Friday, May 31, 2013

Take what you can get!

Yesterday my Cubs finished taking three games from the White Sox and clinched the Crosstown Cup in the battle for Chicago.  After today's win against the Diamondbacks the Cubs have a modest four game winning streak and find themselves in 4th place in the NL Central.  Just for the record, the first three teams all have winning percentages above 0.600.  How long do you think the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds an keep that pace up?  They're all flirting with 100 win seasons!

As far as projections go, the Cubs are now on pace for a 70-92 record, which would be nine games better than the 2012 season.  I'll take that.  I'll also take bragging rights over the Pale Hose.  Nice, very nice.

Thanks to Carrie Muskat for the awesome picture!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Yellow mailer envelope bomb from my mom?

Weirder things have happened.  Today a larger yellow mailer was found in my mailbox when I got home from work.  I was expecting a purchase from eBay, and I guess I still am, because the contents were not baseball cards.


A book?

I don't remember ordering a book.

The packing invoice shows that my mother is the brains behind this new yellow mailer bomb!  Kaboom!  She got me!

I thanked my mom over the phone for the book and she said that the book mentioned Peoria, my hometown, somewhere in the first couple of chapters.  A baseball book that mentions Peoria?  This will be the third one I've read in that category!  Nice!

I'm currently in the middle of "Out of My League" by Dirk Hayhurst, but I think "The Art of Fielding" will be next on my summer reading list.

I plan on going through at least four baseball books during the next coming months because I'm a little backlogged from Christmas.  I wish "Book It" didn't have an age cut-off, because I would clean up on personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut this summer with all of my intended reading!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Let there be light!

It's been a long time in the works, but the dining room has finally receiving a bit of a makeover.

Here's the before picture from earlier this evening:

Here's the after:

How about one more a little closer:

We removed the chandelier from the vaulted ceiling and installed a one hundred foot strand of dim-able bulbs that are suspended from two wires that cross in the middle of the dining room.  The spiral shape allows the fifty bulbs to dangle a bit which Laura seems to enjoy.

It looks pretty good, offers more light than before, and was a fun project that Laura and I could complete together.  Now we just have to be patient for the dining room table we ordered to arrive.

My role in this project?  Merely laborer.  My wife is artistic visionary in this relationship. 

She's crafty.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cubs from Garvey, Cey, Russell, and Lopes

I contacted Jim, from Garvey Cey Russell Lopes, about trading for a Starlin Castro 2013 Triple Play Panini Card.  He was more than happy to oblige and he sent along some other Cubs to keep Starlin company on the long trek to my humble man cave.

Here's the card that highlighted my trade request:
 I'm not collecting this year's Panini Triple Play set.  The main reason is because of the poor pack/box collation of last year's issue, but now that's a far second to some of the art work of this edition.  This caricature of Starlin reminds me of one of the characters from the cartoon Fat Albert.

A 2010 Upper Deck card of Jake Fox.  Built like a fire hydrant, Jake Fox could really mash when given consistent playing time.  It's just too bad that he couldn't field a position well enough to deserve that time.  I was a big Jake Fox supporter and this card is a nice walk down memory lane.

 I really like this 2010 Topps card of Blake DeWitt.  DeWitt didn't do much during his Cub tenure, but that is a pretty nice shot, so I'll give the card a little blog love.

1988 Topps - Dave Martinez - I always liked this card, because he's got the whole, "Seriously, you just called me out on that pitch" look.   Been there, although it may have been back in high school, done that.

Ryno!  A 1994 Score edition of him turning two.  A new score for this Sandberg collector!  (Sorry for the pun, sometimes I just can't help myself.)

Rick Wilkins was a bonus baby that played in Peoria, my hometown, and later hit 30 homers in 1993 for the Cubs.  Another quality shot from a talented camera man is featured on this '92 Upper Deck card.

Hey, another Keith Moreland card to add to my collection!  I never pictured Moreland, now the Cubs' radio color man, as one who would be asked to bunt, but this 1988 Fleer card certainly disproves my assumption.

If you'd like to see what I sent Jim in his package, including the coaster, just click on this link.
Thanks for another great trade, Jim!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

My 1st TTM Success = Happiness!

On March 31st I posted how I was going send out my first TTM (through the mail) autograph request.  I deposited a well written letter, my card, and a SASE envelope into the mailbox on April 1st and this arrived in my mailbox today, only fifty-three days later:
Huh, I kind of knew what I was receiving from the Cubs, as I could feel a card within the unopened contents.  But what happened to my Self-Addressed-Stamped-Envelope?  It was inside and the card was sealed within.  Weird, why wouldn't he just dump it in the mail?  Why the new envelope?  I supplied more than enough postage, but apparently the Cubs' front office has their own way of doing things!

Oh, perhaps because "they" didn't want to worry about folding up the letter to fit in my smaller envelope.  Here's the letter that was inside.  It's a nice and quick read from Robin Lestina-Cikanek, from the Fan Services Department.  Thanks, Robin!
 Theo liked my nice words!  Here's the picture of the my friend and I dressed up in Theo-themed costumes that I enclosed with my autograph request that was mentioned in the post-script:

And, finally, here's my newly autographed Theo Epstein baseball card.  He even addressed it to me!
 Simply. Awesome.

The man crush continues to grow.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New pursuit: a 2013 Bowman FrankenSet!

I was on the fence as to what to set to build this year: Archives or Bowman.  Then Nachos Grande offered up a three-box team group break and I was able to snag the Cubs.  Score!  Well, the group break will allow me to cross Topps Archives off my list.  In my collecting world it makes little to no sense to build a set when you already have all of the Chicago Cubs.

2013 Bowman it is! 

I've never collected a Bowman set before, but I have dabbled a bit with Bowman and its parallels before.
Exhibit A: My Dillon Maples rainbow.

This all got me to thinking about one of my favorite bloggers: The Cardboard Junkie.  He's a very witty blogger who introduced me to the FrankenSet, "Think of it as a set built like Frankenstein's monster out of many different parts."

Huh, I'll do a FrankenSet of 2013 Bowman! This should be fun!

So I went to my LCS and purchased a jumbo pack and hobby pack to get started.  Here's some of the variety that I can expect, including the gold parallels:
Will Middlebrooks
 Bowman prospects, and my first two Cubs cards!  Gioskar Amaya (left) is playing for Low A Kane County and Christian Villanueva is in AA manning the hot corner. For what it's worth, Villanueva came over from Texas in the Dempster deal.

Ice parallels!  Man, I do love cards that shine and sparkle!
Ike Davis

International and State parallel cards that feature the flag of the nation/state the player originated from.  I just so happened to pull Yonder Alonso's base card in one pack and his Cuban flag parallel in the other.  Cool.  Obviously, the parallel flag card will go into my FrankenSet.

I was lucky enough to pull a chrome auto of Taijuan Walker out of my jumbo pack.  This one will go into a top loader, not my set, but it's always fun to pull an autographed card!

I know there are other differently colored "ice" cards, chrome refractors, and also a variety of differently colored bordered cards.  I haven't jotted down any rules yet, but I'm thinking of collecting the base set without parallels and then the FrankenSet would be nothing but parallels.

This should be a fun little project to keep me busy over the summer! 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Waffle Taco: You fly, I'll buy!

One of my teammates on my slow-pitch softball team was talking about an advertisement he saw for the waffle taco at Taco Bell.  Shortly thereafter I was disappointed to learn the waffle taco is not a nationwide item on Taco Bell's menu, because they are testing out in select locations on the west coast first.

Enter my sister.  Oddly enough, she was going to San Diego the next day for a little R&R.

I love trying new food items and I wanted a waffle taco in the worst way.

"You fly, I'll buy!"

A couple of days ago Jane, my sister, spammed my e-mail box with nine different pictures of her Taco Bell dining experience, which included the waffle taco.
She originally said she wasn't looking forward to the culinary experience, but after trying the waffle taco she came away surprisingly pleased with her predestined menu selection.

Well, Jane flew, so I guess I have to pick up the tab.  Totally worth it.
Price of a waffle taco: $0.89.  Living vicariously through my sister: priceless!

Thanks, Jane!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lurking around on Listia

I've built up a nice stash of credits by "selling" off cards and collectibles that don't really have much importance to my collection.

Over the last month I've won five separate one-card listings and I'm pretty happy with the results.  I'm even happier that I have a ton of more credits to burn!

Ryne Sandberg 2002 American Pie - American Sluggers
 This card captures a young Ryno on some really thick card stock.  I like how he "pops" from the sepia toned ballpark behind him.  I could do without the stars and stripes border though.  Bleh.

The next card was a promotional giveaway and is number 15,138 out of 20,000.  Not exactly rare, but not an easy find either.  I'm always happy to add a new Kerry Wood to my personal collection.

Speaking of Kid K, how about a 2000 Pacific Vanguard card of the flamethrower?  The background looks black to me in person, but it appears navy blue in the camera shot.  I've always had trouble telling navy from black for some reason.  So it goes.

Another Ryno to even up the score!  A 1997 All-Star card from the 45 card All-Star set. 
 I apologize for the reflection of my hand and camera in the shot above, but I'm really happy to add another shiny Sandberg to the collection.  Nice!
Speaking of shiny.  Oooooh!  This 2004 Upper Deck Diamon ProSigs Hall of Famers card puts refractors to shame.  My only complaint is that it's more purple than blue, but the shininess certainly makes up for it!
 The back is a bit more toned down than the front, but how could it not be?  Oddly enough it captures Billy's last five years in the big leagues.  That's a little different.

Well, that's all I have time for as I'm off to search for more Cubs cards on Listia.   Thanks for visiting my blog!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Trade with the Toddfather - 2nd Edition

Tim, from Home of the Toddfather, contacted me about my recently pulled Freddie Freeman Gypsy Queen framed relic.  Well, Freddie and a chorus of Rockies have now found a new home with the Toddfather.

This is my second trade with the Toddfather, let's see what Tim sent back my way this time!

My second Aramis Ramirez of the week, a 2011 A&G framed mini!  Crazy to think that as recently as this past weekend I didn't own one relic of A-Ram and now I have two!

Tim was also kind enough to offer up a Kerry Wood from the 1998 Pacific Online collection.  I haven't visited the website yet.  Should be pretty awesome.  No?
 Um, no.  Not awesome.  Maybe it was fifteen years ago, but the link is a dead end.  Bummer.

Another Ryno to add to my ever growing, half-cataloged collection: a '96 Studio.  Sweet!

Tim also threw in a Tennessee Smokies baseball schedule.  Completed unexpected, but most certainly welcome!  Someday I'll make it down to the AA affiliate of my Chicago Cubs. Perhaps even this summer?

Thanks for the great trade, Tim!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My first international trade package!

I've been following Jeroen, the Dutch Card Guy, for quite some time now and I had been setting cards aside for him in hopes that I might strike a trade with him at some point.  Enter my sister and her set needs into the equation and it finally happened.

Jane, my sister, will occasionally find something that tickles her fancy and to steal a term from Thorzul she'll go all "whole hog" on that item.  She last did this with Topps' Olympic card set from the summer of 2012 and most recently with Panini's Cooperstown set.

Jeroen busted a couple of boxes, I played match maker, and now they both have their base sets complete.  Score one for the match maker!

And I thought, "Heck, if I'm going to send cards internationally, I might as well make it worth my while!"  So, I proceeded to scour my collection for set needs and player collection needs for Jeroen. I boxed them and the results can be seen on his blog: The Dutch Card Guy.

Me?  Well, I made out pretty well myself!

Here's two of the main cards I was after in the trade.  A pair of Cubs prospects from last year's Bowman set: a chrome Jeimer Candelario (#277/500) and an orange Matt Szczur (#246/250).

Jeroen also sent me a slew of Starlin Castros for my unofficial Castro collection.  Here's a pair of blue Opening Day Castros, 2011 on the left and 2013 on the right.  Man, do I love the sparkly blue!

 How about a mini 2012 Topps edition?  Nice! I know, I know, you can't tell it's a mini.  You'll just have to take my word for it.

Luis Valbuena has done a nice job at third base for the Cubs so far this young season.  Yet, I can't help but feel I took Aramis Ramirez and his consistent output of 30 homers and 100+ RBI for granted the last decade.  Below is my first A-Ram relic: a 2010 Upper Deck card. 

Pitching is the name of the game and Jeroen sent plenty of quality arms my way including about a half-dozen early '90s cards of Mr. Maddux.  Below you'll find his Leaf and Fleer Ultra cards from 1992.

How about a 2011 Liquorfractor of lefty set-up man James Russell.  Nice, but I prefer the blue that Starlin is sporting above.  Oh, and yeah, don't even get me started about how he and Samardzija need to invest in a pair of clippers.

I also have an unofficial player collection of Matt Clement (in Cubs uniforms only).  This 2004 Upper Deck Vintage card shows off his spectacular facial hair.  Man, I miss Matt Clement.
Oh, and don't tell my wife I just used the words spectacular and Clement's facial hair in the same sentence.

In all, Jeroen sent about 50 Cubs cards for my sister and I to divide between us.  Jane took a handful and she was kind enough to leave me the rest.  I was really glad when she passed over these two Upper Deck cards of Kerry Wood.
 As soon as my teaching gig ends for the summer I'll return to updating my Wood and Sandberg checklists.  Both of the above are new to me for sure as I was on a collecting hiatus during the early part of the 2000s.

This was a great trade over all and I'm already on the lookout for tradebait for Jeroen (Kershaw, Velander, Mariano, and the like).  Thanks a bunch Dutch Card Guy!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A loss for them, a win for me.

My wife and couple we're friends with made it to Wrigley Field this past Saturday to see the Cubs take on the Reds.  The Cubs held a 4 to 2 lead heading into the eighth inning behind two Alfonso Soriano two-run homers. 

Enter Carlos Marmol.

Ball Four.

Ball Eight.

I was half expecting Larry Doyle, from Major League, to come over the public address system and yell, "Ball twelve!  He's walked the bases loaded!"

Nope, Marmol plunked the next hitter on the hip to load the bases.

Long story short, the Cubs lost by two.

I haven't seen a victory by the Cubs at the "Friendly Confines" this spring in three attempts.  In all, the home team doesn't have a victory in five contests. 

On a positive note: I won the battle with the hood fan above the range in the kitchen!  The fan's thirty year old speed variation dial wasn't working properly.  So, I replaced the fan speed control dial, the light switch, all the wiring, and the light socket.  Everything works like a charm now!
 I figure that maybe those things are just like headlights?  When one goes, the other one isn't  too far behind, right?

Either way, it's a nice success story for a guy who's favorite team is on pace to go 62 and 100.  Sigh...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

LCS pickups: Glorius Vintage and a Pair that Shine

When I stopped by my local card shop the other day I found something new in the vintage case.  The owner said the 5 3/8 inch by 3 3/8 inch card was manufactured by the Exhibit Card Company over fifty years ago, and said that it books for much higher than the $4.99 on the sticker.  I'm not a big fan of book prices, but I do like things under five dollars, especially when the item in question is of Ernie Banks!

Sure, my Mr. Cub is a little soft around the corners and there are four creases on the surface that stand out, but this card is beautiful!  What some may see as flaws I see as gorgeous vintage! 

I did a quick search on eBay to see if I could learn anything else about the card.  Apparently there were multiple sets back in the 40's, 50's, and 60's produced by Exhibit, and the card I possess is the tougher of the three Ernie Banks cards to find.

Oh, and surprise-surprise... one was graded and up for auction.

Yikes! That's a steep asking price!

My Ernie's condition would probably rate as VG (very good) at best, yet I'm very proud to add him to my humble little collection.

For those of you who get bored of vintage* here's the pair that shine:
 Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo from the '12-'13 Panini Prizm set.

I do love shiny cards, but I'd take the aged creases on my Ernie card everyday of the week and twice on Sunday.

* Seriously though, who gets bored with vintage?