Mail Day Review – Welcome To The Show

I am a card collector.  I collect all sorts of cards, not just sports cards.  I have a big box in storage that holds a ton of old 80’s entertainment cards like Alf, Batman, Garbage Pail Kids, Benchwarmer and many, many more.  If it’s a “trading card”, I probably collect it on some level.  So when I recently tuned in to Beckett Radio’s podcast and they had Mike James on talking about his new set, “Welcome to The Show”, naturally I was intrigued.  I then heard him on That Sports Card Show’s podcast and it was enough of a sign for me to go and check out this set.  A little disclaimer before we get started.  Some of the images in the cards may not be for people who are squeamish with body piercings, sword swallowing and tattoos.Mike James is a professional artist who has worked with many card sets in the past and is no stranger to trading cards.  He is also no stranger to sideshow’s as he was a performer in the group dubbed “The Lamest Sideshow on Earth”.  In this new set, Welcome to The Show, James combines his art work with his experience as a sideshow act and brings some of the most famous names in the business to life on a trading card.  I have never seen a true sideshow act in person but I have always been interested in the bizarre, so to speak.  Whether it be a reality show or something scripted like American Horror Story, my interest is always piqued when checking them out. The set itself consists of 20 base cards and an autographed version of each.  The set you purchase includes all of the base cards and one random autograph from the set.  He also has the entire autographed set available for purchase on his Facebook page, Mike James-Artist and the group page, Welcome to The Show.  The set of 20 base cards and one random autograph is only $20, plus $5 shipping, so the investment is very small at this time.  After seeing the cards and hearing some of the back stories of putting the set together in the above mentioned podcasts, I’d bet that now is the only time you’ll ever be able to get this set for $20.  When it hits the secondary market, this could be a very hot item because of its quality and uniqueness.The cards are standard sized 3.5”x2.5” and are printed very well on what appears to be a semi-glossy card stock.  The fronts of the cards have a yellow and black border with the “Welcome to The Show” logo across the top.  The name of the performer is printed in the center bottom portion of the card with the photo taking center stage, no pun intended.  The backgrounds of the cards are red and present a very appealing visual look with the black, yellow and red.  The backs of the cards provide a very detailed look at the performer, including some of the Guinness World Record highlights, how long they have been performing and the acts they are famous for.  I enjoyed reading the backs of the cards as much as I enjoyed going through the set.  Not many card sets can tout that these days.The random autograph I pulled was “The Space Cowboy”.  The autograph is on-card, which is very sought after in today’s card market.  Mike stated on the podcast that he sent these cards all over the world to get signed by the performers.  Unless you buy the set, good luck getting many of the autographs that are available here.  I don’t think I’ll be seeing The Space Cowboy at a card show anytime soon.  That’s part of what makes the set so unique.  These aren’t items you are going to pick up at your local card shop or waiting outside of the player parking lot after a game.The artwork on the cards is unbelievable and fit the genre so perfectly.  I have researched some of Mike’s other work and he seems to be able to capture the subject and genre very well in each of his sets.  These sets have included Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek and The Walking Dead.  Each of the cards in these sets has been given a look to match their respective namesakes.  I don’t really know how to put in words what I am trying to convey but when you see Star Trek and Walking Dead, you have two totally different visual aspects.  Mike nails them both on those card sets, much like he did with this one.  When I look at the artwork on these cards, it’s exactly what I envision when thinking about a sideshow. The set includes many of the big names in the sideshow business.  They may not be names that you’ll immediately recognize but when you read the backs of the cards, you get a sense of their importance to the genre.  One performer included that many will recognize is “The Lizardman”.  If you’ve never seen him or heard of him, you’ve been living under a rock.  I had also heard of “Bobo’s Loco Carneval”, “The Great Orbax”, “Jim Rose” and “Doc Haze”.  I’m sure I’m familiar with several others’ work but I just got the set and haven’t got my research done completely.  A few of my personal favorites of the set so far are Titano Oddfellow, Lassi and Anastasia IV.  I liked all of the cards in the set but these jumped out at me in my first pass through.  Anastasia IV is a total smokeshow that can pull a 2.5 ton hearse with the locks of her hair.  Her husband, Hannibal, is also included in the set and they are members of “The Circus of Horrors” so admire her from a distance!I’m not going to list every performer in the set or their bio’s because I don’t want to spoil the fun for you.  But I will mention that Mike has his very own trading card depicting his sideshow character, Mnsr. Stinky Pants.  That must be really cool but also sort of strange, drawing yourself portraying a character.  I’m giving this set a perfect score of 5 on the Dub-O-Meter!  If you collect cards, find interest in rarer/odd sets or just generally like amazing artwork, go buy this set before they are gone and you are left sifting through EBay for a set.  I bought the set to check it out, knowing that I would open it to take in the full visual and design concept.  I will be buying another set to leave sealed for my PC.  Of course, I’d love to get my hands on an Anastasia IV, Lassi or Lizardman autograph but that may or may not be able to happen right away.  I have a feeling they won’t be easy to find.  This is a beautifully designed set and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in it.  Check it out!

Dub Score – 5

Let’s Make A Deal!

Trading is something that still exists today but was much more a part of my collecting when I was a kid. As an adult, I’ll occasionally make a trade with a friend and we’ll exchange cards through the mail. But that’s a little more difficult and risky than when you could sit down and hold a friend’s binder and physically make a deal. Due to that added risk and effort, there are some Do’s and Don’ts that I use when trading today to try and reduce the chances of getting burned. Everyone learns from their own mistakes and you may have some different or additional techniques that are helpful to you. This is not meant to discourage you from any of your techniques. I’m also not calling this the gospel of trading. This is what works for me. Finally, these may seem like normal common sense items but I have seen too many people get shafted because they were too eager to make a move.It’s usually best to get comfortable with a trade partner before sending a card off willy nilly in the hopes of getting one in return. I’m in a Facebook group that promotes the hobby and buying/selling/trading. I’m also active on Twitter with my personal and blog account. Social media is an excellent source for finding some of the cards that you’ve been looking for to add to a PC when you are trying to avoid EBay. I use EBay quite a bit as well but the trade is what we are focusing on today. As a general rule, I don’t entertain trade offers from someone new to the FB group or a fresh follower on Twitter unless their references check out. What I mean by that is you can check their timeline and with some mutual friends to see how active they are. If someone is a chronic retweeter or has 5 followers, I will likely not trade with them. It’s no offense to that person, I just don’t get enough material in the due diligence period for a trade or purchase.When you get comfortable with someone, it’s still usually a best practice to start slow with a fairly inexpensive card, like Mr. McNamara here. You know, baby steps. I recently pulled off a small trade with a twitter friend, @ShaneKatz73. He’s also a fellow blogger and I would recommend you check his work out at I was able to get comfortable with him quickly because for one, he has a blog of his own. This told me that he was pretty serious about the hobby and also that he was not necessarily hiding from the public. He also has a solid presence on Twitter in the card community. Even still, the trade we pulled off was mere pennies. But it went off without any issues and will lead to me seeking him out when I am in the market for something a little more valuable and I won’t worry whether that deal will be ok or not. If you pay attention to your feed, you can usually pick up on the people to trade with and those to stay away from.One thing about trading now that is much different from when I traded as a kid is value. As an adult collector, I have come to understand that value is relative. We still have Beckett and EBay to give us a taste of market value but I am sometimes willing to pay/trade a little more than market value for items I need for my PC. When I was a kid, all of my trades were based on needs but Beckett made it fair. At 14, you may have needed the ’89 Donruss Griffey but it was going to take more than the Sheffield ’89 Upper Deck to get it. You may have to throw in a Kevin Maas or Gregg Jefferies to complete the deal. Now, I might trade a $10 card for a $3 card if it’s something I need. We all develop this sense of value in our minds now based on what we collect. It differs from person to person so sometimes you can target PC items and make deals in that realm. The deal needs to make sense to both parties but it doesn’t always have to be equal in market value. I am not recommending that you go out and fleece anyone or allow yourself to be fleeced. I’m still not trading a $100 card for that same $3 card but value truly is in the eye of the beholder.Once the deal is done, make sure you acknowledge the deal with the trader and share your thoughts on how it went down. If it was a positive deal, let them know and let others know so they will have that reference for the future. If it was a negative deal, always try to work it out with the trader before going negative with any posts. Be clear with the trader about what didn’t meet your expectations and what would make it right. If the card was not as advertised, try to work something out to return the card. Many times, its buyer beware and you need to check everything up front. Unless the seller was misleading or did not follow through with a deal, you may have to play the hand you’ve been dealt. Of course, if the seller was misleading or failed to send an item and you can’t resolve it, negative feedback or a negative post may be in order, if for no other reason but to warn others. I am very careful with negative feedback because usually things can get worked out unless you are dealing with a real scammer. Then, that’s another story for another blog post.There are a couple of things that you don’t really have any control over. First and foremost is card condition. That is one of the major downfalls of not holding that binder in your hand when you devise your trade offer. Photos are good but if you are like me, you don’t really know until you are holding that slab of cardboard. You have to go into a deal knowing that unless it’s graded, it will likely have some issues, even if only minor. Secondly, you can’t control the US Postal Service. It’s good some days and atrocious others. You can pack your item with care in a top loader and then wrap in paper or plastic so it won’t come out. But let me say this. One of my #1 pet peeves with receiving cards in the mail is when someone tapes the top loader opening to keep the card from coming out. Please don’t do that. Find another way. Finally, you can use tracking in instances where real value is moving through the USPS system. This gives the buyer or trader a sense of comfort that a package truly is on the way and it protects your reputation if something goes wrong. Again, I usually reserve tracking for reasonably valued packages or packages where someone paid for shipping. If they pay for shipping, they get tracking!With all of this being said, it doesn’t mean that I have never been fleeced. There is one trade that will remain in my memory forever. For one, I still have the card that I traded for because it will always remind me. I actually look back on it now and it’s funny. But for a time there, I thought I had scored the biggest piece of my collection to date. I was 15 years old and Ken Griffey Jr. was my favorite player. I have mentioned before, When Subsets Were Cool, that I loved the 91 Score subsets. A friend of mine had an autographed 91 Score All-Star Ken Griffey Jr. I should’ve known something was up when it didn’t take too much to take it off of his hands. I also never considered where he would have gotten his autograph. This was 1993, before interleague play and TTM was prevalent. We live in Georgia and The Kid played with an American League team. And I knew my friend didn’t do a lot of traveling out of the state to baseball games. And furthermore, this was also before autographs were getting stuffed in every set made. But I was too star struck.I remember trading a couple of ’92 Bowman, which have turned out to be the class of the 90’s. I know a Chipper was in the stack but a Piazza might have been too. In return, I got this shiny Ken Griffey Jr. autographed card. My first autographed card! I know now that it isn’t real. I knew then that it probably wasn’t real but I couldn’t talk myself out of the deal. I still have the card in the exact same card holder as the day I traded for it. I’ll never get rid of it even thought I know it’s worthless. It has value to me. It is meaningful to me. It takes me back to the good ole days of my youth when baseball cards were my life. And that makes the trade worthwhile to me now.

Trading can be fun and easy. You just have to go into a trade with an open mind. A trade is meant to better each person’s collection. Much like fantasy football trades, you have to work at it a little bit and figure out what the other person really needs. You can’t just open the door and say I’ll give you A for B and expect that to be the end of it, unless it’s really minor items. And you have to accept that you only control one part of the transaction so do your best to live up to your expectations. It will go a long way in terms of developing future deals. Even though the days of trading in person are limited to card shows and close friends, trading is still a vital part of the hobby. Build your trader base and use it often to help each other reach goals. Whatever you do, be a positive force in the community. There have been too many members that have been out for themselves or out to make a quick buck. Be the person that you want to deal with when you make that next trade. You’ll thank yourself for it one day.


Memory Lane – 1991 Fleer Ultra Football

My last visit to “Middle Georgia Sports Cards” store in Warner Robins turned up a few early 90’s gems, in addition to my purchase of a box of 2016 Donruss Football.  I’ll rip that one a little later and post on it.  It was a pretty solid football product in 2016 and is not too easy to find these days so I had to grab it.  Along with the box of ’92 Fleer Ultra Baseball I purchased and previously reviewed, I also picked up a box of ’91 Fleer Ultra Football off of the $5 table.  A few things caught my eye with this one.  First, the pink neon post it note called out to me like a siren in the night.  A full box of any year and set for $5 requires a closer look.  It doesn’t always require a purchase, but certainly a closer look.  When I saw the year and sport, this one required a purchase.  An NES cult classic was also released in 1991.  That NES classic was Tecmo Super Bowl, or Super Tecmo Bowl if you prefer.  Along with card collecting, this game is one of the few things that can still make me feel like I’m 14 years old.  I know all of the players who played in the NFL that year.  I know most of their stats and I certainly know almost all of their attributes on Tecmo.  So the decision to purchase was an immediate yes.I’ll get this out of the way up front.  If you are as big of a Tecmo fan as I am and you spent your teens playing season after season, go find this box on EBay and buy it, so long as it’s reasonable.  Again, I got it at $5.  If you can find it for $10 or less, don’t hesitate.  You aren’t going to get rich but I promise you that the names will trigger quite a few memories for you.  The only name that is surprisingly missing from the set is Bo Jackson.  He did injure his hip in the playoffs of the 1990-91 season so he was not active in 1991 but he was a pro bowler in 1990 and it would have been nice had he been included.  Aside from his absence, all of the other stars from the NFL and the game are included.  There are also many stars on the game that weren’t actually considered stars in the collecting hobby in 1991.  They are there too.The set itself is the first year for Fleer Ultra in Football.  It consisted of a 300 card base set (280 veterans and 20 rookies) and a 10 card All-Star set.  There isn’t much by way of inserts to get excited about.  The All-Stars are not particularly sharp as they use a bland gold color border to mark the set.  The base set design is a complete copy of the baseball set from ’91, from the silver top and bottom border to the thin card stock.  While the card stock differed from what Topps had thrown at collectors for years, it was much like the 1990 Pro Set card that hasn’t been able to stand the test of time.  I believe Score is the first card company to get the card stock right in Football in 1989 but that year was about all they got right.  Of course, Upper Deck later joined the fray and outclassed the field, much like they did in baseball early on.  There was also some fading in various aspects of the Ultra card.  This would be due to the lack of UV coating that would come later in Fleer Ultra’s efforts.  Although, no UV coating means that the cards aren’t sticking together in the packs 26 years later.A box contains 36 packs with 14 cards in each.  I’m not too sure about the collation throughout each box but I did put the entire set together with one box break.  The cards showcase good action shots of the players on the front and three photos on the back, a profile shot and two more action shots.  Photography on NFL Trading Cards has always been on par or better than baseball to me.  Maybe it’s because of the existence of NFL films or the proximity of the photographers to the field versus other sports but I’ve always enjoyed the photography on football cards.  The photography was so good, it really put Ironhead Heyward’s size in perspective when you compared him to a defensive tackle!  Overall, Ultra did a reasonable job on the product and provided the collector with an alternative to Pro Set, Topps and Score.  They could have differentiated the product from baseball in some way but they seem to have used the exact same templates and it was a little boring by the time football season rolled around.The checklist is very strong.  The set includes almost all of the star QB’s of my generation, with two exceptions – Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar.  Kelly and Kosar both only had Pro Set card’s in 1991, which may have been some sort of deal they had with the NFLPA or QB Club or something.  I remember there being an issue with the licensing when Tecmo came out and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two missing from this set are known as QB Bills and QB Browns on Tecmo that season as well.  The third “QB” from the game is included in the set, Randall Cunningham.  Along with Cunningham, you also have access to Montana, Aikman, Elway, Marino, Moon, Simms, Esiason and a back-up named Steve Young.  There are plenty of other names that will be recognized but aren’t considered “Stars” per se, such as Steve DeBerg, Mark Rypien and Jim “Don’t Call Me Chris” Everett. The RB class is also well represented, with the exception of Bo.  The set includes Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas, Herschel Walker, Icky Woods, Marcus Allen, Neal Anderson, Emmitt Smith and “The Nigerian Nightmare”, Christian Okoye.  The WR’s include Andre Reed, Don Beebe, Mark Clayton, Michael Irvin, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe, Art Monk and one of my favorite Falcons of all time, Andre “Bad Moon” Rison.  The defense is well represented as well with LT, Derrick Thomas, Howie Long, Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson, Deion Sanders, Mike Singletary, Reggie White, Charles Haley and Darrell Green.  One notable absence from the defensive checklist is Ronnie Lott.  Also missing is the most underrated Tecmo Bowl linebacker, Percy Snow.  Finally, the rookie checklist is buoyed by Brett Favre and Ricky Watters but is otherwise light.  There are a couple of major busts in the rookie class if you are into that sort of thing.  Todd Marinovich is the most notable.  If you are not a 90’s fan of football, this set may not be for you.  But if you are close to my age, remember Tecmo Super Bowl and remember watching football in the late 80’s and 90’s, I don’t think you can go wrong with a box of ’91 Ultra provided the price is right.  On quality alone, this set would not score very high on the Dub-o-meter but the checklist, price and nostalgic value make up for it and I can safely give it an overall score of 4.  While I also gave ’92 Ultra Baseball a score of 4, it was for entirely different reasons.  ’92 Ultra Baseball was a beautiful card with a slim checklist.  ’91 Ultra Football is a blah card with a fantastic checklist.  I wouldn’t spend more than $12 tracking a box down and I’d probably stick with one box and hope I put the set together with it.  But I’m glad I bought this one.  I spent $5, I put the entire set together and I reminisced of David Fulcher taking a Jim Harbaugh pick back to the house in a Super Bowl when I was 14.  It was fun!

Dub Score – 4

Memory Lane – 1992 Fleer Ultra Baseball

When I go to the card shop or a show, I always keep my eye open for 80’s-90’s boxes that can be purchased at cheap prices.  Most of the boxes in that era fit that description.  And sometimes, there is a chase card that is in the set.  The early 90’s Upper Deck boxes had autographs of various superstars such as Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Reggie Jackson, Joe Montana and others.  The early 90’s Donruss boxes had the Elite Series, one of my favorites.  Fleer Ultra inserted Tony Gwynn autos into series 1 in 1992.  Unfortunately, the most recent box I found was a series 2 box.  It was cheap and I like Fleer Ultra so I figured what the heck.As mentioned in my previous post, When Subsets Were Cool, I really like the All-Star Subset in this Fleer Ultra.  They are really clean and classy looking for an early 90’s card.  It is also full of Hall of Famers (or future Hall of Famers).  So basically, a $10 ticket for a ride down memory lane and the chance to revisit some of my favorite players from the early 90’s was an easy decision.  Series 2 is not as loaded as Series 1 but both series’ are 300 cards per, so a couple of boxes can put the set together without much problem.  As a matter of fact, I am only a handful of cards short of the set with this one box ripped.  I don’t know the normal number of inserts per box but I also pulled six All-Star cards and three All-Rookie Team cards in the box.  And let me say, the All-Rookie team is pretty lame based on the three I pulled.The cards are as nice as I remember them.  They contain very vibrant action photos, except for the card of Dickie Thon that looks like a minor league card.  Ultra cut out most of the border that was on the majority of cards in the early 90’s and used a nice marble look where they did use a bottom border for the name and team.  The back of the card had a nice color action shot as well as a standard headshot of the player.  The knock on the back of the card is that they only included one year in the stats section.  They saved the rest of the space for the Max Headroom look behind the action shots.  As with other premium cards from the era like Stadium Club, some of the cards were stuck together in the pack but came apart with very little effort or damage in the process.The biggest stars available in Series 2 include Dave Winfield, Sammy Sosa, Eric Davis, Orel Hershiser, Larry Walker, Bobby Bonilla, Wade Boggs and of course, my old friend Hubie Brooks.  As for the All-Rookie cards I got, they were Archi Cianfrocco, Chad Curtis and Donovan Osborne.  See, I wasn’t joking.  The All-Star pulls were much better.  I pulled Mark McGwire, Roberto Alomar, Cal Ripken Jr., Wade Boggs, Kirby Puckett and Frank Thomas.  All-Stars indeed!  Also, all American Leaguers, which may or may not be random.  I don’t really know.  And finally, I pulled the gem of the series (if it were still 1992), Pat Listach, 1992 AL Rookie of the Year.  Alas, it isn’t 1992 anymore.  All in all, a decent trip back in time.  I saw some old classics like Dickie Thon and Hector Villanueva.  I pulled several solid All-Stars in a beautiful subset.  I almost put together the entire Series 2 set with one box.  And I did it all for $10.  On a “father of 2” budget, I’d call that money well spent and a nice Friday night at home.  I also picked up a 1991 Fleer Ultra football box for $5 and it will be ripped next.  My senses needed a little break from the scent and texture of the ’91 Topps cards and gum.  I did get another box of those in the mail today so I’m anxious to compare the collation with the previous box I got. I guess the proper thing to do is to create a Dub Rating Scale for when I open these old boxes so maybe it will help you decide whether that $10 is worth it or not.  Of course, none of this is scientific but I think that a standard 1-5, with 5 being the best makes the most sense.  If it’s a 3 or better, I think it can count as a recommendation.  Of course, temper your expectations with a 3 and get your cash out quickly for a 5.  For ’92 Fleer Ultra, I will give it a 4.  If not for the All-Star subset and good aesthetics, it could easily be a 3 because the checklist is a bit weak.  Of course, if this was Series 1, it could also be a 5 so take that for what it’s worth.  Bottom line – I would probably spend another $10 for a box to try and complete the series but I don’t think I’d spend $20.

Dub Score – 4

Ready or Not, 40 is Here!

Well, the day has finally come and gone and I can no longer say that I am “almost” 40. I am that guy now. It has really been a glass half full vs glass half empty past week for me. I don’t physically feel any different today than I did a week ago but I definitely feel different than I did 5 years ago and will likely 5 years from now. But the reality is sinking in that I will never be able to say I am in my 30’s again. I was only a little bummed when I couldn’t say I was in my 20’s anymore because I was excited about being in the 30’s. This one hasn’t quite been the same feeling. I’m trying to remain positive, don’t worry, but it’s not the same. This isn’t a “woe is me” post and I don’t think that life is almost over but there has been some distinct soul searching and mind sorting in my quiet time the last few days.The girls were all in the bed last night by 9 and I retreated to the kitchen table to start sorting 1991 Topps Baseball cards as part of the massive undertaking I have assumed in putting the master set together. You know, the one I wrote about here. Any who, I started up Starset on the Bob Marley speaker I got Alicia for Christmas and I blocked out everything that had gone on previously in the day. I put away the stress from work. I stopped obsessing over money. No more “what’s for supper” or constant why’s from the kids. NO distractions. It was just me, Dustin Bates and Bo Jackson hanging out in the kitchen together, reminiscing about old times.Going back through that 26 year old box of baseball cards has brought back a lot of memories. I remember the age from 14-17 when I would sit on my bed and go through each card in the Beckett magazine to see if I had any big money cards. I’d compare with Josh and Shook or with Corey and Jared to see who got the better haul. Once I got done sorting the cards, I’d pop on Super Tecmo Bowl and knock out a few season matchups. If the weather was nice, I’d check with Brewer to see if we could get a pickup game going in basketball, baseball or football. If it was already dark, I’d turn to my horror movie collection and watch one of the Night of the Living Dead flicks or Silver Bullet. I have long been a horror movie buff even though they scared me to death when I was young. I still remember watching “Lost Boys” at Josh’s house when I wasn’t really supposed to. And if we weren’t already grounded, maybe I could get Coop to come over and try to beat Contra again. Yes, I remember the code to get 30 lives!Then at 17, I matured a little (very little) and started focusing more on female companionship. That’s when I was working at the ole Video Superstore and doing a lot of girl watching. The card collection and the video games tapered off a bit but they never really left completely. I also liked girls before 17 but that wasn’t really my focus then either. So the roles sort of reversed around this time. During this stretch, I started talking to my future bride and soulmate, Alicia. We spent quite a lot of time together playing tennis, watching movies and riding 4-wheelers. And when I wasn’t with her, I spent my time with Munt, Rusty and Jim hanging out at the Parramore Pavilion. We made a lot of awesome memories too and we can still laugh today at some of the shenanigans. As a matter of fact, when Jim wished my Happy Birthday Monday on Facebook, the comments spiraled into old one-liners and we had a good laugh. From 17-20, that was pretty much my life!You won’t believe me when I say this but I did not drink alcohol before I was 21. But you can believe me when I say that I did after 21. By that time, I had started working at the job I am still at today and had a little change in my pocket. Munt was over at Valdosta State then so I would leave my job at 4:15 in Albany and haul over to VSU to spend the evening over there hanging out and chasing more chicks. Alicia and I went on a bit of a break from when I was 20-23. And this wasn’t like a Ross and Rachel break, this was real. Even though I initiated it, I was the first one that wanted to rekindle it a few years later. We still look back and consider it a good thing for our overall relationship to spend some time apart and do our own thing for a while but there were some tough times then. So Munt, Russ, basketball, the Collins Sandbar and Fort Gaines kept me busy. There were other girls then too but they weren’t Alicia.

I can honestly say that one of those “life moments” happened during that time period. Like I said, I had started my job but at that point, that’s all it was. I worked 8-4, got my paycheck and went about my business. I wasn’t thinking it would turn into a career yet because I had tried my hand at several trades but none of them could ever match the excitement that I missed from the video store. I hadn’t found my “Clerks” job yet. But I was doing pretty well at the job I started in 1998 and I slowly started to think that it might be something I could stick with. I was still going over and partying in Valdosta though and focusing on fun! I remember showing up to work a few times and not really being wide eyed and ready for the day. One morning, the big boss called me in her office to talk. She told me that I had a lot of potential and the she had been impressed with what I had done so far. But she then told me that I would never make it at the rate I was going. I couldn’t have a full time job and party my life away at the same time. It just wasn’t possible.

That’s when I had my moment. I went home that day wondering if this was it for me, and if so, I had to pull myself together. Or, I could quit the job, find something that could just help me pay the bills and keep up the raging lifestyle I had created. I chose to pull myself together and try to make this a career. I have her to thank for that moment and much of my career to this day. Of course, I have my parents to thank for most everything I have but this lady will always hold a special place in my heart because she walked me through the early stages of what has turned into a pretty respectable career. Almost 19 years later, I have been promoted through many areas of the company, was chosen as the Employee of the Year in 2005 and was selected as a member of the Top 40 Under 40 in the Southwest Region of Georgia. Well, I guess I’m not technically a member of that club anymore. I wonder if they do a Top 50 Under 50?!?Alicia and I got married in 2001 and I started a new journey with her. We got our own place to live and we both had our own jobs so we could try to pay our own bills. We started out just like the newlywed clichés. We rented a duplex, ate hamburger helper and waited on bonus’ or tax returns to splurge. We spent 6 years together with just us and our animals. The more established we got in our careers, the more we liked to travel and spend time doing the things we loved. We went to the mountains, the beach, nascar races, Georgia games, you name it, and we could just do it at a moments notice. When work was done, we did not have a set schedule and it was fun! I remember getting home from work one Friday and Alicia had our bags packed and said, “We’re going on a trip.” I just got in the car and we started driving. That was our first trip to Helen as a couple. We bought a house a couple years after moving into the duplex and became proud homeowners. That’s when we started thinking about the next step in our lives.In 2007, that next step happened. On April 11, Bailey was born and the world changed once again for me. I think every time I got comfortable with life, something changed and brought a new challenge. Having our first child was definitely a challenge. I went from worrying about just me and Alicia to having to worry about someone that couldn’t even take care of herself. I still remember that first night we came home from the hospital. The couple of nights we spent in the hospital were fine because nurses were right outside the door. But when we got home that first night, it all hit me that it was just us. No nurses or doctors at our disposal to help when I got to panicked or paranoid. The first few nights were sleepless but not because of her getting up off and on. That definitely happened but I didn’t sleep mostly because I was a nervous wreck. She’s 9 now and I still walk in her room at 2:30 am to listen to her breathe and make sure she is ok. I don’t know that I’ve slept a full night since April 11, 2011.My life was changed forever when Bailey was born and she will always be “Daddy’s Girl”. There are days when we want to slam doors in each others face and go to our corners but they are outweighed by the good time. Sometimes I just have to stop and appreciate the bond that we have. We spent 7 years in our house as a family of 3. We doted on Bailey, let her get away with too much and bought her everything she wanted. We took her to Georgia games and made sure she always knew how much we loved her. I am thankful for that one on one time I had with her. But all of that would change yet again in 2014.This change happened in January of that year when Alicia surprised us with her announcement of being pregnant again. Although this one didn’t go as smooth, as previously discussed here, the end result was another beautiful girl, Georgia. Georgia has so far been nothing like Bailey was growing up. Bailey was a handful when we went to eat in public or when she didn’t get her way in a store. She still can be. Not that Georgia is totally devoid of those issues, but we have just recently started to have signs of that problem. Now, she’s 2 and thinks she can do everything on her own and wants to be independent. She’s just as headstrong as Bailey but up until now, she hasn’t been as vocal about it. And while she started out as mommy’s baby, she has taken a turn to daddy’s girl status too. She wants me to do things for her all the time and I definitely see her and Bailey competing for my time on occasion. And then, I find myself competing for Alicia’s time so I guess it’s just part of negotiating family life.So once again, I had gotten pretty used to life the way it was going and then I had to go and turn 40. Now it has me pondering life and where I’m at and how I got here. I’ve taken a wild and twisted journey to be where I sit today. It’s been filled with ups and downs and in between’ s. It makes me wonder if the next 40 (if I’m lucky) will be as eventful and bring as much change or if I’m sort of settling into the rut that is middle aged life. There won’t be any additional kids, at least there shouldn’t be. There better not be! But there may be another house in the future. There will be school for the kids, college, marriage and then maybe grandkids for me. My job hasn’t changed in 18 years so hopefully that can continue to go as planned for another 18. So while some things will remain the same, there are some eventual changes that life is going to provide that I am going to have to be ready for. I don’t yet know what they are, I can just hope and pray that they are good changes and that I can always handle them.

In my teens, I was a pretty good kid but was as unfocused and ill-defined as a person could be. I had no direction and wasn’t really looking for it. Then, in my 20’s, I found some of that direction but still lived an indistinct existence. The 30’s started with the abrupt life change of starting a family with kids but I think I found myself and my voice in my late 30’s. A lot of things I think about from the earlier days make so much more sense to me now. Then some of them make me realize how dumb I was too. Most importantly, I am now able to look back on certain moments in my life and realize what they may have been for. We don’t always understand why things happen or why we make some of the decisions we make. Eventually, it starts to make a little bit of sense. There are probably some things we’ll never understand but the light will come on for many of them and make us cognizant of those little moments that happened along the way.I’m bummed that my 30’s are over but I am going to embrace where I am in life and try to make my 40’s just as meaningful. To do that, I have to hang on to the memories that got me here. I can’t ever forget that first Ken Griffey Jr. I pulled. I can’t ever forget the nights playing Tecmo Bowl with the guys. I can’t ever forget watching “The Crow” at Alicia’s house on our first date. I can’t ever forget what it was like when Alicia and I were apart. I can’t ever forget the desire I had to do well at work after the fateful conversation I had. I can’t ever forget what it was like to only eat hamburger helper for supper. I can’t ever forget the first time I held Bailey and Georgia. And the only way to keep those alive is to talk about them and relive them when I can (except for that being apart from Alicia part.)So that’s what I do now. I play old video games and collect old baseball cards and make old jokes with my high school friends on Facebook and Snapchat. I’m active with my fellow Twitter card collectors. I ride down old streets I haven’t been down in a while. I watch old movies when I have free time. I try to give my girls the same experiences that I had growing up partly because I want to relive them. Life comes at you in strange ways sometimes. I have friends from high school that disappeared and have become friends again. I have acquaintances from high school that have become dear friends. And I have dear friends from high school who I never see anymore. But life has provided me with the people I have needed when I needed them the most and has surrounded me with some of the most special people in the world at the present. And maybe that’s what being 40 should be about to me. I have great memories and great family and great friends. What more could I ask for? Except to be younger?

So this is what Dustin, Bo and I talked about last night in the kitchen. And Dustin said something that hit me hard when I started thinking about memories. This sums up memories perfectly to me. “You come in waves, till you’re all I know. Then you fade away, into nothing. Weighed down by dark matter inside, you leave me frozen. You leave me froze in time… your Everglow.” Our memories come and go but when we they come up, they take us back to a particular moment and they shine on them. We have to hold on to them and never that that Everglow die. If you are in your teens, make those memories. If you are in your 20’s, correct some of the mistakes and make more. If you are in your 30’s, accept the mistakes you made and live your life. If you’re in your 40’s like me, lean on all of the above as you face new challenges. And when life gets too tough, just take yourself back to a particular moment that made you very happy and relaxed. For me, that is at a kitchen table with 1990’s baseball cards.


Mission Impossible: 1991 Topps

I will be honest with you.  It has been quite some time since I’ve given a passing thought to 1991 Topps Baseball.  The set was right in the thick of the card boom and in my mind (at the time), not a very attractive card.  There were premium sets such as Leaf, Stadium Club and Upper Deck that were looming over the hobby and Topps just felt tired to me.  They were trying to spice things up with an Instant Win contest that gave collectors a chance at Vintage Topps Cards but it wasn’t enough for me.  I knew my chances were slim.  I had been striking out all season with Donruss Elite after all.  And after owning the 1990 Topps crazy neon colored set, the cards were just bland.  Except for the “40 Years of Baseball” logo in the top corner of the card, it was more of the same from ’88 and ’89.  At least that’s what I thought at the time but as the old saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20.”

Back in those days, there was also a set of 1991 Topps that made its way overseas to American Soldiers in Iraq, fighting in Desert Storm.  This is a completely different blog post one day but that set didn’t go over quite like Topps thought it might at the time.  But now, the set is one of the most (if not the most) valuable 90’s sets you can get your hands on.  Not only was it produced in smaller numbers than other sets during that time, there were also several soldiers who didn’t collect cards or didn’t care too much about the set.  They would discard them altogether if there was no interest.  This has made the cards even more scarce.  My childhood best friend’s dad was a soldier in the war and I remember him bringing some back home.  Even then, they weren’t of great interest to us because it was ’91 Topps.  Again, that hindsight thing.  But back to the base 1991 Topps Baseball set.  Like I mentioned, I hadn’t thought much about this particular set in quite a while.  Probably since 1991 to be honest.  I have bypassed many packs and boxes over the years, convinced that there was nothing to gain from dropping the money on them.  All of that changed recently, thanks to a Beckett Radio podcast guest, David Wright.  Not the Mets David Wright, but the 1991 Topps David Wright, also known as @longflyball on Twitter.  At any rate, he proceeded to discuss how he had begun a project of trying to put together a master set of ’91 Topps with all of its variations and errors.  As I listened to him explain the set, the errors in the set and the multiple corrections that were attempted over the print run, I found myself thinking about the few ’91 Topps I still had in a shoebox in my closet.  Color me intrigued! 

After hearing the David’s spot on the podcast, I had to start to do a little more research.  This led me to a blog post on Junkwax Gems labeled “Unlisted 1991 Topps Errors.”  I was blown away.  Every card seemed to have some sort of variation.  Whether it was an actual printing error on the card or the wrong player on the wrong card or a different shade of red on the back or even the previously unknown (to me) glow back variation, every card seemed to be affected.  My interest slowly changed to a sense of “there’s no way I could ever do this.”  Where would I start?  How would I ever understand all of the variations?  I decided to start slowly.  Slowly needs to be taken in context though because the base set alone is numbered to 792!  So, I started a spreadsheet with the base cards listed.  Then I added a column for a glow back variation.  Then I went in and added the individual card variations and errors.  Finally, I made a column for the “Bold 40th Logo” variation.  I’ll get into these variations a bit more in a minute.  Let’s keep in mind thought that I am a total novice at this project.  I am flying by the seat of my pants and asking for directions the whole way.  BUT, it’s growing on me and I am currently neck deep in 1991 Topps.  And for the first time in my life, that’s a good thing. Let’s talk about the variations a bit.  This is going to be a 10,000 foot view of those variations too because I still don’t have a good handle on them.  Let’s just say that even the sweepstakes card that is in every single pack has variations…..yeah.  The variations (errors) include different colored borders, airbrush issues, incorrect photos, trademark and registration symbol issues and misspellings, among many other items.  There are a few very valuable variations in the set.  By very valuable, I mean they could approach $100 if given the right circumstances.  The major 3, also the hardest to find, include Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, Doug Drabek and Mark Whitten.  The Boyd card has a few variations but all related to his hand originally covering part of the 40th Anniversary logo.  There is an airbrushed version with a pink flag and then one with a black line at the end of the pink flag.  Drabek is a hot commodity in the set with a black inset border and white inset border card.  And Whitten has his hand over the border in one card and that has the border over his hand in an obvious rework.  There are others like these but these seem to be the most popular. Then, you have the glow backs.  As far as I can tell, these versions can be found for every card except for the sweepstakes cards.  They may even be there but I haven’t run across any.  In true 90’s fashion, these glow backs are exactly how they sound.  They glow under black light and look like the back of a Spencer’s Gifts in the Mall.  Again, by all accounts, there is likely one for every card in the set.  Can you imagine if we had discovered this in 1991?  There wouldn’t have been enough Zima in the world to top that! The final column of my spreadsheet is one for the bold 40th Anniversary backs.  So far, I have not come across any of those.  I am only midway through my first box and a few jumbo packs in but still, none so far.  These are just how they sound as well.  There are cards with backs that have the 40th Anniversary barely visible and then there are some with the logo very bold on the card.  Take a look at the two versions of the Carlton Fisk card.  Pretty easy to spot but don’t appear easy to find so far.  Maybe it’s the box I have.  So far, every card has been a glow back.  I’m guessing that the print runs are important in the boxes.  And that is what we all a bold assumption. Of course, apart from the errors and variations, you have the classic Topps back tidbits, as discussed in my previous post, Remembering Card Backs.  I mentioned the Ken Howell card that stated that he and his wife were building a house in Michigan.  It seems that Mickey Tettleton also “lists Froot Loops among his favorite foods.”  Look at that again.  He lists it among his favorite FOODS.  We’re not talking about his favorite cereal.  This is right up there with steak and shrimp friends.  This is info that you can only find on the back of baseball cards.  The other staple for 1991 was gum!  I am not chewing it but it definitely brings back that familiar smell when you open a pack.  I call it the scent of nostalgia.  I’d wear it as cologne if I could bottle it.  1991 would be the last year they put gum in the packs.  Which meant it was also the last year you could find an authentic “gum stained” back.   I have just begun this journey and the spreadsheet will undoubtedly grow.  I will probably be old and feeble (I’m already 40) before I am ever able to pull this together.  And that is IF I am able to pull this together.  Right now, I am committed.  I think about ’91 Topps in my sleep.  I head to my kitchen table whenever I have free time to rip a few packs.  That will die down a little as time passes, like anything else would.  But, I will remain steadfast in my journey to continue to work on this set.  It may come and go from time to time but I won’t pass up any packs or boxes when I see them at the flea market or a garage sale.  No, there is value to this set for me now.  

Here is the part where I get on my soapbox.  I’m still learning to appreciate the many variations of the meaning of value.  It used to be about the Mike Trout Auto or the Kris Bryant Relic.  But I have learned to glean value from other sources that are more affordable.  Value to me can be described as committing to learn something new about a product and setting a goal to reach.  Several of my twitter friends have their own goals.  They want to obtain a certain number of a particular player or they want a card from each set of a particular player.  No matter the actual goal, the only way for us to reach them is to be a part of this community and help one another.  I will never know enough about the ’91 Topps set on my own so I lean on David Wright and Kin Kinsley and others.  That’s the only way I’ll get there.  But that’s what it’s all about to me now; making those connections and being good stewards to the hobby.

My plan is to periodically update my progress on the set.  Maybe there is info I can pass along to you if you are interested.  Or maybe you can help me and correct some of the misconceptions I may have so far on the set.  Either way, I’m here to help when I can and I appreciate those that are here to do the same in return.  Until that next update comes, happy collecting and keep the hobby alive!


Remembering Card Backs

As a card collector in 2017, I must admit that I don’t look at the back of the cards very often. The only thing I find interesting on a card back these days is a serial number. Some card companies have gone completely away from stats on the back of the card and give you just one line of a career and then some dialogue about the player. Today, the front of the card is where all of the action is. I’m not saying that it is a huge change from the past because the front has always been the focus. That’s where you find autographs, patches, rainbow variations, etc. Many times, the back of an autographed card will only be the authenticity statement regarding the autograph. But if you’ve been in the game at least as long as I have, you know that hasn’t always been the case. The backs of cards used to provide tons of useful information about the player and his abilities. Some cards gave stats alone while others gave a breakdown of those stats and other interesting tidbits. Unless the player’s career was extensive (like this ’88 Topps Dale Murphy), you would usually get a nice tidbit from the back that would give you a glance into their personal lives. These tidbits could be interesting knowledge to gain or they could be some of the most inane comments ever. That is something I miss. Let me set the record straight and say upfront that I am not an expert on card backs. If you are looking for that, check out Baseball Card Backs (@sportcardbacks) on Twitter. They provided me with some of these examples as I was working through this piece and for that I am grateful. Their twitter feed is a really fun follow and will provide much more than the personal favorites that I am going to highlight below. Give them a look and I promise you won’t be disappointed! And send them pics of your favorite card backs and they’ll likely share them with their followers.

 To begin our look at some examples of interesting card backs, we’ll start with some that actually had to do with the game itself. You had many cards that talked about game winning moments or record breaking achievements. But you also had some that gave you a look at some things you might not know by simply looking at a baseball almanac.  For instance, this 1987 Topps Dion James provided a footnote from an early season game at Shea Stadium. I’m guessing the bird was not a big fan but he did get a mention on a baseball card which is something I’ve never gotten. 1987 Topps has a plethora of awesome card backs. The wood grain front has always been iconic in baseball card sets but the card back notations have gone much too far under the radar. I’ll try to fix that with this post.In 1985, we learned from Topps that the first time his father got to see him pitch was in the 1981 AL Playoffs. Because this is just one sentence, I don’t really know how much to read into this. Was Dave’s father not interested until he made the playoffs? Was he unable to attend because of health reasons or travel restrictions? Did Dave not let his dad know he had made it to the big leagues? That’s just not the kind of information you give without a back story.Back to 1987, Topps let us know that Von Hayes played little league ball as a youngster. There are a few things that can be gleaned from this. First, they gave him card number 666. Secondly, Von didn’t hone his skills at the major league level. He actually got his start at baseball at an early age. I know it may be earth shattering, but I’m guessing a vast majority of major leaguers played little league ball. Finally, how boring was Von’s career that this was his baseball card “tidbit”. Did he not have a big hit in May that could be discussed? He did tie for the league lead in runs scored in ’86 after all. I guess this is the best they could do for ole Von Hayes. Fortunately, for us collectors, he would not be alone.Take Jim Gott in 1985. Topps listed his hobbies as including Hapikido Karate. First, I think it’s actually spelled Hapkido, but I digress. He also enjoyed the ballet and opera. The man was quite refined. His wife’s name was Clenice as well but I don’t really know what that had to do with the other information. The info on the back gave me the vision in my head that Ernie Whitt might come up to Jim Gott in the clubhouse one day and rag him about going to the opera. Then Gott would respond with his Hapikido Roundhouse, knocking Whitt into Rance Mulliniks locker. I’ve always had a vivid imagination.Not to be outdone by Mr. Gott, Moose Haas’ card in 1987 indicated that he was a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. They would have been a solid match for each other except for the fact that Gott was 30 lbs heavier than Haas, despite the nickname Moose. But while Gott was going to the opera and ballet, Moose was refining his skills as a magician and a certified locksmith. It’s no wonder that Moose had a career sub 4 ERA. A pitcher with slight of hand skills is a plus.Tim Wallach was a fairly normal dude it seems. In 1986, he hit .233, belted 18 bombs and had 71 RBI for the Expos. But in his off time, he enjoyed racquetball and golf. That could explain the .233 average though. My high school coach always steered us away from golf when we were trying to be baseball players. The swings don’t really go well together. I can only imagine that a racquetball swing doesn’t correlate either.Meanwhile, in 1985, Rickey Henderson had hobbies of swimming and fishing. See, he had a .293 average and swiped 100+ bases on the regular. I can see how these hobbies would not interfere too much with his profession.Also in 1985, Len Barker was married to Bonnie Lynn Elwell and had two children. They sat around eating wild game. Thanks for the info.And in 1991, Ken Howell and his wife were building a home in Michigan. I guess that’s the pertinent information available for a pitcher who has a career 38-48 record.  Maybe Tim Burke could come over to Len’s house and have some wild game or go visit Ken and the Mrs. at their new house when he’s not going nuts with the enjoyment he gets from reading.Whatever Burke decides to do, he needs to stay away from Jeff Innis and his tin foil hat. His quote on the back of his ’94 Topps should make batters think twice about stepping in to face him.  

 Another thing card backs provided was an insight to secondary jobs some of the players had. The youngsters in collecting today may not know that baseball didn’t pay a .250 hitting utility infielder a couple million to play back in the 80’s and before. But thankfully, we can look no further than some vintage card backs to remember the good ole days.Way back in 1970, John Edward Briggs was a .250 hitter for the Phillies. None of his stats really jump off the card at you but it does indicate that he was an average ball player. To supplement that income, it appears that “Johnny” was also an automobile salesman in the off-season. Curveballs during the summer and Family Trucksters during the winter.In 1987, I learned how to pronounce Jaime thanks to Topps. It’s “HI-me”, which was Spanish for Jim. I always thought it was Spanish for James and Jim was short for James. Regardless, Jaime also worked as an accountant in the offseason. Again, the 16-25 record probably didn’t pay all that much back then. He did make enough money to enjoy some deep sea fishing though.Bob Kearney was a substitute teacher in 1985. I even looked up the front of a card of Mr. Kearney and, yep, that’s a substitute teacher from 1985 if I’ve ever seen one!

 Maybe the best side gig, thanks again to @sportcardbacks, was that of Lance Parrish. Now Parrish was a solid ball player in his day. He clubbed 324 home runs and 1,070 RBI over his career. And according to Topps in 1981, he hit 2 dingers in one game in July, 1979. But the best part of the card back was the mention that he once served as a body guard for Tina Turner. He must not have been a big fan of Ike. So not only did Lance get to spend 19 years in the big leagues and make 8 trips to the all-star game. He was Tina Turner’s “Kevin Costner” for a time.One card back style I can only imagine has caused heartburn for current collectors were those from the late 50’s like this 1958 Jim “Jimmy” Brown rookie card. I know this is football but I found some baseball cards with the same style. The Jim Brown just drives my point home. These cards had a trivia question on the back and you then would take a coin to rub a blank space for the answer. How many mint versions do you think exist of these at this point? Unfortunately, I don’t have any version but I can imagine being a little disappointed if I had run across the version that had been beaten up by a nickel. Happy, but still a little disappointed.Finally, sometimes the card backs just baffle you. The 1993 Score Select Matt Stairs is an example. First, I was never a fan of Score Select. I didn’t like the design and they didn’t give me any hope when looking them up in the Beckett Monthly. But the back of Stairs card had a comment from his minor league manager stating that Matt was “a great natural hitter, a God-given talent.” Now, that’s a bold statement. It’s especially bold when you look a couple inches below that to find that he hit a paltry .187 in his first 30 at bats. Now, Stairs would go on to have a very productive career as a hitter with a .262 average and 265 home runs. But in 1993, I was scratching my head at this one.

So while card companies have innovated and changed with the times to stay relevant and hot, I believe they have gotten away from some of the fun the back of the cards have to offer. Now it’s all about stats, WAR, OPS, etc. I need more than that. I need to know who got their start at Waffle House. I need to know who is building a home in Montana. For goodness sake, there has to be a player in the majors now that is a magician and locksmith. Times have changed, I know. But I long for the good ole days! Again, thanks to Baseball Card Backs (@sportcardbacks) on Twitter for the assist on this one. This is what collecting cards is to me. Sharing information, enjoying the high points of common cards and remembering what our youth was like. Thanks for keeping the hobby alive and remembering it for what it is!


Every Card Has A Story

Collecting sports cards is about more than buying, selling, flipping and trying to make a profit.  If that’s all you are focused on, you are doing it wrong and you are going to burn out pretty quickly.  Is it possibly to buy a $3.00 pack of 2017 Topps, pull a Kris Bryant and make a quick hundo?  Sure, it’s possible.  Is it likely?  Nah.  If it were likely, the card wouldn’t be so valuable.  You have collectors who focus on certain teams, certain sets, certain players and even certain poses.  I know a guy who was collecting all cards that depicted a player signing an autograph on the card.  Sports cards bring so many options to the table.  You can be as niche as you want to be.  My favorite PC (Personal Collection) cards have meaning to me and hold a special place in my memory.  A lot of PC’s have that characteristic.  The cards may look like just common base cards or retro junk wax to many.  But to the collector, it’s more than just a piece of cardboard.  When it relates to a PC, every card tells a story.1982 Topps Danny Ainge – I have always been a multi sport collector.  I would buy whatever packs were available in my local grocery store.  I watched all sports and played them all on Nintendo and Super Nintendo.  I knew all the players and their stats from video games and television.  I have still never figured out who AW Second was on RBI 3 but he was really fast.  As I’ve also shared before, I really hit the ground running in 1989.  Any cards I have from before them were pick-ups from the local card shop (LCS) or in trades with friends.  As a multi-sport guy and loyal Larry Bird fan, imagine my surprise when I came across this gem at my LCS.  By 1989, Danny Ainge had won two championships and was a recent all-star… the NBA.  So, what was this card of him in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform?  I had to do some research because I was only 13 but lo and behold, Ainge was a former baseball player.  I knew Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan were multi sport guys.  I had even heard stories about Dave Winfield but I had no clue about Danny Ainge.  I would go on to learn that he made his MLB debut 2 years before he hit the NBA.  He would put up some Dwight Smith like numbers though with a career .220 average and 2 home runs.  Nevertheless, he played parts of 3 seasons in the major leagues.  This stuck with me.  As has this 1982 Topps card.1982/1983 Donruss Hubie Brooks – Every baseball card collector from the 80’s recognizes the name Hubie Brooks.  He had a solid 15 year career with 2 all-star games and 2 silver slugger awards to his name.  He was the third overall draft pick for the New York Mets in 1978 and put together very serviceable numbers while in the league.  However, his cards were never anything more than commons left for the shoe box.  But to me, there was a deeper connection with Hubie.  One of my best friends growing up, Munt (nickname), collected here and there during the 80’s but had not really taken up the hobby quite like me.  We did find an old box of cards in his closet one afternoon and decided to go through it.  He had a solid collection of cards but if he had 2,000 total, he had to have 500 Hubie Brooks.  As we were going through stacks, it seemed like every 3rd or 4th card was ole Hubert.  There was no rhyme or reason because he wasn’t a player either of us particularly followed.  He just happened to be mass inserted in packs over the years.  Even now, as I approach 40, when I stumble across a Hubie Brooks card in a shop or online, I’ll snap a picture and send it to him and we’ll share a laugh.  And of course, I have a few stashed away in my PC because I want to stumble across them when I’m 80 and have that same chuckle.1983 Donruss Julio Franco – Julio Franco is a popular name with baseball collectors from my era for different reasons than Hubie.  Julio had a very good career.  He played longer than any baseball player I can think of as he made his major league debut in 1982 and wrapped up his career in 2007 with the Atlanta Braves.  25 solid years of baseball!  He spent the occasional season in the Pacific League or Korea but he started and finished in the majors.  I don’t even know he is finished.  He could be a designated hitter in some obscure league now for all I know.  He was a career .298 hitter (so close to .300), hit 173 home runs and amassed 1,194 RBI.  He was also a 3x all-star, 5x silver slugger winner, the 1990 MLB All-Star Game MVP and the batting champ in 1991 with a .341 average.  He spent 2001-2005 with my Braves and became a fan favorite for his work effort and age defying play.  He went to the Mets in 2006 but came back to the Braves in 2007 to wrap up his career.  That summer, I was in the middle of my own softball career that was probably similar to the Pacific League of softball.  Julio had been injured and was rehabbing in Rome, GA.  After a Saturday tournament in Macon, my wife and I decided to head up to Rome for a Sunday game to try and catch Julio up close.  I also took this card to try and get it autographed.  It was a beautiful day for a game and we got to see Julio before the game but he told the fans that we would be signing after the game and wanted to warm up before.  We saw him get a few at bats and he was pulled in the 6th inning.  As the game came to a close, the news started circulating that a car had picked up Julio from the clubhouse during the 7th inning and he was gone.  We had been had.  I never held it against him personally because I understand the business and the demands on the athlete.  It was disappointing nonetheless.  I still keep the card in my PC to remind me that we don’t always get that personal contact and autograph so we have to enjoy it when we do, regardless of what player it is.1989 Donruss Ron Gant – It’s been well established that 1989 Donruss is my favorite set.  Well, Ron Gant is also my favorite Brave of all-time.  I wear #5 to this day because that was his number.  Ron Gant was my guy.  I have every card made of Ron Gant except for the obscure random inserts as far as I can tell.  My favorites have always been the 88 Score rookie and his 89 Donruss.  I think Ron was a very underrated player during his career.  He was a 30/30 club member in 1990 and 1991 with 30+ home runs and 30+ stolen bases and was a 2x all-star and silver slugger winner.  He hit 321 home runs over the course of his career, which is not too shabby.  He also won National League Comeback Player of the Year in 90 with 32 home runs, 84 RBI and 33 stolen bases.  One of the more memorable plays of Gant’s career came in the 1991 World Series.  In game 2 versus the Minnesota Twins, Kevin Tapani attempted a pick off of Gant on 1st base and as he went back to first, Jackwad Kent Hrbek pulled his leg off of the base as he was tagging him and he was called out.  He had a horrible motorcycle accident in 1994 and his time would unfortunately come to an end for him.  They gave up on him to soon as he would also win the NL Comeback Player of the Year in 1995 and go to the All Star Game.  I checked off a bucket list item in 2012, I got to check an item off of my bucket list when I met him at a Braves game and had him autograph a card for me.  I saw him on one of the TV’s doing some pregame work for FoxSports and we went to the set and they were wrapping up.  He was more than happy to sign and pose for a picture.  In my excitement, I totally forgot to ask him if Hrbek really pulled him off the base.  I wanted to hear it straight from him but my giddiness overtook me.1989 Topps Steve Avery –  Another Braves player and another from the year I started collecting.  One aspect of Topps I liked was the Draft Pick cards because they showcased players in their amateur uniforms.  And apparently, they come in a few color variations as seen in the picture above (haha).  Sometimes it was college but in the case of Steve Avery, it was his high school uniform.  As a 12 year old, nothing was more exciting than imagining having my own baseball card when I was in high school.  I would later find out that you couldn’t get your own baseball card in high school with a 68 mile an hour fastball and a middling curve.  Bummer.  But back to Avery.  He was a highly touted young gun for the Braves as he would make his debut in 1990, just 2 years after graduating from High School.  He didn’t really disappoint with the Braves too much either but was always overshadowed by John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.  That’s not really a knock but was just the hand he was dealt.  While with the Braves from 1990-1996, he would be the NLCS MVP in ’91, an All-Star in ’93, and ultimately a World Series Champion in ’95.  As for his NLCS MVP, he absolutely dominated the Pirates in the ’91 postseason.  He started 2 games against the Pirates in the ’91 playoffs and pitched 16 2/3 scoreless innings, picking up two 1-0 decisions.  He also pitched very well in the most famous game in Braves history, the ’92 NLCS Game 7.  He threw some relief innings in that nail biter.  He had some down moments as well in the postseason like getting shelled by the Pirates in Game 2 of the ’92 NLCS and was never able to get a win in either the ’91 or ’92 World Series.  He had arm problems late in 1993 that derailed his career for the most part as his pre and post injury records would indicate.  But overall, his time with the Braves is looked upon fondly.1990 Donruss Francisco Cabrera – Another early 90’s Brave worth mentioning.  I would guess that no one outside of Braves Country has a single Cabrera in their PC.  There may be a small percentage of Braves fans even.  But he will always have a spot in my PC because of two at bats.  One was magical.  Cabrera was a backup catcher and first baseman for the Braves from 1989 to 1993.  He had a very small stint with the Toronto Blue Jays but played 99% of his 5 year career with the Braves.  And his career was 99% uneventful.  He finished his career with a .254 average, 17 home runs and 62 RBI.  In 1991, with the Braves trailing the Dodgers by 2.5 games of the LA Dodgers, Frankie hit a 3 run bomb in the 9th inning off of Rob Dibble to tie a game and eventually lead to a win that sparked a 29-12 finish for the Braves who would win the division by 1 game.  This capped the Worst to First season, bouncing back from a 65-97, 6th place finish in 1990.  In 1991, the stakes were even higher.  After blowing a 3-1 series lead, the Braves found themselves in a must win Game 7 home game in the NLCS vs the Pirates.  The Braves trailed the Pirates 3-0 in the bottom of the 9th inning and all hope seemed lost.  Terry Pendleton led off the inning with a double and David Justice reached on an error by Jose Lind, Gold Glove winner at 2nd in 1992.  Sid Bream was then walked to load the bases.  Ron Gant then came up and hit a sacrifice fly that scored Pendleton to make the game 3-1.  Damon Berryhill followed it up with a walk and once again loaded the bases.  After a Brian Hunter pop out, the Braves had bases loaded with 2 outs and the season on the line.  With the pitchers spot due up, Bobby Cox turned to Francisco Cabrera.  It was a necessary move but not one that gave Brave’s fans a lot of comfort.  Cabrera had a total of 10 at bats that season and he hit .167 in ’89, .214 in ’90 and .277 in ’92.  Nervous is an understatement.  But with a 2-0 count, he came through with a laser over the shortstop’s head that scored Justice and EVENTUALLY Sid Bream and the Braves would win.  Unbelievable is also an understatement.  His card is in my PC because of 2 hits in his career.1990 Donruss Diamond Kings Ken Griffey Jr. – This was is pretty simple.  I loved Ken Griffey Gr. and I did a lot of trading at school.  At 13, kids were also mean to each other sometimes.  There were ongoing feuds among boys all the time for one reason or another.  I can’t remember what sparked this particular one but I remember the outcome.  I had this ’90 Donruss in my book bag one morning at school and one of the gentlemen I was currently feuding with waiting until I went to get my breakfast tray.  He went into my book bad and ripped the ’90 Donruss in half.  At the time, it was a $2 dollar card, which was pretty good for a youngster.  I can still remember finding that damaged card and seething.  I learned some valuable lessons that day.  I later replaced the card and is one of the only sub $1.00 cards I keep in a top loader these days.  I’m not damaging this one!1990 Kmart Superstars Jose Canseco – In the early days of my collecting, I bought everything.  Toys R Us, Purina, Jimmy Dean, Kmart, Revco, you name it, I would put it in my collection.  I had envisioned that these would one day hold more value because they were “limited”.  These could be the 90’s version of the T-Cards!  Wow was I wrong.  But I held on to most of them because they are so different than the cards that were offered at every convenience store in the country.  This one was one of my favorites because in 1989, I dressed up as Jose Canseco for a presentation in my English class.  We had to pick someone that we admired and write about them and present as them.  Looking back on it now, I could have picked someone better to admire in those days.1992 Classic Best John Lynch – This was another set that I had to have at the time.  I bought a ton of this at Wal Mart.  For one, there was that extremely long shot chance of pulling a Mike Schmidt autograph.  Chipper Jones was also in the set.  I had the idea that if a rookie card was good then a minor league card would be even better.  Again, my speculation was off base.  I kept several of these cards though for many years.  Later in the 90’s, I rifled through them to see what players hit or missed and I stumbled across this John Lynch.  By that time he had been to a Pro-Bowl and was on his way to a Super Bowl in what would become a great NFL career.  He was selected to the Pro-Bowl 9 times, won a Super Bowl and was a 3 time All Pro.  He is in the Ring of Honor for both Tampa Bay and Denver.  I think he chose the right career path because his 2 year stint in the minors produced a 1-3 record.  But in this card, he even looks like a football player.  He would not have been someone I would charge if he beaned me.  Another unique part of the card is that it’s showing him doing what looks to be some infield work as a hitter.  Much like Danny Ainge, I hung on to this because it showcased him in a sport that he eventually left to star in another.1992 Pro Line Brian Jordan – The final card on the list is one of yet another two sport athlete.  But this guy fell somewhere between Bo Jackson and Danny Ainge.  He was more like Deion Sanders in that he played both sports at the same time and later played them for both of my Atlanta Teams, the Braves and Falcons.  Unlike Deion, he didn’t do it at the major league and NFL level at the same time and he never won a championship.  But he was a great athlete and performed well in both sports.  And this card showcased him in his Falcons jersey on a football card holding a bat in a baseball stadium.  Classic crossover.  He was drafted in 1988 by the St. Louis Cardinals and in 1989 by the Buffalo Bills.  For the Falcons, he was a hard hitting safety that led the team in tackles while playing minor league ball for the Cardinals.  He would eventually give up football to dedicate his time exclusively to Baseball.  He had a very serviceable 15 year career in baseball and made the all star game in 1999.  He continues to work in Braves broadcasting and is a well liked figure in Atlanta sports.

We all have our own PC guidelines and to each their own.  I will never judge someone on what they like to collect because we all have our reasons.  For some, it’s Francisco Cabrera.  For others, it’s actually a player we’ve all heard of.  Whoever it is, just keep collecting!


When Subsets Were Cool!

There are many differences between collecting baseball cards today and collecting before the mid 1990’s.  For one, as a kid, it was more about the thrill of getting a picture of your favorite player on a piece of cardboard.  Now, it’s easy to get lost in all of the subsets, inserts, numbered variations, autographs, relics, patches and rainbow variations.  The list is much longer than that but we don’t have the time or space to list them all.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun and your chances of pulling something valuable is much greater.  Of course, you are going to spend more money too in search of that value.  The chase for those inserted gems has taken away from the base cards and basic subsets that are still a big part of the baseball card set.

In my opinion, to get to the essence of collecting, you have to go back to when times were simpler.  While you had virtually zero odds of pulling an autographed card, except in some select sets (still astronomically low numbers) and there was no such thing as a relic or patch card, there were some really cool subset cards that could excite you as a collector.  In 1991, Donruss changed the game with the non-autographed insert card that was sequentially numbered with the Elite Series.  I saw one pulled when I was a kid and I nabbed one as an adult.  But before all of that, there was the basic subset that was different from the base card and it consisted of the best players in the game.  So let’s take a trip back to a time before numbered cards and autographs and take a look at some of the coolest subset cards that made opening those older packs fun.1989 Donruss MVP – I’ve said this before but it bears repeating.  1989 Donruss is my favorite set of all time.  The timing of my entry into the hobby, combined with the colorful set and its availability locally made it my go to for years.  I still will pick up a box when I see it in a shop just to see if I can add another Griffey or Sheffield rookie to my collection.  Another thing that Donruss did well was the MVP subset in 1989.  It continued with the colorful theme of the set and provided a close up shot of the best player from all 26 teams in Major League Baseball.  That’s right young bucks; there were only 26 teams in the majors in 1989.  The subset featured such legends as Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.  The design was a very nice deviation from the 1988 MVP inserts.  Truly a classic subset for a classic card set!Donruss Diamond Kings/Gallery of Stars – These cards sort of bleed together as they are very similar.  Donruss produced the Diamond Kings for the base Donruss set and the Gallery of Stars for the Triple Play edition.  I never really liked Triple Play but I did enjoy the Gallery of Stars inserts.  These two subsets were colorful artist’s renditions of popular players of the era.  Some of my favorites were Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, David Justice, Bo Jackson and Fred McGriff.  Let’s be honest, I liked most of them except for the occasional Willie Randolph or Ed Whitson.  When I am done with my massive 1991 Topps quest, I think I might try to put the entire Diamond King set together.  When I say put it together, I mean through boxes and packs.  Buying the set as a whole is for people who take shortcuts.1989 Topps All Stars – There wasn’t much that got me excited for Topps in the late 80’s.  As I have shared before, Topps has just never really done it for me outside of 1990.  But one thing I did like about Topps in both ’88 and ’89 was the All Star subsets.  Again, I was a sucker for colorful and these cards were just that.  They had a solid color background and the classic Topps ’88 and ’89 script that said All Star at the top.  It should go without saying but this subset included the previous year’s all-star selections.  Colorful cards depicting All-Star players are always winners in my book.Topps Future Stars – While Topps began using the Future Star subset in 1980, the design used in 1987 and 1988 are iconic.  Bo Jackson helped that become a sought after insert in ’87.  Recent Topps products have brought back the swooshing rainbow star logo and it has been a welcome return.  Topps altered it over the years and even moved away from it during a period of time but this particular logo is the one that I was crazy for.  Never mind that Topps swung and missed on their “Future Stars” more than Rob Deer did curveballs.  Card companies have never been excellent prognosticators.  Just ask the Donruss Rated Rookie department.  The design is what I liked and they hit it out of the park with Jackson.  That remains one of my favorite cards to this day.  The interesting tidbit about the card featured here is that it’s not really Al Leiter.  This was the error version that showed someone who looked eerily similar to Leiter.  It was actually a minor league pitcher named Steve George.1991 Score All-Star – I am about to go on a streak with 1991 Score.  The fact is that they had several sweet subsets in 1991.  Some of them were repeated from ’90 and some were replicated in the years to follow but ’91 is where it’s at for me.  We’ll start with the All-Star subset.  These were cartoon looking drawings with big heads but were very well done and showed the subject player in some action shot that either showed their defensive prowess or power.  There isn’t much to add verbally to this subset as I’ve exhausted the definition of an all-star subset so I’ll let the photo of Barry Larkin do the rest of the explaining for this one.1991 Score Dream Team – This is probably my favorite subset of all time.  This was a very clean and classy photo and design of black and white photos with only “Dream Team” and the players name in color.  While this was my favorite subset, I must admit that the particular cards of Kirby Puckett and Jose Canseco shirtless made me uncomfortable to say the least.  And I won’t even discuss the Rickey Henderson in only sliding shorts card.  Frank Viola went safe with the turtleneck and Will Clark even wore a suit.  Football did a Dream Team subset as well but it didn’t have that same classy feel to me and I collected football as much as baseball.  Though not a big name, the Doug Jones card was really cool with him holding a baseball that was aflame.  This was a great subset!1991 Score “The Franchise” – Another classy looking subset in ’91 Score.  This utilized a black and white picture as well but provided a color background that made the card design pop.  The subset featured 20 franchise players so you were all but guaranteed to pull a star in this subset, with the exception of Todd Zeile.  Nothing against Zeile but he didn’t really belong in a subset with Cal, Clemens, Brett, Yount, Henderson and Sandberg.  Score may have pumped out 893 cards that year but this 20 card subset was a gem.1991 Score K-Man/Rifleman/Master Blasters – This 30 card subset featured three types of specialists.  The K-Man was for the strikeout masters like Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and Doc Gooden.  The Rifleman included the guys with big arms like Sandy Alomar Jr., Bo Jackson and Eric Davis.  The Master Blasters was reserved for the big bats like Jose Canseco, Darryl Strawberry and Cecil Fielder.  Bo Jackson was the only player to get recognized as both a Rifleman and Master Blaster.  The K-Man featured blue laser beams while the Rifleman was green and Master Blaster was red.  They had a real 1991 feel and were always a welcome sight when I was ripping through a pack.  With an 893 card set, there were a lot of Scott Sanderson’s, Kevin Tapani’s and Shawn Boskie’s to be had.  Give me one of the subsets any day.1991 and ‘92 Fleer Pro Vision – In 1991, Fleer introduced the Pro-Vision set, a collection of artist renderings that included 9 players.  The players were all superstars and included Jose Canseco with lighting coming out of his bat, Will Clark shattering a bat, Kirby Puckett just smiling, Doc Gooden throwing a fireball, Bo Jackson with a terminator like arm, Roger Clemens holding a comet, Don Mattingly standing in front of a pin striped background, Mark McGwire posing in front of the American Flag and Eric Davis in space.  The 1992 edition was a smaller subset that featured only 6 players.  The checklist included Robin Yount, Ken Griffey Jr., Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken Jr., Frank Thomas and David Justice in similar designs as ‘91.  While these were artist renderings, unlike the All-Star subset, they weren’t very cartoony and disproportionately sized players.  These were cool drawings that showed the players as superhuman athletes.  They continue the Pro-Vision subset for a few years but really went off the rails by 1994.  The basketball and football had similar subsets that were just as good.1992 Fleer Ultra All-Stars – This subset of All-Star players was a very good looking set.  Fleer Ultra brought a new level of baseball card in 1992, much like Upper Deck in ’89 and Stadium Club in ’91.  The All-Star cards had a black marble look with a clean action photo of the subject player.  While Ultra had gone away from card borders, the All-Star subset provided something unique with the marble border.  These were the first cards that I held in my hand and thought, “I’d better take care of this because this is a NICE card.”  They had a high society feel to them that still hold up today.  Fleer Ultra was a very good set in the early days and the All-Star subset was icing on the cake.

The next time you are opening a pack of 2016 baseball cards and you have to start searching the card for some unique marking or discoloration that makes it unique or rare, think about when subsets were clear and distinct deviations from the base set.  These subsets are not as valuable as the 1 of 1 you might pull now but they should hold some relative value to you depending on when you started collecting and the players you sought out.  I enjoyed each of these subsets and they are part of what made collecting a lifelong hobby for me.  No matter how advanced we get with technology and innovations in the card industry, we have to remember and revisit what brought us to the hobby to begin with.  What subsets have you really enjoyed over the years?  I’m sure I’ve missed some really good ones but these are some that I still hold in my “old” boxes.


Prospects of Yesteryear

After receiving positive feedback on my last “Junk Wax” effort, I thought I would revisit the era and take a look at another group of cards.  As a card collector, I have always been intrigued by the rookie card.  Most collectors are but I have always found it interesting that a player, who has, in some cases, never taken a step on the big league field, could be more valuable on the card market than an established veteran.  Perhaps it’s the scarcity in the cards available of the rookie but it’s never really made sense to me.  It’s speculation at its best.  And as the cycle goes, those values generally come down and stabilize over time unless the player is Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Ken Griffey Jr. or someone of that magnitude.  Everybody wants the hot rookie but the market almost always cools.  And in many cases, the players themselves cool significantly.  Established veterans have a proven track record and are reliable.  But reliable isn’t always sought after.

Let’s take Cal Ripken, Jr. for example.  With Cal, in the late 90’s, you knew what you were getting.  He was a gold glove short stop/third baseman that played everyday, hit for average and power, won silver slugger awards and was a perennial all star.  His 1989 Donruss could be had for about $1.00.  Meanwhile, Pete Harnisch and Tom Gordon were booking higher in 1989.  It was more profitable to own the cards below than to own a Mark McGwire or Jose Canseco in 1989.  There are many collectors who focus only on the reliable and they buy the rookie cards when the players (and the prices) have stabilized.  But the chase is getting that Mike Trout rookie card before the price blows up.  Unfortunately, there are 100 Tyler Pastornicky’s that don’t pan out that you can invest in during a rookie season as well.  Believe me, I know the difference in the two players and the various hype attached when they hit the scene but I’m using examples here.

So with that said, I decided to go back and look at several of the cards in the prime years of 1989-1991 that I just had to have in my collection.  I remember opening packs and hoping on hope that one of these would be pulled.  Remember too that for a 12-13 year old, value is defined as $3-$10 and this was before the introduction of the autograph and relic cards that carry the most value now.  There were no 1 of 1’s available in packs then either that I recall.  The inserts were All Star Cards and Diamond Kings.  The base rookie carried the weight in most cases during this time.  We would get introduced to autographs and Elite inserts that carried $100 value in the early 90’s but I’m reserving this column to pre-$100 cards, which would exclude vintage as well.  Again, the list is in year and set order and is not a reflection on the heat the player was getting at the time.

1989 Bowman Jerome Walton – A Georgia native (Newnan), Walton was one of the ’89 Bowman that I had to have that wasn’t named Ken Griffey Jr.  I really liked the 1989 Bowman set at the time although it turned out to be a nightmare to keep in mint condition thanks to the oversized cards.  Bowman had been out of the game since 1956 and the resurrection in 1989 brought a “new” player into the game to compete with Topps, Donruss, Fleer and Upper Deck (also a newcomer in 1989).  Bowman was a throwback set that harkened back to the old days with facsimile signatures and retro card backs.  The ’89 set has not held up but I still have fond memories.  Jerome Walton was a center fielder for the Chicago Cubs that made his debut in April of ’89.  He won Rookie of the Year that year by batting .293 with 24 stolen bases.  I had to have his cards and this one was my favorite.  He was destined to be a sweet investment.  He would never repeat the numbers of that rookie season and lasted 10 years on the majors.  He finished with a career .269 average, 25 career homeruns and 132 RBI.  That is one season to some superstars.  And Jerome never became one after that stellar start.  The investment was a bust but as you will see from this list, it was far from the only one.1989 Topps Future Stars Gregg Jefferies – Jefferies went on to have much better career than Walton, even though the bar had been set low.  He made his debut in 1987 with the Mets and while he had other ’88 rookie cards, the one I remember wanting a piece of was the ’89 Topps Future Stars card.  I have had an affinity for the Future Stars subset since the Bo Jackson card in 1987.  The card was colorful and just screamed “Big Potential”.  I mean, it was a FUTURE STAR after all so the name kind of speaks for itself.  As much as I treasured the card, Jefferies would go on to have a good but not “star power” career over 14 years.  He was voted in to the all-star game in 1993 and 1994 but that is the extent of his career highlights.  He finished that career with a .289 batting average (not bad at all), 126 home runs and 663 RBI.  Again, his career was good but not spectacular – much like my feelings on Topps over the years.  I know they are the grandfather of cards and I am in the minority but I have never been real excited for the set, aside from the sweet 1990 set I got for Christmas when I was 13.  But, I remain a fan of the Future Stars.1989 Score Dwight Smith – I was a fan of 1989 Score at the time, even though it didn’t include the aforementioned Ken Griffey Jr.  1989 was the sophomore season for Score and I had easy access through my local Wal-Mart.  I also liked the packaging of the cards because it had gotten away from cello packs or wax packs.  It turns out that it was not a very good set in the long run at all.  Again, most ’89 sets are important to me because that was the year I started collecting.  Don’t judge.  Dwight Smith was another rookie outfielder for the Chicago Cubs and he would only be bested in the rookie of the year voting that year by his teammate Jerome Walton.  He hit a smoking .324 as a rookie but that would stand as a career best.  He played only 8 full seasons but had a tad more pop than his teammate Jerome Walton.  He would finish his career with a .275 career average, 46 home runs and 226 RBI.  Not exactly a hall of fame career.  He did experience one highlight that Walton did not and did so with my home team Atlanta Braves.  He joined the Braves in 1995 and has a World Series ring to show for it.  Another interesting tidbit is that he is the only rookie in MLB history to sing the National Anthem prior to a game in which he would play.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t make his ’89 Score worth more than about .15 cents.1989 Score Ramon Martinez – Another ’89 Score on the list is the rookie card of Ramon Martinez.  Martinez actually had a very serviceable career and the low value of his cards has more to do with the ’89 card sets than his performance.  He pitched mostly for the LA Dodgers (10 years out of 13 years) and finished with a very good 135-88 career, 3.67 ERA and 1,427 strikeouts.  He was also an all-star in 1990 as a part of a 20 win campaign.  He would finish second in wins that year and second in the Cy Young voting.  He also threw a no-hitter in 1995.  He suffered a torn rotator cuff in 1998 after 10 seasons with the Dodgers and never was able to completely come back.  He also wasn’t even able to become the best pitching Martinez in his immediate family as that honor would go to Pedro, his younger brother.  I had a ton of Ramon and not enough Pedro because my collecting had tapered off when he hit it big.

1989 Upper Deck Jerald Clark – 1989 Upper Deck was the flagship set for the brand and came out with a bang.  It introduced all sorts of bells and whistles like “tamper proof” packaging and holograms for authenticity.  Of course, those die hard shysters figured out the collation of the boxes and many 1989 Upper Deck boxes are floating around with the Ken Griffey Jr. packs missing.  But in 1989, there was Griffey and then there was everyone else.  One of the “everyone else’s” was Jerald Clark, a rookie for the San Diego Padres.  I remember I was one of the few in my circle that thought highly enough of Jerald to trade for him.  To be honest, I don’t even know why.  I just remember wanting his cards because I thought I knew something no one else did.  I guess everyone else knew that he would play 6 seasons and finish his career with a paltry .257 average, 44 home runs and 208 RBI.  I guess you could say that the numbers are better than a certain Rookie of the Year in Chicago.1990 Donruss Ben McDonald – I am a little peeved that I even had to bring 1990 Donruss into this blog but I’ll try to make this one brief.  ’90 Donruss was a truly abysmal set in design, production numbers and rookies.  One of the good ones at the time though was Ben McDonald.  While he is a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame and a Gold Medal winner in the 1988 Olympics, his professional career never really took off.  He was the original “Big Ben” at 6’7” and was the #1 overall selection in the 1989 Draft.  He was previously drafted by my home Atlanta Braves in 1986 in the 27th round but chose to go play college ball, which paid off with that #1 selection 3 years later.  In 1990 he was a member of a solid rotation that included other young guns such as Pete Harnisch, Curt Shilling and Greg Olsen.  He wrapped up his career after just 8 full seasons thanks to shoulder problems.  His final numbers were 78-70 with a 3.91 ERA and 894 strikeouts.  Not only was investing in ’90 Donruss a mistake but investing in Ben McDonald rookie cards was just as problematic.1990 Score Draft Picks Chuck Knoblauch – 1990 Score was another favorite of mine, coming off of my high from ’89 Score.  I liked the design of the draft pick cards and, at the time, the checklist was strong, as evidenced by my next selection as well.  Knobby even actually had a pretty decent career until he totally forgot how to throw a baseball 45 feet.  He had a solid career and could have been a star second baseman had his issues later in his career not cast such a pall.  He was the Rookie of the Year in 1991, a 4x All-Star, a 4x World Series Champion, a Gold Glove winner and a two time Silver Slugger.  That’s a really good career when you put it all together.  He amassed a career .289 average with 98 home runs, 615 RBI and 407 stolen bases.  He developed “Steve Sax Syndrome” in 2000 with the Yankees and was completely unable to throw it to his first baseman.  It reminded me a lot of the catcher in Major League 2.  And Knoblauch tried multiple solutions to try and get him out of his funk but must’ve never tried the ole Victoria’s Secret catalogue trick.  He once hit Keith Olbermann’s mother in the head in the stands for crying out loud.  It all came to a head when he made 3 throwing errors in just 6 innings of play and pulled himself out of a game.  That must’ve been absolutely embarrassing.  He eventually was moved to the outfield when he was never able to cure his ailment.  If that weren’t enough, he was named in the now infamous Mitchell Report for HGH use in 1997 and would later be charged with physically abusing not one wife, but two (he was married three times total.)  Chuck’s undoing started on the field with throwing issues but continued off the field, thus destroying any hope of a future payoff for me and my ’90 Score.1990 Score Draft Picks Mo Vaughn – Another enigmatic player is outlined in my second ’90 Score Draft Pick card.  Maurice “Mo” Vaughn was a behemoth of a man that could hit the ball a country mile.  He also was not well like by Red Sox brass and the media.  I’m not going to take up for the media but Mo probably wasn’t very accommodating based on some of the snippets I’ve seen.  He played college ball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall and came into the major leagues with a bit of fanfare.  This was not so much as speculation on my part as wanting to be in on the sure thing Mo Vaughn.  And for a while, he was a sure thing.  In 1993, which is considered his first full season (152 games); he hit .297 with 29 home runs and 101 RBI.  He would go on to hit 26 or more home runs for 9 consecutive seasons, topping 35 five times and 40 twice.  He also had a 5 season streak of hitting .300 or better in that stretch so he hit for average as well.  All told, he would finish with a career .293 average, 328 home runs and 1,064 RBI.  It is quite rare these days for a 40 home run hitter to also hit .300+ but Mo did it a few times.  Ultimately, his ability to rub teams the wrong way and his inclusion in steroid accusations killed the value in his cards.  Well, that and the fact that he was in his prime when baseball cards were churning out by the millions.  Still, Mo was a pretty solid investment at the time and one I don’t really regret now.1990 Upper Deck Kevin Maas – Here we go.  This may be the biggest got to have card that turned into a bust of my generation.  The baseball world was abuzz when Kevin Maas hit the scene and 1990 Upper Deck was the sophomore season for the company that totally burst onto the scene in the card industry with their ’89 sensation.  He was drafted in the first round by the New York Yankees and was set up to be the next Don Mattingly.  His cards skyrocketed when he became the quickest rookie to ever get to 10 home runs, then 13, then 15.  He would go on to hit 21 home runs in just 79 games in 1990.  Needless to say, I, along with the rest of America, needed all the Kevin Maas cards we could get.  This guy was destined for stardom.  He would finish second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Sandy Alomar, and again, only played in 79 games.  He went on to hit 23 home runs in 1991, but in 500 at bats and with a .220 average.  The destined to be superstar was out of the league by 1994 and playing in Japan.  How it happened so quickly, I’ll never know but he went from the highest valued cards in sets to trash bin fire starter in less than 4 years.  That is an unbelievable accomplishment in and of itself.  He would finish his short career with a .230 average, 65 home runs (44 in his first two seasons) and 169 RBI.  This story still makes me sick to my stomach.  What a crushing fall from stardom. 1991 Classic Brien Taylor – Kevin Maas wasn’t the only “can’t miss” kid for the Yankees in the early 90’s.  I remember hearing about Brien Taylor for a couple of years before he ever was drafted thanks to the Classic brand that provided college and four sport cards.  He was the 1st overall pick in 1991 and would spend seven seasons in the minor leagues.  This dude never pitched a game in the major leagues.  He had several MLB cards like Topps and Stadium Club, to name a couple but he never threw a single pitch in the majors.  This wasn’t even a fall from stardom like Maas.  He never even got above AA.  He was the true definition of speculation and potential in the card market in the early 90’s.  He did have some shoulder trouble in the minors but that was thanks to a fight, not pitching.   He finished with a minor league record of 22.30 and a 5.12 ERA.  Life after baseball has been just as rough as his time in the minors.  He has been arrested for child abuse (for leaving 4 of his children home alone aged 2-11) and later for trafficking cocaine.  He spent 38 months in the pen from 2012-2014.  And I don’t mean the bullpen.  However, I am extremely confident that the majority of card collectors were riding the Brien Taylor wave in 1990-1991.1991 Upper Deck Todd Van Poppel – Todd Van Poppel was another pitching superstar in the making and Upper Deck was continuing to outclass the field in the card world in 1991.  Another first round selection, Van Poppel is another player that has a tie in with my Braves.  And what a tie in it is.  In the 1990 draft, the Braves had the #1 overall pick and were dangerously close to selecting Van Poppel.  Instead, when Van Poppel told them he would not sign if they selected him, they moved on to some guy named Chipper Jones.  I think we all know how his career went.  How different would the Braves 1990’s run have looked with Van Poppel instead of Jones?  It scares me to consider it.  Thank you Todd Van P for being stubborn about signing with the Braves.  How did that Oakland A’s career turn out?  He was one of four starting pitchers taken by Oakland that year and by all accounts turned in the best career of the group.  Only Van Poppel and one other ever made the major leagues.  From potential 1st overall pick by the soon to be 14 consecutive division winning Braves to a 40-52 career with a 5.58 ERA.  I think he sank his own career, and his card value, if you ask me.Side Note – 1989 Score Luis De Los Santos – This was not a must have but it has to be mentioned.  I had more of his cards than any other player in 1989.  Card companies now state odds on their boxes like “1 insert in every pack” or “3 autographs per box on average”.  I imagine that 1989 Donruss and Score could have put “1 Luis De Los Santos per pack on average” and it would have been a reasonable statement.  Having all those cards of him never paid off either as he would only play parts of 3 seasons and clout zero home runs while hitting .209.  Sheesh.

So there you have a list of cards that I just had to have when I was 12-13.  My daily trading consisted of trying to score one of these cards to add to my collection.  I had visions of being in a much higher tax bracket by now with all of my Jerald Clarks that everyone else was sleeping on.  This may have been more painful to write had the cards of that era turned out to be valuable.  Their lack thereof has made this a more amusing trip down memory lane.  I’m sure we all had those rookies that we wanted.  Most of them are on this list but we all had our own personal Dwight Smith’s too.  But this post makes me wonder even more why you can pick up veteran stars all day long for .25 cents but you have to pay an arm and a leg for a guy that hit .320 in AAA and might get called up next year.  Speculation is still fun I suppose.