Retro Review – A Couple’s Skate with Bo Jackson

We all have a memory of some cool place we hung out at as kids. It was probably the first place our parents would drop us off and leave, other than school. We could go be with our friends, make our own rules (sort of) and pretend it was our world for a while. That place, for my daughter Bailey, is the horse barn where she takes lessons. She spent most of the summer there and probably had lessons 10% of the time she was there. But she had her place to get away from the dictators in her life and just have fun with her friends. Because there were adults there the entire time, and because we trust her, we felt like it was great for her.I was fortunate enough to have a couple of these places growing up. I’ve talked about the Legion Pool before in my post about My Hometown. But there is another hot spot I haven’t discussed before that holds a lot of great memories for me; Logue’s Skating Rink in Pelham, Ga. A skating rink in 1987 was quite different than a skating rink in 2017. At least I remember them differently then. Heck, they may be exactly the same but I sure don’t have as much fun at them now as I did when I was a kid. It’s one of those places that doesn’t age well with you. At the age of 40, I don’t need blacklights, cardboard pizza and top 40 hits to have a good time.  But I wouldn’t be the man I am today without those fast times as a kid.I celebrated birthdays, “slow skated” with chicks, watched music videos on the big screen and learned to play PacMan at the skating rink as a kid. Friday nights and Saturday mornings were the hot times to be there depending on our agenda. Friday nights were for trying to find girls to skate with and scheming to spend the night at friends houses to watch scary movies.  The night time always seemed more serious and “grown up.” We didnt have time for kids stuff while we were strutting around with our spiked hair, neon shirts and tight roll jeans. We were all business! I held a girls hand for the first time on a Friday night at Logue’s. That’s not the kind of thing you pulled off on a Saturday morning.Saturday mornings were for parties and video games; the less serious things in life. The big screen would show Saved By The Bell and other Saturday morning classics to entertain while you wheeled around in a circle for hours. Games like “Red Light, Green Light” and “Limbo” made us all laugh and enjoy ourselves. I was constantly juggling the battle for high scores in PacMan and Donkey Kong while trying to learn how to skate backwards.  That last part was always in vain. I eventually accepted that I was a forward skater only, so I tried to work on my speed and gave up on the dream of being some fancy reverse roller.But what I really remember about those days is the fact that we were left to our own devices.  Our parents dropped us off and that skating rink was easily a 25:1 adult/child ratio throughout those trips. We could’ve started some sort of revolution and taken over our town with the numbers we had. Of course, why do that when you can spend your time watching Belinda Carlisle sing “Heaven is a Place on Earth” on a tv screen the size of a pickup truck? I may have been 12 but I was still a guy and thought she was as close to heaven as you could get. She’s still probably in my top 10 childhood crushes. She’s not #1 like Kelly Kapowski but there will only ever be one of those hotties!

And yes, I even remember opening baseball cards at the skating rink. We would buy (or convince our parents to buy) some Donruss or Score and we would sit on the benches where you change your shoes and pull off trades. I specifically remember a Bo Jackson ‘87 Fleer that a friend was showing off that I really wanted back then but I didn’t pull enough from my packs to pull off a deal. I couldn’t even throw in a free snow cone to make it happen.  Dang, I remember a snow cone as major currency back then but it still wasn’t enough! Of course, cards were for Saturday mornings too as we didn’t like to mix our hobby with our romance. I think I grew up some at the skating rink. I learned how to talk to girls, rub elbows with some arcade champs and manage $3 throughout and entire night. And I even learned how to work the trade market in the card hobby. Those are all skills I learned back then that I’ve carried into adulthood.One thing I carried with me for a while was my longing for that Bo Jackson Fleer. I didn’t have a ton of opportunities to buy that card because (1) it wasn’t cheap, (2) we didn’t have a lot of Fleer in my area and (3) it was already 1989 so I was 2 years late already. So while I spent Friday nights trying to find a chick to skate with, I spent my Saturday mornings imagining I was skating with that beautiful ‘87 Fleer. Much like the ‘89 Griffey Upper Deck, I have owned a few of the Bo rookies but never pulled one pack fresh. Besides Bo, there are some other very solid rookies in the set; Will Clark, Barry Bonds and Barry Larkin, among others.So here we are again, some 30 years after production and I am chasing a well known rookie card. I picked up clean box from Steel City Collectibles for just under $40 and sat down at the sorting table to relive another part of my youth. The box configuration was typical of others from the era with 36 packs, 15 Cards and a Team Sticker. The wax pack was a bright blue with a baseball logo and orangeish highlights. I really love wax packs!The design of ‘87 Fleer is one of the better mid 80’s designs for me. There was a blue border that faded to a white border near the bottom of the card. The player name and position was at the top and the team logo in the bottom corner. The Fleer logo was at the bottom of the photo and the bottom border had various colors depending on the team.  The back of the card was like many other Fleer designs but had a bolder red, white and blue back as opposed to some of others. The top of the card had biographical info and the bottom had charts showing success rates of the player.

Let’s check out what was lurking in this box!

The stickers came in two variations; the big team logo and the dual smaller logos with team banner.
The hitters are solid in this set. You have all your major 80’s Stars like Ripken, Sandberg, Strawberry, Mattingly and Puckett. Of course, I love the Ozzie Smith, Eric Davis and Tim Raines as well. Hard to beat this veteran checklist!
The pitchers showcased a nice selection of young and old arms. Several Hall of Famers here too. My favorite back then was Dwight Gooden.
As usual with Fleer, they included some multiplayer inserts near the end of the checklist. Canseco and Wally Joyner were Rookie All-Stars, Gooden and Clemens were Dr. K and Super K and Mattingly and Strawberry were Sluggers from the left side. I always remembered the Horner 4 HR card as a Braves fan.
Another “end of the checklist” staple for 80’s Fleer were the prospect Cards.  I’ve mentioned before that there weren’t always big name players found here but there are some cool names.  Devon White, Kevin Seitzer and Marvin Freeman headline this year.
The All-Star insert set in ‘87 was a little odd looking in my opinion.  I do like Clemens and Bell but the cards didn’t really wow me.
Finally, the rookies!  I scored all the ones I wanted plus some.  The top row are the great ones and those on the second row were great players in the era.  I used to really collect Ruben Sierra hard!  And Kevin Mitchell was a player I liked a lot too.  Very pleased with the rookies I pulled from this box!

This box bottom was pretty awesome.  The inclusion of Brett and Puckett was great but I also love the inclusion of 80’s masher, Jesse Barfield!  Was in pretty decent shape too!
This was an awesome box to rip. I had a lot of 1987 Fleer in my collection but this is my first box rip of the product. I got lucky with a very nice box from SCC and always trust them with my wax boxes when I really want something unsearched. I like the ‘87 design, I like the packaging, I like the veteran checklist and I love the rookie class. You have to search for quality boxes sometimes but when you find one at a reasonable price, I’d encourage you to pick up some ‘87 Fleer. There isn’t much to dislike about this set.  What say you about ‘87 Fleer?


Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

Retro Review: The ’90 Fleer Graveyard

Fall is upon us! This is the beginning of my favorite time of year and October may be my favorite month. December is right there with it but October has a special place in my heart. I have always been a horror movie fan and enjoy “scary stories.” Scary movies and TV shows are a constant during October and this year, two of my current favorites return. First, The Walking Dead makes its return on October 22nd. Then, Season 2 of Stranger Things releases on NetFlix on October 27th. You can bet that Friday the 13th and Halloween marathons will precede those two releases here at Hustle Headquarters. Add the Georgia/Florida game and fantasy football to an already awesome month and you can see why October is near the top of my list of favorites.I don’t really know where my love for “being scared” came from but I have certain memories from when I was a kid that might play a part. When I was 3, I split my head open and had a near death experience because of it. I’ll talk a little more about that one day but the correlation to this post is what happened after the accident. For several months, I had horrible nightmares and night terrors either because of the event itself or the massive head trauma I experienced. My mom says that I would get up in the middle of the night and scream bloody murder. She would hold me to try and calm me down and I would stare at “something” behind her which totally creeped her out. I don’t remember any particular dreams but I can remember some of those nights.Then as I got a little older, I saw a couple of movies that I probably shouldn’t have seen. I’ve mentioned here in the past about seeing “The Shining” before any human being should have been subjected to it. I was under 10 years old. I also remember seeing the end of Friday the 13th at a very young age. I wasn’t supposed to be watching it and my parents had gone to bed. I remember we had a “channel box” on top of the TV and you had to press the channel down that you wanted to watch. I hit HBO or something like it and I saw this woman laying in a canoe in a small lake on a peaceful morning. I decided to hold for a moment and see what it was. It only took that moment to find out because if you’ve seen the movie, you know that the peaceful morning takes an abrupt turn as “Jason” leaps out of the water to pull the woman under. Also under 10 years of age.Around that time, I also remember being horrified by “The Incredible Hulk.” If you remember the original television show, David Banner’s transformation into the Hulk was quite horrifying to watch. He got really angry, turned green and ripped his shirt off in a fit of rage. It was not unlike the transformation into a werewolf in 80’s horror movies. I never latched on to the Hulk because of that. So even while I enjoyed scary movies and sought them out, I was still terrified from time to time and often regretted watching them. Another such instance was the first time I saw the movie “House.” Looking back, it has to be one of the corniest movies ever made but it scared the hell out of me the night I watched it. I remember vomiting from a nervous stomach ache and my dad pulling the plug on my horror movies for a while.

A couple of years later, my horror movie privileges returned and I hit the ground running. I started working at a Video Store and I checked out almost every horror movie on the shelf during that time. Me and my friends were drawn to corny movies more than serious “Exorcist” type films and we enjoyed quoting them and trying to come up with better endings. I’ve gone through my list of Favorite Horror Movies before so I won’t rehash that whole breakdown but you can believe that I will be watching those movies this month. It won’t be long before Bailey is watching them with me but she hasn’t quite reached the age I am comfortable with yet. She’s not ready for The Shining!

Besides movies, my friends and I always liked to try and scare each other often. I remember a specific incident when my friend, Brewer, and I were hanging out with an older friend and he took us to a graveyard in Pelham. It was late at night, dark and we were always a little on edge because we knew that there was usually something up this guy’s sleeve. When we rode around that graveyard, he told us a story of a girl who was buried there, named Annabelle. And the name is just a coincidence because this story is from the early 90’s and the movie just came out in the last couple of years.

Anyway, he told us this gruesome story about how she died unexpectedly and her soul was not at peace. She wandered the graveyard and looked for people to help her free herself, whatever that meant. The “legend” was that if you said her name three times out loud, she would visit you. I’m not sure what it is about saying someone’s name three times that evokes horror but Bloody Mary and Beetlejuice seem to have the same requirement. Candyman was even more of a badass as you had to say his name five times. Back to Annabelle (trust me, I know I’ve typed it twice), Brewer and I laughed it off in the moment but as we headed home, we were both silent. We were no doubt thinking the same thing because we watched all of those scary movies together.

When we got home, he walked to his house across the street and I went inside to try and get ready for bed. A few minutes later, my phone rang and he wanted to come back over and talk to me. You see, just like in the movies, we couldn’t talk about it with our parents because they wouldn’t believe us. Parents never believe their kids when they are being haunted! He came over and we stood in my front yard talking and we decided to just say her name three times and prove that it was just a story. We said it twice pretty quickly but it took about thirty minutes of arguing about who was going to say it that third time to complete the process. I really don’t remember who said it that third time but I can promise you that neither of us slept that entire night. I know because Brewer wound up spending the night with me so we could “protect” each other.

As if that weren’t enough to teach us a lesson, I found myself with this same group of friends on a dirt road late one night riding around and telling stories again. We are riding down this dark road when this big white building appears in the woods. I don’t mean it “appeared”; I just mean we had no idea that there was anything out in these woods. It was an old church that was clearly abandoned because the weeds were overgrown and windows were busted out. We walked around trying to scare each other and just checking things out when one of my friends said that the front door was halfway open. Any normal 16 year old would have said, “ok, that’s enough, we can go home now.” But we weren’t normal 16 year olds. We were more like “Stand By Me” type of teens.The three of us gathered at the front door with a flashlight and only wanted to peek inside to say we did it. We slowly opened the door and the first thing our light hit was one of those hard plastic decorations that usually are found in the yard as part of a nativity scene. This one was sitting in the front pew facing the pulpit and our minds just automatically registered it as a person sitting in the old abandoned church. We moved faster than I thought was humanly possible to get back in the car and get down the road. When we were far enough away, we agreed that we would never try that again. Then we started imagining things like, “what if the man turned around and looked at us?” I’m 40 years old and I can still vividly see that yard decoration sitting in that pew. I always get a little nervous when I see them in the yard at Christmas time too. I always feel like they are looking at me and “they know!”Around 17 years old, I bought a pretty realistic Michael Myers mask and incorporated that into my scare tactics. I scared more people with that mask than I can count. My aunt was deathly afraid of it and the mere mention of the mask would make her go get in her car. I liked to hide in the bushes and in people’s backseat with the mask on and wait for them to find me. I would wait upwards of 30 minutes sometimes and be in a full-on sweat, thanks to the costume. But it was always worth it. Just like the times we would hide under tables or in trees and scare trick or treaters in our neighborhood. Those were different times back then though. There’s no way I would try that today with the craziness in the world.

My best scare ever was not even set up by me. I still sort of regret how bad I scared this girl but it was her boyfriend’s idea and I’m sticking with that as my alibi all these years later. I went to visit a friend of mine over at Valdosta State University and we were at his girlfriend’s apartment. She wasn’t home from class yet and we were just watching TV. He asked me if I had the Myers mask even though he knew I had it with me at all times back in those days. I went out to my truck and grabbed it and hid in her food pantry. When she got home, he asked if she would make some popcorn and I heard her coming. I immediately started having internal regret but I was committed at that point. She opened that pantry door, saw me and ran into the refrigerator as she tried to get away. As I was pulling my mask off and laughing, she was treating him like a punching bag.

That Michael Myers mask was always good for a classic scare. I had it well into adulthood and was storing it in my closet. I had basically forgotten about it when I found it one night and realize that it had melted or disintegrated over time. That was a sad day as I had to throw out something that had been with me for many years, even if it was a dumb old plastic mask. In the mid 90’s, our eyes had become accustomed to bright, neon, fancy colors and designs and something about this plain, white, emotionless mask that I still liked. The same can be said about a baseball card set from 1990. You see what I did there?A year after having a gray striped border and a year before going off the rails with a mustard yellow border, 1990 Fleer was just a basic white border design like Topps had been for a few years. The plain border was accented by team colors around the photo and in the banner with the player name and position. The team logo was in the top right corner and “Fleer 90” was in the top left. The backs of the cards had a red and pink backdrop for the navy blue stats and biographical information. These cards were really pretty plain but there is something about them that I still like today.You may be wondering how 1990 Fleer and October tie in. If you’ve read my work before, you know by now that I am going to connect the dots. Back when I was a kid, I wanted cards for all occasions. I wanted the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus to all bring baseball cards. If I had a good report card (rare), I wanted cards as my reward. When Halloween rolled around, my grandmother would always come by our house to see our costume and bring some candy. However, in 1990, she brought me a few packs of 1990 Fleer and I was as happy as I had ever been on that great night. I sat in the living room floor opening my baseball cards while my brother ate his candy. That candy was about to be gone but my cards would go in my binder and stay with me forever!I don’t know why I remember this but one card I got that night was a Mark McGwire. When I think of McGwire, I always see this card. He is warming up and has a strained look on his face as he is throwing the ball. That card is burned in my mind and I finback to it whenever I think about trick or treating and getting cards. So when my buddy, Shane Salmonson, messaged me that his card shop had a ton of old junk wax boxes, and 1990 Fleer was included, I had to get a box. Not only did he get me a full box, it was a rack pack box and was HUGE! My goal with this box was to pull that Mark McGwire again. So even though I got this box a couple of months ago, I’ve waited until October so I could do it the right way.

Each rack pack has 45 cards and 3 stickers. With 24 packs, that’s a total of 1,080 cards so my odds are pretty good that I’ll pull the McGwire. But I can’t remember everything else the set has to offer so we’ll start at the beginning.Fleer was known for their sticker inserts during the junk wax era. The stickers in 1990 were both full card logos and cards with four mini logos. The backs of the stickers had trivia questions related to the teams on the front.

“League Standouts” were random inserts that included the league’s best players. The photo on the front had a 3D’esque type of design that simulated the players movement. The borders were a light yellow and should have been a sign of what was to come the following year.

“Players of the Decade” was another insert in ’90 Fleer that highlighted the best players over the previous 10 years. The 1990 Fleer set was their 10th Anniversary so this played well at the time. There were some big time players in this checklist.

As with previous years, Fleer included dual prospect cards at the end of the checklist. And as with previous years, there were a lot of swings and misses in the prospect set. However, the inclusion of Moises Alou, Delino DeShields and the GREAT Kevin Maas made a few of these cards collectible.

“Super Star Specials” was another returning insert in 1990 that was found in previous years. These cards depicted multiple players with something in common; Boston Igniters, Starter & Stopper, League’s Best Shortstops, you get the picture. My favorite was the “Human Dynamos” with Kirby Puckett and Bo Jackson.

The “Rookies” or first full year players were actually pretty strong in the set. Some of them fizzled but there are several here that had nice careers. Everybody wanted Jerome Walton, Ben McDonald, Eric Anthony and Todd Ziele back in the day. But Juan Gonzalez, Larry Walker, Omar Vizquel and Edgar Martinez had the best careers among these players. Of course, Sammy Sosa had an excellent career but it was a bit tainted by the end.

The “Young Guys” in the set are a “who’s who” of superstars. I had to include Gregg Jefferies for obvious reasons but there is also the inclusion of Bo Jackson, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, Barry Larkin, Gary Sheffield, Tom Glavine and the incomparable Ron Gant. I know production was an issue in the 90’s but this is a damn good checklist!

The “Veterans” (from ’85 or earlier) stand out even more than the young guns. Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson, George Brett, Tony Gwynn, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Ozzie Smith, Wade Boggs, Nolan Ryan and the list goes on and on and on. The league was really on fire during this time period.

And of course, the big card in the set (for me at least) is this beautiful Mark McGwire. I can remember sitting in that living room floor and just staring at this McGwire. I really don’t know why it caught my eye so much at the time other than I loved the A’s because of Canseco and RBI 3. It is just as I remember it and may be the only 1990 Fleer that I have in a toploader. Mission accomplished!Overall, 1990 Fleer is nothing special. It doesn’t have any glaring flaws either though like ’90 Donruss and ’91 Fleer. The plain design didn’t fit in well for the time but now as I look back on the cards, they have a classier feel to them than other designs from that year, aside from Leaf and Upper Deck. I would choose this design all day long over ’91 and ’92 Fleer but I understand that everyone doesn’t see cards the same way. Even with the design being one that I look back on fondly now, I can’t really give the set more than a “3” on the Dub-O-Meter. I like it and I pick up packs when I find them dirt cheap but I’m not scouring eBay regularly to find more hobby boxes to open. It’s one of those middle of the road sets for me that is kept alive mainly because of my memories from those packs on Halloween. What say you about 1990 Fleer?


Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.
2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

Retro Review: End of Summer Blues

Summer time is winding down, although you wouldn’t know it by the temperature here in South Georgia. The summer season runs from about March to October for us with the only real winter being January and February if we are lucky. But the “vibe” that is summer is certainly coming to a close. The kids are going back to school, the Friday Night Lights are turning on and soon, the Saturday afternoon tailgate and Sunday fantasy football frenzy will be an ever present part of my schedule. At my age now, I live for the football months ahead but as a kid, the excitement of football didn’t offset my sheer hatred for returning to the routine of the school year.

Photo Credit – Shaun Hall

Returning to school meant the end of a lot of fun activities. The Legion Pool, which I wrote about HERE, closed and my chances for picking up chicks in bathing suits dropped from about 8% to 0% just like that. The Legion provided a summer long list of fun events for us as kids. There was an awesome volleyball court where I learned how to play smash face. There were the two arcade games in the concession stand that taught me how electricity and water didn’t mix. As kids played the video games, there bathing suits would drip and form a huge puddle. The next person that stepped up would always get a little jolt when they put their quarter in. I specifically remember the games “1941” and “Centipede” but I think they rotated out from time to time.
Photo Credit – Shaun Hall

If volleyball wasn’t your game, you could slide over to the ping pong table and challenge some of the best in the city! I never lasted too long on the table back in those days. As for the pool itself, it was HUGE and was 12 feet deep in some places. It was spring fed with by a big pipe that was in the shallow end of the pool. You could climb on the pipe and make water shoot out at people until the lifeguard saw you. Once they saw you, they had their eye on you the rest of the day. There was an awesome spring board where I saw some of the most death defying jumps I’ve ever seen in my life. The high dive was a sweet 10 foot board that was right next to the spring board and you and your buddies could choreograph some nice combos from the two boards. There was a basic diving board and slide that never got any action.

Photo Credit – Shaun Hall

The main attraction at the Legion, besides the lifeguards and chicks in bathing suits, was the Super Slide! I really can’t tell you how tall the slide was because I don’t know but it had to be at least four of the high dives stacked on top of each other. At 13 years old, we would climb this ladder that went essentially straight up into the air and step up on to a 5 x 5 mesh metal platform to experience this crazy, dangerous thrill ride. We would normally gather up on the platform and hang out a few minutes while taking in all of the scenery around us. You could see all around the legion pool and into the neighborhoods from that height. I still don’t know how there was never a tragedy on that thing. It would NEVER pass the safety tests using 2017 standards. We would eventually go down the slide and the goal would turn into who could slide the farthest across the pool. Just under halfway was my best but some others could stretch it out to almost 3/4 the width of the pool.Besides the legion, the end of summer also meant that city league baseball was coming to a close. In 1989-90, we didn’t play year round sports like kids today. If you were good, you might be lucky enough to make an all-star team that played a one game finale against a neighboring county. But until I started playing high school baseball, we didn’t travel more than about 10 miles to play a baseball game. I made a lot of memories with my friends at the Centennial Park back then. I was usually on a team with Jason Lee, Corey and Jared (my cousins), David Shook and BJ Harris. My Uncle Speedy was usually our coach and we were as thick as thieves as a team. We truly were more of a family than a baseball team and we stood by each other more than people stand by each other in today’s world. We went to DQ together for the batting helmet sundae, spent the night at Corey and Jared’s, played baseball on Sunday’s with all of the equipment because Unc had it in his possession, played Tecmo Tourney’s and traded sports cards.

Jason was well known for the long bombs that he would hit into the O’San parking lot beyond the outfield fence. He would hit trucks and trailers and it was always a sight to see. He also had one of the hardest fastballs of all the kids our age. I was very fortunate he was on our team. The only time I ever had to hit against him was in practice in little league and high school. I was lucky for that. Jared was our catcher and was fearless. He had to be to catch Jason. He also found the O’San parking lot from time to time. Corey played 3rd Base and was great at everything except the occasional throw across the diamond. We nicknamed him Moon Ball because he had a habit of rifling the ball over our first baseman’s head and onto the next field. Our first baseman, David, was 6’7 so that was pretty hard to do. I played short and 2nd and was really a defensive cog on the team. My offense did not produce insurance claims at O’San like some of the other guys but if you hit the ball at me, chances were you were going to be out. BJ was an outfielder and was one of the fastest guys on the team.When we weren’t at the official field, we were playing ball somewhere. It gets discussed a lot but we truly lived in a time where you just didn’t stay inside if the sun was up. We played a ton of video games but they were at night and mostly during sleepovers. If it wasn’t raining, we were playing football, baseball or basketball in the yard. I would leave my house in the morning and my parents wouldn’t look for me until around 7:00. I would come back on my own and fire up a frozen pizza or hot pocket but was back on the road again. I had 5 close friends within walking distance of my house and we used each of their houses for various sports. I remember a time when Todd Hall had one of the best dunk goal courts in the neighborhood behind his house and Brewer and I would dominate everyone that challenged us.My front yard was best for baseball because it was wide open with only one dogwood tree that we would use for 3rd base. We would play with wooden bats and tennis balls using all the classic baseball rules except you could peg the runner with the tennis ball. It was usually 2 on 2 so pitching was a tremendous factor in the game. Everything from centerfield and to the left was wide open and you could run for days if you hit in a gap. Right field was a neighbor’s house and they had one of the meanest dogs I’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure his name was Rusty but he would attack on sight if he was ever outside of his fence. Everybody was right handed but I did hit left handed as well and would occasionally let one fly into the neighbor’s yard. We left those balls for Rusty. My favorite Rusty memory was when Brewer was going to his house from the bus and he jumped up to grab a pine limb. When he was in the air on that pine limb, Rusty came out of nowhere and was all over him. He wasn’t a big dog but damn, he was vicious!We had an annual beach trip every summer too that was usually Brewer and I with occasional extra friends. Those trips are some of the fondest memories I have from high school. I had a ’92 Red Ford Ranger that was totally pimped out with fat tires, two Fosgate 10’s and an interior black light! We rode the strip at Panama City like bosses playing Das Efx and honking at chicks. One of the funniest things was Brewer yelling out funny stuff at the people walking the strip. He would ask if people were tired of walking and would then say, “Start running!” This was in bumper to bumper traffic in which we were usually being passed by the walking pedestrians. It made no sense but was hilarious at the same time. It was really amazing he never said that to the wrong person too.Panama City Beach was one of the greatest places on Earth in the late 80’s and early 90’s. We still go there as a family and its family fun but back then, it was teens gone wild! I’m glad it has changed now because I couldn’t take it as an adult but I’m so happy I have those memories. There were Haunted Houses, Go-Carts and The Miracle Strip. The Miracle Strip is the one piece of old Panama City that I miss dearly. It was a small theme park where all of us kids gathered at night. There was an awesome old rickety wooden coaster, a log ride, a haunted house and The Abominable Snowman. I would love to take Bailey there today but in the 1990’s timeframe. The Abominable Snowman was an awesome indoor ride that played all of the hottest music of the time. I remember completely jamming to “Found Out About You” by Gin Blossoms on that classic ride!There was one feeling that I always remember though. It came in various situations and it was very depressing. I felt it on the Sunday we headed back from the beach and those last few days before school started back. I even felt it during the school year on Sunday Nights around 9 pm. I would almost get physically ill thinking about forcing myself to get up to go back to school. I completely hated school but would give anything to go back and experience it all over again now. Life is tricky like that. Any time you think you are miserable going through boring parts of life, you are probably making a ton of memories that you will look back fondly on years down the road. If you had told me at the age of 15 that I would miss high school one day, I probably would’ve laughed at you for days. In a cruel twist of fate, that is what I miss as I grow older. I miss the friends; I miss the fun from the ball field and the backyard basketball.I had so much more energy back then. I was so much more outgoing and daring. The world was new and I had not grown cynical yet. I didn’t worry about the next bill that was due, I didn’t worry about where my next meal was coming from and I didn’t worry about whether I had taken good enough care of myself over the years. Life was 100 miles an hour and I loved it because there were no worries to slow it down. It is a classic cliché but I thought I was invincible back then. I know that I’m not now and I understand the world around me at least a “little bit” better. And here we are wrapping up another summer and I’m one more year removed from the “Action Packed” days of my childhood. How’s that for a segue?In 1990, the Hi-Pro Marketing Company released a new type of football card onto the market that had a 3-D look. These cards were called Action Packed and were labeled as “Hi-Profile, Sculptured Cards” with “Action-Specific Notes”. The premier set was 281 cards with some Braille cards included. The card was very well received by my friends and I and we collected 1990 and 1991 heavily. The novelty wore off with us a bit after those years when we were trying to track down more valuable cards but I really loved these when they came out. It was truly next generation and I couldn’t get enough of them. To be honest, I haven’t put a ton of thought into these cards over the years but as I was surfing eBay a few weeks ago, I saw them and had to get me a box. I had a discussion with someone on Twitter about them not long after and I knew that these would resonate with some people.I had never purchased a full box of these and it arrived in one of the plainest boxes of sports cards I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t say Action Packed anywhere on the exterior and you only know what it is when you open it. The packs make up for the bland look of the box with the gold foil wrapper. The box doesn’t even tell you how many packs are included. The packs at least tell you that there are 6 cards inside. After a count of the packs, there are 36 in the box so there is a lot of ripping to do. The back of the packs offered a 1-900 Hotline number to call and get current up-to-date information on Football Cards, Baseball Cards and Hobby Investments; $1.00 for the first minute and .50 for each additional. To rope you in, they said that it was updated 3 times a week so “Call Often!” That is a rip-off I am glad I never fell victim too, although I would like to know what info you got.The fronts of the cards had a gold border with black trim and writing. Along with the photo, the fronts only featured the player name at the top and the team name at the bottom. The backs featured a nice inset photo in the top left with full career stats. There was an action note as advertised on the box and one example of such a note comes from the featured card here; “Steve hands off to RB John Stephens during the Patriots 33-24 victory over the Bills, 11/19/89. His 355 yards passing yds at Indianapolis on 10/29/89 made him the 26th passer in NFL history to reach the 25,000 passing yds mark.” There is also a “break” in the card backs near the bottom and upon closer inspection you can see that they are actually a tri-fold card and this break is where it is secured.

It’s time to see who’s lurking in this 27 year old box of Action Packed!!

The Quarterbacks
There were some good names here but I missed on a couple of the biggest names for me during this era. While Marino, Moon and Aikman are always welcome pulls; missing Randall Cunningham, Jim Kelly and Joe Montana was a bummer. After a closer look at the checklist, Randall Cunningham wasn’t even in the set. I guess he hadn’t gotten his “QB Eagles” issue straightened out just yet.

The Running Backs
Again, a solid list that includes Herschel Walker, Marcus Allen, James Brooks and Thunder and Lightning from New York but some key names were missing. I found no Thurman Thomas, no Ickey Woods, No Okoye, no Bo Jackson and no Roger Craig. A bit disappointing to say the least! Emmitt Smith can be found in the rookie update set so I didn’t expect him to be here.

The Wide Receivers
This group was well represented, though I can point out a couple of obvious omissions. I pulled Jerry Rice, which was the first Action Packed card I ever owned. I also pulled Sterling Sharpe, Tim Brown and Cris Carter. The only two I really missed on were Andre Reed and Michael Irvin.

I pulled a star studded defense that included Bruce Smith, LT, Mike Singletary, Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson. There were a few names I would love to see from the box like Deion Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Reggie White but overall, the defensive players were there.There were 216 cards in this box with a set of 281. I pulled way too many dupes in my opinion for that card to set ratio. My dupe stack is about ¾ the size of the base stack I have. I did hold out four packs as a giveaway so there may be some great stars in there but overall, this was one of the worst collated boxes I have opened in the last few years. The cards were in good condition and the names in the set were fun to pull and think back on. There is no question that this is a great nostalgic box to rip but the price of $24 is a little on the high side for me based on the overall results. I can only give this box a 3 on the Dub-O-Meter, and that is driven mostly on nostalgia. The cards were cool and I did pull some stars but I am left wanting a little more at the end of this box. Or, maybe I’m just being negative and ornery because summer is coming to an end.


Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.
2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

Cardboard Time Machine

Have you ever stopped to think about how memories work?  Of course, as I get older, the memories get fuzzier and harder to recount.  But there are some that remain vivid and when I stop and focus on them, I can almost place myself in the exact moment in time.  I think about this a lot because I have a 10 year old daughter that is starting to really enjoy a lot of new things.  She reminds me so much of me as a kid.  She loves watching those teen Nickelodeon shows, making slime, playing video games on her iPad and even collecting sports cards.  I was wondering just the other day how much from this age she would actually remember and it immediately took me back to my youth and what I remember.  She may not be able to retain it all but I certainly hope she remembers the role I played in trying to create them with her.

When we went to Disney in April, she rode Space Mountain for the first time and as we stood in the line, I could totally remember the feeling of wonderment I had going through that futuristic environment to ride an indoor roller coaster at 10.  When these moments arise, I always make sure she understands what’s going on around her. I point things out, I ask her what she thinks and I get her to recount the event to her mom or sister so she’ll take it all in and let it soak in.  In today’s fast paced world, it is hard to stop and focus on something that is really meaningful; we have phones in our face, Twitter spilling news everywhere and fidget spinners taking the world by storm.   We are constantly chasing the next exciting thing.  That’s sort of how modern day collecting has become.

Collecting sports cards doesn’t have to be that way.  I can sit down with a stack of cards and show my daughter various memorable players and share memories of my youth with her.  The cards are more to me than a value in Beckett or a dollar sign on eBay.  Do they have those meanings as well sometimes?  Sure, but it’s not why I do it now.   It’s why I did it in 1989 but I’ve evolved over the years into more of a collector than a cardboard entrepreneur.   Cards don’t just take me back to a specific player or baseball moment.  These old collectibles take me back to the year they are from and I remember the world around me at the time and what I had going on in my life.  Let me see if I can explain a little better with a few cards.

1987This time period was just before I started collecting but I have since gone back and bought tons and tons of ’87 cards for my collection.  Topps that year remains one of the most iconic designs in sports cards and I had more woodgrain in my collection than Ford did in the station wagon.  But when I look through these cards, it doesn’t take me back to actual sports cards memories.  At age 10, I was totally engulfed in baseball.  I was cutting my teeth in little league baseball at Centennial Stadium and watching it as much as possible.   I remember Jason Lee having the hardest fastball and always being thankful that my Uncle Speedy drafted him to be on our team.  I remember always wanting to hit a homerun into the O’San parking lot but never being able to.  I remember playing wiffle ball with the neighbors and watching my uncle Greg play with the big boys.

I also watched a lot of baseball on TV.  In 1987, I was blessed with two TV stations that played baseball every day.  We didn’t have MLB Season Pass “back in my day”; we had 2 channels.  One station was TBS, the home of the Atlanta Braves, America’s Team and my local guys.  We would watch Dale Murphy, Ken Oberkfell, Bob Horner and Gerald Perry every night even though they weren’t very good.  Skip Carey, Pete Van Wieren and Ernie Johnson were soothing to the ears and made me long for the baseball field.  The other station was WGN out of Chicago.  The great thing about Cubs baseball in 1987 was that most every game was played in the afternoon because Wrigley field didn’t have lights until late summer 1988.  I would get home from school around 3:30 and a Cubs game would be on and I would get to here Harry Carey and Steve Stone call the game.   The Cubs weren’t very good in ’87 either.  The Braves finished 20.5 games out of first and the Cubbies were 18.5 games out.  But at the age of 10, watching baseball was more important than watching the standings.   And the Cubs had Ryno, Andre Dawson and Shawon Dunston who were all fun to watch!

1988Believe it or not, the first thing I think of when I see 1988 baseball cards is pro wrestling.  That aforementioned TV station, TBS, had a show on Saturday nights called WCW Saturday Night!   I can’t get into today’s wrestling because it is so overproduced and the storylines are all so outlandish.  The storylines were probably the same in 1988 but I was 11 so I thought they were legit.  Also, WCW “rasslin” was way different than today’s WWE wrestling.   These guys got nasty in the ring and they would bleed and poke eyeballs and kick below the belt.  It was more about what happened inside the ring as opposed to the lead up and fall out after what happened in the ring.  And there is also no better ringside announcer for me than Tony Schiavone!

The wrestlers were so much better back then as well.  We had names like Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Arn and Ollie Anderson, Barry Windham, The Road Warriors and The Midnight Express.  There were hateable managers like Jim Cornett and Paul E. Dangerously.  There were vixens like Miss Elizabeth, Madusa, Missy Hyatt and Georgous George.  A new face had joined WCW with Sting and he is an all-time favorite, along with The Nature Boy.   So yeah, it may be odd but 1988 Score takes me back to Jim Cornette and his tennis racket and wanting Hawk and Animal to demolish the Midnight Express.  I didn’t realize until a recent Beckett podcast that Cornette is doing his own podcast now.  He was such a heel but is such a legend at the same time!

1989I have a lot of baseball card memories from 1989 but I also have other memories that are tied to when I started collecting.  One person I always think of when I am looking through my original ’89 Donruss and Bowman is my late friend, Josh Haire.  Josh and I became friends in Middle School and were best friends until late in high school when we had a falling out that I regrettably was never able to reconcile before he passed away far too soon.  But back in 1989, we were two peas in a pod.  We would spend the night at each other’s house on the weekend and watch movies, trade baseball cards and fish at his pond.  He had a ton of Bowman and I had a ton of Donruss so we would trade with each other to try and help build the sets.

There are some very vivid memories I have of my time with Josh and I will always hold on to them.  It was at his house on a scary Friday night that we played “Bloody Mary” for the first time.  His step dad was the “Voice of the Eagles”; our high school football team that won state in ’89 so we were at all the games and got to sit in the radio booth for many of them.   I learned how to play records at the radio station he DJ’d at on Saturdays.  I watched “The Lost Boys” behind my parents back at Josh’s in the attic bedroom he had.   I wasn’t supposed to watch horror movies at 12 but we watched that one!  He had a couple of Doberman’s that were as gentle as could be but still made me very nervous when I was alone with them.  Josh was a great friend during childhood and I will always remember the good times we spent together.  I also look back on the days we were immature and not so good friends to each other with regret and remorse.  But when I look at cards from ’89, it’s only good memories.

1990I was introduced to the second best video game ever in 1990, RBI Baseball 3.  It is close to Tecmo Super Bowl but nothing can ever top that sports classic.  I got my start in 1986 with RBI 1 at my Uncle Speedy’s house.  Unc was a great ball player and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals but his quest to make it to the majors was derailed by Vietnam.  He even knew a couple of the players on RBI 1.  Our area baseball all-star teams were loaded in the mid 60’s from my understanding as my dad and Uncle Speedy both played on teams with Ray Knight and Harry Spielman.   And to hear the legend, my Uncle Speedy was the best player out of all of them.  He was a SS and I do remember seeing him play softball in his 30’s and he was as smooth as Ozzie Smith.   Who knows, the Cards may have never traded for Ozzie if Unc had stayed on the baseball path.  History as we know it could have been altered!

By 1990, we had moved on from kid games and RBI 3 was what you would routinely find us playing.  It had all of the major league teams at the time and even included the division champs from ’83-’89.  I liked playing with the ’87 Tigers and taking out the Twins but that was more for personal reasons.   My favorite two teams on the game were the ’89 A’s and the ’90 Reds.  I loved Eric Davis and Barry Larkin.  But I also loved Chris Sabo or “Beebo” as we called him for some strange reason.  We would even keep season long stats in a notebook and I drove one of my friends crazy because I would steal bases with Beebo.  He would famously remark one day, “I’ll outrun Beebo backwards!”   I remember that because we would record ourselves on cassette tape while playing the games and then go back and listen to the radio gold.  To this day, I strongly feel that Chris Sabo is one of the most underrated baseball players in major league history.

1991I was on my way to being a trading ace by 1991 and was moving all of my non-favorites for Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura and Ken Griffey Jr.  I was only 2 years away from pulling off the awesome (at the time) move of those Igor ’92 Bowman rookies for the Griffey Jr. forgery discussed Here.  But any reminder from 1991 takes me back to the Buffalo Bills.  I know what you’re thinking – Why does a South Ga 14 year old care about the Buffalo Bills?  Three words – Tecmo Super Bowl.  When this game came out, I latched on to the Bills and have really been a closet fan ever since.   I suffered through 4 Super Bowl loses as much as anybody could outside of the state of New York.   I loved Thurman Thomas, Jim Kelley, Andre Reed, Nate Odomes, Cornelius Bennett, Bruce Smith, Don Beebe, Daryl Talley and Steve Tasker.

I went to a post-church youth Super Bowl party every year being the guy that was pulling hard for the Bills.  Every one of those parties ended in disappointment.  The one I especially remember was the loss to the Cowboys because there were a ton of Cowboys fans at this shindig.  Buff was never able to get over the hump but I was consumed with Bills football in 1991.   Remember, the Falcons were not very good at the time.  I pulled for them as my home team but aside from Deion, Tuggle and Rison, there wasn’t much happening by means of stardom.  My heart was broken earlier this year when the Falcons lost in the SB but it really took me back to how I felt each time the Bills lost in the early 90’s.   I know that’s probably crazy to some of you but I can tell you that I will be cheering for Buffalo when they make it back to a Super Bowl, unless they are playing my Falcons.

You see, there are other reasons for me to continue to collect that outweigh trying to get rich.   Besides, I tried that with Gregg Jefferies, Eric Anthony and Kevin Maas and it didn’t pan out.  So when you see me post a review of 1988 Score, don’t think that I’ve lost my mind or that I’m trapped in the junk wax era.  Sometimes, I just want to take a trip down memory lane.  For me, the best (and most fun) way to do that is to go through old sports cards.  The images conjure up the old days for me.  They take me out of the here and now and sit me down in my old bedroom with the Jordan poster and the nerf hoop and the Nintendo.   My stress melts away, if only for a short time.  They are a time machine and I will cherish the junk wax as much as National Treasures for the rest of my days for these very reasons.  I hope that Bailey has something that she can use as a memory inducer when she’s 40 and I’m long gone.  Maybe it will be the cards.  She asks me regularly who is going to get my cards when I’m old and the answer is always, “You, Bailey.”


Meet The Collector – Kin Kinsley

This next installment of “Meet the Collector” is a special one for me.  He may not realize it but he’s the reason I’m on Twitter now with my blog and card collecting.  I have been on Twitter for 5 years or so with a personal account and just messed around with sports news and a couple of friends and never knew this hobby world existed on the site.  Then one day, my “Gems of the Junk Wax Era” was seen and he commented on it and I started following him.  The next thing I know, I was on his blog roll and he was helping me spread the word by sharing my posts.  It wasn’t long before I created a whole new Twitter feed strictly dedicated to blogging and my card collecting.  I still have my personal Twitter but most of my followers there aren’t exactly clamoring for my next Sports Card post.  I have about 250 followers in 5 years on my personal account and am nearing 1,000 on @dubmentality in less than 4 months.  And I wouldn’t be doing this if it hadn’t been for Kin Kinsley with @beansbcardblog!

The first thing that made me realize I was following the right person was the avatar of Bo Jackson with the shoulder pads and baseball bat.  I knew that this was my kind of guy.  I now kind of feel like we are actual friends and I’ve begun to learn more about him and his collection.  I knew some of his answers when they came back to me but there is still a lot about Kin that I learned from the short questionnaire.  I’m sure you have seen him on Twitter and if you have a blog, you may even be on his blog roll like me.  He is so good at spreading the word about the hobby and bloggers that you may not know that he has his own personal blog at  He does and you need to go check it out.  And package up some Gypsy Queen and send them his way.  I have a stack going now.Kin started collecting in 1987.  For Christmas, his uncle gave him a hand collated 1986 Topps set.  That must have been a sweet gift that Christmas.  That kick started his collecting and he was playing baseball and loving sports thereafter.  In an unfortunate turn of events, the set was lost in a house fire at his father’s house 3 years ago.  Nothing can replace items lost in a house fire but Kin did start hand collating another set and has compiled it through some boxes and help from fellow bloggers.  This community is pretty awesome and it’s because of people like Kin Kinsley.  While he is active on ePack (user ID kin.kinsley) trading hockey cards, he has otherwise turned away from modern card collecting.  He said he is “over the card lottery, buying boxes hoping for the latest shiny hit.”  He plans to get rid of his modern cards but will hang on to WVU related, Chicago Blackhawks and other random items.He has changed his collecting focus a few times in the last couple of years but he says he has settled in at this point.  He casually collects T206 cards and vintage Indy 500 related cards.  These include ex 1911 Auto Drivers (aka T36), 1954 Stark & Wetzel Indy Winners, 1960 Parkhurst Hawes Wax Indy and 1960’s Marhoefer sets.  The only vintage set he has ever owned is the 1960 Parkhurst /Indy 500 Winners set, making it one of his favorite sets.  He had planned for it to be a long term project that he would piece together.  But about a year ago, on eBay, he stumbled upon a set that had 10 minutes to go that was at an amazing price and he won it.  While he has seen another set listed at $600 a few times, he said he wound up buying this one A LOT cheaper.  He still looks for singles to upgrade the set and put additional sets together.  One Indy card he is still looking for is a 1962 Marhoefer A.J. Foyt.Other than the Parkhurst set, he has the 1987 Topps and Donruss sets listed as favorites because those were the first sets he put together.  Those are both classic sets and Topps is one of the most iconic of all time.  He is also partial to WVU items because he grew up in Morgantown and graduated from THE West Virginia University.  He doesn’t necessarily look for them in their pro uni’s but still likes to add them if they are wearing the blue and old gold of the Mountaineers.  He’s all about the Mountaineers!  He has also been a Blackhawks fan since he was a teen.  There is even a rumored senior photo floating around with Kin donning the Starter Blackhawks sweater.  I think this should be revealed to the world and let us take a long look at that gem.  Since moving to Fort Worth three years ago, he has also become a Stars fan.  He admits though that he has lost interest in pro baseball, football and basketball.  He’s down to following college football, hockey and IndyCar racing and he’s noticed interest waning in the first two lately.I asked Kin about what his favorite pieces were in his collection.  The 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken was one he pulled himself and a 1980 Rickey Henderson rookie was the first “big” card his parents bought him.  Those two have a lot of sentimental value in the collection.  Some others that he mentions are an Andrew Shawn Canvas Young Gun (pulled from a pack); a second one that he had signed, authenticated and graded; his Dale Murphy autographs and a 1955 Bowman Frank Gatskis.  There are four vintage cards that he would still love to add to his collection; a 1950 Topps Felt Back Pete Zinaich (both the yellow and the brown versions), a 1952 Bowman Large Joe Stydahar and the 1962 Foyt mentioned above.

I paid close attention to Kin’s answer to my question about what he liked most and disliked most about the hobby.  I respect Kin’s opinion on the hobby because he is a true collector in my eyes.  He doesn’t follow the trends or jump on the hot sets.  He collects for him!  What he likes most is the information and items available now because of the digital age.  While some of the things he collects (specifically the T36 cards) are still difficult to find, it’s a lot easier than it would have been in 1987.  As for his dislike, I’m right with him on this.  He is not a fan of the greedy collector.  He’s including Pack searchers, shady collectors and people who only care about the newest, shiniest, and highest priced hit.  While it rubs him the wrong way, he tries to ignore them as best as he can.

This leads perfectly to his advice for the young or new collector.  “Just have fun and collect what you want.  Don’t worry about what it’s worth.  Look at buying cards like buying anything else.  Once the money is spent, it’s gone.  Having an expectation of “getting money back” is setting you up for disappointment.”  I wish someone had given me that advice a few years ago.  I chased that rabbit down the hole at one time and it was crushing 98% of the time and fun 2% of the time.  There is a reason those “hits” are hard to pull.  I will echo Kin on this wholeheartedly.  Collect for you.  Collect ’88 Donruss if that is what you like.  Buy a box of ’91 Fleer like I did a few weeks ago.  Just have fun with it!

Thank you Kin!  Thank you for participating in this series.  Thank you for sharing my blog and promoting the hobby the way you do.  Thank you for being an old school collector of cardboard.  Thank you for introducing me to Marhoefer Cards.  Thank you for tanking next week in the Queue the Drake league.  But most importantly, thank you for pulling me into this world of Hobby Twittering!  I have enjoyed the last 4 months of sharing my passion for the hobby on this platform.  I have met a ton of great people.  I have opportunities I have never had before to reach like minded people.  And I really wouldn’t have found those opportunities if Bo Jackson with a baseball bat and shoulder pads hadn’t shared my blog one night!


Meet The Collector – Shane Salmonson

Welcome to a new weekly (sometimes twice a week) series on Dub Mentality that is going to showcase you, the collector.  I have met a ton of great people on Twitter that are very active in the hobby and share very similar backgrounds and stories with me.   I want to make sure you get a chance to meet these fine people as well.  This is also a way to try and help get some names out there for potential trades or PC searches.   Hopefully you enjoy this series as much as I will likely enjoy putting it together.  Let’s spread the word about these guys and build this network.  It’s time to meet our first collector.

Shane Salmonson was one of the first mutual follows I had on Twitter and he’s been hanging around the blog ever since.   He also has his own blog at  That obviously gives away his PC player but we’ll talk about him a little more below.  Shane has an awesome weekly feature on his blog titled “Cheap Wax Wednesday” where he breaks a cheap wax box and shares the highlights.  I enjoy following that as the cheap wax hits close to home for me but it also brings back some sets I have not thought about in quite some time.  There also isn’t much overlap in our two blogs either because I am a little older than Shane and his wheelhouse appears to be 90’s while mine is 80’s and occasionally 90-92.  Shane is also very active on Twitter and can be found @ShaneSalmonson.

Shane started his collecting habit as a kid with hot wheels.  He would take the truckload of hot wheels he owned and line them up to organize them, much like most of us would do with our ’87 Topps back in the day.  Of course, this translated right into card collecting for him.  In his early collecting days, he collected everything, including baseball, basketball, football, hockey and racing.  His collecting has streamlined more into baseball and football today.  This is a similar story to mine today.   I started collecting everything I could get my hands on but it’s just not financially possible to keep up with all sports for me in today’s market.  It was a lot easier when there were 3-4 card brands.  He still has a ton of basketball, hockey, golf and racing if anyone is looking for these sports.  They are just sitting in boxes for now so give him a jingle on the Tweeter Box.Being from NH, he loves his home town squads; Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins.  He says that he has far too many PC’s to really break them all down but is always looking for Red Sox hits to add to his collection.  As for his largest PC, it’s Pedro Martinez, as indicated in his Blog address. Pedro was a workhorse for the Red Sox from 1998-2004.  I have never been to a game at Fenway but I remember the Yankees-Sox series very vividly in 2004.  I was a huge Red Sox fan for that series and wanted to see them finally break through.   Shane said that every single start from Pedro was an event and were always can’t-miss games.  He considers Pedro one of the most dominant pitchers ever and I would have to agree.  Pedro is the only PC he has an active checklist going on.  He currently owns over 1,700 different Pedro cards and 6,700+ total. That’s a large PC my friends.Shane also actively collects autographs.  He sticks mostly to baseballs but does have quite a bit of other memorabilia such as photos, posters, bats, hats, jerseys, etc.  Most of these are stored away and are awaiting a future Salmonson Man Cave.   From the sound of the Pedro PC, his Man Cave may only leave him a bedroom while the rest of the house will be a Pedro shrine!   I’ve included photos he sent of his Pedro PC throughout this post for your viewing pleasure.Shane’s favorite set of all time is 1989 Topps though he is not 100% committed to it.  The reason this set comes to mind when asked about that subject is that it’s the first real wax box he ever bought.  The design has not resonated with him over time and is not a favorite and he acknowledges that there is very little value to the set but like all of us, there is a draw to that first product we dove into.  My first full box was 1989 Donruss and much like Topps of that year, it was produced in massive quantities and simply holds nostalgic value at this point.  But I will buy a pack or box of ’89 Donruss every time I see it!  There is just something about busting cards from you’re youth that makes you feel young again.

One of the questions I am including in my interview with everyone is, “What do you like most about the hobby?  What do you like least?”   I think this is an interesting topic of discussion for all of us.  The hobby is changing all the time and I want to know how everyone perceives the changes.  As for what Shane likes most about the hobby, “it’s the interaction with other collectors. That is the most fun of anything.  I have had a blast interacting with fellow collectors on Twitter.  It has given me an outlet to share my hobby with others.”  He met up with several collectors that he is active with on Twitter at the National last year and the experience was heightened because of it.   I have not been to the National but I can say that my experience on Twitter has been the same!

On Shane’s don’t like list is the hot button issue of “exclusive licensing.”  I think that is a crowded boat he is on with that dislike.  I know I’m there.  We both agree that it isn’t good for the collectors in general.  Shane describes the current football card sector by saying, “Panini (though they do make some nice products) has almost killed my current football collecting.  The game-used vs event-used/player-worn relics are an absolute nightmare.  The exclusive licensing just doesn’t give collectors many options.  If you are not a fan of Panini, you are pretty much out of luck when it comes to Football.   And that is a shame to me.”   Well said and totally agreed Mr. Salmonson.Shane’s favorite piece in his collection is his Ernie Banks Rookie Card, a 1954 Topps.  He bought it raw on EBay, for what he thought was a solid price, but knew it was a gamble.   He sent it in to Beckett for grading last year and it came back as a 4.  He was very happy with the grade, but was also relieved that the card came back as authentic.  You never know on eBay when you find a great deal.  This would be a “Fireproof Card” at Hustle Headquarters but he adds, “That would be a very hard card to part with for me.”  Sorry Cubs fans, Ernie has a home in New Hampshire.  At some point, Shane is hoping to start checking some Vintage HOF Rookies off of his needs list but understands that it won’t be easy.  He is also looking to add some HOF Signed Baseballs.

Finally, Shane has some words of wisdom for fellow collectors.  Most of us started as kids and many of us just went into the hobby blind because there was no Twitter or other global tool to meet collectors and learn from.  While kids have a few more resources today to gain knowledge, there is also a much bigger card world than there used to be.  So with that in mind, Shane has some sound advice for all collectors.

“The best piece of advice I could give to any collector, young or old, would be to simply enjoy the hobby.  Every collector is different.  Enjoyment is the reason to have a hobby in the first place, is it not?”

Hopefully you’ve gained a little knowledge about a fellow collector of our community.   We are truly all here to help each other enjoy this great hobby of ours.  One way to do that is to meet great new people and share our thoughts, PC’s and experiences with each other.  Shane has been a great supporter of the blog and a fine source of outside reading for yours truly.  Shane is one of the good guys in this card community and if you don’t follow him already, I would recommend you do so now.  Thanks for reading.




Mail Day from Shane Katz

I received a fine mail day from Shane Katz (@shanekatz73 on twitter) and I have to share these additions to the PC.  Shane also has a blog that’s found at  Shane is a Boston guy and collects Red Sox if you have any to deal.  He’s a great trade partner and responsible shipper.  Check him out!  My mail day was heavy on the Ron Gant cards, which is really the best kind of mail day.  Shane also tossed in some extras that are really cool that are worth sharing.  Shane sent 13 Gant’s and I needed 12 of them.  I am thin on Gant in the late 90’s-early 2000’s and that’s where he came through.  The stretch I received covered Gant in 6 uniforms.  I did not have any from his Rockies season so that was a nice addition.  I won’t discuss all of them but here are a few highlights.Of course, one for nostalgia was the 1989 Topps Glossy Rookies card #9.  Ronnie looks like they caught him right after BP.Then, representing the Reds, we have the 1996 Topps card #70.  He only played one full season with the Reds as he spent 1994 on the disabled list.  In ‘95, he hit .276 with 29 home runs and 23 stolen bases, good enough for his second National League Comeback Player of the Year award.  He looks a lot like Reggie Sanders in this picture.Next, he appeared twice in the 1999 Topps set.  Once in the base set in his St. Louis uniform and then in the traded set after his move to Philadelphia.  In St. Louis, he played 3 seasons with 73 total home runs and 35 stolen bases.  He endured a very tough stretch in batting average never topping .246 in that as a Cardinal.  He also had a career high 162 strikeouts in 1997.  In Philly, he rebounded a bit in the average department but the home runs dipped to 20 and 17.  Stolen bases had also reached a career low with 5 in ’99 and 1 in 2000.The next stop was Colorado for a partial season in 2001 as shown on the 2001 Topps here.  A forgettable stop in Colorado with a .257 average and 8 homeruns.  He would finish the season in Oakland, playing 34 games and compiling a .420 average and 2 home runs.Ronnie’s final full season in the majors was with San Diego in 2002.  The 2003 Topps would be his final of the set as an active player.  He would go on to appear in Archives and other products as a retired player.The last two cards are from the 2014 Topps Archives set and are a couple of my favorites.  The first is the ’69 Deckle Mini with the facsimile autograph.  There is a ’69 Deckle in the set with a true autograph and I have tried to snipe it from time to time on eBay.  The second card is the 1987 Topps Future Star and is hands down my favorite Gant.  First you have the 1987 Topps design and then you have the sweet Future Star logo that I have raved about in several blog posts.  You really can’t beat a card like this and it was the best card in the mail day!  Also, both in Braves uniforms.The extras included this sweet 1984 Ralston Purina Dan Quisenberry.  I have been eyeing this set for a future oddball set post.Next up are four awesome 1980-1981 Topps Basketball cards from Shane’s youth.  He even made sure they were all Atlanta Hawks.  I do not own enough early 80’s basketball.More oddballs with Steve Garvey and Don Mattingly from the 1987 Fleer Exciting Stars set.  Mattingly was exciting but Garvey was pretty bland for a set title like that.The final piece of the mail day was another oddball with the 1986 KayBee Young Superstars of Baseball, Alvin Davis. 

All of these cards are right up my alley and made for a very exciting early week mail day.  I need to get to work on another trade with Shane because he provides some sweet returns.  I will no doubt have to step up my game on the next mailing though.  Thanks Shane!


Who We Are Is Elementary

A lot of factors shape who we are and who we become.  As a parent, it’s easier to recognize those factors sometimes because we focus on how to give our kids the experiences and support and guidance to become the people we want or think they should be.  But kids, we just spent our formative years living in and soaking up those moments.  They were our experiences, for better or worse, and they’ve no doubt had an impact on who we’ve become.  Maybe it all went well and we used those experiences to solidify what we had been taught.  Or maybe things didn’t go as planned and we used the experiences to guide us away from the path we didn’t want to go down.  They generally fill us with love or hate, good or bad morals or sometimes, unfortunately, just emptiness.  Either way, that’s just how it works most of the time.  We are given the path and we make it better or worse with the decisions we make.

That path starts for the most part at birth.  But as for memories and events we use years later, that starts for most of us somewhere around 5 years old, I would guess.  I have some memories of before 5 but they are random and not very vivid. I remember when I cracked my head open when I was about 3-4 and a couple of the moments surrounding that but it’s been kept alive in stories since.  We remember the really good and the really bad but a lot of the in-between is lost from our lives before 5 unless they remain in some story form that has been manipulated over the years by our own interpretations.  But, I am talking about legitimate “I remember when” moments in time. 

At 5 for me, I began my long and winding, and often disastrous, educational journey.  The year was 1982.  I would not finish that journey until 2011, some 29 years later.  Yeah, I took the long road.  I don’t know if I’m even finished but I am counting on that being the case at this point.  But in 1982, I didn’t have a choice in the matter.  It was time to get started with that big part of life and I did just that at Mitchell County Elementary School.  I have much more vivid memories of middle school and high school but when I really sit and think about those early years, some really nostalgic and character forming memories are there.  With some of the things that stick out, it makes a little sense why I am paranoid of getting in trouble or doing the wrong things sometimes.  And for me, a big part of this writing process is figuring out how I got where I am today.  These old thoughts of elementary school have given me some insight, although my interpretations are in control.

Elementary school for me was good overall.  I had a pretty good time making friends and was received well by my peers.  That is so often out of our control and left to the ability of other 5 years old to be accepting.  I was lucky that I had a fairly reasonable set of peers, for the most part.  It could be because of the town I grew up in or the school itself.  A lot of people in Camilla had similar backgrounds; similar income levels and we faced the normal social issues burdened on society.  But as a 5 year old, that stuff didn’t really matter.  The car Michael’s mom drove didn’t faze me.  The house that Bryan lived in didn’t matter to me whatsoever.  Joe and I even had different skin color and that meant absolutely nothing.  We were all friends.  It’s a novel concept isn’t it?  We had the same goals, we had the same needs, and we had the same affinity for Transformers and G.I. Joe.  And none of us liked girls at that point in our lives, except maybe Jason.  I think he was a lady’s man from birth.

Friends come and go at that age too as people grow up, move to other schools, take different paths or just seemingly disappear into thin air.  But sometimes, those kids stick with you from Kindergarten through Graduation and you have a bond for the rest of your life, whether realized or not.  I can still go back to my hometown and run into people I grew up with and we remember each other as the person we last saw before growing up.  Most of us have put on some weight and aren’t as athletic as we used to be but you can often see that young person in them and yourself when you have those interactions.  I now live in Lee County and when my alma mater played here a couple of years ago, I ambled over to the visitors sideline to see old friends.  One of my Lee County friends went with me and remarked after the excursion that I should go back to Camilla and run for mayor.  I’m not a political fellow but that said a lot to me about the old bridges I had been able to keep intact and it made me feel proud.That all started at a little school in the back of a part of town that some people never visited.  But as division has taken more of a stronghold on society, that is probably truer now than it was then.  I ride by there on occasion though just to see the old building.  It usually makes me smile.  Life was simpler.  The school was your standard, run of the mill, elementary school.  Classes were K-3, we had a couple of playgrounds, a gym, library and a lunchroom/theater combo.  Nothing spectacular but certain locations of the school still stand out in my memory.  I remember the track.  It was an all dirt/grass track and surrounded a make shift football field.  Behind that was our kickball/softball field.  My grandmother, Pearl, worked in the lunchroom.  She cooked a lot better at home than she did at school.  The gym was where I learned that gymnastics was not going to be my specialty, although I tried.  There were some outdoor basketball courts where I started to develop my very slow, but deadly, jump shot.  Near those were the music rooms, where my Aunt Carolyn was a teacher.  I had an in with her of course but she was one of the most genuine and enthusiastic teachers I ever had.  And, of course, her son Corey was my best friend in elementary school.  There was also a walk up store at the entrance of the school that was open before and after to stock up on snacks.  The only snack area I remember on campus was on the third grade hall.  That’s where I was introduced to the Bomb Pop.  I remember the teachers too.  Mrs. Fears was my Kindergarten teacher.  I don’t have any specific memories of her class because I think my memory maker was still forming.  Then, I had Mrs. Williams in 1st Grade, Mrs. Wingate in 2nd and Mrs. Parker in 3rd.  I’ve had an indirect relationship with Mrs. Williams for many years since 1st grade.  Two of her sons, Travis and Tori were right around my age and I knew them throughout school.  Then I played basketball with her husband, Mr. Charlie James, for a few years in high school on Tuesday and Thursday nights.  And not to be outdone, I worked for about 10 years with another of her sons, Trent, in adulthood.  They could never really get away from me, I guess.  Mrs. Wingate was my first, “Wow, she’s pretty!” teacher.  And Mrs. Parker got most of my deviant side as I pushed the limits before moving on to middle school.  Of course, Mr. Inman was a memorable principal.  He was tall and intimidating and had a habit of carrying around a paddle with holes in it to cut down on resistance.  Do schools even have paddles anymore?  The staff I probably got to know best was Mrs. Ward, the school nurse.  I began honing my Ferris Bueller moments early. 

We were introduced to fire and tornado drills in Elementary school.  The fire drill never scared me but the tornado drill was horrifying.  There wasn’t a safe place in my mind to escape such an event.  Thankfully, we practiced it and never had to put it into real use.  I do remember bad weather in school though and I always had that drill bell sound in my head, thinking it would go off at any time.  It’s the first time I remember thinking something dangerous could happen and my parents wouldn’t be around.  It probably seems insignificant but looking back on it, it prepared me for something I was very afraid of while giving me the idea that my parents wouldn’t always be standing right beside me when something went wrong.  That was the first realization I had of that.  In the long run, it was for the best but it’s one of those small moments that I have carried with me.

Another bad memory was that smell of the “oil dry” they put down when students vomited in the hallway.  There is no real profound meaning or moment here but I remember it had the potential to set off a mass vomit fest much like that in the “Stand by Me” film.  If I wasn’t sick, I could see that in the hall floor and would immediately get queasy.  I was also a little scared of it.  It was almost like the stuff they put down made it a biohazard.  So maybe there is a meaning behind it.  I am a bit of a hypochondriac so maybe that can be traced back to my fear of a vomit induced outbreak at elementary school thanks to the horrible smelling biohazard they put down in the halls.  Maybe, maybe not.

Ok, I am about to say something that may surprise some of you.  It hurts to say but it’s true.  I have not always been the innocent, good boy that I am now as an adult.  I know, take a minute to collect yourself.  There are three specific instances from elementary school that stick out to me where I pushed the boundaries of truth.  I got busted all three times.  I have no doubt there were more than three, but three stick out still today.  My dad has always told me that he would find out anything I ever did because that’s what parents do.  I could think I was getting away with something but they would know.  Well, he was either right or I was really bad at it.  There is another story for another time that fits this narrative from when I was a teenager.  I carried that one around for several years trying to figure out how my dad found out, but I digress.The first one was in 2nd grade.  I remember getting sent out into the hallway for being disruptive.  I called it being humorous but the teacher called it disruptive.  Tomato/Tomahto if you ask me.  If you will recall, Mr. Inman has already been mentioned as having a habit of carrying around the “widow maker” paddle.  He would walk up and down the main hall sometimes and if you were in the hall for being in trouble, you were getting a lick or two.  It was the first time I had been sent into the hallway so I was in a panic.  I looked down the long 2nd grade hall and waited for Mr. Inman to appear.  In a moment of clarity, I devised a plan.  I’ll walk a short distance down the hall, approximately the length of the classroom, then switch to the other side of the hall and walk back.  I would do this until I was called back into class so if Mr. Inman walked past that hall, he would think I was going to the restroom or coming back.  Fool proof isn’t it?  Well, my stay in the hall was longer than expected and while it did work the first time he walked by, it did not the second time a couple minutes later when I was walking in the same general area he had seen me before.  Busted.  He came down the hall, the plan was foiled and I got my licks.  I made it worse by not taking my punishment the right way.  I got it at home too.Then came the 2nd incident in 3rd grade.  I was older and wiser by this point and I had caught up with Mr. Inman’s tactics.  This one was worse though and I don’t even know how I came up with this one.  Parents could pick up students around 2:30 and then the pick-up area closed for the buses around 2:45.  I rode the bus over to the middle school where I would get off there and walk to the Methodist Church where my mom worked.  In an extreme lapse in judgment, I told Mrs. Parker that my mom was picking me up.  The kids getting picked up went out to the playground until their parents picked them up.  My plan was to get in some swing time and then hop on the bus unnoticed to head to the middle school.  Would you believe that it worked the first time?  But I got greedy.  Mr. Inman went out to the 3rd grade hall and saw me swinging.  “Don’t panic!” I said to myself.  “He thinks you are getting picked up, don’t worry.”  He disappeared onto the 3rd grade hall.  He would not reappear until the buses were pulling up and I was headed to my assigned bus.  Again, solid plan but poor execution.  You know what happened next.

The last incident was not related to Mr. Inman as I believe I had by then conceded to his principal super abilities.  This time, I decided to try my hand at deception with my parents and Mrs. Parker.  This one stung the most.  I was never the best student when it came to homework.  However, I was pretty good at scraping it together at the last minute.  I would carry that skill over to High School where homeroom the day of was homework time.  But in elementary school, I would usually piece it together over the course of the day and somehow pull it off right before it was due to be turned in.  I was not prepared for the scenario that unfolded that day.  My dad arrived at the school shortly after lunch, while we were on the playground.  He had come to check me out of school to go fishing with him and my grandfather.  Mrs. Parker said I was good to go, I just needed to turn in the homework we would be going over in the afternoon.  I left the playground confused about how to get out of this one.  Of course, I’d rather be fishing with dad and granddaddy than sitting in school.  As I approached the classroom, another stroke of genius hit.  Dad was with me and he had no clue what my homework was so I went and took out the homework from the day before and put it on Mrs. Parker’s desk.  As we were about to walk out, Mrs. Parker walked in to look at the homework and said, “This was yesterday.  I need the one for today.”  Are you kidding me?  No homework, no fishing.  And, I got it when I got home.

So, yeah, I tried some stunts in elementary school and got busted.  And that getting busted probably saved me from worse trouble later on because I have carried around that fear of getting caught to this day.  Nothing goes unnoticed or unpunished forever.  That is the lesson in my deviance in 3rd grade.  It will come back to you.  It may not be the first time or the second time but it will come back.  I guess I’m glad I caught back then but I would’ve loved that fishing trip.  There is one more moment from elementary school that probably had some effect on me.  It’s rather embarrassing and probably affected my approach to girls during school for a couple of years but that all worked out in the long run.  I don’t even know if I’ve ever told this story but it is quite funny to look back on, even though it was a rough prank on me.  There was a girl in my class that I liked, Shelley.  Every boy liked her and even at 8, I pretty much knew she was out of my league.  It didn’t stop me from sending her the “check yes or no” letter.  I prepared the letter and gave it to my confidant Robbie, MY OWN COUSIN.  I knew he could take care of the delivery.  Not long after, he brought it back to me and it was checked “yes”.  Cha-Ching!  Or so I thought.  My own blood deceived me.  He took the note, checked yes and brought it back to me.  I thought for an afternoon she was my girlfriend.  Only she never knew about it.  His laughter with Corey and a couple of others gave him away and I knew I had been had.  That was a good one no doubt.  It’s probably where I got my pranking ability from because I spent many years trying to avenge that one.

So while these stories may be funny or cringe-worthy, I have no doubt they have had some sort of lasting impact on my personality.  Its weird some of the things we remember while other things just vanish from our minds.  Some of that is by design and choice I’m sure.  But I have vague memories of death trap monkey bars, a curb store in front of the school and the occasional back flip I couldn’t land.  The real distinct memories I have are events that have stayed tucked away in my mind almost as vivid as the day they happened.  I can see Mr. Inman and his paddle.  I remember the specific swing on the swing set I would use when “waiting for my mom to pick me up.”  I remember the look on my dad’s face when the homework scam failed.  I remember the look on Robbie’s face when the “Yes or No” scam succeeded. 

I can see those things as clear as day.  They aren’t painful and they aren’t traumatic but they are meaningful to me and have shaped part of my path.  Sometimes we say, “If I had it to do all over again, I would do it differently.”  And while that can certainly be true in worst case scenarios, I believe we have to experience these smaller bumps in the road so we will know there are bumps.  The participation trophy and the “everybody wins” mantra have its place but I think it also robs our kids of needed disappointment at times.  Bailey was recently not chosen for a play for her school.  As a parent, I was bothered because I want my daughter to pursue every opportunity she has and I want her to succeed.  But there is also a part of me that knew it was a teaching moment.  It was an opportunity to tell her that she needed to work a little harder or practice a little more to get the part next time.  We will all succeed and fail over the course of our lives.  Sometimes the failures make us change the way we do things.  Sometimes they make us try harder.  Either way, they make us do something.  Standing pat is not the way to flourish.  It’s not the way to improve.  Take the events that happen and make them work for you in some way.  A bunch of silly stories results in me still trying to do the right thing one month away from my 40th birthday.  You can’t understate the personal importance of seemingly insignificant events in your life.


The Birthday Float

June 24 is a day I must remember every year.  I don’t want to be that husband that remembers the morning of, that its the wife’s birthday.  So far, so good – if memory serves.  I consider myself a good gift guy and always try to put in a lot of thought when deciding on that perfect bday present.  I’ve had some winners and I’ve have some humdingers.  That’s right, I just busted out the word “humdingers”!  After 15 years of marriage and a handful more of dating, the ideas have gotten a lot tougher.  There’s only so many pieces of jewelry you can buy before it gets stale.  And as adults, your wish list becomes a lot more expensive or you can just go out and buy it yourself.  So I’ve run the gambit on the birthday surprise over the years.

Last year was kind of a big one.  I was finally able to score some Dave Matthews tickets, which was a bucket list item for Alicia.  One year, we went to Atlanta and classed it up at some fancy club named “Opera”.  There was Def Leppard one year.  There was the Buckhead birthday where we went wining and dining. This year, we’ll be going to see a Fleetwood Mac tribute band at an old landmark bar in Little Five Points.  While the gift ideas are constantly evolving and I’m having to start earlier and earlier on my thought process, one constant is present every June around this date.  That would be “The Birthday Float”. 

The float consists of a group of friends, that also love the outdoors and the creek, kayaking or tubing or boating down the Kinchafoonee Creek in Lee County.  The trip usually starts at the Highway 32 bridge in Leesgurg and twists and turns down to an area behind our neighborhood just north of the Dougherty County line.  The cast changes slightly from year to year but the general core remains the same.  The Normans, Duvall’s and Shivers.  The Lambs are usually in tow but a new baby this year will put them on the shelf.  My constant compadre on the trip is Clemmy Johnny, Mi Hermano de Otra Madre.  We usually lag back a bit to oversee what’s happening and carry on our immature conversations without eye rolls from the women folk.  We also bring our favorite adult beverage mixers to help keep cool if the sun is too hot….or something like that. We also lag back from time to time to avoid the alcohol police who think maybe we’re moving too quickly through the cooler.  There is no such thing I say.  And CJ surely agrees with me.   

We also like to spend some time out of the kayak along the trip.  There is a lot to see and do along the Kinchafoonee besides kayak.  There are numerous jumping spots, from the old rope swing at the Century Rd bridge to the 30 foot cliff just before we get to our takeout point.  I still don’t know how deep it is there but I’ve tried to touch a couple of times to no avail.  There are a couple other jumping spots but the climbing is a little tougher and our coherence plays a part in whether we attempt those or not.  I do remember Michael doing a sweet flip out of a tree once that made me think for a split second that we were going to be headed to the ER.  We’ve talked many people into taking the leap from the large cliff but have never gotten Alicia to take the plunge.  Maybe this year is the year.  Shaina even did it after about 45 minutes of coaxing.  And this was after she flipped her float and lost all of her important items like her drivers license.  Sorry Shaina.

There are also some cool natural wonders to see along the trip.  There is a nice cave that leads from the creek up to the top of a small cliff that the ladies won’t let us jump from because they think it’s too shallow.  There is also a pair of Oakleys in the water somewhere near the mouth of the cave.  There is a waterfall near the end of the trip that is always a nice photo op. Depending on the water level there is also a little area of tiny rapids that are a fun change of pace from the usual slow current.  But the highlight is always the blue hole.  It’s a pretty decent sized pool of clear, cold spring water that invigorates the body and makes everyone a little nervous of being pushed in.  It’s a hotspot on the creek and usually the most populated area as everyone stops to enjoy the cool water.  It’s usually where we stop to get a bite to eat and stretch the legs. 

Of course, we typically aren’t the only species of creature on the creek, enjoying the water and sun. The most common sighting is the Kinchafoonee Creek Monster, pictured above.  He’s known to perform daring acts from any height and also occasionally shows off feats of strength by crushing tree branches in the gathering of firewood.  There are also a variety of snakes and gators.  The gators are usually less visible during the day but the snakes are more than ready to come out and dangle off of a tree limb.  You must remain vigilant when around the trees.  The quicker CJ and I get through those coolers, the less alert we are.  There have probably been lots of times where I was only a few feet from a snake and never even knew it.  It’s just the normal law of probabilities.  It’s their habitat, it’s the south and it’s summertime.  

The trip typically takes about 4-6 hours depending on the water level, how much time we spend at different stopping points and our overall pace.  By the end of the float, we are all tired, sunburned and waterlogged.  But we are also happy and relaxed.  I always sleep really well the night after a float on the creek.  The combination of physical exertion and heat will wear your body out and leave you just plain beat.  It might be why we only do it a few times a year.  There are people that do it every weekend or twice a month.  But when we take our group to the creek, we are all in and push it to the limit.  Some of us party pretty hard!  But it’s such a great time.

Alicia loves being on the water and I can understand why when I go out there.  I am typically more of a fisherman or swimmer but floating and taking in all of the surroundings is peaceful and a heavy reminder that we are living in a beautiful world.  Getting on the creek on a hot summer day with cold drinks and good friends can make all of your problems go away for a while.  And who doesn’t need that.  We usually take 2-3 big group trips a year but the one on Alicia’s birthday is always a given. I’m thankful she kept poking me to me change my stubborn attitude about getting out on the creek from time to time.  I still enjoy my cool air downtime but our trips on the Birthday Float always create memories and I’m sure this year will be the same.  So we will once again be launching tomorrow to take this excursion with our group of misfits and I am looking forward to it.  Our goals are to have fun, stay safe, enjoy the outdoors, leave nature as we find it (or better off) and see if we can find the bottom of the cooler by the end of the day.  We’ll be enjoying a nice band, good food and companionship soon for the official birthday present.  But tomorrow, we float….and dive….and swim….and love life and each other.  Happy Birthday again Alicia and I’m looking forward to enjoying another float with you!


The Finnicum Family

I’m going to take a little detour from the usual post about what’s happening in my tangled mind or the warm and fuzzies of yesteryear.  I want to recap the days events and share how fortunate Alicia and I are to be a part of our work families.  This is really about her work family which I am a part of by extension but we both are pretty lucky.  We’ll talk about my stuff another day but today, it’s about FMC.  

Today was the second quarter family event, which was a picnic/fish fry/sporting event held at Timber Green Farms.  I know what you’re thinking.  A “work” gathering?  Fun?  Truth is, yeah!  I am one who normally dreads the required event, whether it’s my work, Alicia’s work or school functions or whatever.  Especially on my weekend.  I work all week, take care of kids, get little to no sleep, beat my body up on the softball field…..Sunday is my day to do absolutely nothing and be happy about it.  Not the case with this one today.  

I guess I should start with a little history.  Alicia started working at FMC about 12 years ago when it was Darrel, another salesman and her.  Yeah, 3-4 employees at any given time during the first year she was there.  There were 40 people at the picnic today, including family members of course,  but I think “growth” is a bit of an understatement.  What started as a leap of faith on the part of Darrel Finnicum has turned into one of the most successful and most liked car dealerships in our area.  I’m not just saying that because my wife works there.  Check out the “Best of the Best” voting over the last several years.  Check out the size of the lot now vs 10 years ago. Look at the staff size.  Look at the testimonials.  I was raised with a certain image of used car lots thanks to Grover and Dewey Shiver.  FMC has broken down all of those stereotypes.

The success and growth of the company, in my eyes, has been the knowledge that Darrel has about auto dealing, the dedication (blood, sweat and tears, let me tell you) Alicia has had over the last decade to Darrel and the company and the tenacity of Mike McVey.  Even though he is an Auburn Tiger, Mike is more like a bulldog to me.  The twist with them is that there is also a dedication to integrity and honesty, which is something hard enough to find in any sales or service provider, let alone an automobile dealer.  The continued success is thanks to the construction of a team that works hard, believes in the business and understands the right way to treat customers.  This really isn’t a commercial.  I know these people and I know what they’re about.  I think of some of them as family.  Anthony has called me his “big bruh” for 5 years and I have the same feeling about him.  We’ve been friends with Lindsay and Dale for years.  Kala and Corey are a blast to hang around.  I could go through each employee and interactions I have had but that would be a looooong read.  

Back to today’s event.  First, the venue was awesome.  I first visited this plantation/farm for Darrel and Ashley’s wedding.  There is a nice pond, covered pavilion and open space for all types of enjoyment.  Today there was Cornhole, fishing, a bouncy house and playground action.  The fishing started slow with a few folks picking up the stray bream or bass.  It was the heat of the day, which is generally when the fish turn down.  However, Bailey and I jumped back out there as it began to cool and we stacked up double digit bream and even a turtle.  There are few things in life that beat sitting on the edge of a dock catching fish with your daughter.  She can catch em like her old man but I still get to take them off.  Alicia added a couple herself but went to take care of Baby G and left me and Bailey to the fishing.  We caught fish and we also tangled our lines quite a bit.  I guess that’s the risk of fishing 3 rods for bream with a 9 year old.  Great times though, without a doubt.

Between the fishing sessions, the Cornhole boards were brought in for some friendly competition.  Things quickly became touchy as I worked Alicia’s competitive nerve as only I know how.  Her and Kala came close to taking down the guys (Mike May and Landon Henry).  I say “her and Kala” loosely… offense Kala.  The next battle was me and Anthony against Corey and Lindsay.  Me and Lindsay on the same end of Cornhole boards facing off is a recipe for disaster and hilarity.  Despite the fact that Ant and I dominated 22-8, Corey and Lindsay had their moments.  Dale is a strong man to have survived the quick wit and competitiveness he surely has endured over the years.

Last but not least was the food portion of the event.  Riverfront BBQ provided fried fish, side winder fries, cheese grits and hush puppies for the adults and the classic corn dog for the kids.  G ate most of my cheese grits but she also walked around for a solid 30 minutes gnawing on a corn dog and visiting the other tables.  She finished it though and I know she stuffed her tummy.  Bailey even ate good and that is an accomplishment in itself these days.  The spread also included brownies and watermelon so I was pretty stuffed myself.  

Overall, it was a really great event and the employees put in a lot of effort to make it that.  But beyond that, the family atmosphere has always been the big draw.  The events I attend with FMC have always been welcoming and laid back.  No pretense and nobody is out of place.  The kids all jump in and get along, parents take care of others like they are their own and a sense of comfort is abundant.  That is what makes FMC successful above all else, I believe. If they treat their customers anywhere close to the way they’ve treated me over the years, the reputation is well deserved.  Success is just a byproduct of the overall structure of the company and its attitude toward the treatment of others.  Alicia and I are lucky to be able to call ourselves members of the family.  I love them all like they ARE family and I appreciate the efforts they have made to make me feel like a part of their group.  I enjoyed today.  My family enjoyed today.  We enjoyed the outdoors, spent time with one another and friends, stuffed our faces and wore ourselves out.  That is a great day.  I look forward to the next one.