Countdown to 20,000: 1978 Topps #420, Greg Luzinski

Like many other collectors, I don’t own any of the first baseball cards I collected as a kid. The story begins with a familiar refrain: my mom threw them out. Where my story differs is that my mom threw them out when I was seven. She was punishing me for leaving them all over the floor of my bedroom, and she figured that my behavior 1978 Topps Luzinskiwould quickly and drastically change once I clearly understood that disposal was a real consequence for not properly rubber-banding and placing them in the shoebox when I was done playing with them.

She was right.

As for the cards I collected after that traumatic experience (I’m convinced that it scarred me in ways I still don’t properly appreciate 35 years later), during my late 20s I replaced most of the ones that predated my teen years, when I truly became a serious collector, with cards in much better condition. Yet, even though I no longer own a large percentage of my originals, I cherish their much better preserved replacements as if I was their only owner.

Of the cards that didn’t survive my mother teaching me lesson I never forgot, Greg Luzinski’s 1978 Topps probably stands out most. During the late ‘70s, Luzinski was my favorite Phillie. I had a giant poster of him on my wall, and I know that during the summer of ’77 I kept checking RC Cola cans to find one bearing his image. The detail about this card that really made an impression on me was the red, white, and blue All-Star shield in the upper-right corner. Although I didn’t know it until I completed the team set some time during the mid-to-late ‘80s, he was the only Phillie in the set bearing the signifier. Even without that 1978 Topps Luzinski Backknowledge, the All-Star shield made the card that much more special to me.

Interestingly, when Luzinski was traded following their World Series championship in 1980, I wasn’t all the heartstruck. Lots of factors likely played into it: his two consecutive subpar seasons preceding the trade; the acquisition and subsequent performance of Pete Rose; the ascension of Mike Schmidt into the ranks of the game’s elite; the euphoria from the World Series victory; and the fact that by the time of the trade I was no longer living in the Philadelphia region, which meant that I only saw the Phils when their games were nationally televised.

However, Luzinski stillWith Luzinski at CBP enjoys a place in my heart as a former favorite. His autograph cards, when they appear, are always high priority acquisitions for my collection, and at the home finale last season, which was my first trip to Citizens Bank Park in over four years and my son Brandon’s first since he was a toddler, I made it a point to go to The Bull Pit and get a photo of him with two of us. It looks like we’re photo-bombing him, but I don’t care – I’m just glad to have the photo.

As for the photo of Luzinski we had him sign, Brandon now keeps that in his room.


The Countdown to 20,000 Begins

Featured Cards: 1968 Topps #39, Cookie Rojas; 2003 Upper Deck Finite #303, Chase Utley

It’s now as close to official as it 1968 Topps Rojascan get; card number 20,000 will arrive at my home sometime in the next week. In a manner typical in regards to how I manage many of my ongoing projects, my procrastinating on the necessary writing has gotten in the way of my big plans to commemorate the event on this blog. The original plan was that I was going to designate card numbers 19,981-19,999 to particular cards already in my collection, and then write something about each of them. They wouldn’t necessarily be my 20 favorite or most valuable cards, but each of these cards would represent something special to me, either as a collector, a fan. I would wrap this project up around the same time that card number 20,000 arrived at my home.

However, there’s no way I’m going to pull that off in the next week.

Nonetheless, I won’t allow myself to be deterred because I still love the idea. So, I’m going through with the plan anyway. However, I’m going to start at 19,991 (even though I possess “just” 19,980 as I write this), and continue until I reach 20,000. The card will certainly arrive before I have completed my post about card 19,999, but I this2003 Finite Utley is something I really want to do. Since it’s my blog, I get to do what I want, and my post about number 20,000 will wait until it’s turn arrives. I will continue the series after 20,000 in a similar manner, but with no particular endpoint in mind.

Since I suggested the possibility in my previous post, I decided to place an order for a special card that I am already planning to designate as card number 20,000. It’s a big occasion, and I don’t want the card to be one of the cards from the 2014 Topps Allen & Ginter. Nothing against the set – I like what I’ve seen online so far – but assigning the milestone number to one of those cards just didn’t feel right.

The good news is that the card that gets the honor is an impressive one, one worthy of such a designation. Better still, it comes with a story that I’m looking forward to sharing — as are many of the other stories that will come with the cards I intend to post scans of.

Countdown to 20,000 Coming Soon

Featured Cards: 2013 Bowman Breakouts #BSB-AAL, Aaron Altherr; 2014 Topps Philadelphia Phillies 60th Anniversary, Cole Hamels (no #)

Yes, I’m still alive and kicking; I’ve just been on another one of my hiatuses from this particular blog. As is usually the case, I started focusing intently on some of my other long-standing projects. In particular, I’ve been working feverishly on The Database and will have a much improved version online soon. In addition, I’m planning to start posting with some regularity again soon as I am now inching close to a landmark number in my collection: 20,000.

2013 Bowman AltherrI started this blog back in May 2011 in anticipation of adding card number 14,000 to the collection. It’s really hard to wrap my head around the fact that in a little over three years I’ve added approximately 6,000 more to the collection. I should state that “card” is a rather amorphous term — it includes various postcards, stickers, photos, coins, mini-posters and other small collectibles. However, I actually have a large collection of signed baseballs and slabbed certified autograph cards that I don’t include in that count, for some reason I’ve never given any conscious consideration to. I’m sure I’d already be beyond the 2o,000 milestone if I counted those as well.

My current plan is to post card numbers 19,991-20,000 as they arrive. Although, I feel that I should probably take the time to highlight some other cards along the way. I don’t know when exactly I’ll hit that mark, but based on planned release dates for upcoming Panini and Topps products — combined with the fact that I will only be purchasing new releases for the foreseeable future* — I’m guessing that it will be no later than the middle of July.

In the meantime, I feel it necessary to make a public service announcement for the incredibly awesome and limited new Phillies team set issued by Topps: the 2014 Philadelphia Phillies 60th Anniversary Team Set. I don’t 2014 Topps Phillies 60th Hamelsknow why it’s being called a 60th anniversary set, seeing as the 5″ x 7″ blank-backed cards use the 1955 Topps design, but they are only printing 99 serial-numbered sets. I ordered mine two weeks ago, but the moment I’m writing this post it appears that Topps still has some available for order. I received my set in the mail a few days ago and they are gorgeous. They even come in special wax wrapper that I will be keeping along with the cards. But the best part, for me, is this: I got extremely lucky and my set is number 01/99. Yes, I own the first one. I don’t think I own the first number of anything quite like this set. The only drawback is that it is a little pricey. Including shipping, the five-card set containing Hamels, Howard, Lee, Rollins, & Utley will cost you slightly over $31.00.

More to come soon.

*As I get really close to 20,000, I might try to acquire a special vintage item to celebrate the milestone, but I haven’t come to a firm decision yet.

Friday Info Dump

2007 Ticket UtleyThose of you who followed this blog for long enough know that I regularly alternate between somewhat frequent posting for a few months with disappearing for a few weeks or months. So, going nearly three weeks without posting is really not all that noteworthy. However, I must state for the record that recent changes WordPress made to its image upload tool certainly aided and abetted in my most recent stretch of silence. In particular, they removed the ability to easily add frames and spacing to images, and I relied heavily on those functions when posting images of my cards to this page. Although I can still do so (as evidenced by this post), it takes a lot of time-consuming, manual HTML. While not completely to blame for the recent lack of posting, it certainly provided a lot of disincentive when time was at a premium. I will adapt — I’d much rather WordPress got its damn act together and reincorporated border and spacing options for images — but only because I hate the thought of transferring everything to a new site.

With that mini-rant out of the way, here’s comes a giant info dump of stuff covering the past few weeks…

I was both pleased and disappointed 2014 Topps Phillies Byrdwith the 2014 Topps Phillies Team Set. Based on the cards that overlapped with the offerings in the first series of 2014 Topps, there doesn’t appear to be any unique photos in this year’s team set — although we should withhold final judgment until we see both the second series and 2014 Topps Update Series. The lack of foil on the cards again confirms how unnecessary it is on the flagship product, so I like the look and feel of the Topps Phillies Team Set much better. Of particular interest, for now, are the Marlon Byrd and Freddy Galvis cards. Topps used an older picture of Byrd from his first stint with the team as opposed to digitally editing a newer photo — the opposite of what they did with Placido Polanco and Jim Thome in their second stints with the Phils. Aside from the completely natural look to the photo, the biggest giveaway is the number on his sleeve — 2014 Topps Phillies GalvisByrd wore “29” when he first played for the team. As for Galvis, this marks his first official Topps-issued MLB card (as opposed to his Bowman Prospects inserts, which we all know are not officially MLB cards, rookie or otherwise — wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more). Sadly, we don’t see his face, or The Rookie Card Logo. Without an explanation from Topps, I’m willing to bet that since the logo is jointly administered by MLB and the MLBPA, Panini gets credit for releasing Galvis’s official rookie cards back in 2012. Or, maybe, this is going to be a case where the is no “official” rookie card.

And now, for the blipverts portion of today’s post:

2014 Topps Museum RufWith the addition of his 2014 Topps Musuem Collection Autographs card to my collection, I now have 30 Darin Ruf cards in my collection, and 13 of them are autograph cards. In terms of combined cost and availability, his autograph cards may very well be the easiest to acquire of any current Phillie. There’s still one more Ruf autograph card on its way to my house: his 2013 Topps Supreme is currently enroute from Korea. One day, I’m sure I’ll look back on all his autograph cards in the same manner as I view Gavin Floyd’s or Marlon Byrd’s…

I’m still waiting for Phillies to start properly catering to the nostalgia of Gen Xers such as myself — i.e., for more than just one night per season. When it does, I fully expect to see the Phillies jersey from the ’70s & ’80s become a regular alternate home jersey for the club. I don’t care whether they use the home pinstripes or the road powder blues, so long as semi-regularly I see the classic maroon “P” on the front of the jerseys again…

2009 UD Signature Stars BlantonI was surprised to see Joe Blanton’s sudden retirement. I never imagined I’d be able to pull his jersey out of my closest this quickly. Yes, he really wasn’t good for the past couple years, and I attended a couple games he pitched against the Nationals which made me question my decision to get his name and number on my one and only (so far) alternate home jersey. However, I will always appreciate what he did for the Phillies in 2008 — especially in Game 4 of the World Series. In a related development, I’m very happy to see that I will need leave the Randy Wolf jersey on its hanger for just a little while longer (screw you, Mariners front office)…

I need to give proper credit to Uncle Chris, who provided me with the 2007 Phillies ticket featured at the top of this post. While I catalog them in the database and treat these types of tickets as cards, they are very low priority on my want lists. When I received this one yesterday, it came as a pleasant surprise — my uncle gave me no advance warning that it was coming in the mail…

2009 MLB Fan PakFinally, I will post an updated version of the Phillies Baseball Card Database sometime early next week. I want to properly incorporate all the information from Topps Heritage, Topps Gypsy Queen, Topps Museum Collection and (2013) Bowman Chrome Mini releases before posting it. However, I must admit that I’m glad to say that amongst the various updates is one delightful oddball set that recently came to my attention and that is now prominent in my wantlists: Enterplay’s 2009 MLB Fan Pak. More about that set in a future post.

Featured Cards: 2007 Phillies Season Ticket Holder Ticket Stubs (no #), Chase Utley; 2014 Topps Phillies Team Set #PHI-2, Marlon Byrd, & #PHI-15, Freddy Galvis; 2014 Topps Museum Collection Autographs #AA-DF, Darin Ruf; 2009 Upper Deck Signature Stars #125, Joe Blanton; 2009 MLB Fan Pak #56, Jimmy Rollins

Opening Day!

2014 Topps OD PhanaticAppropriately, my complete team set of 2014 Topps Opening Day arrived today. Every year the Opening Day set proves just how much nicer the flagship Topp set issue looks without foil, and I once again curse Topps for adhering to some weird self-imposed belief that the regular set must have foil. As I entered the Opening Day cards into my Excel spreadsheets, I noted that I now own 55 different Phanatic cards. Mind you, the Phillies team issued sets over the past 3+ decades are responsible for the bulk of them, but it still boggles my mind that I own more cards of the Phanatic than I do of either Tug McGraw or Bob Boone. In another couple years, assuming he continues to appear in both team-issued sets and in Opening Day Mascots insert sets, he’ll surpass Jamie Moyer, Steve Bedrosian, Garry Maddox, and potentially even Mitch Williams in my collection. However, no matter how many more Phanatic cards I eventually add to the colleciton, I doubt we will see another one as awesome as the one Upper Deck printed in 2009.

Featured card: 2014 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-13

My Luckiest Grab of 2014 (Thus Far)

1915 Cracker Jack KilliferI bid on a lot of low-grade, slabbed pre-WW II Phillies cards on eBay. The overwhelming majority of the time, I’m submitting bids that are at least one-third or more below what I would consider a fair value as I’m just looking to get extremely lucky. (This is not to be confused with instances where I submitted a bid with a maximum amount I considered fair, which is how I’ve ultimately purchased most of my pre-WW II Phillies collection.) The overwhelming majority of the time, nothing ever comes of it. However, once in a rare while, a card somehow slips through the gaps and I end up with a wonderful, unexpected addition to the collection. That’s how I added the 1915 Cracker Jack Bill Killifer card that just arrived at my house today.

1915 Cracker Jack Killifer BackAll things considered, it’s actually a gorgeous card. The only reason it received a grade of SGC 20 is some paper loss on the back of the card. With that bit of missing paper, I easily envision this card garnering a grade of SGC 50 (VG-EX). Regardless, even with that flaw, this card has much better eye appeal than the only other 1915 Cracker Jack card in my collection. A few years ago, I never imagined owning any of the Phillies in this set, and now I have two. There’s no way I’ll ever assemble a complete team set — not with the prices that the Grover Alexander card goes for, even in poor condition — but after this lucky grab I’ll certainly continue submitting low bids for cards of this vintage and condition. I’d much rather spend $60 on a card like this than an equivalent amount on almost any new autographed memorabilia card, no matter how small its stated print run.

Good for Wolf

Although I am highly opinionated when it comes to politics and social issues, I do my best to express my thoughts and opinions in the proper forum. Typically, blogs about baseball cards are not the place for them. However, as much as we all like to conveniently ignore the fact, baseball is first and foremost an entertainment industry, 2006 Fleer Wolfand it is not immune to many of the forces and trends facing other American industries. With that in mind, I have to applaud Randy Wolf’s refusal to sign an amended contract just to make the Mariners roster.

While the Mariners were technically in their right to ask for such a modification (the collective bargaining agreement allows them), it really did reek of negotiating in bad faith. Wolf signed his contract in February with the understanding that if he made the team then the contract became guaranteed. At a minimum, the Mariners could have informed Wolf when he signed the contract that they might ask him for one should he make the team — apparently the team cannot request the 45-day advance-consent clause unless the player actually makes the team. Their attempt to change the terms of the agreement now is another example of how companies in this country are using the fear of losing one’s job to their advantage. They want us cowered and scared, and they want to simultaneously nickel-and-dime us while doing so. Admittedly, we’re talking about professional athlete salaries here and not middle class incomes, but the parallelism is clear and obvious.

Good for Wolf for not playing along with the Mariners financial game. He’s made a lot of money during the course of his career, so he had more bargaining power than the rest of us typically carry. By current baseball standards, Wolf’s contract really was low-risk for the Mariners — they were 2002 MLB Showdown Wolfonly responsible for $1 million in salary for his making the team — and if they really wanted Wolf on the opening day roster then they should have honored the contract that he signed in good faith. If the baseball gods are just, the Mariners will be punished for their attempt to save what amounts to a rounding error for most team’s player salary budgets.

The Wolf jersey I purchased back in 2003 still hangs in my closet. I hope he finds employment with another team. Whether he does or not, I plan to wear it again with pride after his retirement or upon his return to the Phillies, should such an event occur. We can’t rule that out — after all Marlon Byrd and Bobby Abreu are already back.

Edit to add: I really loved this quote from Wolf in a different news story about his release: “The day should have started with a handshake and congratulations instead of a 24-hour feeling of licking a D cell battery.”

Featured Cards: 2006 Fleer #267; 2002 MLB Showdown #261