Monday, June 25, 2018

Thoughts on recent Topps Now and Living Set purchases

It's been awhile since I've posted anything here and I know better than to say I'll post more actively, but I am still collecting and I tend to stay more connected to the hobby through Twitter. Since my last post, I've continued to work on my Brewers set needs and have made significant progress thanks to some of the awesome traders out there - thanks to @mjpmke, @OffHiatusBBC, @JennyMiller521, and @SouthIndyCards for all the recent trades. For as little as I do post on here, I do make an effort to keep my want lists updated, so please reach out to me if you are interested in trading.

My job recently relocated to downtown Chicago, so I am no longer commuting to work by car, which means I am no longer driving past two different Target stores. I completely missed out on all the Bowman mania because of this and have yet to pick up any Series 2. Free time is a premium product in my life right now, but I'm sure I'll swing by a Target or maybe even the LCS to pick up some of the newer product soon.

The one thing that has been keeping my collection growing is the Topps Now brand. Ten different Brewers cards have been issued so far this season and I've picked up four of them. I think some of these cards get issued for the silliest of reasons, so I've been somewhat selective to which cards I have picked up. The first one was this Ryan Braun card issued on March 30 (print run 273) to commemorate his 3 run blast against the Padres that was part of the Crew's 5 run 9th inning rally to start the season 2-0. I stayed up late watching this game and Brewers Twitter was on fire that night! It was definitely one of the most fun games I've watched all season.


The Brewers actually had four Topps Now cards issued in the first week for various feats (Yelich's 5-for-5 game against the Padres, Braun and Yelich hitting back-to-back home runs to walk off the Cardinals and Arcia's walk off single to beat the Cubs). Jesus Aguilar would get a card on April 21 for his 13 pitch at bat that ended with a home run against the Marlins. I passed on all of these, but couldn't resist picking up the card issued on April 30 (print run 417) to commemorate Josh Hader becoming the first pitcher in MLB history to record 8 strikeouts in less than 3 innings pitched.


 

I also picked up the next Brewers card issued on May 13, highlighting Freddy Peralta's 13 K debut against the Rockies on Mother's Day. This is the most popular Brewers card issued this season with a print run of 940.


There was a card issued in late May for the Brewers best 50 game start in team history (31-19) that I passed on, but I jumped on the most recent card from June 22 (print run 199) for Jesus Aguilar's 2 HR night (first to break up a no-no and the second to walk off the Cardinals). The walk off has been my favorite moment of the season thus far and I only wish it had a small headshot in the corner 1984 Topps style showing the stunned look on Cardinal's manager Mike Matheny's face. I don't have the card in hand yet, but here is Matheny's sour mug.


I also picked up the Topps Living Set card of Eric Sogard. I really like the 1953 design this set is based on and the Sogard art is well done. I was not alone in shock the day this card was issued as the last Brewers player I expected to get the Living Set treatment was Eric Sogard, who is desperately clinging to his 25th man roster spot at the moment. I had been anticipating a Brewers player getting added to this set for weeks and my money was on either Christian Yelich or Lorenzo Cain or perhaps a Hall of Famer like Robin Yount (all of whom I expect to get added to this set in the near future).


One thing that stuck out to me upon receiving this card is just how flimsy it is. The Topps Now cards are more or less the same card stock as the regular Topps base set cards. I thought the Living Set would be a little thicker like a Heritage or Archives issue or even something like a typical 80s era card. I've never held a real 1953 Topps card, so these things could be spot on with their reproduction for all I know. The Living Set has gained momentum with the collectors. The first card issued in the set was Aaron Judge with a print run of 13,256. Shohei Ohtani was close to 21,000, Gleyber Torres was 28,550 and Ronald Acuna was nearly 47,000. Collectors weren't as interested in Sogard, with only 4,690 being produced, but he isn't the most limited card out there as Nick Markakis' 2nd week issue was only 2,678.

I don't know if this on demand model is a trend of where the hobby is headed. I do enjoy picking up the occasional card, but I'm not sure this is how I want to buy all my cards in the future. I'll continue to pick up any Brewers issued in the Living Set and will pick and choose which Topps Now cards I get. At $10 a pop, things could get a little out of control if when the Brewers make the playoffs. That's probably the last thing I would complain about during a Brewers playoff run though.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Recent trade recaps

Since I started collecting cards again this summer and putting up this blog, I've arranged a few trades with some fellow bloggers. Each of these trades has gone off flawlessly and the generosity of the blogosphere is remarkable. None of these traders knew who I was when I contacted them and none of the trades were arranged "this for that," but they all sent over some amazing cards.  Honestly half the fun of trading over the internet is opening the packages and seeing what surprises are inside. It's quite a different world from when I traded cards with friends or schoolmates back in the 80's and 90's. Nothing was traded without scrutinizing the latest values from a Beckett price guide. I didn't know how the stock market worked, but I sure as hell knew how to read Beckett. That $3 Gregg Jefferies rookie card has a little arrow pointing up next to it, so you're going to have to throw in an extra Matt Nokes as a sweetener in order to get it.

Two recent trades I've made have been with Nachos Grande at the Fan of Reds blog and Nick at the Dimebox blog. I checked each of their want lists and found a few things I thought they would be interested in, mostly recent set needs. I did manage to dig up a Barry Larkin card that Nachos Grande didn't have, which is shocking because that Larkin collection is one of the most thorough player collections I've seen anybody assemble. For Nick, I scrounged up some Cubs I thought he'd like and a couple of Vlad Guerrero cards that I thought were kind of oddball, but I'm sure he already had. Here are some of the highlights that each of them sent me.

Nachos Grande comes up big with some 1982 Topps Brewers needs, Stormin' Gorman and Coop. Two of my favorites from the World Series team and two pretty good looking cards to boot. One thing that has always bugged me about the 82 set is Topps not using team colors for the borders. These would look so much better if the orange was replaced with yellow.


One of the standout cards that Nick sent is this 1976 SSPC Sixto Lezcano. I was only vaguely familiar with this set and now I want to track down the rest of the Brewers. The photography is great and I don't think anybody has ever looked cooler in a Brewers uniform than Lezcano does on this card. Check out the Jim Colburn card if you have the chance. He looks like he's getting ready for a match against Bruno Sammartino, rather than getting ready to pitch.


A couple of cool Rollie Fingers cards to add to the collection. This 1982 Kellogg's 3-D Super Stars card instantly became my favorite card of my very limited Fingers collection and the 2005 SP Legendary Cuts by Upper Deck is also very nice. I wasn't collecting in 2005, so this set is brand new to me.


Some police department issued Brewers from the mid 2000's. I remember getting these sets as a kid in the 80's from the local police. I was playing ball in a field with some other kids once when a cop car pulled up. The officer called us over and we were scared out of our minds thinking we were about to be arrested for something (we were probably 9 or 10 years old at the time), but instead he handed us stacks of baseball cards. The cards back then were oversized, but the newer ones are standard 2 1/2" by 3 1/2".

A couple Lewis Brinson rookie cards from this years Fire set and a 1987 style insert from this years Update set. Brinson has nothing left to prove in the minors and should make the team out of camp next spring. Every time I see a Brewers blogger dreaming up trades this off season, it usually is for Chris Archer and almost always includes Brinson going the other way. I think Archer would be a huge get for the Crew, but I also think Brinson is something special and a player you're going to want around for the next 6-8 years.


This is a really cool card, even if it's really hard to photograph well. The 2010 Topps Chrome #1 Prince Fielder, with the iconic photograph of the teams' home run celebration after Fielder's walk off against Barry Zito and the Giants the previous September. Baseball had a minor hissy fit about this celebration and Zito plunked Fielder in spring training the following year. I can only imagine what would have happened had Fielder also flipped his bat before starting his jog.


The last card I want to show is the 1996 Stadium Club Fernando Vina, if only for the great photo. I'm not sure who the catcher is giving Vina a knee to the beans while taking a forearm to the face before presumably getting knocked on his ass while Vina scores, but if anybody knows which game this is from, I'd love to know. UPDATE: Thanks to Laurens for leaving a comment on the post and directing me to this post at the Thorzul Will Rule blog. It's a deep dive into the photo on the Vina card. The catcher is none other than Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez. The game took place on June 14, 1995.  Here is the boxscore at Baseball Reference. Unfortunately Vina was out on the play as during a double steal along with Darryl Hamilton (DH taking second while FV took third), Vina got greedy and tried to take home, only to get thrown out. The Brewers did win the game though 4-2.


Thanks again to Nachos Grande and Nick for the trades.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Finding the hits on eBay and a couple more TTMs!

You can buy pack after pack chasing the hits or you can just go on eBay and buy the hits. For less than the cost of a blaster box of whatever is on the shelves right now, I bought three autographed insert cards of some of my favorite Brewers. First up, a 2017 Topps Chrome Brett Phillips rookie card. Phillips was up and down between the majors and AAA this season, but it was his great play down the stretch after his September call up that endeared him to many Brewers fans. He has a cannon of an arm and I think he should change his uniform number to 80 next season to remind any opposing base runners of what they're up against. I took my son to his first ever game at Miller Park the day Phillips hit his first ever ML home run. Unfortunately, the Crew lost that game to the Phillies, but it was a memorable moment to see live.


Next up, a 2005 Fleer Authentix Ben Sheets autographed game worn jersey card, #2 of 10. This one feels like quite the steal as there is another one of these on eBay right now for nearly 15x what I paid for it. There are different parallels of this card and I'm not exactly sure what the difference is between all of them, but for the price of a cup of coffee you better believe I'm one of 10 people in the world who would want to add this to their collection.


Finally, a 2004 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites Ben Oglivie. If you look at the top 10 leader boards for any of the Brewers all-time hitting records, you'll usually see Benji somewhere in there. He was a three time All-Star in Milwaukee and was the AL home run king with 41 in 1980. I'm a fan of the 1981 Topps set and the 2004 version with the sweet action shot looks much better than his card from the original 1981 set, pictured side by side here.


Two more former Brewers were kind enough to return some signed cards this past week. Greg Brock came to the Crew through a trade with the Dodgers before the 1987 season and he spent the last five years of his career in Milwaukee. Brock took over first base from Cecil Cooper in 1987 and hit .299 for Team Streak.


Bill Pulsipher only spent one and a half seasons with the Brewers in 1998-1999. His best moment in a Brewers uniform was a mid August 1998 game in which he struck out ten against a very good San Diego Padres team which went to the World Series later that year.


Alright, back to eBay to search for the hits.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

2017 Season wrap up, a TTM and some baseball lit

The MLB Playoffs begin tonight and unfortunately the Brewers won't be participating. Being the last team eliminated from the playoff hunt isn't much of a consolation prize, but I don't believe I am alone in thinking the 2018 team is going to be something special. Many of the young players took a big step forward this season and they still have plenty of room to grow (Travis Shaw, Corey Knebel, Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson, Domingo Santana, Orlando Arcia). We saw promising debuts from Josh Hader, Brett Phillips, Lewis Brinson and there are still tons of prospects knocking on the door. Bringing back Anthony Swarzak and Eric Sogard seems like a no brainer and I would not be sad if they opened the checkbook for Neil Walker. I'll be even happier if they open the checkbook for a starting pitcher. I don't expect the Brewers to sign a guy like Yu Darvish, but their name should be heard in rumors with guys like Tyler Chatwood, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb. Let's get these playoffs over with so David Stearns can start wheelin' and dealin'.

When I got back into collecting earlier this year, I knew it was only a matter of time before I started chasing autographs through the mail again. I did this a ton as a kid, sending cards to players at their home stadiums. I remember seeing ads in the back of the trading magazines for autograph collector handbooks. $20 for a listing of players' home addresses. I never ordered one of these guides. At the time, $20 seemed a bit steep for a directory and it also seemed rude to me to be bothering these players at home for an autograph. Now all these addresses can be found on the internet and with other collectors sharing their success stories, you get a good idea who is nice about signing. I sent off a bunch of cards recently to some former Brewers and the first one just came back.

 

Don August had a four year MLB career from 1988-1991, all spent with the Brewers. His best season was his first, when he went 13-7 with a 3.09 ERA and came in fourth in that season's AL Rookie of the Year voting. He pitched six complete games that season. SIX! The Brewers only had one in 2017. Times have certainly changed. August was also a member of the 1984's USA silver medal winning Olympic team. His first card is in the 1985 Topps set. It's not as well remembered as the '85 McGwire that we all thought was going to be our retirement fund one day (again, how times have certainly changed). August still lives in the Milwaukee area and is a big Brewers supporter on Twitter (@DonAugust38).


I added a couple new things to the reading pile as well. The newest issue of Memories and Dreams came today. It's the official magazine of the Baseball Hall of Fame and is one of the perks you get when you buy a membership into the Hall, which I did when I visited for the first time last year. I also picked up a copy of The Dixon Cornbelt League and Other Baseball Stories by W.P. Kinsella from the Little Free Library that's in my neighbor's front yard. This LFL has been a great source of baseball books. Earlier this year I found a copy of Jim Bouton's Ball Four and Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding, which came onto my radar a few years ago when I found out the author is from my hometown.




This inscription was inside the cover. I guess Russell decided he'd had enough of a good thing. Sorry Brigette. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

A trade with Summer of '74

I recently had the pleasure of trading with Matt at the Summer of '74 blog. Like me, Matt is a Brewers collector. His blog was actually an inspiration for me getting back into collecting. I’m amazed at his All-Time Brewers Project, where he is trying to collect a card of every player to ever appear in a game as a Brewer. He’s also trying to collect an autograph of every Brewer ever, which I am envious of. I noticed that I actually had a couple cards he needed for his project, so I emailed him to work out a trade. He was very gracious with his return package. He sent me complete Brewers team sets of 1988 Fleer, 1990 Bowman and 1991 Score. He also knocked off over 50 cards on my Brewers Topps needs list. Three particular cards were a highlight for me.

1974 #606 - Rookie OFs - Jim Fuller (BAL) / Wilbur Howard (MIL) / Tommy Smith (CLE) / Otto Velez (NYY)



Getting a card from the ‘74 Topps set put a smile on my face immediately. Wilbur Howard’s career as a Brewers only lasted 16 games in 1973 when he hit .205 as a September call up. He did get a hit in his first Major League at-bat, a pinch hit single off Doc Medich late in a 15-1 drubbing by the Yankees. Howard was traded on March 30, 1974 to Houston for Larry Yount, the younger brother of Robin Yount. Larry is an interesting footnote in baseball history as he is the only MLB pitcher to appear in the official record books without ever actually facing a batter. In 1971, he was called on to pitch the ninth inning in a game against the Braves and injured his elbow during his warmup tosses. He had to leave the game without ever throwing a pitch. Yount never made it back to the majors after that.

2000 Topps #451 - Draft Picks - Barry Zito (OAK) / Ben Sheets (MIL) Rookie Card



Sheets played eight of his ten seasons for the Brewers and for my money is the best right handed pitcher the team has ever had. He was a four time All-Star and holds the franchise record for most strikeouts in a single season, whiffing 264 in 2004. He struck out 18 batters in one nine inning game against the Braves that season. Sheets was the starting pitcher for the Team USA in the 2000 Olympics gold medal winning game, throwing a three hit shutout against Cuba.

Zito played fifteen seasons and was a three time All-Star, a Cy Young award winner and was apart of the 2012 World Champion Giants team. Overall, this is a pretty good duo to share a rookie card.

1981 Topps #705 - Ted Simmons



This is Simmons' last Topps card as a Cardinal. The Brewers acquired him in December 1980 along with Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich for David Green, Dave LaPoint, Sixto Lezcano and Lary Sorensen. (Lezcano would eventually be traded to the Padres in the package that brought Ozzie Smith to the Cards.) Simmons was a two time All-Star for the Brewers in 1981 and 1983. Fingers won both the AL MVP and Cy Young award in 1981. Vuckovich won the AL Cy Young award in 1982. Without those three players on the team, the Brewers more than likely don’t make the playoffs in 1981, nor the World Series in 1982. The Cardinals did beat the Brewers in that 82 Series, so things worked out just fine for them.

Simmons is consistently one of the top names brought up when there are discussions about players overlooked for the Hall of Fame. He only got 3.7% of the votes when he became eligible for the Hall in 1994 and immediately fell off the ballot. This is a good article arguing his merits for induction.

Thanks again Matt for the cards!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Let's Trade!

I haven't collected cards in over 20 years, but after getting bit by the nostalgia bug recently I want to rebuild my collection. The Milwaukee Brewers are my favorite team and the main focus of my attention. I am trying to build complete team sets from Topps going back to the first year the Brewers were included in a set, 1971. I'm also interested in Seattle Pilots (1969-1970) and Milwaukee Braves (1954-1965). My Topps Brewers want list is linked below. Soon I will get want lists for other brands, as well as the Pilots, Braves and a few individual players that I collect.

Milwaukee Brewers Want List