January 30, 2015

Who is Billy Moran?

The other day I found a few packs of 2014 Topps Heritage retail on clearance so I snapped them up. I didn't expect to pull anything except maybe a high number SP or two. However, in the second of four packs I opened, this Real Ones autograph of... Billy Moran?!? It's a cool card, but I had never heard of him before. I felt the need to do a little research. This is what I unearthed:

He played from 1958-1964 for the Indians, the Angels, then the Indians again. He was mostly a one season wonder, earning an All-Star nod in 1962 with the Angels. He got the starting slot, beating out NY Yankees second baseman, Bobby Richardson who would place second in AL MVP voting that season. His career numbers were average at best. He batted .262 with 28 home runs and 202 runs batted in over his 7 seasons.

Its always cool to pull an on-card auto from a pack. It's interesting to me that Topps would have players like this on their autograph checklist. I just wish it was a relatively unknown Yankee player that I had pulled. If anyone is interested in Mr. Moran, leave me a comment or send me an email and we'll work something out.

January 29, 2015

Trade With Reader - Brandon

This post is a few weeks past due. A while back, a reader named Brandon emailed me to initiate a trade. I'm always up for this so we sent a few messages back and forth and I ended up emailing him a list of basketball relics and autos that I have lying around. I was happy to do this because pretty much all of the basketball stuff I have is fair game in the trade market. Brandon told me he had a few Yankees and a former Bull to send my way. We agreed upon a straight 3 for 3 swap. I sent a random Topps Shawn Marion auto, a Scoreboard Shareef Abdur-Rahim auto and a Jason Kidd dual relic that contained pieces of a ball and floor. Back in the earlier days of my collection, I wouldn't have thought of parting with the Marion or the Kidd, but like many of you I narrowed the focus of my collection a few years back. I just haven't had a very good avenue to get rid of he eh stuff I no longer want. So, this opportunity to eliminate some of the old to bring in the new was certainly welcome.

Here's what showed up in my mailbox.

Interesting...I have only a few cards that show a player in a certain team's uniform, but has been updated to list the player on their current team. I know this happens from time to time, I've just never actively sought these out to add to my collection. I must say, the Rangers blue swatch embedded in this Teixeira card was actually a welcome change of pace from the gray/plain white/single pinstripe swatch that I was expecting to see!

Expanding my former Durham Bull player collections is a relatively recent thing. This is actually only my second BJ Upton relic. Receiving this has given me one jersey card, this bat card, and one certified auto to go along with 2-3 in-person signatures that I collected at the DBAP during his time in Durham. In my eyes, this was the centerpiece of this swap. It's not the most limited relic I could have hoped for, but I really like the design of the Golden Moments inserts so in my eyes, this is a pretty sweet piece of cardboard(and wood). 
I've never been a huge Jason Giambi fan. He was a Yankee, so it was hard to turn down this card considering I'd much rather have a Yankee to add to the collection than the basketball cards I was packing up to send to Brandon. I hadn't seen this insert before. Though you can't tell from the scan, some of the circles are embossed. It kinda reminds me of something I'd see on Marvel Agents of SHIELD. Interestingly enough, this is another card that shows the player in one jersey but lists him on another team.

Brandon also tossed in a 2014 Topps Gold DeMarcus Ware card for my Denver Broncos collection to sweeten the deal. All in all, it was definitely a great experience that I wouldn't have come across had I not started this blog. If you're still out there reading, thanks for a great trade Brandon. I hope you're enjoying the cards I sent your way!

January 25, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Cards - Durham Bulls Edition

I grew up in Orange County, New York. That is where my love of the NY Yankees began. I moved to North Carolina right after I graduated high school. I've been fortunate to live in close proximity to the nationally-known Durham Bulls franchise for my entire NC residency. I was too late to have seen any of the well known Braves alumni play in Durham, but it has been a LOT of fun getting to see some of the players that have gone on to excel in Tampa Bay and beyond. I love the look and the feel of Durham Bulls Athletic Park and had wanted to add a card depicting the home of the Bulls for some time. I was finally able to do that with the above stadium card. It came in a PCL All-Stars set that I picked up at the All-Star autograph session this past summer. It was a stroke of good fortune, since I only picked the set up since I didn't  have many cards of most of their roster. Just like busting packs, it's good to be lucky.

Here are some of my favorite cards depicting players in their Durham Bulls uniform.

I'll begin with Toby Hall. He was the first Bulls player that I found myself liking for really no good reason. He was a decent player and he made it to the bigs for a bit, but he wasn't outstanding. Toby was the catcher on the team during the first season that I became a regular spectator at the DBAP. Besides the Bulls logo and uniform, this card kinda makes it look like you're looking down the barrel of Toby's bat. It's a pretty cool visual, if you ask me.

Next up are two guys with a lot of major league miles under their belts. Aubrey Huff really hit his stride with the Baltimore Orioles a number of years after he appeared on this card from the 2000 Bulls team set. Conversely, Juan Guzman was well past his prime when he made his appearances in Durham. He had been a solid pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays for years. This is one of the perks of having a Triple A club close to home. You can see players before they become MLB stars and you can see former stars trying to hold on for one last go round.

From some of the older cards in my Bulls collection, we come to one of the newest. Early this past season, Kevin Kiermaier became another one of my favorite players to watch. He's dynamic, he can hit, run, and make plays in the field. Obviously, other folks in the organization took notice as well since he spent quite a bit of time patrolling the outfield in Tampa. This comes from the 2014 team set and shows off a little of the 'hustle' that made him one of my faves.

Did I mention that you get to see veterans trying to make it back to the bigs for one last hurrah? Well, this is the first of two former World Series MVP's that I have been fortunate enough to see play. Pat was the MVP for Toronto's 1992 championship team. He hit .450 in the series with a homer. His primary function while with the Bulls was to guide the two young catchers on the squad. One of those guys was Paul Hoover who never really amounted to much. The other guy was the previously mentioned Toby Hall.

World Series MVP number two... Hideki Matsui! This one is probably tied for my absolute favorite Durham Bulls card in the collection. The card it is tied with will make an appearance shortly. It was incredible to see a former NY Yankee WS hero in my local ballpark. His arrival in town just happened to coincide with the Pawtucket Red Sox visit in 2012. Even better, Dice-K was on a rehab assignment and pitched during that series. It was quite impressive to see these two former MLB rivals face off in our back yard.

Here is the first of the favorites that I didn't get to see in person. Chipper is a sure fire Hall of Famer and it was really fun to see the Bulls retire his number. I wasn't his biggest fan while he was playing(thanks to the fact he played for the Braves), but I can respect a guy like him that plays the game the right way, stays out of trouble, and is loyal to one team for his entire career. Now that he is no longer contributing to the Braves teams that I loved to hate, I've got to focus on his minor league cards since he is one of the greatest layers to wear the Durham uniform. As good as Chipper was, the greatest player to wear the Durham uni is...

Hall of Famer Joe Morgan(the only other player that I didn't get to see in person). I recently stumbled onto this card on eBay. As soon as I saw it, I knew I needed to add it to my collection. I had never seen a card of Joe Morgan wearing a Bulls jersey. I didn't even think one existed. This came from a Carolina League Anniversary set issued in 1995. It wasn't expensive, but it is a priceless addition and is tied with the Matsui at the top of my Durham Bulls collection favorites.

Spring training is rapidly approaching which means the Bulls roster will be announced soon. Here's hoping that the 2015 team set will contain a new favorite to add to this list.

January 24, 2015

Farewell Mr. Cub

Last night the world lost another baseball legend. Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, passed at the age of 83 - just about a week shy of his 84th birthday. I am not old enough to have seen him play, except in documentary footage. However, as I've stated in the short history of this blog, I am a lover of baseball history and Ernie Banks is a great part of baseball history. He hit over 500 HR, was an 11 time All-Star, and a two time League MVP, but he was much more than those career numbers. He became the first African-American to play for the Cubs at age 22 after starting his career with the Kansas City Monarchs at 19. He is a veteran of the United States Army and a true class act.

In all fairness, I don't own too many cards of him, but in tribute, I'll share a couple of my favorite Ernie Banks cards.

What would a tribute to a baseball legend be without a little oddball? This toothy grin hails from the 1985 Woolworth's All Time Record Holders box set. This card highlights his league record 5 grand slams in 1955 and his mark for most HR by a shortstop which he set in 1958 with 47.

I love pictures that display he cub's head on the jersey sleeve. That's why I selected the photo at the top of this post and one of the reasons I wanted to highlight this card from 2012 Heritage. It's a classic pose for one and it's a nod to his 'Let's play two' philosophy and catchphrase.

Finally, I'll showcase this dual relic. It's the only game-used or auto card I have of the Hall of Famer. Perhaps it's a bit tarnished by the pairing with Sammy Sosa, but I'll always remember the thrill I had when I pulled this from a pack back in 2001. I couldn't believe I was actually holding a dual relic of one of the biggest names at the time, and one of the best players in MLB history. I still smile when I look at this card.

Rest in peace Mr. Cub. You will be missed dearly and remembered fondly.

January 23, 2015

And Your New Durham Bulls Manager is...

Jared Sandberg!

Who is he, you ask?

He played on a lot of the Bulls teams in the early 2000's when I began to go out to the ballpark frequently. He's the nephew of Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. He's one of the first players that I tracked down to get an in person auto(shown above). I had hoped that he would be a fixture in the Tampa infield for years, but as we all know, it didn't work out that way. He only played in the majors for parts of three seasons and last played on an MLB field in 2003. He bounced around the minors until being released by the Kansas City Royals organization in July 2007. He retired from playing at that point. He's been working his way back through the Rays minor league system since being named manager of the rookie league Princeton Rays after the 2008 season. He made a single season stop at Bowling Green with the Single-A Hot Rods and last season he moved up to the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs. Today, he was officially named the 2015 Durham Bulls Manager. He's a guy that has his work cut out for him, following in the footsteps of Charlie Montoyo(the winningest manager in franchise history).

Here's hoping he makes a successful jump to Triple-A this season! Best of luck Mr. Sandberg. Let's Go Bulls!!!

January 18, 2015

My NFL-MLB Collection Connection

Once again it's Sunday. We are one week closer to the Super Bowl, which means one week closer to Spring Training. It's conference Championship weekend, but I'm not invested in any of the teams. Now that my beloved Denver Broncos are home until training camp, I watched the games just for the sake of watching and hoped for some good games. After getting thumped by the Colts last week, there is still only one man that has led the Broncos to the Lombardi Trophy: John Elway. Growing up, he was my favorite player. I struggled through his Super Bowl losses and cheered as loudly as anyone at his back to back Championships which culminated with his Super Bowl XXXIII MVP performance. As much as I loved watching him play football and collecting his NFL cards, but my favorite card of him does not show him in his Bronco orange, blue, and white. 

It is this, showing him in minor league Yankee pinstripes! I am an Elway fan. I am a Yankees fan. How could I not love this card? This beauty that marries my two sporting loves was released back in 1998 at the All-Star FanFest in Colorado. Way back in those 'old days' this was my first ever eBay purchase. It was the first card that made me wonder if there were possibly any other Elway baseball cards out there. At the time, I found only one other. That 'other' Elway Yankee card currently inhabits the top spot on my Cardboard Wishlist. It comes from his 1982 Oneonta Yankees minor league team set. It looks something like this:

...and the flip side:

This card is incredible. It isn't easy to find, and it isn't cheap. I love the black and white photo of the first sports idol of my childhood. The design is simple, front and back. These days there are a few other Elway baseball cards floating around out there, but for the moment, the FanFest card is the only one I own. I'm sure that I'll come across a few of the others at some point and I will happily add them to my collection. I have longed to own that 1982 Oneonta card for over 14 years. I'll likely continue to do so for many years to come because for now, spending the amount of money that I'd need to buy this card is just not feasible. With two young daughters, there are plenty of other things to spend that money on.

One day I will own it. The circumstances will line up just right and a copy will end up as one of the focal points of my collection. Until then, a guy can dream... Can't he?

January 11, 2015

A Sunday Repack

This is NOT the post I had hoped to be writing today. My plan was to be writing 'More Adventures at the Card Show'. I learned late in the week that there was another show at the NC State Fairgrounds in Raleigh and I immediately started making plans to go(in my head). Yesterday went by without any opportunity, but I knew that my wife was taking one of my daughters out today and I'd be watching my youngest. I planned on getting packed up and in the car to make the hour long drive so that we'd arrive as they were opening the doors. As is often the case when you have kids, those plans just didn't work out. By the time I had things packed and ready to go, it became a question of how much time we would have to walk around before having to turn around and drive the hour back home. Then, I realized it was a toy and baseball card show. I've been to a few of these and they typically consist of about one sports card table for every seven or eight toy tables. I decided the trip wouldn't be worth it this time around. 

So, we loaded up to go run some household errands instead. I decided we'd make a stop at one of our local Targets since I really wanted to look through some cards that were new to me. I'm not usually the biggest fan of those repacks you can find at Target and/or Walgreens, but I always look to see what's there and I've broken down and paid the retail cost just because I wanted one of the cards on the front on a few occasions. Today just happened to be one of those times. I was flipping through the repacks which were mostly football and hockey today. Then I came upon this baseball pack.

I considered it for a moment and figured I'd probably spend the $4 on this to get the Ichiro and to satisfy my need to look through some cards that weren't already at my house. Once I turned it over, I knew that I would be making this purchase.

There's a Trevor Hoffman in a Brewers uni, but for those that don't recognize the one on the right, it's a 1985 Topps Kirby Puckett. That would be his RC! At least I knew that if the remaining 96 cards I couldn't see were '88 Donruss and Topps commons, I'd still have the enjoyment of flipping through some cards and the satisfaction of getting a good deal. Here's the highlights from the Puckett RC side.

Leading off with the Puckett RC is a good start even with the small white print spot on the front of the card just under the Twins banner. I'm on the brink of beginning a Nationals collection since I'm already compiling Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon cards, so another copy of this Tanner Roark RC was certainly welcome. Maybe it's a sign that i should expand the Nats collection(or maybe not). I've always been a sucker for those glossy All-Star cards that Topps did back in the '80's. At some point I'm going to put together the Archives version of those released in this year's product. The first pic of side one is rounded out by some OPC, a cool Pat Burrell celebration card, and a Phil Hughes(included because it's a Yankee).

I'm not a fan of David Wright or the Mets, but it is kinda a cool insert and I liked Fleer Ultra more often than not. I really like the Tigers card because Miggy and Brennan Boesch look like they're bringing back the 'ol Bash Brothers celebration from the late '80's. I used to love those A's teams. Ahhh, ignorance was bliss!

We start the last pic of side one with a great Jorge Posada from a Yankees team set. We end with two cards that I had no idea existed. First, I love the Antoine Lavoisier card from Allen & Ginter. The more of the non-sports subjects that I see out of that product, the more I like it. Finally, I'm not as big a fan of O-Pee-Chee as some of you(this is slowly changing), but this 1988 World Series card is really awesome. I am drawn to these 'highlight' type cards anyway and the '88 World Series is the first one I really remember watching when I was a kid. As I mentioned above, I was a fan of the A's teams back then because I liked watching Canseco, McGwire, and Eckersley. I was bummed they didn't win that year, but the performance from Kirk Gibson helped solidify my appreciation of sports heroics/theatrics which started to develop in January 1987 while watching John Elway lead the Broncos on The Drive.

Now we move to the Ichiro side. The Suzuki is a special factory set only card from 2010. The Hoffman is of note because it notes that he was the first to record 600 career saves. I included the Mark Ellis simply because I like the photo. A close play on an afternoon that looks perfect for baseball, topped off by the American flag on the outfield wall in the background. I hadn't seen that design of the Topps Town inserts, and it'll likely be in my collection for a short time only. Unless my fellow blogging buddy Nick from the Dime Boxes blog already has this Vlad, I'll probably send it his way. I'm drawn to the mid-late '80's Topps glossy sets almost as much as those old Glossy All-Stars. So, this Goose Gossage was a welcome sight. Hmmm, another Phil Hughes(again included only because it's a Yankee).

I'm not a Cabrera fan, but just like the other side, it's a nice design for an insert(and one that I didn't already have). This Tim Hudson will probably be on its way over to Nick as well. If he's already got it, maybe I can stretch and include it in with my other celebration cards.

We end side two the same way we ended side one, with three cards I didn't know existed. The Velez is from some sort of non-base 'rookie' set. I've never seen these before and don't know much about what set it comes from, but in all fairness, I haven't tried researching it yet. The Dwight Evans apparently comes from one of those Topps retail store sets that were so abundant in the '80's. I'm pretty sure this one was a Woolworth's exclusive. Wow, I might be from the last generation that knows what Woolworth's was...man I'm getting old! Finally, that Machado is in the 2001 Bowman style. Apparently it was released in 2011. Bowman Chrome Throwbacks? I didn't even know that was a thing.

All told, it was a pretty darn good repack. It certainly was a lot of fun to open, it was a good 'deal', and it allowed me to discover a few cards that I never even knew o look for. It wasn't as good as a day at a card show, but at least on this day it was a reasonable substitute.

January 9, 2015

Trading with William from Foul Bunt

So, I've been trying my hand at this blogging thing for almost a full month thus far, though you wouldn't be able to tell from the total number of posts I've written so far. I did however, recently complete my second trade since starting this endeavor. Shortly before the holidays I contacted William from the great blog, Foul Bunt. I had been reading for a while and thought I might have some Orioles cards that he would appreciate. We sent a few messages back and forth and finally put together trade packages to mail out. I received a bubble mailer from him earlier this week that had some great additions for my former Durham Bulls collection.

This package was heavy on Longoria cards, most of which I needed since I only started collecting him after seeing him play in Durham on a rehab assignment. I particularly like the die-cut cards in this shot, but I like the Saberstars card since it focuses on a relatively new statistical category that hasn't been seen too often on cardboard yet.

I didn't have either of the ToppsTown inserts. In fact, I had no idea there were two different versions. William also dug out an Anthony Rendon Power Players(since for some inexplicable reason, I have been collecting him and fellow Nats infielder Ian Desmond) and a few other former Bulls. Lastly are two Matt Moore parallels that I needed. He's still one of my favorite former Bulls to collect even though he's been out recovering from Tommy John surgery. My Moore collection has actually grown quite a bit while he's been on the shelf. I was happy to see this Topps gold fall out of the stack, but the biggest prize in the pack was yet to come. 

This red ice parallel from this year's Bowman looks really cool, but the real draw was the number found on the back...

I know there are plenty of other parallels out there numbered to fewer than 25 copies, but this happens to be the lowest serial numbered Moore card that I've been able to add to my collection. The previous card to hold that distinction was a 2013 Topps black parallel numbered /62.

So, all told, I was thrilled to see the cards that he picked to send over to me. Thanks for all of the great cards William, I'm looking forward to trading with you again in the future. I hope you enjoy the box I sent your way!

January 5, 2015

Wallet Card Selected

The other day I came upon a great idea while reading the blog Baseball Card Breakdown. The author Gavin suggested that we pick a duplicate card from our collection and place it in our wallet for the entire year, occasionally taking it out to snap pictures of it along your travels. Additionally he suggested that the card picked should bring a smile to your face every time you look at it and that you don't mind the wear and tear it will accumulate.

I thought this was a great idea(like many of you out there). So, I set out to find a card that would accompany me in all of my travels for the year. As I perused a few stacks of cards searching, it hit me. I should find a card that would make me smile every time I look at it. My mind immediately jumped to this:

Yes, it's a Minor League mascot card. It happens to be the mascot of my local Triple A team. This past season, my wife and I bought a Bulls mini ticket plan for the two of us and our two daughters. We all had a blast at 10 home games, the Triple A Home Run Derby, and the Triple A All-Star Game this past season. The Bulls games were a great place to start passing on my love and appreciation for the great game of baseball. Wool E. himself actually gave us a handful of these cards when my girls and I went to visit him. He signed a copy for each of them and we had a few left over for my collection. To me there is no better card to make me smile. It's a perfect reminder of fun times spent with my girls at the ballpark.

So, wherever the road takes me this year, Wool E. will be tagging along. Check back periodically to follow the adventures of 'Wallet Wool E.'

January 4, 2015

The 'Real' Natural

The holidays are over and with any luck I'm going to make this blogging thing a much more regular thing in the new year. I haven't been writing long enough to write the standard 'State of the Blog', 'Goals for 2015', or a recap of highlights from 2014 that I've seen across the blogosphere. 

So, where do I come up with inspiration for my first post of the year? I needed to look no further than a card I picked up at the December card show in Raleigh. 

At first glance, it's no more than a common 1955 Bowman single. Who is this Waitkus guy? It's when you turn this card over that you realize what a special piece of cardboard this is.

Does the story sound vaguely familiar to anyone out there? It was the inspiration for Bernard Malamud's 1952 novel, 'The Natural' which was given the Hollywood treatment in 1984. To many, it is one of the best baseball movies ever made. I think it's pretty great, but it's not my favorite baseball movie(that's a topic for another post). However, when I learned about this card's existence a few years back, I knew that I had to add it to my collection. There are so many things to love about this card. 
  • It's vintage.
  • It happens to be the first single from the '55 Bowman set that I own.
  • The back is, quite possibly, the most entertaining card back I can think of. I mean, where else are you going to see the word 'deranged' on a baseball card?
  • Let's not forget that Mr. Waitkus is telling us the story that turned into a beloved movie while appearing on a card design that makes it look like he is on television. Did I mention the light tower behind him? That, my friends, is irony.

If you take a look at the stats on the back of this card, it becomes obvious that the real 'Natural' couldn't hit with the power of Roy Hobbs, but if Hollywood didn't use artistic license, we wouldn't have this climactic scene:

It's funny how sometimes the worst of circumstances can inspire some of the best cinema. I'm happy to finally have this story, immortalized on cardboard, as a part of my collection.