Wednesday, January 31, 2018

And The Chase Is On...Send Help!

My favorite card of 2017 was a simple base card that attracted my attention because I was at the game where the photo was taken. Anybody reading this blog probably knows 2018 Topps is hitting shelves now and after a litte photo research, I have already found four(!) cards from games I attended. I only went to six games!

I've picked up a base team set but am asking you to keep me in mind if you see any of the parallels for these cards.

The Jose Quintana is from that same game as his 2017 Update, his Cubs debut in Baltimore on July 16, 2017.

John Lackey's card is from a Nationals night game on June 28, 2017. This is the first game I took my girlfriend to and showed her my Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch side (even though she survived the 2016 World Series with me).

The Lester is from the next afternoon, June 29, 2017 a getaway day game I attended with my dad.

So is this combo card featuring Anthony Rizzo and Bryce Harper. I'm not sure how expensive this one will get. It's a checklist card which might not draw much attention, but at the same time its two of the bigger stars in the game.

There are some player breaks on eBay I may join if the prices don't get crazy but if you pull any parallels yourselves, please please please keep me in mind. I still need to go through the cards for the Orioles, Nationals and Marlins to see if there any in there.

Last minute EDIT: I picked up a hanger box on my way to work. All my non-Cubs will be up for grabs. Will be posting the inserts on Twitter on my lunchbreak (1PMish EST), but if you want specific base, let me know.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Minor League Singles Review (and Tony Campana)

TL;DR at the beginning: Found a good vendor for minor league singles and beefed up a PC

At the beginning of the month, one of my goals was to hopefully be able to track down one Tony Campana need this year. I thought this to be a longshot because I was pretty sure I had gotten this PC down to nearly all just 1/1 needs.

Campana spent all of 2017 with the Sioux City Explorers of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball League. I've had a saved search for "Tony Campana" on eBay for a couple of years now and it fluctuates between 85-95 results at any given time. I had never seen a Sioux City Explorers card for him come up and incidentally, never thought to look for one. If there was one, it should pop up, right?

After I picked up the 2016 Syracuse Chiefs card right before the end of the year, I decided to at least check. Lo and behold, when I searched for a Sioux City Explorers team set, I found one on eBay and it included Campana!

Unfortunately, the set was going to set me back $25ish shipped. I tried the online team store but didn't see a set posted for sale. I could have called and probably picked one up over the phone but instead, I went back to the eBay seller to see if they'd be willing to sell a single.

They declined saying they only broke apart team sets if they could see one or more cards was damaged in the pack and their Sioux City Explorers cards looked fine. BUT, they did point me in the right direction and told me to check out I had never heard of this site before, never read about it on any of the blogs or anything. (If you did write about it, let me know, I'd like to know what you thought.)

My first impression of the site wasn't the best. It was yellow. It was a bit primitive in terms of the bells and whistles I've become accustomed to when buying online. There is nothing "for sale" on his website, meaning you don't actually know what he has. The email address was AOL. The opening paragraphs on the main page had a lot of "I don't do this" and "I don't do that" while explaining his business. Just a couple of red flags.

But I've worked in retail/customer service, so I know how customers can be. The guy running this site has probably dealt with some bad ones before. The customer isn't always right and sometimes, you have to be blunt. So I kept digging around.

When I got to this paragraph, I was just hoping it wasn't too good to be true. The last sentence says he has cards from every known 2017 team set. Hopefully, somebody didn't buy all the Campanas!

His ordering process consists of you emailing him or calling him and giving him a list of the cards you want. He looks for them, tells you if he has them, you pay, he sends them. Very old school.

He claims to have an extensive database full of minor league cards and offers a free search service. I decided to take advantage of this and get a feel for how this guy does business. I sent him an email asking him to search his database for Tony Campana cards. His response, 8 minutes later, yielded these results:

Noice. Not only did he have the 2017 on his list, he had another card that was previously unknown to me, a card from the 2011 Boise Hawks DAV set.

Granted, these were cards he knew to exist, not that he necessarily had them on hand. His email asked if I wanted him to check his stock. Of course, I did and I actually ended up asking for 9 cards total.

Since I had gotten some autographed previously, I figured I might as well get those cards replaced with unsigned ones for my team sets. So I asked for 2 of the Sioux City, 2 of the Boise DAV, 2 of the 2010 Tennessee Smokies and one each of two Reno cards and Iowa card. I owned a Smokies team set from 2010 but this lets me keep that Campana card with the set, gives me one unsigned and one to get signed. Crazy I know, but that's what happens when you're a team collector with a PC as well.

A little later that evening, he let me know that he had them all. Awesome. The prices weren't spectacular but they weren't outrageous either. There was a caveat cropped out of this screenshot that stars and prospects may be priced differently, but I didn't have to worry about that with Campana. 

I had 7 cards in the $2.10 category and 2 for $1.95 for a card total of $18.60. Shipping was $2.10, not unreasonable, especially compared to some of the gouging on eBay shipping. This brought my total to $20.70, quite a bit more than I thought I would spend when I came to this site looking for just one card, haha! But I was getting nine Tony Campana cards, including two new ones.

I didn't read the fine print until I was writing this post but for orders under $20, buyer pays actual shipping cost. Over $20, and he would pay shipping. In hindsight, I could have gotten an extra card to bump me over that $20 threshold and come out cheaper because he'd pay shipping. Live and learn.

The cards arrived in three separate PWE's with the nonmachinable stamp, so I got what I paid for. Each card came in a card saver, three cards to an envelope. The interesting thing is that they were all mailed on Saturday (the day after I ordered, so quick ship there), but they trickled in over the course of three days. I received one on Tuesday, one Wednesday and the final one on Thursday. Weird!

So what did I get for my $20?

2017 Sioux City Explorers

2011 Boise Hawks DAV

I like the card ( I don't have too much orange in my collection), but that photo choice is terrible!

And just to show off the rest of Campana's minor league cards:

Overall, I am very satisfied with my experience. I'm glad that I didn't judge this book by its cover and am thankful to the eBay seller that pointed me his way. The emails were cordial and he responded very quickly. Despite "just" PWE's, the cards were very secure and arrived safely. I usually buy the whole team set but this Campana PC was a special circumstance once he left the Cubs system. I would not hesitate to use this site again and definitely recommend it if you have minor league needs.

Monday, January 29, 2018

IVY: 1991 Score Rookies #5 Omar Olivares

I have almost 500 cards in the Ivy collection and need to whittle down some of the numbers where I have duplicates for the Frankenset. I want to make sure each card gets its due so I've decided that over the course of a month or so, I will sprinkle in individual posts. When I have exhausted what I have for each binder page, I'll post which ones made the cut. Once I have a full page, I'll add a tab up top where you can view each page. I have multiple representatives for many of the first 99 numbers (11 full pages) which should get me through all of 2017.

Last week I posted the first #5, Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. One of his competitors is a former teammate, Omar Olivares.

1991 Score Rookies #5 Omar Olivares
I vaguely recall the name, mainly because I was collecting cards in the prime junk wax era but I don't know much about him. He is clearly a pitcher though no position designation is given on either side of the card, so he is listed as NPL (No Position Listed) in my spreadsheet.

I've found in my digging that I can usually pinpoint the game for starting pitchers, but not the play and this card is no exception. Olivares made nine appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1990 as a mid-August call-up and just one at Wrigley Field. He started the middle game of a three game series on September 8, 1990 against Rick Sutcliffe.

After a rough first inning in which Olivares surrendered three runs, the Cardinals battled back to take a 4-3 lead with runs in the 2nd, 4th and 5th. He gave up a game tying home run to Ryne Sandberg to lead off the 5th and was pinch hit for in the 6th inning.

The Cubs would get one more run from a Mark Grace home run in the 7th and Cubs reliever Paul Assenmacher locked it down with a two-inning Save and a 5-4 Cubs victory.

Based on the photo angle, I'm pretty sure the Cardinals cameo in the background of the card is a second baseman, which would make it Jose Oquendo, the starter for that day. He was pinch hit for later in the game, but Olivares had been pulled by then as well.

So that's a brief summary of Olivares on the mound, but only half the story of his workday. You see he also had a couple of plate appearances. Coming into this game, (his fifth career appearance) Olivares was a combined 0-9 with 4 strikeouts. Remember when I said the Cardinals were battling back? That was mostly the starting pitcher trying to himself out of the hole he made.

Promptly after giving up 3 runs in the bottom of the first, he came up to bat with the bases loaded in the top of the second. His first career hit was a two-run double.

And still down by a run when he came up again in the 4th, Olivares cleared the Ivy for a solo home run. Makes you wonder why the pinch hit for him in the 6th!! (FYI, Geronimo Pena struck out in his stead.)

The career totals reflect the same statistical oddities with Olivares faring much better at the plate than on the mound at Wrigley Field.

Despite that fun story, there isn't anything spectacular about the card itself. I have other potential Olivares cards, with much higher numbers, where there shouldn't be as much competition for a spot in the Frankenset. I also have another card from this set that will have an opportunity to make it. And the third strike is that pitchers (even though not officially listed on this card) are overly abundant in the Ivy collection.

Also of note, Olivares is a second generation Major Leaguer. His father, Ed Olivares played for the Cardinals in the early 1960's.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Modernizing the ol' Blog

At the beginning of the year, I had set some blogging goals and said I would try to hold myself accountable through semi-regular updates. It's not quite the end of the January yet, but yesterday's post was my 21st of the month. That matches my post total for all of 2017, so I think I'm on the right track.

It feels good to be a bit more active in the blogosphere again, especially with a new baseball season and card releases just around the corner. I have enough post ideas that I can easily average a respectable dozen posts a month, if not more, so I thought I would do a little blog maintenance.

I started with a few Page updates to tabs up top and decided I might need to freshen the whole blog up a bit. I've had the same header for 5+ years now (when the Cubs were a 100 loss team) so I'll be looking to change that up soon. I don't have any real solid ideas yet, but the wheels are turning.

Some of you may have noticed I debuted a new avatar. My old one was just a condensed version of my header so I thought it needed revamping, too. I've added it here on blogger and to my twitter account. OAC is obviously just a Once a Cub acronym and this little logo uses the red, white and blue like the Cubs, though not quite the official team shades. Pretty simple, but I like it. I had always wanted a unique logo to add to my custom cards and if I do get back into that, this just might be it.

I wouldn't say I'm an active twitter user, at least in the output department, but I have begun reading a lot more over there. I've found some new blogs to follow and am always looking for more. If there's anybody out there that I'm not following on blogger and/or twitter, drop me a line.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Holy Smokes! A Package from P-Town Tom

I know 100% I'm preaching to the choir when I say P-Town Tom of Waiting Til Next Year is one of the most generous bloggers out there.

We've made a few trades over the years, which is both easy and really tough when you collect the same team. I just realized he sent me a box of goodies during my blogging hiatus so I'm going to have to do another post on that soon as well. But let's start with the newest stuff first.

The first day of the Cubs Convention (Friday), I happened to open Twitter on my phone, not something I actually do very often. I follow all five of the Cubs minor league affiliates and this particular tweet caught my attention:

You might be able to see it better in the original tweet, but the sign on the front of the table says Trading Cards - $8, among other things. Since making my first big Cubs trip a few years ago, I've been trying to add the minor league team sets when possible. This past year, I skipped the baseball trip because the Cubs played locally twice, a series in DC and one in Baltimore. At various times, I thought about buying the sets on eBay or directly from the team but all the extra shipping costs made me hesitant to pull the trigger.

Knowing Tom was going to the convention and that all of the affiliates would be together in one place, I debated texting him about keeping me in mind if he saw them and that I had Paypal funds ready. He was there to have fun, not do any shopping for me. But I went ahead and sent it justifying that he probably wouldn't even see it until much later or they'd be sold out. He's in a noisy convention center full of people and the cell service would be horrible.

Not one minute later, I get a text back asking if I needed all five!

And shortly after that, I received the following photo via text:

Holy smokes! He had managed to nab all five sets, plus what seems to be a smaller, supplemental set from the Tennessee Smokies (AA). I immediately sent him some Paypal because these sets can be up to $15 apiece and I hated the thought of him coming up short for something he wanted that weekend.

Awesome, 2017 team sets taken care!

I didn't think anything more about it, though I did try to follow what was happening at the convention all weekend through social media. I found about a dozen new people to follow on Twitter and saw lots of great photos.

Then on Sunday, I got another text from Tom asking me if I had a few other things. Cool, I thought, he's trying to fill out a small package. I'm all about the freebies at conventions and would have tried to do the same thing.

Fast forward to the next weekend. I had gone away and came home pretty late Sunday night. I had just driven a couple of hours, was tired and already dreading having to get up for work in the morning. But what perks you up more than a box of goodies waiting with the mail?

I had to apologize to my girlfriend because the look I had on my face as I went through the box was probably what she was expecting when I opened her Christmas presents. Whoops!

The Sunday text were about the calendar and beer cups. I didn't have either so they were welcome additions to the collection. The calendar has all of the games for the upcoming season listed so that'll be a handy reference throught the year. The top cup says 2016 Central Division Champions and the bottom two were from the World Series.

The rest of the stuff was completely unexpected!

A pair of magazines. For non-Cubs fans, Vineline is the official magazine of the Cubs. I had a subscription back in the early 90's when it was oversized, more like a newspaper printed on magazine paper. A few years back I asked if I could get a subscription without the mailing label but they said no. Now its available on newsstands, but unfortunately not in Virginia. I think Hyvee is a grocery store and this Anthony Rizzo covered magazine must be there in house one. I look forward to reading both of these!

Moving on to clothing, there's a collared throwback jersey and very colorful hat. I think these were both stadium giveaways which is pretty awesome. Granted, I haven't looked to make a comparison with other teams, but I feel like the Cubs always have great giveaways. I've been wearing the hat around the house all week, but I'm not sure it'll leave the house on my head...

There was also a nice tshirt for the Miguel & Vanessa Montero Foundation. Miguel didn't leave the Cubs on the best of terms but you can't complain a foundation that helps sick kids. I'll definitely wear this one around.

Speaking of wearing it around, this handy drawstring backpack will certainly get some use. I'll definitely bring it when I go see the Cubs in DC this year.

Another stadium giveaway was this Anthony Rizzo Gold/Platinum Glove statue. It'll go perfect with my box of Rizzo's, Rizzo Wrap, Tarp Catch Bobblehead and my Darwin Barney Gold Glove statue!

I don't know what the story behind this towel set is but they are fantastic! I couldn't find anything designating them as a stadium giveaway, but I love them. I'm not sure I'll ever use them but they'll be on display. 

In addition to the minor league team sets, Tom also threw in some other cards. The photo on the left has some sample (?) packs of 2017 Topps and some packs of World Champion Cubs. I think these were Iowa Cubs stadium giveaways? I have to look more into the set and see what I have and who I need.

On the right we have some cards that Tom was able to get autographed by some of the convention's attendees. Even though these are now in my possession, the whole experience makes me jealous! It motivates me to finish up all of my ATCRCS cards and to be ready for next year's convention.

John Baker (lower left card) was a fun follow on Twitter over that weekend. He seems very fan friendly and retweeted just about everybody who posted about him letting them try on his World Series ring.

And bringing it around full circle, last but not least are a couple of giveaways from the Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs short season Class A affiliate. They are the only Cubs minor league team I haven't visited, mainly because I'm in Virginia and they are in Oregon. I think they've got a great logo even if doesn't have anything to do with the Cubs. I imagine the air freshener is a foresty pine, but it'll have to wait until my Cubs one dies out in my car before I open it. The other thing is one of those newfangled rubber wallet/card holders that attaches to the back of your phone. This will get some use as well!

So a big thank you, thank you, thank you to Tom! Christmas in January! It helps make the last few weeks of the offseason feel like they'll fly by.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

New Hall of Famers

A lot can be, has been, and will continue to be said about who deserves to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. You won't find that kind of post here.

Instead, here are some of the cards of the newest Hall of Famers in my collection. None of the players recently elected ever played for the Cubs, but that doesn't mean they avoided Wrigley.

Chipper Jones and Trevor Hoffman were just featured here very recently.

This Vladimir Guerrero card needs an upgrade as it looks like it stuck to the card in front of it at some point. The Ivy is brown in this early season shot out of 2002 Fleer Ultra. It's card #27 so you'll see it again in a few weeks with a deeper breakdown.

And look at that, a little interleague action with a Cleveland Indians card. Unlike the specks on the Vlad card, these are legit, kickin'-up-dirt specks. This Jim Thome card is horizontal and therefore falls under my Por Que No Los Dos niche. This means it isn't considered for my Frankenset, so let's give this one a little more attention today.

I'm going to be honest. I can't tell the difference between most Fleer Ultra cards in terms of what year they are. This one, however, jumps right out at me as 1999 because of the Harry Caray caricature patch on shortstop, Jeff Blauser's sleeve. The Cubs wore those during the 1998 season after Caray passed away preseason. 

Heading over to Thome's Baseball-Reference page, we can see that he played two games at Wrigley in 1998, on June 22 & 23. I'm looking for a play a second, probably a tag play like a stolen base or a double. 

In the first game, Thome went 1-4 with a walk. The game started at 7:05 local time so I highly doubt this is the game. But here's a quick run down anyway, just to be sure. His first at bat resulted in a flyball out. His walk came next but the inning ended with a 6-4-3 double play. This does not look like that to me. A pop foul out and a ground out to first leads us to his fifth and final plate appearance. A one out single by Thome was followed by two popfly outs, no tagging up attempted. As I suspected, nothing in this game. Let's try the 23rd.

This is an afternoon game and Thome went 3-4 with another walk. I could have my work cut out for me here. His first plate appearance was a groundout to the first baseman. Well, that's out of the way, on to his four reaches.

In the 4th inning, Thome singled. That was followed by a Henry Rodriguez (former Cub) single to right field. It is noted as a line drive to short right. With only one out, a hard hit ball to shallow outfield could make a runner hold up to make sure it drops, thus allowing for a close place at second. Blauser, the shortstop, would have been the man to be cover second in that play.

His next at bat came in the 6th inning when he led off with a double to right field. Again, Blauser would have been the man to cover second base in this situation. There's no way to know from the boxscore if this was a hustle double resulting in a close play or one of the standup variety.

Later, in the 7th inning, Thome walked but did not advance to second.

And in the 9th, he singled again but also did not attempt to advance.

Dang, I was hoping for a clear cut play but looks like this will be a tossup between the 4th and 6th inning plays. Short of finding a tape of the game, this one remains a mystery. Oh well, at least I'm pretty sure of the actual date, June 23, 1998.

Thome ended up having a pretty decent career at Wrigley Field. Well, I guess not just at Wrigley, he's in the Hall of Fame now after all.

Congratulations to these four guys and thanks for adding some HOF credentials to the Ivy collection.

EDIT: Woohoo! Thanks to awesome reader Phungo, we can be 99.99% sure and put this one to bed as the 6th inning double. See the Getty photo below:

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

One Card Team Set - 1993 Milk-Bone Super Stars

Clearing out the draft folder again with a quick post.

I think most of us try to maximize shipping costs when ordering cards online. Last year I bought several dozen cards for my Ivy collection through Just Commons (now if you didn't get the memo) and Sportlots. One of my go to moves when I am ready to check out is to fill my order out with Cubs from oddball sets if possible. I'd search for Sandberg, Grace, Dawson, etc to look for stuff I needed.

For one particular seller, I had to go all the way down my list to Joe Girardi and I stumbled across this Milk-Bone Super Stars set from 1993.

Now by 1993, Joe Girardi had been taken away from the Cubs by the Rockies in the 1992 expansion draft. Most of his 1993 cards show him on the Rockies, though some are still Cubs cards. This one appears to be anybody's guess.

Licensed by the MLBPA, but not MLB, there are no team logos or names to be found. Not even a Chicago (NL) or Colorado designation. Zistle lists this as a Cubs card. Tradingcarddb and Beckett both have it as a Rockies card.

Because the player photo used on the front shows him as a Cub though, I added it and am keeping it for my Cubs collection.

If you like puppers and/or awesome 90's fashion, check out the rest of the 20-card set!