Saturday, March 29, 2014

Often Imitated, but Never Duplicated

Use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because you never know when you have an actual vintage 1965 Topps card in hand. 

I know the authors of the baseball card blogosphere don't have any trouble spotting true vintage from a block away, but I have a feeling Average Joe might find it a bit more problematic, especially with 2014 Heritage on the shelves.

Let's take a look shall we?

Exhibit A: An actual 1965 Topps card (aka: Cubs Goodness)

Exhibit B: Actual 1965 Topps vintage cardboard, but dressed up with a 50th Anniversary foil stamp. Technically vintage, but now it's been slightly updated with foil.  Sigh.

 Exhibit C: 2010 Topps "The Cards Your Mom Threw Out" - Way too glossy to be legit vintage.

Exhibit D:  2005 Topps "Fan Favorites" - Nice knockoff, but more gold foil. 

Exhibit E:  2005 Topps "The Legendary Years" ...  Oh, shiny!  The general template is still in use, but the cardboard stock curls and it's super shiny.  This isn't fooling anyone.

Exhibit F:  2014 Topps Heritage - Pretty darn close, but I wish they would have used the bear head for the logo.  Bummer.

Exhibit G: One of the ten Cubs baseball cards decorating the exterior walls of Cubs Park in Mesa, AZ.  Each card was probably around eight feet tall and sans the Topps logo. I'm sure the Cubs received permission for this project. Right?

Exhibit H: 2003 Upper Deck "Vintage" - Oh boy. 
I don't know if Grammarly's website can decipher a true knockoff baseball card from an original, but it can check full bodies of text for plagiarism against 8 billion web pages.  For those of you looking to polish up your resume it can provide context-optimized vocabulary suggestions.  Ready to turn in your next big report? can instantly find and correct over 250 types of grammatical mistakes.  Nice.  As a teacher this is something I can get behind.

I don't know the history behind it, but I think Upper Deck stole/plagiarized Topps's design for their 2003 "Vintage" set.  Too bad Upper Deck didn't have somebody from Grammarly advising them.  Pilfering Topps' design is a no-no for sure and it's probably part of the reason Upper Deck doesn't currently possess an MLB license.  For shame.

My Trip to the Cactus League

Ten years ago was the last time my school district's spring break was scheduled for March.  What does a baseball loving fan do on such rare occasions?
Posting the temperatures during the game always received a laugh from the crowd.
Yep, a four day stay in Arizona to catch some sun and see my Cubs!

My companions for the trip were my sister, Jane, and my baseball-loving friend, Jim.
Photo opportunity in front of the Cubs' marquee!
Jane in front of our seats.
 We arrived late on Friday, March 21st, and were to excited to sleep.  Saturday morning arrived too quickly, but that didn't stop us from heading to the game.  Highlights included:
1. watching Javier Baez play his own game of Home Run Derby during batting practice
2. Jim bought a $30 mystery baseball for charity from the players' wives.  It was autographed by Travis Wood and Jim got his picture taken with Mrs. Travis Wood. 
3. Logan Watkins, a former Peoria Chief, smacked a triple.  We cheered incessantly for him!
4. Billy Hamilton also hit a triple.  Here's my understatement for the month: "Billy Hamilton is fast."

Low lights?  Just one.  The Cubs lost 8 to 3 to the Reds.

Below is shot of one of the many maps found around Cubs Park.  If you look closely you can locate where I was standing when I took this picture.

Sunday morning I awoke early to get my long run in before the temperatures became too warm.  I'm training for a half marathon at the end of April.  Why do I commit to such things?  No matter, here's a couple of shots of what I spotted on my run:
 Just ten minutes into my 6.7 mile excursion I was surrounded by rolling hills and cactus.  My turn around point was just a bit further than the sign board outside Phoenix Municipal Stadium. 

Here's where I turned around!  Seven o'clock in the morning and they were already preparing the field.  Six hours later we tried to find refuge in the shade of the palm trees down the right field line. 

It was a hot day and a little miserable, but then the bats woke up. We witnessed Junior Lake, Luis Valbuena, and Mike Olt combined for six homers and defeated the Athletics.
Lake hit homers in his last three at-bats and Valbuena went back-to-back with him in two of those plate appearances.  Olt's homer was probably the longest of the six.  Lots to cheer about!

That evening we went out with Shane, the Double-A trainer, and his girlfriend for dinner.  Jim has befriended Shane on his three trips to Cubs Fantasy Camp.  I loved hearing stories about "baseball life" and Shane offered up plenty of insight and anecdotes.

Monday started out interesting, as we were locked inside a local baseball card store while the owner went next door to supervise his other business, a laundromat.  It was a pretty nice store, which contained twenty 4,000-count dime boxes and vintage cards! (Hat tip to It's like having my own Card Shop for the card shop suggestion.)
Mmmmmm... vinatge.
I'm planning another post to show off the baseball cards from the trip.  Be patient!

Jim, Jane, and I took in the Cubs' Triple-A game after lunch at the practice fields.  Here's a shot from earlier in the trip of two of my favorite minor league players during a morning practice.  ROCK SHOULDERS is the foreground and Dan Vogelbach is looking our way!

What a sweet deal the minor league game was!  Free parking, no tickets to buy, and baseball players were mingling about everywhere!  The I-Cubs beat Danny Salazar and the AAA-Indians by the score of 7 to 2. We even bumped into Theo Epstein! Holy Smokes!  I shook hands and got my picture taken with my man crush!
Mad props out to my sister for taking this photo!
 I apologize for the overuse of exclamation points.  I was just a little* excited.

 That night we attended the first ever night game at Cubs Park.  The major league team lost again (7 to 1 to the Padres), but there was a nice fireworks show after the game.  Oh, and here's a view from our seats:
I was hoping for a chance at some of those "objects", but we were never fortunate enough to have a ground ball scoot our way.  I've never sat in the first row at an MLB game.  For $24?  I'd do it all over again!
Beautiful Cubs Park at night.

Tuesday was our last day in the Valley and we were set for one more day game.

We got to the park early for batting practice and my sister and I were each able to score batting practice homers!  I've never done the "ball hawk" thing before.  Fun, but a little dangerous: the ball just seems to drop out of the bright Arizona sky from no where!

As you can tell from the picture I didn't catch the ball.  No shame in being the first one to track down a ball in a mad scramble!

The Cubs broke the Cactus League record for single game attendance during the game with 15,276 in attendance.  The Cubs now hold the top eleven spots in the record book, plus they crushed the MLB home game spring season attendance record with 213,815.  The previous record was 203,105.   The Cubs averaged 14,254 fans per game, which dwarfed the old mark of 12,125 set by the club in 2005.  I'm proud to help contribute to the records!

I must add that the park was packed with fans, but it was also MUCH easier to get about and exit than Wrigley Field.  The front office and the architects did things right.  A terrific fan experience!
Back to the last game: as you can tell from the picture the Cubs had a nice two run lead going into the ninth, but when you use your closer in the 5th and your set-up man in the 6th inning... well... yeah.  It's spring training.  What's a fan to do?

I think we saw three "Official MLB Reviews" take place on our trip.  Rick Renteria, the new manager for the Cubs was responsible for instigating this challenge.  We were sitting way down the left field line for this game, but I swore I heard Renteria say, "I'd like to challenge the entire top of the ninth."

After the game we hit Dave & Busters, had a nice dinner, and retired early so we could catch our plane early the next morning.

Overall, it was great to get away from the dreary and cold forecasts of Central Illinois, hang with two of my favorite people, and stuff in as much baseball as possible within a four day period.

So what if the Cubs only registered one win in four games, and we were denied the playing of "Go Cubs, Go" at home all three time games?  The Triple-A team won a game, and I was just as excited to see them play, because that roster was stacked with talent, which we'll hopefully see before too long.

Besides, with the internet I can play "Go Cubs, Go" whenever I want.
 Thanks for stopping by for my lengthy spring vacation recap! 

(* somebody needs to invent a sarcasm font)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

We all know that guy...

It seems like everyone has a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance they know who lives the good* life.

You know what I'm talking about.  Young. No responsibilities. Out late at night. Lives across from a baseball stadium.   Wait, what?

Well, I didn't know anyone who fit the bill until the other day when my good friend shot me a picture from the front window of his brother-in-law's apartment.

Yep, he lives across from Wrigley Field.  Oh.  My.  Goodness. 

At least now I have a place to crash if I have a little too much fun at my next Cubs game.

*For the record, my life is pretty darn good and I'm very appreciative to live the lifestyle I lead. Although, I do NOT live across from Wrigley Field.  So yeah, there's room for improvement.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cubs Convention Calendar: March

"The intersection of Addison and Sheffield at Weegham Park circa 1914."

What a great shot of Wrigley from a century ago.   Below is a shot of the same corner of the Friendly Confines, but 99 years later (2013).
The Captain Morgan Club now residess where vehicles once parked back in 1914. 

There's been much discussion as to what the future holds for the second oldest MLB ballpark.

 Above is just one artist's rendering of what the updated Wrigley might look like.  Below, another artist took a stab at it, and although there are quite a few similarities there are also a few subtle differences.

I suppose only time will tell what is in store for the home field of my Chicago Cubs.

In the meantime I'm off to visit their new home in Mesa, AZ.  Wish me safe travels, folks!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Add Another to the List

Which list?   

My list of slowing-growing Kerry Wood cards?

The list of supper generous bloggers who I owe a return package?

How about both!

Judson, from My Cardboard Habit, sent me a graded card of Kerry Wood!
He mentioned that he obtained it from Beckett at a card show and that it is a sample.  Check out the bottom of the backside.  Nice!
This is my 305th different card of Mr. Wood and the only card in my collection that is graded. 

Thanks for a great surprise, Judson!  I owe you one!

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Faves from 2 Packs of '14 Donruss

I pulled a pretty rare black refractor from my two packs of 2014 Heritage the other day, thus I saved the Donruss packs I purchased at the same time for another day's post. Today is that day!

Mr. Puig, here, isn't as rare as a serial numbered card to /65, but he does have his own number:132/319.  He's super shiny, which I'm normally a fan of, but all all the other Diamond Kings in my collection are anything but shiny.  It just seems wrong.

Speaking of things that aren't quite right...  I know this has been stated before on the Blogosphere, but I wish the Diamond Kings were painted.  I realize Dick Perez, the original artist, probably wasn't available/interested, but there are plenty of other artists out there looking for work.
The Diamond Kings are modeled after the 1984 set and the Team MVPs are in line with 1989 set.

Below are a couple of images I stole from eBay so you can compare:

The sides of the cards remind me quite a bit of the 1987 version.  Bo knows what I'm talking about.

The logo used on the 2014 product is from the early '80s.  Outside of those two details, there isn't a whole heck of a lot I can place.

The checklist features some retired players, which I definitely like.  Nomaaaah! And the Big Hurt!

 I pulled a couple of Yankees.  Normally, I don't post players from the Evil Empire, but I liked Rivera and I almost miss Soriano.  Again, I said, "almost."

 The backs of the cards are similar to previous iterations of Donruss as well.  Let's take a look at Bo again:

And here's your 2014 version.  The blue backs were done in 1988 and 1991 if my memory is correct.

 In some ways, I can see a pretty easy comparison of this set to Topps Archives.  Archives takes "the best" from a series of Topps sets and makes a nice little compilation set.  This version of Donruss, produced by Panini, is in the same fold for sure.  Albeit, without the logos.  Sigh.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

My Faves from 2 Packs of '14 Heritage

I've been trying to purchase a couple of packs of the new Donruss cards that were released a couple of weeks ago,  but I haven't had much luck.  I headed off to my LCS yesterday after work hoping they would have a new shipment in.

Not only was I able to pick up a couple of packs of the Donruss I was seeking, but yesterday was the official release date for Heritage!  Score!  (We'll wait to post on the Donruss, because I think the Heritage is a superior product.)

We'll start with what I think might be a case hit, because it is seeded at 1:225 packs.  This Jon Lester black refractor, numbered 49/65, was a little bit of a surprise.

These two are my favorite cards.  I love the background behind Adam Dunn, and Austin Jackson looks like the happiest person on the planet.

Star power?  How about my boy Bryce Harper?  I've had him on my fantasy team's roster since he played JuCo ball.  Yep, we have a minor league roster in my keeper league.  I know, you're jealous.
I'm hoping he can put together a full, healthy season and become a Top 10 fantasy player in 2014.

 For those of you love to hate on the talented youngster, here's a recent pic from Twitter.  Yeah, when he's not answering "clown questions", he's helping little old ladies at the grocery store. #gentleman

How about an insert?  Maury Wills and Jacoby Ellsbury on a "Then & Now" card.  I really like this card, but it's not because of the front.  The backside shows the top ten players in stolen bases in 1965 and 2014.  That's a pretty cool concept.  I didn't take a picture and I'm too lazy to go back.  Sorry, folks.

Speaking of backsides:
The original 1965 product line had pretty much everything you see above, including the little cartoons.  This caricature of a player hopping the bull pen fence was my favorite I pulled by far, probably because I did the same a few times my freshman year of college when I worked out of the pen.   Who has time to look for a gate when you've been summoned to the mound?

Here's a shot of the only 1965 card in my collection next the only 2014 Cub I pulled in my two packs.

 I think they really nailed it.  I can't figure out why the position is in yellow font when the original is white AND many of the other '14 cards have white.  Weird. 

The logo, obviously, is another difference.  I did a little research on the interwebs and there "logo variation" short-prints in this year's edition.  Here's the Anthony Rizzo base and SP:
I'm disappointed Topps didn't go with the Cubby Bear logo.  Bummer.

The 1965 design is really classic looking.  Overall, I really like the look of '14 Heritage, but I won't be chasing this set.  I'm still not sure what set I'll build in 2014, but I'll choose something eventually.  In the meantime I'll just keep purchasing random loose packs and pulling case hits. 

Thanks for stopping by today!