Sunday, May 26, 2019

From the Favorites Box: Mack Jones, 1965 Topps #241

A series where I post some thoughts about favorite cards. Previous cards in the series are available here.

I can describe why this card is one of my favorites by creating a simple conversation between Mack Jones and a Topps photographer on that sunny day at the ballpark.

Topps Photographer: Hey Mack, how about posing for a quick picture?

Mack Jones: Sure thing. [tucks baseball glove into back pocket, picks up bat and poses] How's this?

Topps Photographer: That's perfect, Mack, thanks. [focuses lens, clicks shutter]

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Completed Set: Magnificent Moons

One of the things I mentioned in last Sunday's post was that I don't really collect modern cards. To elaborate on that just a little bit:

For me, collecting is much more about nostalgia than it is about keeping up with the industry, figuring out how many products are out there these days, or even having enough interest in current players to want their images on cardboard. In other words, collecting is something I did as a kid, and I don't mind keeping it there.

If anything, since rediscovering my childhood collection a few years ago I've gone backward on the timeline, occasionally picking up a card from the '50s or '60s or working on a set build from the '70s or '80s. And that's it.

But there are exceptions to every rule, and recently I found the nearest thing to my exception there probably is: Allen & Ginter.

I know, I know, Topps established the modern version of A&G in 2006, so I'm more than 10 years late to the party. But you can see why an old-fashioned collector like me would be drawn to the brand, which originally began way back in the late 1880s when the Allen & Ginter tobacco manufacturing company inserted collectible cards of athletes and non-athletes into their products.

The modern-day A&G designs reflect the originals, and are always classy. And boy oh boy do the subjects ever varyfrom the standard (Baseball Icons) to the historic (World's Greatest Wordsmiths) to the impressive (Ancient Rome Relics) to the peculiar (What Once Would Be) to the outright wacky (World's Dudes).

I appreciate the variety. And of all the subsets I've seen so far, the one that drew my attention most was a 10-card subset from the 2018 issue called Magnificent Moons.

Because the subset is quite small, and each card is quite affordable, I suppose you could say I recently took one small step into the 21st century of card collecting by adding all 10 cards to my collection. I picked up one or two via trade, and the others through purchases (and why not, at about $1.00 each?)

Here are all 10 cards:

Moon (Earth), #MM-1
Successful design. The filigrees around the corners of each card are not too ornatejust enough to frame each subject. The addition of the moon's phases along the left and right borders is a nice touch. I also enjoy how the night sky background is different for some of the moons.

Europa (Jupiter), #MM-2
Of the 10 moons featured in the set, three of them orbit Saturn. Three others orbit Jupiter, like Europa here and the next card, Io. Seems like an imbalance, but consider that those two planets have more than 60 moons. Each!

Io (Jupiter), #MM-3

Mimas (Saturn), #MM-4
Did you just say to yourself that Mimas looks like the Death Star?
NERD ALERT. (I kid, I kid.)

Enceladus (Saturn), #MM-5
The surface of Enceladus is frozen, but there are liquid oceans underneath. At certain locations you can see this liquid spraying out through cracks and turning into ice particles in space.

Triton (Neptune), #MM-6

Here's an example of a card back. Topps did very well in adding a few interesting factoids about each moon.

Phobos (Mars), #MM-7
The wacky-shaped moon, Phobos. It's almost more like an asteroid that just happens to be in orbit around Mars.

Titan (Saturn), #MM-8
The orange haze around Titan comes from an atmosphere rich in methane. The intensely cold temperatures and heavy atmosphere mean that if it rains on Titan, the droplets would be more viscous than water-like, and they'd likely be dark greenish in color. They'd also fall more slowly than drops of rain on Earth. Take a minute to picture that scene.

Miranda (Uranus), #MM-9
Those are some large scratches and scrapes running across Miranda. Wonder what happened there.

Ganymede (Jupiter), #MM-10

And there you have it. Ten magnificent moons.

I like the way the cards look when they're assembled in a 9-pocket page, although I wish Topps would have made it a 9-card set instead of 10. Poor Ganymede is all alone on page #2.

Still, a very nice job overall. And maybe I'll just fill the rest of that second page with other A&G cards that I come across.

So how about you? Do you have a favorite Allen & Ginter subset? 

Leave a comment below, and thank you for reading.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Blog Bat-Around: The C-Note Challenge

A few months ago, The Collector brought us back to the days of Beckett's old "C-Note" column by showing us how he'd spend $100 on trading card singles. It's drummed up some interest as a blog bat-around since then, with Fuji and The Collective Mind adding their versions. As a new guy to the trading card blogosphere, I'd like to give it a try, too.

But the truth is, I'm not a huge collector. I'm not a team collector. I'm not a modern card collector. I don't have an enormous want list. When I do pick up an occasional oddball card, vintage card, or some cards for a set build, I'll try to do it through a trade. So the idea of spending $100 on cards in one fell swoop is pretty far from my reality. I might not spend $100 on cards in an entire year.

That being the case, my C-Note entry is going to be the imaginary kind. (i.e., "Gregory, you just won a $100 shopping spree at your childhood card shop! What will you buy?")

Before I get to my selections, here's a quick summary of the first few cards that came to mind, and my thought process:

Pete Rose rookie card? No, too expensive.

Ichiro Japanese BBM rookie card? No, too expensive.

Wayne Gretzky rookie card? Way too expensive.

And at that point I told myself it was time to dial it down a little bit. I started thinking about sets I needed to complete, and other cards that might be affordable and have nostalgic value.

Here's what I came up with, using the advanced search tool on eBay to find recently sold items:

(1) 1977-78 Topps #251, Bobby Orr

This is the final card I need to complete the 1977-78 Topps set, so I'd like to make it an actual part of my collection soon. The winning bidder here did very well, as this card often sells for much closer to the $10 mark.

(2) A Pierre Turgeon Autographed Card

When I was a teenager I took guitar lessons for a few years. My teacher was a cool guy. He knew I played hockey, and before we began one lesson I remember him telling me that he had started giving lessons to a player on the New York Islanders. Guess who it was?

Pierre Turgeon! 

For a couple of lessons after that I asked him to take one of my Turgeon cards with him to his next lesson with Pierre to ask for an autograph. He'd just say, Come on, I'm not going to do that. So I left it alone. It might be nice to have an autograph in my collection now, just for the good memories.

There weren't many recently sold autographed cards on eBay from Pierre's time with the Islanders, so I went with this Panini Classics version showing him in that great Buffalo Sabres uniform. Fantastic price here, too.

(3) 1948 Leaf #11, Phil Rizzuto RC

This one is a nostalgia purchase, for sure. I grew up listening to Phil Rizzuto call Yankees games on WPIX channel 11. And because every shopping spree should probably have at least one big-ticket item, why not a rookie card of "The Scooter"? I had to go for a low-grade version, but that's totally fine with me. I'd break this one out of its case, anyhow.

(4) 1952 Topps Look 'N See #18, Washington Irving

I snagged the Jules Verne card from this set a few months ago, and now another author jumps into the C-Note pile in the form of Washington Irving. He's a giant of literature and of New York history, what with Rip van Winkle and Ichabod Crane and all. The Alhambra, however, might be my favorite collection of Irving stories.

(5) 1973-74 O-Pee-Chee #202, Bob Nystrom

I was a toddler when the Islanders were in their dynasty years. I wouldn't become interested in hockey at all until the late 1980s, but I did catch up on the history of those legendary teams soon after that. I've got a Bryan Trottier rookie card in my collection, and it would be nice to have one of Mr. Islander himself, too. This one is a steal at $0.50 plus $3.50 shipping.

(6) 1984 Donruss #248, Don Mattingly RC

1984 Topps baseball cards are the first I remember collecting, and I've definitely got two or three of those Mattingly rookie cards in my collection. But I might only have two or three Donruss cards of any kind from that same year. Might be nice to add this rookie card, and for less than $10.00, too.

(7) 1984 Donruss #68, Darryl Strawberry

As long as I've got the Mattingly, why not add the 1984 Donruss card of another big New York rookie? Can't argue with that price.

(8) 1985 Hasbro Transformers Action Card #23, Brawn

At my youngest, I remember sitting at our kitchen table on Saturday mornings, watching the Transformers cartoon on a little black-and-white TV.

This card, however, is from a set that I do not remember seeing at all back then. It appears they were available for sale in hanger packs that each contained 8 cards plus 1 sticker. They must have been somewhat scarce, because individual cards are usually found in the $5 to $10 range these days. I went with Brawn here, because he's always up for a scrap with one of those Decepti-bums.

With that, I'm up to $92.23 including shipping. But because this was an exercise in nostalgia for me, I think I'm going to take the remaining $7.77 and save it. Maybe put it toward some new batting gloves for Little League. (Because that sounds like something I would have done back when I was collecting cards as a kid.)

Alright, who's next in the bat-around?

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Scrapbook: My First Major League Game

Tomorrow will mark 35 years since I attended my first Major League Baseball game. And although the little tyke version of me didn't realize it at the time, two of the league's outstanding pitchers were set to duel that Sunday afternoon.

But before I reveal who those gunslingers were, here are a few memories from that day:

Walking with dad, sister, and stepmom out of the subway and toward Shea Stadium with throngs of fans was an experience. The Mets had some young, exciting players and a new manager, and New Yorkers were excited.

A few of those fans had already unfurled a huge homemade sign. Scrawled on what looked like a bedsheet, the message read:


(Special K referring to Dwight Gooden, and Strawberry referring to Darryl Strawberry)

Alongside the message there was a drawing of a box of Special K cereal with a big strawberry next to it.

Adding to my personal excitement, there was a giveaway that game: All kids in attendance received a New York Mets replica batting helmet, sponsored by Manufacturers Hanover Trust. (Verified by a photo in a family scrapbook.) Not a fancy helmet, but the flimsy plastic kind that old-school players wore, without the ear flaps.

We made it through the turnstiles, received the helmets, and began trudging up some stairs and ramps along the concourse. The noise of the crowd only increased as we reached our designated level and gate. Then we walked through the short tunnel and out to the seats, which exposed my young eyes to the entire stadium for the first time. It seemed enormous, and the field was bathed in sunlight.

According to the ticket stub, our seats were on the mezzanine level, section 2 (behind home plate, just to the left). We weren't close to the action, but wow, just to be there, and to be surrounded by so many people who all seemed to have the singular purpose of intensely cheering on their hometown team. I'm sure I was overwhelmed.

And speaking of overwheming, let's get back to the buzz about the pitching matchup. 

Because this is a trading card blog, I'll summarize by using two cards from that year's Topps (and Topps Traded) set. 

The starting pitchers on that day, Sunday, May 6, 1984:

Talk about two fireballers. One was a veteran who'd already piled up a decade and a half of experience and over 3,700 career strikeouts. The other was a 19-year-old phenom who could throw just as hard, and would baffle hitters and sportswriters alike on his way to a league-leading 276 strikeouts and a Rookie of the Year award. How many swings and misses would these guys produce on that Sunday afternoon? Would anyone even score a run?

Well, yes. In fact, lots of runs.
Unfortunately for the home crowd, their rookie pitcher and his upstart team were humbled by a scrappy, veteran Houston squad to the tune of a 10-1 score.

Gooden only lasted two and a third innings, giving up six hits (all singles: Mark Bailey, Nolan Ryan, Kevin Bass, Craig Reynolds, Enos Cabell, Phil Garner), two walks, a balk, and eight earned runsall in the top of the third. Darryl Strawberry went 0-for-4 in the game with three strikeouts. Oof.

On the other end of the scorecard, Nolan Ryan went the full nine innings, striking out Wally Backman twice, Mookie Wilson once, and Ross Jones once along with those three Strawberry whiffs.

I was far too young to care about who struck out, who got the hits, or who won the game. I don't even remember much specific game action all these years later. But like many of you, that first Major League Baseball game will always be special, regardless. And it's pretty cool to look back all these years later and realize that it involved two legendary starting pitchers.

What about you? Do you have a "first game" experience? Feel free to share in the comments section.

And thanks as always for reading.