Saturday, November 29, 2014

2014 Panini Classics: Hit and a Review

I was at my local card shop the other day picking up a few cards for a fellow blogger when I saw some new product sitting on the front counter.  The Tony Gwynn on wrapper is what really caught my eye and I asked the owner about the set.  He replied that Panini scored the first memorabilia of three Hall of Fame players (Roger Bresnehan, Gabby Hartnett and Bob Meuse) and they were in this product along with some of the all time greats and current prospects.  Then he paused and hooked me with the following, "Kris Bryant has an auto in there, too."  He knows my kryptonite is Cubs prospects. 

I picked out two packs and he wished me good luck.  He knows the only packs I usually buy are Opening Day because I don't have a ton of money to budget on cardboard featuring baseball players.  Yep, $4.99 a pack. And I bought two.  He must have thought I just won the lottery or something to go all crazy like that.

I actually have the other pack, unopened, staring back at me as I type this post.  I'm saving it for a day when I need a bit of a silver lining, and I'm hoping the next one packs the same kind of wallop as this one.

The checklist for Panini Classics is 200 cards strong and while the last 50 cards contain rookies, who made their debut in 2014, the first 150 cards is littered with legends and present day stars.

Concerning the design: I like the pennant on the bottom and the fact that the card has each player's number on the front of the card.  The position for each player is in a smaller script font and difficult to read.  The backs are informative, well laid out, sport each team's main uniform color, and contains stats from 2013.  I guess it's too much to ask for a set that comes out in mid November to have stats from 2014?  The position is much easier to read on the back.

What about the team name?  It can be found directly beneath the player's name on the back of the card, but it's not visible on the front of the card.  Or is it?
 Yep, it's on the front and somehow hidden amongst the pinstripes.  At first I wondered why Panini left so much blank space at the bottom of the card, but when I shifted in my seat I could see "Boston" glimmer in the overhead light.  Each camera shot I've taken of the cards is taken directly from above, so you probably won't notice the team on the front of any of the the other cards.   The rest of the card is done in traditional foil, but the team name is a bit more iridescent. Weird.

From what I've read, each 8-card pack is supposed to have two rookies.  A box contains 24 packs, which means if the collation is good, then one would crack open 48 of the 50 rookie cards in a box.

I'm not familiar Chris Taylor, a shortstop for the Mariners, but I know Odrisamer Despaigne pitched well enough down the stretch for me to stream him on one of my fantasy league teams.  Two west coast rookies.  It is, what it is.

I'd like to add that I like the sepia background behind the players and, believe it or not, I think Panini is getting better at choosing its pictures to hide the fact it doesn't have an MLB license.

Here's two of the legends I pulled:
Again, a good shot of Charlie Hustle hustle in which Panini barely had to airbrush any logos.  I like the black and white photo of Duke, even if some may think it clashes with the sepia background (myself included). 

Well, we're at five cards and this pack has been less than earth-shattering up to this point, but that's okay, because it was a Cubs HOT PACK and I've saved the best for last!  (Three out of eight cards makes it a hot pack, right?)

Hey, it's Mr. Cub!

The sepia is nice for the base cards, but what it really does is make this insert set really pop:
Just look at that sun in the corner!  Holy blinding brightness, Batman!

There are four main insert subsets, including the Stars of Summer (as seen above) as well as Legendary Lumberjacks, Home Run Heroes, and October Heroes.  I'm quite happy with my Starlin Castro, thank you very much!

The set's checklist has many other smaller inserts which are autographed and relic based and each box guarantees two autographs and two memorabilia cards.  In the middle of my pack was a thicker card:

 Numbered 15 out of 99, I pulled Classic Lineups card with three hall of famers who played for the Cubs.  Chuck Klein only spent a couple of seasons in Chicago, but hey, beggars can't be choosers!  The piece of fabric for Gabby Hartnett is pretty frickin' sweet. Supposedly, it's part of the first line of Gabby Hartnett memorabilia cards.  Nice!

How many times have you had a hot pack of your favorite team?  It's my first.
How many times have you pulled a sweet hit which actually has a place in your collection?  Also a first. 
I was so stoked after this pack!

Overall, Panini Classics is a nice product, but there is some room for improvement.  The material Panini used to print the team name on the front of the cards should have never made it past the drawing room.  I don't want to hold the card at a certain angle to see the team name, especially in a set which has prospects I'm just being introduced to.  Speaking of which, I like the idea of having legends sprinkled in with today's stars, but I'm not sure how I feel about the prospects eating up 25% of the checklist.  The  prospects aren't classics by any stretch of the imagination at this point in their careers, and five years from now we'll be lucky to have a handful of them in the All-Star game.  I like the sepia background, but I have mixed feelings about how it looks with black and white photos.  Lastly, I'd like to see the other insert sets in hand, but I really like the Stars of Summer.    

I paid a little more than I normally do for the pack, but I think I still came out on top.  There was no Kris Bryant auto in this pack, but that's okay . . . I'm pretty sure it's waiting for me in pack number two.   

Thanks for stopping by and reading!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Cubs Convention Calendar: November

On Thanksgiving Day 1925, Red Grange (center) made his professional football debut in a scoreless tie between Grange's Bears and he Chicago Cardinals a Wrigley Field.

Harold "Red" Grange, otherwise known as the Galloping Ghost, was a charter member of both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.  In 2011, he was named by the Big Ten Network as the greatest icon of the Big Ten.

Enjoy the football an turkey today, everyone!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Re-Pack Wars!

"Wait, you can't be serious."

"Yeah, Jack!  I think he is!  Ha!"

"Dustin, this is no laughing matter.  I think this blogger is off his rocker."

We did a little fall cleaning at the Pack Wars Headquarters and we found two FairField "Baseball Super Value" boxes, which were prizes from the 2013 Blogosphere Fantasy Baseball League. I couldn't determine which one had more dust collected on it, so we'll have to break them open to see which one wins.

In this match-up we are pitting two "100+" re-pack boxes against each other.  For ease of scoring and identifying we've dubbed them: Ludicrous Left and Ridiculous Right.  (No, this post is not a crude commentary on America's two main political parties.)

This battle is slated for 19 Rounds!  It sounds like a lot, but no worries.  This post is heavy on the pictures and light on the commentary.

Ready or not, here we go!
I'm NOT reaaaaaaaady!

Round 1: Managers
Lasorda is a big name and that's a great smiling shot.  Even out numbered, Lasorda comes through.  The Ridiculous Right is on the board first.

Ludicrous Left = 0
Ridiculous Right =1

Round 2: Checklists

If I had to pull a checklist from Donruss I would ask it to be the Diamond King checlist.  But, the front of this '88 Fleer checklist features the teams from the '87 World Series on it.  Seems pretty fitting to me!  A point to the Ludicrous Left because of Fleer's creativity in team selection.

Ludicrous Left = 1
Ridiculous Right =1

Round 3: Oldest
This round turns as a stale mate as nothing really speaks to me here.  Each repack had two cards from '81, a Fleer and Topps card.  Huh.  That's some pretty solid collation!

Ludicrous Left = 1
Ridiculous Right = 1
(1 tie)

Round 4: Newest
Lefty has a 2009 Upper Deck Conor Jackson card and Righty claims a 2003 Yankees Signature Series card of Bob Turley from Upper Deck.  Ludicrous Left takes the lead!

Ludicrous Left = 2
Ridiculous Right = 1
(1 tie)

Round 5: Parallels
 I don't know if I can Topps Chrome as a parallel, but it was out numbered by a nice shot of a sliding Joey Cora and a rookie card of baby-faced Shawn Green.  The Right ties up the Pack Wars after five rounds.

Ludicrous Left = 2
Ridiculous Right = 2
(1 tie)

Round 6: Most cards from one set
The left and right each had 10% of its box register as '88 Topps UK Minis.  Someday I'll complete this set through repacks.  Hall of Famers are well represented from both sides. Another draw.

Ludicrous Left = 2
Ridiculous Right = 2
(2 ties)

Round 7: Stickers
Usually these boxes are notorious for having a handful of mini Topps stickers from the late 1980s.  Not this time though.  A Fleer Start Sticker for each box of guys that don't "wow" me.  Another draw.

Ludicrous Left = 2
Ridiculous Right = 2
(3 ties)

Round 8: Play At The Plate cards
This one is from the repack right on the right.   Easy scoring decision as Ludicrous Left was a no show.

Ludicrous Left = 2
Ridiculous Right = 3
(3 ties)

Round 9: Bunting cards
The Ridiculous Right widens its lead.  I think someone forgot to tell Ludicrous Left there was a Repack Wars going on.

Ludicrous Left = 2
Ridiculous Right = 4
(3 ties)

Round 10: Double-Dip cards
I have a good five or six of the Ryno cards in my Ryno dupe box.  I like the horizontal DeShields card even if he's wearing a Cardinal uniform.  Another point to the Ridiculous Right.

Ludicrous Left = 2
Ridiculous Right =5
(3 ties)

Round 11: Fun Pirates Hats
The Ludicrous Left has awoken!  Pure Awesomeness!

Ludicrous Left = 3
Ridiculous Right = 5
(3 ties)

Round 12: Cars with Multiple Bats
 Johnnie LeMaster makes another appearance!  I count five bats to Ken Landreaux's two.  Easy math.

Ludicrous Left = 4
Ridiculous Right = 5
(3 ties)

Round 13: Wax-Stained cards
 Johnnie LeMaster has single-handedly rallied the Ludicrous Left to tie this match at five apiece! Niee job Johnnie!

Ludicrous Left = 5
Ridiculous Right = 5
(3 ties)

Round 14: Great Names
 Razor Shines versus Basil Shabazz.  Wow.  At first sound, I would go with Razor Shines, but let's take a closer look.
 Yes, Basil Shabazz has a gold front tooth.  Excellent find!

Ludicrous Left = 5
Ridiculous Right = 6
(3 ties)

Round 15: Hall of Famers (non-UK Minis)
 Both of these contest come from '89 Donruss, and the Ridiculous Right is helped by Glavine's recent induction.  Glavine was very good, but Warren Spahn was on a different level in my opinion.  The Ludicrous Left ties it up at six!

Ludicrous Left = 6
Ridiculous Right = 6
(3 ties)

Round 16: Future Hall of Famers
I picked the best two players remaining from each box.  The Orel Hershiser card is a great looking card, but only Griffey is a lock to have a plaque in Cooperstown.

Ludicrous Left = 6
Ridiculous Right = 7
(3 ties)

Round 17: Additions to my Player Collections
 What are the odds of pulling one Greg Olson card from each box.  I only have a few collection of players who did not play for the Cubs: Greg Olson (catcher), Gregg Olson (pitcher), and Karl Olson (1950s).   Matt Olson, prospect for the A's, might make it to the binders before too long.  Hmmm... sense a theme there? 
Both of these are new to me and are pretty nice action shots.  The one on the right might be a play at the plate shot, but The Right already won the PATP category without the help of this Score Select card.

Ludicrous Left = 6
Ridiculous Right = 7
(4 ties)

Round 18: Cubs
 We've already seen a couple of these cards in previous rounds.  Only McClendon and Girardi make their first appearance in today's competition.  I actually have ALL of these cards in my collection already.  Quantity wins! 

Ludicrous Left = 7
Ridiculous Right = 7
(4 ties)

It's all tied up going into the Last Round...

Round 19: Oddball
 The Fleer Star Sticker cards and the Yankees Signature Series cards could have been consider oddball cards, but this one Topps the rest.  Yes, Daffy.  I respect your authority.     This card came from the Ridiculousness of the repack box on the Right.

Final Score:
Ludicrous Left =7
Ridiculous Right = 8
(4 ties)

Repacks are always fun to crack open.  It's hard to not find something to blog about... as evident by a 19 round Pack War!

Thanks for stopping by to view some fun cards! 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Quick Additions to KW PC Through Listia

I think the title of the post pretty much says it all.  I snagged a five card lot of Kerry Wood cards for 499 credits on Listia a week or so ago and the cards just arrived.
'99 Ultimate Victory and '02 Fleer Ultra
 "Free" Kerry Wood cards for my player collection?  Yes, please!
2001 Topps Stadium Club
I've always like the photography of Stadium Club and this is another nice shot.  I'm glad Topps brought it back for 2014, but I'm a little bummed at the price.  Oh, well.

I'm up to 343 unique cards of Kid K.  Nice.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review: The Game From Where I Stand

Title: The Game From Where I Stand   
Author: Doug Glanville   
Genre: Autobiography

Ease of Reading: I knocked this 257-pager out in less than a week.  It's a fairly quick read and although Glanville is a graduate of an Ivy League school I didn't find myself reaching for my dictionary.  I guess being a former baseball player writing about baseball to an audience of baseball fans this should be terribly shocking.

Synapse: More or less, I found Doug Glanville's book to be in the same vein as Dirk Hayhurst's offerings. Hayhurst writes with a little more flair, but Glanville's book was enlightening in its own right.  Doug Glanville is a former number one draft pick and the first such pick to be an African American graduate of an Ivy League school. Needless to say, he has plenty of material to talk about.  He speaks about locker room dynamics, relationships (inside the game and out), steroids, stalkers, Montreal as a party town, buying a car, respecting the game, breaking in as a rookie and exiting as a veteran.  I really enjoyed Glanville's insight, because often times we only see the player through the eyes of the press, but Glanville allows the reader to see the game and the lifestyle through the eyes of a of a major leaguer.  There are equal parts of funny anecdotes and somber life lessons sprinkled throughout the text.  The book definitely held my interest throughout.   

Comments:  I picked up this book for a number of reasons:
1. Glanville is a good Twitter follow
2. He's a former Cub who had a game winning hit in the 2003 playoffs
3. He's managed to turn himself into well-respected baseball analyst
4. and . . . Doug Glanville is in my Chicago Cubs binder!  Woo-Hoo!

Grade: Overall, I was not disappointed with the content selection within the chapters, but the text is broken up into topical chapters which I felt didn't allow his story to flow as smoothly as possibly. But it was still enjoyable overall.  If that's the only knock, then it's a pretty fine read and deserves a high mark.  Doug Glanville, I'm sure you're not concerned with my amateur grades, but rest assured you've earned an 'A' in my eyes.  Thank you for telling your story and sharing your insights of the game I love.

Minor league cards of Doug from the mid '90s.
Side note: I was hoping to do twelve book reviews this calendar year, but this is only the tenth and there's a high probability it may be the last.  You know how it goes... life happens.   No worries though. I see the upcoming break from book reviews as more of a hiatus than a complete abandonment, because I've rediscovered that I enjoy reading... albeit, it has to baseball related material!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Going Back 30 Years

My collection has a modest little run of completed Topps sets from the past: 1986 through 1992.  I picked up the '86 set for five bucks at a card show last year, and I challenged the blogosphere last year to trade me their '87 repeats to help me build that set, which was a fun little project. The rest of the sets were built from packs back when I was a middle school kid addicted to cardboard.

It would make sense to chase the '85 set to continue the run, because it is my favorite aesthetically from the 80's, but the 1984 set is the elephant in the room. Let me explain...

Wes, the crazy mad-bomber of largess cardboard packages from Jaybarkerfan's Junk, has hit my mailbox so many times that I have lost track.  I was long overdue to send him a payback package.  When I got wind that he was working on the '84 set I took to eBay and found a nice auction described as containing 1400+ cards, but it was more like 1,600+ cards.

I spent a few nights collating and creating want lists, and when I was done I had three big piles and two small ones:
Pile #1 = 769 cards for Wes (97% of a 1984 set)
Pile #2 = 477 cards for me (60% of a complete set)
Pile #3 = 350+ repeats, which I sent to Wes... bwhahahahahahaha!
Pile #4 = a handful of miscut cards to send to JediJeff
Pile #5 = two Tim Wallach cards for the most ambitious super collector I know

Of the twenty-three cards missing from Wes' set only four were bigger names (Pete Rose, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, and the Strawberry rookie) and the rest can probably be had for pennies.  I figure the eBay seller must have purchased a big collection and posted the 84's without really sorting through to figure out what was there.  He/she probably didn't want to sift through two 800-count boxes of unsorted cardboard from three decades ago.  At about a penny per card I was happy to do it! 

As a bonus I was able to send out a couple of PWEs and a large box for Wes into the blogosphere.   Nice.

And now I have a new set to chase!   I didn't pick a 2014 set to build for the first time since I got back into the hobby in 2009.  Instead I decided to save a little money and knock some of the others off of my "to be completed" list, and I was able to cross of eight from my list so far!  Yes, it's been a good year.

If you'd like to help by trading me some '84 Topps, then I would be more than happy to try to make it worth your time.  Just send me an e-mail or leave a comment!   Here's my want list.  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I thought these would be so cool...

When I first saw the pictures of the Bowman Fire Die-Cuts I was pretty stoked.  The designers did such a nice job of making it look as though the card was so hot that it was melting.  I just had to have one in my hand!

Well, I found both of the Cubs at a relatively low price and pounced. 

Now that have these molten cards I'm just not as impressed as I thought I would be.  Maybe it's because the background seems so dark or because they don't catch the light and shine, but I'm a little underwhelmed. 

I think the pictures are actually better than what I see in-hand.  But, I think you can see what I mean about how dark they are in the background.  No?

At one point I thought the Fire Die-Cuts would be the one set I would chase from this year's collecting cast, but I've since punted that notion. 

Any thoughts?  Am I the only one out there who's a bit disappointed?  

Let me hear you either way.  Oh, and thanks for stopping by today!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hobby Talk: It's More Than Just Cardboard

I'm a thirty-something year old male and my hobby is collecting baseball cards.  When I first started this blog, nearly 600 posts ago I didn't know if I would be able say that out loud, let alone post it on the internet for everyone to read. Heck, my first posts weren't even cardboard related and eventually my focus slowly morphed into what you've been reading lately: less about how a die-had Cubs fan keeps himself busy between and during losing seasons and more about baseball cards. Rocks!
Mail has helped me to grow as a hobbyist. I'm no longer hesitant to speak about cards to others and I don't fear the dreaded eyebrow raise from members of my age group. Being on the receiving end of PWEs, padded yellow mailers, and large boxes (I'm looking at you, JBF) is a pretty wonderful thing.  After all, who doesn't like opening gifts?  Yet, I think that takes a back seat to finding cards for others.  I really enjoy the hunt.  It's fun flipping through a binder at a card show or shuffling through a dimebox and coming across a sweet play-at-the-plate card, a Tim Wallach or Gary Redus card, or maybe a couple serial numbered cards which may fit into the collection of a fellow blogger.  There are so many little niches out there in the blogosphere that if someone was to map them all out I'm sure it would resemble a Starlin Castro spray chart (to the right).  You know, kind of all over the place.

When I opened my latest PWE I had the usual rush of excitement come over me.  You know the one I'm talking about: those times where you have to stop yourself from skipping back up the driveway from the mailbox lest you embarrass yourself in front of your neighbors.  C'mon, we've all been there!

What was inside?  Well, all the cards you've seen in this post and a nice little note:

 The National?  I've never been to the National before!  I should have went a year ago when it was in Chicago, but I didn't have the connections I do now.  In the time since the last Chicago National I've made a few trades with some other Illinois-based bloggers and it looks like I may have an opportunity to meet up with some of these swell gents. Hopefully I'll be able to bump into JediJeff and possibly Kyle, Dimebox Nick, and Anthony, too.  I understand that we're about nine months away from the National, but there's already two bloggers thinking about. Maybe some other bloggers are already formulating travel plans as well? 

The cardboard is great.  I love shiny and vintage.  I love my Cubs, especially my PC guys and prospects like the VogelMonster.  But, it's the relationships amongst the other great collectors in the blogosphere that really capture my interest. A little note in PWE doesn't make me want to buy more cards, but it sends me to my desk chair hoping to find some new reading material about pictures of childhood heroes on cardboard. 

 "Are you looking at cards, again?"

I hear this question from time-to-time from my wife and the answer is always yes.  It's so easy to live vicariously through the postings of my fellow bloggers . . . and cheaper, too!  Ha!  I may not be to afford the newest high-end releases or absolutely sick vintage, but there's always a blog out there which allows me to dream a little.

Thank you to those out there who make the blogosphere what it is.

And thanks for the cards and the note, Jeff. I'm already planning for the big show in Chicago!