Monday, March 25, 2013

Virgil Trucks Celebration Giveaway

With Mr. Trucks's passing, we all acknowledge that the world has lost someone who meant a good deal to a lot of people. 
If you ever wrote to Mr. Trucks you've probably seen one of these cards that celebrate his 2 no-hitters in 1952. If you haven't, here's your chance to own one.

Here's the deal: Mr. Trucks brought a lot of light into the world. Go out, do something, it doesn't have to be huge, that brings joy to someone around you. At some point in the next week leave a comment on this post and I'll random the responses on 4/1. No judging "best," "funniest," or whatever, no need even to say what you did. Just bring a smile to someone's face the way Mr. Trucks did for so many of us.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

RIP Mr. Virgil Trucks

Not long after I started the blog I started getting into ttms. Like a lot of bloggers, one of the first gentlemen I wrote was Mr. Virgil Oliver "Fire" Trucks. As anyone who wrote him knows, he was a tremendous and frequent signer, often responded to you with a handwritten note, and always included two trademark stamps, one of a pitcher and another of a firetruck.

I saw on Twitter not long ago that Mr. Trucks passed away yesterday at 95.

What else can you say? If you read around the blogoshpere you'll find that Mr. Trucks brought a lot of joy to a lot of people. Like to William over at foul bunt. Like me when, in 2009, Mr. Trucks signed a whole bunch of cards for me to giveaway on the blog as a way to promote his book. It was one of the most amazing interactions I've ever had with one of my cardboard heroes.

Strangely, not too long ago while I was cleaning house I came across a few extra of these that he sent for me to giveaway. I thought I gave them all away long ago, but apparently not. To celebrate Mr. Trucks and his hobby legacy, starting tomorrow I'll give these last ones away.

I recognize the value and importance of mourning, but Mr. Trucks is one of those individuals who unselfishly brought joy into the world and through his own example taught us all that we should do likewise.

RIP Mr. Trucks.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Cards are Cool: Or, Why I Went Eric Cartman on Topps...

and embraced the hobby.

I've been thinking about this over the past few weeks in the wake of angst over Heritage and Topps's announcement today it wants to market to kids or some such. So, while I avoid grading, a quick two cents.

When I was a kid I was mostly a set collector. I had several player collections (Gooden, Bo Jackson, Fred McGriff) but that was about it. I'd get caught up in crazy RC stupidity from time to time like everyone else, but for the most part those were my interests.

Things got complicated when the number of sets grew geometrically. In 1987, for example, I had access to Topps, some Donruss, and NO Fleer. My world was limited, I paid too much for Goodens at the occasional show my parents would take me to, salivate over the Bo Jacksons, and that was that.

In 1988 I had access to EVERYTHING, Score showed up, and like most kids went wild and bought metric TONS of what in 2013 is garbage. Whatever, those were 50 cent packs, and chasing 4 sets allowed for weird, inter-set trading.

Then 1989 happened, with the birth of UD, the $1 pack (in my neck of the woods often much, much more), the Griffey, and Murphy reverse negative, the Jerome Walton, Jim Abbot, etc., and things changed. A LOT. This was a set that, by definition, I couldn't collect. I could hope for the players I collected, but that was it. I made do....

Until the next year, when Topps fired back with Stadium Club, and others followed suit.  A vortex of spiraling costs, the impossibility of even getting my favorite players, and girls effectively blunted my collecting in earnest. The 1994 strike buried it.

About 8 years later I found ebay and started to collect again little by little. Never having gotten too many autos as a kid, I relished the opportunity to buy certified autos. 2002 Heritage came out and I was back in. Only three years went by and then I wasn't. Even competing the 2002 set wasn't economically feasible for me, but I understand why those with the income would go after it. So I was discouraged again. Remember, since I was a kid I've always been primarily focused on sets.

2009 found me living next to a guy who collected in a way I'd never heard of or considered. Condition? Whatever. New sets? Almost strictly vintage. Graded? Who cares.

I started reading blogs and started one of my own. I ONLY work on vintage sets and ONLY collect players I follow. To quote Cartman, "I do what I want." I feel strongly that others should do likewise. It's all good.

In short, I keep the hobby fun for me and pay little to no attention to Topps, the monopoly, or the BS about attracting kids. The corporate side of the hobby abandoned kids 20 years ago. I grab trade bait now and again to flip to friends I've made through the blog, and it's cool to be in touch with people from all over with similar interests. I collect with my means, and if that means not reaching my goals (the first 2013 EJ plate sold for over $20!!!) so be it. Fun is the goal, and not much else.

And as for fun, at spring training I was standing next to a kid and his mom at the fence getting autos. I was able to give them cards of every player that walked by. I even broke up my 2012 Durham Bulls team set to give them a card of a player whose kid attends the same preschool as the little guy in question.

And I'll say this: seeing a little person light up when he/she recognizes his/her hero on a little piece of cardboard, THAT is fun and it costs next to nothing.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Training Day 1: Ripken, Roberts, and Kalas, oh my

Thanks to everybody who signed up for "Here Comes Blue Contest #1." More are on the way!

From last Saturday until yesterday the Compa and I took a little trip to Port Charlotte, FL for Rays Spring Training. It has always been something we wanted to do, and with Blue on the way we decided it should be done. I had no expectations other than to relax a bit and see a few games, but even still I have to admit: it was absolutely amazing.

We were really fortunate for a number of reasons. First, we had crazy good tickets. Turns out Daddy Dean met a scout in the Rays system who, finding out we're Rays fans planning on going to FL, offered to get us tickets. Free tickets are great no matter what, but these were actual Rays tickets and we sat in the Rays section. That is, most of the folks around us were somehow tied to a player and/or the organization. Player wives, player girlfriends, player parents, player children, you name it. Overall a cool experience I'll come back to over the next few posts, but you make sure to leave any criticism for the drive home. I mean, you have a stake in the game as a fan, but sitting there brought home for me the stakes that these guys' loved ones have in every single play. They're pretty substantial.

I don't have too much to say about the game itself, a 6-2 loss to the hated Red Sox. It's not that I didn't watch (I did), but there were other events going on and, I'll admit, I was a bit fascinated to be up close and personal with the cultural aspects of players' families and loved ones you almost never get to see. This game showed Matt Moore has some work to do (3 ER in 3 and 2/3,) and the Rays bats were maddeningly silent against a ho-hum Sox staff.

The BIG event was that Cal Ripken Jr., owner of the Rays affiliate the Charlotte Stone Crabs, was in attendance and signing his young adult novel. Waiting in line to meet Cal consumed the 3rd to the 7th innings. He wasn't signing anything else, but I had no Jr. cards anyway. Personally, it was cool just to meet a living legend like the great "Iron Man."
There was also a photo op which, to be honest, isn't my thing. But while I was in line waiting to get the book signed there was a woman holding a Flat Stanley who was asking if anyone would get his/her picture with Ripken and her granddaughter's Flat Stanley. I once took a Flat Stanley all over Europe and Asia for my Aunt and her elementary school class, so I immediately said I would. So, somewhere out there there exists a picture of me, Flat Stanley, and Cal Ripken, Jr., who seemed very cool about the whole thing. I gave her my email so I hope I get a copy!

I also managed to get a few autos before the game, but since it was Rays-Sox on a Sunday there were more people there than you might expect. I don't really like to bug guys in person, but I'll stand there and if they are signing, then great!

First was this cool 2009 Luke Scott
The photo is a Fenway Park classic, and I'd like to think it shows off a lighter side of Scott (better known for a boorish stance on that particular park and some, um, non-mainstream political views), Fenway Park, and the hobby itself. He's not even caught in an awkward moment but rather staring right back at the viewer. Very cool "breaking the fourth wall" stuff. 

Then the Tat-Man, Ryan Roberts laid sigs on his 2012 issues for me. First with the D-Backs,
then with the Rays:
I was actually at his Rays debut in Baltimore last year, and told him that he brought some real energy to the team. Of course, his presence meant my man EJ was closer to leaving town in the long term and Matsui leaving in the near term, but that's what happens. Both of these are cool cards in their own right with the first being a sweet "game winning run" shot and the second perhaps coming from Roberts' first HR as a Ray, which came in Baltimore. 

To put bookends around this long post, when we first took our seats in the park, the family seats, I looked over and who should be sitting right across from us but Todd Kalas, the roving reporter during Rays broadcasts. If you are WAY out of your team's territory like I am, announcers like Kalas acquire a larger-than-life quality as they are your media conduit to the team and the life of the park at every game you watch. Appropriately, I dorked out, went over to thank him for his work, and ask him to sign a team card, which he kindly did.

Finally, after a very cool, very full day, as we were leaving the stadium Compa noticed Cal Ripken Jr. signing. Apparently after the books were gone he started signing everything. I had no cards, but there was one thing the Compa and I had brought to Port Charlotte that we thought might merit a signature at some point. So she took it over.
Yup, Cal signed Blue's custom Rays onesie. 

Many thanks to all the folks that made that day so awesome. Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

And the winner is...

As picked by my father-in-law:

Wow!  Some great advice and insight to parenthood.  But you appointed a Dodger fan judge sooooo... Doc's advice with the West Coast late sports idea is my choice for No 1.

Doc, leave your choice of cards in the comments!

Look for a new contest late next week.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pre-War TTMs: 70-year-old cards in plain white envelopes

First, winner of the "Here Comes Blue Garfoose Giveaway" will be announced Saturday.

When I first started collecting TTM autos a few years ago, for some reason I fixated on getting ttms from the oldest living players. That makes sense, I suppose, and if you follow me on twitter you know I recently scored a major success on that front, landing a ttm from the oldest living MLB player Corado Marrero. I had to go via someone who was traveling to Cuba, and the result was well worth the effort of figuring out a plan and seeing it through. I'll post more about that later.

My focus on the oldest living players led to a second quest, getting autos on the oldest cards I could manage. I realize there IS a 1937 Doerr out there but its non-standard size is kind if a turn off. It also costs even more than the 1938 Heads Up, if you can even find a copy for sale. But anyway, with no further ado.....
I loved the idea of the 1938 Heads Up cards when I was a kid, though I really couldn't understand the appeal of anything that wasn't Topps, THE official brand among my friends and I. Now that I'm older I think they're amazing for having been conceived of in the 30s, way ahead of their time.

Bobby Doerr is one of the VERY few HOFers who signs ttm, and he even signs for FREE, so I was fairly confident that I could make this happen so long as sticking a 75-year-old Goudey in a plain white envelope with a letter and another pwe SASE didn't give me convulsions. And yes, it nearly did. This was cost-prohibitive for several years but one finally popped up with a reasonable BIN and I went for it. 
Similar story with this 1939. I had a subject (Doerr), tracked this prohibitively expensive card for awhile, and didn't hesitate when someone underpriced it as a BIN. It was sent about two years prior to the '38, and you can see a difference in the signatures. For a man in his mid-90s, Doerr signs well either way! 
The 1940 Eddie Joost was the first of these I landed. In all honestly, the eureka moment of the entire mini-project came together when I saw someone (I think it was dayf back in 2009) post about this card. My next thought was, "You can still get a handful of pre-war cards signed ttm. Holy...." 

Of course, that's aside from the fact that the 1940 design is stunning, particularly with the pennant marking the Reds 1939 team. Overall, an absolute classic. 

Mr. Joost is one of the ballplayers we lost in 2011.

The 1941 edition features Mr. Al "Bronk" Brancato. Straight out of Philly, Brancato started playing for the Mack Men at the ripe old ago of 20. He personalized this and answered my questions.

Mr. Brancato passed away in 2012.

For comparison's sake, here are the backs, with the '38 looking really small.
And there you have it! Have a good one everybody and good night Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Last Day for the Contest

Last day for the "Here Comes Blue Contest"! Check it out over here.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

That's My Boo: TTM from Down South

First, don't forget the Garfoose giveaway celebrating Blue's arrival over here. There are a few days left!

I've been saving this one for awhile, a ttm from Mr. Boo Ferriss. I watched for '49 Ferriss cards on ebay for a few months, but they were all prohibitively expensive. Then an internet search turned up this card and a several other fairly priced cards at Old Vintage Cards, so I pulled the trigger.
For those of you unfamiliar with Boo Ferriss, his first two years in the majors (1945 and '46) were perhaps the strongest start ever by a pitcher as he compiled a 46-16 record. That's NOT a typo, I said 46-16. He was an AS, an MVP candidate, even a solid hitter, but then a "shoulder twinge" essentially ended his playing days. Just like that, it was over. 
In his book (a good read), Ferriss states that an MRI he had later in life revealed he had a torn labrum. In other words, 1940s medical technology couldn't help what today is a routine injury. Not that the injury dampened his career in baseball or his life. On the contrary, Mr. Ferriss went on to become a legendary collegiate coach at Delta State University in Mississippi, and in the intro to Ferriss's book Delta State alum John Grisham (yes, THAT John Grisham) details how Ferriss "kindly" cut him from the Delta State baseball team long, long ago.

Mr. Ferriss is a prolific writer and responded to my questions. His love of the game at all levels comes through in his correspondence.

Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Don't Forget the Contest!

If you haven't left a comment over here, go do so! (You don't have to be a parent to participate!)