Tag Archives: mjpmke

A White Whale and a Major Asshole

When I started working on the checklist for my Stanford project, the player that confused me the most was John Ramos. His 10 games didn’t merit a flagship 1992 Topps card but when I saw him included on the Topps Gold checklist I thought I was going a little crazy. How could he have a Gold parallel card but no base card?

It turns out that instead of releasing Gold versions of the checklists, Topps released cards for six rookies who had just missed the cut.* In my view, these six extra cards should of count as part of the 1992 set in a Master Set sort of way. I’d thought I had all of Topps’s 1992 cards. Turns out I was still missing a few and I added them to my list of things to search for every once in a while.

*#131 Terry Matthews, #264 Rod Beck, #366 Tony Perezchica, #527 Terry McDaniel, #658 John Ramos, and #787 Brian Williams. Also unbeknownst to me is the fact that there was a Gold parallel version of the Traded set and that card number #132T Kerry Woodson was substituted for the Traded checklist.

Of course, outside of the checklist replacements there’s another Gold-only 1992 Topps card. Card number 793 is a special autographed Gold-only card of bonus-baby phenom Brien Taylor. Taylor was supposed to be the next big thing. Instead he tore his rotator cuff in a bar fight and became the embodiment of everything the rookie-obsessed baseball card hobby fears. For me and my peer group, it was clear lesson about the perils of prospecting with cards.

Still, card number 793 fit my searchlist for completing a larger set of 1992 Topps cards. It’s just not a common like the others. Yes, even though Taylor never made it to the majors, he’s a touchstone for every collector my age and so his card is still in demand. Is it expensive? Not especially. But it’s also one of those things where as much as I’d like to have it I’m not going to be spending $20 on it either.

Is this a “white whale”? Not exactly. But it’s one of those cards where the price is higher than I’d ever want to spend (and definitely higher than the enjoyment I’d get from owning the card) so it’s in that ballpark.

It turns out I didn’t have to spend anything on it. Somehow Matt Prigge ended up with a bunch of these and offered to send me one since I seem to be the only person trying to collect those Gold cards that aren’t in Flagship.

Is awesome.

That the signature is all wonky makes me wonder if these were rejects or something but I don’t care. This is a wonderful Dated Rookie card for my nostalgia and takes me one card closer to finishing the 1992 “Master Set.” I only need Tony Perezchica and Kerry Woodson now.

Of course, as happens all the time, the mailing did not just include the Brien Taylor card. Matt sent a bunch of other Giant cards along including this 1973 Checklist which wasn’t even on my searchlist for completing my Giants team sets.

This is also the best kind of unexpected card mailing. Not only is it a card I “need” it’s also a card—specifically a checklist—that I hate buying. I must’ve pulled too many checklists when I was a kid since I have a visceral reaction whenever I think about purchasing a checklist by itself.

The rest of the mailing was 1990s stuff—much of it shiny. The first batch includes 1991 Ultra Update (a set I never purchased as a kid), a wonderful Barry Bonds Gallery of the Stars insert from Triple Play, 1994 Upper Deck Fun (another set I never even saw as a kid) and some Sportflics. Or I guess Sportflics had rebranded itself as Sportflix around this time.

Anyway, very cool. The Salomon Torres Bowman card is another nostalgia-inducing Dated Rookie card since he was supposed to be the next big thing for the Giants but the fanbase just turned on him after the 1993 season. I still feel sorry for the kid.

More shininess. I think the JR Phillips Bowman is base but good lord is it shiny. Score Gold Rush is always fun. I love that Rod Beck Upper Deck card where he’s already swung at the ball and missed it by at least a foot. The Silver Signature parallels are also a lot of fun. I think that line is my favorite foil parallel approach in all the early 1990s cards.

Also holy moly I did not realize that Topps Chrome was a thing as early as 1997.

And a couple more shiny cards. And a couple more Rod Becks.* Beck will always be one of my favorite Giants players and it’s been heartening to see how many other collectors have chosen to collect his cards. It’s clear he was a fan favorite everywhere he played and it’s a shame he didn’t live long enough for all of us to grow up and tell him as much.

*There were six in the stack.

Going from one of my favorites to one of my least favorites. Two A.J. Pierzynski cards is some top-level trolling. Yes they go in my Giants binder. No I do not like being reminded that he was on the team. Good lord what an asshole. Though I’m heartened by the number of people on Card Twitter who also hate him. I’m clearly following the right people on there.

Thanks Matt! I love the Taylor and I’m totally rooting for your Brewers to make it to the World Series this year.

@mjpmke’s Update purge

While Matt has helped me with my Update set before, he recently decided that he was done with the whole Update concept and was going to be shedding the last decade of Update cards. I get it, Update’s one of those sets that needs to be strongly defined in order to make any sense. Is it a set of highlights to summarize the season which just ended? Is it intended to correct players in the flagship set who changed teams or weren’t on the roster at all when Topps locked the checklist the previous January? Is it a celebration of players who made their debuts in the season? Is it a celebration of players who made the All Star team that season?

Currently the answer to all of those is a resounding “kind of.” Are all of those elements in Update. Yes. Does Topps do any of them well? No.

I still enjoy Update though at least from a team collector point of view since the Giants aren’t a team that Topps either short-changes or over-emphasizes on the checklists. And I like the idea of completing the 2017 set because it marks my return to the hobby and represents the first set that I purchased packs of with my son. So when Matt put out a “shoot me your wantlists” call I sent him my set needs and mentioned I’d be interested in any other Giants as well.

So a few weeks ago* a box of cards showed up in my mailbox and inside was a bunch of Update and a bunch of other goodies.

*I received so many mailings at the end of the school year that I’m running weeks behind.

I’ll start with the unexpected stuff. Buried inside the Giants cards were a bunch of cards of Stanford guys for my Stanford project. I think these kill my Update needs for 2010–2017. It’s always fun when trading partners remember who the Stanford guys are. Unlike with team collecting, keeping the Alumni names in mind is the kind of task that I don’t expect anyone to be able to do. That Matt has cards from a half-dozen different guys is pretty impressive.

There was also a lot of pre-2010 Giants stuff. On the top of that pile though were these two autographs. I gather that Matt did a fair amount of non-Brewers through-the-mail requests before focusing his collection on his All-time Brewers project. Garrelts and Dravecky are two semi-obscure guys who happen to be near and dear to my heart though since they come from the Giants teams I learned to love baseball with. Heck I mention each by name in my remembrance of Candlestick post.

Garrelts is one of just four players* who played 10+ years in the Majors and only played for the Giants. I have fond memories of him both being great in terms of signing everything I had in Philadelphia as well as being a solid starter who I saw almost pitch a no-hitter.

*Also on the list, Jim Davenport, Robby Thompson, and Matt Cain. I’m tempted to try and get signed 8×10s of each of them since I’m already half-way there (I have Davenport and Thompson). The hardest part of this project idea is that I can’t find any Garrelts 8×10s available anywhere.

Dravecky meanwhile was our ace whose cancer comeback game in 1989 is still the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever watched. I’ve been to bigger and more important games but I’ve never been in a crowd which was so into the game. Every pitch, every moment was important and none of us knew what to expect.

The rest of the Giants goodies included a bunch of 1993 Topps Gold—a set I’ve always liked—as well as an assortment of other 1990s stuff. Leaf Limited is one of those sets I’m surprised that I like. Sportflics (sorry, Sportflix now) is always great fun. I’m not sure how Matt keeps coming across Pacific cards but those are always appreciated.

2010–2016 Update cards and more Gold cards continue to fill in some holes left over from RobbyT’s huge mailing. The 2015 Gold card of Chris Heston’s no-hitter is probably my favorite of this batch. Also that 1954-designed Madison Bumgarner Topps Archives card amuses me since his signature includes #22—a number he’s never worn in the Giants organization. Twitter suggests this was a signature lifted from the 2006 National Showcase but I’m still shaking my head at Topps not just deleting the uniform number.

And a last handful of Giants cards. I did not have the Postseason Celebration card for the 2014 World Series so that’s a lot of fun. And the 1960-designed McCovey is both fun and infuriating in how it shows both the potential of Archives in re-imagining cards from the past as well as the pitfalls in not being true to the original design. In this case it really bothers me that the name text isn’t fully-justified.

This image also brings us to the bulk of the mailday—namely 2017 Update. Matt’s mailing took me to 297/300 complete for the set* which is far better than I ever expected to get.

*Depending on how you count I could actually have 295/300 or 298/300 complete instead. I’m missing cards 96 (Brett Phillips), 193 (Orlando Arcia), and 269 (Craig Kimbrel). I also have two other slots—172 (Jason Hammel) and 257 (Alex Wood)—filled with Gold or Foil parallel versions of the cards. And I do actually have card number 269—only I have the Pedro Martinez variant rather then the guy who’s actually in the checklist.

Looking through these cards and I’m starting to wonder how I want to break them down into pages. Right now of course everything’s by-the-number. But since the set is complete aside from the Brewers I can think about how I want to split things up. I’m always inclined to put the Traded and Rookies with the rest of the team but the All Star, home Run Derby, Highlights, and Debut cards are a different beast.

Anyway I’ll have the summer to think about it. Probably longer since unpaging a set and re-sorting it is the kind of thing I’ll backburner for a long time. But this confirms that I won’t be going after Update again this year. Yes on the Giants. Probably yes on the rest of the cards which would’ve been part of the Traded sets form the 1980s. But I’m not feeling it with rest of this set. Too much rookies and stars bloat for my taste and not enough difference in the All Stars and things to be fun.

Still I’m very happy to have this one essentially complete. It’s a wonderful way to close out my first full year back in the hobby and it’s nice that it comes via trade since exchanging cards over Twitter has turned out to be the best thing about the latest incarnation of the hobby.

packfiller

To fill out the package and protect the other cards from moving, Matt tossed in a dozen or so dummy cards. These don’t warrant too much discussion but I’m amused that they’re mostly all checklists.

I’ll readily admit that I never gave much thought to the checklists when I was a kid. I didn’t like pulling them in packs and even now I feel weird specifically purchasing them whether as part of a set chase or as an extension of my team sets search.* At the same time not having them in the sets also feels wrong.

*A few of the 1960s checklists feature Giants players.

As cards that I never really looked at, seeing a dozen of them all together kind of forced me to take a closer look. I’d never noticed that the 1989 Topps checklists called back to the 1979 design before. I never realized that the 1990 Topps checklists were organized by team. I’m amused that the Donruss Diamond Kings checklist includes the Diamond king ribbon. And I’m kind of appalled at the computer-generated graphics on the Stadium Club checklists.

GiantsNOW

A couple weeks ago Matt Prigge had the excellent idea to roll his own ToppsNOW/Upper Deck Documentary set for this season. Such a wonderful idea. The promise of those sets is in their potential for creating a summary of the season—the kind of thing fans of each team will want to look back on once the season completes.* The reality of these sets? Unfortunately not so much. Topps hypes the same teams and players it hypes in its regular releases and ignores large portions of the country. And Upper Deck reused photos ad nauseum so cards became indistinguishable from each other.

*Note, as a Giants fan, I’m fully aware of how you might not want to look back on a season.

Realizing how we don’t need to be reliant on Topps to create our cards for us is fantastic. Things like the Rookies App are great for people who can’t make their own customs. And for those of us who have a bit of design/production prowess, all we have to do is take that plunge into creating a bunch of 2.5″×3.5″ documents.

Battlin’ Bucs has already jumped on board this idea and I figured it was worth taking a stab as well. A full-on Documentary-style 162-card set is a bit ambitious but I can totally do highlights. Since I didn’t feel like creating my own design from scratch I decided to rip off 1993 Upper Deck.

I’ve always loved this design because of how much it showed could be accomplished with just text. The masking of the words at the top is achieved by just deleting a character. The drop shadows are just the same text shifted a point down and to the right. It’s a sharp look which emphasizes the photo.

Of course I tweaked it a bit. Since this is a Giants-only set I put the team name on the top of the card instead. And I swapped out the gradient to be the Giants’ colors. And the script font is Mistral instead of what Upper Deck used since I don’t keep to many script fonts handy. Does Mistral date this horribly? Kind of. But I’ve also come to like it for what it is as well.

I liked the first card so much that I decided to do a few more highlights. Once the template is set up it’s easy to just keep making them. The hardest part is finding the photos from various news sites on the web.

One of the wonderful things about baseball cards is that because they’re so small, sourcing photos from the web is actually possible. 900×600 pixels is plenty big enough here. It’s just a shame that so many websites have switched to video-only content and no longer have photos now.

The only problem with letting the web be my photo editor is that I risk having a highlights set of all home run photos. This is so far an accurate reflection of the season so far but I really hope things get more diverse moving forward.

With the fronts coming along it was time to think about the backs. These are much harder since typesetting statistics is a pain and besides, the point of these cards was to emphasize highlights from the season.

A short paragraph writeup of the game is enough. Having the line score is fun. And since Wikipedia’s logos are all SVG you can tweak them in Illustrator for whatever you need them to be. I’m not as taken with these as with the card fronts but they serve my purpose.

I’m not sure how many highlights there are going to be this season. As a fan more highlights would be preferable but that will also drag this project from being something fun to being a complete slog. At this rate though a 99-card set would be my goal. Now that I have the template set up, this shouldn’t be too hard to bang out.

The other portion of this project is the idea of a living roster set. Not every player will make it onto a highlight card but it’s nice to have a record of everyone who appeared in the uniform over the season.

I didn’t have the ganas to create a new design for this. Besides, the interesting thing about sourcing photos from the web is how so many of them are horizontal shots. This template works really well with horizontal images and I’m enjoying seeing the possibilities that come from just dropping photos in.

I’ve also been trying to get photos of players as close to their first game of the season as possible. I may update later if an especially great photo comes out but part of what I’m liking about the idea of a living roster set is that it grows as more players put on the uniform.

Not all photos are horizontal however so I had to tweak things again for the vertical design. I didn’t like how cramped “San Francisco” was at the top so I switched it out for something shorter. Yes it’s in Spanish. Yes we call the team this locally. Yes it’s my design anyway.

The nature of the vertical design is more awkward for the action photography but lends itself to other interesting compositions. Like I’ll probably change Austin Jackson’s photo at some point but I like it for now.

At this point though, since the Giants have already used their entire 25-man active roster I’ve been able to get in-game photos of all but two of the guys. This means that the project now only entails upgrading images and noticing when someone like Bumgarner comes off the disabled list or when there’s a minor league transaction such as today’s activation of Tyler Beede and deactivation of Roberto Gómez. So I can take things easy for a bit until September gets here and hopefully by then a lot of those guys will already have made appearances.

The backs of the roster cards are even more of a challenge though. For my purposes they need to both summarize the season and also mark when he first appeared with the team this year. I thought a little bit about going with full stats but decided to just go with one line for the season.* I’ll probably add an additional line of text for anyone who gets traded to show when they joined or left the team.

*Current stats on these backs are placeholder text so I can see how much fits and everything. I’m not touching stats until the season ends.

Cards will be numbered in the order players appeared with the team as well. This is partially for my sanity as I can just add a card to the end of my document whenever someone makes their debut but also intends to give me a summary of how the season progresses. This will also allow the first page of this set to be the Opening Day lineup* which is a little detail I’m especially happy with.

*I’m putting Bochy as card number 10. And no these existing back images do not have the final numbers at all.

How do I intend to print these? No idea. My best guess is to put a bunch on a large sheet of digital printing, glue fronts and backs together, and trim everything myself. Not sure how many sheets this will take. The other logical solution is to get cheapo 4″×6″ prints and glue those together before trimming. This will be more work but at less than 20¢ a print it means I could do this whole project for $30.

Of course all this assumes I’ll even finish this project this year (watch this space in November). But it’s been fun so far and I’m hoping the peer pressure of other guys in Card Twitter doing their projects and showing their progress keeps me on task.

@mjpmke set me up the bomb

Holy moly. Matt (@mjpmke) sent me a surprise 400-count box of cards. It was packed with team bags and bubble wrap so it ended up being ~200 cards. And good lord they all happened to be great.

Most of the box consisted of about 120 1978 Topps cards. This takes my set progress close to 50% complete. While I’ve still got mostly commons, Matt was kind enough to throw in a decent number of star cards in this batch including the Jack Morris rookie among a handful of Hall of Famers.

I’m fast approaching the point now where I need to consider getting a dedicated set binder and paging everything with empty spots for the missing cards. Looking over my current checklist shows that I don’t yet have a completed page and that I would still have one empty page. When I change both of those statuses is when I’ll dedicate a single binder to this.

Most of the rest of the box consisted of a huge batch of Pacific barajitas. It’s not a ton of cards but these don’t seem to be commonly available as lots. That Spanish-language Pro Set card sent me down a rabbit hole of Spanish-language baseball cards. I grabbed a Topps Zest set last year but most of my attention has been in learning about the 1994–2001 Pacific issues.

I had a handful before this mailday—a few Giants here, a few Stanford guys there. It was nice to have them as samples but they didn’t really provide a sense of the set and brand. The nine 1994s are fun. The ~40 1995s though are wonderful. Where 1993 and 1994 feel very much like baby steps into proper card production, 1995 is a legitimate set which has some interesting photography—I especially like the Ozzie Smith card—and feels like a demonstration of Pacific’s subsequent branding.

The 1996–1999 sets continue that sense with the gaudy graphics and overdone foil stamping. These designs aren’t my cup of tea but there are things about all of them that I like and there’s a certain distinctiveness in the identity that I appreciate.

Matt also included a couple dozen Giants cards. A decent amount of junk wax coupled with a few newer cards. I probably have a few of these but many look completely unfamiliar to me. Of the batch I especially like Duracell oddball and the Matt Williams Pacific. But it’s also fun to have another diecut even though I still don’t understand the point of these. And I like the Will Clark Studio card and the Triple Play with the Turn Back the Clock uniform.

The last card in the box deserves a special mention. The Christie Mathewson mini is here because I forgot to photograph it with the rest of the Giants cards, but the Jorge Campos 1994 World Cup card is one of the few non-baseball cards that really strikes a chord with me. If 1994 marks the point where my baseball fandom took an irreparable hit, it also marks where I jumped seriously into soccer.

Attending the World Cup was just part of it. But between learning much more about the sport via high school soccer and watching all the World Cup games on TV, I came out of the summer of 1994 totally down on baseball and totally up on soccer. Jorge Campos, while not a huge star of the cup, was a clear star for all of us youth soccer players in California. Having a card of his is a fantastic reminder of that summer and my youth playing the game.

This 1994 Upper Deck set is the kind of thing I can see myself grabbing random singles of players I remember fondly from the World Cup—Romario and Hristo (it should be no surprise I ended up a Barcelona fan), Bebeto, Bergkamp, Valderrama—and the rest of my mid-1990s early soccer fandom.

Anyway this whole box was awesome and I need to get my return package of 1978s for Matt’s set chase put together and into the post.

Mailday from @mjpmke!

Another mailday from Matt Prigge (@mjpmke). Where last time was a bunch of Stanford and Giants cards, this time involved an exchange of 2017 set needs since we each had a bunch of Update dupes.

Update is a weird set. I’m kind of trying to complete it and I kind of don’t care and a lot of my ambivalence is because I can’t figure out what it is. If it were like the old Topps Traded sets I’d want all of it. I’ve always liked the idea of filling in the holes in the Flagship base set with a small update of traded players and rookies who hadn’t made it into the base set.

But it also feels like a bloated All Star set where, rather than being a small subset like what used to be in Flagship, we have a whole bunch of stars with photos from both the All Star Game and Home Run Derby so we can get two cards of all the big-name sluggers. As someone who finds the special All Star uniforms and merchandise to feel like too obvious of a cash grab by MLB, seeing that gear on cards makes the cards also feel like an obvious cash grab.

Anyway laying all the cards out like this shows how monotonous the photo selections are. Each card looks good. The set though is kind of a snore. I am pleased however that none of these cards show the extreme purple hues that many of the Update cards show.*

*For whatever reason it looks like Topps screwed up their color profiling in Update and many of the blue tones skewed purple in that classic screwed-up sRGB conversion way. I’ve considered posting about this but it’s difficult to create the images for this without making things seem even worse.

Matt also included a bunch of Stadium Club cards which I didn’t have. comparing the photos from Stadium Club with the photos from Update is night and day. There are still a few of the standard action shots but more than half of these use images that are distinct and interesting on their own AND provide a lot of visual interest and variety to the set as a whole.

I’d love to complete this set (I’m not even halfway done) but after the last pack I purchased turned out to be 100% duplicates I’ve given up on buying any more of these. There’s a weird thing going on where it seems like Topps’s collation creates packs with either no overlap or massive overlap.

I suspect that part of this is because cards are being sold by-the-box more—whether a hobby box or a blaster—and at prices where getting 30%–50% duplicates from a box is no longer acceptable. So Topps has optimized its collation so that it can accurately stuff a box with packs that don’t overlap but if you buy packs (or blasters) by themselves you risk getting all duplicates instead.

Anyway, as much as people seem to complain about the old days when you could expect tons of duplicates in a box, I like the idea that the percentage of duplicates to expect in a pack roughly matches the percentage of the set I have.

And I’m including this Joe Borchard card which Matt sent me a few weeks ago. He found it in a Target repack and tweeted about how this counted as his “hit.” I mentioned that Borchard is a Stanford guy and a bit later it showed up in my mailbox.

Thanks for both maildays Matt!

Mailday from @mjpmke

A great mailday from Matt Prigge (@mjpmke) which manages to hit a bunch of different projects I’m working on. Matt’s a Brewers fan whose All-time Brewers project seemed daunting until I found out about his Brewers Autograph Project. He also has some cool history writing about Milwaukee.

This is one of those rare cards which satisfies two projects at once. This fills a hole in my 1974 Giants but it’s also a record of the Padres aborted move to Washington DC. I’ve been sort of working on a moves/expansion project for a while now and the 1974 Washington cards are a key part of that.

I’m also working on a project of Stanford Alumni. I’ve not gone after any of the cards from after I stopped collecting in 1994 so this stack is fantastic. It’s a good mix of players like Sprague and Hinch who I collected (and chased autographs) when I was still a kid and players like Lowrie and Storen who I’m older than and would’ve felt really weird about trying to get their signatures.

Some Junk Wax Giants, most of which I’m pretty sure I don’t have. 1988 Donruss is one of those sets which, as nostalgia-inducing as it is, looks worse and worse each year. 1990 Donruss and 1990 Fleer though are growing on me. I love the Topps Gold Righetti card and that Upper Deck Triple Crown subset is also brand new to me.

And a half dozen holiday cards. I have to admit that these confuse me greatly. Googling suggests this was a Walmart exclusive set released around Christmastime. The idea of replacing the smoke effect in 2016 Topps with snowflakes is mighty weird. Baseball is, after all, a summer game so the resulting look was never going to make sense.

For some reason though I find myself kind of liking these. I don’t know, maybe the holiday tackarama hits a different sort of feel for me. Yes I think they’re stupid but they’re kind of gloriously self-aware and embracing of the stupidity. The only thing that could have made things better was replacing all the caps with Santa hats. Maybe that’s what we’ll get this winter.

Anyway thanks Matt! I’ve got a handful of 1975s I need to send your way in return.

Chain letter

A cautionary tale about what can happen if you start trading cards with unsavory characters you’ve met on the internet…

One week later…

Serves me right for making the suggestion. Although it is appropriate to send him to Princeton. I’ll have to find someone in Texas to mail this to next.

Oh, and Mark also sent me a bunch of 1979 Topps Giants cards. I didn’t photograph those since I suspect they were mainly an excuse to send me this ghastly piece of cardboard. But old Giants cards are always welcome!