Sunday, September 24, 2017

Basketball Book Review - Tall Tales and Short Shorts

I believe this is my first book review of a basketball book.  Most of my sports reading focuses on baseball books but I saw Tall Tales and Short Shorts - Dr. J, Pistol Pete & The Birth of the Modern NBA by Adam J. Criblez on the new release shelf at my local library and decided to pick it up.  I am very glad I did.



This book tells the story of the NBA during the decade of the 1970s.  This is an era, outside of what I learned in Bill Simmons, The Book of Basketball that I knew very little about.  I was born in the early 70s and never paid attention to the NBA until the Kansas City Kings relocated to Sacramento in 1985.  In addition to Simmons' book, my other basketball reading has consisted of a book about Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, a couple books about Charles Barkley and that's about it.  These were all in my 1980s-1990s basketball wheelhouse.

This book has a chapter about each season starting with the 1969-1970 season.  Each chapter talks through the regular season of each team in the NBA.  Some only a paragraph, others maybe 2-3 but each team got a little love and the author shared who some of their top players were, news about the team, how they fared during the regular season and at times intertwined a few social items that were going on outside of basketball that either paralleled the NBA or gave some insight into how America operated at the time.

Each chapter would then go into some detail about all the playoff series match-ups.  Almost every game got at least a brief mention with some of the more memorable games having quite a bit of depth to the story.  Rightfully so, the NBA finals got the most coverage with quite a few details about the star players, how the series unfolded and who the eventual champ was.  These chapters ended with a full listing of the year's standings, a list of each playoff series with results, the All NBA first and second teams, the league leaders in key statistical categories and finally the NBA MVP and Rookie of the year winners.

There were also 3 other chapters interspersed that shared some details on key figures and turning points in the league.  The first talked about Pete Maravich and the second Julius Erving.  Each player was covered in some depth from their childhood upbringing through their college careers.  These chapters really gave some good insight into how they were shaped as players and what they brought to the league.  The final chapter was about the ABA and NBA merger.  The ABA was referenced a little during some of the season chapters but this chapter went into the formation of the league and the journey that the ABA went through that ultimately led to the merger.   There is a final chapter that talks about some of the key players and teams in the 1980s and 90s.

I really enjoyed this book and learned a ton.  There were star players in the 1970s that I had never heard of.  We all have heard of Wilt and Dr. J and Pistol Pete and Kareem.  There are tons of other well know players as well.  However, the All NBA teams were littered with players I had never really heard about.  I felt like the amount of information in the book was just the right amount. There are several story lines that could support an entire book on their own but I got just enough out of the book to understand how the NBA was in the 1970s and gain a greater appreciation.

If you are a sports fan and someone who likes basketball I think this would be an enjoyable read.  I am not the passionate fan I was in the late 80s and 90s but I still follow the sport on the periphery.  Even at that level of fandom, I found myself really appreciating this book.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Complete Set Showcase - 1993 Topps Commanders of the Hill

I have been slowly working my way forward on completing Topps insert sets throughout the 90s and early 2000s.  Originally I thought this set fit in with that quest when I picked up the Bill Swift card for my Giants collection but this was a stand alone set.

I saw this complete set pop up on Sportlots as an auction and was able to pick it up for just a few dollars.  Here is a summary of the set as found on Beckett.com:
This 30-card standard-size set issued by Topps features pitchers of the American and National Leagues. The cards were available for an additional 25 cents per pack with the purchase of a fountain coke at military installation snack bars and food courts only, through the PX/BX. Each pack contained five cards.
Pretty cool, a military release.  I wasn't aware of any military only releases outside of the 1991 Topps Desert Shield parallels.  I scanned the entire 30-card set and examples of two of the backs.  The set showcases each leagues Cy Young winner, Strikeout leader and then each team's ERA leader.  I found the set pretty cool as it reminded me of a few fairly solid pitchers like Charles Nagy, Bill Gullickson, and Pete Harnisch that I really hadn't given much thought to since they pitched in the MLB.

I will share the entire set without commentary until the end:






The cards have a nice camo design along the bottom and two side borders.  I find it interesting that the three borders are all different widths.  The team name goes vertically along the left side which makes sense as this is primarily a team leaders set.  There is a small banner in the top left showing the city name and a bigger banner near the bottom with the player name and their team leader or league leader designation.  The set name is in the bottom right corner with a baseball in the middle of the logo.  I find it interesting that the Topps name doesn't appear anywhere on the card front.  Overall I think this is a fun design, I like the look and it is pretty unique and fits in well with the military release with the camo.


Here are the two different types of card backs.  The Smoltz card on the top is how the Cy Young and Strikeout Leaders looks.  Just a nice little write-up with some highlights of the season.  The team leader cards show a small recap of each of the pitchers starts.  I really like this display and wouldn't mind seeing it on other pitcher card backs.  There is a joint Coca-Cola/MLB logo in the bottom right along with a Players Association logo.  The only notation of Topps is in the fine print with the copyright info in the bottom left.

I am really happy I picked up this set even though it wasn't the insert set I thought it was.  It brought back a lot of memories of some good pitchers from the 90s in a nice solid design.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Baseball Book Review - Teammate by David Ross


I haven't done a Baseball Book Review in quite a while.  I know I have read a few baseball books but never took the plunge and posted a review.

Today I thought I would share some thoughts about Teammate - My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages by David Ross.  I heard about this book on a podcast and decided to check the local library and was lucky enough to find it.  

I have to admit that I didn't know much about Ross until his final season with the Cubs and actually became a fan watching his journey on Dancing with the Stars (I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have watched a couple seasons of the show)


Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages
Image taken from online retailer as I returned the book to the library

This was a solid baseball book.  He follows the 2016 Cubs season and sprinkles in anecdotes from earlier in his life and career.  He talks about how he wasn't always a good teammate but got some direct and somewhat harsh feedback that made him rethink who he was and adjust his approach to life and baseball.  I am a fan of that message.  In my job I have gotten some pretty direct feedback a couple of times and dished it out several times more.  I look at feedback as a gift and it is all about how you take it and what you do with it.  I have been fortunate enough to do well with getting this kind of feedback as did Ross.  Can't say everyone I have dished it out to has reacted the same.

There is some sharing of lessons learned and giving advice but not to the point it was preachy.  I am glad about that as that would have turned me off.  The best aspect of this book is hearing some of the baseball stories Ross has to share and learning a little bit about the inter workings of a baseball team. I have gotten that from other books as well but always appreciate a new perspective.

I also enjoyed the fact that I didn't have to be a Cubs fan to appreciate the book, while he is a fan of the organization and appreciative of how he was treated (especially during his final year), it isn't an over the top Cubs love fest.

If you want a pretty quick read with some good stories and insight into the baseball world, I would definitely give this a read.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Topps Proves It Sucks Once Again

Back in 2011 I bought a Topps Redemption for a dual Buster Posey and Neftali Feliz card for about $20.  It has been sitting in my account unfulfilled until a couple days ago.  I got a Fed Ex package from Topps, opened up the package and got this:





How can a relic card of a guy they continue to produce not be made and fulfilled?  Isn't Posey one of their guys?

I called Topps to complain.  The guy says the fulfill redemptions that aren't produced looking at Beckett value.  While he is on the phone I look up the Beckett values.  The Posey/Feliz card goes for $50. The Boesch card $12 and the "bonus" Phillips card for $6.  He puts me on hold for over 10 minutes.

He comes back on saying he checked eBay prices and the replacement was accurate as Posey relics go for under $10 and the card I got has an autograph.  I explain that Boesch hasn't played in the majors since 2015 and that only one of his autos has sold in the last 6 months (A Triple Threads /10 for $8) because he sucks and nobody wants his cards.  I doubt I could give it away.  My bonus card is of a prospect who can't even crack the Brewers Top 10 list.

He apologizes about 10 times, I tell him that does me no good.  I ask why they didn't reach out to me to ask who my teams are, he says they only ask what you want when you request a replacement, not when they arbitrarily decide to send you something.  Isn't that idiotic?

He says the only thing he can do is send me a care package with 2-3 packs.  Anyone want to bet what I get?  My guess is 1 pack of Opening Day, 1 pack of Series 2 retail and one pack of Stickers.

Not a happy consumer.

Friday, September 15, 2017

2017 Has Been A Giant Disappointment

This year my blog posting has been less Giants centered than ever before.  The team started off bad and just got worse.  I was very encouraged coming into the season they just laid an egg over and over again to where they are fighting it out for the worst record in baseball.  I bought the MLB package and haven't watched a full game since June - why put myself through the heartache.  I have been through many bleak years as a Giants fan and I will bounce back from this one as well.

I do continue to collect Giants cards.  My focus this year has been primarily on the base, some inserts and a couple of the more plentiful parallel sets.  I have plugged a few holes in back years as well but I have to admit that more of my attention has gone towards set building and player collections.  I did find a nice lot of Giants cards that I picked on on eBay a few weeks back that I thought I would share.


First up is a pair of Giants base cards from 2017 Museum Collection.  These were the only 2 Giants featured in the base set.  No legends, no MadBum, just Posey and Pence.  The Giants were fairly poorly represented in most of the releases this year which makes me think Topps knew something I didn't know coming into the season.  At least it makes it easier to pick up team sets of the base cards.


Next up is this auto of former Giants prospect, Phil Bickford.  Bickford was traded to the Brewers along with catching prospect Andrew Susac for relief pitcher Will Smith. Smith got hurt and didn't play this year, the first sign of a bad luck 2017.  Bickford was suspended for 50 games to start the season for recreational drug use, probably not a bad thing he is gone from the Giants.  This was the only card I already had from this lot.


This manu-relic of Buster Posey is nice.  I really enjoy the design and this was the card I was actually looking for on eBay when I ran across the lot.  The American Flag MLB logo is sweet and I have warmed up to the presence of manu-relics in the hobby, this one was a much have.


While there were only 2 Giants in the Museum Collection base set, other players appear on the hits.  Disappointing first baseman Brandon Belt is featured here on a triple relic auto card numbered /199.  I typically enter each season thinking Belt will break out then end the year in disappointment.  I wouldn't be shocked if he is gone to start next season.

The final card is this quad relic with a sweet patch of Johnny Cueto.  I thought at the beginning of 2017 that there was no way he would return to the Giants in 2018.  He was coming off a Cy Young caliber season and has an opt out clause at the end of this year.  A fairly poor season along with some blister problems make it highly likely he will opt in for the remainder of his contract and stay with the Giants.  I think I am okay with that, we need a bounce back from him and a bunch of other players to compete next year.

I need to do some more searching for lots like this, these were some solid additions to my collection.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Missing My Old LCS

In July, my family and I took a trip back to Southern California to visit some family and friends and beach time.  Being in the center of the country is pretty nice but having never been more than 2 hours from the beach my entire life, the sand and surf was a definite need.

Another need was a visit to my South Orange County former LCS, MVP Sports Cards.  In my decade plus in South OC, I built up a strong friendship with the husband and wife owner team and was looking forward to the visit and hoped I might be lucky enough to find a few cards to add to my collection.  I was able to accomplish both.

They had helped me immensely on my 1970 set build and the first thing I asked to see was the 1972 Topps box.  I am down to needing cards from mostly the final 2 series and I was able to knock off 24 cards from my want list at a pretty reasonable price.  This is the biggest chunk of the higher series I have been able to knock off at one time.


Not a ton of star power but a few well known names to go with this Expos team card.  Sorry for the upside down In Action card, I am usually not that sloppy.


Some cool photography in this grouping, with a nice bat barrel on the Reese card, a great posed shot with awesome A's uniform on the Bando card and quite a few cool spring training backgrounds.


I nice final grouping of high numbers with some good backgrounds, nice A's unis and a pair of rookie (non) stars.

Next up they pulled up their eBay page and I did a quick search for Giants.  I was able to pick up this nice looking 1951 Bowman Bill Rigney card that I needed for my team set.  Not a grading expert but this looks better than a 5 to me.


I am not a massive collector of graded cards but a few years back a guy brought in 2 big boxes of Reggie Bush graded rookie cards he had invested in during 2006.  Most were PSA 10s with a couple 9s mixed in.  I decided to pick out 4 cards and built a nice Reggie PSA 10 rookie collection for $15.  The owner said he picked them up for $3-7 each, imagine the loss the original guy took on these.


The final two purchases came from a large box of Star and HOF autos they pulled out.  I had never seen this Orlando Cepeda card and really like the design, photo and inscription so I pulled the trigger.


And the final card is a big one for me, a brand new Willie McCovey auto numbered 17/25.  I had the other version /45 already in my collection but this one was new. I am very glad to have want lists on my blog page as I wasn't quite sure if this was a card I had or not.  Now it resides nicely in my Volume 3 (of 4) McCovey binder with the other cards from around 2007.


I spied a couple other cards I really wanted to get but wasn't ready to spend that much as my vacation wasn't cheap.  I plan on reaching out in the next month or two to see if the cards I had my eye on are still around.  MVP Sportscards has been my favorite LCS by far and I was glad to get back for a visit.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Joy of a Completed Insert Set - 1998 Topps Rookie Class

Since 2006, in addition to the Topps Flagship base sets, I have been collecting most of the insert sets as well.  I little while back I decided to fill some gaps in my collection and pick up the Topps insert sets from 1993 to 2005.  While I do have all the base sets in that range, this was a period where I didn't do a ton of collection.  Most of the sets have been picked up in factory form or bought complete without opening many or any packs.  I have decided to share the different insert sets as I complete them to document my progress and share the sets in case they came at a lull in your collecting as well.

This insert set is from 1998 Topps and is 10 cards in size.  These were inserts in the 2nd Series and according to Beckett.com they were inserted at a rate of 1 in 12 packs, not a very rare insert.  The players featured in this set are players who had under one year of major league service entering the 1998 season.


The player selection in this set is pretty solid.  Most of these guys had pretty good and lengthy careers, I am impressed with Topps foresight.  Each of these players played at least 9 years in the majors so as late as 2005 all these guys were still playing. 

The design is okay, not great on these cards.  They scan a little worse than they look in person, they have a shiny finish.  There are two photos on the front of each card with a full color action photo and a muted silhouette in the background.  The names are easy to read along the top in white lettering and the insert name of "rookie class" is in lower case letters along the side.

Here is the card back with the minor and major league records from 1997.  A third picture is included along with the player's bio information and a nice little write up.   This insert set isn't my favorite but the player selection makes is middle of the road insert set.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Player to be Named Later

When I was young, I always thought trades that included A Player to be Named Later were always a little odd.  I thought how could a team agree to a trade without knowing who they would get back in return.  I wasn't knowledgeable enough to understand salary dumps, the length of minor league seasons, prearranged lists of possible players or any other complexities of the business side of baseball.

Back in 1985 the Giants made a trade that involved a different type of Player to be Named Later.  They traded their best player, All-Star Jack Clark, the the Cardinals in exchange for Dave LaPoint, David Green, Gary Rajsich and Jose Gonzalez.  I wasn't happy about the trade at the time, Clark was a fan favorite.  The trade took an interesting turn when Gonzalez, almost immediately after the trade, changed his name to Jose Uribe.

He told the press that there were too many Gonzalez's in baseball. Gonzalez was his father's family name so he changed his name to his mother's family name of Uribe.  I guess it worked out okay, I recall many a day at Candlestick Park where half the crowd would shout "U (oooh)" while the other half would follow with "Ribe (ree bay)".  It was fun but you had to be there I guess.

He was the starting SS for the Giants for about 8 years sandwiched between short stints with the Cardinals and Astros.  Sadly Jose died in a car crash back in 2006.

I recently finished off my 1988 Topps Big team set with this nice Jose Uribe card:


When checking out the back, his full named reminded me of what Coach Rocky Bridges called "The Ultimately Player to be Named Later".


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sometimes it is Better to be Lucky Instead of Good

I would have to say I have not been a very good blogger over the past year or two.  Daily posting has gone by the wayside.  I haven't put together a contest in forever.  I don't get to read and comment on all the blogs I typically enjoy as often as I would like.  I haven't posted all the cards generous bloggers have sent my way nor sent out as many packages as I would like.

Despite being a bad blogger, I still seem to have a little luck on my side.  I have won a few contests in my day and recently entered one over at Sports Card Info.  Typically Sports Card Info runs a weekly contest with a single card giveaway - usually an auto or a relic.  I used to enter every week but have lately limited myself to only enter when there is a card that will find a nice spot in my collection. A few weeks back I saw a high end relic of a future HOFer who isn't well represented in my collection so I entered.  As luck would have it, I won!

Check out this Topps Tier 1 relic of future HOFer Albert Pujols.  I like the design of the card with Pujols being the star.  Sure a patch would be nice instead of the plain gray relic but you can't expect a patch in all 331 cards.  I was very glad to bring this home.  This is my second Albert relic and a big improvement over the unlicensed Donruss Jersey Kings relic.


Thanks to Sports Card Info for the generosity and for helping me add a great card to my collection.  If you aren't following the blog, it is a worthy follow and who knows you may win a card for your collection and also get this cool pin as a bonus.


Monday, September 4, 2017

The Joy of a Completed Insert Set - 2014 Allen & Ginter Fields of Yore

My collection of the Allen & Ginter set has been off and on.  I typically like the product but different issues (timing of release, skyrocketing box prices, high priced SPs) have resulted in me not pursuing the set about half the time since it was started in 2006.

One year I did not collect the base set was 2014.  However through some blog posts and a couple pack purchases I spotted an insert set that I had to have.  This Fields of Yore insert set features some great artwork on the front of the cards highlighting (mostly) baseball fields from the past.  I believe only Wrigley Field is still in use today.

The backs have a nice little write up sharing a bit of history from each field.  This is a great looking set and I have scanned front and back of all 10 cards for your viewing pleasure.





If I have one complaint, I would have liked to seen the historic Polo Grounds as part of the set.  I would have probably replaced either Wrigley (since it is still in use) or Shea (since it is the most modern park in the group).  Great job by Topps and the Allen and Ginter team, this is one of my favorite all time insert set.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

PWE Palooza

I have a confession, I am way behind on posting cards I have gotten from other bloggers.  Like really far behind.  Like I have some scans that go back to late 2015 behind.  No promises but I am going to try to remedy that over the next few weeks.  I thought I would start with sharing a bunch of great PWEs I have received.  I love getting mail and love a surprise PWE.  Each of these put a smile on my face and deserve a little blog time.

Are you ready for my PWE Palooza?

The first two scans feature cards sent my way by blog reader John Hazen:

I hadn't seen the Lincecum card before it arrived in my mailbox.  Seems like a perfect card of the freak, looking quite mellow isn't he?


Also scored a couple Bowman Giants.  While the Bowman sets are on my want list, it is still a set that causes me way too much confusion.  With Chrome cards mixed with base cards mixed with Prospect cards and two or three releases per year, it makes my head spin.  Glad however to knock these two off my want list.

Next up are 3 scans from either 2 or 3 PWEs from Stealing Home, the author of All Trade Bait, All The Time.  As a Dodger fan, I am sure he was ready to rid his collection of all these Giants.  I am a happy recipient.


A nice assortment here, with a little old and a little new.  The Cain helps on the Topps Gold quest and the Gypsy Queen mini is a nice addition.


Demonstrating how far behind I am, I believe these Heritage and Flagship cards were newly released when I got this package.



A nice assortment here with a couple rookies, some All-Stars some Conlon needs and a parallel Ginter card of Buster.

Next up is a couple PWEs from JediJeff at 2 by 3 Heroes.  I always seem to score some nice stuff when Jeff shoots cards my way.


See, great cards!  Did you hear that the Panda is back in SF?  Can he return to his glory days of 2012-2013.  I love the Opening Day celebrations card.


PWE #2 delivers as well with a couple nice Lincecums, a respectful MadBum, a Darryl sighting and a cool minor league card.

These next 2 PWEs came from Brian of Play at the Plate fame.  Brian has been inactive for over a year now and I hope that lame people like me that took so long to give their thanks had no part in his disappearance.


This was a nice group, adding some new Bowman base cards and some decade plus old cards of stars from Giants past.



This was a great PWE with the highlight being the awesome Onyx Stadium Club insert of Barry Bonds.

The next three scans come from Sportscards From the Dollar Store.  If memory serves me these were all contained within one PWE but I could be mistaken.  Love the variety!


First up we hit on three different parts of my collection.  I do have a nice little collection of basketball players who played at USC. It goes beyond my Harold Miner collection and these two DeMar DeRozan cards fit nicely.  Also scored a Matt Cain for the Giants collection and a couple Niners QBs - love the Steve Young card!

Some more 49ers.  I don't know if I "officially" collect non-vintage 49er cards - since I don't have a checklist I think the answer is no.  However, they are my favorite team and I do have a nice box of them stashed away that these were added to.


The final cards from Dollar Store were these Trojan football players - definitely a PC with over 12,000 USC cards and counting.

My final PWE to put a dent in the scan folder comes from GCRL.  Has it really been 2 years since he posted???  He also has a side project Cards As I See Them which has some pretty recent posts.


I scored this nice group of Giants tucked nicely in a PWE. Glad to take those Giants off the hands of all the Dodger collectors.

A big thanks to all of you for sending these cards my way.  They are greatly appreciated - much more than the months delay in posting might indicate.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bringing Home the Bronze

A little while back, John of Johnny's Trading Spot had a contest similar to Wes' Big Fun Game and I was lucky enough to earn a spot.  I jumped in on the contest and even had a little dialog in the comments section about what I was hoping to win.

When my turn came up, I made a steal and low and behold my desired item entered my collection.  I was surprised at the size and weight of the item I won and took a few pictures to try and share via the blog.

First up is the "binder" the card was contained in.  It is plastic with a nice Highland Mint logo on the cover.

Here is the spine, showing the player, the year and the material of the card.  There is even a serial number.  Could you imagine a shelf with a bunch of these stacked like books?


Sorry for the sideways picture but here is what it looks like opened up.  There is a nice place on the left to hold the folded COA and the right has an area to contain the encase bronze card.


Here is a nice close up of my Will "The Thrill" Clark bronze card.  It is modeled after his 1986 Topps Traded rookie card - Nice!


The back is spot on accurate as well.   I hadn't seen one of the bronze cards from this release, I am very impressed by the quality.


I took a picture of the card and the case next to a regular sized card.  Note the thickness of the bronze card but also the case the card is in.


Here is the unfolded COA with the 0917 serial number matching the side of the plastic binder it is contained in.  Looks like there were 3000 Clark cards made.


In his typical generous fashion, John also included a few extra Giants for my collection.  This Barry Zito is my favorite, when I see base cards this nice I always reflect on how nice it was when Upper Deck was still in the Baseball card business.


Here are some other great cards from 2017 that John tossed in as well.


John thanks for the contest and for allowing me to add the great Will Clark to my collection.  With the success of your contest, Wes' contest and a couple others I am strongly considering to have my own give away as well.  I have a few things set aside as prizes and hope that once this Hurricane Harvey tragedy allows work to even out a bit (I am in the insurance business), I am planning on taking a day off and get all the contest stuff ready to go.