Philadelphia Zoo

It’s been about a year since we last visited the Philly Zoo. Spring was crazy and the boys had kind of gotten a bit exhausted. We all enjoyed being back this time though it was sad to see that the Polar Bear had died since our last visit.


A 4-month trade

Way back in early June, Tim (@MaxxxPower68) caught wind of my 1978 set build attempt and offered a trade of ~165 cards from that set in exchange for 1960s/70s stars as well as more-recent A’s cards. Needless to say, I was interested. Unfortunately I was 3000 miles away from my cards at the time and had to wait until September before I could make a proper inventory and see what I could offer in response. He was patient enough to set the pile aside and wait until then.

Once September came we had a bit of back and forth as I tried to find enough stuff to make the trade equitable. I tend to be extremely focused in what I acquire and, as a result, don’t have a lot of extras lying around. But I had a some vintage that Tim needed as well as a bunch of more-recent inserts and parallels that fit his son’s collection and we were able to reach an agreement. So I sent them off in late October and received a box of cards just before Halloween.

It was great. Too many cards to show all of them but this batch took my set from 67% to 89% complete and leaves me at a point where I really just need to concentrate on the big-name cards. I’d normally take photos of completed pages but there are so many of them that I can’t do so.

Going through the stack reveals a lot of things that make me smile. It’s nice to complete the Record Breaker subset. I’m always happy to get a Rick Reuschel card. The Jose Cardenal photo is fantastic. Chris Speier is always a favorite. So is Luis Tiant. I love that first Mariners team photo in front of the Kingdome. Julio Cruz’s photo is great. And it’s always nice to see playing-day photos of guys who I’m familiar with as managers.

I especially love the Managers subset this year and how those cards feature a then and now photo of each manager. It’s not a design I’d want to see every year but I wish it would make an appearance more often than once in Topps’s entire history (though heck I’d just like to see Manager cards come back).

As a Giants fan, all the photos taken at Candlestick are just wonderful. That pre-Jumbotron scoreboard with the Marlboro advertisement reminds me of my first seasons as a fan. So does, unfortunately, the empty outfield upper deck which was only ever full on Opening Day or Fan Appreciation Day. That chain link fence through which you can see the  structure of the unused football stands (that the Gossage card with its well-done (for a change) airbrushing is so clearly taken at Candlestick just adds to its charm). The giant press box on the third base side. I just wish that it wasn’t still artificial turf.

Tim also included all the checklists that I needed. This is very much appreciated. I hate the idea of explicitly trying to acquire checklists even though they’re an important part of the set. The 1978 checklists are kind of weird in how the card numbering appears to be an afterthought with a circle placed wherever it fits on the back. A shame since the rest of the set gets a lot of the small details so so right.

Thanks so much Tim. I’m glad we were able to get this trade to work and I’m very happy to see the light at the end of the tunnel with this 1978 build now.

August Backlog

Continuing from July.


WaxPack Surprise

A couple weeks ago when I went to get the mail, I found a small box addressed to me. I didn’t recognize the sender and couldn’t remember making any ebay purchases or signing up for any breaks. But that didn’t stop me from staring at it for five minutes to figure out if I was having a senior moment.

I shouldn’t have worried. Turns out it was a surprise package from Steve (@WaxPack916). He’s one of the more active TTM senders on Twitter and it’s always fun to see his returns. He also just started blogging in the past year and is in general just a good guy on Card Twitter.

Highlights of the package are three signed cards. When sending out requests it’s pretty common to send a couple cards out at a time so I’m assuming these are extras from successful returns.

Bergman and Summers fall into the category of guys whose cards I’d run into as a kid but never actually saw them play for the team. By the time I was a fan, Bergman was in the AL so I didn’t get to see him play and Summers’s career was over. Instead they were characters in the backstory of trauma and the days where the highlight of the decade was knocking the Dodgers out of the playoffs in 1982. Things I just was expected to know as a fan. So know them I did.

Bob Brenly though is a favorite. I’ve mentioned him before on here. He was a favorite as a player and later on, as a coach whose refreshingly candid post-game show was something we looked forward to after every game. I’m just not used to him with the mustache. It looks so weird.

These are the first signed 1983 Donruss cards I have as well. It’s a simple design that works pretty well with the signatures. The 1984 Topps cards though work really well. I especially like the geometric magenta and teal 1980s-ness on Summers card and the way he signed it vertically.

Steve included a few shiny cards in the package as well. The 1993 Denny’s card is fantastic and comes from one of my favorite oddball sets of all time. The 2001 Elite JT Snow confused the hell out of my scanner. It’s bright silver but scans black with more dust than any photo negative I’ve scanned. And the gold Willie Mays is a 2012 Factory set insert. I’m not so sure how many different Mays cards were available but a gold chrome version of the 1953 design feels wildly contradictory.

A handful of other Giants filled out the team bag and reminded me of how poor the Giants drafting was in the early 1990s. Steve’s custom card meanwhile is encouraging me to consider designing one of my own as well.

There was also a bag of pocket schedules. I don’t explicitly collect these but they’re always fun to look at. Minor league ones are always especially interesting in terms of seeing what kinds of promotions are listed and which player gets highlighted on the cover.

And last but not least there were two coins from 2018 Archives. Since this isn’t a product I’ve purchased it’s fun to see these. Heck I’m unfamiliar with the original coins as well. Yes I know they fit in 2×2 holders and 20-pocket pages but for whatever reason I just haven’t gotten any. They’re cute and I see why people like them.

Fittingly for a package from a guy calling himself “WaxPack,” the bulk of the box though was loose packs for my kids to rip. This looks like a lot of fun and I’ll be sure to tweet what they find. We’ll have to have a draft where they pick their packs and then I’ll let them start ripping.

Very cool Steve and thanks so much!

Wait what? I just got one of these

The day I got my envelope from Marc he posted a “heads up to the following zip codes” 0utgoing-mailday post which included my zip. I assumed that he’d written it a few days earlier and just posted it without expecting that my mail had already arrived. Turns out I should’ve expected a second envelope.

This one had an enigmatic note wrapped around the cards. What could it be indeed? The last time I got such a note it turned out to be Bob Veale.

Holy crap another 1964 surprise which knocks off a hole in my Stanford searchlist. This time it’s a high-number rookie of Bill Wakefield which was on the “more expensive than I wanted to spend at this time” list. Wakefield’s an interesting case in that I think he’s the only guy in that project who graduated from Stanford but never played for the baseball team.

I also like that he spent only a single season in the majors but managed to get three seasons of cards out of it. While I like his 1965 and 1966 cards better, it’s nice to have one from his actual season in which he appeared in 62 games.

Marc also included a 2017 Fire card of Stephen Piscotty which will slide into my Stanford album a few pages in front of the Wakefield. I skipped this set too so this is my first time seeing it in the flesh. I prefer the 2018 design. Aside from not liking the way the crazy background interacts with the player here, the way Topps just slapped the team logo over this design feels incredibly wrong.

Team logos are almost all decades-old design so incorporating them into an over-the-top modern design like this requires more work than just dumping the logo in the corner.

Filling out the rest of the envelope were three 2016 Topps cards. Every time I see this design I can’t help but think about how much nicer it would be with the smoke stuff. Just a nice full-bleed photo. Dump the team name. Keep the rest of the TV-style graphics as they are.

Each time I see this Posey though I’m increasingly inclined to view it as a photo of him with four arms.

And finally a 2018 Stadium Club card that’s well-timed on the heels of my going through Adam’s box and seeing all those 1990s card tropes. Photos of players with a cameras—preferably a gigantic lens—were pretty common in those days. They’re obviously still an appealing shot—especially to photographers like Marc and me. I’m more surprised though that we aren’t seeing photos of players with cellphones taking selfies with fans and whatnot.

Thanks for the surprise PWEs and for finishing off one of the Stanford Alumni runs! Only five left from the 60s/70s now. As for the overall list, I’ve had to add a few thanks to Topps Update (and expect another three or so once Bowman Draft comes out) so I’ve still got a dozen cards left overall to look for.

Fire PWE from Bru

A couple weeks ago I found yet another small envelope from Marc in my mailbox. This one caught me by surprise since I’d just received a decent package from him. When I opened it up I found a bit of Fire. Topps Fire.

That’s a McCutchen base card and a Cueto foil card. I don’t know the proper terminology since this set isn’t the kind of thing I pursue. Marc sent me my first Fire card ever in his previous PWE and these will go next to it in the binder.

Looking at these cards makes me realize how many of the things I dislike in card designs are things I really like as oddballs. As a 200-card set, stuff like this just makes me shake my head. As a 30-card set? I could see myself getting into it. The same goes with Panini’s unlicensed cards which have all the logos airbrushed out. Something about the small checklist makes me much more accepting of quirkiness.

Part of this is because the small checklist encourages a smarter selection of players. You need stars who aren’t diminished by an over-the-top design or who can salvage something logoless and bland. Finding 200 of those guys? Tough. Finding one per team? Much easier.

Anyway, both these cards look way nicer in person and a lot of that has to do with the fact that all three Fire cards I have are of star players. I just wish that Cutch and Stretch had different backgrounds since this design is really asking to be different on each card.

Like this Piscotty background is a nice change of pace. Seeing pages of this over and over again would make my eyes bleed. But seeing one page of craziness? Totally fine. And having just one card amidst a page of otherwise sedate designs really livens things up.

I’ve got to admit, I much prefer Fire to Gypsy Queen. Where I understand what Fire’s doing, I remain absolutely confused by GQ. From the HDR action photos to the pseudo-vintage look which hearkens back to the days of studio photographs, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around what this product is trying to do. Once you toss all the “errors” and variants into the mix? No. Fucking. Clue.

Still it’s nice to have a few in my albums since I’ll never ever buy them. Gives a nice variety to the page and that’s always fun. Plus I would never have noticed how weird it is to have such a different white point in the photo compared to the background of the card if I hadn’t had to scan this for this post. It makes my brain hurt since it makes it clear how the antique background effect is just a printed border.

Continuing with the Stanford theme. Marc included a Bowman Chrome of Mark Appel. This card also doesn’t scan well. Chrome goes black and the border becomes a weird grey halftone. On the plus side, scanning Chrome reveals a lot about how it was printed since the change in reflectivity shows where there’s an opaque white and where there isn’t.

As much as I don’t like the way Chrome looks with photography, I’m fascinated by the printing. Opaque white has such promise for all kinds of cool printing effects* and I’m a bit disappointed that it’s used as essentially a flood for covering up metallic stock. At the same time, it’s not used much in printing at all so to see it live and in the flesh is still exciting.

*If I were designing things I’d be going nuts with opaque white ink on medium-dark papers where the ink would create highlights and the black could create shadows.

Two other cards in the PWE. The first is a 2016 Update card of Brandon Belt as an All Star. One of the disappointing things for me upon reengaging with the hobby is how boring All Star cards have gotten. I mean it’s always fun to get an All Star card of a player on your team, but I grew up in the days of the dedicated subsets which had their own distinct All Star designs.

Coming across an All Star card was something special and those designs still trigger a ton of nostalgia when I see them. If I were baseball card king this is one of the things I’d bring back. Just slapping the All Star logo on the card front without even changing the team name is some laziness.

And last, the super-cool Deion Sanders action card. This goes with the rest of my Action collection even though it’s very much riffing on the concept rather than actually being action. I always liked this card too. Was cool when I saw it in 1992. It’s still cool now.

Looking at it now and I can’t help but notice how smart Upper Deck was to basically remove all the 1992 design from this and let the photo stand on its own. No baseballs. No drop shadow. No names. Just a photo and we all knew exactly who it was. Part of me smiles at seeing him carrying a football since as a cornerback that wasn’t his main job. And the rest of me remembers that ridiculous high-stepping pick-six celebration.

Thanks Marc for the very cool mailday.

July backlog

Continuing from June.