Author: chris.admin

I blame my brother.

I blame my brother.

I’ve always enjoyed hockey, but I was never what you would call a huge fan. I never had the time, and besides, I was so wrapped up in my Atlanta Braves fandom that I never thought I would have the time to follow another team, let alone another sport. Sure, I’d flip the TV on when the NHL would present one of those outdoor games. I was always aware enough that I knew who the best players were across the league and I knew who was playing for the Stanley Cup. So, even though I enjoyed what I knew and watched of the sport, I never found myself that invested in it.

Then, Jason took me to a Lightning game. I’d been to NHL games before, but this was different. It grabbed a hold of me in a different way. I found myself ecstatic and knew I wanted to go back and just experience it all again.

The next year, I found myself watching the Lightning when they were on national television. They were playing great hockey and were primed to make a deep run in the playoffs, so I ponied up for an NHL.tv subscription and while I didn’t watch every game in real time, I’d watch the next morning while I was working. When the playoffs started, they seemed to get even better. The next thing I knew, they were in the Finals and it was excruciating when the Blackhawks beat them. I thought they were headed back the following year, but the damned Penguins (and injuries) put a stop to the season in the conference finals.

Last year, I ached when superstar forward Steven Stamkos went down early in the season. I celebrated when Nikita Kucherov emerged as one of the top players in the league, especially down the stretch. The Lightning may have missed the playoffs, but if Stamkos could get healthy, I knew they’d be back this year.

They’ve come out of the gate like gangbusters. Through the first few weeks of the season, they have clearly been the best team in the Eastern Conference and, for the record, they beat the best team in the Western Conference in their only head to head matchup so far.

As a collector, this fandom has led me to start collecting some Tampa Bay Lightning hockey cards. I’m desperate to limit the collecting to just base team sets and a single autograph for every player on the current team. So far, I haven’t gone overboard. My Lightning collection consists of a single binder and a handful of auto cards in plastic display cases. To my shock, the cards haven’t even been that expensive, but I know, if I don’t show restraint, this whole thing can get away from me.

Collecting is a sickness. It’s why I keep getting base Topps baseball card sets each year even though I hate, hate, hate the direction they’ve taken. It’s why my office is filled with binders and boxes of baseball cards that realistically, I might never look at again. It’s why I keep every card I get of any Atlanta Braves player even when I already have potentially dozens of the same card.

I can’t allow my Lightning fandom to send me in the same direction. My bank account can’t handle it. My time and attention can’t handle it. It’s a struggle though. It’s like an addiction and I’m fighting that voice in my head that says I should fill up a shopping cart at COMC with every Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Sergechev card I can find. What’s another player collection after all?

I haven’t done it yet.

Yet.

Did I mention I blame my brother?

Mickey Mantle Want List

No, I don’t collect Mickey Mantle cards, but my Father-in-Law does. So, from time to time, I’m going to help him out by posting some cards he needs here. If you can help, please leave a comment or send me a message. Thank you!

  • Need 2008 Topps Moments & Milestones Mickey Mantle Card #6 for RBI 79 and RBI 87.
  • Need 2007 Topps Moments & Milestones Mickey Mantle Card #77 for Walk 130.
  • Need 2007 Topps Moments & Milestones Mickey Mantle Card #165 for Hit 109.

My First Completed Page of 1954 Topps

54topps page1

The arrival of 2016 Topps Series 1 has convinced me that I should focus on building a few vintage sets since I have no intention of building a modern set. (I buy them already completed occasionally, but I can’t imagine buying an unopened box.) The question becomes: which vintage sets should I make a go at? I settled almost immediately on 1954 Topps as one of those sets. I had toyed with the idea last year and purchased a few cheap lots off of eBay, but I then went through a period of what I can only call “collecting ennui”. I had to contemplate whether I still wanted to be a part of this hobby or not. I went almost three months without buying a single card, which I haven’t done since I returned to collecting 11 years ago. But, I’ve got the bug again. Maybe it’s the new season being upon us, but I want baseball cards.

So, here’s my thinking on trying to complete a 1954 Topps set: I already have the Hank Aaron rookie and there’s no Mickey Mantle card. I love Mickey Mantle as a historical baseball figure, but I have no interest in paying the premium his cards command if I can avoid it. As for the Aaron rookie, it’s the one baseball card I’ve always wanted, and owning it is nothing short of a dream come true. (I pull it out of a binder every few days and just sort of stare at it in awe.)

So, the Aaron makes an impressive start to the set, but if you know vintage sets, you know the cards that will make this set difficult, or rather expensive, to complete. There’s the Ernie Banks rookie. There’s the Al Kaline rookie. Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays are in the set. More importantly, there are the two Ted Williams cards that bookend the set. I can only hope that somewhere out there, there are two perfectly creased Ted Williams cards with my name on them. That, however, is a story for another day.

I work from home and occasionally, I work for a client who thinks its a good use of time to keep consultants on the phone for the most pointless meetings. Yesterday, I literally spent three continuous hours on the phone and did not have to say a single word. There was not one word said about any of my projects. If I’m at the office, all I can do is stare at the other people in the room with contempt. Since I work from home, I got out a 2 inch binder, a box of 8 count pages, and my stack of 1954 Topps baseball cards. By the end of the meeting, my future set was in the binder, my want list was posted on the web site, and a scan of my only full page wasn’t completed. Now that’s what I call productive.

There are so many great players in this set even beyond the Aaron, Kaline, and Banks rookies. Not one of those great players appears on my first completed page and that’s OK. This is still an interesting group of guys.

  • I’m not overly familiar with Roy Smalley’s career, but I know his son was an All-Star for the Twins.
  • Don Liddle pitched for the Braves and was traded for Giants playoff hero Bobby Thompson. He was also the man on the mound when Willie Mays made “the catch”.
  • Bob Talbot had what was basically a cup of coffee with the Cubs and was then traded to “the Sox”, but would never play another inning in the big leagues.
  • Buster Mills appeared in 341 games in his career for the Cardinals, the Dodgers, the Red Sox, the Browns, the Yankees and the Indians. The year before this set was put out, he managed the Reds.
  • Gene Hermanski greeted Jackie Robinson with a handshake in the Dodgers dugout in 1947 and was the player who suggested that the entire team wear the number 42 to confuse any potential snipers.
  • Like Mills, Bob Kuzawa got around. He threw 862 innings in the big leagues for 8 different teams.And yet, there are still people who believe that everyone played their entire careers for a single team before free agency.
  • My favorite Lou Limmer story is that he lied to the A’s about his age to try and get a larger signing bonus.
  • My favorite player on the page is the late Jay Heard from Athens, Georgia. After a few sporadic appearances in the negro leagues, he moved on to the independent minor leagues where after a few seasons of success, his contract was purchased by the Orioles. Heard was shelled in the second of his two appearances and was sent down to the minors. He never got another taste of the big leagues. This, unfortunately, was not at all uncommon for black players at the time. You were either great, or you were in the minors.

Three Acquisitions

The world’s worst baseball card blog is back. Sort of. I wanted to show off three recent acquisitions to everyone and ask your opinion about something.

First Acquisition: 1954 Topps Hank Aaron

This is the one baseball card I always wanted more than any other. It is the rookie card of the greatest Atlanta Brave of them all. My admiration for the Hammer extends far beyond his accomplishments on the field. I’ve never really understood why this card is so affordable compared to the rookies of so many other of the all-time greats, but I’m not complaining. I’ve written before about how I never thought there was any chance I could actually own this card.

This was picked up after it had received a Beckett Raw Card Review, but I chose not to send it in to be graded. In fact, I pulled it out of the container. Since it was a sticker, it was pretty easy. Why would I do this? Why would I risk damage to this card? Two reasons. I need it to sit in a binder with my other 1954 Topps Atlanta Braves, and, I wanted to touch it. I wanted to run my fingers across it. I had to touch the edges.

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Second Acquisition: 1952 Topps Ed Mathews

Well, if I thought the 54 Aaron was unattainable, this one was even further out of reach. Why is the 52 Mathews so far out of reach of most Braves collectors? Well, it’s the rookie card of a legit Hall of Fame player who is, incidentally, the only player to wear the Braves uniform in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. On top of that, the card isn’t just in the infamous 1952 Topps set, it’s one of the high numbers, and among the high numbers, it was single printed. Very, very scarce. It is also the last card in the set, which, means any number of the cards that found their way into the hands of children in 1952 were at the back of a stack of cards held together by a rubber band.

Well, mine came encased is an SGC case, but a little patience and a flat head screw driver allowed me to bust the case without harming the card. I was more than a little stressed when I tried this.

  <img src="https://madduxglavinesmoltz.elocinsoft.net/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2015/07/img-1.jpg" alt="" />

My Question

I asked this on Twitter, and dayf says I made the right move, but I want to put this to all of you. Did I make a huge mistake opening up the graded containers for these cards? I have no intention of ever selling these cards. I really, really wanted them to sit in the binder with my other Braves cards. That said, there’s a part of me, that wonders if I didn’t make a mistake.

Third Acquisition: Samantha Jayne Mays

I almost forgot my third acquisition.

This one is, of course, the biggest of my three acquisitions. On May 5th, my wife and I flew to Las Vegas. We rented a car and drove to Mountain View Hospital where we met the little girl, born three days earlier, that we would be adopting into our family. She is a delight and a blessing. As many of you who are parents can probably guess, my life has changed immeasurably for the better.

  <img src="https://madduxglavinesmoltz.elocinsoft.net/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2015/07/img.jpg" alt="" />

Group Break Greatness

So, I bought into the 2015 Topps Museum group break over at Crackin’ Wax, and, I promptly forgot. I didn’t watch the video break until last night and well, I missed something pretty great. The pack he opens at 26:00 is the one and I get all the Braves. Check this out.

Guess what? That’s not even the best Aaron I got this week, and it is damned great. I’ll save that story for another day.

Overrated!!!!!

So here’s the thing. I don’t love the 1952 Topps set. In fact, I’d argue, if it hadn’t been first, if it had come after the remarkable run Topps had from 1953 – 1956, it would have been considered the first weak design. It’s not though. It’s first. The design is everywhere and there’s no getting away from it. At this point, I could live the rest of my life without seeing Topps ever dig up this design again. It’s overrated, it’s overexposed, and even if it weren’t, it would be “just another set”.

I suppose that it’s possible that my view of the set is colored by the realization that this is the one Topps Braves team set that I might not complete. Those high numbers man. Wow. The funny thing is, I could see myself dropping a grand to get a shitty condition Eddie Mathews from 1952 Topps. I can easily picture that. I just can’t see myself spending hundreds of dollars on a baseball card of Ebba St. Claire or Bob Thorpe. How will that ever be worth it to me? (I used to include 1954 in my list of team sets I will never complete, but as it turns out, I’m determined to own a Hank Aaron rookie card in just a few months. Hell, I can almost guaranetee I will.)

Still, this is a Braves team set and when I’ve found affordable cards from it, I’ve got them. My favorite is clearly the Spahn, but this time, started with the Willard Marshall from a box at a card show a long, long time ago.

At least I’m not a Yankees fan. How likely are most of those to finish a 52 team set? After all, if there’s two things that scream EXPENSIVE VINTAGE, it’s high numbers and Mickey Mantle.

Is 1953 Bowman my favorite set of all-time?

At heart, I’m a very lazy person. I’ve always wanted to sit down and make one of those lists about my favorite sets, or maybe the 100 greatest Braves cards of all-time! It’s not going to happen though because I’m fairly certain I’d start out with a bang, and then half-ass myself to the finish. So it goes.

For a long time, I was convinced that Warren Spahn’s 1953 Bowman card was the best looking Braves card ever made. The red just pops off the card and the photograph offers that slight hint of the wry Spahn smile. I bought this card about three years ago and I guess it marks another team set where I decided to start with the Spahn. I’m no longer convinced this is the best looking Braves card ever made, but damn, it’s still a mighty fine card.

Just as I’m no longer prepared to say I think the 53 Bowman Spahn is the best looking Braves card ever made, I’m also no longer willing to say that 1953 Bowman Color is my favorite set. I mean, I’m not saying it’s not my favorite set. I absolutely love 1953 Bowman Color cards. In a time where cards where either black and white photographs, paintings, or painted over black and white photographs, 1953 Bowman featured eye-popping color photography. Frankly, I think the colors hold up better than the photos of today’s sets will.

I started with the Spahn, bought a few more 53 Braves over the past few years, and my most recent card from the set is the great Eddie Mathews. I may have three Bowman color cards to go, but I’ve got the two big ones, and another of my favorite old Braves players, Sam Jethroe. That’s a start.

On the other hand, there’s my 1948 Bowman Braves Team Set

As I mentioned yesterday, I decided that Warren Spahn was the first card I wanted to get for my 1949 Bowman team set, and that I did. It’s a beautiful card and I’m excited about acquiring the other Braves in the set.

For my 1948 Bowman Braves team set, I went in a different direction. The Spahn was simply more expensive that I wanted to go, even though I was actively searching for one in poor condition. For my first card for this team set, I decided to go after another of my old-time favorites from the Boston Braves era, Johnny Sain.

Johnny Sain is a guy for which I’e always had an enormous amount of affection. The stories of the Spahn and Sain then Pray for rain Boston Braves are among my favorites. I also remember him well from his short, very short, time as the Braves pitching coach in the 1980s. Perhaps the biggest reason I love Johnny Sain though is Ball Four. I’ve spent most of my life infatuated with the book. At this point, I have three dog eared copes of the book. I’ve also purchased the Kindle version and the audio version from Audible. I read it almost every year. Jim Bouton’s descriptions of Johnny Sain as a pitcher’s pitching coach, rather than a manager’s drinking buddy, always struck home with me. He’s one of the all-time greats and I’m glad I have this card.

While I love the contrast of the black and white photographs backed and streaked with color in the 1949 Bowman set, I actually prefer the 1948 Bowman design. It’s hard to beat the simple black and white photography. The 1948 Bowman set is a short one featuring only 48 different cards which means, as a Braves team collector, there are only three cards that I need. Once I had the Sain, it was easy enough to pick up a cheap Bob Elliott.

Over the years, I’ve picked up the occasional cheap Braves cards from the 1950s, and it was the same names over and over again. There was Walker Cooper. There was Earl Torgeson. Then, there was Bob Elliott. If I had gone for his 1940s cards earlier, it would have been safe to say that I was a defacto Bob Elliott player collector.

It might be hard to imagine, but I’m betting this card was every bit as big a deal as the Spahn and Sain to collectors in 1948. Elliott, in his first year with Boston, would win the Most Valuable Player award. He was the premier offensive player on the 1948 Braves squad that would play in the World Series. These days, he’s practically a common. Everyone might not remember him as a great player, but that’s one of the joys of collecting the cards of my favorite team. I know that Elliott touched greatness for a few years.

So, with Sain and Elliott in the bag, I kept my eye open for a Spahn within my price range. I placed every example that showed up on eBay on my watch list. The majority were listed as Buy it Now and were more than I wanted to spend. Condition was not an issue for me. Truth is, I don’t like older cards in mint condition. It isn’t simply a price thing, but a visual thing. If the card doesn’t look old, if it doesn’t feel old, if it doesn’t look loved, it’s not the card for me.

Even though I was fine with a poor condition card, every Buy it Now listing for a 48 Spahn was high. I thought my best chance would be an auction and that turned out to be the case. This card is more creased than I prefer, but I have no desire to replace it. It’s a 67 year old Warren Spahn baseball card. That’s a reason to be excited and just like the 49 Spahn was the perfect card to start that team set, it was the perfect card to end this one.

Chasing a 1949 Bowman Braves Team Set

From my first days in the hobby, until fairly recently, my collecting obsession was finishing Topps sets. I had set a goal somewhat similar to Charlie over at Lifetime Topps in that I wanted to complete every base Topps set released from the day I was born. At this point, I’m less than a 1000 cards from completing this goal. To my everlasting shock, I managed to complete the 1971 and 1972 Topps sets, and frankly, I thought this was the most exciting thing I could accomplish as a collector. I spent years staring at listings and price guides and I believed that those high numbers, those damned high numbers, would prevent me from ever realizing my goal.

The great thing about those two great sets, 1971 and 1972, is that they are both very different and yet, they are two of the all-time greats. The 1971 set is a classy design that’s as timeless as it is elegant. The 1972 set is very much of its time and place. I love these sets and I thought that these cards would be the highlight of my collection until the day I die or leave the hobby.

It’s no secret that I’m one of those grumpy set collectors who finds most aspects of the modern hobby lacking. When I see a great baseball card like the 2012 Topps Tim Hudson card, I marvel at the idea that neither Topps nor the majority of collectors think it is good enough. It has to be diluted with parallels and stuffed in boxes where the only thing people care about are the hits and the variations and other assorted gimmicks. I don’t begrudge anyone who enjoys the hobby, but right now, the modern set isn’t made for someone like me. 2015 Topps is, to my mind, the finest Topps set in many, many years, and yet, unlike so many other collectors, I don’t find myself looking to open boxes of it.

I’m still spending money on baseball cards of course, I’ve just decided that for me, right now, vintage is the way to go. I’m no longer sure that I consider myself a set collector. Right now, there are no cards that mean more to me than vintage Braves. So, while I’d still love to (finally) finish up that 73 set, I’d rather get at a 1951 Earl Torgeson.

So, now that I’m chasing vintage Braves, I’m faced with the decision of deciding what to collect. Until recently, I lacked cards from almost all of the classic Bowman sets of the late 1940s and early 1950s. I knew I needed a card to kickstart my 1949 Bowman team set and I had 16 Braves from which to choose. I think it’s safe to say that most collectors would choose to chase that cheap commons first. For a lot of my team sets, that’s exactly what I’ve done. That didn’t seem good enough for my 1949 Bowman Braves team set. I wanted the best card in the set.

All of the original Bowman sets are great, but the 1949 set is one of my favorites. Essentially, the cards are the same as the inaugural 1948 Bowman set. It’s the differences that set it apart though. The 1948 set used simple black and white photography. The 1949 set used the same type of picture, but cropped the players onto colorful backgrounds. Additionally, Bowman added colors to many of the details on the card itself. It’s a fun set.

Obviously, the one player you’d most want from a pre-Aaron, pre-Mathews Braves team set is the great Warren Spahn. Spahn cards are great because Spahn is a strange looking dude. Numerous stories make Spahn out to be a strange and silly character and his mischievous personality is captured on seemingly every photograph that has ever been taken of the lefty. He is the second best pitcher to ever wear the Braves uniform, one of the game’s all-time greats, and I find myself shocked that I own this baseball card.

So, my chase for the 1949 Bowman Braves team set is underway, and I think we can all agree, I’m off to a hell of a start.

Instead of a Box of 2015 Topps Series 1

So, let me say, I like 2015 Topps Series 1. In fact, I like it a lot. While the usual annoying things are all over the set (variations, parallels, worthless relics, bad auto selection, etc, etc, etc), I still think this is the finest base set Topps has put out since I returned to the hobby.

In fact, I liked the set so much, I sat here for over an hour last week with a Jumbo Hobby Box in a cart at Blowout trying to convince myself to pull the trigger. Instead, I bought a base set from a breaker and the stacks of cards you see below. I got all these for substantially less than the box would have been.

Like a lot of old time set collectors, I bitch a lot about the direction Topps has taken the base set and Heritage and I still have my qualms. I’m told the hobby has passed me by. I guess it has. I know that I will never have the same connection with a set I buy whole as one I put together by opening packs or, like my vintage team sets, acquire as a card here and there. So be it. I’ll miss opening packs. I’ll miss trading with the friends I made online when trying to build a new set. When I get to sort my new vintage cards though, I’ll get over it and I’ll get over it quickly.