Sunday, May 31, 2020

From the Favorites Box: Pete Rose, 1986 Fleer #191

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

Here's Pete Rose, representing his Cincinnati team with a red warm-up jacket, red helmet, red batting gloves, and almost a smile.

1986 Fleer #191, Pete Rose

More accurately, perhaps it's the look of determination that comes before some hard work in the batting cage (or the look of fulfillment that comes after).

Why do I say that? 

Look closely at the barrel of his bat:

Is it just me, or has the black paint been completely worn off around the sweet spot?

How many batting practice sessions does it take to even do that?

It reminds me of a story:

During my college hockey days, our home rink was also the practice rink of the New York Islanders. We'd have our practices early in the morning, and on rare occasion the Islanders would come on for a practice afterward. If we didn't have to immediately get to class, a few of us would hang around, sit in the stands, and watch the professionals go through their drills. It was a treat.

And who do you think was often the first player on the ice? 

The healthy scratches? 


The backup goalie? 


The recent call-up from the minor leagues


It was Ziggy Palffy. 

At the time Mr. Palffy was a star, scoring more than 40 goals per year. He was by far the best player the Islanders had. 

And there he was, stepping onto the ice as soon as the Zamboni drove off.

It goes to show that talent might give you a chance at the professional ranks, but only hard work will get you there and keep you there year after year. And if you're gunning to become the player with the most hits in the history of Major League Baseball, like Mr. Rose did in 1985 (the year this picture was likely taken), you put in that hard work for more than two decades. Until the paint wears off the barrel of your bat.

For sticking to that work ethic no matter who you are, and having the physical evidence to show for it, 1986 Fleer #191 has a place in my box of favorite cards.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Waka Waka Waka Waka . . .

How many of you have fond memories of arcades? 

You know, those expansive rooms that contain rows and rows of coin-operated games; the air permeated with glowing lights, digital sounds, and the smell of electricity, soda, and stale french fries?

They still exist, of course (Chuck E. Cheese, Dave & Buster's, etc.). But arcades were just something else back in the '80s and '90s. And one of the most popular games you'd find within was Pac-Man.

Even though it was a game that didn't really interest me (I was more of an Arkanoid and pinball kid), when I saw a few of these Pac-Man cards and stickers on a fellow collector's trade list, I felt compelled to grab them.

I'd imagine just about every arcade back in those days had at least one type of Pac-Man cabinet somewhere inside, whether it was Original Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, or even the cocktail table version (look that one up).

I'd also imagine those cabinets were surrounded by players and onlookers alike. Maybe even some who felt like they were part of this team:

The cards and stickers you see here were released by Fleer in 1980, the year the Pac-Man craze began (which means this year is the 40th anniversary of the game, wow).

The entire set consists of 54 stickers, plus these rub-off game cards:

Wax packs contained 3 stickers, 3 game cards, and 1 stick of bubble gum. Here are the instructions for the rub-off game:

I think I'll resist the urge to play. After all, I don't want to get hooked and end up like this guy:

Considering how popular the game was back then, "Pac-Man hangover" was probably an actual thing. 

Here's a look at a standard sticker back:

And finally, for some audio-visual nostalgia, here's some gameplay from the original arcade version:

Any Pac-Man players out there? Any fun arcade memories? Share in the comment section, and thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game (Episode 10)

Welcome back to The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game, where we'll randomly select three eligible bachelors from the set and you, the reader, will choose which one wins that date with a special lady. How do we know they're bachelors? Why, it says so right on the back of their hockey cards, that's how!

Previous episodes are available here.

The big winner of episode 9 was Wayne Gretzky.

Now, let's start the 10th round and introduce the bachelors chosen by the randomizer! [APPLAUSE]

Bachelor number 1: Center from the Philadelphia Flyers, Ron Flockhart
Bachelor number 2: Center from the Buffalo Sabres, J.F. Sauve
Bachelor number 3: Left Wing/Right Wing from the Edmonton Oilers, Glenn Anderson

Can we have two Edmonton winners in a row? Let's find out a bit more about each bachelor first by viewing the back of their cards.

Well, after all the Gretzky-related excitement during the previous episode, it looks like our studio audience (and a couple of our bachelors) have gotten quiet. Still, we've got to choose a winner.

Who will it be?

Bachelor number 1: Ron Flockhart, a Cooperall-wearing man from British Columbia who put up 30 goals last year.

Bachelor number 2: French-speaking J.F. Sauve, who led the QMJHL in scoring for two straight years.

Bachelor number 3: Tennis player and former Olympian, Glenn Anderson.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Completed Set: 1991 Topps Baseball

The 1991 Topps baseball set holds some significance that should not be overlooked:

  • It was the final year Topps used their traditional, thick card stock.
  • It was the final year Topps sealed their cards in wax packs.
  • It was the final year those wax packs came with a stick of bubble gum.

And as you can see on the top left of Nolan Ryan's card here, Topps was also celebrating 40 years of producing baseball cards.

That's a lot of history. But there's something else about Nolan's card that's important, too:

The action.

Over the previous couple of years, the newer baseball card brands (Upper Deck in particular) had been displaying very fine, creative photography on their cards. 1991 was the first year Topps seemed to step up their own game.

Just how much of a statement did they make?

Well, that Nolan Ryan card is the very first card of the set. How's that for an opener? 

Pretty good timing for a 40th anniversary, too.

And card #1 was just the start. Have a look at these examples.

And on top of those cards, now look at these.

And this!

These types of "staged" shots would become rather popular (if not a bit overdone) throughout the '90s. But at the beginning of the decade it was still a big departure from the norm. Topps was really going for it.

As for the overall design of the card, you can see it's somewhat simplistic. However, I think that's fine because it doesn't take away from the elements you really want to notice: the 40th anniversary logo at the top left and and the team name at the bottom right (which is done in each team's official wordmark). And of course, the imagery itself.

Before we get back to the gems of the set, though, let's note that Topps also maintained some traditional baseball card style in 1991.

I'm happy about this. 

You can imagine there may have been some pressure to go overboard with the fancier, more modern action shots in order to keep up with Score and Upper Deck and the premium brands. But every good complete set needs some posed shots, tooespecially when you've got 792 cards to create. 

I mean, look at Rafael Palmeiro there. That's a baseball card. Tradition, I say! 

And speaking of tradition, here's a shot of the card back.

It's mostly what you'd expect with the full bio, stats, and "league leader in italics" style, but note the monthly scoreboard on the bottom. Clever little departure there. Tony Fernandez had a pretty good September/October.

Now let's continue with the stunners in this set.

First, move your eyes from left to right and watch as three infielders morph into one to complete a double play.

Now go from right to left and watch these three guys combine to wallop a baseball.

Finally, here are my four favorite cards in the entire set.

Dwight Evans has just laced a single into center field, and it's that magic moment right after contact and right before everyone in the crowd reacts. Seems like only Evans himself knows he's just gotten a hit.

Shane Mack has finally come to a stop, but the position he's in, the slide marks to the right of third base, and his still-tumbling helmet reveal just how fast he was running a few moments ago.


Within a second or two, Walt Weiss has stepped on second base, thrown the ball toward first, and leapt in the air to avoid the take-out slide of Joel Skinner. And he's still focused enough to watch the flight of the ball. A perfectly executed double play, perfectly caught by the Topps photographer, perfectly framed on the card. 


Carlton Fisk is a smart catcher. He knows it's Cecil Fielder (6'3", 230 lbs) barreling down at him. And although Fisk is a big boy himself (6'2", 223 lbs), he's got to be devoting at least part of his mental faculties to things like force, mass, and acceleration as the throw from the outfield heads toward him. Fortunately, it looks like Fielder's teammate is yelling at him to get down for a slide, which might feel a bit less awful to Fisk than a flat-out football-style collision.

Fantastic cards, right? And you can find plenty more on your own. 

Before this set, the last time Topps featured so many compelling action shots in a set was probably in 1973.

I'm very happy to have finally put this set together. Big thanks to Bo from Baseball Cards Come to Life! for helping me out with a big stack of them. 

And thanks for reading, as always.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

You Wanted the Best and You Got It: The Hottest Band in the Land. . .


A few months ago I picked up five cards from the 1978 Donruss KISS set.


I don't know. A trade partner had some available, and lately I've been discovering just how many non-sport cards Donruss churned out, going all the way back to the 1960s. Movies, TV shows, music acts, and the like. So I thought it would be fun to add a card of each band member to my small non-sport collection.

Paul Stanley

Back when I was a teenager, a couple of friends introduced me to the music of KISS with a mix tape. After giving it a listen, I got back to them and mentioned that some of the tunes were pretty cool. 

Before I knew it, one of these friends was asking me if I'd like to see the band perform. Nassau Coliseum, New York. Floor section. Front and center. Just a few rows away from the stage. (He had an aunt who worked in the industry.)

Sure, I was in.

Peter Criss

Well, it was a pretty exciting show. Those four musicians were simply made for live performances. Lights, flames, explosions, decibels. On top of all that, a few songs into the show I caught a guitar pick thrown into the crowd by Ace Frehley, which was pretty cool. (I still have it, look.)

And so I was bitten by the KISS bug for a little while.

Ace Frehley

Some of the card backs in this set feature a puzzle-piece photo, which when put together with the rest form a larger rectangular image of the entire band (6 cards down and 9 cards across!). Other card backs contain simple yet creative write-ups. Here's the back of Ace Frehley's card.

With all the merchandising KISS has done over the decades, none of us should be surprised that the band ended up on trading cards (series 1 and series 2!).

But back in their heyday, they sure played some catchy, rockin' music. And they penned what could be the best opening line of a rock song in history:

Get up, and get your grandma outta here!

Gene Simmons

Watch Gene sing it on The Midnight Special back in 1975.

Have any of you ever been bitten by the KISS bug? If so, what's your favorite song?