Friday, November 29, 2013

Airbrushed Fridays: 2013 Topps Opening Day #90

Airbrushed Fridays: The Evening Edition

Who is he? Son of former major leaguer (and Cardinal) Steve Swisher, Nick is a free swinging and free spirited outfielder. After coming up with Oakland, he saw a resurgence in his career when he joined the Yankees, making his first All-Star team in 2010 and winning a World Series ring.

How did he get here? After Swisher's four seasons in New York, Cleveland signed him to a big multiyear deal last offseason.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: 2013 Topps Opening Day #90B

Airbrushed Score: 8

Comments: The 'C' on his helmet really blends into the navy blue Yankees helmet. You can clearly see the Yankees blue piping around the sleeves and down his pants as well.

Good Luck Ducks: Quack Friday 2013

The least anticipated Civil War in years happens on a Black Friday.

Well, the Ducks really outdid themselves last week. Seemingly in the driver's seat for the conference title and a second consecutive Rose Bowl berth, Oregon went down to Arizona and was completely demolished by a mediocre team that had just lost to Washington State the previous week. Multiple players expressed disinterest in their Rose Bowl prospects before the game, and that disinterest showed on the field. And if a team clearly is going to give a damn, then I don't think as a fan I should let myself get upset about it either.

The Ducks play a reeling Beavers team today that suffered from its own beating, a historic one at the hands of the Washington Huskies. UW put up 69 points on Oregon State's own home field, a new low for a school that has had some significant lows. When OSU started the season with a loss to an FCS team, I predicted that this would finally be the end of long time head coach Mike Riley's tenure. Something happened to them after that loss, as they developed into the nation's top passing game, the Sean Mannion-to-Brandin Cooks connection that knew no rival. And then something else happened to them when I wasn't paying attention, because the Beavs have lost 4 straight, each defeat more sour than the previous.

Something is going to break today, and it could easily be either team. I have no idea how to predict this game, but I like to think that Oregon has the talent on their side. They also have the home field on their side. The effort hasn't been there, however, especially on the defensive side of the ball. With expectations lessened considerably, and nothing greater than a berth in the Alamo Bowl at stake, I probably won't enjoy this Civil War as much as ones in the past. I'll still be wearing something Ducks related, rooting them on.

Jeremiah Johnson's devastating touchdown was one of the many highlights of the 2008 Civil War, presented in full-rendered 240p splendor.

Game time is 4:00 PST in Eugene with national coverage on Fox Sports 1. Go Ducks!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mishmash Group Break

Some Cardinals cards from a Group Break spanning multiple decades.

Last month I bought in on a group break that didn't seem to have a central theme. Nachos Grande purchased some boxes with combined fun and value factors, including some products I haven't seen much of.

I don't have the largest Eric Davis Cardinals collection, so it's always fun to pull one of his cards. Of course, in this case it wasn't me that did the pulling, but it's mine now and that's what counts.

I almost always enjoy Fleer Tradition. It's a step up from basic Fleer (which all but disappeared) but is usually still very affordable. Dan Haren was recently signed by the Dodgers on a very low risk contract. Gall had a cup of coffee but didn't make it, and I've never heard of the other guy.

The 2005 Origins set is a total mystery to me. It was produced by Upper Deck but doesn't look or feel like anything they usually do. This must have been one of the smaller boxes, because Larry Walker's card was one of only two cards that were pulled for me here.

Unfortunately, one of the boxes was 1993 Upper Deck. It's one of my favorite sets, but I actually collected and completed the whole thing. I gave some thoughts to collecting the inserts, too (they're fantastic) but decided instead to focus on other things. This Hometown Heroes insert will fit nicely in Erin's collection, though. The Expos were my randomly assigned team, which means I also ended up with a few Vladimir Guerrero cards if you're into that sort of thing.

Here is one of the nicer inserts that were pulled, from the extra shiny 2000 Topps Gold Label.

This apparently isn't an insert, but it looks like one. I wonder if there are Fleer Maximum Impact memorabilia cards.

Finally, it's classic Pujols in a vintage style.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Last Pack of '01 Archives

They don't make this stuff like they used to.

I was just trying to clear some space off my desk when I discovered that I still had one last pack of 2001 Topps Archives (Series 2) to post here. So here it goes.

397 - Cecil Cooper (1988)

433 - Norm Cash / Elston Howard / Al Kaline / Jim Piersall AL Batting Leaders (1962) - Lots of floating heads here, but only one flat top floating head. The best kind!

437 - Johnny Bench / Dick Allen RBI Leaders (1973) - Allen's sideburns are coming dangerously close to touching his mustache. You can't come back from that.

435 - Nolan Ryan / Tom Seaver Strikeout Leaders (1977) - I could probably get behind the concept of a whole set of reprinted League Leaders cards. Who says I'm not easy to please?

287 - George Foster - So pissed.

257 - Dave Parker (1974) - This is one of the later designs that you'll find in this set.

276 - Jim Palmer (1966) - In the history of Topps cards, I wonder how many players have made this pose.

261 - Jim Bouton (1962) - The Ball Four guy!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Diamond King Delivers

Cards. On Cards. With Numbers.

Last month I received a pile of cards from The Diamond King. He believes in card collecting projects, something I find rather admirable, and his latest one is called SCAM. The cleverly coined acronym basically means '90s PED users, and there was a fairly big named one who wore the Birds on the Bat. I'll come back to that later, however.

A bunch of the cards in the package were serial numbered Cardinals goodies, including this mid-oughts Donruss Jim Edmonds card. Like many cards from 1995 to roughly 2005, it didn't scan well. Someday, card companies will produce cards with scanners in mind... sure.

This card isn't technically serial numbered, but the back of this Gregg Jefferies insert claims that it is a mere 1 of 10,000. So limited!

Matt Lemanczyk, a former 10th round pick, is virtually unknown to me outside of baseball cards. Apparently he was quite the speedster in the minors, but his page doesn't list any stats beyond 2005.

Chrome parallels seemed to be rather hard to come by in this year's version of Topps Heritage, but there were several of them in this package. This is the slightly more rare refractor version.

And this is the basic version. This year, the basic chrome parallels were numbered to just 999 instead of the year that the main set was aping (i.e. /999 instead of /1964). That probably doesn't make these cards worth a ton more than they otherwise would have, but I found it interesting.

Ludwick has had horrendous luck throughout his career with injuries. It seems that he's a free agent now, so it will be interesting to see if he can catch on with another team after spending most of last year hurt/ineffective.

The world needs more Larry Walker Cardinals cards.

There were other gems besides the serial-numbered cards, including this Matt Holliday 2013 Topps Heritage black retail parallel.

I know very little about TCMA cards, and have very few of them as well. I'm always excited when I see them, because I rarely consider the alternatives to Topps cards prior to the '80s.

He looks so weird in a non-Cardinals uni.

Speaking of weird, I generally just don't go for the unlicensed stuff. Panini Prizm looks like a perfectly reasonable Chrome-ish product, but I can't bring myself to care about it. Fortunately, generous people willing to trade with me sometimes send stuff like this, which is nice.

Finally, the King unloaded a bunch of Big Mac cards on me. He probably had lots of doubles leftover from the SCAM project thing.

Unfortunately, that isn't Cooperstown calling for Mr. McGwire. It's just a telemarketer.

That's some awfully sparkly tape.

Well, he did lead the league in something. I guess that can't really be taken away, no matter what he took to do what he did.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Good Luck Ducks, Week 13: Cats and Ducks Living Together

After the running game sputtered for the second consecutive week, it's safe to say that Byron Marshall's run as top dog of the conference's running backs is as over as his team's national title hopes. While the final score was considerably more favorable to Oregon than the previous week, one can imagine that the Ducks will shake things up a bit in the backfield for their final two conference games.

What has changed is Oregon's overall prospects, in that they are no longer as bleak as they seemed following the crushing loss to the school with the "zany" tree mascot. Stanford lost to USC, putting Oregon back in the Pac-12 North driver's seat. This week, the Ducks face Arizona and elite running back Ka'Deem Carey. Arizona will be fighting mad this week and back on their home turf following last year's shutout, so this won't be the proverbial cake walk.

While Marcus Mariota is still very limited in his mobility, last week saw his arm as precise as ever, as he delivered laser after laser to his receivers while generally staying near the pocket. This is probably a better sign for his NFL prospects than it is for the Ducks. I think this game has all of the makings of a classic first half nailbiter turned second half slaughter. Don't go out to the mailbox to check your mail in the third quarter or you'll probably miss the Ducks putting up 21 points somehow.

Oregon's last visit to the "Zona Zoo" at "Bear Down" Field was never close.

Game time is 12:30 PST in Tucson with national coverage on ABC or ESPN2 depending on your region or the whim of the TV fairies. Or Obama. Go Ducks!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Airbrushed Fridays: 1976 Topps Traded #127T

Airbrushed Fridays gets a new format to keep things fresh.

Who is he? Larvell Blanks was a utility infielder who spent 9 big league seasons with three different teams, including a repeat tour in Atlanta.

How did he get here? Blanks was traded twice in the same day, first as part of a five-player deal between the Indians and Braves that in part netted Atlanta someone named Ozzie Osborn. The White Sox then flipped him to Cleveland for Jack Brohamer.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card or photo: 1978 Topps #61

Airbrushed Score: 9

Comments: Well, this has the beginnings of a magic hat. Is that a baseball lurking beneath and slightly to the left of the 'C'?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Future

Time to plant all of my young baseball cards in the ground and watch them grow into money trees.

A little while back, just before Wacha Wacha Wacha fever was breaking out, I had the good fortune to participate in a group break put on by Sportscards From The Dollar Store. I'm always excited about minor league cards for whatever reason, and right now is a very juicy time to be a fan of Cardinals minor leaguers. Don't worry, I have already started squirreling away cards from simpler times for when the inevitable hype deflates and leaves everyone disappointed.

Piscotty still reminds me of a certain Italian snack and less of an actual player, but the reports on him have been good so far. This was also one of the few 2013 Topps Pro Debut cards that didn't have a red frame which rendered it virtually indistinguishable from any old Cardinals card from this year.

I was lucky enough to get in early on the Wacha thing. I was blown away by what he was doing in spring training, but tempered my expectations. Some amazing things happened late in September and early in October, and then my expectations were actually outpaced by the superlatives being tossed around by aging announcers and baseball pundits. He's going to be really good. He might even be really good now. I'm not going to be shocked if he's not the best pitcher on the staff, though.

By the way, everyone in this break lucked out when it turned out that every card in the Topps Chrome box was a refractor. A Wacha refractor is a good refractor to have right now. (I should sell, sell, sell, shouldn't I?)

That being said, I am all for acquiring as many Wacha cards as possible. It's fun!

And here's Kolten Wong not getting picked off to end a World Series game.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Up For Grabs Cardinalpalooza: Willie McGee

Previously on the Cardinalpalooza: Red Schoendienst | Enos SlaughterBruce SutterAlbert PujolsRay LankfordMark McGwireJ.D. DrewColby RasmusYadier MolinaAllen CraigStan MusialRick AnkielDavid Freese | Keith Hernandez | Steve Carlton

Willie Dean McGee was one of the centerpieces of the Runnin' Redbirds. McGee's speed and tablesetting was as integral to the success of the Cardinals offensive engine as Ozzie Smith's defensive wizardry was to saving runs. And even though McGee won the MVP in 1985 based largely on his ability to get on base and his base thievery, it was his 1987 season that always sticks in my mind. He was dropped to 5th in the batting order and sacrificed some of his on-base abilities that year while driving in a remarkable 105 runs. Not bad for a guy who had 79 HRs in 18 seasons.

Willie remains one of the most popular Cardinals of all-time to never have his uniform number retired, even though he spent the better part of the '90s in other uniforms. I don't recall other players who have been issued his #51 (though not exactly the most popular of numbers), so it's safe to assume it's unofficially retired.

Well over a decade before renting players at the trade deadline became a common practice, McGee was a participant in one of the weirder statistical anomalies in all of baseball when he won the NL batting title as a member of the (AL) Oakland Athletics. The Cardinals traded him to Oakland at the deadline when he was hitting .335 and he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting crown. No one caught up to him.

Like Ray Lankford, McGee returned to the Cardinals at the tail end of his career, during the Tony La Russa era. La Russa feuded with Ozzie Smith, a Cardinal legend that he inherited, but apparently must have been on good terms with some of the other Cardinals stars of earlier days.

The list:

1983 Fleer #15
1983 Topps #49
1983 Topps Stickers #147 [2 available]
1984 Topps #310 [6 available]
1985 Donruss #475
1985 Topps #757 [4 available]
1986 Donruss #109
1986 Donruss (Diamond Kings) #3
1986 Fleer Baseball's Best Sluggers vs. Pitchers #22
1986 Fleer Star Stickers #74
1986 O-Pee-Chee #117
1986 Topps #580 [7 available]
1986 Topps (All-Star) #707 [6 available]
1986 Topps Box Bottom #L
1986 Topps Glossy All-Star Send-In #9
1986 Topps Mini League Leaders #71
1986 Topps Quaker Chewy Granola Bars #1
1987 Donruss #84 [5 available]
1987 Fleer #304
1987 Fleer League Leaders #29 [3 available]
1987 O-Pee-Chee #357 [2 available]
1987 Topps #440 [8 available]
1988 Donruss #307 [9 available]
1988 Donruss All-Stars #44
1988 Fleer #42 [2 available]
1988 Fleer Star Stickers #118 [2 available]
1988 Score #40 [8 available]
1988 Topps #160 [5 available]
1988 Topps Mini League Leaders #71 [4 available]
1988 Topps Stickers (w/ Steve Bedrosian Super Star #31) #55
1988 Topps U.K. Minis #46 [7 available]
1989 Donruss #161 [10 available]
1989 Fleer #457 [3 available]
1989 Panini #189
1989 Score #88 [3 available]
1989 Topps #640 [7 available]
1989 Topps Stickers (w/ Rafael Santana #313 and Bob Knepper Super Star #63) #36
1989 Topps Stickers (w/ Rafael Santana #313 and Mark Davis Super Star #64) #36
1990 Bowman #194
1990 Donruss #632 [5 available]
1990 Fleer #253 [6 available]
1990 Score #374 [5 available]
1990 Topps #285 [8 available]
1990 Upper Deck #505 [2 available]
1991 Donruss Highlights #BC-22
1991 Panini #1 [2 available]
1997 Upper Deck Collector's Choice #199 [2 available]
1998 Upper Deck #202
1999 Upper Deck #187