring training home to each of the two teams. And capturing it on cardboard for all eternity.

Road games often featured those good ol' outfield walls featuring local advertising. Of course, those weren't nearly as interesting as the walls in today's stadiums.

Hats were a little bit different back then, too. Not mere money-grabs, but those badass mesh back caps. The kind where your hair could creep out of the back, just above the adjustment strap.

Interesting Subsets Within the Base Set

These types of subsets weren't 80s exclusives, of course, but it seems like they ended in the 80s. And while Archives brings back many of our favorites from yesterday, those are inserts & just aren't the same.

As a side note...Happy belated birthday to Hall of Famer Phil Nieko- who just turned 76 on April 1st. I'm surprised I didn't hear an April Fools joke about him returning to pitch in the majors. The man pitched in the majors until he was 48 and he probably still have some mileage left on that arm.

I could also explain to my daughter that the man who manned first base for the Braves for most of the 80s also provided us with one of the top three plays of the 1970s: hitting a walk-off homer to win the pennant for the Yankees. I didn't get to see either Aaron's record breaking homer or Fisk's World Series homer live, so, for me, the Chambliss home run was the most exciting 70s moment for me. 

Those Donruss Designs

While I really like every Topps design from the 80s, the Donruss designs are the most unique and colorful. 

Should my daughter feel sorry for us losing these great designs, I can reassure her that they still live on in Panini's new Donruss line. I might even use a formula such as 1985D + 1987D =

Of course, I might just be setting myself up for 'Dad, is that card from the 80s?' every time she sees one of my Donruss cards. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Food-Issue Friday: Seeds

There's nothing like finding a hidden gem.

Take today's card- I never knew it existed until JT over at The Writer's Journey posted it a few weeks ago. I knew immediately that I had to have one for myself and went searching eBay. After buying one, JT responded to a comment I had left on his blog and offered to look for one for me. While I appreciated the offer, I declined since I had already purchased one.

I was never much of a fan of the 2008 Topps design until about 9 months ago. For some unexplainable reason, it really started growing on me. Take away the foil and it looks like it could be out of the '60s. The one thing I'm not crazy about is the notched-out space below the team name. Topps should have just left it with a straight border and place their name elsewhere. The two logos on the bottom of the card clutter things up a bit, and I think Topps would have been better off leaving them for the back of the card. Regardless, it's still a unique design and one of the better ones from the years 2000-2009.

Speaking of the card back...

Once again, the David Seeds and Redsfest logos really stand out, only this time in a more positive way. My favorite part of the back, though, is the watermarked Mr. Red. The mascot is among the best in the game and takes us back to the beginning of the league. The dapper mustache, the pill box cap, solid stirrups. Glorious.

Speaking of gems, I just recently discovered this song from The Boss. I'm sure this outtake from the Born in the U.S.A. sessions is well known with Springsteen fans, as it has been included in a few of his subsequent tours.