Monday, November 20, 2017

Things I shouldn't find in dime boxes (A card show report)

Dime boxes confuse me sometimes.

I've been doing this card show thing long enough to where I pretty much know what kind of general randomness I can expect from any given dime box (if that makes any sense). There are certain things you can expect to dig up, and other things that are almost always off-limits -- I'm talking quarter, fifty-cent, dollar box material.

But then a show like the one Dad and I attended this past weekend comes along and leaves me flabbergasted. It felt like a different show for a few reasons (including one major one I'll cover in a later post), not the first of which was that I found a LOT of cards that, under normal circumstances, shouldn't have been available for dimes in the first place. I can't remember a show that's offered more in the way of sheer surprises than this huge tri-annual one did.

While you can't see my face in the above "action" photo of yours truly, rest assured my eyes were probably lighting up from the stuff I was unearthing at that very moment.


This is not a card I should be finding in a dime box. I'm nowhere near as enthusiastic about serial-numbered cards as I once was, but still -- a Vlad numbered to just 99 copies...that I got for a dime (from the very table you see me digging through at the top of this post, by the way).

It's crazy to think that one of the scarcer cards in my nearly 1,000-card collection of Vlad became mine for couch-cushion change.

Also: Ichiro.

I don't often find Ichiros in dime boxes. If I do, it's usually one here, one there -- and most assuredly not anything like the whole run of Ichiros I found in one of the final dime boxes in the convention hall, a dig that added more than a dozen new cards to my collection of the guy alone.

But trust me when I say that all this was just the beginning.

Short-prints might be fairly common when it comes to dime boxes, but SPs of guys like Ty Cobb and Nolan Arenado (from Heritage, no less) sure as heck aren't.

A good portion of the people at these big shows are in it for the prospects -- I can't tell you how many Judges and Bellingers and whoevers I saw and/or heard people asking for.

It's odd, then, that some great rookies still manage to migrate to the dime boxes. And while I don't think the Swanson and/or Seager are technically rookie cards -- I don't even know what the heck a rookie card is anymore -- it's still a shock to find them for a dime. (Also, the Swanson is a coveted zero-year card, to boot.)

And despite my feelings for the man himself, I'd be lying if I say I didn't feel a little twinge of excitement over finding a new Rangers card of Sammy Sosa.

Dime box parallels of top-tier player collections like Abbott and Paulie? Never.

High-end parallels of HOFers like Jim Rice? Never.

Scarce parallels from 2008 Stadium Club (numbered to 99 copies), a set I have a hard enough time finding base cards from? N-e-v-e-r.

Some dime box shiny and a One of A Kind Stadium Club parallel -- limited to 150 copies and worth it for the photo alone -- that I've heard are almost impossible to come by.

Sheer dime box beauty -- and a new card of Juan Marichal in a Red Sox uniform that I never knew existed before this weekend.

These framed beauties actually came from one of the few quarter boxes I sifted through this weekend, but they feel even a bit too fancy for that.

One of the better developments of the day was the news that the Nickel Guy from the National was back!

I (again) didn't get to dig through his entire inventory -- time is money at these things -- but I did manage to find over 150 nickel cards from just one of the three gigantic baseball boxes he had on display, which should speak to how good this guy's stuff is.

Some of what you've already seen in this post were nickel cards, as are these -- a quartet of guys I've recently started collecting and probably should've already been collecting a long time ago.

A beautiful binder page of mini-collection hits, a sight which continues to be one of the most rewarding joys of my forays through the discount boxes.

All minis are welcome here.

Yet another immensely pleasing binder page, this time of nickel-and-dime-box oddballs.

I seem to discover at least one new oddball set with each passing show, and this time it was that 7-UP Mike Schmidt at the center, because I had absolutely no idea 7-UP baseball cards were a thing.

It's the offseason for baseball cards too, which means that there wasn't as much latest-and-greatest material out on display (or perhaps there was and I just wasn't as interested in it).

Still, I did manage to hit some 2017 needs for loose change, including my first glimpse of this year's Gold Label -- the prime example of a set I enjoy but would never go out of my way to buy packs of given how quickly they wind up in dime boxes.

The one modern-card hope I had going into this weekend was fulfilled barely an aisle into the show -- I found a guy with a whole stack of cheap SPs from 2017 Update.

The bad news is that these short-print watered down everything Update is supposed to be about. The good news is that I'm still a fan of photo SPs, and Topps OD'ing on them this year meant that they could be had for almost nothing.

I got a stack of a dozen 2017 Update SPs for less than half the cost of half a blaster -- no single card cost me more than $2.50 -- which would've been unheard of in past years from Topps.

No gimmicks here -- just unabridged dime box fun in its infinite variations.

You also never see something I stumbled upon early on in the show: a guy with a whole table full of older, unopened packs for a buck a pop.

A lot of what he had was nothing I'd be interested in opening -- a lot of base Flagship and overproduction-era stuff. But amongst the rubble were indeed a handful of packs from brands like Victory/Ultimate Victory, Stadium Club, and Ultra: sets I barely even find standalone base cards from. I picked out about a dozen packs in all, and had to restrain myself from buying a lot more.

The sheer fun of opening these was worth the dollar alone, and discovering a new Turn Ahead the Clock card with the SC Ripken was pure gravy.

But as far as dime box rarities go, this beautiful, hallelujah-like sight was the greatest of them all.

Those, my friends, are all dime boxes, and they're two- and three-deep. At least a dozen boxes in all, each pretty much packed to the gills with baseball cards. Dime boxes are common around here, but this many at a single table sure isn't.

But it wasn't just the sheer size of them that mattered.

It was what they did with it.

Many times on this blog, I've lamented the lack of early-to-mid-2000s cards. I seriously believed they'd all fallen off the face of the earth at some point in the last twelve years. Well, these dime boxes were almost exclusively made up of cards from this bygone era. Let that sink in for a moment, because god knows I sure had to when I realized what I'd just stumbled upon.

I have a certain amount of nostalgia (if it can be called that) for cards like these because they were what was on the shelves when I returned to the baseball market around 2005-06. I am probably one of the few people still collecting who have fond childhood memories of busting packs of stuff like late-era Upper Deck and Topps Rookie Cup.

I'll just put it this way: at one point, I came across an entire row of just Topps Total singles(!!!), including that gloriously unfamiliar sight of Hideo Nomo as a (Devil) Ray you see there.

Also present were singles from the forgotten-but-great retro brands that emerged from the early 2000s, including the '57 Heritage design (issued in 2006) which was the set that really molded my current adoration for the Heritage brand.

It's hard to say just how much fun I had digging through all those rarely-seen cards, but perhaps the best example I can give is the fact that I bought over 400 cards from the guy despite the fact that I only had time to dig through about half of his boxes.

Though it might not seem like much to the casual observer, it was, for me, a dime box dig to end all dime box digs, a poster child for the Things You Just Don't See in Dime Boxes theme that permeated this show.

All this added up to a truly legendary day of dime box digging, further emphasized by this quartet of...well, legends I scooped up for loose change.

And just when I thought I'd seen it all, out popped a card that'd been sitting on my Dime Box Dozen list for about a year now.

It's obvious why I'd want this one so much: a terrific shot of Mr. Jeter surrounded by the other members of the iconic Core Four. But I'll be darned if I could track one down, since all the copies I'd seen online were priced far higher than I wanted to pay, and no one came forward to hit it from my DBD list.

Right when I started to believe I'd have to break down and buy an overpriced copy of it on the 'net, the universe decided enough was enough: to my complete surprise, Jeets fell out of the very first dime box of the day, more than three full years after it was issued in packs.

With finds of such epic proportions, it would seem appropriate here to say Now I've Seen It All -- but after what the Dime Box Gods bestowed upon me this weekend, I'd know that's a boldfaced lie.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Just as good as a card show

I have a card show coming up tomorrow, and you better believe I'm excited about it.

But lately, in an almost meta way, I've started thinking about what I think about in the days leading up to a show. Card shows are (and always will be) calendar-marked days for me, but the way I approach them has changed over time. Before, I suppose I got a little too amped up over them: good luck getting my adolescent self to focus on absolutely anything else in the days before a show, because WHO KNOWS what'll be in those dime boxes?!?!

These days, card shows are still massively exciting -- even more so since I now have a full-time job and a bit more money to spend -- but they're not be-all, end-all events. There's a few reasons for this. One, I've simply had a lot more to occupy my mind as the years have worn on, various constraints, whether physical or mental, that don't often allow me to fully focus on a show until the day of. As is life.

Two, and perhaps most importantly: I've found an online card-collecting community, and I've begun trading with the great people who inhabit it, including the one and only Julie of "A Cracked Bat" fame.

Trading in general is like receiving a mini-show in the mail, and that goes doubly so with someone as eagle-eyed and generous as Julie.

Card shows used to be isolated events for many years. I'd go to a card show and then have no contact with the cardboard community for many months following. That's one of the reasons it was such an event way back when. Now, with blogging, I'm always able to have a finger on the pulse of the hobby.

While I might not trade as much as I used to, I don't really feel like my collection goes through "dry" periods anymore -- not even in the cold, bitter November months.

That's thanks to people like Julie who sometimes drop thick boxes of cards on my doorstep completely out of the blue, including a recent one that included everything you've seen in this post so far.

Unlicensed or not, there's no doubting the beauty here, and both the Doby (limited to 75 copies) and Carlton (50 copies) take their places as some of the scarcer cards in my binders.

One of my new focuses at card shows has been to accumulate as many cards as I can of stars from the '80s and '90s (Brett, Yount, Gwynn, etc.), guys who I mostly ignored during my developing years as a collector.

Though he had his best years in the '70s, Nolan Ryan long belonged to that fold, though my collection of his is blossoming at a rapid rate and now reaching the 300-card mark, a number bolstered by a nine-pocket page's worth of The Express from Julie.

Also present was a new John Olerud for the archives and a reminder of David Wells's brief "Boomer" years at Topps.

A couple minis for your viewing pleasure, though the one on the left caused a great deal of confusion.

It's obviously an oddball of some sort, but a quick Baseball Reference search on the name Hugh McAleer turned up nothing. Turns out that the card comes from a beer-brewing brand called Helmar, and Hugh McAleer doesn't exist: the player featured is actually Jimmy McAleer, a turn-of-the-century outfielder.

All that adds up to perfect fit for my collection, since I always love a good error card.

Shiny NL MVPs.

Some recent insert needs of guys I collect, and speaking of Ichiro...

...Julie really outdid herself here with Ichiros of the Total and shiny variety here.

Even one new Ichiro puts a smile on my face, much less five.

Though the staged anthem shot has always struck me as a tad awkward, I've long been on the hunt for these "Spirit of the Game" inserts for my Anthemic mini-collection, and Julie darn near sent me the entire set.

Mother's Cookies and minor-league oddballs: you just don't find this kind of stuff at card shows around here.

More lovely oddballs, these of the '70s superstar variety.

But here's where card shows are no match for trade packages: I've been collecting for my entire adult life, and never have I heard of Meadow Gold, much less seen their baseball cards.

Meadow Gold is a dairy company, and the cards they produced in 1986 resemble primitive video game avatars. Movies like Revenge of the Nerds and WarGames pop up in my head every time I see this computerized depiction of Mike Schmidt. It's a definite gem, and no dime box I've scoured in my years of experience has produced anything like it.

It took a generous soul like Julie -- and not a card show -- for it to finally find its way into my collection. But heck, with the way the universe sometimes works, I wouldn't be surprised to dig up another Meadow Gold card at the show tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Top Five: Roy Halladay

As you've probably heard by now, Roy Halladay tragically died in a plane crash earlier this week at the too-young age of 40.

I've been stuck in a mixture of shock and despair ever since I first heard the news. Not so much because I was a close follower of Doc's -- I probably hadn't thought him at length about in years -- but because there's always a sense of disbelief when a player from my baseball adolescence suddenly passes away.

With a 3.38 career ERA and two Cy Youngs to his credit, Halladay's a borderline HOFer, but more memorable to me is the fact that he really seemed like the last of a dying breed, a guy who craved to finish what he started. He pitched nine complete games in four different seasons over his 16-year career, a number that's darn near unheard of now. (Corey Kluber and Ervin Santana tied for the league lead with five each in 2017, for what it's worth.)

It doesn't seem fair that a guy who retired just four years ago could be gone forever, and it's with a heavy heart that I make Doc the focus of this week's Top Five.

#5 -- 2013 Topps "1972 Minis" #TM-54 Roy Halladay

Even better than a modern remake of a classic '70s design is a modern remake of it with a powder-blue throwback jersey from the era.

#4 -- 2013 Panini Hometown Heroes "Nicknames" #N-18 Roy Halladay

Roy Halladay was known as "Doc" for the better part of his career, a label I'm guessing he earned due to the way he used to carve up opposing hitters.

As one of the better insert sets in recent memory, these nickname inserts from Hometown Heroes make for a fun, cartoonish look at some of the game's best monikers, "Doc" included.

#3 -- 2011 Topps #359 Roy Halladay HL

My premier memory of Roy Halladay is the no-hitter he threw against the Reds in the 2010 NLDS, the moment documented on this very card.

The burst of joy Doc's no-no provided came during a time I sorely needed it. I was 18 years old, away at college, and miserable. It'd become clear rather quickly that I just wasn't cut out for a dormitory life, and that single semester I spent away from home would be the only one of my college career (for now, anyways, until I get the grad school situation sorted out).

I spent a lot of time alone in my dorm room during those four months, and one evening, as I watched Game 1 of the Phillies-Reds NLDS on the outdated Zenith television atop my desk, it soon became apparent that something special was happening. Pitches, innings, hours were going by...and Halladay still hadn't given up a hit.

I was (and still am) a superstitious viewer of baseball. My roommate grew confused when I wouldn't tell him what was going on despite my obvious excitement at what was transpiring on my grainy TV set. Both of us, it turned out, were relieved when Halladay retired the final batter, at which point I jumped off my tiny dorm-room bed and yelled: NO-HITTER!

For that, Doc, I thank you, wherever you are.

#2 -- 2014 Stadium Club #21 Roy Halladay

Though he may have received more national recognition as a Phillie, Doc was a Blue Jay for the majority of his career.

He signed a one-day contract with Toronto to officially retire as a Blue Jay, and he's seen here delivering a first pitch at the Rogers Centre in what I can honestly say is the only baseball card I own with a mountie sighting.

#1 -- 2009 Upper Deck OPC #460 Roy Halladay

I became well acquainted with this card (or at least the black-bordered version of it) after seeing it on Night Owl's blog header for many years.

And while it took longer than I would've liked, it was a joyous day when I finally tracked down a copy for myself. I personally think UD's one-and-done OPC brand is one of the better sets of the last decade, and this might be the single greatest card of the lot.

When I think of Doc's baseball cards, this is the first image that comes to mind. And though I'll feel a tug of sadness whenever I look at it now, there's still a sense of serenity in this simplistic studio shot. It's a powerful image of the late Roy Halladay, arguably the best -- and definitely the most respected -- pitcher of his generation.

RIP, Doc.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Short Term Stops: The All-Twins Team

I've long had a soft spot for the Minnesota Twins, and I'll admit a lot of that has to do with the fact that they're the team at the heart of Little Big League, one of the premier baseball movies of my youth.

Billy Heywood and Lou Collins notwithstanding, the real Twins have always struck me as simply a fun ballclub. Even some of Minnesota's all-time greats -- Puckett, Kaat, Killebrew, etc. -- are more ingrained in my mind as relatable fan favorites rather than monument-like legends (though they are all legends, no doubt).

The Twins' Short Term Stops roster carries a similar vibe. There isn't a ton of all-out star power here -- only one Hall of Famer made the squad -- but there's a whole lot of guys who you might see and say: wow, I haven't thought about HIM in forever. Which is perfect, because those types have always been my favorite kinds of players to follow in my baseball life.

So without further ado, let's see what the Twins have to offer to the world of Short Term Stops.


1971 Topps #95 Luis Tiant

Twins Short Term Stops Accolades:

Luis Tiant (1970 Twins, 18 games)

The roster kicks off with one of baseball's more beloved fan favorites: El Tiante.

Luis Tiant has been back in the news lately due to his appearance on Cooperstown's Modern Era ballot, meaning that he'll get another shot at entering the Hall of Fame. While I don't think he'll ultimately get in, there's no doubting that Tiant had a great career.

Though best remembered as a whimsical starter with the '70s Red Sox, Tiant actually debuted with Cleveland in the mid '60s and enjoyed early success before injuries derailed his career, so much so that he was actually flat out released by the Twins following his lone season with them in 1970 -- a season that saw him go 7-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 18 games with the club.

The Red Sox saw something in him and scooped him off the scrap heap, and thank god for that because the '70s just wouldn't be the same without Luis Tiant.

1988 Fleer #7 Steve Carlton

Steve Carlton (1987-88 Twins, 13 games, sunset season in '88)

Steve Carlton is the lone HOFer on this team, and this is the only card I've ever seen of him as a Twin.

Lefty looks old and ghostly in this unflattering photo from Fleer, which is fitting since Carlton was a ghost of himself by the time he landed in Minnesota. He pitched in parts of his final two seasons in the Twin Cities, going 1-6 (the last of his 329 career wins) with an awful 8.54 ERA over 13 games with the Twinkies between the 1987 and '88 seasons before ultimately being released.

Stints like these are what make the Short Term Stops universe go 'round.

1991 Score Rookie/Traded #74T Jack Morris

Jack Morris (1991 Twins, 35 games)

It's rare, but a select few Short Term Stops become so enshrined in history that you almost forget they're Short Term Stops in the first place.

Jack Morris as a Twin is perhaps the classic example. You could argue that 1991 was Morris's most memorable year: he was an All-Star, won 18 games, and threw a 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the '91 Fall Classic -- a performance that will be remembered for generations to come -- on his way to World Series MVP honors. 

What sometimes gets lost to history is that 1991 was Morris's only season as a Twin, but holy cow did he make it count.


2005 Topps Total Silver #461 Corky Miller

Corky Miller (2005 Twins, 5 games)

One of the greatest factoids in baseball history is that Corky Miller's real name is actually Corky (Corky Abraham Philip Miller, in full).

Also of note is that this particular card features the single lowest batting average I've ever seen on a stat line: Miller went 1-for-39 with the Reds in 2004, good for a .026 mark. The career backup went 0-for-12 in five games with the '05 Twins, and 0-for-4 in the only game he'd play in 2006 (with the Red Sox), which means that Miller went a combined 1-for-55 over the span of three seasons. That's a .018 batting average(!).

But before you start making fun of him, know that Corky played 11 years in the majors and is still a name I hear mentioned on occasion here in 2017, which is more than most past big leaguers can say.

First Base

2006 Sweet Spot Update #94 Phil Nevin

Phil Nevin (2006 Twins, 16 games, third-of-a-year stint, sunset season)

Phil Nevin pulled off the rare feat of having played for three different teams in his final year in the big leagues: he began his 2006 season with the Rangers, went to the Cubs, and ultimately finished with the Twins. 

There's not much to say about Nevin's stint in Minnesota -- he hit .190 in 16 games before hanging 'em up -- but I can't think of another guy off the top of my head who has pulled off the three-team-sunset coup.

Second Base

1962 Topps #208 Billy Martin

Billy Martin (1961 Twins, 108 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

The definition of well-traveled, Billy Martin played for seven different teams during his final five big-league seasons.

The last of those stops came with the inaugural Twins in 1961. Traded to Minnesota after just six games with the Braves, Billy stayed with the club through the rest of the season, hitting .246 over what would be the final 108 games of his career.

Martin would also later enjoy a second brief stint with the Twins, this time as a first-year manager with the Twins in 1969 -- Martin was fired after a single (albeit successful) season as skipper in Minnesota, paving the way for future managerial fame (and volatility) at with the Tigers, A's, and Yankees.


2009 Topps Heritage High Numbers #656 Orlando Cabrera

Orlando Cabrera (2009 Twins, 59 games, half-year stint)

Orlando Cabrera was one of those players who -- whether by chance or design -- seemed to wind up on a lot of different winning clubs.

The Twins were the sixth of nine different teams Cabrera would play for during his 15-year career, hitting .289 in 59 games as a veteran presence with the AL Central-champion Twins in '09 (though they'd be swept by the Yankees in the ALDS).

Some players are just regarded as winners, and Orlando Cabrera exemplified that label.

Third Base

2009 Topps Ticket to Stardom #40 Joe Crede

Joe Crede (2009 Twins, 90 games, sunset season)

Joe Crede was also a part of that division-winning Twins team in 2009, though his season (and career) ended before the playoffs ever got started.

Crede is best known for his time with the White Sox, and specifically his heroics with the World Series Champion '05 club. He was one of the better-known sports figures around Chicago for a couple years there. Though he was coming off his only All-Star appearance in 2008, Crede produced a mediocre .225-15-48 line with the Twins the following year before a third back surgery ultimately forced him into the sunset.

We'll always remember you in Chicago, Joe.


1961 Topps #186 Elmer Valo

Elmer Valo (1961 Twins, 33 games, half-year stint, sunset season)

I never pass up an opportunity to mention Elmer Valo on this blog, and here's a golden one.

One of only two big leagers born in Slovakia (Jack Quinn being the other), Valo was an inaugural Twin in 1961 when the original Senators relocated from Washington. Valo was released after hitting just .156 in 33 games with the Twins, eventually signing with the Phillies, where he'd end his long and largely forgotten 20-year career.

Dude had a .398 career on-base percentage if anyone ever asks you Who the HECK is Elmer Valo?!, by the way.

1986 Fleer Update #U-11 Billy Beane

Billy Beane (1986-87 Twins, 98 games)

Decades before Brad Pitt would portray him in Moneyball, Billy Beane was a struggling young outfielder with the Minnesota Twins.

His story seemed to be heading on a common (though unfortunate) path: the can't-miss phenom who ultimately missed. Drafted by the Mets in the first round of the 1980 draft, '86 was the only season Beane saw anything close to substantial playing time in the bigs, hitting .213 over 80 games with the Twins and hitting what would be his only three career homers in the process.

Beane played in just 18 games with the Twins in '87 and would see cups of coffee with the Tigers and A's over the following couple seasons before finding himself completely out of baseball.

Of course, you know the rest.

 2001 Topps Traded #T-20 Quinton McCracken

Quinton McCracken (2001 Twins, 24 games)

I collect Quinton McCracken for no other reason than that he was part of the inaugural Devil Rays club in 1998 -- I was a six-year-old baseball fan at the time and seeing a team just appear out of the blue was mind-blowing to me.

As a result, I still have an attachment to guys like McCracken, who would go on to hit .219 in 24 forgettable games with the '01 Twins following his departure from Tampa (though I'm surprised to learn he did hang around the bigs until 2006).

Might be the only time you see Quinton McCracken mentioned on the blogs this year.

Designated Hitter

1988 Fleer #2 Don Baylor

Don Baylor (1987 Twins, 20 games, half-year stint)

A last-minute addition to the presses of this post, this former Dime Box Dozen was secured in a trade with Bo in a package I just received a couple hours ago (thanks again, Bo!).

Somehow this prime Short Term Stops card completely passed me by up until now, a happening all the more painful considering the thousands of '88 Fleer singles I've encountered over the years. Pain no more, because this terrific Don Baylor (RIP) is now safely in my Twins binder.

The late Baylor pulled off the unmatched feat of playing in the World Series for three different teams over a three-year span. Sandwiched between stints with the '86 Red Sox and '88 A's, Baylor's only Fall Classic victory in those three seasons came with the '87 Twins, where he'd arrived following a late-season trade from Boston.

Baylor hit .286 in 20 regular-season games with the Twinkies, and batted at a sparkling .385 clip in the World Series to help Minnesota defeat the Cardinals in seven games -- quite a way to make yourself remembered in a city, I think.

That just about does it for this edition of Short Term Stops.

Thanks for tuning in.