Friday, October 30, 2015

Airbrushed Fridays: 1975 Topps #453

Enjoy the World Series tonight! Game 3. Friday night!

Who is he? Claude Osteen, sometimes known as "Gomer", was a southpaw starting pitcher who broke into the big leagues with the Reds at 17 in 1957. He tossed a few innings in between writing book reports and trying to get enough credits to finish high school it would seem. Osteen's best years were with the Dodgers, where he would make the All-Star team 3 times. He logged more than 3400 innings, a prime example of someone one of the modern blowhard broadcaster analysts could site when talking about the so-called wussification of baseball and how innings limits and pitch counts are causing cancer.

How did he get here? Osteen was first traded to Houston after a long run in Los Angeles for fellow all-star Jim Wynn, but he didn't make it to the end of his first season. The Cardinals picked him up for no one of significance for the final weeks of the 1974 season, but by 1975 he was already off to the Chicago White Sox for his final MLB season.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None

Airbrushed Score: 10

Comments: This is really not good.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Good Luck Ducks, Week 9: Work To Do

The Ducks look forward towards a strong second half.

The streak is still alive. Oregon pushed their winning streak over the rival Washington Huskies to 12, thanks in part to the return to the lineup of a healthy Vernon Adams Jr. I'm sure that if calling "re-do" on a season was possible, Adams would be the first in line. Not every issue solved itself at once, as the Ducks squeaked out a relatively low scoring win up north, but there were some things to like about the win. It also gave them a much needed boost of confidence heading into a bye week where they could lick their wounds.

Last season's sudden star Darren Carrington finally made his season debut after his playoff drug-related suspension. He did not disappoint, catching two bombs from Adams in what was hopefully a sign of things to come from a deathly silent vertical passing game. The defense looked improved, but it was facing a Huskies line that has struggled to move the ball with consistency.

The North division title and, by extension, the Pac-12 title game appears to be out of reach at this point with Stanford holding a 2 game advantage in the loss column over the 4-3 Ducks. In fact, if Washington State happens to win out, it would be the Cougars and not the Cardinal headed to Santa Clara to play for the conference crown. Oregon can still finish strong and get in a good bowl game if they play as well as they did against Washington. A win tonight (Thursday night?!) in the desert vs. Arizona State certainly seems doable, with the Ducks win streak in this series standing at 8 games. It seems unlikely at this point that Oregon would have much of a shot at Stanford, but I wouldn't count these Ducks out of anything else right now.

Oregon's last visit to Tempe (2012) was over at halftime.

Game time is 7:30 PDT with national coverage on ESPN. Go Ducks!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I'm Just Gonna Leave This Here

A certified autograph of a La Russa favorite.

Tony La Russa certainly had his favorites. When he came to manage the Cardinals in 1996, guys like Dennis Eckersley, Willie McGee (briefly with Oakland in 1990) and Mike Gallego mysteriously appeared on the roster. Mark McGwire, famously, was acquired during La Russa's second year.

Gallego was a member of those pennant winning Oakland teams and scratched out a pretty solid career for a guy who couldn't hit his way out of a wet paper bag. Thanks to Cardboard Collections for this fine addition to my Cardinals collection!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Nineties! Nineties! Nineties!

The awesome power of the '90s, unleashed!

I've had a hard time finding any group breaks to join of late, but I did manage to stumble upon a rather unique one back in September. Thorzul has been known to scour the lots of eBay in search of interesting wares, and this time he hosted a group break consisting mostly of '90s baseball inserts. The Cardinals are almost always a hot ticket in group breaks, but the '90s wasn't exactly a great time for the club that everyone seems to hate these days. My collection isn't really brimming with '90s inserts, however, so I didn't hesitate to sign up.

The Legend of Rick Ankiel was more of one of infamy, although his return to the game as an outfielder in 2007 has been known to induce chills among Cards fans. Ankiel was a '90s draft pick, but this card falls just outside of the decade.

Rene Arocha wasn't around long, but he was one of the early Cuban defectors to really make his mark.

1992 was kind of a dead period for me and card collecting. My busiest year of high school fell around this time, and my social calendar must have been pretty booked or something. I came back around for a last hurrah at some point in 1993.

This might be my first serial numbered Cardinals Diamond King. It's strange that a card numbered to 10,000 is harder for me to track down than something numbered to 99 from the last few years, but here we are. Dick Perez seems to have given Brian Jordan an extra tall cap.

Once again falling outside of the '90s, but still honoring the decade's ridiculousness with its design is this 2005 Own The Game insert.

I was able to add a few cards to my Edmonds collection thanks to this lot. I'm now up to 497 in the ol' collection, if anyone was counting. Anyone besides me, that is.

I think I got Bipped here, guys. I ended up with 16 of these. That's a lot.

Black Gold Topps cards were short lived, thank goodness. These were supposed to be the freaky-deaky ultra cool cousin to the Topps Gold parallels, but they ended up being not much to look at. I wish I could tell my '90s self about this so I saved some of my drool for something more worthwhile.

Finally, there was some weirdness that seemed really out of place in this lot. I received a couple of David Freese 2013 Topps Chrome "Connections" Die Cuts that were a little different than the one I already owned. Both of the cards are apparently unsigned certified autograph cards. If you zoom in, you can see the "Topps Certified Autograph Issue" banner on the front, and similar verbiage is on the back. I'm not sure if the QC at Topps is just that bad or if Mr. Freese decided to send a bunch of cards back to Topps HQ stamped "return to sender". Someone on COMC is trying to get $200 a piece for a couple of these sad cards. I'm keeping one and have an extra to do something with, I guess. Something tells me I'm not getting $200.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sign This Guy

Fingers crossed.

What you see above is my latest Listia acquisition. Although Jason Heyward arrived in St. Louis as far from the perfect ballplayer, he's very young and was a very good fit with the team. He might be the best defensive outfielder in the National League, and after a slow start at the plate he started hitting the ball well. He's going to command a massive paycheck, but it's not my money!

Sign him.

And, seriously, this is one of the nicest looking autographed cards I've ever owned. My time and effort put into lugging letters with cards in them around the city feels much rewarded after getting my hands on this.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Super Serial

The player and team collections get a huge boost with all kinds of serial-numbered goodies.

Last week, we took a look at some of the Blazers cards sent to me from Jon of Community Gum, including a Clyde Drexler rookie card (aka Christmas coming early.) The larger portion of the package contained baseball cards, and I've saved those for last because this is ostensibly a baseball blog. Suffice it to say, my shoeboxes containing my fancy cards (i.e. serial-numbered, memorabilia-laden or otherwise "valuable") became overstuffed really quickly thanks to this.

This is a great looking card, even though the subjects are stuck in small arrow-shaped windows. This would have been so great if it was Brad Lidge instead of the stupid Rocket, but I guess Donruss couldn't predict the future. We just passed the 10th Anniversary of Pujols/Lidge, which is well worth a revisit if you like seeing objects (and egos) destroyed.

I'm not at all familiar with this 2002 Topps Ten set, but I found the bat card intriguing as they actually put the familiar UV coating onto the bat piece (in the back at least) rather than just leaving a spot cut open for it. I would probably really enjoy watching How It's Made about fancy baseball card construction.

Donruss isn't clear about what sort of torch is being passed (or to/from whom) but all I know it's that this card is shiny and serial numbered and I didn't own it. And now I do. Nice!

Here's one of the few unnumbered cards in the lot. It's from a 2003 Leaf set that is a throwback to the 1960 Leaf design. I don't think I have any 1960 Leaf in my collection. I should probably change that.

The Co-Signers set was kind of a weird mess, with players sharing cards and someone always lurking in the background like a ghost. This one is numbered 05/15, which likely makes it both the rarest Co-Signers card I own and the rarest one I have of Edmonds.

I've expressed my love from the short-lived Moments and Milestones set here before, but it's time to mention it again. It's a confusing set with a dizzying array of numbers that are largely meaningless, but it's left a pretty impressive stable of affordable fairly low numbered cards of great players in its wake. The common ones are numbered to 150, but I got several of the /25 variety.

I feel like everything in this post is just "hey, look what I got!" Well, hey, look what I got!

They barely... barely squeezed Albert's large head into the frame on this card. That said, it's great to get a card of two of the best from the championship 2006 team.

Anthony Reyes ultimately had a short career, but he'll always be remembered fondly for shutting down the Tigers in Game 1 of the 2006 World Series. I was really happy to get this card because I actually recently bought a copy of it for Erin (she has collected Reyes since he broke into the league) and really wanted one of my own.

Speaking of guys that Erin collects, here's a blue Yadi refractor from 2012 Bowman Chrome. It's possible I have another one of these kicking around that I should give to Erin, but I need to get some sorting done before knowing for sure. I desperately need to get to sorting, especially after receiving this heap of shiny Cardinals!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Good Luck Ducks, Week 7: The Streak is on the Line

The Ducks hit the road to try to respond after Couging it against the Cougs.

In a down season, it can be a dicey thing to declare that you've hit rock bottom. Had I only known what horrors would await this Ducks team, I would have had a better sense of humor about the Utah beatdown. I was already nervous that this could easily be the year the hated rivals to the north at the University of Washington would finally win a game against the Ducks, but did I see the loss to the Cougars coming? Well, I knew they were an able-bodied team with a penchant for throwing the ball. I knew it was possible. I just had no idea that the Ducks were capable of losing a game like that.

That game, last week, was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my Duck fandom. I was already reeling from the ugly loss-in-progress by the Cardinals at the hands of the dreaded Cubs, but it looked like Oregon was in full win-ugly mode. But then, they managed to do what so many feeble college teams have done before them: snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It was a horrendous loss. Not just because it was the Cougars or because it was at home, but because it was just the football version of listening to someone let the air out of a wounded balloon. When WSU was knocking on the door of the end zone with time left to run one play to put the game into overtime, it was obvious that the Ducks were doomed. A team with no passing game to speak of is doomed in college overtime.

This week, the Ducks head up to Seattle for some #Pac12AfterDark at Husky Stadium. Washington doesn't appear to have much of an offense this year, but they've been in some close games this year and haven't always come out with an L. They have years and years of quack-based oppression to deal with, so this could get out of hand. It could also be a surprisingly close game. Really, I have no idea what will happen and I'm just rooting for bowl eligibility at this point. Quarterback help is probably still a couple of weeks away with the bye week coming next after this, and by now every coach in the conference knows that Oregon can only reliably move the ball forward by using their backs and screens. Remember the forward pass? We miss that.

What we should be talking about this week is Kenny Wheaton, and how's gonna score. Because he's always gonna score.

"Work hard. Believe. Dream big."

Game time is 7:30 PDT with national coverage on ESPN2. Go Ducks!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Airbrushed Fridays: 2015 Topps #432

Not everyone gets to playoff.

Who is he? Alexis Rios is a two-time All-Star outfielder who until very recently held the distinction of being the longest-tenured active MLBer who had never participated in the postseason. In recent years, the postseason has been opened up to a larger pool of teams than we're used to, but it still took Rios 12 big league seasons and 1691 games before he played meaningful October baseball. Rios split most of his time with the Blue Jays and the White Sox, but prior to this season he had spent a season and change with recently eliminated Texas.

How did he get here? Strangely enough, Rios lost pretty much all of his speed and power in recent years. The Rangers found him expendable after last season, but he caught on with defending AL champs Kansas City with a one year deal. Though he once garnered MVP votes as recently as 2012, his production never recovered with KC. And yet, there he is, in the playoffs, helping the Royals to a Divisional Series victory and a shot at the upstart Blue Jays. And now the playoff-less crown belongs to Adam Lind.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None, but here's the original photo --

Airbrushed Score: 5

Comments: I wish the Cardinals were still in the playoffs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A National Hero

An impressive collection of basketball cards sent my way included my new most prized possession.

Jon of longtime website Community Gum was lucky enough to hit up the National this year, something I've scarcely even dreamed of doing. I'm more of a small potatoes card show kind of guy, but I nearly (nearly!) fell out of my chair when he reached out to me to ask if there's anything he should look for that I might be interested in. This is just part one of a multi-part post as I don't feel like writing about baseball tonight for some strange reason, so we'll just be looking at hoopsters here.

Upper Deck has carried on the Fleer line long past its expiration date in its basketball product, as it recycles old designs to show players in their college uniforms as Fleer Retro. It's a weird concept. Obviously, I'd be more interested in these sets if Upper Deck had an NBA license, but there's always room in my collection for The Glide as a Houston Cougar or Houston Rocket. This EX throwback uses a clear acetate meets die cut style that Upper Deck shouldn't be able to afford to manufacture at this point. Are they out of business yet?

These crazy Bread for Energy/Bread for Health inserts feature some Blazers of (recent) yore. I deduced that these were from the 2011-12 Panini Past & Present set by seeing this very set on Jon's want list, so he must have had some extras. Felton and Crawford came from a much loathed Blazers team, with Felton arriving to join the team for the first time completely out of shape and Crawford accused of quitting on the team midseason when it became clear that the playoffs were out of reach. I'm not sure who the guy on the far right is, but sources indicate that he's banned from the blog for the foreseeable future. (These still go in the Blazers binder, of course.)

Wesley Matthews was my favorite Blazers player, so last season I finally went out and did what any adult person should do with their disposable income: throw it away on a replica jersey of said player. Wes promptly went out and blew out his Achilles, sealing his team's fate for the season and threw a rolling chain of events his own fate with the team. Matthews supposedly wasn't tendered any kind of contract offer in the offseason as a result of some serious roster shakeup thanks to... (sigh)... moving on. Anyway, I'll be following Matthews' post-Blazers career closely and wish him the best. He will probably be added to my player collections at some point.

Congratulations! What did I win? A... draft pick redemption!

It's a, um, hmm... non-auto as the notes say? I'm guessing there's a story behind this one. Maybe Jon can explain it to me someday.

It's a nice looking card, at least. Leonard is one of the few Blazers that remain from the roster that made the playoffs the last two seasons and he figures to get a larger role in the offense and the much larger leap in playing time that comes with it.

Cool, Panini! Thanks for the "autograph"! (Actually, Panini should be apologizing to Jon, unless it's Meyers himself that is the culprit? I don't know how these things work.)

Here's the kicker - I felt really silly for even requesting this, but the only thing that came to mind when Jon mentioned the National was for him to look out for a good deal on a Clyde Drexler rookie. I have a weird history with Fleer's inaugural NBA set that I don't really feel like getting into at the moment. (Maybe I'll save that for a round of Late Night Blog Confessional?) In any case, I've never owned a rookie card of my all-time favorite basketball player and now I do. And it's in perfect shape! (I couldn't even bear to remove it from the top loader to scan it.) Not that condition matters all that much to me, but I was floored when I saw this card. I am forever in debt to Jon for tracking this down for me and will be keeping his want lists close at hand during my future wheelings, dealings and card show shopping. Even decades removed from Clyde's departure from Portland, his stuff (and all things Blazers) come at a bit of a premium around here, so I've always been hesitant to pull the trigger on one of these.

Thanks again to Jon!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sports Wishing

The Cardinals could use a little Freese Magic (circa 2011) right now.

A few weeks back we looked at some cards from Jeff of Wish They Still Came With Bubblegum. Lo and behold, tonight we have some more to show you from an envelope that arrived last month. After that post, the Cardinals went on to win 6 of 8 and solidify their spot in the postseason. With St. Louis down 2-1 and facing elimination tomorrow at the hands of the dreaded Cubs, let's hope this post helps to set things right.

Here's the guy the Cards gave up on to get a season of Jason Heyward. J-Hey played well enough to keep fans drooling about the prospects of an extension, while Shelby was very good for the Braves as long as you don't think pitching wins is a meaningful stat (it's not.)

Wong has continued to look brilliant at times and boneheaded at other times. I hope he figures it out soon. I really hope he has the chance to redeem himself in a World Series soon.

This is a cool one. Donruss was chosen to put miniature versions of their cards inside little boxes of Cracker Jack after Topps did it the year before. I haven't seen nearly as many of these as their Topps counterparts. This image is blown up to regular size, more or less, like he's a big boy baseball card. Snacking on Cracker Jack from a Mylar bag these days just isn't the same as eating it out of a little cardboard box, is it?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Good Luck Ducks, Week 6: We Can Get Down

Oregon heads back to the road with a lot of moving parts.

Last Saturday's win over Colorado raised as many questions as it provided answers. It appears that the Ducks are going to try to ride out Vernon Adams Jr's broken finger for a couple more weeks by going with a two headed monster house elf (?) at quarterback, with backup Jeff Lockie and local walk-on Taylor Alie splitting time. This worked against Colorado because Colorado is still not good at football. Oregon seemed to limit risky pass plays and put heavy emphasis on their talented running corps. Results were mixed, but the Ducks got a decent lead and always kept the Buffaloes at arm's length if never completely putting them away.

Will this work against a slightly better Washington State team? Will this work against 4-2 Washington? On the road? The thing that I've dreaded the most about this season when it became clear that this was not going to be an elite Ducks year was the potential for the end to the streak of dominating the Huskies, which goes back to 2004. We're still a week away from that madness, so it's best not to even think of it.

It's not all gloom and doom down in Eugene as the Ducks gear up for a second straight home game. Royce Freeman looked great last week. Star WR Bralon Addison threw an absolute gem of a touchdown pass. It would be great to see the offense open up some more and see some fun plays like that rolled out against the Cougars. WSU has such a treacherous history that Oregon putting up any kind of lead could easily feel insurmountable. It's tough to say what the transfer Adams will be able to do this season with the clock ticking and nearly half of the games in the books already. Much of my attention will be focused on baseball playoffs today, but hopefully the Ducks will be locked in on a game that they should once again win.

100 points were scored during Washington State's last trip to Eugene, in 2013.

Game time is 3:00 PDT with national coverage on the Pac-12 Network. Go Ducks!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Airbrushed Fridays: 1975 Topps #572

Just happy to be here.

Who is he? Roger Nelson pitched professionally for 17 seasons, though he only appeared in 135 big league games. His minor league career began in 1963 and ended in Portland in 1979 with Pittsburgh's AAA affiliate. Although he was able to be a full time starter for a couple of seasons, there were only a handful of years where he didn't log at least some time in the minors. His best season was with the Royals in 1972, where he split time between the bullpen and the rotation and led the league in some sort of futuristic space stat called WHIP.

How did he get here? After his standout season, the Royals decided to move him along to Cincinnati in a deal that included future angry person Hal McRae. After two seasons in the bullpen with the Big Red Machine, Nelson was bought up by the Chicago White Sox who proceeded to dump him before the season ever started, rendering his so-called appearance in this uniform entirely fraudulent.

Repeat offender? No

Other versions of this card: None

Airbrushed Score: 10

Comments: This one is immortalized on his page.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Something About the Playoffs

The time is nigh.

The Cubs and Cardinals have faced each other more than two thousand times, but none of those times has been in the postseason. This is all about to change tomorrow. I thought about doing my usual preview that I've done the past few years for each playoff series. Those posts usually take me a couple hours to write, and I'm sure I could come up with some things to say. This year, for at least this series, I think I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the ride.

I looked back at some of my posts from 2011 when October rolled around, and that team baffled me almost as much as this year's team. It's hard to even know what to make of the 2015 Cardinals, to be perfectly honest. As it has come time for me to write something about the playoffs, I have decided to just post my reactions here rather than any previews or predictions.

It feels somewhat amazing that this team made the playoffs at all, and yet it became the first Cardinals team in 10 years to win 100 games. And guess what? Those 100-win teams of the mid-ought years came away with nothing but the ass end of a terrible Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore movie. The recent championship teams were a bewildering bunch that squeaked into the playoffs and had surprises around every corner. This year's bunch, despite having the best record in baseball, is being counted out by most because of injuries and a general lack of impressive numbers at virtually every position.

Matt Carpenter hit more HRs this season than he had in his entire career, combined. Matt Carpenter almost hit more HRs than Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, and Jhonny Peralta combined. He led the team in longballs, but fell short of 30. No one else hit more than 17. No batter on this team with enough qualifying plate appearances hit better than .275. Carpenter led the team with just 84 RBI. The pitching was great for the first half of the season, but multiple starters dropped off sharply in the second half. Adam Wainwright logged just 28 innings, but he's going to try to make a go of it as a reliever.

I could keep going. It's just weird. It was a weird season. Hell, the Cubs are in the playoffs. That's weird enough.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

So Many B's

Piles upon piles of cards from a fellow Allen & Ginter collector.

Braves fan Matt, who runs the blog Bubba's Bangin' Batch of Baseball Bits (hereafter referred to as BBBBB) reached out to me a couple of times this year to get ahold of some of my unwanted Ginter goods. The timing was a bit unfortunate as my Spring Cleaning deal (still some teams available! even though I guess it's fall) was well under way and I had already disposed of most of my non-baseball specific insert stuff. However, I had some Braves goodies to send back his way and just a few cards from other sets that he was collecting. It was a good trade. It was... maybe a bit lopsided. There's already a PWE on the way to BBBBB, and any Ginter extras that come across my desk will be thoroughly considered.

First of all, this is a large stack of cards, bigger than a Traded set! As much as it is one of my main goals to collect all things Ginter, I feel like you all probably don't need to see an Enny Romero or Adam Eaton base card from 2014. You'll just have to trust me on this one. Of course, the binders will be satisfied, no doubt.

Let's just dig right in to the good stuff. This is a shiny Bowman's Best card of Bo Hart, circa 2003. Bo Hart was a viral video before YouTube existed, and he left the game quicker than you can say "Gangnam Style". Still, the summer of "Three Nights in August" will always be alternatively known as "The Summer of Bo Hart".

Here's a wonderful trio of 2015 Ginter minis. Rookie Sam Tuivailala's name is pronounced something like this. He is flanked by black bordered Matt Carp and Yadi.

More Bowman's Best. Pujols looks young and mobile here. He's busting up all the record books these days, albeit in a much less mobile fashion.

I've determined that Chris Carpenter is a great player to collect on a budget (unless you want autographs, but that's another discussion.) Injuries and a relatively short career in terms of full seasons accumulated made this so, but he was a heroic member of two championship teams. He is missed.

Just a couple of days before receiving this, I actually plunked down a bunch of Listia credits on one of these. That card had a white jersey swatch, however, so this grey version is another nice addition. Of course, there's no way I'd ever trade this even if it looked identical to the one I already had. I'm weird like that.

I'm not gonna lie. I completely forgot about John Nelson. Nelson was a September callup in 2006 who appeared in more games (8) than he did in front of the plate (5), but he probably earned some World Series shares out of the experience. Good for him.

I think I've already made clear my stance on the buybacks from this year's Allen & Ginter set, but that doesn't mean I don't want them all if they have to do with the Redbirds. I just don't know how to catalog these really.

There's a lot of mystery surrounding who will be on the 25-man playoff roster, but after being MIA for most of the season there's virtually no chance Wainwright's name won't be on it. This will make the upcoming series with the Cubs/Pirates (probably Cubs) all the more exciting.